Sunday, December 31, 2017

Gandhi on exemplars of simplicity

In Harijan of July 17, 1937, Mahatma Gandhi wrote about what he hoped for from the Congress ministries that were assuming office in the various provincial governments.  Excerpt {highlights added}

Then the personal behaviour of Ministers. How will Congress Ministers discharge themselves? Their Chief, the Presidentt of the Congress, travels third class. Will they travel first? The President is satisfied with a coarse khadi dhoti, Kurta and waistcoat. Will the Ministers require the Western style and expenditure on Western scale? Congressmen have for the past seventeen years disciplined themselves in rigorous simplicity. The nation will expect the Ministers to introduce simplicity in the administration of their Provinces. They will not be ashamed of it, they will be proud of it. We are the poorest nation on earth, many millions living in semi-starvation. Its representatives dare not live in a style and manner out of all correspondence with their electors. The Englishmen coming as conquerors and rulers set up a standard of living which took no account whatsoever of the helpless conquered. If the Ministers will simply refrain from copying the Governors and the secured Civil Service, they will have shown the marked contrast that exists between the Congress mentality and theirs. Truly there can be no partnership between them and us even as there can be none between a giant and a dwarf.

Lest Congressmen should think that they have a monopoly of simplicity and that they erred in 1920 in doing away with the trousers and the chair, let me cite the examples of Aboobaker and Omar. Rama and Krishna are prehistoric names. I may not use these names as examples. History tells us of Pratap and Shivaji living in uttermost simplicity. But opinion may be divided as to what they did when they had power. There is no division of opinion about the Prophet, Aboobaker and Omar. They had the riches of the world at their feet. It will be difficult to find a historical parallel to match their rigorous life. Omar would not brook the idea of his lieutenants in distant provinces using anything but coarse cloth and coarse flour. The Congress Ministers, if they will retain the simplicity and economy they have inherited since 1920, will save thousands of rupees, will give hope to the poor and probably change the tone of the Services. It is hardly necessary for me to point out that simplicity does not mean shoddiness. There is a beauty and an art in simplicity which he who runs may see. It does not require money to be neat, clean and dignified. Pomp and pageantry are often synonymous with vulgarity.
Why is this relevant?

The claim is made: {highlights added}
The so called letter to Pir of Manki Sharif by Jinnah which Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed has quoted throughout his academic career is based entirely on Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani’s speech delivered on March 9th 1949, long after Jinnah was dead and unable to contradict the Maulana’s point of view. It is an alleged excerpt which seems to promise Shariat from an undated letter, which does not occur in any primary source document. The same four lines of the letter were reproduced as part of the “Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah’s Correspondence” compiled by Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada, whose very association with Jinnah has been suspect and whose role as the establishment’s go to guy is well known. My conclusion, having seen how Jinnah’s statements have been manufactured over the last 70 years by unscrupulous individuals on the right wing in our state is that we cannot admit this as evidence so long as we have the original in a verified primary source. In the same speech, Maulana Usmani claims that Gandhi advised Congress ministers to follow the example of Hazrat Umar (RA) and Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) in 1937 and 1938. No such reference exists in the 90 volumes of Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi either.
The claim made by Maulana Usmani that Gandhi advised Congress ministers to follow the example of Umar and Abu Bakr is correct.

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