The Present

The Future

Usha Mehta

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The noted Gandhian on other prominent Gandhians

Jamnalal Bajaj Jamnalal Bajaj: He is one of the greatest Gandhians of this century. He wanted to develop the country and was always interested in improving the conditions of rural India. It was at his behest that Gandhiji brought his ashram from Sabarmati to Wardha. After which Wardha became the beehive of all constructive programmes. He also accepted Gandhian principles in his own life. That is why Gandhiji always referred to him as his son.

Another thing that I like about Jamnalalji and his family is that even in their third generation they respect Gandhian values. They ensure that Gandhian values are followed in all fields of life. They also give away the Bajaj awards to those promoting Gandhian thoughts in India as well as in other countries.

Ghanshyam Das Birla Ghanshyam Das Birla: He too was like a family member. Birlaji always acted as the host. He accompanied Gandhiji to London and tried practising the habits which he (Gandhiji) wanted him to follow. He was also responsible for propagating Gandhian thought. He has written several books and also encouraged others to write. Again, it is noteworthy that Gandhiji breathed his last at Birla Bhavan.

Ravishankar Maharaj Ravishankar Maharaj: He was a Gandhian in the true sense. He practised Gandhiji's teachings. He was the common man's representative. He did not accept any official post and was always called the friend of the friendless. He was responsible for converting many criminals into common citizens. At his behest, many criminals gave up their crime. He was a wonderful example of a Gandhian.

Jayaprakash Narayan Jayaprakash Narayan: I feel what Ravishankar Maharaj did for the poor, JP did in theoretical terms. He was a socialist all his life. But when JP felt that moral values were not given as much importance as material wealth in socialism, he tried to supplement it with Gandhian philosophy. That was the greatest combination. The concept of socialism is based on economic theory. It believes in equality. If not equality, it believes in reducing the gap between the rich and poor. Moral values is not part of their ideology.

JP realised that unless there is moral responsibility in any economic programme, there could not be a change in society. And that is Gandhian socialism. It says socialism has to be accepted not by force, but willingness.

Madhavbhai Desai Madhavbhai Desai: He served Mahatma Gandhi with full devotion throughout his life. I think Gandhian thought would not have percolated so well, had Madhav Desai not been there. I feel he was both mother and son to Mahatma Gandhi. He is the classic example of all men who want to serve great men selflessly.

Madhavbhai was the best lieutenant of Gandhiji. He used to look after all the inmates of the ashram. You can understand Gandhiji more by reading his (Desai's) diary than by reading Gandhiji's autobiography. He could have become a very good lawyer, journalist or literatteur. But he did not do so. I don't think you can get a private secretary more efficient than Madhav Desai.

Madhavbhai Desai was to Gandhiji, what Hanuman was to Lord Ram.

Martin Luther King Jr Martin Luther King Jr: According to me, he is the greatest Gandhian of this century. We have had many thinkers and philosophers in this century. But the work Martin Luther King Jr has done is certainly memorable and unmatched. No one has done that in this century. He has often stated that even though he was inspired by Jesus Christ his method was that of Mahatma Gandhi. So, he is indirectly a Gandhian. Today whatever has been done to remove racial discrimination in the USA, it is done by Martin Luther King Jr.

Sardar Patel Sardar Patel: He fought for the peasants in Bardoli and from there got the name 'Sardar'. He changed his way of life after coming in contact with Mahatma Gandhi. He served Gandhiji very faithfully all his life. His greatest achievement was that he unified the country. That too the Gandhian way. He also tried to bring Gandhian principles in the administration.

Gandhiji was both an idealist and realist. But the Sardar was more of a realist than an idealist. He used to say that Gandhiji is a great man, but we are all ordinary people so we cannot become saints. He told one of his followers that---sometimes, we fail to abide by Gandhian principle and we do things which is not acceptable to Gandhi.

Non-violence was Gandhiji's ideal, but Sardar Patel distinguished between ideal non-violence and practical non-violence. I believe Sardar Patel accepted the principle of practical non-violence.

Miraben Miraben: A very dedicated follower of Gandhiji. Even though she had lived in luxury all her life, she left Ireland and stayed with Gandhiji and did whatever he wanted her to do. Not only that -- she preferred to live in India even after Gandhiji's death. In her lifetime, she devoted her life to animal welfare and protection of the environment. She met Gandhiji when he had gone for the Round Table Conference in England. She was very inspired by his speech and then came to India.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan: He was rightly known as the Frontier Gandhi. There are many who follow Gandhian principles, but what was great about the Frontier Gandhi was that he made his followers adopt non-violence when his followers were all believers in violence. He could transform the Pathans and make them absolutely non-violent.

Gandhiji always used to say that his non-violence was not the non-violence of a coward but that of a brave man. And the best example of that is Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan.

Vinoba Bhave Vinoba Bhave: He was a very learned man. A saint and semi-equal to Gandhiji. He tried to bring the economic transformation of the country not by violent revolution, but by converting the minds of industrialists and landlords. And that is why he started his Bhoodan movement.

C Subramaniam C Subramaniam: He held many ministries in the government and was also governor of Maharashtra. He is responsible for the Green Revolution. He stays in his ancestral home, always wears khadi and is busy propagating Gandhi's philosophy. After retiring from politics, he devoted himself to the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's activities and is in touch with politicians who are in power. He also sends solutions to the country's problems based on Gandhian philosophy. He is a classic example of a politician practicing Gandhian values in politics.

Sadiq Ali: At present the chairman of the Central Gandhi Museum in New Delhi, he was the secretary of the Indian National Congress. He led a very simple life and even now is very fond of reading. He keeps in touch with all the Gandhian organisations. Till this day, a car comes to pick him up from the Gandhi museum -- mind you, he does not own that car.

Narayan Desai Narayan Desai: Madhavbhai's son practices what Gandhiji believed in. He heads the Sarvodya Samaj which takes care of all the constructive programmes started by Gandhiji. There are 18 such programmes and he heads them. He also runs the Sampurn Kranti Vidyalaya and has taken the lead in anti-nuclear programmes.

Dr Susheela Nair: She was with Gandhiji for very long time. Till the end of his life, she looked after Gandhiji and Kasturba. Later, she was also a member of Parliament and a minister. She has set an example for doctors of how they can utilise their skills by serving the poor. She has been chairman of the All India Kasturba Trust for a very long time. She has also contributed in a great manner in uplifting the women in rural India. She is old now, but still supervises the maintenance of the ashram.

Babubhai Patel: The former Gujarat Congress minister has been a true Gandhian all his life. He too practiced Gandhian values in administration. He used to tour the villages of Gujarat and solve their problems. One remarkable achievement was that he ensured there was no corruption in his department. And he did good work on the Sardar Sarovar Project.

Nirmala Gandhi: Gandhiji's daughter-in-law too has adopted Gandhian principles in her life and has always promoted Gandhian thought all over India.

As told to Syed Firdaus Ashraf

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