PTH gets flak for Gandhi-bashing

Our occasional contributor and a friend of Pak Tea House (PTH), freethinker has written a piece entitled Gandhi-bashing on Pak Teahouse and has complained about the conservatism of yours truly. I respect freethinker‘s views but two things must be made clear: first of all PTH does not indulge in Gandhi bashing by design. In fact, it gives space to all sorts of opinions as some of the robust discussions here would testify to this un-trumpeted policy. Secondly, in an attempt to engage with the mainstream, PTH also tries to tread carefully. The purpose is not to offend fellow Pakistanis who represent the diversity of views, beliefs and layers of social conditioning found in the country as a whole. If freethinker holds that PTH is conservative, there are many others who view PTH’s  earlier attempt to raise issues of sexuality as an insult to Pakistan and one of our hate-commenter termed us as b****rds hellbent on defaming the country. In fact, I had to delete quite a large number of abusive comments simply because they had more expletives than substance.

In any case, let me state this at the outset that Gandhi was a great leader and politician; however, there can be several views on his politics and religious beliefs. In my personal opinion his death at the hands of a Hindu fundamentalist was a tragic blow to Indian secularism and chances of Indo-Pakistan peace right at the start of our respective and troubled nationhood[s].  PTH has no ‘line’ on Gandhi-ji;  and its contributors and readers are free to make their own assessments. This is why I am posting freethinker’s piece here that deals with the issue at great length.

Comments and opinions are invited. Raza Rumi (ed.)

Gandhi-bashing on Pak Teahouse

The radicals among us who have been following Pak Teahouse for some time know that Raza Rumi toes a somewhat conservative line when it comes to the posts that he decides to put up at PTH. Of course he is not to blame…one article about the mushroominig sex industry in Pakistan was enough to caused raised eyebrows among the devoted readership of PTH and he had to follow it up with a post to explain himself.

But right now I want to talk about a different kind of conservatism. That patriotism-driven prejudiced conservatism that makes us Pakistanis angry at the big bad India and Gandhi. Helping us stay in our cozy shells of nationalist pride is none other than the loud and fiesty champion of the secularists Yasser Latif Hamdani (YLH). Now don’t you dare charge him with jingoism and bigotry because he’s a well-read secularist who knows what he’s talking about. Now obviously I can’t presume to tell him that he’s got his history wrong, as he suspects we’re all likely to be brainwashed and get our facts from movies, but I’m writing this because as a Pakistani who’s had plenty of opportunity to observe how anti-Gandhi critiques feed the ego of many shamelessly patriotic bigots in my country, I have some concerns that YLH’s lash-outs against Gandhi might be different from his usual scholarly insights.

Now it should be apparent to everyone that worshiping Jinnah is a significant part of our social conditioning here in Pakistan, while on the other hand our textbooks tell us nothing about Gandhi, his philosophy of Satyagraha, or his monk-like ascetism, apart from a mention here and there of how Gandhi hampered the Pakistan Movement. The first mention of Gandhi is with regards to Khilafat Movement, which serves to contrast Gandhi’s sentimental and silly (and ultimately devious) support of the ‘disastrous’ Khilafat Movement and Jinnah’s dispassionate yet acute (and ultimately sincere) political judgement. So in our national imagination, he emerges as the antithesis of the Jinnah. They are opposites that have to be described in black and white, and have to stand in opposition to each other to reinforce each other’s blackness and whiteness. It’s almost mythological – an archetypal Good-vs-Evil narrative that informs that Pakistani collective unconscious. No shades of gray, as a commenter pointed out in response to YLH.

Notice how this Pakistani psychological construct plays out when YLH writes about either Gandhi or Jinnah. He can’t talk about one without mentioning the other. In his article about Gandhi, he devotes two paragraphs to Jinnah before the conclusion, in a typical thesis-antithesis-synthesis format. And again in his comment to the recent post about Quaid-e-Azam, he proves Jinnah’s greatness by contrasting him with Gandhi, and this time, as I suppose comments are more hastily written, the antithesis seems really out of place too: we see how he has to precede it by assuming that the reader will be a fan of Gandhi. The comment also reveals the illogical nature of the underlying binary construct informing his ‘reasoned’ arguments: if you don’t like Jinnah, it naturally follows that you like Gandhi, and to make you like Jinnah, you have to be shown how Gandhi is bad.

I’d also like to point out that YLH is a Pakistani lawyer idolizes Quaid-e-Azam and likes to have an opinion rather than allow for doubts. I wonder if he knows about how we’re all hard-wired for unconscious confirmation bias, and how that might have gotten in the way of his judgement. And apparently Only his reading of history is right: Khilafat Movement was bad, Jinnah’s use of the religious rhetoric is to be ignored in favour of his secularity, Gandhi’s views about the ‘liberated’ Western woman were obviously misogynistic and Gandhi offering Jinnah the premiership of India was ‘bribe’ and not a sign of his last desperate appeal to Jinnah.

In the article YLH wrote about Gandhi, he also failed to tell us how Gandhi managed to inspire leaders like Lech Walesa, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandel. He’s silent about the insights Gandhi was able to achieve in his philosophy of the nature of self, violence and sexuality, and the self’s relationship with the cosmos. His worldview remains relevant for green political theorists and anarchist philosophers today. And a knowledge of his worldview is relevant for the discussion that flared up at PTH because a lot was said about Gandhi being anti-technology and having a belief in castes. The quotes given by YLH in the comments do not make Gandhi a caste-ist, because in the society Gandhi envisions, there is no superiority and inferiority based on your caste – all caste roles are equally significant, and together they constitute a harmonious social order with a social division of labour, much like the Islamic social order which envisages a social order based on the division of social and economic responsibilities according to sex.

Returning to the Manichaeistic dualism of black and white, I’d like to briefly highlight it’s significance for nationalism. As Mubarak Ali shows in his ‘In the Shadow of History’ (in the section ‘Heroes and Hero Worship’), nationalism is about constructing heroes and villains, and that means mythologizing the icons that come to represent the heroes and villains. Unfortunately that reduces historical figures in all their human complexity to caricatures, caricatures cast in black and white, representing how our ideological orientations reflect on them. This definitely especially happens with religious leaders – like the Prophet Muhammad, who can be seen both as a pro-woman savior and a misogynistic exploiter. Gandhi is somewhat of a ‘Prophet’ himself, as his followers claim that be placed on the same footing as Jesus Christ and Buddha, and ‘Prophets’ have always lived in ideologically contested spaces in our memories.

The solution to this is to place historical figures in their respective historical and cultural contexts, and giving a sincere thought to what constituted their worldviews. Gandhi was not infallible, and neither did he claim to be. And, slandering aside, his worldview had its critics right from the start: B.R.Ambedkar and E.V. Ramasaimi Naicker could not reconcile with his being anti-State (he said ‘the State represented violence in a concentrated form’) and anti-technology (he did want humanity to go back to the villages, and despised the valuing of ‘intellectual’ labour over manual labour like hand-spinning khadi cloth), and his condemnation of politics without spirituality. You can hate the Gandhian worldview, or any other, for whatever you find distasteful in it, but you cannot reduce it to its caste-ism, misogyny, and primitivity without understanding the larger picture behind. That larger picture will helps one make sense of this world as long as one remains critical of its shortcomings, just like one should with any religion too.


Filed under Blogging, History, Society

40 responses to “PTH gets flak for Gandhi-bashing

  1. YLH

    Freethinker makes several strawman fallacies- some of his claims against me are pure lies- for example I didn’t prove Jinnah’s greatness by comparing him to Gandhi – that was just one point in a long list of point.

    The duality – let’s be clear about it _ was created by Gandhi the movie. I didn’t have any anti-gandhi social conditioning (as I will explain in my rebuttal) and adopted an anti-gandhi stance only when I went to college in the US.

    And I approach these things as a lawyer. Several facets of Gandhi’s life are deliberately hidden from the world chief amongst them are his racism, casteism and misogyny. Gandhi was a social conservative and a certified right winger within the Congress – so criticizing him cannot be conservatism by any stretch of imagination. More details on this in my rebuttal.

    All in all this is a shameless attempt to win brownie points and nothing else. In the final analysis it seems that my only fault is that I was born in Lahore Pakistan even though neither my education nor my upbringing could be considered typically ideological or pakistani per se.

    On the other points I shall address each and everyone of these ad hominem attacks and strawman fallacies in detail in my piece.

  2. I did not say that contrasting Gandhi to Jinnah was your *only* way of proving your points. What I pointed out was that you don’t transcend the nationalistic construct of the Hero/Villain duality, which was present in two of your posts: the article on Gandhi, and the comment in the Jinnah thread addressed to Hades.

    I am sorry that I did not know of the reactionary nature of your sentiments against Gandhi, which you said were inflamed because of the hagiographic representation of Gandhi in the movie you saw. The movie also showed Jinnah, and perhaps that’s where you got your habit of viewing Gandhi and Jinnah as opposites. But to me that matters little because your posts did bear uncanny similarity to our Government School pedagogues teaching Pakistan Studies.

    You accuse me of a straw man argument because you think of my post as a refutation. It wasn’t – what I wrote was a literary analysis of your posts on Gandhi and Jinnah. And picking up on possible sources of the writer’s bias and psychological constructs that inform a text is part of literary analysis. That is why I didn’t try to tease out the historical nitty-gritty in an attempt to weigh the expediency and influence of Gandhi and Jinnah.

  3. (here’s the comment YLH posted – the link above does not seem to work)


    First of all Jinnah resorted to identity politics only after exhausting all other options. He is the only politician in South Asia to be known as the best ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity. He was a thoroughly secular man and remained committed to United India for atleast 33 out of 40 years of his political career if not more.

    Comparing Jinnah to Modi is ignorance at its worst. I suggest you pick up a good book on partition and learn something from it. May I suggest “partition of india: legend and reality” by H M Seervai.

    In any event to compare Jinnah to Modi- leader of a minority fighting for safeguards to a majoritarian fascist is akin to comparing Dr.King or Malcolm X to white supremacists.

    You are also dead wrong about the direct action day. Jinnah in any event had nothing to do with Calcutta. In Calcutta, the report by Wavell confirmed- that three times the number of Muslims died than Hindus. If you honestly apply your mind to the Direct Action Day events by looking through the Transfer of Power Papers you will realize that the nonsense drummed into you by third movies like Hey Ram or partisan pro-congress ideologues is the exact opposite of the events as they turned out after inquiry report. Now we are well aware of what Gandhi’s favorite correspondents like Bourke-white wrote but official papers tell a very different story. For example you might even discover that Jinnah never said “we’ll have india divided or destroyed” and that this line was invented altogether. Have you tried searching the term “Direct Action” on line and seeing what it really means?

    Now thanks for telling us not to admire the one man about whom the author of your constitution Dr. Ambedkar said: “There is no politician in South Asia to whom the word “incorruptible” maybe more fittingly applied than Jinnah”. This is a reputation that was confirmed by everyone who came into contact with the man including H V Hodson, Gandhi, Nehru and Louis Fischer. Many have tried to impugn this reputation but unsuccessfuly- the most recent being the taliban-sympathizer author Tariq Ali, whose own grandfather was sikandar hayat a British toady who hated Jinnah, …the poor irrelevant and clueless Tariq Ali tried to make a case on the basis of the fact that the US gifted Jinnah with a ceiling fan. Wow.

    Perhaps you wish us to admire Gandhi instead? But then have you read the collected works of Mahatma Gandhi? The man was a racist casteist misogynist Hindu fascist- yes that’s right- I challenge you to read Gandhi’s collected works and I can assure you that Gandhi will look like Adolf Hitler’s brother from another mother. Gandhi believed that black people were subhuman.and it was Gandhi who introduced the scourge of identity politics in South Asia by supporting the Khilafat movement against better advice of secular and liberal Muslims like Jinnah? So why do you abuse the man who resorted to it only at the end of his 40 year long career?

    But who am I tell you anything?

    I hope my comment is not taken in the wrong spirit. I am just trying to open your eyes to the facts of history. I am well aware that it will – in the words of the Great Mr. Dickinson of Pennsylvania- diminish my already declining popularity on this website. But I can assure you what I’ve written above is a considered position based on Transfer of Power Papers and Gandhi’s collected works.

    You may want to read some of my own articles on Jinnah and Gandhi on this website. Search Yasser Latif Hamdani.

  4. In fairness to you, Yassir, the first comment that mentions Gandhi on the post is incidentally not yours. It’s by another Pakistan, who is more blatant in his expression of the Jinnah/Gandhi duality.

    December 25, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Dear Kashkin,
    welldone! you wrote a very beautiful thread.God Bless seems that you are like other jinnah lover’s and fanz u have got the maxima RESPECT for MR.JINNAH may his soul rest in was HIM who kicked the whole british empire single handedly from sub continent.EVEN gandhijee was just a himslef made hero.the real winner & hero is jinnah 🙂

  5. azhar aslam

    This is one of the funniest posts, I have come across on PTH. The writer falls victim to all weaknesses that he blames YLH for. But the funniest bit is that the writer (who also calls himself free thinker. Am I right?) is seemingly a proud secularist with atheist/agonist leaning. And here he is defending a ‘ prophet’. he he he. I am sorry, nothing personal. This is classic irony.

    Since it seems you guys seem to know each other well, this post seems more like a personal spate than a literary criticism. However I don’t want to be too much flippant, and there are some serious points here that need addressing:

    1. Is patriotism a prejudiced conservatism? There are three separate operative terms here: patriotism; prejudiced; conservatism. They sit together verrry uncomfortably. Does the writer love his home? His own room in his home? Why does he?
    2. Is conservatism a necessarily bad thing in any form and shape? Would that be writer’s unconscious confirmation bias?
    3. Does the writer live without any identity? Would he preferred to be called say ‘ no 4’ instead of Mr. X ? Would having an identity be his ‘ prejudiced conservatism’? Or will trying to protect his identity may fall in that category?
    4. ‘Nationalist pride’ is a cozy shell? So what about personal pride? Not too human for you, I imagine, that is either.
    5. ‘The ego of many shamelessly patriotic bigots in my country’. Question: Would you be able to or have you hitherto challenged any non Pakistani/ western on this issue. My concern here is that I come across so many ‘intellectuals’, who happily lecture us pakis on such noble issues as humanism etc., and package all our little idiocies into neat packages, titled ‘ bigots’; but sit them across a ‘gora’ of any hue and kind and they deflate faster than the tyres of my very old Golf.
    6. I am a Mirpuri (almost a pejorative term for many ) and a Paki ( definitely a pejorative term for a majority) and yes while I do not shout every single morning about it, I don’t feel uncomfortable declaring and accepting its consequences, including love of Jinnah as my social conditioning. Hell, have I not been socially conditioned to love my parents, siblings, cousins, family, friends, neighbours and all such like ?
    7. Does the writer worship his parents or love them as part of his identity? is there any thing morally unjustifiable about worshipping Jinnah. If anything, had he been idolised fully and in reality this in all likelihood would have led to his vision of Pakistan, and we would have all been better for it.
    8. The writer fails to grasp a very simple point as to why Gandhi’s spiritualistic acts and personality hardly impresses any Pakistani. With an equally rich history of Sufism in the subcontinent, who needs Gandhi. Yes, a non-spiritualistic modern and postmodern West (which has a history of getting impressed by Indian fakirs long before Gandhi appeared on the scene). But there is no vacuum that needs to be filled here.
    9. ‘Notice how this Pakistani psychological construct plays out when YLH writes about either Gandhi or Jinnah.’

    It plays out exactly as your own psychological construct Mr Writer, about what you believe to be correct. Isn’t having ‘a perspective’ common sense? Whether the glass is half full or half empty does not need proofs from Scientific American.

    ‘We see only what we want to see’ is a very basic fact taught to trainee doctors. As Jefferson said “The moment a person forms a theory his imagination sees in every object only the traits which favor that theory.” Or an equally eloquent but anonymous writer wrote in a public toilet in Ljubljana, ‘reality is an illusion in the absence of alcohol’.
    It is clear that the writer formed his theory first and then in every YLH post, he saw the traits that supported his theory.
    10. ‘The comment also reveals the illogical nature of the underlying binary construct informing his ‘reasoned’ arguments: if you don’t like Jinnah, it naturally follows that you like Gandhi, and to make you like Jinnah, you have to be shown how Gandhi is bad.’

    That is unfair on YLH. Any person in his place would do the same. See, the article generated a debate ( in which the writer it seems, did take part) about Jinnah’s place in history. Since the only comparable personality of that period is Gandhi and since debates by their very nature lead to argumentative comparisons being used as a reason, it is only but natural that Gandhi would have been dragged into the debate, sooner or later.
    In any case the Ylh’s argument was not about ‘ Like or Dislike’; it was about the ‘ Philosophy, the methodology, the work, the achievements, and the legacy.’ So the binary construct was but natural. The construct could have been in tri- or quad- category, but for the lack of such personalities from that period.

    However the writer saw this more as ‘ Like / dislike’ argument by YLH. Ummm. The bloody ‘bias thing’ keeps cropping up again and again, I am afraid.

    11. ‘In the article YLH wrote about Gandhi, he also failed to tell us how Gandhi managed to inspire leaders like Lech Walesa, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandel. ‘

    Well that was not what YLH was discussing ( although I may be completley wrong). However I can perhaps try. None of them met Gandhi. And I doubt if any one of them actually read all his works and were/are thoroughly aware of the history of the subcontinent. In all likelihood, they were inspired by the ‘cult like’ caricature that has been created by that PR machine, a small part of which was the movie ‘ Gandhi’. Mandela obviously also sees a south african connection. I think this explanation should suffice although one can expound on this thesis a lot more.
    In any event, the writer’s thesis about being inspired seems to me grossly exaggerated. What detailed evidence do we have that Gandhi was the main, or even the major inspiration for these people? Has the writer quantified the percentage of this inspiration?

    The same goes for writer’s arguments about why YLH was silent on other Ghandian ‘virtues’.

    12. ‘The quotes given by YLH in the comments do not make Gandhi a caste-ist, because in the society Gandhi envisions, there is no superiority and inferiority based on your caste – all caste roles are equally significant….’

    Hehehe. That bloody ‘confirmation bias’ thing again. Just doesn’t stay down. Isn’t it obvious that writer has his own bias and that bias is so entrenched, that even when the caste system is justified the writer prefers to see it ‘non caste-ist’. Thank you for making me laugh so much.

    On another note, how practical it is that caste system will not create superiority or inferiority? It was obviously not Gandhi the politician who was thinking in such non-pragmatic manner?

    And if all ‘caste roles’ are significant why still insist on calling the system ‘caste system’. Was Gandhi unaware of the power of words with their thousands of years of deep rooted history. Or was he simply playing with the words ‘like a pragmatic politician’ and justifying something for the vested interest of some, but just dressing it in a more affable manner?

    Yes yes, you may put this reasoning down to my ‘ confirmation bias’. But it is very conscious, not unconscious.

    I rest my case with the writer and his Gandhi. But yes of course you are entitled to your views Sir.

    Lstly , Would the writer also tell us about the larger picture behind Ghandi’s casteism and primitivity.

    Its just that I want to enjoy the wonders of a secularist pen and mind, trying to justify and defend the ‘pseudo-spirtualistic-confused-noncherent-contradictory thoughts’ of an ‘almost prophet’( in writer words).

    And then I shall reflect on how ego can make one do any thing.

    Ahh ‘ Vanity ; ‘Vanity my favourite sin’.

  6. simply61

    As an Indian reading this site I would have to say that barring a few dedicated Gandhi-bashers/haters,most anti -Gandhi sentiment crops up usually in the comments section rather than in the articles themselves.This is also true of some other sites where Indian and Pakistani bloggers engage in almost peurile tit for tat bashing of Gandhi and Jinnah.
    I think each side somehow wants to prove,beyond doubt, that the division of the sub-continent and the subsequent troubled events were the ‘fault’of either Jinnah or Gandhi.This simplistic desire to score brownie points itself means neither side will ever be objective in analysis.
    Neither man was a saint,just ordinary leaders in extraordinary circumsances, who did the best they could by their people.Becuse both led their people to Independence,we ended up calling one Mahatma and the other Qaid-e-Azam.
    I think both men were heroic and like all heroes,flawed too.
    I do not agree with the statement that (Gandhi’s ) “his death at the hands of a Hindu fundamentalist was a tragic blow to Indian secularism “.It was a blow to the country in terms of leadership and guidance but not to secularism.Infact his death at the hands of a right wing Hindu was a warning to Indians and the various Indian states about the risks of regionalism and extreme right wing philosphies.It spurred many regional leaders towards a more speedy committment to the idea of the Indian Union.
    The threats to secularism have come up in later decades.

  7. ‘seemingly a proud secularist with atheist/agonist leaning. And here he is defending a ‘ prophet’. he he he.’

    Yes, it’s very funny. You would also find Karen Armstrong funny, who’s an agnostic working on encouraging interfaith dialogue.

    Also, I’m not a ‘proud secularist’ and hate labels of any kind. But you probably don’t get that, because for you, identity is something fixed and has to either Pakistani or Indian.

    I said ‘patriotism-driven prejudiced conservatism’, not singling out patriotism or conservatism. But personally, I do charge most patriots and conservatives with complacency and rigidity of opinions. You’re bound to see this as weakness of character, but yes, I’d rather doubt than have an opinion. If I do have an opinion, it would be in Kierkegaardian ‘fear and trembling’.

    That said, I do think that a multiplicity of opinions is necessary for breaking the hegemony of a dominant discourse.

    Furthermore, my piece does not say that I do not want to have a perspective. I just don’t want to have a perspective that will feed my pride in my identity group.

    ‘Does the writer worship his parents or love them as part of his identity? is there any thing morally unjustifiable about worshipping Jinnah.’

    I never said idolizing someone is bad. History is about personal meanings and interpretations. Either we accept that, or endlessly debate history.

    Like you said, you’re a patriotic Pakistani and you ‘don’t feel uncomfortable declaring and accepting its consequences, including love of Jinnah as my social conditioning’, and while I don’t have a problem with that per se, I don’t think that’s the right intellectual posture for entering into a debate that’s supposed to transcend subjectivity.

    Be honest and just call it a contest of wits. You seemed to be having fun, and I’m sorry I had to be the party-pooper, but I wanted PTH to move beyond this ‘almost puerile tit for tat’ as a commenter points out above.

  8. Few clarifications in order:
    ‘the writer formed his theory first and then in every YLH post, he saw the traits that supported his theory’

    When did I say *every* post? I did say I was using two of his posts.

    ‘Since the only comparable personality of that period is Gandhi and since debates by their very nature lead to argumentative comparisons being used as a reason, it is only but natural that Gandhi would have been dragged into the debate, sooner or later.’

    No, they don’t have to lead into argumentative comparisons. If they do, they get dangerously close to the fallacy of false dichotomy. And how does Gandhi become the only comparable personality? People also compare Jinnah and Nehru. And just *why* does a ‘comparable personality’ have to be from India?

  9. YLH

    If I had nickel for everytime a 21 year old had it all figured out, I’d be a very rich man.

    Freethinker if criticizing Gandhi on the basis of his works makes me in your eyes something I am not that is your fault. I certainly haven’t come across government school teachers that you talk of so I can’t comment on that.

    But piece above is pathetic because it is merely asking us to shut up because we are Pakistanis.

    I tend to agree with Azhar Aslam’s comments.


    The important question is whether you will now make usual spin story for Press Trust of India from this post or not?

    I hope you can rise above this game that you play because otherwise you are one of the most balanced people around.

  10. YLH

    “Hate labels”

    What do you think “freethinker”, “radical feminist”, “anti establishmentarian” blah blah are.

    Get a life.

  11. Just when I thought its all khatam-shud it again springs back to life!


    In my personal opinion his death at the hands of a Hindu fundamentalist was a tragic blow to Indian secularism…

    Actually, Gandhi’s death at the hands of a Hindu fundamentalist was a huge shot in the arm for Indian secularism.

    It gave Nehru an excuse to crack down hard on the RSS and its cohorts and strengthened his hand immeasurably with respect to the Right Wing of the Congress.


  12. Hades:

    Your comment on Gandhi’s death intrigues me. Are you suggesting that this was a planned activity. No.

    Whilst Gandhi-ji was fasting for the rights of the Muslims and also Pakistan (share of assets etc.), he was killed by a fundo who thought that he was appeasing Muslims.

    This is surely the greatest of ironies of Gandhi’s politics and life.

    In any case, I emphasised that this was my ‘personal’ opinion and need not be a commonly held view.


  13. Raza,

    Your comment on Gandhi’s death intrigues me. Are you suggesting that this was a planned activity. No.

    Arre, no baba. I am not “suggesting” anything. Yes, there are conspiracy theories including one where Patel (not Nehru) is supposed to have gone soft on the protection of Gandhi. But I have no opinions of my own there. I pretty much believe the official line of a crazed fanatic killing him.

    However, I still stand by my statement that Gandhi’s death at the hands of an RSS chap benefited Indian secularism rather than harming it–something that I’m glad for.

    In any case, I emphasised that this was my ‘personal’ opinion and need not be a commonly held view.

    Point taken.


  14. Actually I do hate all the expectations that come with those labels as well.

    And ‘freethinker’ does sound like an unwarranted declaration to make about myself. I actually wanted to go with a display name typed out in Wingdings, but that can come across technical difficulties.

    What I do have figured out is that Gandhi is not ALL bad. That’s not something you need the wisdom of years to help you with. I’ve read extracts from his works, and yes, a lot *about* them too (not all academicians are under the sway of PR and propaganda). Your pointing out the less palatable parts of Gandhi’s works is all good by way of critical understanding, but you can’t reduce any text to its controversial bits.

    I’m sorry my post looks like an attack on you, but I really couldn’t have anymore of the bickering going on. I also apologize if it sounds rather inflammatory, and is especially critical of Pakistani attitudes. I have no respect either for those who go around calling Jinnah communalist, fascist, etc (yes it’s annoying that i’m trying to be all nice and ‘balanced’ – deal with it!). The reason I picked on you is because you were pretty much dominating the discussion on the thread.

  15. YLH

    I agree with Hades … Had Gandhi lived, India would not have the secular constitution it has.
    Both nation states have had a major course change with the death of their founding fathers.


    No need to apologize. I won’t apologize for what I am about to do to you.

  16. Sounds like fun.

    But I have little patience for ‘fun’ debates. Grow up, old man.

  17. simply61

    YLH, What is this Press Trust of India story stuff??

  18. YLH

    Oh it won’t be fun for you boy.

  19. Yassir,

    I agree with Hades … Had Gandhi lived, India would not have the secular constitution it has.

    Actually, my point was not that Gandhi’s death helped Indian secularism. I will, for the moment, reserve my opinion on that.

    My point was that Gandhi’s death at the hands of a Hindu nut-case helped Indian secularism.

    If by some quirk of fate, say, a Muslim nut-case would have killed Gandhi, things would have been very different.

    That such inane stuff decides our futures is an extremely sad thought.


  20. Contrarian

    Hello All,

    I was intrigued by a comment that credited Jinnah for bringing freedom to India and Pakistan(West & East).

    December 25, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Dear Kashkin,
    welldone! you wrote a very beautiful thread.God Bless seems that you are like other jinnah lover’s and fanz u have got the maxima RESPECT for MR.JINNAH may his soul rest in was HIM who kicked the whole british empire single handedly from sub continent.EVEN gandhijee was just a himslef made hero.the real winner & hero is jinnah ”

    Can someone educate me as to any mass movements against the British, which were orchestrated by Jinnah or any one else in the Muslim League? I would like to understand the contribution of Jinnah in the freedom struggle against the British, where he took a stand different from the Congress. Subhas Chandra Bose disagreed with Gandhi fought the British with his Indian National Army ? I am not aware of Jinnah’s contribution outside the Congress. Did he go to prison anytime? Did he give away his wealth for the freedom struggle?

    I acknowledge and accept the sacrifices he made for Pakistan, but that was driven from the certainty that the British cannot survive in the sub continent and he needed to make a homeland where muslims would be supreme.

    He is a great man who created a country where there was none. His deeds stand for itself. We need not embellish it.

  21. al

    Freethinker, I agree with u. Gandhi was not all bad, i don’t like some of his things, but he would not force anyone to follow them. no direct action for him 🙂

  22. simply61

    To add some more zing to this discussion read L.K Advani’s comments on Jinnah here:

  23. YLH

    al(ok) mian,

    We already discussed the issue of direct action on Quaid-e-Azam board. You may re-visit it and break out from the cobwebs of your ignorance.

  24. YLH

    Since Freethinker won’t respond on my board… I’ll put up my response here:

    Brownies for Pinkos: Freethinking Paki-style.
    Jump to Comments
    By Yasser Latif Hamdani

    I must admit that I was mildly amused to read Freethinker’s rant against me which was at best a pointless personal attack (or an attempt at a modern day cyber-witchhunt). Pointless because Gandhi, the most sanctified saint of 20th century, hardly needs any defending against little old me. Rest peacefully, ah defenders of status quo and monopolists of free thought, for so long has the world been taken in by the Gandhian fraud, that surely my attempt to expose him is not going anywhere. Freethinker keeps repeating “social conditioning” like a broken record? Well what of the social conditioning that makes a charlatan like Gandhi look like a saint world over? Surely instead of looking at me swimming downstream in the little pond of Pakistani public opinion, my efforts to expose Gandhi’s other side are more akin to swimming against an ocean current.

    First of all I brought up Gandhi in response to Hades’ comment on the post on “Quaid-e-Azam” only to show that before asking Pakistanis to stop admiring Jinnah, perhaps a better candidate for his profound wisdom would the Indian population that admires Gandhi. To suggest that this was my only argument (and not the last point it really was in a long list of points) is just plain dishonest. Since Freethinker likes to speak of logical fallacies, may I suggest that this is what they refer to as “Strawman fallacy”. My arguments about Jinnah were based on his own record as a politician and a legislator. Also it did not presuppose that anyone who dislikes Jinnah automatically likes Gandhi… here too Freethinker is getting ahead of himself/herself. Nor is it “conservatism” of another kind for no one should be compartmentalized on the basis of one’s view of a historical figure- especially someone whose social conservatism is well established. Similarly if I do not allow for doubt, why would I admit so quickly that I was wrong about my initial assessment of Mumbai being the handiwork of Hindu fundamentalists?

    When I first went to the US for College in 1998, I did not have any particular anti-Gandhi feelings nor did I idolize Mr. Jinnah as I do today. My view of Gandhi was generally positive- as a saintly leader of a neighboring country. Contrary to Freethinker’s assertions, there are only two references to Gandhi that I clearly remember from my schools days. The first was a chapter on “Gandhi: a great non-violent soul” in the book “First Steps in Our History” published by Ferozesons and written by K H Haye. The second reference was in a English reading book- published by Longman in England- which had a chapter comparing Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi. So my general opinion of Gandhi – as formed in Pakistan- was net positive despite all the “social conditioning”. On my first day at Rutgers, I sat next to an Indian who introduced himself as Jignesh Gandhi. My first question to him was if he was related to the “great” Mahatma Gandhi and to my great disappointment he said no.

    To accuse me of “social conditioning” might work as an occam’s razor but it certainly is not a proper explanation for why I have written so often about Gandhi’s racism, casteism or misogyny. Freethinker should have just asked me instead of going through the trouble of psychoanalyzing someone Freethinker doesn’t know or has never met. Furthermore, Freethinker is being less than honest when he claims that Pakistani textbooks talk about “Khilafat Movement” as a negative. It is not described as disastrous but is shown to be a great movement that set the ball rolling for the Khilafat Movement. Also most Pakistani textbooks fail to mention that Jinnah did not support the Khilafat Movement.

    Now let us come to the question at hand: Why should/shouldn’t there be a critique of Gandhi? The issue here is not that I am feeding into the appetite of “patriotic bigots” for anti-Gandhi critiques. Most “patriotic bigots” I know of are not very concerned about Gandhi. I am yet to find a decent critique of Gandhi from our Pakistani right wingers. To them it does not make a difference whether Gandhi is admired world over. It makes a difference to me though as a citizen of the world – I am merely following Gandhi’s own advice: be the change that you want to see in the world. I want to see Gandhi’s other side getting as much press as his saintliness. I am probably the only Pakistani who has put up these arguments against Gandhi. All other major Gandhi-bashers are either from the west or from India itself. M N Roy and Dr. Ambedkar cannot be accused of being socially conditioned by Pakistani textbooks now can they? Nor would Arthur Koestler or Richard Grenier… I name names only because it seems important to freethinker (freethinker’s argument is essentially based on “Appeal to Authority” fallacy). The picture painted by British historian Alex Von Tunzelman I suspect had nothing to do with a Pakistani textbook.

    My critique of Gandhi is directed at only one end: to balance out what I perceive to be a hagiographic account of a Machiavellian politician who was far from what is made of him. Is there anything wrong with that objective? If one-sided hogwash like the Gandhi the Movie can be presented as history, why should I not give an account of the other side of Gandhi? If there is a “dualism” here it has been drummed into us by movies like Gandhi. After all the movie went out of its way to create a villain out of Jinnah didn’t it?

    In my post to the author, I admitted that I am neither ready nor willing to see the more internationally established view of Gandhi. Why should I argue the other side’s brief? My objective is to show only that side of Gandhi which has been deliberately hidden from the world- why then should I waste my time repeating hagiographic hogwash that the world has been subjected for so long? My points are:

    1. Gandhi believed in racial purity. In South Africa all of his activities were predicated on Indian racial superiority to Africans and not – as is commonly perceived- on Indian racial equality with whites.
    2. Gandhi believed in caste based division of humanity. He believed that Hindu caste system was the natural military organization of humanity. Despite all the propaganda about his efforts to uplift the “harijans”, Dr. Ambedkar, the great author of the Indian constitution, found him patronizing and an outright protector of the evils of caste system that are deeply trenched in Hinduism. The quotes I put up did not speak of any equality of castes contrary to freethinker’s allegations. (Freethinker wants us to believe that there is some sort of inherent equality in relegating one caste to toilet cleaning irrevocably and the other caste to worshiping god and yet another to fighting wars- talk about confirmation bias).
    3. Gandhi’s views on women were distasteful to the say the least. These bear close resemblance to those Taliban today.
    4. Gandhi brought religion into politics. Before Gandhi brought religion into politics, nationalists like Jinnah, CR Das, Motilal Nehru etc were well on their way to creating grounds for a secular and united dominion of India which would be modeled on Canadian or Australian lines. Gandhi through his support for Khilafat Movement made religious identities non-negotiable. Had Gandhi not come onto the scene, India would be a self governing dominion as early as 1925 in my opinion.

    These are my points. I have argued them by backing them up with facts and sources. Yes we are hard wired for confirmation bias. Damn straight. It is this confirmation bias that forces Freethinker look for “social conditioning” not take on the merits of the argument. But are we always going to hide behind this essential defect in human design and not take a critique for what it is?

    Take for example Freethinker’s treatment of my description of Gandhi’s offer of premiership as an attempted “bribe” to Jinnah. Freethinker chides me for not taking it as a last desperate attempt instead-there you have my confirmation bias coming in the way again. By the time that this “last desperate offer” came about, the essential point of dispute was already plain: it was the question of interpretation of groupings clause of the cabinet mission plan. If Gandhi was really desperate, he would have done the right thing and agreed to the proper legal interpretation of the grouping clause which both the Cabinet Mission Plan and all leading legal minds of India had given to it. He didn’t need to do something as drastic as give the premiership to someone as disliked by the Congress as Jinnah. So it was a desperate move alright- move to bribe the one man who was held by all of his contemporaries including Gandhi himself to be the most incorruptible politician in South Asia can only be described as desperate. (The first time I had it described as a “bribe” was when I sat reading a book on Jinnah in a youth hostel while trekking through Northern California. An Indian Hindu who was bunking in the same hall said, “that is a good choice. Jinnah never accepted Gandhi’s bribe of pm-ship. He was not power hungry like Nehru or Gandhi” – I suppose he too was magically a victim of Pakistani social conditioning and confirmation bias).

    The reason why Freethinker chose to attack me and my supposed social conditioning, my lack of doubt, my Pakistani confirmation bias and so on and so forth is because Freethinker must have realized that responding on the merits of the argument is not possible. The truth is that Gandhi was racist, Gandhi was casteist and Gandhi was a misogynist (on the issue of Gandhi’s misogyny, please do read Aisha Sarwari’s “Gandhi in the handmaid’s tail”). And all the claims about Gandhi’s special insights on “nature of self” and “sexuality” (presumably like those that made him sleep naked with young girls to test his Brahmacharya resolve) or “satyagraha” etc are not valid counter arguments. I hate to break it to freethinker but Gandhi was neither an environmentalist nor an anarchist. If anything Gandhi’s true role in history has been like a vaccine introduced into the body of the independence movement. He constituted and head up the right wing within the Congress. Gandhi had sided with the British on the issue of Bhagat Singh till very late (now forgive me for being dualistic but Jinnah had championed Bhagat Singh’s cause quite eloquently through out). And the unkindest cut: Israelis sponsored free shows of Gandhi the movie in Gaza and West Bank in 2005.

    To say that Gandhi is quoted by green activists and anarchists and other philosophers is a cop-out at best. So what? Is that a valid counter-argument to the points I have raised.

    So lacking the substance to argue against my critique of Gandhi, Freethinker did what we are all “hard wired” to do: shoot the messenger. Only in my case since shooting the messenger was not very easy (probably because Freethinker is a bad shot), it soon became a case of shoot the imagined social conditioning of the messenger instead of the message.

    Really at the heart of it is only one impulse: Freethinker wants to prove himself/herself a “freethinker” (code word for “look at me I am liberal – here please why don’t you notice me – I am very liberal. Yes give me all the brownies now!” ). He/she misses the irony when he/she constructs a straitjacket and calls it freethinking – assumption being that a freethinker cannot be anything other than a+b+c+d – he cannot even be a+b+c+e or a+f+d+z and certainly not x+y+z because that is only three letters – all from the wrong side of the alphabet. Such mathematical impossibility is called “choking your brain” or the “ossified brain eventuality”. Hence all the disclaimers about being a radical feminist, freethinking, anti-organized religion blah – these are labels unto themselves. We are “hardwired” to label ourselves. Only if we live long enough we realize that these labels have been concocted to put limits and boundaries on thought. It is thus easier to rubbish every argument with the same brush of “social conditioning”, “duality”, “nationalism” than to actually think or break from the established norms of what passes for “free thinking” these days. Such censure of any opinion contrary to your own does free thinking great harm. Is that what freethinker wants? Nobody should have an opinion that doesn’t fit the “sirat-e-mustaqeem” of free thinking? How can a path be straight and narrow and yet be “free thinking”?

    At the very least a real freethinker would not ask why Dr. King or Mandela could not see through the fraud of Gandhi. A real freethinker would not ask for such affirmation and name-dropping. They did not because they probably did not have access to the collected works of Gandhi. I know for a fact that Dr. King did not and Mandela – when asked replied: he probably evolved later. To a real freethinker this should not be the end of discussion. A freethinker should ask for evidence of this alleged evolution. I tell you there isn’t any. A freethinker would at the very least stop putting up these names as testimonials and come up with better counter arguments than “you are socially conditioned” or that you are a “Pakistani”.

    The real question is when is “Freethinker” going to break away from his/her “social conditioning”?

  25. YLH

    Contrarian mian,

    There is an Indian National Congress Building near Lamington Road in Bombay. Within the compound is a “Jinnah Memorial Hall”… apparently the people of Bombay who built this hall through contribution and a massive one at that had a different view of Jinnah than you… maybe it was because Jinnah in the period 1906 to 1920 contributed Rs. 1000 weekly (a huge amount then you can imagine) to the Congress Party ? Or may be it was because of that famous agitation that earned him the ire of Lord Willingdon. The British even tried to exile Jinnah to Kala Pani or Burma (Read Ian Bryant Wells’ “Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity”) but failed because Jinnah always operated within the law.

    However, Jinnah’s contribution to the Indian independence movement was primarily as a legislator forming the opposition to the goverment and pushing through for more representation and equality for Indians. It was Jinnah who got Indians the right to become officers in the Royal Indian Army … Jinnah also pushed for the creation of the Royal Indian Air Force … the RIAF… and it was through his efforts that the first crop of officer-pilots were recruited amongst Indians… Jinnah had worked towards the constitutional evolution towards dominion status and had Gandhi not shown up, India would have been a self governing dominion in 1925.

    This “jail bharo” politics that you seem to take as some sort of medal for freedom was and will always be a joke. The British jailed anyone who they wanted to build up as a leader. Gandhi – “Qaiser-e-Hind” – shot to fame as the recruiter-in-chief for the British Army. He was then introduced as a sort of a vaccine in the body politic of India… to curb rebels on the one hand and the legitimate demands of the constitutional opposition on the other. In contrast to Jinnah (there I go being dualistic again) Gandhi’s contribution was – 1. Delay Self Rule to India 2. Introduce religion into politics that Gandhi did through his movement 3. take the wind out of the sails of rebels like Bhagat Singh. 4. Recruit Indian soldiers as cannon fodder for the British Army without officer status. For all this and more Gandhi got to go to jail at Aga Khan’s Palace (while British erected statues in his honor at the same time- what a rebel).

  26. Majumdar

    I dunno why this site is getting flak for Gandhi bashing. That charge wud be true if the site didnt permit pro-Gandhi articles to be publsihed or censored any comments which upheld MKG’s viewpoint or countered any criticism of MKG. That does not seem to be the case.

    The criticism of MKG has been levelled mainly by YLH, who is merely a contributor, and by some interactors like me who dont like him. Rather than a matter of policy by PTH.

    In any case, MKG had a huge (mainly malign) influence on the subcontinent and I dont see why any criticism of the G-man shud be forbidden.

    Yasser mian,

    Had Gandhi lived, India would not have the secular constitution it has.

    I dont think so. MKG was a forgotten man after freedom and wud have had little influence on lawmaking.


  27. Milind Kher

    Jinnah was a true secularist. His vision of Pakistan was not that of a theocratic state from what I understand. In fact, had his candidature for Prime Minister of Undivided India been supported, partition may have never taken place.

    But then again, partition was a good thing administratively. Else, the territory would have been really difficult to administer.

  28. monkey

    I agree with Majumdar. Nehru was a very secular man himself so Gandhi or no Gandhi, Nehru and his team I am sure would have managed.

  29. YLH

    Sadly I am forced to conclude that freethinker is a fake. He is a frikkin’ Mullah in the garb of a freethinker. If he had any decency he would allow my comment on his blog to go through.

    But he won’t…

  30. YLH

    PS: Readers… there is no comparison between PTH and the so called “freethinker” here….PakTeaHouse published this rebuttal because it believes in freedom of speech. Meanwhile “freethinker” refuses to publish comments that question his closed reasoning model.

    So lets not talk about “conservatism”… because this “freecrapper” over here is the biggest control-freak yet.

  31. ‘the biggest control-freak yet’

    does anybody else find it ironic that YLH is calling me a control freak? he’s the one who’s *hounding* those who disagree with him.

  32. ‘he would allow my comment on his blog to go through’

    i’ve always published comments criticizing my views. ylh’s comment got stuck in the moderation because he posted it on an old post.

    also, his comment was just the same hate-speech that he’s already published on PTH. why i’m letting his comment stay ‘unmoderated’ is because i’m not sure if my readers would like redundancy and, yes, offensive personal attacks.

  33. YLH

    What a cop out. And What personal attacks? It is the same post as the one I have posted here on Pakteahouse.

    You are letting it stay “unmoderated” because you don’t believe in freedom of speech or any dissenting point of view. If you’ve alleged something have the decency to allow a counter-point of view on your blog.

  34. YLH


    Writing a rebuttal is not hounding. Meanwhile telling people not to have an opinion – like you’ve done so again and again- is control freakery.

    Get your head screwed straight.

  35. aisha sarwari


    What about my comments?

  36. aliarqam

    I agree to U….YLH is a FANATIC…who even misspell and use very cheap language…..JAMAATIA in Disguise…….

  37. aliarqam

    When I agree to him on some point,he says Well said…I admire Obaidullah Sindhi…He admires him…but when I disagree him….He use cheap language and mock at Obaidullah Sindhi not me

  38. aisha sarwari, if you’re the one who posted YLH’s piece here on my blog through your ‘Aisha Sarwari and Yasser Hamdani’ account, my reason for not publishing it is offensiveness and redundancy.

    also that I find it rather disturbing that your account is called ‘Aisha Sarwari and Yasser Hamdani’. figure out why.

    and i HAVE published critical comments on my blog.

  39. Pingback: Busy Prepping and Shirking | Tea Break

  40. Pingback: Busy Prepping and Shirking