Aligarh: Noted historian Irfan Habib has rubbished critics of Mahatma Gandhi, including some western authors, saying their criticism is not based on history. “The amount of criticism heaped on the Mahatma, especially in the last few months, was simply not based on history,” Habib said while delivering a lecture on “Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian Nation” last evening.
“If we want to truly understand Gandhi's contribution to the building of modern India, then we should critically examine the events connected to the last four weeks before his assassination,” said Habib, who has personal memories of the traumatic events during the partition and early days of freedom.
He asserted that in the years to come the future of India would largely be influenced by the manner in which the country treats the Father of The Nation and the Gandhian doctrine.
Habib however accepted that Gandhi had his own share of weaknesses and failures in public life.
“The months immediately after partition were tumultuous with massacres taking place both in India and Pakistan. During this period the newly formed Cabinet of India decided not to fulfill its obligation of paying Rs 55 crores to Pakistan as part of the partition agreement,” the historian said.
“With millions of refugees pouring into India, there was an atmosphere of anger and hatred towards Pakistan and hence there was widespread resistance to pay Pakistan the above mentioned amount,” he added.
He said that Gandhi, however, took a principled and humanist view of the situation and despite threats by a section of right wing leaders, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru reversed the Cabinet's decision.
“I lived through those traumatic days when this episode took place. Communal riots were raging all over Punjab and present day Haryana and it appeared to be just a matter of hours when, we feared, the violence would spill over into districts like Aligarh, Bulandshahr and Muzaffarnagar,” Habib said.
“Had the Mahatma not gone on hunger strike in protest against the killings of Muslims in Delhi and Punjab, and had not Pakistan been mollified by the compensation it received at the instance of the Mahatma, there would have been no stopping of violence, and the two new born nations would have found it very difficult to survive in their present form,” he added.