NEW DELHI — India is marking the 150th birthday of Mohandas Gandhi, the man known as the father of the nation, and across the country there are exhibits, commemorations, marches, prisoner releases and even a 1,000-foot-long greeting card.
But the celebrations this week mask a deeper unease. A century and a half after the birth of the revered leader of India’s independence struggle, Gandhi and his legacy are getting an update — and much of it is not positive.
Even as admiration for Gandhi remains widespread, aspects of his life and philosophy are increasingly a source of controversy. Scholars have highlighted the racist language he used as a young man living in South Africa as well as his defense of India’s caste system.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the political spectrum, India’s right-leaning Hindu nationalist ideologues have long had an ambivalent relationship with Gandhi. Some view his dedication to nonviolence as a form of weakness, or think he betrayed the cause of Hindus with his support for religious pluralism. Earlier this year, one politician from the ruling party even described the man who assassinated Gandhi as a “patriot.”