“Every generation of Indians needs a fresh assessment of Gandhi,” said author and Indian historian Ramachandra Guha when giving the Annual Gandhi Lecture to a crowd of around 120 attendees at Luce Hall on Thursday.
In conversation with political science professors Karuna Mantena, Guha discussed the second installment of his two-part biography of Mahatma Gandhi, “Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914-1948.” Guha is a prominent political historian, commentator and biographer, best known for his work in Indian history and politics, environmentalism and the history of cricket.
The event was co-sponsored by the South Asian Studies Council, the MacMillan Center and the Bhatt Family Fund. When writing the new biography, Guha said he referenced a never before discussed set of documents belonging to Gandhi, including an array of his letters and papers.
“I discovered a whole range of sources about Gandhi that went well beyond [‘The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi’],” Guha said. “They were often incredibly illuminating.”
Guha then went on to speak about Gandhi’s tumultuous relationship with his colleagues. These included Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, informally regarded as Rajaji, as well as Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, all of whom were key figures in the last few years of the Indian independence movement. The movement culminated in India becoming independent from Great Britain in 1947.
Guha particularly referenced a letter written to Rajaji in the 1950s following the death of Gandhi. The author of the letter, whom Guha did not name, wrote that Nehru, Patel and Rajaji were the heart, the hand and the head of Gandhi, respectively.
Elaborating on this distinction, Guha said that Rajaji was often “the most intellectually alert and sophisticated” of the three of them. Guha conjectured that Gandhi liked that there was “a warmth and charm and humility about Nehru.” Additionally, Guha said Nehru had more progressive views compared to those of Rajaji and Patel.
Later in the conversation, Guha discussed the marring of Nehru and Gandhi’s reputations in contemporary Indian politics.
“What is appealing about Gandhi is on the decline,” Guha said.
He added that the rise of conservatism in Indian politics resulted in a repudiation of Gandhi and Nehru’s liberal political framework.
Ram Vishwanathan ’21, who attended the event, said that Guha has been really influential in his life.
“In real and virtual media, you see particularly among the right-wing different figures being put into light at the expense of Gandhi and Nehru,” said Vishwanathan. “Their image has been permanently, categorically targeted for political reasons.”
Luce Hall was built in the mid-1990s.
Oscar Lopez | firstname.lastname@example.org .