Speech addressing students and teachers as a Guest of honour to the Closing Ceremony of the First Virtual Inter School Competition organised by Billabong High International School, Vadodara to commemorate Gandhi Jayanti and Shastri Jayanti on 9th October 2020.
It was a privilege to speak about Gandhiji and Shastriji, two towering personalities of the National movement.
Remembering Bapuji and Shastriji
The true greatness of any Statesman is determined by the subsequent History, but it is essential that any such attempt must be based on actual facts and dispassionate analysis, not on emotions and personality factors.
Due to the time limit I cannot go into detailed and in-depth analysis of any particular issue. I will try my best to give core details of major contributions by these two stalwarts towards Nationalism in India.
In the History of Indian National Movement, 2nd of October is a very important date. It is celebrated as the birth date of two towering personalities born 35 years apart. The early years and upbringing of Bapuji and Shastriji could not have been more different. Gandhiji was born in a relatively affluent Guajarati family, educated in comfortable surroundings, went to England for Higher studies and started his legal career in South Africa. In contrast Shastriji was born in a poor family and had to cross the mighty Ganga by swimming kilometres to attend school. Both took differing routes to excel in National Movement and have left lasting contributions in the growth of India as a Nation.
When we discuss Gandhiji, it must be remembered that his contributions go much beyond the impact he had in our struggle for freedom. He was the first person to proclaim the importance of cleanliness and tried to improve the situation of the downtrodden and those who were associated with keeping homes, villages and cities clean. It is worth noting that after 70 years of independence it is only now that we have taken it up seriously as a campaign 9Swacch Bharat) and trying to remove the image of being a dusty, dirty unhygienic land.
He was very conscious of the economic exploitation by the industrialised system of the British. He was a proponent of the swadeshi movement and promoted the use of Khadi. Gandhiji described it as the soul of Swaraj. It was a masterstroke as it achieved the twin objective of getting economic benefit to the Indian cloth producers/weavers and acting as a focal point for the freedom movement.
He also channelized the anger of the masses over the salt tax by organising the Dandi March. Till that point in our freedom struggle, no one had thought that simple actions of walking through villages would galvanise the whole country and the freedom movement wwould be adopted as their own personal struggle by almost every Indian.
In the current age of social media based information flow (Which may not always be reliable), we have a tendency of either deifying or vilifying personalities. But the actual truth may not be so black and white. Humans in general are complex beings by nature and Gandhiji was no exception. There has been a lot of heated debate about some of his policies and actions like his support of the Khilafat Movement, stopping the Non Co-operation movement resulting in the loss of momentum for the freedom struggle, his strange insistence on the Indian army personnel fighting for the British in the World Wars, his insistence on giving precedence to his personal choices within Congress over the democratic choices. Effects of such actions have had long term repercussions on the development of India as a modern Nation. The Rationale and the suitability of such decisions and its effects on our country will continue to be debated for a long time. Fortunately Gandhiji was a prolific writer and a lot of direct written material is available based on his own writings.
If one reads through his autobiography ‘’The Story of my Experiments with Truth’’ one can come across many unusual instances in his personal life also.
Shastriji was a true son of the soil, a man of action and no complications. He was an exceptional human being and was incorruptible. He understood the needs of the New India and wanted to do his best for the country. He had held important portfolios such as Railways, Home and External Affairs before he became PM of India. His demise under sinister circumstances will always remain a question mark. His slogan Jai Jawan! Jai Kisan! is still the essence of India. Yes, India has grown by leaps and bounds in the field of technology but what allows this is the security provided by our bravehearts and the food on our plates. My generation and most of the older generation know about the severe food shortage in the mid 1960s in India. Shastriji was Prime Minister during this phase. We know about his slogan of Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan but very few of us are aware of his association with the start of the Green Revolution in India. Shastriji had laid the foundation for India’s Food Security. Before that India was dependent on other Nations. This is an example of Logical Inconsistencies in knowledge assimilation.
You will come across such instances in your life repeatedly where there will be information overload. You have to be open minded and ensure that you never shy away from asking critical questions, however frivolous or simplistic they may seem to others.
Keep reading varied books. Have Opinions only if you are aware of facts, not just onesided narrations.