History is never just a sequence of events in its chronological order, like we are often told,” begins Dr Sadanand More, the author of recently-published Lokmanya to Gandhi — An Interdisciplinary Study in Transition of Leadership — a two-volume series published by Sakal Publications and translated in English by Dr Abhay Datar.
What ran successfully as a weekly column in Saptahik Sakal, turned into two full-fledged books, explaining what Dr More calls the “comprehensive and in-depth history of modern Maharashtra”. The consciousness that we are under a colonial rule and that we need to fight against it dawned upon Maharashtra thanks to Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and hence Tilak is an important figure when we speak of modern Indian history, says Dr More.
“It won’t be an exaggeration to say that Maharashtra has been one of the states at the forefront of the freedom struggle. One of the reasons was the legacy of Shivaji that Maharashtrians carried,” he says, adding that when M K Gandhi entered the scene, Maharashtra didn’t know how to react to it. “Our idea of leaders was Tilak, Shivaji, Chanakya or Lord Krishna. Gandhi didn’t fit into any of these ideas,” he explains the reason behind baffled Maharashtrians, and especially the followers of Tilak and his ideology.
Also, around these two leaders —Lokmanya and Gandhi — were a lot of other forces. The Hindu Mahasabha, the Muslim League, the Dalit movement and the Communist parties were all taking shape across India around the same time. Apart from political leanings, there were also cultural, art, and theatre influencers. “So it was an interesting time as people started becoming Gandhi followers.
Not all went from Tilak to Gandhi though. Some like Vinoba Bhave directly became Gandhi disciples,” he says, as he explains Gandhi’s multiple connections with Maharashtra — from his guru Gopal Krishna Gokhale to his assassin Nathuram Godse.
Modern Maharashtra is thus shaped through all of these events. Dr More’s work takes as its framework the relations — personal, political, and philosophical — between Gandhi on the one side and Gokhale’s rival Bal Gangadhar Tilak on the other. “The process of transition from Tilak’s leadership to that of Gandhi was a traumatic and painful experience for Maharashtra. There was discord not just between families but within households as well. This conflict between Tilak and Gandhi lies at the heart of the history of Maharashtra,” he writes in his narrative, and therefore, “unless the conflict is understood in its entirety, it would certainly be difficult to understand Maharashtra,” he tells us. And if you study these, you will notice that the effects of these events are still seen in today’s Maharashtra, he insists.
The book is written like a story, instead of simply putting the historical facts out there, weaving together all the small and big elements of the relevant periods in history. How has he managed to remain objective through all of it? “No. I am not claiming to be 100 per cent objective. Making a claim like that is silly I feel. Of course, I have made a complete attempt at being unbiased but a bit of my cultural background is going to seep in subconsciously,” says the author, philosopher and literary critic who belongs to the Warkari sect of Maharashtra.
Throwing some more light on this spiritual sect, Dr More says that for a bright and healthy future of the state, “we need to keep this community alive and healthy. They, too like all of us, are affected by social evils and influences but their sanctity needs to be encouraged for a stable Maharashtra.”
Coming to the more recent political happenings, Dr More says that his book is especially relevant in the times that we are living in. When asked about caste politics, he very matter-of-factly says that instead of coining new terms every day, “we must realise that we are all ultimately concerned with our respective livelihoods, and we have figured that caste is a strong tool to further our economic gains and that’s at the root of it.”
What about the political picture of India today? “What about it? It’s going fine. As long as political parties of differing ideologies keep coming to power, democracy is in place,” he says.
But what about the shrinking space for a centre-ideology with strong right and left-leaning opinions among the population, we ask him. “Centre politics hasn’t ended but the Congress needs to revamp itself for it to bounce back. It is not doing so,” he answers.
And the future of communism? He quickly responds, “Yes, we all know that the first experiment of communism in India has largely failed, rather the world over it has, but that doesn’t guarantee its failure in the future. It can come up with a novel second experiment. We are no one to predict that.”
As we wrap the conversation, he mentions his disappointment at the dwindling interest in history among the youth. How can we help it, we ask him. “By studying it, by not giving it a less significant place. Our history textbooks need to be revised.
History is important for the economy, because of its socio-political significance. We wonder why people don’t get this,” he signs off.