In this discussion, I describe Mahatma Gandhi, an Indian nationalist in two ways. First, I focus on my change of perspective towards Mahatma Gandhi based on newly discovered information regarding his attitude towards race and sex. Before my viewpoint changed, I had great reverence for this selfless leader, given his role in delivering Indians from British colonial rule. However, new information has emerged that challenges the conventional Indian nationals’ outlook on Gandhi, as it has now emerged that although the leader raised universal demands for dignity and equality, he also had some inherent flaws. Much like Mark Twain changes his opinion after encountering the Mississippi river firsthand in his role as a steamboat captain (Andrews, 2021), I also lost something after years of knowledge acquisition about Gandhi’s selfless endeavors for humanity in the early 20th Century. All the beauty and poetry regarding the Mahatma’s revolutionary deeds seem to have disappeared and in its place, a high level of distrust has taken over after discovering some damaging revelations regarding his personality and attitude.
At one time, Mahatma Gandhi was my favorite nationalists because his message of peace played a critical role in promoting human survival throughout the 21st Century. In particular, his outlook regarding the need to pit the ‘satyagrah’ soul versus against the evil force of the oppressor was instrumental in bringing the oppressor to the right and moral perspective (Frayer, 2019). My reverence for the leader was further reinforced after reading of Martin Luther King’s (MLK) visit to the villa that Gandhi occupied in the 1920s, in which the latter founded his movement for truth and peaceful resistance. When MLK stated that he declined to book into his hotel because he was still getting vibrations from Mahatma, I developed newfound respect for his awakened thoughts and perspectives.
My perspective has since changed after some new information emerged that Mahatma was racist against Africans during this stay in South Africa. In one of the most disturbing revelations, the Indian nationalist declared in his writings in 1903 that white people should be the predominant race, adding that black natives are extremely dirty, disorderly and troublesome (Frayer, 2019). The following year, Gandhi wrote to the Johannesburg Council calling for the segregation of Africans from Indians. Thus, Mahatma appeared to collaborate with the colonialist to foster racial discrimination. Secondly, although Gandhi championed for women’s role in politics, he was so obsessed with his celibacy to the extent that he slept with his own teenage grand-niece to test his ability to abstain from sex. Some critiques question whether the minor had the capacity to give consent to a man who was a public figure and greatly revered throughout India.
Ever since the above revelations came to light, it has been unclear to me why such a revolutionary leader whom I considered ‘too human’ also had weaknesses, moods and shortcomings. Despite losing my respect for Mahatma over the new unearthed information, the main lesson that I have gained from the above analysis is that in his youth, the nationalist had his misconceptions having working in the British system. The fact that Gandhi outgrew his racist sentiments decisively as evidenced by his anti-racist sentiments throughout his adult life suggests that he was not as racist as he initially appeared. In his anti-racist stance after 1913, Gandhi promoted inclusiveness that was geared at helping humanity move towards a level of equality based on individual differences rather than similarities (Frayer, 2019).
Overall, I believe that we owe the equality and freedom we enjoy in the 21st Century to Mahatma’s work and sacrifice. The equality of the freedom phenomenon can be instrumental in addressing the numerous challenges marginalized populations face today around the globe. Throughout the early and mid-1910s, Gandhi strengthened his fight against social injustices and would often travel in third class train cabins in solidarity with the plight of oppressed Africans. Gandhi’s conversion to an anti-racist advocate may be tied to his increasing opposition to racial and social discrimination that were so prevalent throughout his personal and political life. It is a great deal to me that I have been privileged to analyze my favorite public figure from an objective point of view, this exercise has allowed me to reach the conclusion that like all humans, Gandhi had his own flaws and it would be unfair to vilify him based on his youthful mistakes or personal desires.
- Andrews, Gregg. “Deep Water: The Mississippi River in the Age of Mark Twain.” Journal of American History, vol. 108, no. 1, 2021, pp. 175-176.
- Frayer, Lauren. Gandhi is Deeply Revered, But His Attitudes on Race and Sex are Under Scrutiny npr.org (Oct 2, 2019).