Bengaluru: “Mahatma Gandhi was a Jihadi of a non-violent kind. Jihad in Islam means 'struggle with one's own conscience’. He was inspired by Islam and imbibed that in his satyagraha,” said Gita Dharampal, from the South Asia Institute.
Presenting a paper at The Energy Resources Institute, on ‘Gandhi and Islam’, Gita explained his efforts to bring Hindu-Muslim unity. “I want this paper to provide answers to present concerns. Right from the cold war, the bombing of Iraq, Afghanistan, oil politics, bombing of twin towers was all part of power politics; and less to do with Islamic radicalism,” she said.
Gandhiji had four agendas in mind - Satyagraha, Hindu-Muslim unity, abolishing untouchability and the Swadeshi movement. He supported the Khilafat movement, which pressured the British to let the Ottomon Caliph retain his power.
“The Ottomon empire was a Muslim one. Fall of this meant a fall for Islam and Muslims comprise one-fourth of India's population. He joined the Khilafat movement, initiated by Indian Muslims, to bring Hindu-Muslim unity,” Gita said.
Many in the audience countered this point. They said it was more of a political strategy to win the masses. She spoke about Gandhi attempting to maintain harmony between the two religions, especially with regard to cow, an animal considered sacred by most Hindus.
"Gandhi tried to allay the Hindu anxiety with cow protection. In Hind Swaraj master plan, he said that he respects the cow as much as man. One can't kill a Muslim to save the cow. A Hindu must urge the Muslim brother to save the cow," she said. However the British disturbed this harmony by painting the Mughal era as 'dark ages'.
“Gandhiji's wish to become a Brahmachari, a life of chastity to attain spirituality. He felt this is what he needed to achieve Hindu-Muslim unity,” said M.N. Venkatachaliah, former chief justice. Gita said what Gandhi propagated was more of contemporary Islam that became part of his spiritual struggle against violence.