At last, we have someone teaching us real history. Real history is that India did not win freedom in 1947. What it gained at that time was a charity gift from Britain, bheek, meaning alms, such as a housewife gives a beggar. Freedom as distinct from bheek came in 2014, thanks to the BJP and Narendra Modi.
No BJP leader has put it so neatly. So who did it now? Kangana Ranaut. Who she? A film actress. But she is not just any tuppeny actress. She knows politics and understands what is good for her and what is bad. She also has an advantage others don’t have. Which is that her understanding of politics is limited by her not understanding the relevance of characters like Gandhi and Nehru and Patel and Bose.
With selective facts at her command, Kangana R. has clear views on real history. Ahimsa, she tells us, gets you bheek, not freedom. Poor Gandhi. He had sacrificed his life for ahimsa. Generations of Indians had hailed him as Mahatma because of his ahimsa philosophy. They all lived in vain because they never had Kanganaji to advise them.
It was clear that Indians were a dumb lot. We never realised that history teachers, intellectuals and columnists were all cheating us all these years. They were filling our minds with a load of bull and we never knew it. Now we know, thanks to Kangana, our saviour.
After pushing the likes of Mahatma Gandhi into the pits, Kanganaji strikes a VIP pose and declares: “I will return my Padma Shri award if anyone can prove that I have disrespected freedom fighters.”
That sounds like a grand sacrifice. Returning a Padma? A statement pregnant with threat and sacrifice at the same time. But she must have known that she was on safe ground. How can something like disrespect be “proved”. Disrespecting freedom fighters is one thing, proving it is quite another. Kangana’s Padma Shri is safe as long as our country’s conventional approach to citizens’ rights holds good. Clever, isn’t she?
It is entirely possible that, after 70 years of Independence, a generation has grown up for whom names like Gandhi and Nehru are just names. Kangana R. certainly showed no signs of understanding the significance of the struggle put up by the Gandhi-Nehru generation, their long years of imprisonment and the lathi-charges they faced. Kanganaji saw all this as low-class pursuits by people who had no respect for law.
The bluntness with which she expressed her views showed how proud she was about half-knowledge. Referring to the annual tributes people pay to the memory of Gandhi and others like him, she said these rituals were “not just dumb but highly irresponsible and superficial”. How many Indians would join her in this assessment? And who is she to pass such a judgment on what people in general feel?
Varun Gandhi, no respecter of the establishment, had a more realistic approach to things. The mentality that makes one defame thousands of freedom fighters is, he said, “madness and anti-national”. Kangana revealed her own madness when she applied one brush to paint the whole lot.
Her attack, let it be noted, was relentless and apparently rooted in what she saw as historical facts. She even produced old newspaper clippings to show that Gandhi never supported activists like Subhas Bose or Bhagat Singh. One clipping focussed on an article headlined: “Gandhi, others, had agreed to hand over Netaji.” The article said that Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah had said yes to a British judge that they would hand Bose over to the authorities if he entered Indian territory. Kangana’s caption to the report was: “Either you are a Gandhi fan or Netaji supporter. You can’t be both. Choose and decide.”
Strong in her convictions and stronger in asserting them, Kangana said on one occasion: “Those who fought for freedom were ‘handed over’ to their masters by those who had no courage, no burning/boiling hot blood to fight their oppressors, but they were power-hungry and cunning.”
Offering the other cheek is no way to get Azadi, she said, because all you’d get is one more slap. “Choose your heroes wisely.”
She should choose her enemies also wisely. It will do her cause no good to denigrate the efforts made by the Gandhi-Nehru generation in their own style that suited their times. It can of course be argued that criticising Gandhi-Nehru is not necessarily disrespecting them. But such criticism will be a failure to appreciate the historical realities that were dominant at the time.