Iconic figures stolen by parties

Sep 26, 2022

Legendary figures, who include iconic philosophers, social reformers, freedom-fighters and political and economic thinkers are prized-possessions of certain organizations. However, these icons had no ideological link with the organizations that made them as if their own. In that action, their heroes have been made villains for the rivals. It is astonishing to see, some venerable personalities of history are grabbed away by a section, making the rival keep a big distance from the otherwise upright legends.
Perhaps none might have seen Gandhi Jayanti being celebrated by political parties other than the Congress at one point in time. Let us set aside the official national celebration. Mahatma Gandhi is always an apolitical figure but politicized by someone’s ownership claim. The rivals’ shyness of possessing the Mahatma’s posters was an endorsement of the great figure’s belonging to the other one, though Mahatma never wanted it. Political parties with self-acclaimed ideology have, thus, grabbed many legendary figures, who incidentally had nothing to do with any of the political ideologies or affinity with any particular political section. It has been hilarious to see such encasement on the individuality of celebrated historical figures by political parties.

There were many legendary figures in politics, philosophy, religion and science. Those who talk against polarisation have already polarized the world by capturing personalities, who otherwise would have been commonly revered. In the polarized modern world legends are taken away as ransomed possessions of some parties and socio-cultural organizations, seemingly with de-facto ownership rights. That made the legends good for someone and bad for others.

All of them had followers at different times according to the taste, preferences and prejudices each one or each of the segments used to grapple with. Going by human tendency, one’s choice usually becomes another’s rejection for no sensible reason. What is found right is wrong for another one, because for everything there are two sides – positive and negative. Similarly, for a legend also we have divided the segments of people. One section constitutes the section of followers of a celebrated personality. Others are obviously of the rivals, who would averse affinity with him. In this course, a larger segment of people overlooks the goodness in historical personalities.

Ultimately, our frozen sense has made many friendly legends unfriendly figures. Helpless. The fragmentation of faith and ideological fragmentation virtually fragmented the acceptability of the worship-ability of the legend. From Karl Marx to Jawaharlal Nehru, Swami Vivekanand, Mahatma Gandhi, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Veer Savarkar, Ernesto Che Guevara, there are segmented followers, though in all these there is much commonly acceptable goodness. Set aside the cruelest rulers of the world, who also have worshippers, though the vast majority of people disown them.

In the process of choosing a legend or ideological fountainhead by an organization, especially a political organization some of the legends are made prisoners of a particular ideology. No matter the ideology came up decades later, by accident, or was ever a speak-able ideology at all.

Mahatma Gandhi and Swami Vivekanand were above all ideologies. Nehru was said to be socialist. But socialists were against the party, which has made Nehru one its icons. But, as they are owned by some sections, other sections stop talking proudly about them. Their pictures are not hung in some political sections’ office, though both of them carried no ideological opposition to them. On the other side, these personalities weren’t the source of inspiration for forming an organization that picked up these men as their own. Big names have become captives of a certain section. For that very reason, rivals are shy of claiming them as their sources of inspiration. This fashion has ultimately made the legends victims of prejudices. Since the right of the Centre organizations began to own up Swami Vivekanand and Mahatma Gandhi, others began to look at him as ideologues, who mentored the right-wing organizations. Those who respect them eventually make them disrespectable among their peers.

Outside the Sangh Parivar, Veer Savarkar remains an unacceptable freedom fighter, because the Parivar considers Savarkar as one of its ideological legends. The British enemy thus became a bitter enemy of those who fought the British also. Left of the Center and all anti-Parivar segments, thus remain highly hostile to Savarkar, overlooking the historical fact that Savarkar was the first Indian freedom fighter whom the Soviet Communist leader Vladimir Lenin had met to share his solidarity with Indian freedom struggle against the English colonialism. That was Lenin’s first formal meeting with any Indian freedom fighter for a formal endorsement. But Savarkar was an enemy for Indian leftists obviously for the reason of rival section’s possessiveness with Savarkar. Lenin also became unacceptable to the opposite side.

Marxism was non-existent during the life-time of Karl Marx, nor would he ever have imagined an “ism” to come upon his theory. But Marx became a poster boy of the communists, who were also called Marxists without going by what Marx had written, believed and said. While Marx and Frederick Engels were great philosophers and brilliant economic theorists, the politician in Lenin claimed to be a follower of the socialist ideology espoused by Marx and Engels. Marxism was calibrated into Lenin’s thinking and action. Karl Marx, a poor Jew and brilliant thinker of the 19th Century, might have never imagined Lenin’s political views. For this reason, the rivals of Communists refuse to respect and recognize Marx as one of the great thinkers in history.

But both the philosophers and economic theorists became prisoners of communists by making them ideological figures. Since the communists, who belonged to the left of the center, claimed Marx and Engels, the right of the center considered them their ideological foes. Marx never fought battle for the Left. He was only an intellectual with proletarian ideas. The virtue of such philosophers is overlooked with blind prejudice.

In Kerala’s CPM party villages one may see more bus shelters sporting the flex boards of Ernesto Che Guevara, Argentine-born, Cuban revolutionary-cum- Bolivian guerilla fighter, than temple idols. That has made Guevara, who also a fan of Jawaharlal Nehru an utterly unacceptable leader to the principal CPM opponent, the Congress. The admirable part of Guevara was hence hidden behind the opponent’s prejudice.

Leaders and well-known people of earlier centuries were high-priced possessions of some political parties, which claimed to have ideological roots. Good or bad, their characters were, invaluable or unworthy their contributions to society were, ideological cataracts make us blinder on broader realities. We shrink our realm of thinking to an abysmal level and letting ourselves become a shameful subject of parochialism.