At the very outset let me remind you of an incident: When England’s Lancashire cloth mills were on the verge of shutdown because of Gandhi’s call to ‘burn foreign cloth’, the workers there surrounded Gandhi, on September 26, 1931, telling him of their troubles. Gandhi responded by saying:
“I am pained at the unemployment here. But here is no starvation or semi-starvation. In India we have both. If you went to the villages of India, you would find utter despair in the eyes of the villagers, you would find half starved skeletons, living corpses.
If India could revive them by putting by putting life and food into them in the shape of work India would help the world. Today, India is a curse. There is a party in my country which would sooner see an end to the lives of these half-starved millions in order that the rest may live. I thought of a humane method and that was to give them work with which they were familiar, which they could do in their cottages, which required no great investment in implements, and of which the product could be easily sold. This is a task which is worthy of the attention even of Lancashire.”
This response comprises of a very few words. I let these words brew in my mind. It was almost like seeing the 57-foot Gomateshwara statue.
One should pay attention to a sentence that appears here: “There is a party in my country which would sooner see an end to the lives of these half-starved millions in order that the rest may live.” If one sees what is happening, one senses that maybe this is what it is. Suicides of farmers and the unemployed, in lakhs, are taking place. Those who rule are refusing to take responsibility.
As a consequence of global warming, a result of human greed, nature’s anger is drowning people’s lives through floods on the one hand and on the other hand, without rains, people’s lives and crops are dying. India’s economy is collapsing as well. Employment is collapsing.
On this India that is collapsing, Modi and Shah have joined hands with crony capitalists and are gleefully stomping around on the current collapse, further pushing it towards rock bottom. The government seems to be living off selling public wealth to the private sector more and more. Hence, employment has been drastically reduced and suicides are increasing.
Take a look at this. The central government is now ready to put its thumbprint on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement between 16 nations. India has already been beaten black and blue through the ASEAN agreement with Japan, South Korea and other countries and still hasn’t learned a lesson. Without an iota of care for the states, the issue is not even being tabled before parliament.
What will happen if this is signed? Just one example is enough – in India, small farmers and extremely poor people in rural areas depend on milk production for their livelihoods. Women’s lives are largely dependent on this. If India puts its thumbprint on to this agreement, milk products from New Zealand and Australia will inundate our markets. Those whose livelihoods that depend on milk, will be finished if this war on milk takes place.
A government signing this agreement could only be asking itself why only men are dying by suicide and not women.
Gandhi said, “There is a party in my country which would sooner see an end to the lives of these half-starved millions in order that the rest may live.”
Could these words be true?
Everyone is being washed away in the post globalisation deluge and no one can do anything about it.
We, who are being washed away, should look towards Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed. We have known Ethiopia as the country that had been the nest of hungry bones. Abiy Ahmed became the prime minister of Ethiopia and, before completing even two years, his work won each and everyone over and without a war. He facilitated dialogues with all the political parties. He initiated talks with terrorist organisations. He got rid of violent military dictators. He put a stop to ethnic violence and came forward to provide jobs to young people.
The doors of his office were open for all. Not only that, half of his cabinet comprises of women. He has also made sure that the judges of the Supreme court are largely women. He probably didn’t undertake tours to far off countries as timepass. He started to build on peace, forgiveness and co-existence in a country that had been filled with hate.
He made his out-and-out opponent the president of the election commission! Planting 35 crore saplings in the soil of his country, in just one day, he has started an environmental campaign. There is a Godse in Ethiopia too, who attempted to assassinate Abiy Ahmed. This iteration of Gandhi responded by saying, “Love always wins. Killing others is a defeat. To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded”.
After all this, he initiated talks with Eritrea, the neighbouring country that Ethiopia was constantly in conflict, regarding its borders.
He won over the rival country by a way of love. He facilitated peace talks in Sudan that had been devastated after internal wars. He got Eritrea and Somalia to sign peace agreements and got Somalia and Kenya to settle. He created a blueprint for the growth of the entire African continent.
What do you need for this? It’s not the 56-inch chest, but the heart inside that chest that has a human beat, that’s all.
Translated from Kannada into English by Rashmi Munikempanna.
Devanoora Mahadeva is a Kannada writer who has been conferred with the Padma Shri and was also named winner of the Sahitya Academy award. He returned both in protest against growing intolerance in the country. A public intellectual and Dalit activist, he has been a guiding force for various social movements within Karnataka and the country.