Fasting As A Political Weapon That Totally Distorted The Soul OF Great Gandhian Ideology

Gandhi fought in democratic and legal ways. Blackmail through fasting was never his way.
Gandhi fought in democratic and legal ways. Blackmail through fasting was never his way.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ministers including Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia who are staging a fast protest against the IAS officers’ strike at the lieutenant governor’s office in Delhi warned the Central government on Friday to not try and break their fast. “Do not force us to break our fast, listen to our demands,” Sisodia said on the third day of his fast. While another AAP minister Satyendra Kumar Jain has been on a fast for the past four days now and is health was reported to be deteriorating following which ambulances were called in outside the L-G’s residence.

However, AAP has alleged that the Narendra Modi government is trying to forcefully remove them from the L-G’office. “L-G office does not want to take responsibility of deteriorating health of AAP ministers,” AAP leader Sanjay Singh said who later met Home Minister Rajnath Singh to brief him on the Delhi government’s demands.

Gandhi fasting

It is necessary to disentangle the myth that Mahatma Gandhi fasted and protested to achieve freedom. And that Gandhi being the Father of the Nation, there is nothing wrong in using his methods to make a point against political opponents.

That is the logic behind the fasts-as-protests of our ostensible Gandhians, the latest of whom happens to be Anna Hazare. Gandhi never used fast as a political weapon throughout his leadership of the Congress party and the freedom movement to bring the government to its knees.

The non-cooperation movement of 1920 did not involve fasting. Nor did the Khilafat Movement have a fast component to it. There were public rallies and processions and participants courted arrest because the government of the day did not allow public protests and resorted to Section 144.

The real meaning of fast
The real meaning of fast

The occasions when Gandhi undertook a fast during the freedom movement were few and significant, and most of the times he used it as a means of personal penitence.

He should have allowed the Harijan/Dalit leaders to decide what they wanted. But this was almost the only time he used the fast to clinch a political decision. He did not do it earlier and he did not do it later.

When he fasted in Kolkata and in Delhi during the Hindu-Muslims riots of 1947-48, it was not to browbeat the government of the day but more an act of self-flagellation.

That the Hindu and Muslim leaders in the two cities came round was due to their respect, affection and concern for the man.

The real meaning of Fasting

Remember, Gandhi could not do anything over Partition. He did not fast against Partition. He did prevail on Nehru and Patel to give Pakistan its share of the common assets but this was not done through fasting.

fasting is not a weopan
fasting is not a weapon

Also, he never fasted against the Muslim League or any other party. He did not use fasting as a political weapon. Satyagraha was for him popular, peaceful public protest but fasting was not a part of this protest.

It’s Sad…

Unfortunately, fasting became a political tool after Independence. Potti Sriramulu fasted for 53 days for a separate Andhra state and died in December 1953.

Master Tara Singh, and then Sant Fateh Singh, the Akali leaders, fasted for a Punjabi Suba or a separate state for the Sikhs of Punjab in 1963 and again in 1966.

There have been numerous other fasts, including the one by Morarji Desai in 1974 against the Gujarat government of the day. All these and other recent instances of fasting were not politically legitimate.

So political leaders and reformers, who go on a fast should not cite Gandhi as an example ever. They are being untruthful and dishonest, to say the least.

Gandhi lost many of his cherished political battles, or he gave them up in order to take the political battle through negotiation forward.

He suspended the civil disobedience movement in order to attend the Round Table Conference, which proved to be unsatisfactory.

fasting is tool for getting freedom
fasting is the tool for getting freedom

Fasting For Rights Not For Greed

He did not oppose the constitutional measures of the British government like the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms and the India Act of 1935. When they were implemented, despite their unsatisfactory character from the point of view of the nationalists, Gandhi did not obstruct their implementation.

Gandhi fought in democratic and legal ways. Blackmail through fasting was never his way. He did not obstruct governance, he did not threaten, including thousands of Indians, who worked in the government and with it. The agitators and blackmailers can fast but they should not call themselves Gandhians. Gandhi did not fast to have his way.

He led a grand people’s movement and he wanted it to be peaceful. It was indeed a civil opposition.




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