In Gandhi’s Name

October 30, 2018
A close-up of a human foot in statue form with flowers laid before it
Statue of Gandhi along San Francisco’s Embarcadero / Courtesy of Ilya Yakubovich / Flickr

To the farmers who braved the police on Gandhi’s birth anniversary

The farmers left their fields.
They marched to the deaf
Gates of Delhi, their demands
Renting the air, tongues
Sentencing the government.
The farmers marched, fire
Bellowing from hungry bellies.
On them
Delhi let loose its police.
A hundred years ago, in Kheda
And Champaran, you had spoken
For their woes, fasted
Against the yoke of indigo.

On your birthday, a Muslim family,
Seeking justice for their
Murdered son, turned Hindu.
Not all gods, they felt, were equal
Before the law.
No one pacified them.
No one told them, it isn’t true.
In the dark winter of 1946, your body
Defenceless, bare
As the hate around you,
You set foot in Bihar
To restore Muslim homes
Their broken honour.

It is easy to forget all this,
To repudiate all this,
And celebrate your birthday.
Those who keep alive
The bullet that killed you
Shower your memory with
The devil blushes
At such irony.

The Champaran and Kheda revolts of 1917, based on Gandhi’s philosophy of satyagraha (nonviolent resistance), marked the first stirrings of independence from British rule. / Photo: The Better India

Editorial note: October 2, 2019, will mark Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary. Sesquicentennial commemorations will take place in India, the US, and around the world. Philip Glass’s Satyagraha (1979) was the second opera in his “Portrait Trilogy”; for more, read Kevin Simmonds’s “On Fire: Five Meditations on Opera” in the November issue of WLT.

Photo by Rajarshi Dasgupta

Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee is a poet, writer, and political science scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is the author of Nehru and the Spirit of India (Penguin Random House, 2022).