November 17, 2019
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    Gandhi's ashes stolen and photo defaced on 150th birthday

    October 04, 2019

    Thieves stole some of Mahatma Gandhi's remains on what would have been his 150th birthday, police say.The ashes were taken from a memorial in central India, where they had been kept since 1948 - the year of Gandhi's assassination by a Hindu extremist.The thieves also scrawled "traitor" in green paint across photographs of the independence leader.Some Hindu hardliners view Gandhi as a traitor for his advocacy of Hindu-Muslim unity.This is despite Gandhi being a devout Hindu himself.
    Police in Rewa, in Madhya Pradesh state, confirmed to BBC Hindi's Shuriah Niazi that they were investigating the theft on the grounds of actions "prejudicial to national integration" and potential breach of the peace.Mangaldeep Tiwari, caretaker of the Bapu Bhawan memorial, where the ashes were being held, said the theft was "shameful"."I opened the gate of the Bhawan early in the morning because it was Gandhi's birthday," he told Indian website The Wire. "When I returned at around 23:00 [17:30 GMT], I found the mortal remains of Gandhi missing and his poster was defaced."
    Police took action after Gurmeet Singh - leader of the local Congress political party - filed a complaint."This madness must stop," Mr Singh told The Wire. "I urge Rewa police to check CCTV cameras installed inside Bapu Bhawan."
    The thieves are believed to have also scrawled "traitor" across Gandhi's photograph Gandhi led a non-violent resistance movement against British colonial rule in India, inspiring people across the world. Most Indians still revere him as the "father of the nation".But Hindu hardliners in India accuse Gandhi of having betrayed Hindus by being too pro-Muslim, and even for the division of India and the bloodshed that marked Partition, which saw India and Pakistan created after independence from Britain in 1947.He was assassinated by a Hindu extremist in January 1948.After his death, he was cremated, but his ashes were not scattered in a river, in accordance with Hindu belief.Because of his fame, some were held back and sent around the country to various memorials - including the one in the Bapu Bhawan.
    Manu Gandhi: The girl who chronicled Gandhi's troubled years
    In the evening of 30 January 1948, Mahatma Gandhi stepped outside the house of an Indian business tycoon in Delhi where he was staying and walked to a prayer meeting in the garden.Accompanying Gandhi, as usual, were his grand-nieces, Manu and Abha.As the 78-year-old leader climbed the steps of the prayer platform, a man in khaki emerged from the crowd, pushed aside Manu, pulled out a pistol and pumped three bullets into the frail leader's chest and abdomen.Gandhi fell, invoked the name of a revered Hindu deity, and died in the arms of the woman who had become his confidante, caregiver and chronicler in his troubled and turbulent final years.Less than a year earlier - in May 1947 - Gandhi had told Manu with chilling prescience that he wanted her to be a "witness" when his end came.
    At just 14, Manu had become one of the youngest prisoners of India's struggle for independence. She joined Gandhi, who had been jailed after his demand to end British rule, and ended up spending nearly a year - between 1943 and 1944 - in prison.She also began writing a diary.For the next four years, the teenage prisoner turned into a prolific writer.Twelve volumes of Manu Gandhi's diaries are preserved in India's archives - written in Gujarati in ruled notebooks, they contain her own writings, Gandhi's speeches (which she wrote as he spoke) and letters, as well as her "English work book".Now they have been translated into English by Gandhi scholar Tridip Suhrud and published for the first time ever.
    Manu became Gandhi's confidante and chronicler in his later years Her diary, a constant companion, fell out of her hand when Gandhi collapsed on her after the fatal shooting. After that day, she stopped keeping a journal, and instead, wrote books and delivered talks on the leader until her death in 1969 at the age of 42. The first set of her diaries offers extraordinary insight into a precocious and observant young girl, both devotee and budding chronicler, keenly recording the everydayness of life in captivity.She also reveals herself as a tireless caregiver to Gandhi's wife, Kasturba, whose health is failing fast.
    Manu's early journal entries reveal what appears to be a joyless and regimented life. It's a never-ending grind of daily duties - cutting vegetables, preparing food, massaging Kasturba and oiling her hair, spinning thread, reciting prayers, cleaning utensils, weighing herself on selected days and so on. "But you have to remember, she, along with Gandhi and his wife and associates, are in prison. They have voluntary obligations as prisoners. Life might seem joyless and coercive, but she is also learning the rules of ashramic (a religious retreat or a monastic community) way of life that Gandhi practised," Dr Suhrud told me.
    Manu learnt geometry under Gandhi's guidance in prison Not formally educated, Manu, under Gandhi's guidance, learns English, grammar, geometry and geography. She begins reading the epics and Hindu scriptures. She finds out "where the War [WW2] is being fought" by looking at a map book. The teenager also reads about Marx and Engels. Grammar lessons take up a lot of study time. "Today I learnt about declinable (changing) and indeclinable (unchanging) adjectives and about predicative and sub-predicative adjectives," she writes about a lesson.But prison life with Gandhi and his associates is not entirely desultory.Manu listens to music on the gramophone, goes out for long walks, plays "ping pong" [table tennis] with Gandhi and carrom with Kasturba, and learns to make chocolate.
    She writes of how Gandhi's associates in prison plan to dress up like Roosevelt, Churchill and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, in what appears to be readying for a fancy-dress programme of sorts. Gandhi rejects it because he doesn't like "such enactments".The diaries are also permeated by tragedy. Her writings are bookended by two deaths that shook Gandhi: his closest aide Mahadev Desai, regarded as the greatest chronicler of the leader's life, and Kasturba.There are heart-wrenching accounts of the days leading up to Kasturba's death in February 1944.One night she tells her husband that she is in great pain, and "these are my last breaths". "Go. But go with peace, won't you?" Gandhi tells her.
    Manu's entries detail the days leading up to Kasturba's death And when Kasturba passes away on a winter evening, her head in the lap of her husband, Gandhi "closes his eyes and places his forehead on her as if he were blessing her"."They had spent their lives together, now he was seeking final forgiveness and bidding her farewell… Her pulse stopped and she breathed her last," Manu writes.
    As Manu becomes a young woman, her diary entries are longer and more thoughtful.She is candid about Gandhi's most controversial and unfathomable experiment - when he asked Manu in December 1946 to join him in bed as he slept "to test, or further test, his conquest of sexual desire", in the words of biographer Ramachandra Guha. (Gandhi had married at 13, and taken a vow of celibacy when he was 38 and father of four children).The experiment lasted barely two weeks and invited widespread opprobrium, but we will have to wait for the forthcoming volumes to find out what she thought about it.
    Manu stopped keeping a journal after the day Gandhi died In the end, Manu Gandhi comes across as an earnest and resilient person, mature beyond her years, discerning, and completely capable of asserting herself in front of one of the world's most charismatic and powerful leaders."It is not easy to be with Gandhi in his last phase of life - he has grown old, times are difficult, his wife is dead as are his close associates. To Manu, we owe a lot of our understanding of Gandhi's last days. She's a chronicler, record-keeper and a historian," says Dr Suhrud.That is quite true.
    "Churchill is convinced that I am his biggest enemy," Gandhi tells Manu in 1944. "What is one to do? He believes that he would not be able to suppress and control the country if I were to be kept out of prison. But even, otherwise, they will not be able to suppress the country. Once people acquire confidence, they will not forget it. I consider my work to have been more."Three years later, amid a bloody partition, India gained freedom.
    Is Gandhi still a hero to Indians?
    By Jill McGivering
    When Mahatma Gandhi came to London in 1931, he stayed in the poverty-stricken East End of the city, then visited struggling cotton mill workers in Lancashire.Now he is to be honoured with a statue in London's Parliament Square, looking out over the Palace of Westminster in the company of such establishment figures as Benjamin Disraeli and his old opponent Sir Winston Churchill.When the statue was announced, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, said Gandhi's "approach of non-violence will resonate forever as a positive legacy, not just for the UK and India, but the world over".
    The statue is designed to pay tribute to a man who lived humbly, loved humanity and practised non-violent struggle against a powerful adversary: the British Empire.Many of those who gave money for it see him as an example to future generations.Hindu hardliners in India are increasingly vocal in criticising Gandhi But there is some irony in the fact that even as Gandhi is being so warmly embraced by the British establishment that once mocked him, his legacy in India is more ambivalent. Hindu hardliners in India, emboldened perhaps by the sweeping national election victory last year of the pro-Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, are increasingly vocal in criticising Gandhi.They accuse him of having betrayed Hindus by being too pro-Muslim, and even for the division of India and the bloodshed that marked partition.That, of course, was the belief of Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Gandhi in January 1948. Godse's reputation too is being revised.This year, the anniversary of Gandhi's murder was marked by attempts by right-wing Hindus to build a temple to honour Godse, a man they now describe as a hero for ridding the nation of Gandhi.
    The money was raised in less than six months through donations from people in the UK and IndiaGandhi will be the first Indian represented in Parliament Square - and the only person who never held political officeGandhi has always been a controversial figure. In his day, he was a thorn in the side of his British rulers before Indian Independence - with his campaigns of civil disobedience, his fasts and his dangerously powerful charisma.
    In the 1930s, Churchill described Gandhi as "a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East".But in present-day Britain, Gandhi is largely revered by a generation that is embarrassed about its colonial history and eulogises non-violent methods of effecting change.
    In India, there are certainly contemporary politicians who take inspiration from Gandhi.Arvind Kejriwal, for example, the anti-corruption campaigner and new chief minister of Delhi, whose party recently won a landslide victory in the capital.It is true, too, that decades of Indian schoolchildren have learned to call Gandhi "the Father of the Nation".His face is everywhere, from bank notes to framed portraits in public buildings.But attitudes are subtly changing in mainstream India, as well as among the hardliners.The values Gandhi embodied - a vision of self-sufficient, village India and a lack of commercialism - seem old-fashioned to many in today's urban, industrialised, hi-tech India.Now, a fast-paced, young generation craves luxury goods and international travel, not the chance to retreat to a village and spin khadi.That leads to another truth: a reversal in economic fortunes as well as attitudes.In the first half of the last century, many in Britain considered themselves economically superior to India.Now, by contrast, British politicians are rushing to court it, eager to attract its students to study and its business moguls to invest.
    Who was Gandhi?
    born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat, Indialeader of the Indian nationalist movement against British rule his use of non-violent protest to achieve political and social progress has been hugely influential known for his devout Hindu faith and ascetic lifestyle, often dressing only in a loincloth and shawl imprisoned several times during his pursuit of non-violent protestundertook a number of hunger strikes to protest against the oppression of India's poorest classes, among other injusticesoften called "Mahatma", which means "great-souled", or, in India, "Bapu", which means "father"assassinated on 30 January 1948 in Delhi, by Nathuram GodseNo wonder then that the establishment wants to salute Gandhi and show him respect.Ultimately the grand unveiling of this costly statue begs another question: what would Mahatma Gandhi himself make of it?Of course it is impossible to know but one of his surviving grandsons, Arun Gandhi, who was a schoolboy of 14 when his grandfather died, doubts he would be pleased.Speaking to me from his home in the US, he described it as the wrong tribute."My grandfather didn't want people to erect statues," he said.
    "He wanted people to follow his message."
    Gandhi wanted women to 'resist' sex for pleasure
    Soutik Biswas
    India correspondent
    14 September 2018
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    Image copyrightBETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES
    Image caption
    Gandhi with his granddaughters Manu (left) and Abha (right)
    In December 1935, Margaret Sanger, the American birth control activist and sex educator, visited Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi and had an absorbing conversation with him.

    Sanger was on an 18-city trip to India, speaking with doctors and activists about birth control and the liberation of women.

    Her fascinating exchange with Gandhi at his ashram in the western state of Maharashtra is part of a new biography of India's "father of the nation" by historian Ramachandra Guha. Drawing on never-before-seen sources from 60 different collections around the world, the 1,129-page book tells the dramatic story of the life of the world's most famous pacifist from the time he returned to India from South Africa in 1915, to his assassination in 1948.
    The biography also provides a glimpse into Gandhi's views on women's rights, sex and celibacy.In his ashram, Gandhi's efficient secretary, Mahadev Desai, took copious notes of the meeting between the leader and the activist.Margaret Sanger was an American birth control activist "Both seem to be agreed that women should be emancipated, that a woman should be the arbiter of her destiny," he wrote. But differences quickly arose between the two.Mrs Sanger, who had opened the first US family planning centre in New York in 1916, believed that contraceptives were the safest route to emancipation.Gandhi demurred, saying women should resist their husbands, while men should try to curb "animal passion". He told his visitor that sex should be only for procreation.Mrs Sanger soldiered on spiritedly.Is Gandhi still a hero to Indians?Is it even possible to live a celibate life?
    Was Mahatma Gandhi a racist?She told Gandhi that "women have feelings as deep as and as amorous as men. There are times when wives desire physical union as much as their husbands"."Do you think that it is possible for two people who are in love, who are happy together, to regulate their sex act only once in two years, so that their relationship would only take place when they wanted a child?" she asked.This is where contraception came in handy, she insisted, and helped women prevent unwanted pregnancies and gain control over their bodies.Gandhi remained stubborn in his opposition.
    Many women took part in Gandhi's movement of non-violent resistanceHe told Sanger that he regarded all sex as "lust". He told her of his own marriage, saying the relationship with his wife, Kasturba, had become "spiritual" after he "bade goodbye to a life of carnal pleasure".Gandhi had married at 13, and taken a vow of celibacy when he was 38 and the father of four children. In doing so, he had been inspired by a Jain seer named Raychandbhai and Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, who became celibate in his later life. (Jainism is an ancient Indian religion of harmlessness and renunciation.) In his autobiography, Gandhi had written how guilt ridden he was by the thought that he was having sex with his wife when his father passed away.At the end of the conversation with Sanger, Gandhi relented a little.He said he didn't mind "voluntary sterilisation in the case of man, since he is the aggressor", and that instead of using contraceptives, couples could have sex during the "safe period" of the menstrual cycle.Mrs Sanger left the ashram unconvinced. Later, she wrote of Gandhi's "appalling fear of licentiousness and over-indulgence". She was deeply disappointed at his failure to endorse her campaign.It was not the first time that Gandhi had spoken out openly against artificial birth control.In 1934, an Indian women's rights activist had asked him whether contraceptives were the next best thing to "self-control"."Do you think that the freedom of the body is obtained by resorting to contraceptives? Women should learn to resist their husbands. If contraceptives were resorted to as in the West, frightful results will follow. Men and women will be living for sex alone. They will become soft-brained, unhinged, in fact mental and moral wrecks," Gandhi had replied."For Gandhi, all sex was lust; sex was necessary for procreation. Modern methods of birth control legitimised lust. Far better that women resist men, and men control and tame their animal passions," writes Guha, his latest biographer, in his book Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914-1948.
    Many years later, as Hindu-Muslims riots rocked the southern Noakhali district of the state of Bengal on the eve of India's independence, Gandhi undertook a controversial experiment. He asked his grandniece and ardent devotee, Manu Gandhi, to join him in the bed he slept in."He was seeking to test, or further test, his conquest of sexual desire," Guha writes.Some of Gandhi's closest aides - such as his associate Sushila Ben (L) and his doctor, Sheila Nayar (R) - were womenSomehow, according to his biographer, Gandhi felt that the "rise of religious violence was connected to his own failure to become a perfect brahmachari [celibate]". Gandhi, who campaigned all his life for interfaith harmony, was appalled by the violence breaking out between Hindus and Muslims in the run up to independence from Britain."The connection was a leap of faith, an abdication of reason and perhaps also an expression of egotism. He had come round to the view that the violence around him was in part a product or consequence of the imperfections within him," Guha writes.Gandhi faced a lot of opposition when he told his associates about the "experiment". They warned him it would soil his reputation and that he should abandon it. One associate said it was both "puzzling and indefensible". Another quit working with Gandhi in protest.

    Guha writes that one needs to look beyond "rationalist or instrumental explanations of why men behave as they do" to understand this strange experiment.For some 40 years by then, Gandhi had been obsessed with celibacy. "Now at the end of his own life, with his dream of an united India in ruins, Gandhi was attributing the imperfections of society to the imperfections of the society's most influential leader, namely himself".A close associate and admirer of Gandhi later wrote to a friend that from a study of the leader's writings, he found that he "represented a hard, puritanical form of self-discipline, something which we usually associate with medieval Christian ascetics or Jain recluses".
    Gandhi was 13 when he married Kasturba (left), and 38 when he took a vow of celibacyHistorian Patrick French has written that although some of Gandhi's unconventional ideas were rooted in ancient Hindu philosophy, "he was more tellingly a figure of the late Victorian age, both in his puritanism, and in his kooky theories about health, diet and communal living".Clearly, Gandhi's attitudes to women were complex and contradictory.
    He appeared to be averse to women making themselves more attractive to men. He, according to Guha, abhorred "modern hairstyles and clothes"."What a pity," he wrote to Manu Gandhi, "that the modern girl attaches greater importance to following the code of fashion than to the protection of her health and strength." He was also critical of the veil for Muslim women, saying it "harms women's health, they can't get sufficient air and light and they remain disease-ridden."
    Gandhi appointed Sarojini Naidu (right) to lead the Congress party At the same time, Gandhi believed in the rights of women, and that women were to be fully equal to men. In South Africa, women joined his political and social movements. He appointed a woman, Sarojini Naidu, to lead the Congress party at a time when political parties in the West had few women leaders. He asked women to protest outside liquor shops. Many women participated in the massive march to protest against the British salt monopoly and the salt tax."Gandhi," writes Guha, "did not use the language of modern feminism."While strongly supportive of women's education, and open to women working in offices and factories, he thought the burden of child-rearing and homemaking should be borne by women. By the standards of our time, Gandhi should be considered conservative. By the standards of his own time, however, he was undoubtedly progressive."When India became independent in 1947, this legacy, believes Guha, helped the country get a woman governor and a woman cabinet minister. The work of rehabilitating millions of refugees was led by a group of powerful women. A top university chose a woman as a vice-chancellor, decades before top American universities began choosing women presidents.Women, says Guha, were as prominent in public life in the India of the 1940s and 1950s as in the US of the same period. This must count as one of Gandhi's important, and not so well known achievements, despite his eccentric "experiments with truth".

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