"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”

Mohandas Gandhi

On January 30th 1948, Mohandas Gandhi was shot dead by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu “extremist”. Godse and his allies believed that Gandhi was responsible for the 1947 partition of India and the creation of Pakistan. Nathuram Godse and his friend Narayan Apte were hanged while his brother Gopal Godse and two others were sentenced to life imprisonment for their assistance in the conspiracy. They remained in jail for 18 years. An interview with Gopal Godse was published in the February 14th 2000 edition of the TIME magazine. What follows is an extract from that interview. Unfortunately nothing has changed since 1948.

TIME: Why did you want to kill Gandhi?


Godse: Gandhi was a hypocrite. Even after the massacre of the Hindus by the Muslims, he was happy. The more the massacres of the Hindus, the taller his flag of secularism.


TIME: Is that why Gandhi had to die?


Godse: Yes. For months he was advising Hindus that they must never be angry with the Muslims. What sort of ‘ahimsa’ (non-violence) is this? His principle of peace was bogus. In any free country, a person like him would be shot dead officially because he was encouraging the Muslims to kill Hindus.


TIME: But his philosophy was of turning the other cheek? He felt one person had to stop the cycle of violence.


Godse: The world does not work that way.


TIME: Did you not admire his principles of non-violence?


Godse: Non-violence is not a principle at all. He did not follow it. In politics you cannot follow non-violence. You cannot follow honesty. Every moment, you have to give a lie. Every moment you have to take a bullet in hand and kill someone. Why was he proved to be a hypocrite? Because he was in politics with his so-called principles. Is his non-violence followed anywhere? Not in the least. Nowhere.”

While the political decisions taken by leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi are always debatable, I, nevertheless, used to firmly believe that the moral teachings he attempted to disseminate were words of timeless wisdom that had summarized the core universal religious (moral) maxims and therefore were unquestionable. I am neither an expert in the field of politics of the land nor an academic per se, however, being a student of religion and someone who aspires to influence Pakistan’s politico-religious landscape, for years I believed I had concluded the basic values I had to live by and introduce in the political process of Pakistan. After all, only by inculcating such principles in myself could I preach them to others.

Amongst Gandhi’s version of the ‘Seven-Sins’ (that includes wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice and politics without principle) what interested me the most was “politics without principle”. And so my struggle of Year 2011 was to introduce this very basic concept at an organizational level in the Pakistani cohort if not a federal one in my limited life span. 

Needless to say, nothing has changed since 1948. As we have read above in Godse’s interview, in actuality the majority view is that seeking principles in politics is hypocrisy and in politics one cannot follow non-violence. As a result, I regret to admit I not only miserably failed but now also have to live with some everlasting labels that are used by friends and foes alike to their convenience.

Advocates of ‘principles in politics’ are either hypocrites or will not survive as the ‘world does not work that way’. People like Gandhi who cannot ‘kill’ simply get ‘killed’; to that many Pakistanis would say he perhaps ‘he got a taste of his own medicine’ or perhaps make them “believe” their intentions were wrong to the core and so ‘he must quit lying to himself’ not that he was a martyr who gave up his life for preaching the principle of non-violence. The majority view is that ‘might is right’ and the majority has a right to oppress the minority. The criminal is never wrong for inflicting harm; rather the victim is for letting themselves be hurt. The irony of it all is that such moral degeneration is the contemporary way of living and is ‘expected’. There appears to be no room for Gandhi’s principles in the world of realism, neither in personal life nor in politics. Regardless of one’s ideology or honest intentions, one is bound to be condemned. Based on my observations, most Pakistani’s have reached that state of paranoia where deception is considered inherent to the matrix that has been foisted upon us and we continue to assert our dominance in the prevailing conditions for survival.  We continue to search our own distorted image in others and seek justification for our own actions in it. The supreme declaration of our suspicion in each other as Pakistanis is the failure of the incorporation of basic humanitarian values in Pakistan’s constitution granting everyone equal rights as citizens of the state and perhaps the sense that the majority owes a greater responsibility to the minority of Pakistan, but this will be the subject of discussion in another blog.

In such state of affairs a person is bound to become the worst version of themselves for continued existence else be ready to be a denounced martyr. It is then true that “an eye for an eye is making the whole world blind” and so I rather be a condemned minority than live a life of disability in blind darkness.

By Sana Hameed Baba