- Gandhi’s popular narrative as the ‘Father of the Nation’ must be questioned given that he consistently prioritized Muslim interests over Hindus and Sikhs.
- His biased approach is underscored by cases like the Moplah Rebellion, where he seemingly downplayed or justified atrocities committed by Muslims against Hindus, leading to criticism from contemporaries and leaders like Ambedkar.
- His pacifism often translated into appeasement of Muslims, advising Hindus and Sikhs not to retaliate even in the face of violent attacks during communal riots.
- Gandhi’s initial support for British rule and his encouragement of Indians to enlist in the British Army during World War I is completely at odds with his later image as a leader of the Indian independence movement.
- He may have caused irreparable harm to India, especially Hindus and Sikhs, despite being credited with the country’s independence.
Mahatma Gandhi, an iconic figure among world leaders, holds a unique position on the global stage. India, venerating him with unparalleled esteem, rarely subjects his life’s work to critical analysis. Nearly eight decades post-Independence and Gandhi’s passing, it is imperative to scrutinize his impact on Indian society with a discerning lens. This article delves into Gandhi’s stances on various issues, examining his sense of fairness and exploring the equitable treatment of all segments of the Indian population, particularly the Hindus. Unfortunately, when his actions and positions on various subjects are critically examined, his record does not align with the high accolades he has been given.
“This religion (Hinduism), if it can be called such, stinks in my nostrils.” – Mohandas Gandhi, 1917
On December 23, 1926, a Muslim assassin named Abdul Rashid shot dead Swami Shraddhananda while the frail 70-year-old was saying his prayers. Shraddhananda was a member of the Hindu organization Arya Samaj and had started a program to bring the converted Muslims, specifically Malkana Rajputs of northern India, back to Hinduism. Over 163,000 Malkana Rajputs were converted back to the Hindu fold due to this Movement, bringing Shraddhananda into direct confrontation with Muslim clerics and leaders who instigated violence against the swami.
“Now you will perhaps understand why I have called Abdul Rashid a brother, and I repeat it. I do not even regard him as guilty of the swami’s murder” – Gandhi speaking about the murderer of Swami Shradhananda
A few days after the assassination, Mohandas Gandhi went to Guwahati to deliver his speech at the national conference of the Indian National Congress. Describing the assassin as “Bhai Abdul Rashid,” which shocked the listeners who were already despondent at the genial monk’s murder, he continued, “Now you will perhaps understand why I have called Abdul Rashid a brother, and I repeat it. I do not even regard him as guilty of the swami’s murder. Guilty indeed are those who excited feelings of hatred against one another.” Thus, he held Shraddhananda responsible for his own murder.
Gandhi’s anti-Hindu bias was so blatant that a Muslim man named Khalifa Haji Mehmud of Lurwani, Sindh, stated that “Gandhi was really a Mohammedan.” The truth of this statement is borne out by another incident involving Shraddhananda.
In 1921, as part of the Swadeshi Movement, when the nation decided to boycott British clothes, Gandhi called for a mass bonfire of imported garments. When Shraddhananda learned about this, he told Gandhi that instead of burning, the discarded clothes should be distributed among the desperately poor people of India. Gandhi rejected the suggestion of the Hindu leader while letting the leaders of the Khilafat Movement send discarded clothes for use by the Muslims of Turkey.
Not only did Gandhi not have the slightest regard for the sentiments of Hindus, he allowed the Muslims to pursue an independent policy. Shraddhananda commented: “I could not, for the life of me, understand the ethics of depriving our own poor millions of the means of covering their nudity and sending the same cloths to a distant land.”
Gandhi was never moved by the sufferings and miseries of the Hindus. On the contrary, he was quick to offer his sympathy to Muslims. According to his idea of Hindu-Muslim unity, only Hindus were supposed to make sacrifices while enduring all the oppressions and heinous crimes of the Muslims without protest. This was the basis of Gandhian nonviolence and secularism.
Gandhi claimed to have been inspired by the Bhagavad Gita. “Ahimsa paramo dharma” or “nonviolence is the highest duty” was his favorite quote, but none of his contemporaries bothered to check the Gita and expose his selective citations. Krishna Maheshwari explains in Hindupedia:
“Unlike the English word ‘nonviolence’ (which is absolute in its meaning), ahimsa means nonviolence in a relative sense. There are times when violence can also be considered ahimsa if that violence is used to stop greater violence….To hang a murderer is ahimsa for a king. To kill a man who is taking away the lives of many is ahimsa.”
“After the British leave India, the Nizam of Hyderabad would be the Badshah of Bharat” – Gandhi
When the Hindu population of Bhopal was suffering under the tyrannical rule of the Muslim Nawab; Hindu girls were abducted and raped; Hindu culture was opposed, and rapid Islamisation was taking place; Gandhi visited Bhopal and declared, “The people of Bhopal are happy under the rule of Nawab. He leads a simple life and is a ‘Ramraja’ (righteous king).”
By the same logic, Gandhi should have asked the Muslim Nizam of Hyderabad to retire and go to Mecca. After all, Hyderabad was a Hindu-majority State. But he only showed more glimpses of his warped side by declaring: “After the British leave India, the Nizam of Hyderabad would be the Badshah of Bharat.”
Whitewashing Moplah terror
One of the most hypocritical moments in Gandhi’s career took place during the Khilafat Movement in 1921. The Movement sparked extensive violence in the Malabar coast of Kerala when a regional Muslim leader, Variankunnathu Kunjahammad Haji, proclaimed himself the Khalifa (Caliph) and marked two tehsils as ‘Khilafat Kingdoms.’ Inciting his followers against the British, this rebellion, widely known as the Moplah Rebellion, commenced on August 20, 1921, and persisted for four months.
Houses and temples were destroyed, women were dishonored, and people were forcefully converted or burnt alive. The atrocities committed by the Moplahs shook the conscience of many leaders, including Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar and Annie Besant. While Annie Besant vividly described the brutality against the Hindus, especially the women, Ambedkar minced no words in condemning the massacres by describing them as “blood-curdling” and “indescribable.” Gandhi’s close confidant, C. Rajagopalachari, was so distraught by the cruelty of the Moplahs that he shot off a letter to Gandhi stating that “the atrocities of the Moplahs have made men, women, and children lose faith in the concept of Hindu-Muslim unity completely.”
“The Moplahs were right in presenting the Koran or sword to the Hindus. And if the Hindus became Mussalmans to save themselves from death, it was a voluntary change of faith and not forcible conversion.”
Gandhi never raised his voice against the atrocities committed by the Moplah Muslims. Rejecting the plentiful evidence of the anti-Hindu pogrom provided by his colleagues, the media, and the British, he said: “Islam protects even in war women, children, and old men from molestation. Islam does not justify jehad except under well-defined conditions. So far as I know the law of Islam, the Moplahs could not, on their own initiative, declare jehad.”
When the overwhelming evidence could no longer be ignored, Gandhi justified the atrocities and callously commented: “The brave God-fearing Moplahs were fighting for what they considered as religion, and in a manner, which they considered religious.”
He also blatantly denied that innumerable cases of conversion into Islam had taken place. “The Moplahs were right in presenting the Koran or sword to the Hindus. And if the Hindus became Mussalmans to save themselves from death, it was a voluntary change of faith and not forcible conversion.”
Gandhi later doubled down on his Muslim appeasement by writing an article in ‘Young India,’ titled “The Starving Moplah,” in which he asked Hindus to collect funds to alleviate the suffering of the Malabar Muslims. His appeal was mainly addressed to the Hindus: “In face of the awful fact of starvation and homelessness, all argument and all opposition must be hushed. Generations hence, when all our evil acts will have been forgotten, posterity will cherish the treasured memory of every simple act of love shown by the one to the other. I, therefore, ask every Hindu reader who will extend the hand of love and fellowship to his starving Moplah brother and sister and their children to send his or her mite, and I shall endeavor to see that it is properly distributed among the most deserving among the Moplahs.”
“I would tell the Hindus to face death cheerfully if the Muslims are out to kill them.”
Between 1920 and 1947 – leading up to the Partition of India – there were dozens of Hindu-Muslim riots in different parts of India. In response to savage attacks by Muslims on innocent Hindus and Sikhs, Gandhi advised: “They should not generate an atmosphere in which the Muslims should be compelled to flee to Pakistan. Hindus and Sikhs should become brave and show that even if all the Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan were to be killed, there would be no retaliation in India. I do not want to live to see our people copy Pakistan. If I am to live, I shall ask every Hindu and every Sikh not to touch a single Muslim. It is cowardice to kill Muslims, and we must become brave and not cowards.“
According to Indologist and orientalist Koenraad Elst, “The fundamental problem with Gandhi’s pacifism, not in the initial stages but when he had become the world-famous leader of India’s freedom movement (1920-47), was his increasing extremism. All sense of proportion had vanished when he advocated nonviolence not as a technique of moral pressure by a weaker on a stronger party, but as a form of masochistic surrender.”
Gandhi’s advice to the victims of communal violence was “breathtaking for its callousness in the face of human suffering.” During his prayer meeting on 1 May 1947, he prepared the Hindus and Sikhs for the anticipated massacres of their kind in the upcoming state of Pakistan with these words:
“I would tell the Hindus to face death cheerfully if the Muslims are out to kill them. I would be a real sinner if, after being stabbed, I wished in my last moment that my son should seek revenge. I must die without rancor. You may turn round and ask whether all Hindus and all Sikhs should die. Yes, I would say. Such martyrdom will not be in vain.”
“It is left unexplained what purpose would be served by this senseless and avoidable surrender to murder,” says Elst.
In 1925, an Indian revolutionary wrote a letter to Gandhi, accusing the Congress leader of stifling India’s freedom movement due to his non-violent approach. The gist of this most interesting letter is as follows:
- The revolutionaries are entering villages and have been successful everywhere.
- Indians are descendants of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Rana Pratap, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and Guru Govind Singh, and can, therefore, appreciate revolutionary sentiments with more readiness and depth than Gandhi’s followers.
- Armed and conspired resistance against something satanic and ignoble as British rule is infinitely more befitting for any nation, especially India, than the prevalence of effortlessness and Gandhi’s philosophical cowardice.
- *Cowardice is pervading the length and breadth of India owing to the preaching of Gandhi’s theory of nonviolence or, more correctly, the wrong interpretation and misuse of it.
In response, Gandhi wrote an editorial in ‘Young India,’ calling the revolutionary “a misguided and, therefore, dangerous patriot.” He added: “It sounds very pleasant and exciting to talk of the descendants of Shivaji, Ranjit, Pratap and Govind Singh. But is it true? Are we all descendants of these heroes in the sense in which the writer understands it? We are their countrymen, but their descendants are the military classes.”
Gandhi was clearly trying to delink the heroic Indian rulers (especially those who defeated Muslim and European invaders) from the Indian masses. He was trying to present the case that the majority of Indian people had no connection to their great kings. Observe that he had also internalized the British classification of ‘martial races’ and was using that to suggest that only some Marathas, Rajputs, and Sikhs did the fighting. It shows a servile acceptance of British racial theories and a complete lack of knowledge of Indian history. Even school children know the vast scale of Indian resistance to foreign rule, against which even forest tribes fought valiantly and victoriously.
Gandhi twisted the knife again into Maharana Pratap, ridiculing the Rajput titan as “a giant bandit
Gandhi continued that the revolutionaries’ “sacrifice, nobility and love are not only a waste of effort, but being ignorant and misguided, do and have done more harm to the country than any other activity.”
Not content with maligning the four great Indian warrior kings, Gandhi twisted the knife again into Maharana Pratap, ridiculing the Rajput titan as “a giant bandit.”
On another occasion, this freedom movement leader labeled revolutionaries, including Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar, and Rajguru Shivram, who inspired Indians with their ultimate sacrifice, as “misguided souls.”
There is plenty of indirect evidence that Gandhi served Britain more than he served India’s cause.
The irony was that Gandhi – who constantly espoused nonviolence – urged Indians to enlist as combatants in the British Army… with the slogan “20 Recruits From Every Village”
After he returned from South Africa, Gandhi was in favor of continued British rule in India. In 1907, he wrote, “Should the British be thrown out of India? Can it be done, even if we wish to do so? To these two questions, we can reply that we stand to lose by ending British rule and that, even if we want, India is not in a position to end it. But we hold that, whatever the motives of the British in coming to India, we have much to learn from them. They are a brave and considerate people, and are on the whole honest. Blind where self-interest is concerned, they give unstinted admiration for bravery wherever found. They are a powerful nation, and India enjoys not a little protection under them. It is not, therefore, desirable that British rule in India should disappear.” These are the words of a man who was unceremoniously thrown out of a train in South Africa for sitting in a whites-only coach.
The irony was that Gandhi – who constantly espoused nonviolence – urged Indians to enlist as combatants in the British Army. With the slogan “20 Recruits From Every Village,” he set up camps to enlist Indians during World War I. Basically, he was sending young Indians as cannon fodder in a war with which India had nothing to do.
For his efforts, he was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind (Caesar of India), British India’s highest civilian award. Other Indians opposed his war efforts. Among them was Jinnah, who said Indians should be put on the same footing as European British subjects before being asked to fight. And secondly, they said Britain must guarantee independence after the war. Gandhi, however, waved aside all such conditions.
Indian revolutionaries were frustrated by Gandhi’s tardiness in demanding full freedom. His nonviolence exasperated these leaders because it shielded the British from the wrath of the Indian people.
According to Elst, Gandhi’s “autocratic decision” to call off the mass agitation for complete independence in 1931 in exchange for a “few puny British concessions” amounted to the sacrifice of a high national goal in favor of a petty rise in status for the Congress.” He adds: “Also, every delay in the declaration of independence gave the emerging separatist forces the time to organize and to strengthen their position.”
Essentially, Gandhi allowed the British and Muslim separatists a window of 16 years, during which they were able to sell the idea of Pakistan to a wider Muslim audience. Gandhi’s policies, therefore, weakened Hindus, vivisected the ancient land of the Hindus, and created two implacable Islamic enemies (Pakistan and Bangladesh) on India’s flanks.
It must be noted here that even some of Gandhi’s much-admired methods were knee-jerk reactions to the pioneering strategies of contemporary Indian leaders.
For instance, Veer Savarkar 1905 first started the Swadeshi (buy Indian) Movement by organizing a bonfire of foreign clothes in Pune. Gandhi, who was then in South Africa, panned Savarkar’s decision, only to launch the Swadeshi Movement 16 years later.
When B.R. Ambedkar championed the cause of the depressed classes and started a movement to secure the Dalits the right to vote for their representatives, Gandhi went on a hunger strike until Ambedkar called off his plan.
Later, Gandhi sought to become a Dalit leader by coining the term Harijan or People of God. However, he did not believe the Dalits were fit to be treated as equals, saying, “I do not believe that inter-dining and inter-caste marriage are necessary to national unity.”
Some are born great; others achieve greatness, and some are deceitfully portrayed as great. Gandhi belongs to the last category. For decades, Indians were told how the frail “Father of the Nation” used the weapon of nonviolence to defeat the brutal colonialists. Schoolchildren were taught that in a freedom struggle without precedent or parallel, India achieved independence without firing a shot in anger. The implication is that the British are a race of such conscientious people that they bowed before Gandhi’s non-violent methods and quit India.
There is an ancient Indian adage – Satyameva Jayate or Truth Alone Wins. Or, as Mark Twain said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” Thanks to the reach of the internet and the rise of social media, millions of Indians are discovering that Gandhi caused untold harm to India, especially Hindus and Sikhs. His crowning contribution was not freedom, which was inevitable, but the breakup of a country that had held together through cultural and religious continuity for thousands of years.
 Dhananjay Keer, Mahatma Gandhi: Political Saint and Unarmed Prophet, page 237
 Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi: Vol 31, Gandhi Sevagram Ashram, http://www.gandhiashramsevagram.org/gandhi-literature/mahatma-gandhi-collected-works-volume-31.pdf
 Dipak Basu, Victoria Miroshnik, ‘India as an Organization: Vol I’, (Young India, April 9, 1925)
 E.M.S. Namboodiripad, The Mahatma and the Ism, page 46