Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, is also the youngest brother of the late Ramchandra Gandhi and Rajmohan Gandhi, who is an AAP Parliamentary candidate from Delhi. They are the children of Devdas Gandhi, the youngest of Mahatma Gandhi’s four sons, and Lakshmi, the daughter of C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji).
Exchanging a joke with his grandson, Gopu (Gopalkrishna Gandhi) -Publications Division pic.twitter.com/S0SUlA1eO5
— GandhiHeritagePortal (@GandhiPortal) December 15, 2013
Ramchandra Gandhi was an Advaita Vedantist and a writer of great repute. His work “Sita’s Kitchen: A Testimony of Faith and Enquiry” was written during the Ayodhya ferment and published almost a year before the destruction of the Babri Masjid. Other important works include the novel “Muniya’s Light: A Narrative of Truth and Myth” that explores through a love story, the non-dualist advaitin question: “Who Am I?” so simply pronounced by Sri Ramana Maharshi. “I am Thou: Meditations on the Truth of India” is a collection of thoughts, and as said by the author, consists of many meditative pieces written over a lifetime trying to understand the essential truth of India.
Rajmohan Gandhi is a historian and a scholar of depth and intellect. His great works include the biographies of Gandhi, Patel, Rajaji, and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. “Revenge & Reconciliation,” published in 1999 attempts to look at the sanguinary history of the sub-continent, starting with the Mahabharata and ending with the India-Pakistan Kargil conflict. While “Sita’s Kitchen” by his brother offers a resolution of the inter-faith rivalry through an imagined discussion in the forest; “Revenge & Reconciliation” confronts the historical bigotry and intolerance that has swamped this land from mythical times and continued to do so until the end of the twentieth century. Rajmohan Gandhi’s history also looks at the brief periods of mutual accommodation and reconciliation of an Asoka, an Akbar, and a Gandhi; periods that were made possible by the teachings, among others, of a Mahavira, a Buddha, a Nanak; and by the sacrifices of the great Gurus Arjun Dev and Tegh Bahadur.
The youngest of the three brothers, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, is also a scholar of some repute, and an administrator from the IAS. After various positions in the government he was appointed as the Governor of West Bengal by the UPA in December 2004. He retired in 2009 and is currently the Chairman of the Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai. In March 2012 he was also appointed as the Chairman of the Governing Body of the Institute of Advanced Study at Shimla. For quite some time now he has been writing a regular column for the Hindustan Times, a newspaper once edited and managed by his father. Generally, his columns are rather apolitical and he writes very well on the arts. His article “Perfect Reverberations” published on October 19, 2012 was a masterpiece, and worthy of someone with his kind of extraordinary heredity. The article ponders on perfection, and opines that perfection can only be found in nature, while in humans it is an impossibility. The author concedes that he knows of no flawless human, though he makes “one exception: Ramana, the Maharshi of Tiruvannamalai,” someone who also inspired his older brother Ramchandra. Taking vignettes from Satyajit Ray’s “Pather Panchali” set to the sublime music of Pt. Ravi Shankar; M. S. Subbulakshmi’s humility when being conferred with the Bharat Ratna; and similar exceptional moments, the writer concludes that “there is no such thing as a perfect being, perfect behaviour. There are perfect acts, perfect moments.” Writing of this kind rises to the sphere of the sublime.
— Kiran Kumar (@Yr_Conscience) February 5, 2014
The Fall of Gopalkrishna Gandhi
Lately, however, Gopalkrishna Gandhi has descended from this sublime plane to the levels of the gutter-scribe, and I for one am very sad at his transition. His pen has been spewing unadulterated venom towards Narendra Modi that reached its peak of viciousness in his last article: “India needs a thinker, not a despot on its peacock throne” that appeared in the Hindustan Times on 18th April, 2014. One can understand his indebtedness to the UPA, and especially to Sonia Gandhi, for the various offices of profit that he occupied during the last ten years, and continues to occupy even now, but one would have expected so much more objectivity from this descendant of Mahatma Gandhi and Rajaji. The article is a “perfect” example of how scholarship can be twisted and used for dishonourable purposes. While describing Aurangzeb’s rise to power, he writes: “The Alamgir’s path to the Peacock Throne was laid by the murderer, plastered by the rowdy, smoothed by the toady, washed by the traitor, petalled by the flatterer and finally perfumed by the simply-scared-out-of-his-wits courtier.” Gopalkrishna Gandhi is trying hard to explain the rise of Narendra Modi, but discerning readers would immediately be able to recognise whom the rowdies, the toadies, the traitors, the flatterers, and the simply-scared-out-of-his-wits courtier have been propping up. Who is responsible for the doldrums – the strange stillness in the air, the stupor, the listless stagnation that has descended upon this land?
Gandhi’s fulminations put a serious question mark on his scholarship. Just because he has written a book on Aurangzeb and Dara Shikoh does not give him the license to twist history in whatever way he would like and to create comparisons where none exist. It is as if Sonia Gandhi has appointed him as the hatchet man to destroy the BJP and he has willingly accepted the assignment. This kind of writing does no credit to him and puts him in the same league as the separatist Basharat Peer and the NDTV news anchors; company, I am sure, no one would be proud of. The article has drawn a lot of adverse comments from readers, most of whom have shown no respect for Gandhi’s lineage. Readers do not object to his criticism of Modi, but want some concrete reasons for this odious comparison with Alamgir, rather than an unsubstantiated diatribe. One commentator has observed that if Aurangzeb was such a hated figure in the history of the country, why did he not use his influence with the government to change the name of Aurangzeb Road in Lutyen’s Delhi to Dara Shikoh Road?
Now that elections to more than half the seats are over, and the chances of the UPA returning to power are fading with every day, I hope Gopalkrishna Gandhi returns to writing, not on politics, but on the arts, where his scholarship and insight are at their best. I am also certain that should Narendra Modi become the Prime Minister, he will do nothing to disturb Mr. Gandhi’s tenure in the offices he currently occupies.