By endorsing Gita, Gandhi condoned violence: Desai
Economist and professor emeritus at London School of Economics, Lord Meghnad Desai on Friday questioned Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence in view of his endorsement of the Bhagvad Gita.
Desai said he was puzzled as to why the apostle of non-violence seemed to condone violence by endorsing Bhagvad Gita, and by admiring Adolf Hitler.
Desai was speaking on 'Gandhiji's views on violence', as a part of the 12th Prof Ramlal Parikh Memorial Lecture, organised by Indian Society for Community Education.
"I chose the topic as I want to raise some questions with regard to Gandhiji's views on violence. I am going to raise two separate issues...," Desai said.
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Image: Mahatma Gandhi
'Mahabharata war, if taken literally, was similar to holocaust'
"First is Gandhiji's endorsement of Bhagvad Gita, whose end outcome is that ultimately everybody should go out and kill everybody. Mahabharata war, if taken literally, was similar to a holocaust," he said.
The second issue was Gandhiji's attitude to Hitler, which was beyond belief as it came from a man who practiced non-violence, Desai said.
"Gandhiji has admired Hitler and termed him as an unclouded intellectual with no vices, clean character, a non-vegetarian. How could someone of Gandhiji's intellect make mistake on Hitler? How could food and drink habits could be mistaken for virtues?"
"I am arguing that Gandhiji's defence of Gita and Hitler are puzzling as they both seem to endorse gross macro acts of violence. Why does the apostle of non-violence, on two separate issues, seems to condone gross acts of violence?" Desai said.
Image: Meghnad Desai
'Why did Gandhiji endorse Bhagwad Gita?'
"Bhagvad Gita justifies violence, and if it does so, then why did Gandhiji approve of it?," Desai said.
Gandhi argued that Arjuna was blinded by his relationship with the opponents during the Mahabharata war, which was nothing less than a holocaust, Desai said. Therefore Arjuna (in Gandhi's opinion) deserved to be re-educated by Krishna that killing was his 'dharma' (duty) and not a bad thing.
"Is there a justification in casting Arjuna as if in darkness? Gandhiji singling out the relationship angle as the objection to Arjuna's doubt is what I find surprising.
"Gandhiji's over-all attack on Arjuna's reluctance to kill is which I think is not proper....argument that killing does not matter because you are duty-bound to do it is a highly dangerous argument," Desai said.
Image: An artist's rendition of a scene from Bhagwad Gita
'Gandhiji must have thought that evil of British colonialism was worse than WW II'
Explaining his perception of Gandhiji's view of Hitler, Desai said, "One has to rank evils in the mind. Gandhiji must have thought that evil of British colonialism was worse for India than the World War II."
He said that there was no doubt about Gandhiji's practise of non-violence and his struggle with himself for being non-violent.
"But at the same time, it's very condoning, very admitting of gross macro examples of violence," Desai said, adding that in the second World War, 25 million people died, including six million in the holocaust, ordered by Hitler.
During the question-answer session, Desai said that if lakhs of farmers committed suicide in India, it was an act of violence. If there were 820 girls for every 1,000 boys in the country, it meant 180 girl had been killed, and that too was violence.
Image: Adolf Hitler