Bharat Ek Khoj

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And Gandhi came Part-1
(Episode 49)

Nehru notes that when World War 1 started politics in India was at a low ebb. This was chiefly because of the split in the Congress between two sections, the radicals and the moderates, and also because of wartime restrictions and regulations. And then Gandhi came. He was like a powerful current of fresh air that made Indians stretch themselves and take deep breaths. He seemed to emerge from the millions of India, speaking their language and incessantly drawing attention to their appalling condition.

The sprawling photographs of Gandhi illustrate how he entered the Congress and made it a democratic, mass organization. The peasants rolled in and the Congress assumed the look of a vast agrarian organ with a strong sprinkling of the middle class. Industrial workers too came in as individuals.

The ensuing drama draws from the episodes of Raja Rao's novel, Kanthapura, that is embedded in those traumatic times. Even the traditional Harikatha gatherings are redolent with the consciousness that Mahatma Gandhi has newly instilled. Gandhi is depicted as the new incarnation of Vishnu who has come to rid the British oppression. There is resistance to provide accommodation to the newly-posted village-official, symptomatic of the troubled times. The world spreads on the efficacy of spinning thread daily by the Charkha (spinning Wheel)and the message of the assimilating the Achhoots (the untouchables) is driven in against the prevailing potions of community discrimination. Like many a village in India, Kanthapura is agog with Gandhian Spirit.

The protagonists Kashinath and Murthy, and even the village women Rangamma and Ratna, are involved in lively debates on the socio-political issues, in the face of the police antagonism. Murthy, the staunch Gandhian, undertakes a 3-day fast for self-purification, barring a daily drink of there glasses of water. The villagers, including the Patel, commiserate with him, but Murthy, drawing his inspiration from Gandhi's many fasts, is adamant. We hear Gandhi’s favourite Ramdhun for congregational singing: Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram... Gandhi's ideas of truth, love, divinity and non-violence are animatedly discussed, alongside the need for daily spinning of cotton yarn as an act of self-reliance for weaving hand-spun clothes.

Amidst the spreading ethos of Chorkha distribution, Murthy is arrested, commenting on such far-reaching impact of Gandhi on the village folks, Nehru avers that this astonishingly vital man, full of self-confidence and an unusual kind of power, standing for equality and freedom of each indidual but measuring all this in terms of the poorest, fascinated the masses of India and attracted them like magnet.