By glorifying Gandhi’s killer, Indian hardliners are creating a new hero
I still recall the moment I found out that not all Indians revered Mohandas Gandhi, the London-trained lawyer who led India’s nonviolent struggle to free itself from British colonial rule. It was the mid-1990s, I’d recently arrived in India, and much of what I knew of the man was from Richard Attenborough’s 1982 historical drama.
The film portrays Gandhi — whose honorific title, Mahatma, means “great soul” — as nothing less than a living saint, who adamantly rejected violence and promoted harmony between Hindus and Muslims as interreligious hatred raged around him. Though historians have criticised the oversimplification of a complex man and his turbulent times, Gandhi was undoubtedly a hero, one of the most admired figures of the 20th century, and an inspiration to other civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela.