This is a very well-written and thought-provoking article (By arresting Kalicharan for ‘insulting Gandhi’, we encourage the uncritical veneration of our icons). Is it not time we evolved to allow diverse points of view to be expressed without taking them personally and without being insulted? Why not let the strength of an idea stand on its own merit rather needing protection from opposing ones? – Sanjiv S
What Kalicharan did was much more than simply criticising Gandhi. It was the glorification of the cult of violence as a route to show disagreement. Nothing could be more dangerous to a democracy than this. Giving a platform to such extremists is itself a crime. That action against the deranged individual being interpreted as going against the critical examination of our national leaders is uncalled for. Criticism should be welcome but not at the cost of encouraging or celebrating violence. – Vidhu Mathur
Perhaps the writer has forgotten the difference between criticism and filthy abuse. Indian has always had a healthy tradition to criticise leaders or heroes, which the writer seems to have forgotten. Abuse cannot replace criticism in a modern society. – Harry D’silva
Sanjay Srivastava is altogether wrong. While speaking, Kalicharan was not critically evaluating the ideas, values and commitments of Gandhi, he was eulogising Nathuram Godse for his act of killing Gandhi. Kalicharan used an objectionable word against Gandhi and admired Godse for killing him. Evaluating and criticising is one thing and abusing Gandhi and praising a murderer is quite another. Sanjay Srivastava has not been able to appreciate the difference even as he is associated with the scientific discipline of sociology. – Vinod Kumar Srivastava
India definitely values rational and objective criticism. We have well-established democratic values of accepting criticism of revered leaders. Gandhiji has been criticised by many scholars and educated politicians objectively. These criticisms are directed against Gandhiji’s several decisions to fight British imperialism, his mysterious silence on Udham Singh and his role in Partition among many other reasons. However, the hailing of Gandhiji’s murder by a fundamentalist self-styled “sadhu” is not acceptable. We do not want a Hindu Pakistan. – Gautam Ganguly
Sanjay Srivastava seems to be clearly distraught at Kalicharan’s arrest. “If Gandhi’s ideas are stronger than those of his killer, they do not need laws to protect them” – really? So as per Srivastava, there is no difference between questioning or debating and abusing. If that is the case then why is Sanjay Srivastava silent on the thousands of cases of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and sedition against journalists and activists? Those people did not even abuse anyone. We have not seen any article from Srivastava on any of those stating “If Bjp’s ideas are stronger than those of their critics, they do not need laws to protect them”. – Raja
Criticism and abuse are not separated by a fine line. There is a huge difference between the two. The latter is much long lasting (be it verbal or physical abuse) – whether it is shooting at an effigy of Gandhi or by using abusive language for Gandhi, all such acts remain in public memory for much longer than rational, thought-provoking criticism. And when that happens, a negative figure is given a way to form in the minds of people. That negative approach is not a fruit of a sane mind.
We should keep aside the politics that happen all around Gandhi – from using his name to justify the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens or demonising him through the myth that he did nothing to save Bhagat Singh.
When an instance of Gandhi being defamed causes outrage, we allow ourselves to ask why national heroes should be above criticism and then start giving reasons for why this should not be so. And that is fine too. Contemporary history at the least allows us this privilege. But this is like looking through a narrow lens.
Even Scroll.in has published writers like Faisal Devji who have written about “Gandhi Vs Mahatma” and made a distinction between the two. Books like The South African Gandhi bring a different view altogether. And acceptance of such books, articles shows that we do not have an “uncritical reverence” towards anyone. But if the criticism pushes hate or employs abusive language as Kalicharan used for Gandhi, then it loses its own integrity. It changes its form to hate and is transformed into a tool to mobilise the crowd for vested interests.
Gandhi was a person who stood for and served the common man. His commitment to service and compassionate welfare of people is unmatched. That alone is the good that people should idealise. If even that is not possible then what kind of reverence are we looking for?
In the words of Lal Bahadur Verma, a historian who died recently, “If we will not strive to conserve the good that was in people who served common folk, then in no time a terrible mindset will overcome all.” – Siddhartha