GANDHI, GANGA, GIRIRAJ
Gandhi, the Mahatma, one of the towering figures of the Twentieth century fighting for the cause of the down-trodden, exercised a tremendous moral force among his friends and foes alike. Albert Einstein, paying tribute to Gandhiji, very aptly remarked :
The moral influence which Gandhi has exercised upon thinking people may be far more durable than would appear likely in our present age, with its exaggeration of brute force. We are fortunate and grateful that fate has bestowed upon us so luminous a contemporary, a beacon to generations to come.
In the post-Gandhian era, the Gandhian spirit has percolated among different sections of humanity in all corners of the globe. The deeds and ideals of this extraordinary man and his role in history continue to arouse unflagging interest. Martin Luther King in the United States and Nelson Mandela in South Africa present shining examples of the distillation of Gandhian spirit guiding the humanity at large in attempting to rectify the excesses and distortions seeped into the contemporary socio-economic and political order.
The Save Ganga Movement, launched from Kanpur in 1998, at the initiative of the National Women’s organization, has grown out of the ecological concerns of society witnessing the disaster caused by the neglect and plundering of our natural resources — rivers, forests, mountains, wild life — for short-term selfish gains. The Movement has awakened latent susceptibilities of those sensitive to the environmental assets — human as well as material, so as to initiate a new chapter of eco-friendly development on an ethical scale. The potential significance of this Movement can metaphorically be compared with the phenomenal success of Salt Satyagrah launched by Gandhiji through the Dandi March in the thirties. The Save Ganga Yatra will attempt to continue experimenting with Truth, following the footsteps of Gandhiji. We need to be vigilant from being swayed by the brokers of power to avoid the risk of converting a mass movement into a feudal oligarchy.
Organisors of the Movement, subsequent to a successful completion of the Save Ganga Yatra from Ganghotri to Ganga Sagar in three phases during 2002-2003 (see Rama Rauta in the Volume), are now inviting Gandhian workers, scientists and environment activists to a National Seminar “Gandhi, Ganga, Giriraj” being held at Bapuji’s Samadhi in Delhi on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, 1-3 Oct 2004 to reflect over this vital issue. A symbolic interpretation of the Seminar theme succinctly points out : “Gandhi stands for a culture of Truth and Nonviolence, i.e. a culture of pursuing ethical perfection as the ultimate goal of life and of universal love as its means; Ganga signifies the motherly veneration assigned to our rivers in the country; and Giriraj for the bountiful assets bestowed on us through our mountains, forests, flora, fauna and the wild life.”
There are many expositions and commentaries on Gandhi’s role in the struggle against colonialism, his universal message of Truth and Nonviolence, his expositions on science and spirituality, and his proposition of an alternate model of development in harmony with nature, emphasising self-reliance and ethical foundations (such as swadeshi and Basic Education). This expansive literature, identified as Gandhiana, has been seriously debated among political thinkers, economic and social reformers, educators, scientists and environmentalists seeking answers for the future, but ironically ignored or distorted by the establishment and agencies engaged in socio-economic planning.
It has led into a certain amount of skepticism about the relevance of Gandhi in face of the inevitable thrust of new technologies; with the advent of Information Technology even the pursuits of culture and knowledge are regarded as ‘commodities’ under the sweep of globalisation. In this context, a few of our friends were less enthusiastic about undertaking this intellectual exercise of making another addition to the nebulous Gandhiana collection, which may turn out to be merely another intellectual exercise.
But the Organisors eventually decided in favour of bringing out this anthology to seek answers to the challenges posed by the unparalleled ecological catastrophe which affects the entire humanity, by drawing inspiration from Gandhiji’s life and deeds. The collection, as a whole, is an attempt to interpret Gandhiji in the light of our contemporary concerns of ecology-both human as well as material, ethical plane. The Volume is divided into three parts: I. Insights in human ecology. II. Conserving our treasures, and III. Complementary reflections.
An honest appraisal of the malady, as is revealed from the contributions in this volume Gandhi, Ganga,Giriraj, leads us to critically examine the paradoxes created by the technology-infested modern societies:b. “Me submitting to the fury of Nature” syndrome. PUNE LACHMAN M KHUBCHANDANI15 August, 2004 GENERAL EDITOR