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This article had appeared under the title MAHATMA MISFORTUNE By Huned Contractor, in the Pune Times of India, on Tuesday, January 08, 2002

The moral decay is apparent. Whether it be among politicians who will break all rules to stay in power, the financial markets where the manipulator holds the chips, the defence sector where coffins turn into a controversy or be it the corporate domain where competition is akin to fencing.

Even in personal lives, wherein hedonism conquers all. In troubled times like these, there are but a motley group of people who continue to press for a recourse to Gandhian philosophies. For they stand by the belief that it is now that the mantra of Satya, Ahimsa and Prem, will work the best. It is a tough fight.

One that involves persuading people to change their attitudes, especially when they face a generation of savvy young people caught in a tug-of-war between the traditions and ideals of the east and the glitter of the west. The Gandhians are, however, not giving up. Not yet.

One such lady, who has committed herself to the promotion of Gandhian philosophies and has been aggressively working on action plans - as diverse as cleaning the Ganga and transforming Gandhi memorials into spiritual ashrams - is city-based Rama Rauta. Originally from Lucknow and married to a professor of philosophy, Rama turned from being a homemaker to a firebrand activist. The transition occurred, only after she met environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna, a decade ago. “I was mesmerised by his words and the simple logic of what he implied. Finally, it is only love, truth and non-violence, which can usher in positive results,” she says. Rustling through a heap of documents in her apartment at the university teachers quarters, Rama extracts those which concern the Save Ganga Movement.

“It has been 14 years since the government launched the Ganga Action Plan, to clean it of its impurities. What happened to it? What has been done about the 29 cities, 70 towns and thousands of villages along its banks that have deposited more than 13 billion litres of sewage directly into it? Why is there no action against those manufacturing units that have added into the river more than 260 million liters of industrial waste? Is it enough for us Indians to keep saying that the Ganga is like our mother? Then how do we tolerate the fact that our mother is dying because of our insensitivity?” asks a fuming Rama.

The Save Ganga Movement, under the leadership of Tara Gandhi Bhattacharajee Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter), has now planned to undertake a 25-day yatra in May. Says Rama, “We cannot depend any longer on government agencies to do anything. We have decided, therefore, that we shall undertake a huge awareness drive and make people understand why is it important to save our rivers. Ganga is just a symbol.

The scenario stands true, for all the rivers in our country which are becoming a victim of untreated industrial effluents. The important thing is that we are going to carry out our activities the way Gandhiji would have liked us to.”

Even the prime minister has responded saying that the Ganga Action Plan cannot succeed without the people’s participation. Yet another issue that has worried the likes of Rama Rauta, is the collapse of the Gandhi memorials and ashrams due to the lack of funding and active interest.

“Isn’t it strange that while terrorist organisations get plenty of funds to kill people, there is no money available to run institutions which promote peace and brotherhood?” vents Rama, her ire in a sarcastic query. In association with fellow Gandhians Rama Rauta wants to convert many of these defunct ashrams into spiritual abodes. The emphasis is on attracting the attention of the youth.

“A disturbing fact that has emerged during my interaction with students across India, is that a majority of them blame Gandhiji for the Indian-Pakistan divide. But this is something that has been drivelled into their minds. They themselves have not read the history books properly. Nor have they read Mahatma Gandhi’s book titled Hind Swaraj.

Otherwise they would realise that Gandhiji was never in favour of a Hindu Muslim split. For a man who gave his life to upholding the values of ahimsa, how would he have tolerated the slightest bit of violence?” enquires Rama.

And to drive home this point as also put under the spotlight Gandhiji’s views on spirituality and religion, Rama, under the banner of the National W o m e n ’ s Organisation has, in association with the Gandhi National Memorial Society of Pune, organised a seminar on January 30, the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. This is to be held at the Aga Khan palace on Nagar road.

“We want to advocate Gandhiji’s view, that clearly states how spirituality does not belong to the domain of mysticism but to ethics. We want to tell people about how he firmly believed that the man who discovered for us the law of love was a far greater scientist than any of our modern innovators,” says Rama.

For staunch Gandhian theorists like Rama, the experiment with truth is already underway. The need of the hour is for more people to be a part of it.


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