Gandhi’s Grandson: What Scotland Can Learn From Indian Independence
Gopalkrishna Gandhi is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of independent India.
Mr. Gandhi, who is a former governor of West Bengal, spoke to The Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time about the independence referendum that takes place on Thursday and what Scotland could learn from India about becoming independent from Britain.
In his view, whatever the outcome of the referendum, the fact the vote is taking place at all is a big deal for democracy and Scotland will never be the same as a result.
Mr. Gandhi said his grandfather, who was the architect of India’s non-violent independence movement, would have praised the peaceful referendum process. He added that Scotland could take note of the way India’s independence leaders accommodated a broad range of views in their campaign for freedom from Britain.
Edited excerpts of the conversation with Mr. Gandhi:
The fact of the referendum is what is most important, the outcome in my mind is not so important. The asserting of the political will of a huge population is a very major step in democratic articulation, quite apart from whether Scotland decides to stay in the union.
The world is watching Scotland like it’s never watched Scotland before. There will be a certain set of expectations upon an independent Scotland as there will be upon a Scotland that decides to remain in a union.
If it chooses not to go away from union, then the world will want to know how it is coping having come within a thread of independence. It will have the status of an opposition party as it has just stopped short of forming an independent government. As such, it will be a voice of independent thought.
The world will want to know whether an independent Scotland will take a stand on global issues such as nuclear disarmament and climate change. Or, is it going to revert to its preoccupation with currency and membership of the European Union?
I don’t think I’m an authority on Gandhianism so I can’t say whether Scotland’s independence movement is Gandhian. But the Indian National Congress was founded by a Scotsman, Allan Octavian Hume, and two Scotsmen, George Yule and William Wedderburn, were presidents of the party.
Scotland may wish to bear in mind the eclectic spirit of the Indian independence movement which was hugely broad in its spectrum of opinions including those of the Europeans and the Scottish in India.
The movement was one of representative democracy. The only majority that matters is the majority in parliament for the passing of legislation not an ethnic or religious majority. This is something which is of some value from the Indian experience and it’s achieved by policy. This is what you would expect from Scotland.
Whatever the outcome of the September 18 vote, it will be a different Scotland. If it’s yes for “no,” then I would expect the “no” camp to try to find out why anyone should want to say “yes.” If the vote goes for “yes,” then it will be important to find out why and to assure the “no” voters that their apprehensions have not gone unheard, that they will find accommodation in the new Scotland.
Mahatma Gandhi would have applauded the civility of Great Britain, including those who live outside with British citizenship. In times of high tempers and low patience, the maturity they have shown would have received his appreciation.
He would have taken this opportunity to tell the people of Great Britain what he would tell the people of India and the Indian subcontinent: We are living in times of great danger, of violence between countries and within countries of weapons of mass destruction and mass hatred.
In the hope that, if it becomes an independent country, Scotland becomes a power house for peace because he would have wanted his own country, India, to be the same.