Letter 41

Acharya Vinoba Bhave

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11th November, 1990

My dear Pranav,

As I wrote to you last time, Vinoba was looking at Goraksha both in its emotional economic aspects. He was not looking at it from the religious sentiment of Hindu.

He said, that next to that of his mother he was brought up on the milk of the cow. He could not understand how cows could be slaughtered in India. He twice staked his life on this issue. He talked to politicians, ministers and the prime minister and tried to convince them about it. Ban on cow slaughter is a directive principle of the Constitution. As a Gandhian, he had been brought up on the belief that Goraksha and Khadi were two major policy thrusts of the Independence movement. All those who fought for the freedom of India under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi had accepted this as an action point and many state governments have passed laws banning cow-slaughter. How could the state power in India be non-responsive to the people's wishes?

Satyagraha or fasting unto death was undertaken by Gandhiji several times as a political pressure-point. After the declaration of the democratic republic in 1951, Vinoba was not in favour of Satyagraha or fasting for every political or social demand. In fact, many Gandhians blamed Vinoba for not using this form of expression. They called him an inactive academic. He remained firm in his views that in a democratic society Satyagraha or fasting unto death should not normally have any role. We can change the government or its policies by mobilisation of the people's power. The tools developed for use against colonial power cannot be used against rulers chosen by the people. But he made two exceptions and on both occasions for Goraksha.

His behavior was wholly in consonance with his thinking pattern. The people's will was already expressed in the Constitution and the State laws. It was the will of the people which their government was not implementing. It affected the poor millions in villages who were robbed of their means of livelihood by market forces, and the government was doing nothing about it. Vinoba felt that he was on a strong moral ground when he was fasting unto death for cow protection. He said that even if he were to die the government may not do a thing. He was not worried about that. He saw it as his duty to stake his life for his beliefs. The results he was ready to leave in the hands of God. He said if he died he would die for the cow, which was like a mother to him.

After all, Vinoba was a true Gandhian. Gandhi walked the streets of Naokhali when communal violence was raging there. All other politicians were busy in New Delhi celebrating India's independence! Vinoba walked from village to village in Telangana when communists were killing people for redistribution of land. His life was in great danger. Still, he believed in the innate goodness of people. Even communists believed in his sincerity. He met them on their ideological ground, started bhoodan and marginalized them. Staking his life for the cow was thus a logical step for Vinoba. The poorest man in the country was involved in this. Vinoba's entire life as a Gandhian thinker was involved in it. More about all that in my next letter.

With love,


L. N. Godbole

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