Mahatma Ghandi (center), Indian politician, with his granddaughter Mridulaben or Manuben (left) and his grandnephew Kanu’s wife Abhabehn Gandhi (formerly Chatterjee) in Birla House in Delhi – around January 1948. Both Manu and Abha were known as Gandhi’s “walking sticks.”
October 2 marks Indian leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s (1869 – 1948) 146th birth anniversary. Also known as “Mahatma” or Great Soul, Gandhi is considered Father of the Indian Nation. His dream was to turn an independent India into a Ramrajya or Lord Rama’s rule. Gandhi’s version of utopia was small villages being run by panchayats (local councils); where cottage industries and small businesses formed the economic engine; and where religion, spirituality, ahimsa (non-violence) and satya (truth/God) would be the backbone of society’s ethical and moral structure.
Of course, all these would have been according to Gandhi’s understanding and interpretation of utopia. For him, Britain was Ravana (as it colonized India), and the British rule was “Satanic.” Ravana is the ten-headed villain in Ramayana who kidnapped Lord Ram’s wife Sita as an act of revenge. Gandhi denied he imagined himself as Rama. But it has been noted by many, that he undoubtedly wanted a place among the South Asian pantheon of god and goddesses.
Many of his followers, friends and fans compared Gandhi to Christ and Buddha. In his lifetime, Gandhi wanted to encounter “God” “face to face,” by which he meant realizing “the fact that God abides in one’s heart.” How do you find that out? Gandhi’s solution: “It is not possible to see God face to face unless you crucify the flesh.”
Kathryn Tidrick notes in her book Gandhi: A political and Spiritual Life, that during his stay in South Africa “[Gandhi’s] aspiration to Christhood had already formed itself.”
Gandhi said: “When I am a perfect being, I have simply to say the word, and the nation will listen.”
“There is no point in trying to know the difference between a perfect man and God.”
Gandhi’s perfect man/God was many steps ahead of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s Übermensch (Overhuman) or of the South Asian poet/philosopher Muhammad Iqbal’s Mard-e-Mo’min (Man-of-Faith) or Perfect Man. By equating a Perfect Man with God, and aspiring to become a Perfect Man, Gandhi hoped to acquire Godly power. In the Old Testament, God declared: “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
Gandhi probably planned that, upon attainment of perfect-hood, in order to implement his grand design he would just have to issue the commands:
“Let there be freedom from Britain; let every Indian start spinning; let every husband and wife declare themselves brother and sister; let them only indulge in sex for procreation purposes and not pleasure or “lustful love”; …”
In January 1921, to the sadhus of the Swaminarayana sect, Gandhi expressed his wish thus:
“[If I could] always practice truth, non-violence, brahmacharya in action, speech and thought” “[I would possess] all the supernatural powers” “[and] the world would be at my feet.”
If not the entire world, than, at least, millions of those Indians who were blinded by Gandhi’s sham would have loved to be at Gandhi’s feet.
To millions of Indians, Gandhi was a god. For his personal physician, Dr. Sushila Nayar, “He [Gandhi] was a god. I have always been drawn to the supernatural.”
In a part of Orissa, Gandhi’s group was denied entry into the temples of high caste Hindus because there were untouchables in Gandhi’s group. A British official noted: “At several places,” “people were seen carrying away dust that had been touched by his feet.”
Joseph Lelyveld, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India
The personal/private life of public figures should not be discussed unless it seriously interferes with their work or poses danger to the nation. But in this article, a few of Gandhi’s sexual eccentricities have been discussed for two reasons: they seriously interfered with India’s freedom movement against the British rule, and, that Gandhi openly wrote about and explored his sexual life.
Different people have different sexual fantasies; there is nothing wrong with that – as long as they are not forced on unwilling or minor partners. Most men are visual animals where female physique is involved. Gandhi was no different. He liked women too. He was a celebrity whose company and intimacy many women and girls coveted and fought to get.
Sarladevi Chaudhrani (the poet Rabindranath Tagore’s niece whom Gandhi considered his “spiritual wife”); Esther Faering, a Christian missionary from Denmark (Gandhi called “Dear Child”); and Madeleine Slade, a Britisher who joined the Indian freedom movement, (Gandhi’s Indian name for her was Mirabehn) were such examples.
But Gandhi had two serious psychological and sexual problems that probably originated from an incident in his early married life:
Gandhi and his wife Kasturbai were just 13 when they got married. Three years later, one night, when his father was very sick, Gandhi left him to enjoy conjugal life with his pregnant wife. His father died the same night. Not long after, Kasturbai gave birth to a stillborn. (Subsequently, she gave birth to four sons who all survived.) Gandhi had like a normal 16 year old succumbed to his sexual urge. However, that night was mentally devastating for Gandhi and drowned him in an ocean of guilt the rest of his life. In 1906, Gandhi took a vow to abstain from sex, to embrace celibacy or Brahmacharya.
Another serious problem Gandhi dealt with was a result of his philosophy on sex. For him, the purpose of sexual activity was to produce children and should not be indulged for enjoyment. He advised married couple to live as brothers and sisters. He advised all Indians: “It is the duty of every thoughtful Indian not to marry. In case he is helpless in regard to marriage, he should abstain from sexual intercourse with his wife.”
Some couples heeded his advice. One of them was Narayan (socialist leader Jayaprakash and his wife Prabhavati, a Sabarmati “graduate”). She took part in Gandhi’s Brahmacharya experiment by sleeping with him.
One who didn’t listen to Gandhi’s advice was Vijaya Lakshmi Nehru Pandit (Motilal’s daughter and Jawaharlal’s sister). She was a Hindu Brahmin in love with Syed Mahmood, the Muslim editor of her father’s newspaper. But she could not marry him due to family objections. Mehmood was asked to leave India. Gandhi was invited to the Nehru family home. He came and took her with him to the Sabarmati Ashram and married her off to a wealthy Brahmin Ranjit Sitaram Pandit. She questioned Gandhi’s logic to live as brother and sister. Gandhi was usually very strict, but not with her, as he did not stop her in enjoying her married life.
Gandhi considered semen a “vital fluid,” something that was not to be wasted. (Many societies consider preservation of semen as important.) Gandhi believed, “One who conserves his vital fluid acquires unfailing power.”
He tried to control his sexual feelings and conducted various “experiments” with young girls and women. These were exercises to control his member from rising in presence of clothed and unclothed women. But male members, i.e. male organs have their own personality and nature, mostly beyond control of their possessors. This was the case with Gandhi. Gandhi always failed. Gandhi-ling always won.
One of the reasons he wanted to control his member was in Gandhi’s words: “If I can master this, I can still beat Jinnah.”
One can imagine Gandhi’s thoughts during these experiments to control his vital fluid: “If I could tame this prick, I could tame the other prick [that is, Jinnah], too.
He had used other means to rein in Jinnah: He had written a letter to Ruttie (Jinnah’s wife) asking her to “coax” Jinnah to speak in Hindustani (mixture of two sister languages, Hindi and Urdu). Ruttie was a very independent woman with an intellectual bent who ignored Gandhi’s advice.
Gandhi failed miserably on both fronts: He could neither tame his own member, nor did he do his opponent. “Despite my best efforts, the organ remained aroused. It was an altogether strange and shameful experience.”
Unlike Gandhi, Jinnah was a reserved and very private person. He almost never discussed his personal life. He was not involved with any woman – either prior to his marriage to Ruttie in 1918 or after her death in 1929. He had a few female friends such as poet/politician Sarojini Naidu and also mingled with women and men during parties at his palatial house in Malabar Hills in Bombay (now Mumbai). (In 1892 on his mother’s insistence, who like other Indian mothers, feared her son might marry a white woman, Jinnah was married to Emibai before leaving for London. Emibai died while Jinnah was finishing his studies in London.)
Averse to climax
Gandhi never achieved the perfect-hood he was longing for. He also did not allow many of his projects: small or large, public or personal to reach their climax or satisfactory completion. One gets the impression Gandhi was averse to achieving climax and zenith of projects, just as he was of achieving personal orgasm, irrespective of whether the projects were political or humanitarian, social or sexual.
Here are a few examples:
In 1920, Gandhi had asked Sushila’s mother to gift her 6 year old daughter to him. After finishing her studies, she came to Sabarmati Ashram (commune) in Ahmedabad to serve Gandhi as his personal doctor. Sushila said she slept with Gandhi like she would sleep with her mother. She wrote there were other girls and women also who would physically sleep with Gandhi in the same bed.
When Gandhi came under attack for his relation with Sushila Nayar he didn’t deny his relations with her, but defended himself:
“While she is bathing, I keep my eyes tightly shut.” “I do not know the manner of her bathing, whether she bathes naked or with her underwear on. I can tell from the sound that she uses soap. I have seen no part of her body that everyone here will not have seen.”
One wonders why not leave her alone rather than sit there with closed eyes? And if he is there and Sushila knows it, then why shut out that sight? Why not enjoy her beauty and appreciate the aesthetic value of it? It may have enhanced pleasure for both. Why leave it halfway? Why not push it to the peak. (Or was Gandhi getting his kicks from the sound of the soap as he termed it?)
Gandhi used to take bath in front of women. The women who slept near him included Amala or Margarete Spiegel (a German Jew, Rajkumari (Princess) Amrit Kaur (a Christian with Sikh roots), Om (daughter of Janakidevi and Jamnalal Bajaj), Bibi Amtus Salam (a Muslim from aristocratic family), and Vasumati Pandit.
Gandhi was an England-educated lawyer who found work in India but was very nervous practicing, and forced to quit. So in 1893, when he was offered work to handle a legal matter by an Indian Muslim merchant, Dada Abdulla, residing in South Africa, he seized the opportunity. While there he experienced white racism (like other Indians) and decided to fight it with his fellow country-people, in a non-violent manner. They suffered police beating, courted arrest and drew lot of attention. But the battle was restricted to the rights of Indians only. Gandhi did not invite native blacks to join the fight against racism. He considered himself and other Indians superior to the South African blacks whom he called “Kaffirs”, a derogatory and a racist term used for blacks by the whites and Indians. (Arabic: meaning infidel.) Gandhi, however, had no problem accepting whites as the “predominating race.” Speaking in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1896 during his visit to India, he complained:
“Ours is one continual struggle against a degradation sought to be inflicted upon us by the Europeans, who desire to degrade us to the level of the raw Kaffir whose occupation is hunting, and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with and, then, pass his life in indolence and nakedness.”
Gandhi shunned interaction with natives. To avoid using the same entrance to Durban Post Office, used by blacks (whites had a separate entrance), Gandhi successfully demanded a third entrance for Indians:
“We felt the indignity too much and … petitioned the authorities to do away with the invidious distinction, and they have now provided three separate entrances for natives, Asiatics and Europeans.”
Gandhi was following the same three layer policy adopted by many: Whites on top, Indians in middle, and blacks at the bottom. It was a black land occupied by whites where Indians were taken as indentured laborers to work on sugarcane plantations. Gandhi was fighting racism against Indians only, not racism against black Africans whose condition was much worse than that of Indians. His fight would have had a touch of completeness if the natives were included too.
During the Bambatha Uprising in 1906, Gandhi wanted Indians to join British in crushing Zulus. This would, according to Gandhi, provide Indians with South African citizenship. British refused Indians a place in the army, so Gandhi came up with the idea of Indians helping the Empire by becoming stretcher bearers to carry the wounded, to which the British agreed. For Gandhi something was better than nothing to stay in the good books of the Master. Later, Gandhi proudly proclaimed: “I put my life in peril four times for the cause of the Empire.”
It would be many years before Gandhi would change his views on blacks.
(It was in 1952, four years after Gandhi’s death, that South African natives and Indians joined hands during the Defiance Campaign. Some studies tend to portray Gandhi as the first to fight racism in South Africa. But that is wrong. As Ashwin Desai co-author, with Goolam Vahed, of The South African Gandhi: Stretcher-Bearer of Empire points out, these studies ignore the native Africans’ resistances and victories.)
Gandhi had a habit of taking an enema daily due to severe constipation. He would regularly recommend enemas to others. In South Africa, an European girl who was close to him complained of continual headache. Gandhi’s diagnoses and treatment: “You must be constipated. I’ll give you an enema.”
Then Gandhi started preparing the syringe. In excitement, the girl came close to Gandhi and hugged him. What did Gandhi do? He scolded her: “Do you take me to be your father or your paramour?”
With feelings of shame, the girl pulled away from Gandhi and stood at a distance. He gave her the enema, and then was forced by Gandhi to admit her impropriety to her family members and companions. Gandhi was fond of reiterating this incident to friends and acquaintances to her utter embarrassment.
First of all, a person (unless a doctor or nurse) does not inject an enema in the rectum of any Tom, Dick, and Harry (or Tammy, Diki, and Harriet) of opposite sex unless there is closeness. It is natural for a young person in love to express her joy at being the recipient of such intimate gesture from her hero. Gandhi knew the girl’s feelings for him and should have expected such reaction. What was Gandhi trying to demonstrate by reprimanding and shaming the girl? Was he trying to prove his moral superiority and authority or was he convincing himself/others by displaying he was above such lust? Or was it both?
If Gandhi thought the girl was a minor, he could have gently resisted her by accepting her hug and gradually breaking off the relationship. She was close to Gandhi so he must have been aware of her age. Instead of creating this moral drama he could have asked women from his group to give her an enema.
As usual, Gandhi just hated climax; and, instead of reciprocating the girl’s feelings by opening his arms and enjoying the beautiful enema-tic moments, he ruined the poor girl’s great moment of ecstasy.
Gandhi continued this enema business in India, where in his Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, many residents gave enemas to each other. They were vegetarian and this made Gandhi’s biographer Jad Adams in Gandhi: The True Man Behind Modern India wonder:
“were [people in Ashram] in fact constipated or was Gandhi projecting his symptoms on to them – or was the preoccupation with enemas just a neurotic obsession with cleanliness within and without?”
This dictatorial tendency and morally superior behavior stayed with Gandhi throughout his life. In the Indian ashram he established, girls and boys were to bath and sleep together without touching each other, i.e., no hanky panky. Imagine the physical and emotional torture these teenagers went through. Gandhi was above this dictate – he could get massages from the female members of his ashram regularly.
Did it ever occur to him that he was going against human nature? That sexual activity is a human necessity and that sexual feelings are natural in women and men, and there is nothing wrong in finding a proper outlet for female ejaculation or for releasing seminal fluid and that the zenith of true love between people in love is the sexual union?
It was the good fortune of people of the Indian subcontinent that Gandhi failed to exert total control over the ashram residents and it had to be closed down because of hanky panky. The failure was partly due to Gandhi’s involvement with other battles he was fighting on different fronts (Jinnah, Ambedkar, British, fasts, traveling, etc.). Imagine what would have otherwise happened to the Subcontinent: everybody would have been spinning on charkhas or spinning wheels (another one of Gandhi’s great ideas), and be frustrated due to lack of sexual activity. Alternatively, they would be producing innumerable children – as procreation was permitted. Imagine the condition of women always either pregnant or giving birth! Gandhi wanted Indian women to resist their men.
Not that no one drew Gandhi’s attention to this nonsense, it was just that like any other fanatic, Gandhi thought he was right. Nehru often showed surprise at Gandhi’s obsession with sex. One of Gandhi’s female friends, Raihana Tyabji, born a Muslim but chose to be a Vishnuite Hindu, was a Gandhian and, was one of many brahmacharis at Gandhi’s ashram (commune). She had advised him:
“I often told Bapu [father, as Gandhi was known to many] that there was a great difference between repressing libido and outgrowing it, and that the only way to outgrow it was to give free rein to it – to indulge it and satiate it. But he wouldn’t listen.” (Ved Mehta, Mahatma Gandhi and His Apostles)
A women’s activist from the US, Margaret Sanger was another person to question Gandhi’s advise to women:
“Picture to yourself this situation. Try to imagine the irritations, disputes and thwarted longings that Mr. Gandhi’s advice would bring into the home. There could be no loving glances, no tender good night kisses, no gentle words of endearment lest such attention, such natural expressions of affection might excite the sexual emotions.
“Nothing but frowns, refusals, dark glances and frigid repulses could come from the wife or the young loving mother in order to keep from a pregnancy she did not desire. The husband would hardly dare look tenderly at the woman he loved, fearful of his own powers of self-control. Dost thou like the picture?“
Gandhi was a master of identifying himself as a member of the various groups about which he strongly held certain views. He had told Sanger: “They have regarded me as half a women because I have completely identified myself with them. . . . I feel I speak with some confidence because I have worked with and talked with and studied many women.”
Sarojini Naidu once said it cost India a “fortune” to maintain Gandhi in poverty. Although said in jest, there was truth in it. They should have spent money to invite Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) to take care of Gandhi’s psychological problems. Freud would have loved to treat Gandhi free of charge. By the 1920s, Gandhi had become a world famous figure. Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein were greatly impressed by Gandhi. Not everything about Gandhi was known then.
Perhaps, Gandhi was suffering from hyper-sexuality, i.e., he was oversexed. It’s an accepted medical condition. The problem is, instead of accepting it as such, Gandhi blamed his lack of control over his sexual urges on his failure to achieve spiritual perfectness, which is where his mental health comes into question. When he refused to listen to any kind of reasoning and declined to accept medical/psychological help and believed strongly he was right, this was a great mental crisis – great because Gandhi had influence over millions of people.)
On 13 April 1919 Sunday afternoon, over 10,000 Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had gathered to celebrate Baisakhi, the arrival of the Spring season. Most of them were unaware of the martial law that had been imposed by the British rulers. General Reginald Dyer came with his soldiers from the Balochi and Gurkha regiments, took control of the only entrance, and started shooting wildly in the crowd without any warning. This went on for ten minutes, until they ran out of ammunition. Official figures cited 379 killed and over 1,000 injured. Unofficial numbers were higher. Dyer, not satisfied with this barbaric act, ordered every Indian passing the streets of Amritsar where Britisher Ms. Sherwood was attacked, to crawl through the streets there. In addition, every Indian was required to salute British officers. Those disobeying the orders were flogged in public.
In Gujranwala (now part of Pakistan) people protested violently against this British atrocity and the humiliation imposed on people. Deputy Commissioner Mirza Sultan Ahmad refused to fire on protesters. To control the crowd on 14th April, four British fighter aircrafts and helicopters bombed Gujranwala and succeeded in bringing it under control.
Many times the Amritsar massacre is portrayed as the worst incident of British rule. The British did not need to inflict such violence. Although their number in India was under 100,000 and the Indians were approximately 300 million, the Nawabs, Rajas, Maharajas, and Nizams of princely states were controlled indirectly by the British and posed no threat. The Indian Territory ruled directly by the British was of no constant threat. Also, the two major political parties (Indian National Congress and Indian Muslim League) were neither involved in any terrorist activities nor did they support small groups or individuals carrying out such actions. Gandhi did threaten the British, now and then, of civil disobedience and non-violence, but, he was just a nuisance and posed no great danger. So for the British, there was no need to use too much violence.
In wake of the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy, Gandhi, in cooperation with some Muslims (not Jinnah), also linked the Khilafat issue and announced Non-Cooperation movement on August 1, 1920. The movement was to be non-violent. The aim was to frustrate the British rule and force them out of India. Indians were asked by Gandhi to return their titles and medals, to leave the educational institutions, burn foreign clothes and wear clothes made and weaved in India, quit government jobs, stop paying taxes, and so on. These were to happen in stages.
On 2 February 1922, there were protests against high meat prices in Gorakhpur district in United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh and Uttarkhand) that turned violent. Police fired on the crowd and went into the Chauri Chaura police station. This incident is called the Chauri Chaura incident. On February 5, a group of Muslims and Hindus set the station on fire and the escaping policemen were thrown into the fire or were cut to death. Altogether 22 policemen were killed while the people were heard shouting “Mahatma Gandhi ki jai” or “Victory to Mahatma Gandhi.” This was the third but most violent incident. Twice previously the movement was suspended but was resumed.
After the Chauri Chaura incident, Gandhi called off the non-cooperation movement and went on a five day fast as a mark of penance. There was opposition from many prominent Congress members against calling off the movement. The question is why? Gandhi was not a novice to the Indian subcontinent and was aware that India consisted of several religions, multiple ethnic groups, dozens of languages, hundreds of castes/sub-castes, several level of classes, and so on. So there was every chance that an incident, even a minor one could erupt into a huge riot. Small and large riots had been happening in India. So Chauri Chaura or some other violent incident was bound to happen sooner or later. And some of his colleagues and opponents had predicted such an outcome. But Gandhi had the final word.
It is interesting to note that Gandhi was not totally opposed to violence as is generally believed. On many occasions he had extolled the virtues of violence:
“I would risk violence a thousand times [rather] than risk the emasculation of a whole race.”
“We have to take the risk of violence to shake off the great calamity of slavery.”
“Supposing a non-violent struggle has been started at my behest and later on there is an outbreak of violence, I will put up with that too, because it is God who is inspiring me and things will shape as He wills. If He wants to destroy the world through violence using me as His instrument, how can I prevent it?” (Perry Anderson, Gandhi Centre Stage)
Non-cooperation was one movement through which Gandhi could have been able to show positive result and self-rule or Swarajya could have come much earlier if he had not put a stop to the movement. But Gandhi preferred Coitus interruptus instead of going all the way, so as not to impregnate the Britishers with a thought that Gandhi wants to cut ties with the British Empire without the Congress Party being ready to take over power.
Gandhi and the Congress leadership wanted freedom from Britain first, and only then would they look into issues that the untouchables, Muslims and others were raising. On the other hand, the minorities wanted the problems related to their rights, security and their place in government to be resolved first. (Minorities were justified as the majority almost never wants to give anything once in power.) It was due to Gandhi’s threat to fast to death, the Dalit untouchables leader B. R. Ambedkar, to save his people’s lives, caved in to Gandhi’s blackmail in 1932. Muhammad Ali Jinnah after his wife’s death had settled in England in early 1930s, was persuaded by the Muslim League leaders to return to India to put life in the League. Jinnah returned and by mid 1940s, the League was a force to reckon. Jawaharlal Nehru called Pakistan a “fantasy” and refused to accept the support Jinnah enjoyed among the Muslims.
Jinnah appears to be wholly intransigent and threatens bloodshed and rioting if anything is done without his consent. I do not think there is much in Jinnah’s threat.
With the failure of the Cabinet Mission in 1946, the last chance to save India’s unity was lost. The plan consisted of three units (almost like today’s India, Bangladesh and Pakistan) with a weak central government. The Congress Party didn’t agree. Jinnah declared 16 August 1946 as Direct Action Day. This day is etched in history as the day of Great Calcutta Killings. The number of dead ran into thousands, many people were wounded and became homeless. There were killings in other cities and states, too. Overall, more Muslims died then Hindus. At this, the Congress leader Vallabhbhai Patel was happy and remarked: “Sword will be answered by sword.”
Jinnah had come to a conclusion: “In my opinion, there is no alternative except the outright establishment of Pakistan.”
The slogans of Muslim mobs were:
“Pakistan ka nara kiya? La illahahillillah“ “What is the slogan of Pakistan? There is no God but Allah.”)
“Assey leingey Pakistan, jaisey liyatha Hindustan.” (“We will gain Pakistan the way we [Muslims] conquered India.”)
Gandhi was in Bengal trying to lend morale support and condole families who had lost dear ones. He was accompanied by some of his people. Manuben Gandhi (his nephew Jaisukhlal’s daughter) was summoned by Gandhi to join him. He asked Sushila, Abha Chatterjee (his grandnephew’s wife), to go to other towns. Gandhi stayed in Noakhali (now part of Bangladesh) with Manuben for “a yajna – sacrifice, a penance” for bringing peace.
Gandhi told Manuben:
“We both may be killed by the Muslims at any time. We must both put our purity to the ultimate test, so that we know that we are offering the purest of sacrifices, and we should now both start sleeping naked.”
On February 1, 1947, Gandhi announced at a prayer meeting that he and Manuben were sharing the same bed. Then, under pressure from his friends, relatives and Congress members, Manuben left. But they soon got back together in Delhi, and stayed together till he died.
Then 16 year old Manuben’s February 2, 1947 diary entry reads:
“Bapu has told his followers during the morning prayer that he was carrying out celibacy experiments with me. Then he explained to me why he spoke about it. I felt very relieved as it will stop tongues from wagging. I told myself I don’t care now. Let the world say whatever it wants.”
Manuben’s December 21, 1946 entry reads:
“Tonight, when Bapu [Gandhi], Sushilaben and I were sleeping on the same cot, he embraced me and patted me. He put me to sleep with great love. He embraced me after a very long time. Then Bapu praised me for remaining innocent (of sexual urges) despite sleeping with him. But this isn’t the case with the other girls. Veena, Kanchan and Lilavati (other associates of Gandhi) told me that they won’t be able to sleep with him.”
Was Manuben suppressing and killing her sexual feelings or was she really “innocent of sexual urges”? Gandhi should have considered her sexual feelings, needs and agony she was going through as part of his experiment. It would have been much better if he had relations with her rather than using her as a guinea pig. Anyway.
Gandhi, “the Mahatma” the “Christ like figure,” was hell bent on getting killed and achieving martyrdom as can be seen from his writings. Why didn’t Gandhi tell Manu they would fight Muslim hooligans and murderers to the last breath because they didn’t want to die at hands of such communalists? Then, if they died, they would be called “shaheeds” or martyrs. Did Gandhi ever think of the consequences to India in event of his being murdered at hands of Muslims? Or was that his plan? If Gandhi would have been killed by Muslims India would have turned into an ocean of blood.
Gandhi wanted to abolish untouchability but without eradicating the caste system.
“I believe that caste has saved Hinduism from disintegration. … I consider the four divisions alone to be fundamental, natural and essential. The innumerable sub-castes are sometimes a convenience, often a hindrance. … But I am certainly against any attempt at destroying the fundamental divisions.” (Christophe Jaffrelot, Dr. Ambedkar and Untouchability: Fighting the Indian Caste System)
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the leader of the untouchables, wanted the caste system to go because he believed only the removal of untouchability was not going to solve the centuries old problems as the outcasts had no access to education, land or water. Ambedkar himself was born in an untouchable family and had faced extreme discrimination from the upper caste Hindus. He was fortunate enough to find a sympathetic teacher in school and later, liberal patrons who supported his education at Columbia University (United States) and London School of Economics (England). After independence he became the Law Minister.
The four castes or varna are: Brahmins (priestly caste), Kshatriyas (ruling caste – kings and military), Vaishyas (trading caste – merchants, farmers, etc.), and Shudras (servant caste to serve the other three castes). The untouchables were lower than all these castes. Ambedkar described the tragic condition of his people:
“How can I call this land [India] my own homeland and this religion [Hinduism] my own wherein we are treated worse than cats and dogs, wherein we cannot get water to drink?” (Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History)
Gandhi was a master manipulator, he would easily change himself to be part of any group that suit him at the time, whether Muslim, women, Christian, untouchable, or any other group, when he felt there was an intelligent leader who could articulate the grievances of their group without needing Gandhi. He wanted to represent all groups. So now Gandhi became an untouchable: “I claim myself in my own person to represent the vast mass of the untouchables.”
Ambedkar called Gandhi a hypocrite who would preach people to carry on the work assigned to their castes but he himself didn’t want to carry the work he was supposed to do, i.e., trade work, as a Vaishya.
This was classic Gandhi who wanted to keep Untouchables within the Hindu fold for election and statistical purposes, and so he could fight against untouchability but without disturbing the caste edifice.
Was Gandhi averse to climax?
Each case requires different explanation:
In case of Non-Cooperation Movement, Gandhi had a hold over a vast majority of Indians whose hopes he had built to such an extent that he had to give them something whereby his esteem would be maintained in their eyes, and would also provide a reason to them to believe that Gandhi didn’t just talk but was a leader of action. On the other hand, Gandhi was not a revolutionary who could go out and bring the colonial government to a standstill by sabotage and bombing. Nor was he a constitutionalist like Jinnah who would argue India’s case for freedom in the councils and parliament. Besides, he didn’t want any other party than Congress to take over power when the British left, so he didn’t want to annoy the British to such an extent that they would treat him like a pariah.
In case of Africans, Gandhi was no doubt a racist. He didn’t mind whites being a tthe top but he just couldn’t imagine Indians being lumped with blacks. As a member of discriminated class, one would have expected Gandhi to side with the other discriminated classes and try to get even with the discriminator. If not on humanitarian ground than from logical one, Gandhi should have thought of joining blacks – because someday the whites would have to quit and the blacks would rule the country.
The attitude and behavior of Gandhi with the girl he gave an enema to, was superiority complex with an attitude that he was above sexual things and his method was of ridicule of an innocent, most likely projection of his own attitude on her.
In case of Sushila Nayar, Gandhi’s defense was ridiculous. As far as his own body was concerned, one can say Gandhi was an exhibitionist. He would dictate things while he would be relieving himself on a toilet bowl and would allow people of the ashram to walk in and out. Gandhi could have openly said that there is nothing wrong in watching a close friend take a bath.
The Manuben Gandhi episode in Noakhali clearly showed that Gandhi had a serious mental problem. It would not have been abnormal if he had sexual relations with her. But his belief that he could overcome his libido by sleeping naked with naked young girls is nothing but mental sickness. Anne Basant, an Irish activist who had joined Indians in their fight for freedom from Britain said that Gandhi had suffering mentality. Gandhi also had the martyr mentality whereby he was constantly thinking of getting assassinated by an assassin. He didn’t want to give any fight to his attacker but just wanted martyrdom!
As far as as untouchability was concerned, Gandhi had to take care of the high castes who were powerful and from whom he was getting his support, financial and political. Gandhi was a bania from a Vaishya caste just as the current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi.
Writer/activist Arundhati Roy reminds us that in today’s India, the economic power is in the hands of the banias.
“Look at the handful of major corporations: they’re all owned by Banias, the trading caste, which is only two percent of the population.”
Gandhi not only squandered his own time on bizarre things but, by making his eccentricities public, he also prompted many others to divert their attention from important issues of the time. It was sad that he was able to accumulate so much power yet not utilize it to avert the horrible partition which would have benefited all Indians.
Gandhi failed to stop the partition and failed to implement his version of “Ramrajya” over all of India. And Jinnah did not live long enough to put Pakistan on a secular path.
In a strange twist of irony, Gandhi’s dream, it seems, will be fulfilled by the present right wing BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government of Modi, which came to power in May 2014, albeit with a twist: it will be a Ramrajya or, more accurately, Corporate Ramramjya, where big corporations will rule along with Hindu fascists, to control minorities, trade unions, dissidents, etc.
In Pakistan, the Sindh government has decided to include Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech on Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Muslims of being equal “citizens of the State,” in the school curriculum of grades 8, 9, and 10. It’s significant, though it may not halt the Islamization of the country or stop the Sunni fanatics from killing Shia Muslims and other minority members – unless the government acts whole-heartedly by using full judicial power with the help of military, the real power holder in Pakistan.