First posted September 23, 2019
NB: Thank you Ayush. You are a brave and conscientious boy. Many of us are proud of you – DS
Ye kisne kahaa aapse aandhi ke saath hun // Main Godse ke daur me Gandhi ke saath hun
If the Danish child who swam against the adult tide to speak the truth about the Emperor’s New Clothes is reborn in India, he will probably look like Ayush Chaturvedi. Ayush’s face is now familiar to many social media users, thanks to a speech the Class XI pupil delivered at his school on September 9 on Mahatma Gandhi. Among the lines that are making waves, two stand out: “I want to say that there was no bigger Hindu than Gandhi. But the people of other religions didn’t fear his ‘Hey Ram’ because Gandhi was a symbol of secularism in India.”
Ayush had begun with a bang but the opening lines are not on the clip that has been circulated:
Ye kisne kahaa aapse aandhi ke saath hun / Main Godse ke daur me Gandhi ke saath hun
(Who told you that I am swept up in the storm / I stand by Gandhi in the time of Godse)
“Actually, the recording of my speech was started when I had already spoken this line,” Ayush, 17, told The Telegraph from his home on the phone on Wednesday. His home happens to be in Varanasi, represented in the Lok Sabha by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Ayush, a student of the Central Hindu Boys School in Varanasi, explained why he chose the couplet penned by Imran Pratapgarhi, an Urdu poet: “Kyonki kuchh takatwar log aaj kal Godse ki pooja kar rahe hain (It is because these days some powerful people are worshiping Godse).” Told that some powerful people are also being compared with Mahatma Gandhi these days, Ayush said: “I know what exactly you mean. They know that rejecting Gandhi wouldn’t be so easy and so they try to compare themselves with the Father of the Nation. Muh me Ram, bagal me chhoori (Ram on the lips, a dagger in the sleeve).” When he delivered the speech at the school founded by Annie Besant in 1898, Ayush knew he was speaking against the tide. “Dekh lenge jo hoga,” he said, asked whether he did not fear a backlash. “If you have to speak about Gandhi, you have to do so in a manner that leaves an impact.”
Son of Ganesh Shankar Chaturvedi, who runs the Assi Nadi Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, Ayush says he has learnt good things from his father. “My mother is a homemaker and our backbone,” he added.
“Initially I was asked to speak on Kaka Hathrasi, a humorist poet. But the subject was changed to Gandhi because we were celebrating his 150th birth anniversary. So I spoke my heart out,” Ayush said. Neeru Wahal, the principal of the school, told this newspaper that the institution has been celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi on the direction of the CBSE. “I try to involve every student in personality development. We have four houses in our school — Shivaji, Tagore, Ashoka and Raman. Ayush is in Tagore house,” she said. “Ours is a little-known school but we have very talented students. They are asked to deliver a speech in the morning session and they speak brilliantly,” Wahal added
1948: Supreme Court, RSS and Gandhi
The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi: Inquiry Commission Report (1969)
हरिशंकर परसाई: महात्मा गाँधी को चिट्ठी पहुँचे (1977)
Martin Luther King on Mahatma Gandhi: “My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”, September 1958
In the time of Godse, a search for Hindus who will stand with Gandhi
My friend was one of those Indians who proudly waved the flag, sang the anthem and believed there were – despite its obvious infirmities – few better places on earth to raise his daughter. The first shock to a lifetime of patriotism was delivered this year by a child who taunted his six-year-old.
You are a Muslim and a terrorist, said the child, who was unlikely to have understood what a terrorist was. But children only parrot their parents, so it was obvious where these accusations came from. Many Muslims, especially in North India, will tell you taunts like these are not new. At some point, they have had to endure the tired but hurtful trope of Muslim, Pakistani, terrorist. But these encounters were largely regarded as exceptions and tolerated because their country and its large majority of Hindus embraced the idea of a diverse, secular India – or at least so we thought.
Now, people like my friend cannot recognize their country. Friends and neighbours are radicalised, buying wholesale into the idea of one nation, one leader, one culture and a host of other imaginary unities, designed to exclude other histories, realities and identities. This is a time when India threatens to universalise the chaos, prejudice and injustice that currently characterizes the drive to prove citizenship in Assam. As the government builds its first giant detention camp – as large as seven football fields, we hear – it is apparent that the bogey of the Bangladeshi is a thinly veiled witch hunt against Indian Muslims. Fear grows every day among minorities about what is and what is coming. In daily life, caution is a common leitmotif: many North Indian Muslims I know tell their children to avoid packing meat when leaving home…