Gandhi the whipping boy?

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Jan. 30 is the 61st anniversary of the assassination of Mohandas K. Gandhi. As that date approaches, the reputation of the Mahatma, or “great soul”, has seen better days.

Sure, when a British magazine publishes a cartoon of the emaciated and bespectacled figure getting pummeled by a muscle man India erupts in outrage. And when a Bollywood hero embraces nonviolent resistance in a slapstick masala movie the youth are suddenly fired with enthusiasm for candlelit marches. But in the sphere of politics, the man known as the father of the nation has in recent years become its whipping boy.

Though Gandhi worked to eliminate the practice of untouchability, the leaders of caste-based parties castigate him for his stalwart defense of Hinduism and for blocking India's oppressed castes demand for special voting rights. And despite Gandhi's efforts to prevent a rift between Jawaharlal Nehru's Indian National Congress and Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Muslim League in the leadup to India's independence in 1947, ideologues on both ends of the political spectrum today blame Gandhi for the bloody partitioning of India that killed as many as a million people and laid the foundations for 60 years of bitter strife between India and Pakistan.

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