ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Gandhi Everyone Loves to Hate

Gandhi has legions of admirers, but he has also been the target of severe, even virulent, criticism from numerous perspectives. Though Gandhi still commands veneration from many, he is also someone everyone loves to hate. Some critics fault him for particular positions, such as his support of the Khilafat movement, his inexplicable views on the Bihar earthquake, his deployment of Hindu imagery or idioms of speech such as 'Ram Rajya', and so on. Other critics, arguing from specific ideological positions, are inclined to find systemic shortcomings in Gandhi's views. This paper, focusing in the latter half to a greater extent on modernist and especially feminist readings of Gandhi, suggests that the feminist reading is fraught with more ambivalence than is commonly recognised, and in somewhat unexpected ways. It is argued that though Gandhi may not have been his own best critic, his critics have also not done him the justice of attempting to understand how he negotiated the various critical worldviews that he encountered.

This paper is a revised version of a lecture that was first delivered as an invited lecture on October 2, 2005 at Emory University, Atlanta, and I am grateful to Deepika Bahri for the invitation and her friendship over the last decade. A year later, I read out portions of it at a seminar at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, Johannesburg.

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