Born 2 October 1869
Whether he was making yarn or making salt (Gandhi in Dandi), he was usually making trouble. When the Brits offered the Congress Party of India a deal – help to the allies in WWII in exchange for Indian independence afterwards – Gandhi described it as a “post-dated cheque drawn on a crashing bank.”
George Orwell, in a 1949 essay reviewing the autobiography and reflecting on Gandhi, wrote: “Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent…In Gandhi’s case the questions one feels inclined to ask are: to what extent was Gandhi moved by vanity – by the consciousness of himself as a humble, naked old man, sitting on a praying mat and shaking empires by sheer spiritual power – and to what extent did he compromise his own principles by entering politics, which are of their nature inseparable from coercion and fraud?”
Orwell, in sum, has a bob each way. For our part, we believe it is neither possible nor sensible to pose or answer such questions. Quite simply, Gandhi was a giant of the 20th Century, a freedom-striver par excellence, an impossible character who in his own way achieved the impossible, and was impossible to love and impossible not to admire, like all the other impossible, irascible giants of the past century, such as Churchill, de Gaulle, Dr. King, Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II.
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