Nachiketa Desai

| @ | September 13,2019

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]T is a little known fact that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was the first person to call Mahatma Gandhi as the ‘Father of the Nation.’ Later, the Parliament of Independent India officially recognised Gandhiji as the Father of the Nation.

Generally, the first President of an independent country is given such a title.

Mahatma Gandhi did not hold such a position, neither did he yearn for it. Subhash Chandra Bose chose such a title because he had seen the role of Gandhiji in building India as an independent nation. A nation is built on its geographical and political boundary. It is built on its emotional unity and not because of its history. Some nations attain emotional unity because of its common language, while some because of the common religion of its people. Bangladesh is an example of having attained emotional unity because of its common language while common religion became the basis of the foundation of Pakistan.

Indians developed the feeling of nationalism because of its emotional unity, because of the common yearning for liberation from the slavery of the British.Mahatma Gandhi was not the first leader who called for independence from British rule. There were many others who too gave a call for independence. Then why did the Parliament of Independent India decide to officially declare only Gandhiji as the Father of the Nation?

Mahatma Gandhi had the distinction of creating an emotional unity among diverse people across such a vast land by infusing nationalism. He did this by creating a strong emotional bonding with the ordinary common people.When asked by a special court in Ahmedabad his name, address and occupation, Gandhiji simply said he was a farmer and a weaver. By saying so, he struck an instant chord with millions of toiling farmers and weavers of our country.

He could strike such bonding with the masses because of his simple lifestyle bereft of pomp and show.Unlike other political leaders who hailed from aristocratic families and maintained urban lifestyle, Gandhiji wore khadi loincloth, spun on charkha, soiled his hands in the farms and cleaned his lavatory in his ashrams in Sabarmati and Sevagram.

Another factor that made Gandhiji strike a rapport with the common people was his language of communication. Unlike most other political leaders who preferred to speak in English or Sanskritised Hindi or other regional languages in highly elitist manner, Gandhiji spoke in simple Hindi or Gujarati. Gandhiji also insisted that other political leaders sharing the podium with him in a public meeting also delivered their speech in their mother tongue. At a public meeting in Gujarat, Gandhiji made Mohammed Ali Jinnah speak in Gujarati though Jinnah was used to speaking only in English. Similarly, he made Surendra Nath Banerjee speaks in Bengali at a public meeting in a village in Bengal. Gandhiji never indulged in demagoguery. He was not a great orator but an effective communicator who spoke in easy to understand language.

Another reason why Gandhiji could spread the feeling of nationalism among the people was his thrust on involving women in the satyagraha movement. Millions of women all across the country took part in the historic salt satyagraha, the movement to boycott foreign clothes and the individual non-cooperation movement.

Thousands of women volunteers courted arrest during these non- violent campaigns.He also tirelessly worked to achieve Hindu-Muslim unity, a cause which ultimately led to his assassination by a Hindu fanatic on January 30, 1948.Removal of the bane of untouchability among the Hindus was another of his mission. He set up the Harijan Sevak Sangh for this purpose and encouraged his upper-caste co-workers to take up leatherwork which an upper-caste Hindu would normally shun.All his activities aimed at mobilizing people of diverse background – religion, caste, language and gender – for the cause of national unity and freedom struggle were well thought out and planned by Gandhiji after he returned to India from South Africa in 1915.

Before taking a plunge in the national freedom struggle, Gandhiji had spent one full year travelling all across the country, meeting common people and leaders with a view to understand the problems. He then set up his Sabarmati ashram near Ahmedabad to carry out his experiments with truth. He made the ashram inmates follow a strict regimen based on the eleven vows which included observance of brahmacharya (celibacy).What Gandhiji preached, he observed in his own life. This differentiated him from other political leaders and made him a Mahatma and earn the sobriquet of the Father of the Nation.

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