Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The relevance of Gandhi

Pakistani liberals as a general rule curse Gandhi.

Fact is that Gandhi has been an enormous positive influence for India. I invite you to browse through stories that mention Gandhi on goodnewsindia.com. 

Just one of the examples you will find there (excerpt)

When the Uzbek, Ghiasuddin Babur finally defeated Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat in 1456, he was in addition to being a conqueror, a man with a vision for a grand empire. His hordes were not all armed soldiers. Bringing up the rear was a team of scholars, craftsmen, designers and theologists. Among these were a few papermakers drawn from Turkey. Their charter was to produce paper and parchments for the Moghul court. [Not to be asserted, but was this the moment paper was introduced India, as an alternative to the traditional palm leaf and fabric?].
Fast forward to Akbar's times. The small band of paper-makers had developed into a guild, restricted to those born into the clan. They had adapted the surname, Kagzi, after 'kagaz' meaning paper. And spread to Sialkot [now in Pakistan], Gujarat, Maharashtra and Jaipur.
Of these the only surviving settlement of Kagzis today is at Sanganer, in the outskirts of Jaipur. Sanganer is blessed with water and open spaces, that are essential for paper making. From here the Kagzis enjoyed patronage of the royal court of Sawai Man Singh and his successors. And all seemed well.
Hard times.
By the eighteenth century, storm clouds gathered over the Kagzis. The advent of the Europeans, brought in their wake industrial produce of the west, among which was low-priced mill-made paper.
Salimuddin Kagzi, now 65, recalls the trials of his father Janab Allahbux Kagzi. "From a prosperous village Sanganer, became a starving village. India was overwhelmed by 'modernity' and cost-effective products. Add to that the decline of royal grandeur. There was no market for hand-made paper."

At this point we see the hand of , who else, Mahatma Gandhi! [Wonder what aspect of India's life he did not touch!]. Allahbux met Gandhi in 1937 and sought counsel. He in turn persuaded the textile mill-owners of Ahmedabad to extend business. For several decades thereafter, Sanganer supplied packaging materials for textiles. It was not anything to raise them to prosperity, but it kept the Kagzis of Sanganer and their skills alive. No such luck for Kagzis elsewhere. Salim Kagzi believes, they have all closed shop and the Sanganer settlement alone survives.

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