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Gandhi: An Impossible Possibility


“Great truths can only be expressed in oxymorons,” said Sudhir Chandra, as he opened his talk, ‘Gandhi: An Impossible Possibility’, at the first plenary session on Day 2 of the Hyderabad Literary Festival on Saturday.

Peppering his talk with quotes by Mahatma Gandhi, Chandra took the audience through a nuanced exploration of the former and his politics.

He noted that a million words were written after Gandhi’s assassination, of which only a few were poignant, while others were rendered superfluous. He observed that the dominant idea in most of these works was Gandhi being regarded the Father of the Nation and his murder, or “patricide”.

What is usually ignored is the pervasive loneliness that gnawed at Gandhi during his last days, Chandra said. On his first birthday in independent India, Gandhi expressed his grief at being alive and wished for an early demise. His words gave off a profound sense of atrophy, Chandra said.

Chandra gave his audience a Freudian analysis of the Satyagraha and the Ahimsa movements. He said whatever is repressed will always find a way to claw its way into the present and seek vengeance. Gandhi termed the Ahimsa movement as an exercise in passive resistance; a violence that had been repressed for three decades. It was but a prologue to violence, Chandra said.

Gandhi believed that his political ideology was born of technological backwardness, and that there would be no place for it with the advent of science in independent India. “Ab mera sikka nahi chalega,” Gandhi had said, reduced to a shadow of his former self, a tragic outcast, whose intentions were questioned time and again by citizens and authorities alike, Chandra said.

Chandra further said that Gandhi was the object of taunts after the Indian National Congress went behind his back to accept the Partition Resolution. Though he remained a pillar of hope and resolution against all odds, Gandhi was reviled for not “fasting unto death” for the cause of the Partition. Many even accused him of using his fast as a tool to garner majoritarian goodwill. However, Gandhi remained steadfast in his assertion that he fasted for the oppressed.

Chandra said he believed that Gandhi had failed as a national leader. He said such figures cannot be reduced to binaries like success or failure.

Gandhi is remembered, Chandra noted, for his idea that society would change if the individual changed. Gandhi believed in societal changes as well, Chandra said, ending a talk that broadened his audience’s perspective on Gandhi.

Author: Sayona Bose

Edited by: Beneath The Ink (

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