This is a year of significant and tragic anniversaries: 100 years since Russia gave the world the most satanic regime in history; 80 years since that regime perpetrated its best-known (but neither the only nor even the worst) carnage; 70 years since the partition of India.
That last event being of particular interest to the British, the papers are full of articles and recollections, most focused on the attendant violence: after all, those who saw it may only be in the their 70s and 80s.
All of the accounts are moving, as such recollections always are. But that’s not the only thing they have in common: they all exonerate one man directly responsible for the massacre: Mohandas Gandhi.
Ghandi is beyond reproach, for he passes muster as a saint venerated by our post-truth, post-thought, post-Christian society. Having debunked the real saints, we fill the void thus formed with fake ones, idols who tickle the naughtiest bits of modernity.
The qualifications for this accolade are simple. To be sanctified in the modern canon, a man has to come from the Third World, espouse any faith other than Judaism or Christianity, hate the West, contribute to the West’s troubles, lead or inspire some kind of liberation movement against Western powers. Gandhi ticks all the boxes.
He’s routinely described as the ‘father of democratic India’, but ‘a father’ would be more appropriate. Defying biology but vindicating history, that child had many parents.
One was the British Empire that created most of the institutions that allow India to boast of being the world’s largest democracy. Hence, as India’s last Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten had a valid claim to begetting India’s democracy. Moreover, if rumours are to be believed, his wife even came close to begetting a few Indian democrats.
Hitler and Stalin are the other co-parents, responsible as they jointly were for the Second World War. That war knocked the remaining stuffing out of the already limp British Empire, depriving her of both the physical means and, more important, the will to protect her integrity.
Mohammed also has a valid claim to a share of parenthood, if only at many removes. It was his creed that put fire in the bellies of the millions of his adherents in India, making them seek power in every possible way, including violent ones.
Yet those paternity candidates can have only a limited and esoteric appeal in the West. Gandhi, on the other hand, with his Tolstoyan sermon of nonviolence, hatred of the West, quaint personal habits, fancy-dress folk garb and peculiar sexuality, satisfied every requirement for post-Christian canonisation.
Apart from the aforementioned Hitler, Stalin and also possibly FDR, Gandhi loathed the British Empire more than anyone. That animus had many components: racial, religious, cultural and political. It was hatred that added tongues of fire to Gandhi’s charisma, as is the case with most revolutionaries. And, like so many of them, he had to mask hatred by sanctimonious claims to love.
The claims weren’t invariably valid. Thus Gandhi busily agitated for the departure of the Raj during the Second World War. That would have left India at the mercy of Japan and led to an immediate massacre of thousands, possibly millions, of Indians. But such numbers mean nothing to fanatics.
This Gandhi went on to prove by continuing his agitation after the war, when India was already self-governed de facto if not yet de jure. All that was needed was some prudence and patience, but revolutionaries are never endowed with such qualities, especially when they’re old and running out of time.
Gandhi didn’t realise, or perhaps didn’t care, that it was the Raj that maintained a semblance of social order in India, keeping the Hindus and the Muslims off one another’s throats. With the British gone, the throats became exposed.
Gandhi, with the able political support of the ruling Congress Party, unleashed a torrent of sermons, quoting from Bhagvad Gita to justify Hindu exclusivity, as expressed in terms of caste, religion and race. That predictably radicalised the Muslims, not that they needed much stimulus. At the same time, Gandhi self-refutingly preached equality of all religions, which added impetus to the Muslim League’s quest for equal political power.
Effectively Gandhi, for all his otherworldly mysticism, politicised Hinduism, which had the inevitable effect of politicising Islam as well, more than it was already politicised doctrinally. A split along communal lines became inevitable.
Gandhi’s dream came true in 1947-1948, when the violent partition of India drove 14 million people out of their homes and killed the best part of a million.
Rather than being at odds with Gandhi’s pacifism, this tragedy was its direct result. That the result was unintended is neither here nor there.
It was entirely predictable, and people who can’t predict such results should refrain from revolutionary, indeed any political, activities. Otherwise they’re as culpable in the ensuing massacres as those who actually do the massacring. In other words, they’re criminals.
At the height of Gandhi’s agitation, Churchill summed him up neatly: “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organising and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience…”
Such clarity of vision is now extinct in the West. Only idolatry remains, undiminished by the nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan, with itchy fingers on the buttons either side of the border. Gandhi’s pacifism has turned out to be very warlike indeed.