October 2, 2018 marks the beginning of the 150th birth anniversary year of M.K. Gandhi (1869-1948), popularly called “Mahatma” (Great Soul) and “Bapu” (Father of the Indian Nation). Throughout the nationalist struggle in the first half of the 20th century, Gandhi played the most significant role in securing Indian independence from the British Empire. But he is remembered equally for bringing ideas and techniques of non-violence (ahimsa), non-cooperation, civil disobedience and passive resistance or “soul force” (satyagraha) to mass politics for the first time in modern history, which helped to regain India’s self-rule (swaraj) from colonial rule (British Raj), against enormous odds.
India became an independent nation-state and the world’s largest democracy in August 1947, but British India was also at the same time partitioned into two new nations, India and Pakistan. The Partition of 1947 at the time of decolonization displaced millions of people and rendered them refugees overnight on both sides of the newly-created national boundaries. It caused more loss of life and property, more displacement, more separation of families, more population transfer and a greater demographic transformation of major cities in the South Asian subcontinent, than the Holocaust in Europe during World War II.
Gandhi was morally opposed to Partition and deeply anguished by the large-scale communal violence between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, which undermined and contradicted his lifelong commitment to non-violent resistance against colonialism and imperialism. Yet, he was assassinated by a Hindu extremist on January 30, 1948, in New Delhi, as he walked towards his daily public multi-faith prayer meeting that evening. His legacy survives through India’s republican constitution, egalitarian citizenship, electoral democracy, universal adult franchise, and a secular (non-denominational) state. Gandhi’s message of non-violence and equal respect for all religions and for all forms of life has had a lasting global impact.
Short Bio of the Speaker
Ananya Vajpeyi is an intellectual historian, currently Fellow and Associate Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi. She is a visiting fellow at the Centre for Asian Studies – Koç University, Istanbul during Fall 2018. Her book, Righteous Republic: The Political Foundations for Modern India was published in 2012 by Harvard University Press and won multiple awards. She writes regularly for The Hindu newspaper on arts, ideas, and politics, and has published in Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, Public Books, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Indian Express, The Caravan Magazine, World Policy Journal and other Indian and international publications. Most recently she was the Charles Wallace Fellow at the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at Cambridge University in the UK (2017-18).
Detailed bio can be found at https://www.csds.in/ananya_vajpeyi
Op-Ed, The Hindu daily: