V Pattabhi Ram

From a forthcoming article of mine

If the Mahatma were alive today, and if Prime Minister Modi seeks his advice on the strained relationship with Pakistan, what would the Father of the Nation say? We can hazard a few guesses.

First up, a bit of history. Mohandas Gandhi, the half-naked fakir, will in the eyes of some have to wear forever the albatross called Pakistan. Allowing partition, after proclaiming that it “can happen only over my dead body,” is a serious charge against him. Many believe Godse killed Gandhi, angry with the Mahatma for having appeased the Muslims.

All of that is in the realm of history. What would Gandhi do today?

The apostle of non-violence may not trek the same path that he walked seven decades ago. Great leaders do not necessarily stick to the principles they once propounded. They alter their beliefs with time. Gandhiji, the second most influential man of the 20th century, was a transformational leader and faithful to the spirit of such people, he would have changed his course today.

Three events: 26/11, Pathankot, and now Uri have drained the patience of this nation. Not because we lost our soldiers, but because there is the growing belief that we are being taken for granted. At no point in time Gandhi would have boasted of his ability to broker peace; in short, he would never have talked about 56 inches and ten soldiers for every single head. He would not do a NATO: No action, talk only.

Instead, he would suggest first speaking to the Pakistani civilian government, build a global consensus for India, move the UN Security Council, and bring leaders of various nations on our side. These actions will up our moral compass. He would then ask us to be more vigilant, and tell our soldiers as a class to be guard both at day and at night. Remember, soldiers will have to be prepared forever for a war that would perhaps never take place during their lifetime!

He would recommend caution first. Remember, Pakistan is a rogue nation with the nuclear bomb. Being the Mavericks that they are, they cannot be trusted either in peace or war. Gandhiji would hence recommend our army to be in a state of readiness. “If you want peace, you must be prepared for war.” He would take the most powerful nation in the world, America, on his side.

He would tell the prime minister to build consensus at all costs among political parties and not to be detained by sharp comments that a politician or two might make. Thick skin is the need of the hour. A suggestion would also be sent refraining television channels from going ballistic with jingoism or from playing the dove. Channels would have to restrict themselves to news, not views, irrespective of their political leanings. Most importantly he would ask the prime minister to ignore the noise in the social media. He would want him to directly engage with the people of Pakistan sidestepping the government.

When everything else fails, and attacks continue, perhaps the war guns would boom.

In retrospect, if the Mahatma were alive today, he would suggest restraint, building global consensus, to defend and, and if push comes to shove, retaliate. No, he wouldn’t say, “An eye for an eye would make the entire world blind.” Just as he would suggest that you should drive on the left side of the road if a lorry is hurtling dangerously on the same side towards you. That’s because self-defense is no crime. That’s because leaders change with time as the principles they once propounded stop working in a new world order.




About Pattabhi Ram

A chartered accountant by profession, a writer by passion and a teacher by accidental choice.
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