Gandhian Activism Continues!

Mark Shepard, Gandhi Today: A Report on Mahatma Gandhi's Successors. Simple, 1987 146 pp. $13.50 hardcover

By Richard T McCutcheon (reviewer)

MARK SHEPARD'S Gandhi Today contains clear, readable reports on several of Gandhi's most prominent successors. They include Vinoba Bhave, Jayaprakash Narayan, Narayan Desai (son of Mahadev Desai, Gandhi's chief secretary), Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Harivallabh Parikh, Radhakrishna Menon, leaders of the Agrindus Institute (short for Agroindustrial) and international movements.

Vinoba Bhave [d. 1982] was considered by Gandhians to be Gandhi's spiritual heir. He said, "All revolutions are spiritual at the source. All my activities have the sole purpose of achieving a union of hearts." Following Gandhi's death and India's independence, Gandhians turned to Sarvodaya or the "welfare of all," which was intended to create a new society based on equality. Vinoba became the principal leader of the Sarvodaya movement, the largest Gandhian organization. The author's succinct account of that movement and its related efforts (most notably the Bhoodan -- land gift campaign) sheds useful light on strengths and weaknesses likely to be encountered by groups working toward grassroots-based economic structures.

Jayaprakash Narayan [d. 1979], usually called JP, asserts, "Salvation will not come from the legislators. Salvation will come from the people." JP became Gandhi's political heir. After leaving his work with the Indian socialist movement, deciding that Gandhi's nonviolent methods were demonstrably superior, JP. joined the Sarvodaya movement, succeeding Vinoba as leader.

Narayan Desai (see PEACE Magazine, June-July 1987) and others represent the spirit found at the grassroots of all Gandhian successes: dedication, compassion, and self-sacrifice For example, instead of the usual explanation of Gandhi's concern for cows, Shepard notes, "As of 1986, the main effort of Vinoba's followers is a campaign against 'cow slaughter,' an issue long important to Gandhians for its relation not only to nonviolence bet also to India's pattern of self-sufficient agriculture. Useful plow and dairy animals are being butchered for meat, not only to feed the meat-eating minority in India, but also for export:" Canadian cooperatives will be interested in the experience of the Agrindus Institute to make oppressed villages into self-sufficient cooperative communities.

Most of the information presented by Shepard is based on his l978 trip to India. The postscript, which deals with international movements (e.g. Peace Brigades International) is incomplete.

Shepard's book is highly recommended reading. Easily accessible to the general populace, it will provide encouragement and inspiration to those working in the ongoing effort for a better world. Gandhi Today could also be used well in secondary school programs and university courses to introduce relevant aspects of Gandhi's work The bibliography is useful and the numerous addresses shown at the end will be appreciated by those who are often left asking, "But where do I get in touch with these groups?" It is easy to concur with Cesar Chavez's statement that this book "presents living proof that the ideals of the Mahatma will never die." Peacemakers would do well to heed the ongoing witness and voice of Gandhi's successors: Mahatma Gandhi ki jai! Victory to Mahatma Gandhi!

Peace Magazine Dec 1987-Jan 1988

Peace Magazine Dec 1987-Jan 1988, page 29. Some rights reserved.

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