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Experiments with truth, Part 5: How is Gandhi relevant today?

We asked jurists, academics and activists what they think about M.K. Gandhi in the contemporary times. Here is how they responded.

Sanjoy Ghose (senior advocate, Supreme Court): Gandhiji was a lawyer. All through his life he was aware of the importance of law and its role in social ordering. His civil disobedience was also related to using law and disobeying unjust laws to unite a people in their struggle for emancipation.

Prof. Arun Kumar (Retired Professor of Economics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University): Gandhi was way ahead of his times. He enunciated the principles that can sustain life and society on this planet over a long period of time. But society has not been ready to understand and absorb those principles and is suffering the consequences of not adopting them.

The underlying basis of his principles is nonviolence and that is the correct basis of creating the laws for a just society. We ignore it at our peril.

Aman Lekhi (former Additional Solicitor General): Gandhi represents fearless vigil in support of universal principles of equality and liberty, rooted in commitment to truth as an absolute value, resisting abuse authoritarianism and obscurantism, re-enforcing the social compact, a continuing satyagraha against every form of injustice.

Jaideep Gupta (senior advocate, Supreme Court): We have effectively banished Gandhiji from the national consciousness. We completely reject his values and only remember his fetishes like vegetarianism. His contribution to the law was marginal because he was mostly rejecting the legal structure the British put up. He died before the Constitution was drafted. At that time his major contribution was his values but that as I said are forgotten. He is the moral compass we lost.

Ravi Nair (Executive Director, South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre): The ability to say no to authority and belief in one’s conscience being above the law of the land.

Ramesh Menon (senior journalist and adjunct professor, SIMC, Pune): When I think of Gandhi and law in the contemporary context, these images come to my mind: Law practices and attitudes seem to look the other way when they see communal and political violence being engineered and encouraged. Laws are not cracking down on blatant caste-based discrimination.

Despite laws, women are marginalised. They are not there in crucial leadership positions. There is unequal representation in every sphere as far as gender goes. Gender-based violence is not being punished.

There is no economic justice the way Gandhi would have wanted as the rich get richer due to pro-rich policies and crony capitalism. Divisive politics and religious polarisation are at play, which goes against Gandhi’s philosophy of a pluralistic society.

Environmental damage is blatantly allowed, and there are even concessions weaved into new laws to enable more destruction, which goes against all ideas of sustainable living that Gandhi had.

Vaigai R. (senior advocate, Madras High Court): Gandhiji stayed away from Delhi during independence day 1947. He was in Bengal in the midst of the terrible communal riots that broke out during partition trying to bring peace. He also refused to hold any post. The best tribute to Gandhi’s memory is for each one of us to spread the message of secularism, fraternity, equality, justice and non violence. We have to keep saying it again and again.

The Leaflet