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Millennium Post

When Khadi and Saffron unite

Mahatma Gandhi started the khadi movement aimed at boycotting foreign goods and promoting Indian goods, thereby improving India's economy. Gandhi began promoting the spinning of khadi for rural self-employment and self-reliance instead of using cloth manufactured industrially in Britain thus making khadi an integral part and icon of the Swadeshi movement. The freedom struggle revolved around the use of khadi fabrics and the dumping of foreign-made clothes. Thus it symbolised the political ideas and independence itself, and to this day most politicians in India are seen only in khadi clothing.

In recent years
khadi
clad politicians have become a symbol of corruption in the eyes of the people of the country. Last year, the anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare wave swept the imagination of the people. He brought together the will and determination of the masses to fight corruption which has shaken the foundations of world’s largest democracy. Once again, a true Gandhian, after 65 years of India’s independence, emerged on the national scene wearing khadi attire and the Gandhi cap.

Anna soon became a youth icon and the youth relate to him. The youth, sporting nose rings, torn jeans and permanent tattoos found their fashion statement incomplete without one item, the all important head hear. The oblong white
khadi
topi named after Mahatma Gandhi which till recently was worn only by politicians, dabbawalas and school fancy dress participants has emerged from long style oblivion. Almost a century after the Swadeshi movement, the Gandhi topi is back as a potent non-verbal expression of solidarity.

The power of khadi was once again demonstrated at Ram Lila grounds last year when hundreds and thousands of anti-corruption protestors gathered and chanted pro-nationalist slogans which vented in the corridors of parliament. The government soon realised the mood of the people and made promises to Anna which prompted him to break his indefinite fast. Thereafter the Lokpal Bill was referred to a committee which will table its report to the parliament in monsoon session and therefore the fate of the desperately needed reforms hinges once again on the shoulders of the legislators.

In the meanwhile the Baba Ramdev crusade against black money stashed abroad by politicians, bureaucrat and industrialist has gained momentum. The once spiritual baba, robed in saffron, who teaches yoga to the masses, has assumed the role of Krishna in modern age and has declared war against corruption. He is ready to eliminate the monster which has threatened the very fabric of our democracy and the existence of our nation.

Last week saw both Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev team up in their crusade against corruption. Despite the controversies and recriminations between Team Anna and the Yoga Guru that continued on and off for the most part of the last one year – the two mass leaders do share the anti-graft common cause. So when Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare fasted together for a day in New Delhi, it was certainly not a new phenomenon. What was new, however, was the coming together of their respective followers. While Anna's followers comprise the educated urban youth and middle class who perhaps see a glimmer of Gandhi in Anna's
khadi
attire and simple ways. Baba Ramdev's supporters, inspired by his yoga remedies come largely from India's rural and semi-urban heartlands.

According to some analysts, any joint ventures between Anna and Ramdev are obviously not going to work just as well. The vast difference in the socioeconomic backgrounds of their respective fan base is a key divergence. Anna represents India, while Ramdev represents Bharat. In case of the Ramdev followers, Anna – who was almost a non-entity for a majority of North Indians till about a year ago – does not ring a bell. Conversely, many of Anna's followers (including some members of Team Anna), regard Baba Ramdev with cynicism and disdain, not least because of his multimillion dollar yoga business and the sundry corruption allegations against him. In fact, the huge gap in their respective identities – one is a rich yoga practitioner who owns a Scottish island and travels by private jets, while the other is a social activist who claims the Gandhian legacy of simple living and high thinking – is a key reason for the different sets of people and perceptions that back them individually.

How true is this divergence between the khadi and saffron where both have a common goal and objective? India is a secular nation, with people of different castes, creeds and colours. They speak different languages and practice different religious, yet live in harmony in the same country. When there can be unity in such diversity, why can’t khadi and saffron come together to fight for this national objective which has plagued the roots and foundations of our country and threatens our survival. History is a witness that in event of national crisis both khadi and saffron have risen to the occasion and fought against the enemy. In today’s context the enemy is not outside but within us. We need to rejuvenate our conscious and ask ourselves a question about human greed and how it has led us all to down a path of destruction quench our thirst for wealth with the blood of our brothers and sisters.
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