What has Nehru done for children
70 years after death What remains of Mahatma Gandhi in India
"The lights are out. There is darkness everywhere. I don't know how to explain this to you. Our beloved leader, Bapu, as we have called him, the father of the nation, he is no longer alive. We will never see him like that again As before. We will never be able to run to him again for advice or consolation. It is a severe blow. Not only for me, but for millions of people in this country. "
Funeral of Mahatma Gandhi (imago - WHA)
It is January 30, 1948, in the evening. The hardest hour for the newly born India. And the hardest hour for India's Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who addresses his compatriots on the radio to give them the terrible news. The shock of losing the nation's father, he is listening to Nehru.
It was just after 5 p.m. when Mahatma Gandhi walked through the garden of the Birla House in New Delhi. The large, white bungalow and the property belonged to an Indian industrialist, Birla, who had always supported Gandhi and Nehru's independence movement. Gandhi had lived here for 144 days; he had moved into the Birla House a little over a month after India's independence in the late summer of 1947.
"He wanted to go to prayer in the garden, but then the shots were fired. And it only took two seconds before he was dead. He could say two more words: Hey Ram! That means 'Oh God'!"
Birla House Memorial
Dipanker Shri Gyan manages the Birla house today. It's a memorial. As every morning, on this cool winter day, 70 years after Gandhi's death, school classes frolic at the Birla House. The children look attentively at the concrete footprints in the garden, which are supposed to mark Gandhi's last path.
The house at 5 Tee January Road (imago)
"We became independent in August 1947, and Gandhi died five months later. It is as if a child who was just born loses its father after a few months. So it was for India."
When the shots rang out in the garden of the Birla House, there was still chaos in the young state. The division of the British Viceroyalty into Pakistan, the land of the Muslims, and India had produced unimaginable suffering and violence. Millions of people fled their homeland in Pakistan or India, hundreds of thousands were killed in their villages or while fleeing by religious extremists, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Nehru and the Pakistani state founder Jinnah had always emphasized that their states would be secular and home to all religions. But that wasn't enough. Even Gandhi, who went on hunger strike several times against the violence, was only able to stop the killing temporarily. But nothing more. His dream of a united India was long gone. But his idea of the peaceful coexistence of religions is not yet.
On January 30, 1948, Gandhi wanted to pray with his followers in the garden of the Birla House. Gandhi was a devout Hindu, but he always mixed verses from the Koran and Buddhist chants into his prayers. That didn't suit everyone. And so it was a Hindu extremist, Nathuram Godse, who drew a Beretta pistol at 5:17 p.m. and shot Gandhi.
Home state of Mahatma Gandhi and the RSS
Hindu nationalists doing morning exercise in Gujarat. This is the home state of Mahatma Gandhi, in the west of India. The whistle sounds, the saffron-colored flag is hoisted, the young men stand to attention and salute. Saffron is the color of the Hindu nationalists. The men who steel their bodies here at sunrise belong to the movement of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS for short. This national volunteer organization is a radical Hindu cadre group and today the ideological superstructure of the ruling BJP party. Gandhi's killer, Nathuram Godse, was also part of this movement and has long been a member of the RSS. Is Mahatma Gandhi, India's national hero, an enemy of the RSS? No, says Alok Aggarwal, the head of the RSS subgroup in Surat. Gandhi dreamed of an India in which all religions could have lived together peacefully. The RSS wants nothing else. However, the National Volunteer Organization defines the peaceful coexistence of religions a little differently than Gandhi:
"I will now explain to you what our Hindu nation is all about. First of all, Hinduism is not a religion, it is a dignity. Look, as a German you live in Germany, that's why your country is called that. Just like us, we live in Hindustan because Hindus live here. "
The country in which Aggarwal lives is officially called India. Hindustan is from Persian and is now popularly chosen by Hindu nationalists to name their country. Much like Godse, many radical Hindus are upset that Gandhi agreed to the British partitioning India and creating two new countries.
In the park in Surat, around 20 RSS men, recognizable by their uniforms, are still sitting in a circle after their sports exercises and praying. "Oh Hindu country, I grew up happy here," it says in one of the lines. The current Prime Minister Narendra Modi also grew up in the religious-nationalist movement RSS. Today, however, he is promoting his government campaigns with one of Gandhi's landmarks: his round glasses. For example, it adorns posters that advertise cleanliness. Hygiene was one of his important principles also for the father of the nation. Because the Indian ruling party BJP advertises the legacy of Gandhi and the Mahatma is revered as a national hero by many people, the RSS, the umbrella organization of the BJP, does not want to be associated with the killer of the independence fighter:
"Let me make one thing clear, Godse was not a member of our organization. There are of course a lot of people who join us and let's assume one of them doesn't like Gandhi and decides to kill him. What can the RSS do for that ? "
Connection between Godse and the RSS?
Is that really true? Is there no connection whatsoever between Godse and the RSS? Inquiry from Shashi Tharoor, one of the most famous politicians in India. Tharoor sits for the Congress Party in the Indian parliament, in the opposition. He is also a bestselling author. Tharoor not only knows history, he also writes as a staunch patriot.
But his India is not the India of the RSS followers who want to subjugate the country to the Hindus and for whom Muslims and Christians alike are descendants of invaders and collaborators, but not fellow citizens. Shashi Tharoor, on the other hand, stands for a secular state that offers equal protection to all religions - in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi. For him, Gandhi's murderer can be assigned to the RSS. And not only that: For Shashi Tharoor, the RSS bears joint responsibility for the act.
"Well, Godse was a member of both the RSS and some other extreme organization, no question about it. Some claim he left the group beforehand, at the last minute so to speak, so the murder wouldn't fall back on the RSS. But there are a lot of anecdotes by RSS leaders who handed out candy after the crime and celebrated the murder while the rest of the country was in shock. "
Gandhi during a stay on the coast after illness (imago / United Archives International)
In fact, there are still MPs from the ruling BJP party and activists in the RSS who describe Gandhi's murderers as heroes and as true patriots. The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on the other hand, is abusing Gandhi for his political goals and campaigns, says Tharoor. Because, in truth, the Prime Minister doesn't care much for the great Mahatma either. His slogans are therefore no more than lip service. An allegation with which Tharoor had sparked a public debate last year.
"Inciting Hindus and Muslims is still a crucial element of the current ruling BJP party. A successful tactic. Gandhi, on the other hand, did everything possible to achieve peace between the ethnic groups. He said he would live in Pakistan rather than India. to make his point of view clear. A point of view that is very different from the current government. "
"Gandhi is more of an ideal than someone whose followers live the way he did"
Shashi Tharoor accuses the current Indian government of picking a few raisins like cleaning up the Indian rivers and connecting with Gandhi, but of completely ignoring his moral messages. But Modi, the Prime Minister, is currently winning election after election. Many Indians adore him. So is Mahatma Gandhi just a symbolic figure who adorns posters and is used for political messages, but which has little to do with him and his ideals?
"To be honest, yes, Gandhi is more of an ideal than someone whose followers live the way he did. There are so-called Gandhians everywhere, there are Gandhi societies, there are people who adore him, who think about him write or read his books. But, watch the TV news for a week and show me a story that is borne directly by Gandhi's ideals. I would be very surprised. I don't want to blame Gandhi, I want to blame ourselves. We have failed to internalize his great ideals and the examples he has set for us. "
A train station in Gujarat, in western India, the home state of Mahatma Gandhi. From here the freedom fighter was put on an express train in 1930 to be taken to prison. A memorial stone and a small train station bearing Gandhi's name commemorate this today. Not far from here, Gandhi had finished his salt march, which had made him famous all over the world. He and his followers had walked hundreds of kilometers in protest against the British salt monopoly. During this time the British government had controlled the extraction of salt and its trade throughout the country. And at the end of the day such high taxes were levied on it that the poor could hardly afford salt, even though they needed it so badly in hot India.
Great-granddaughter Neelam Parikh: "He would be very disappointed"
Gandhi was on the road with his colleagues for 24 days until they finally reached the Arabian Sea. On the beach at Dandi, in the state of Gujarat, Gandhi had picked up a few grains of salt and let them trickle down onto the sand. This gesture became the symbol of protest against the British government's salt monopoly. Gandhi's great-granddaughter now lives near the beach where the salt marsh ended. Neelam Parikh is 84 years old, six years older than her great-grandfather could have been. Gandhi was still able to experience independence from the British colonial power, she says, but the injustice in India continues to this day. If Bapu, the father of the nation, were still alive, everything would be fine in her country, she says with a laugh:
"I think he would be very disappointed if he were still alive today. I am sure that if Gandhi saw India today, he would pray to God to take him away from this place."
Mahtama Gandhi not only dreamed of the peaceful coexistence of religions, but also of an India in which the small farmers could have earned enough money through fair trade to survive. His great-granddaughter Neelam Parikh is not only disappointed that the revolution from below never took place in her country. The 84-year-old is angry that politicians are misusing her great-grandfather's name to run political campaigns:
"Today it's all about putting on a show. Bapu really tackled things, he cleaned the toilets in his ashram himself, he did his household chores, even helped in the kitchen. There was no work that suited him was too dirty. Today's politicians pick up a broom and end up with this photo in the newspaper. All of this is not real. "
"Those up there make politics that the people below never get across"
Today Neelam Parikh is a grandmother himself. She hooks up with her granddaughter as she heads for a bamboo hut. In this place, Gandhi and his followers wrote articles for newspapers for two weeks and called on all people, poor or rich, in the country to oppose the oppressors, then the British. Thoughtfully, she looks at the photo of her great-grandfather that was attached to the memorial and shakes her little head:
"The way things are going today, that is not the freedom that Bapu had imagined. He wanted everyone to have enough work, especially in the villages. But nothing like that happens. On the contrary. They make politics, they do." never reaches the people below. "
India celebrates Gandhi's 146th birthday (imago - EPA / JAGADEESH NV)
After Gandhi's death, India actually tried to implement at least some of the economic ideals that Neelam Parikh still dreams of today. The villages that are so important to Gandhi and his great-granddaughter Neelam are bleeding away. Their residents, who try their luck as day laborers in the cities, are usually exploited there. The sacred rivers of India have degenerated into sewers. And the Birla House, the place where Mahatma Gandhi was murdered 70 years ago, sinks into the smog on this winter morning, which is as thick as in probably no other capital in the world. All of this makes Dipanker Shri Gyan, the director of the Gandhi memorial in the Birla House, a little at a loss. But does India perhaps need a new Mahatma Gandhi today?
"No, Gandhi doesn't have to come back as a person. But we have to take care of his philosophy again. Today the children who visit our memorial have understood a lot more about him than the older ones. In the past, only a few cared about hygiene, toilets for Poor and cared for the environment. But the children are interested. And that's how they come across Gandhi. And they understand what he meant. That's nice. "
Maybe Dipanker Shri Gyan is right. India is a young country, every second person is under 25 years of age. Despite the Hindu extremists, India still sees itself as a multi-religious country and secular state, loved by Hindus as well as by Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs and Muslims. The muezzin call and the ringing of the temple bells still seem to be an immovable part of everyday life. The Mahatma, translated "the great soul", is still present in many minds. It is said that Gandhi may have died violently, but in peace with himself. According to eyewitnesses, no anger was felt in the room where Gandhi's body lay. But a touch of peace.
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