Wednesday, August 15, 2007

18 Hours with a Gandhian

On 11 August we the team of IofC-Bangalore visited Fireflies. I reached pretty late, so I missed the introduction part. At the dinner time, our friend Aswini informed the presence of an Old Man, as Gandhian from Wardha. Somehow, as soon I heard those words Wardha, I got up and went to meet him and joined him on table where he was having dinner. I guess that’s when the KT –Knowledge Transfer started. Here our some of the excerpts:

Thakurdas Bang, a Gandhian, had joined Mahatma Gandhi when he was 25 years old. From the time of Quit India movement, assassination of Mahatma, and Jai Prakash Narayan Movement against the emergency has been some of his milestones in path of practising Gandhian way of life. Both sons of Thakurdas, Abhay Bang and Ashok Bang run NGOs in Wardha and have received International acclaim.

Bhagat Singh-

Gandhi personally wrote 4 letters to Lord Irwin seeking release of Bhagat Singh, one of the letters replied by Irwin was addressed to Gandhi as “Dear Barrister Mohandas”, in which he reiterated that Bhagat Singh has expressed in court that he was no regretting for his act of violence, which on based of moral code can be forgiven but not on Legal code. To which Gandhi discussed on impacts of sentence on future generation. All three; Gandhi, Bhagat singh and Irwin, were right on their sides.

Jawarhalal Nehru chosen as PM-

It was not that Gandhi had handpicked Nehru as PM, it was more that he was the undisputed popular Leader amongst the masses and youth specially, as well was a face of India to outer world to whom India was much unknown. For successful democracy most popular leader is to be chosen.


Gandhi always stood with will that partition of India can happen only over his dead body. He explained that he would practise Satyagraha and fasting until death. In Congress Party Meeting, Gandhi was invited along with all senior leaders of Congress to discuss proposed partition of India. Nehru and Sardar Patel presented before them that they have given their word as consent towards Partition of India. To which Gandhi in shock asked them, as to why he wasn’t informed before this. Nehru mentioned that Gandhi was in Calcutta, and it was not possible to contact him. To which Gandhi in disturbed manner asked that in 1947, how was he not able to contact him, he could have used a messenger or anything of such crucial nature to be discussed. To which he was replied that it was assumed that Gandhi’ stand would anyways be against the Partition of India. To which Gandhi, thought in silence and said that “Mein Kuch tho rasta nikalunga” (I will find some way out). He gazed into the eyes of Nehru and in few seconds Nehru head was down in shame, and same was done to Sardar Patel and other members. In the Congress Working Committee Meeting when Gandhi asked who would join him against the Partition only 1 member supported him, that was Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan. All other seniors including Nehru and Patel were in favour of the partition. Jai Prakash Narayan along with many abstained from taking any sides. This entire details of this meeting was narrated by JP Narayan to Thakurdas.


There has been a lot of atrocities against communities based on caste and tribes. Reservation was required post Independence, but its benefits have not yet been materialised. If reservation has to be there it must have time limits of next 5 to 10 years.

How did Youth buy the idea of non-violence versus violence? Was it just the charisma of Gandhi?

Non violence has been a concept far before Gandhi came. Yes, Gandhi did have charisma, but it was not accepted just because of that. Because, many decades later, JP Narayan started a similar movement across the nation when millions of Indians protested in peaceful manner against the imposition of Emergency. Weapons were banned by the British to be available among the masses. Since it was difficult to procure arms, Non Violence as a concept to many seemed difficult but a way of achieving freedom. Non Violence shows not cowardice but courage.

Failure of Gandhism as mass movement Post Assassination-was it a failure of Institution building?
Who is follower of Gandhi, his sons, me, you, followers? What is Gandhi, if I drink Pepsi can I be a follower of Gandhi.

Doesn’t anti-Globalisation conflict with concept of Vasudev Kutumbak-
Do we need products from distant places? Should we consume products of what is available near us? Where I as a consumer can go and see the quality of production, how he does it. Why do we buy goods from far? Just to reduce costs isn’t, because scales of production are cheaper in far distant lands. The concept of Swadeshi, and how it relates to the self sustaining economies. Why buy from distant place where there is control by consumer, where he is not witness to the production or creation of a product.

There were 7 attempts to kill Gandhi, Godse was arrested at Wardha before, and on Gandhi’s consent he was pardoned. Thakurdas was in Wardha Ashram when this event happened. Infact the Home Ministry was informed by senior person from ICS, that a possible assassination bid was being attempted and planned by some senior people in Hindu Maha Sabha.

Farmer suicides-
Thakurdas asked us, why did Farmer Suicides increase Post Independence? To which some said that it, in those there might information deprivation, now we have access to rural parts of India. To which he talked of modern methods of cultivation which are actually degrading soil and environment, drinking water, long run losses. He reiterated that Farmers are losing methods of organic farming, towards short term benefits of in-organic farming.

Direct Retail Sourcing from Farmers-
Thakurdas mentioned that the entire ecosystem will be abused further. They will be dictated which crops to grow, and with large scale, organizational farming, many will become unemployed. Even the middle layer of present abusers will be unemployed. To which the Youth asked as the middle layer is much worse than direct retail sourcing. To which Thakurdas replied that, today we are less sensitive to fellow humans. We don’t have feelings and compassion for other humans. If these middlemen have compassion they wouldn’t have abused the farmers.

Bitasta Das, one of the young visitors said- “It was a rare occasion for me to meet a person of this stature like Sri Thakurdas Bang. After talking to him one could indeed sense the power of simplicity. I managed to catch him for a while to talk about my interest area- the North East India. On being asked about the integration of the North Eastern states during the freedom struggle, he was of the opinion that the leaders from Assam were ardent Gandhian. In fact the first CM of independent Assam Sri Gopinath Bordoloi had very close contact with Gandhiji. The new blood of Assam showed some spark to topple the negligence from the centre but they eventually got corrupted and things are back to square one. He reaffirmed that Jay Prakash Narayan was a popular and a very influential person in the North Eastern states. The unification of these states with mainland India has been mostly due to his efforts.”

It was memorable day for all us, so much of high energy discussions. Thakurdas offered meeting us at 6.30 am, he was infact ready to meet us at 4 am, but since many of the youngsters were burnt out, we met 6.30 am, he was present at the meeting place well before that, just like Gandhian should be.

The questions he asked us, made me introspect how I have been using my youth. When I discussed with him some of my inhibitions, his personal advice and guidance was really thought provoking, and made me feel grateful towards destiny, for creating an opportunity to meet such soft spoken Gandhian, for so much time, for so much inspiration, for so much knowledge

A Gandhian, whom I shall always hold close to my memories.

Jai Hind.



Alok said...

Hey, I liked this article. Thakurdasji is my granddad. I wish I could have met you people in Fireflies...Was about to come but then dropped the idea at the lat moment.

Vasant Jajoo said...

It wasg reat to see this event covered on the blog. Let us hope to meet again on a similar ocassion.