The link below will lead you the story titled ‘Misleading Gandhigiri’ by S Anand, published in Tehelka dtd 31/01/09, which rubbished the Cellular Silence Day petition.

Please find Ranjan Kamath’s riposte below which Tehelka felt it unnecessary to publish:


G. D Birla bankrolled Mahatma Gandhi. The ‘hits’ to the Cellular Silence petition page online attracted ICICI Lombard to solicit insurance while Tehelka  thought it prudent that S. Anand’s article ‘Misleading Gandhigiri’ – rubbishing the aforesaid unintelligent petition – be bolstered by TATA AIG’s personal injury plan advertisement. Corporate India continues to consort with the strangest of bedfellows, it seems!

Rather than lock horns in a constructive engagement on petition strategy and objectives, well-read Anand felt it more gratifying to grapple with an obscure part of the socially conservative bull’s anatomy, totally losing the plot in the process.

S Anand found it appropriate to mischievously manoeuvre portions of the petition airbrushed with his preferred selections of history to rubbish Gandhi; question the secular credentials of the signatories, conveniently clubbing all into a socially conservative monolith, all sophistically tailored to justify his diatribe.

While I have the greatest respect and appreciation for leaders of our freedom movement – including Ambedkar, Nehru and Gandhi, I choose to remain only inspired but refuse to treat them as ‘sacred cows’ or, consider their writings as dogma.  It is more important to learn lessons from their mistakes and set course corrections for ourselves rather than remain shackled by history.

What I find objectionable is Anand’s propensity to select his ‘sacred cow’ -while rebuking other leaders – to celebrate the victimhood of his constituency in perpetuity.

Pakistani school books justify their enmity with India; the Hindutva vanguard leave no ruin unturned to establish the sub-continent as Aryan homeland and S. Anand completes this ménage a trios of historical selectivity to justify his blinkered raison d’être – of preserving his constituency of the underdog.

While drafting the Cellular Silence petition it was Mahatma Gandhi’s strategy of non-violence that was the inspiration. Given, that two other greatest men of the 20th century, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela employed it with efficacy, it strikes me as the most appropriate ‘operating system’ with which to address the violence, iniquities and inequalities of the 21st century.

Fifteen days ago and for a few decades before that, I felt myself a voice in the wilderness falling upon deaf ears in the jungle of Indian democracy. Embraces and endorsements at the Vibrant Gujarat summit precipitated the tipping point.

The choice remained; an unvoiced angry reaction in silence or, a non-violent response with silence? It is with great trepidation that I placed the petition online, certain my call for cellular silence would receive a deafening silence in response or, worse still ridicule and censure.

To my surprise the petition was greeted with 50 signatures and hour! Ordinary Indian citizens from afar as Kashmir felt the petition gave them a voice they long sought. They felt empowered by what Anand dismisses as tokenism of the socially conservative. Theses voices originated from various corners of the country, from all walks of life and strata of society.

May I remind Anand that it was a fistful of salt – another token gesture – that precipitated the beginning of the end of British rule in India? While Anand remembers Martin Luther King’s boycott, his convenient amnesia as to where King sought his inspiration to launch the Civil Rights movement is unfortunate.

For the average Indian, a boycott call a la Gandhi or Martin Luther King – as Anand suggests – from an unknown Indian would have crashed on ‘take off’. A ‘token’ gesture permits the average Indian a vote of confidence; seeking reassurance in the comfort of numbers, before investing time, energy and self-sacrifice in a future boycott to ensure his ‘return on investment’.

We are in different times when strategies of protest are not black and white as in the time of Martin Luther King or Gandhi. Boycotting the Nano, as Anand suggests hurts the ordinary factory worker – many of whom might be Dalit and Adivasi; it hurts the image of India and might incidentally hurt Tata Motors. Switching cell phones off inconveniences the subscriber for a day but sends the message to the captains of corporate India that we can stop consuming anytime we choose at the press of a button.

In rubbishing the petition and Gandhi with it, Anand in his efforts to champion Ambedkar inadvertently finds himself ensconced between Narendra Modi’s fierce fan club who launch vitriolic tirades via email and the legal department of TATA Sons who also brook no criticism of their corporate captain.

Anand forgets that the Dalits, Adivasis and millions in the middle of India’s pyramid are all on the same side of the fence bullied by corporate India that bolsters the political class – eating out of their palms – for a sop.

Wealth creation is not a bad thing Mr Anand. Economic mobility is probably the most efficacious way to debilitate the caste system over course of time. To achieve that wealth creation must be for the greatest good of all and not just for those at the top of the pyramid, looking down on the rest as mere consumers fuelling economic growth – not citizens of India.

May I suggest that in future Anand use his erudition constructively, not to alienate but to forge a bond with citizens who sign such petitions all of whom are trying to find a voice to create a more equitable civic society.

sd/- Ranjan Kamath


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