October 08, 2005

Why Was Gandhi Not Given Nobel Prize?

"He is undoubtedly a good, noble and ascetic person - a prominent man who is deservedly honoured and loved by the masses of India...(But) sharp turns in his policies, which can hardly be satisfactorily explained by his followers. He is a freedom fighter and a dictator, an idealist and a nationalist. He is frequently a Christ, but then, suddenly, an ordinary politician," Professor Jacob Worm-Müller, 1937.

The above quotation is of a committee's advisor of Nobel Prize Norwegian committee, Professor Jacob Worm-Müller, who wrote a report on Gandhi in 1937 when his name was nominated for the Noble peace prize.

This is a quotation taken from a report which has appeared in Times of India dated October 8, 2005 at 12.10. It may appear in Print on October 9, 2005.

My main motive to bring this post here is not to discuss Gandhi and his contribution or the working of the Norwegian committee for deciding Nobel prize. It is one of the aim of this blog to collect the quotations of historic personalities and similar judgements on Historic personalities and historic events.

I have not brought any such post as yet and this turns out be the first one.

Why have I picked up this quotation? Why have this very words attracted my attention?

Well this is another question. I have not studied Gandhi in detail. However, being a student of history and teacher, I have been studying Indian history. It is the result of the study of history, that I have spoken a number of times during my lectures that Gandhi has been presented out of proportion in the history of India. I have been studying about Surender Nath Banerjee, Gopal Krishan Gohkle, Bal Ganghadhar Tilak, Feroze Shah Mehta, Subash Chander Bose, the activities of Hindustan Revolutionary Party and many others. I have studied the role of different people and felt that they were the people with a vision and personality and Gandhi was one among them. However, there is so much talk about Gandhi and he is being studied as an institution. I have been giving a justification for that. I say that as it was the Congress party which came to power after the independence and therefore, the party in power projected the history overshadowing the achievements of other people in order to leave impression about its own achievements in making and raising of India. It was in course of such an attempt, the party in power had a mascot which it could project. Therefore, Gandhi became so important. Definitely, it had given rise to the controversry between Tara Chand and his work "Freedom Struggle" versus R. C. Majumdar and his writings with Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan series work.

Did the same government not present an apology when they bestowed upon Subash Chander Bose the Bharat Ratna? Who were the people who denied him such recognition for such long time and why?

I am not speaking against Gandhi. I have read only one book by Gandhi and that was My Experiment with Truth. When I read that book, (I have never completed its reading), I had also read "The Discovery of India" by Jwahar Lal Nehru. I have read the whole book. I am so much impressed by the writing ability of Nehru that he infatuates me. However, my study has remained confined to 1947. I have not studied beyond 1947. On the other hand, I have fully read the book by Sumit Sarkar, "Modern India 1885-1947". I have read with great attention and interest those pages in which Sumit Sarkar had studied the issue that Gandhi was a myth or what was the cause of the popularity of Gandhi. He had discussed this issue that how far it was true that the general public had a true perception of Gandhi. Somewhere he was accepted as a representative of Viceroy and on the other hand a special officer directly appointed by Queen of England who was even over and above the Viceroy. I have also studied the STS strategy of Gandhi as presented by Bipin Chandar. From those reading, I have acquired this confidence to say what I have been saying in my lectures. Now, here, I have found another quotation which was given somewhere in 1937. This quotation also gives the impression which Sumit Sarkar had tried to elaborate.

It is not an issue here that Gandhi could not be praised over and above all. I believe that he was the only person among Indians, who had the charisma and influence, and only he could have negotiated with person in authority at that time. No body had acquired the stature and vision that Gandhi possessed at that time. The country needed a leader and he was the person who could fulfill their need.

Why was then, Gandhi killed? Without going into different interpretations and generalizations, if we take the historic causes, then it was that, at that time of partition and after the partition had materialized, he was towing a liberal line towards Pakistan. He was creating an opinion about dealing with Pakistan on softer lines. He was in favour of giving the compensation which was being demanded by Pakistan but refused by the authorities which had taken over the responsibilities of the governance. The general public was pained by the massacre and communal riots that had created an environment, in which, the fundamentalists did not like his soft approach to Pakistan. They were not ready to accept the division. Gandhi, a politician and apostle of peace knew better than they did. The fundamentalists were not ready to accept a reality that Pakistan had become a reality. They were not against Islam or the Muslim population that has remained in India because their heart is in India and they are true Indians. The fundamentalists were against the political stance which Gandhi had taken on the issue of divisions of assets when the rest of nation was watching with dismay the sufferings of the refugees and riot effect Indians which included both Muslims and Hindus.

This had raised the question that why did Gandhi not taken this stand during the All Party Conference of 1928? Does this mean that it was only during the course of time, he evolved his doctrine of peace and modified his philosophy of Ahimsa after 1928? Did the Poona Pact frame his doctrine of peace? But that is not true. His doctrine and philosophy of Ahimsa might have undergone a variation but it was there well in place when he first visited Champaran in 1915. No doubt, the fundamentalists were wrong and Gandhi approach was right. Now if we go by the argument of the fundamentalist of that time, then they should also treat Atal Bihari Vajpayee playing Gandhi while dealing with Nawaz Sarif with their stiff dealings. In the recent days, the fundamentalists were again infuriated when L. K. Advani, playing a politician, called Jinnah a secularist.

However, the issue of presenting and interpretation in history still demands some different approach. India needs a history written for the Indian nation. In that, a large number of people had also played a role which has not been rightly highlighted but the image of Gandhi is being created to such a proportion that their existence is being overshadowed and overlooked, should be brought before the country. The above mentioned quotation directs the attention to that fact, that the perception about Gandhi at that time, that is during 1930s was not such that he was the only leader. There were doubts about his overall role. When such doubts are expressed then it also suggests that a person, who has tried to doubt, knows something else also. He, here Professor Jacob Worm-Müller, who might had at that time, read some reports about other Indian leaders, had felt that if Gandhi was to be praised and recognised for his peace role, then there were other people also who were giving meaning to the struggle for peace. However, who were they? Well, this again a question of debate. But it seems that an impression was carried that he was one of the freedom struggle fighter. The politics of those time, that was Gandhi versus Bose, might have been read and reflected upon the judgement of Jacob Worm-Müller. Gandhi for him was a politician fighting for his nation in the country of Buddha and Mahavira (Jacob Worm-Mülle might not have studied about Mahavira).
(a retrial)

Editorial Note:
Dated: September 29, 2006.
For a parallel view, in which, Gandhiji versus Nobel Prize Controversy is presented in a passionate manner substantiated by justifications which are counter to the views presented above, kindly look at the article by Vinay Lal on his web site Manas at Gandhi and the Nobel Prize.

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