“The champions of Dalits merely pay lip sympathy to the Dalit cause”
'When I say I am a 'failed politician' the failure is that of my ability. A special ability is required to be a successful politician', says Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. In the last three decades Tushar Gandhi always has been in the middle of controversies. His book 'Let's Kill Gandhi' also aroused sharp criticism from a section of society alleging that Tushar Gandhi blames Brahmins for assassinating Mahatma Gandhi. In this interview with Sethu Das and RK Bijuraj, he candidly talks about his position on different issues, including hate politics, propagating by Hindutva parties. Here is the extract of the 'Madhyamam' interview:
You were born in a train in 1960. How do you see your unique birth in a train — a 'symbol of modern civilisation' as described by Gandhiji?
Tushar Gandhi (TG): My adventurous birth I think heralded my adventurous nature. I have never shied from the unknown, never backtracked on a challenge or a dare. I have a fear of heights. This phobia has denied me the pleasure of mountaineering and other high altitude sports. Recently on a trip to the US I decided I had to challenge this irrational fear and the best way to do it was Sky Diving. So one morning I joined a bunch of adventurers and strapped myself to an experienced skydiver. I jumped out of a small plane at 18000 feet and experienced free fall for 90 seconds. It was the most exhilarating experience of my life. I don't know whether I have gotten over my fear of heights, but I know I can overcome it now.
In many instances in life too when the odds seem insurmountable I have challenged the odds. Sometimes I have been unable to overcome them, but when I do the pleasure of that achievement is immense. Once I decided to walk the historic Dandi Trail in the footsteps of Bapu — my grandfather, Manilal, and my father's cousin Kanti Gandhi, who had all walked in historic Dandi March of 1930. I was in not in good shape as I lead a sedentary life. Everyone advised me to start trial walks and get fit for at least six months prior to undertaking the actual walk. I did not. No one believed I could survive and complete the walk. Most said I would quit on the first day itself. But I was determined to complete the walk. I must admit that at times I was ready to quit as the agony was unbearable, then my inner voice spoke to me and encouraged me to take the next step. In the end it was my determined inner voice that prevailed and empowered me to complete the walk from Sabarmati to Dandi. So I think it was my unique birth that fuelled this reckless adventurer attitude in me. I have always maintained that as a heir to Bapu's journeys across the nation by trains, I have the same wanderlust inside me.
Your father, Arun Manilal Gandhi, a well known journalist lives in the US. What are your childhood memories with your father and other family members?
TG: I cherish my childhood and my growing up years. My parents and my grandmothers all taught me important lessons that have helped me develop as an individual. I grew up in a struggling middle-class family. We were underprivileged but satisfied. My father began life as a probationary trainee reporter with the Times of India and sustained a family on a salary of Rs.150/- a month. I was born and I grew up in a one room kitchen flat. It was a small house with a large heart. Our house was filled with all kind of visitors. My mother, a qualified nurse, gave up nursing to manage the house and was a gracious hostess. No one was denied shelter or meals. Neither humans nor animals. We had an animal infirmary and she used her nursing skills to care for injured and ailing birds and animals.
We lived on a tight budget but were never short of necessities. My father shared a very special and warm relationship with Pandit Nehru, but he never used it to garner any favours. This taught us an important lesson about dignity and integrity.
How do you evaluate Gandhi, as your great grandfather and as the father of the nation?
TG: For me he is both, my great grandfather and the father of my nation, as well as a globally venerated icon. It is like I have a relationship with three personalities, all co-existing inside one person.
My one regret in life is that I was not born when Ba and Bapu were alive. That I wasn't able to experience Ba's love and learn the lessons of life from Bapu. My tragedy is that because my great grandfather is a public figure, I too have to bear the abuse heaped on him by those brainwashed into hating him by the ideology that was instrumental in getting him murdered — the RSS. Unlike other people, my ancestor is not just a personal patriarch whose memory I can privately honour love and cherish. His public persona denies me that ability and I am left helpless in the face of unjustified criticism and rabid abuse.
Bapu's family was not allowed to grieve his death as a family in private. Even in his death, his public persona overshadowed his family patriarch identity. I guess that is the sacrifice families of public figures have to make. I am proud to be the descendant of both Ba and Bapu, and I am proud of him as the father of my nation too.
You introduce yourself as a "failed politician". Do you think you were a genuine failure in Indian politics, or is it the murky politics that failed you in the field?
TG: When I say I am a 'failed politician', the failure is of my ability. A special ability is required to be a successful politician, not just in Indian Politics, but politics in general. After joining politics, I discovered that politics was a highly specialised career and I did not have the skill sets to make a success of it. I admit that the murky aspect of political practices and the ever popular 'Politics without principles' added to my disenchantment. I do not claim to be a principled individual or even a highly virtuous one, but the murky, corrupt, and unprincipled aspect of politics put me off. What also repulsed me was the opportunism and the attitude of 'ends being important than the means'. The lure of 'rewards' that are so easily obtained as the perks of politics, and their overwhelming effect on people's personalities, scared me. I was afraid of testing myself against those temptations and did not wish to face that challenge. I wasn't confident about resisting them and I wasn't prepared to lose to them either. These factors also contributed to my failure in politics.
You joined the Samajwadi Party and later the Indian National Congress. What forced you to leave the Samajwadi Party? Do you think Congress is the right option to lead the country in our troubled times?
TG: My joining the Samajvadi Party was a blunder. I was desperate for a political career and I grabbed any opportunity. Being a Socialist at heart, I believed in the trusteeship ideal of Bapu and the Socialism of Lohia and JP. I felt the Samajvadi party was the ideal place for me, but after joining it I was exposed to its lack of ideology and its hypocrisy. After a year and a half it became unbearable and I decided to correct my mistake and quit Samajvadi Party. I still had political ambitions and so I joined the Congress. I believed in Congress's ability to challenge the growing radicalisation of the electorate and the growing influence of the Sangh and its affiliates. But by then I had started doubting my ability as a politician and my heart wasn't in it. After making one last unsuccessful attempt at getting a ticket for the Lok Sabha elections, I withdrew from active politics and the Congress too did not miss my absence.
I believe the Congress has the ability to pose a challenge to the communal forces, but first it should reinvent itself, purge all the rotten deadwood it has acquired over the years. It should go back to its roots, back to being the Nehruvian, Liberal, Secular, Democratic and Visionary Congress it was. Only then can it pose a challenge to the forces of intolerance.
Do you think non-violence is the best way for India to achieve social and political changes in the present era? How do you evaluate Communism and Maoism?
TG: My belief in nonviolence is not a compulsion because I am the great grandson of Bapu. Personally, I believe in the maxim of 'Live and Let Live'. Our violence against nature and our environment is now endangering our very existence. Global Warming, Climate Change and Nature's Fury are no longer fancy terms. They have become clear and present dangers. The calamity experienced in the flooding in Chennai is the result of our greed and violence against nature.
Even in the socio political spectrum, violence threatens the way of life we have been used to for so long. The ideals of liberty and individual freedom we so cherished. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks in US, and the recent attacks in Paris, both the Government's used the security excuse to take away many of the civil liberties enjoyed by their citizens. India too has seen such attempts.
Also the reaction to the violence unleashed by the terrorists is many times more violent and no less terrifying. In avenging 9/11, the US thrashed two nations. In the aftermath, an undeclared World War has been unleashed on Syria. IS is the stated target, but a bomb dropped from a supersonic jet does not only and specifically kill IS Terrorists. Syrian, Sudanese and Yemeni civilians are also killed, but we just shrug it off as collateral damage. This heartlessness on our part helps the radicals to recruit more easily, and thus the cycle of violence is perpetuated.
Many a times I am challenged to demonstrate how nonviolence can stop a fidayeen from blowing him/herself up. But it is unfair to expect nonviolence to deter a person already brainwashed and radicalised so much that he/she believes death is better than living. It is already too late for this person as he/she has reached a point of No Return. I always maintain that nonviolence is not a headache pill which you pop when you have a splitting headache. Nonviolence is effective when the first signs of discontent and discord manifest themselves in society, sometimes they are factual, sometimes they are imagined. But when a cry for justice and understanding falls on deaf, uncaring ears, it turns into anger and resentment, breeding a sense of alienation and enmity that eventually leads to radicalisation and violence. For nonviolence to be effective it must address the first symptoms of strife.
Having said this we haven't used nonviolence to convince a fidayeen ready to destroy him/ herself and their surroundings, to live and continue the fight for justice and peace. The result of violence is only death and destruction. The only hope to sustain life is provided by the practice of nonviolence.
The economic disparities between citizens of India have reached alarming proportions. Even the facilities that are the basic rights of citizens of aren't equitably distributed. While the urban elite enjoys the luxury of Jacuzzis and centrally air conditioned homes, the rural poor are denied access to drinking water. This at a time when the Government announces ambitious plans for Digital India. Rural electrification figures are boasted as achievements — when they are a basic right of the villagers. This disparity is what the Maoists have exploited and have rapidly created a zone of influence in the very heart of India, where the government's authority has ceased to exist. The Maoists have not improved the lot of those whose cause they claim to champion, instead they have very cunningly exploited rural and tribal India's sense of denial and deprivation. They have used it to swell their ranks and enforce their ideology.
What is your position on Communism and Maoism?
TG: Communism has failed all over the world because of its own contradictions, after it became a tool of suppression to sustain power. In India too Communism has failed to evolve and is seen as a failed ideology. Communism is today associated with backwardness and curtailment of individual enterprise. Socialism has met a similar fate. While the West is experiencing the ill effects of unbridled Capitalism and Materialism, they are still unable to put their faith in Socialism and Communism. Even in countries where their economies have failed, they are still hesitating to put their faith in Socialism.
Communism is too compromised to be able to be both effective and democratic. But Socialism can still reinvent itself if it allows personal enterprise along with collective good. If it can keep personal greed for wealth and power at bay, then an ideal society can be formed where Socialism is built on the principle of trusteeship of wealth, time, ability and talent that is utilised for common good.
You were in the middle of sharp criticism in 2009 when you accepted a donation of 72-lakhs for Mahatma Gandhi Foundation in return for endorsing the Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition 241 Mont Blanc pen. I too have openly criticised your endorsement as Mont Blanc, a company once manufactured writing instruments for Adolf Hitler, whose actions Gandhiji always disapproved. Do you regret this decision of yours?
TG: I have faced criticism many a times. When an agency in USA asked if they could represent the image of Bapu in the US, I gave them a conditional acceptance. But it was sensationally misreported in the media that I had sold the copyright and patents to Bapu to an American company and that now anyone even wanting to hang Bapu's photograph in their home would have to pay a royalty to CMG. I was criticised and abused.
Yes, I was negotiating an agreement with CMG so they would represent and protect Bapu's image. My purpose was twofold: one was that we would be able to control how Bapu's image is used and prosecute persons and corporates who abuse the image. Recently a brewery in USA launched a beer with the brand name Gandhi. They had a photoshopped image of Bapu holding a can of the beer on the label printed on the can. Although it was offensive I was helpless because I wasn't able to prosecute them. But if I had had the arrangement with CMG, I could have got them to prosecute the brewery. In 2002 the US-based magazine Maxim published a very derogatory illustrated feature called 'Beat the Wimp Fitness Workout' it showed a young white male doing a series of exercises with a dummy. The exercises were different ways of beating, kicking and boxing the dummy. The last exercise was whirling the dummy above the head, then dashing it to the ground and stomping on it. The dummy was an exact replica of Bapu. It was insulting and hurtful. I was extremely offended and hurt but sitting in India I could do nothing. I appealed to the Prime Minister and he expressed his inability to help. If I had an arrangement with CMG, I could have got them to prosecute Maxim.
At the time I entered into an agreement with CMG, Kasturba's home in Porbandar had become very dilapidated. So after the cyclone and earthquake, I had proposed to the Government of Gujarat that I would get Kasturba's home repaired and restored and turn it into a museum. The funds provided by the CMG deal would have enabled me to start the work on Kasturba's home repair and restoration. Unfortunately, because of the controversy and the abuse I was subjected to, the deal fell through and I wasn't able to do the project. Later the Government of Gujarat did a very awful job of repairing her home.
I see nothing wrong with the deal I made with Mont Blanc. I have never taken any money for my personal enrichment from the commercial use of Bapu's image. The money I got from the Mont Blanc deal went towards preparing the land in Kolhapur where the MGF (Mahatma Gandhi Foundation) is engaged in building a home and Nai Taalim School for rescued child labourers. We plan to build a campus that will be able to house up to 250 children.
Mont Blanc may have made writing instruments for Adolf Hitler but they could also be making amends by making one commemorating Bapu. I would never allow a brewery or an arms producing company to use Bapu's image to promote their products, but I don't see anything wrong in the ethical use of Bapu's image to promote products and services that are ethical, conscientious and in line with his belief and practices. And if the revenue earned from it is used for the common good. To collect funds for the Harijan fund Bapu sold his autograph and photograph, so if I do the same I see nothing wrong in it, and if an occasion were to arise in the future, I will do the same again.
Nowadays the legacy of Gandhi has been facing lots of criticism from the Dalit sphere. Recently in 'The Doctor and the Saint', Arundhati Roy's introduction to Dr BR Ambedkar's 'Annihilation of Caste' criticised the Father of the Nation for his stand on Caste. How do you see Gandhi's position on Dalit and annihilation of caste? Was Gandhi against the interests of Dalits in this country?
TG: The accusation by some who claim to be champions of Dalits, that Bapu was anti Dalit, is as frivolous and baseless as the accusation by Bapu's murderers that Bapu was anti Hindu.
There is no doubt that there were differences between Babasaheb Ambedkar and Bapu on the issue of Dalit and the abolishment of castes. Initially Bapu believed that there was merit in the Varna Vyavastha but he was against the vertical stacking of castes and the caste hierarchies. He also disagreed with the caste by birth ideology. But later he rejected the Varna Vyavastha, and condemned the caste system as being the greatest sin of Hinduism.
Bapu believed in assimilation, he believed that the Harijans were a part of the Hindu religion and should be assimilated with Reformed Hindus. Ambedkar had lost faith in Hinduism and did not believe that Hinduism would ever reform enough to accept as equals those it considered as untouchables. Those who claim to be the champions of Dalits indulge in insincere Dalit politics and merely pay lip service to the Dalit cause. They have done nothing to mitigate the issues faced by the Dalits. The Dalit cause has become politicised. Most of the Dalit leadership exploits the communities they claim to champion for their own political ambitions. The Dalit leaders who compete amongst themselves to inherit the mantle of Babasaheb are conceited and incompetent. Thus they attempt to demean Bapu to divert attention away from their own incapability.
As far as Arundhati Roy's diatribe against Bapu is considered, it is written out of ignorance or deliberate misinterpretation of Bapu's writings. My Uncle, Rajmohan Gandhi, has written a beautiful denunciation of Arundhati Roy's attempt at defaming Bapu.
How do you see it in the present state of political affairs in India? As "intolerance" is engulfing, do you think Gandhian values and thoughts are losing relevance in the country? What is your opinion on fundamentalism posed by our own leadership?
TG: India is being radicalised, it is a political strategy of the communalists. Campaigns to discredit rational, liberal and enlightened thought are very astutely being carried out. Fanatic thought and action is being patronised and encouraged. Divisive campaigns are gaining credence while liberal thought is being criticised and discredited. While the beef issue threatens the lives of people and has claimed many victims, the Prime Minister who invokes Buddha and Bapu in foreign lands to answer questions about rising intolerance in India, does not desist from raising the issue in a very rabid manner while campaigning in the Bihar elections. This is how deep seated fanaticism has been ingrained into our DNA. We value human life less than animal meat.
A BJP leader had lodged a complaint against you for your remarks on Bhagat Singh. Do you think you were quoted wrongly, or do you still carry the opinion that Bhagat Singh was a 'criminal for the British rulers'?
TG: The whole episode was a mischievous attempt to malign me and create a controversy. At a press conference in Jaipur, I was asked why Bapu did nothing to save Shaheed Bhagat Singh from the gallows. This is a wrong notion which has been vitiated by misrepresentation of the incident in a feature film. Bapu had pleaded with Lord Irwin on four occasions to commute Bhagat Singh's death sentence to life imprisonment. After saying this I mentioned that although for us Bhagat Singh was a freedom fighter and revolutionary hero, for the British he was criminal. These were my exact words, but a reporter from a vernacular paper misreported it and wrote that 'I considered Bhagat Singh as a Criminal'. It was a wrong and malicious allegation against me. I revere Bhagat Singh as much as I revere Bapu.
Do you oppose Capital Punishment?
TG: I believe that Capital punishment is a barbaric practice and has no place in a civilised society. It is judicially sanctioned murder. It is also not a deterrent against crime.
What is your view on homo-sexuality and gender equality?
TG: I don't approve or disapprove of homosexuality. I believe that sexual orientation should be a matter of choice between two consenting adults. I oppose the criminalisation of Homosexuality. Gender discrimination is immoral and unnatural. It must be condemned. We must work to restore gender parity if we believe in the right of dignity. Our constitution enshrines equality but our practice is far from it.
You recently stated that "atrocities committed by Christians in the pretext of 'civilising savages' would make ISIS, Al-Qaida, Boko Haram terror pale in comparison." Though very profound, such views are not the popular views. Where do you think the world is going wrong in dealing with different forms of violence?
TG: I am not wrong, history proves me right. The massacres committed in the name of civilisation, and the genocide of the so called 'savages', would make the killings by terrorists of today pale in comparison. Terror is devoid of religion or religiosity. It is a tool of subjugation. Those claiming to be civilised have acted in the most barbaric manner with those who they condemned as savages.
You have given support to Vasant Dattatray Gurjar, who was facing charges of obscenity over his political satire "Gandhi Mala Bhetla". You have even supported Aamir Khan for his controversial remarks on Intolerance. What motivates you to come forward and lend your open support to such individuals?
TG: It is my belief in the Right to Opinion and Freedom of Speech. In both the instances you have mentioned, the controversies created were due to misinformation and were politically motivated. Even if I don't agree with the content of what they say, I will always defend their right to say it. I oppose any attempt to muffle opinion and mute voices.
Gurjar's work is a satire on the hypocrisy and corruption that has crept into those who claim to worship Apurv and their gory policies, than an abuse of Bapu. There is a school of literature which offends to convey its message. It is popular in Maharshtra as Vidrohi (Rebellious) literature. I agree that Gurjar has used abusive language and offensive examples, but he makes a lament to rediscover the real original Gandhi. Even if he had abused Bapu I would have opposed his prosecution. If he had written lies, I would have countered him with the truth, but I would never let anyone mute him.
Aamir Khan did not say anything controversial — he voiced a very appropriate concern. He did not demean India- he expressed his anxiety out of the love he has for the idea of a tolerant, secular and liberal India. An India where justice is automatic and the law prevails. This is not with an intention to insult but it is a concern born out of love for the land. The reaction to what he said was more because of who he is, a Khan, rather than what he said.
I have opposed the ban on Nathuram's Statement 'May it Please Your Honour' although I believe it to be a tissue of lies and half truths, I much prefer countering it with truth rather than gag it and garner sympathy and approval for it. I believe it is not the writing of Nathuram, he was incapable of writing such eloquent text. It smacks of the penmanship of Savarkar who was in prison with Nathuram throughout their incarceration in the special jail in the Red Fort, during the Red Fort Trials. I have opposed the ban on the play 'Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy' too. It has gained legitimacy because of the attempts to suppress it. It could have been countered intellectually and with truth much more easily.
How do you react with Shiva Sena politics in Mumbai? Do you still face threats?
TG: Shiv Sena has been exposed for its opportunism and insincerity. It has lost the support of much of its support base. It's hypocritical partnership with the ruling BJP, while it continues to be critical of the BJP's policies, both in the state and center, have made it into a laughing stock. It's misrule in the Mumbai Municipal Corporation has also earned it the ire of the Mumbaikar. What it does to the BJP in the state and the center, the BJP does to it in the Municipal Corporation.
I have always criticised the Shiv Sena's divisive beliefs and thuggish behaviour, even during its heydays. I am not intimidated by its strong arm tactics or by its inconsequential threats.
Ten years ago, during the 75th anniversary of the historic Salt March, you re-enacted Bapu's March by walking from Ahmedabad to Dandi with other followers. Can you share some important moments from this March?
TG: The Dandi Kooch was a personal challenge. Three of my ancestors had walked in the original March, Bapu, my grandfather, Manilal and my father's cousin Kantilal Gandhi.
I've always wondered whether I could walk the Dandi path and complete it the way my ancestors did. I used the 75th anniversary of the Kooch to finally make myself face the challenge. I decided to seek company and was soon joined by over 950 people, including 90 from all over the world and a hundred Khudai Khidmadgaars — the Pathan followers of Khan Abdul Gafffar Khan — also known as Frontier Gandhi from Pakistan. They walked shoulder to shoulder with us throughout the March wearing their red pathani suits. They walked through the villages of Gujarat- which were still recovering from the genocide of 2002 and the hate instilled into their psyche by the Sangh, as it turned Gujarat into a laboratory for communal politics.
There were personal challenges and organisational challenges. On the afternoon, before we started the March, I realised that no arrangements were made for drinking water for the marchers. Unlike in Bapu's time, I did not have faith in the well water of the villages as we were too urbanised. So I went looking for someone who could supply drinking water. We found a dealer who agreed only to supply water for the first two days. We accepted and by nightfall we convinced him to supply us drinking water throughout the route. This was a formidable challenge.
The physical challenge for me personally was equally great. There were times when my body was ready to give up. Then my inner voice, which I had always ignored before, convinced my aching feet to take one more step. Many an evening I stumbled into the night halts only due to the plea from my inner voice to take one more step. In the mornings when my body was stiff and my limbs sore, my inner voice spoke and said "just today". When I stumbled on to the beach at Dandi, I was walking purely on the power of my inner voice than the ability of my feet. This was life changing for me.
An amusing thing happened on the walk. Like Bapu and his band of 80 marchers’ we too rested on Mondays. Then as is natural for Indians and Pakistanis, we started playing cricket. We would make mixed teams and play friendly matches. On a Monday near Surat we played an India v/s Pakistan match. Midway through the match, much to my amusement, I realised that an Indian team and a Pakistani team were competing, and the two British participants in the Kooch were officiating as umpires. Bapu would surely have laughed at the irony.
In your controversial book 'Let's Kill Gandhi!', you've blamed Brahmins for conspiring in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Critics have claimed that the book defames all Brahmins. What inspired you to write Let's Kill Gandhi!?
TG: 'Let's Kill Gandhi!' was born out of anger, anger I felt because of the propaganda of lies unleashed by the Sangh Parivaar- Bapu's murderers. The silence of the 'Gandhians' infuriates me and thus was born my resolve to discover the truth for myself and share it with people. The controversy about me blaming the entire Bramhin community for the murder of Bapu was intentional misreporting by a reporter. I saw the PTI reporter writing that I had blamed all Bramhins for Bapu's murder, but what I had said was that all the accused in Bapu's murder were Brahmins and all those who supported them too were Brahmins. I corrected the reporter but he filed the story with the wrong attribution to me and the Brahmins took affront and went on a rampage without bothering to ascertain facts with me.
I stand by every word I have written in my book 'Let's Kill Gandhi!' I am proud of what I have achieved and to an extent I have purged myself of the rage I felt over the murder of Bapu and the lies that justify it.
In spite of ideological differences, you did make an effort to visit Gopal Godse in Pune in the 70s. You have also mentioned that your grandmother too wanted visit him to forgive them. This was at a time when the Godse family was alienated by the supporters of the very same ideology. Can you tell us more about these events?
TG: In the seventies on one of her visits, my grandmother expressed a desire to visit the Godse family in Pune. Gopal Godse had recently been freed from prison and was living an isolated life with his family. My grandmother wanted to let them know that we had forgiven them and harboured no anger against them. In the eighties and nineties, Gopal became the poster boy of the fanatics and went to town justifying the murder of Bapu He used to narrate our visits to their home as our acceptance and approval of their deed.
You are one of the most easily accessible members of the Gandhi family. Yet RSS leaders and cadres, whom you openly call 'Peeli Chaddis' prefer to attack you in the Twitter platform where you have a huge following. Do you think Cyber Activism is helping you to reach a wider audience with your message?
TG: I have realised the power of the media and have utilised it to promote the causes I espouse. I have never used the media for self publicity. People have condemned me as being a publicity seeker, but I have never promoted myself in the media. I have utilised the reach of the media only to seek publicity for my causes. Thus I have become the most visible member of our clan.
On Twitter I am a combative person, unlike in real life. But I've realised that the Sanghis — whom I call Peeli Chaddis, have a huge presence on social media and run concerted campaigns of hate, intolerance and communal divide. I am determined to thwart them. I have a large following but that is not of consequence to me. I am happy that so many consider me worth following on Twitter and read my posts, but I don't live my life to garner followers. I speak my heart and run battles with the Peeli Chaddis as per my will.
Can you tell us more about the work of Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, an organisation that you founded?
TG: I established the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation with the objective to create a digital archive to conserve everything of and by Bapu, digitally. I was lucky to get a promise of a large grant from Silicon Valley Indian IT entrepreneurs and so we launched the project. Then, of the promised funds, half did not materialise and we spent what we had got and the project collapsed. But by then we had digitised a larger amount of multimedia content and made it available on the web. Ours was one of the most comprehensive websites for information on Bapu and the most referred to by those looking for information on Gandhi. We were referred to even by the White House on several occasions.
Now the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation is seeking funds to build a home and Nai taalim School for rescued child labourers in Kolhapur. We have bought a 5 acre plot and have begun building, but we need much more funds to build the campus. The foundation is also encouraging persons who believe in Gandhian values of peace and nonviolence to establish chapters of the foundation abroad. So far we have one in Mexico and are in the process of establishing one in Venezuela.
Do you have a message for the younger generation in these intolerant times?
TG: I tell them not to believe all that they hear without questioning. Remember this is the age of spin doctors and Photoshop. Aggression and bravado may appear to be attractive, but are impossible to sustain. Ask questions but also at some point, believe. Progress is great, but non-inclusive progress is worthless. Remember no man is an island. Old may not be attractive, but experience is priceless. Youth is impressionable, but don't surrender your intellect to propaganda. Tolerance is not a sign of weakness. Acceptance is a virtue and one needs a large heart to be able to accept and respect.
Sethu Das and Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi pose in front of a caricature of HH the Dalai Lama by Cartoonist RK Laxman at an exhibition organised by Friends of Tibet in June 2016. (Photo: Prince Prabhakaran)
Sethu Das, RK Bijuraj | January 2016
Tushar Gandhi with his controversial book on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi - "Let's Kill Gandhi".
Tushar Gandhi with his journalist-father Arun Gandhi in front of "Hriday Kunj", Ahmedabad, the residence of Mahatma Gandhi from 1918-1930, from where he started his historic Salt Satyagraha in 1930 against the British Salt Tax.