On Gandhi’s Sexual Abuse of Girls in his Ashram

Note: This article was first published on Youth ki Awaaz and many people asked about the source of the letter to Gandhi that I have quoted here. It is from a collection of Gandhi’s letters which have been compiled into a book titled “Mahatma Gandhi’s Letters on Brahmacharya, Sexuality and Love” by Girja Kumar (Vitasta Publishing, 2011). More detailed citations and references are in the chapter on Gandhi in my book “Sex and Power: Defining History, Shaping Societies,” [pages 265-281, Penguin Books, 2009].

It is a fact. Gandhi had young women in his ashram, some of them still teenagers, one of them his own grand-niece (Manu Gandhi), sleep naked with him in his bed at night. This was an aspect of Gandhi that I had not read about before, and it surprised me at first. I was researching for my book “Sex and Power” which looks at the history of sex and sexuality in India, and it was important for me to investigate this further.

Driven by desire? Gandhi with the two young women he used as his 'walking sticks'

My initial tendency was to regard this as hearsay but then some of the biographies confirmed it as fact, and also hurriedly dismissed it as something that we all apparently should accept as the eccentricities of ‘great men! That’s not a logical argument for me and so I began to dig into archives for more information till a complete picture emerged. And that picture upset me. I saw Gandhi as a classic example of a sexual predator — a man who uses his position of power to manipulate and sexually exploit the people he directly controls.

Most angering for me, was reading about the psychological and emotional trauma of the girls and women who he used for his ‘experiments’which is what he called these incidents. The word ‘psychotic’ repeatedly came up in various documents with regards to these women’s psychological state. The women, most of whom were in their late teens or early twenties (not surprisingly, given he could have ‘experimented’ with the older women or even his own wife!) were described as depressed and weeping, and seemed to be completely in his control. Besides this, some of the archival references lead me to believe that Gandhi may well have been practicing the traditional, historic form of Indian celibacy which hinges on one thing only — and that is control of ejaculation. Everything else is permitted.

What I could not understand is why school texts and biographies have selectively edited out this information because it was a big and explosive aspect of the inner dynamics of the Gandhi ashram and its inmates for the last 10 years of Gandhi’s life. It eventually led to the partial break-up of his inner-core circle.

But Gandhi is long dead. So why should the naked girls in Gandhi’s bed matter today?

Well, because the issue goes way beyond Gandhi. What really matters now, and it matters deeply, is how we respond to what Gandhi did.

Today we like to believe that we are far more progressive in terms of recognising and condemning the abuse of power by men for sexual exploitation and abuse. And yet, I repeatedly find every time I bring this up (for eg. in this article Gandhi to Asharam: Who Empowers the Sex-Crimes of Gurus?) most people’s responses are defensive and regressive!

But this is what surprised me the most! Compared to our reactions and responses today, the people in Gandhi’s time seemed to be far more progressive! They not only recognised that he was abusing his position and power in a way that was unethical and depraved, but they outright condemned it, confronted it, and eventually forced him to stop.

On March 16, 1947, Nirmal Kumar Bose, one of Gandhi’s closest associates wrote a letter to Kishorlal G. Mashruwala, another of Gandhi’s close colleagues, saying:

When I first learnt about Gandhi’s experiment in which a girl took off her clothes and lay under the same cover with him and he tried to find out if any sexual feeling was evoked in him or his companion, I felt genuinely surprised. Personally, I would not tempt myself like that and more than that, my respect for [women] would prevent me from treating her as an instrument in my experiment.”

N.K. Bose’s letter was only one of the many exchanges among Gandhi’s closest associates and friends in the first half of 1947, about this practice of his, that angered and upset many. These included prominent leaders of India’s freedom movement such as Vallabhai Patel, J. B. Kriplani and Vinobha Bhave. Many of them confronted Gandhi directly, and others stopped associating with him.

This 1947 storm in the Gandhi camp was set off by R. P. Parasuram, a young man from Kerala, who for two years had served as Gandhi’s personal secretary and typist and watched his personal affairs from close by. Like many students in India at that time, Parasuram too, had idolised Gandhi and after his studies, had travelled to Gandhi’s ashram to live and work with him, and help with India’s freedom movement.

But two years after working with Gandhi, Parasuram quit the ashram and his job. Before he left, he wrote a 16-page long letter explaining his distress at what he had witnessed in Gandhi’s behaviour with girls and women in the ashram — which included other things besides his ‘experiments in bed. He said that as much as he had worshipped Gandhi, his conscience did not allow him to stay silent any longer. And that in order for him to continue, Gandhi had to concede to five of his demands (all of which dealt with Gandhi’s physical interactions with girls at the ashram) which he listed in the letter. [See the letter below.]

On January 2, 1947, Gandhi responded to Parasuram’s letter with:

“I cannot concede your demands. Since such is my opinion and there is a conflict of ideals, you are at liberty to leave me today.”

Parasuram did leave as did some of Gandhi’s other close associates. But others, especially those who were in more senior positions as friends and associates, continued their pressure on Gandhi to stop.

One of the things that was a big issue was Gandhi’s hypocrisy and manipulation, to what seemed to many, to serve his own ends. Gandhi had made an unwritten rule of celibacy for all the inhabitants of his ashram. Oddly, he would even make married couples take this vow because he believed that this was central to his philosophy of non-violence. Sexual stimulation of any sort, he preached, evoked violence in one’s thoughts and behaviour. He would tell them that even touching each other was unacceptable. He made the life of one of his own sons, whose wife got pregnant, absolutely hell, angry that they had had sex when he had forbidden them to! Yet he was free to do as he pleased. He was so confident that he wouldn’t be challenged.

Swami Anand and Kedarnath in a question and answer grilling from March 15-16, 1947, shot off questions like:

Why did you not take your coworkers into confidence and carry them with you [into] this novel practice?…Why do we find so much disquiet and unhappiness around you? Why are your companions emotionally unhinged?”

The Congress President J. B. Kriplani told him that he was simply, “exploiting human beings as means rather than as ends in themselves.”

N.K. Bose suggested this course of action for Gandhi:

… he should not allow Manu [Gandhi’s great-niece] to sleep in the same bed with him until he had tried enough to educate the public into his new way of thinking, or the public had got all the fact[s] about him and clearly expressed its disapproval. Then he [can go] back to his practice with the full brunt of his suffering for the opinion which he held right.”

Vallabhai Patel told Gandhi off to his face. He said what he was doing was ‘adharma’ (immoral). In a classic, egotistical way Gandhi retorted to Patel by telling Balkrishna Bhave “for me Manu sleeping with me is a matter of dharma (moral duty).”

But under this onslaught, Gandhi eventually conceded defeat, even if not willingly. He said he felt like a “broken reed.” His ego and narcissism had been broken by people around him who fortunately understood and did better than we do today.

This is the question that I’d like to ask everyone reading this: Why is it that it’s hard to say that Gandhi, the hero of India’s freedom movement had also used his power and position to sexually exploit/abuse girls and women who came under the mantle of his leadership?

Below is an extract from R. P. Parasuram’s 16-page letter to Gandhi just before he quit. He called it his letter of “indictment.”
_____________________________________________________________________________________

1 January, 1947
Srirampur

Revered Bapu,

I write these lines in sorrow and pain. You know how shy and unforward I have been these two years. You must imagine to what depths I must have been agitated then to overcome my shyness and become bold and that too with a man who is considered by many to be the greatest man living.

You must also ponder over the fact as to what it is that has made me bold and say things so boldly. It is because I feel I am so clearly in the right and you so clearly in the wrong. It is the cause that gives me the courage.

It is not that I did not know these before. I knew and kept quiet. I thought, “Why should I bring these to him?” There are men like Kanu [Gandhi], Kishorilal bhai [Mashruwala], etc., experienced men and men knowing you fully.  And then I had not the courage. I have come over my shyness with you.

When [at] first I came to the ashram, I came with high respect for the ashram and its inmates and its way of life. All that was knocked off in 24 hours. After coming here I must confess to having lost a portion of the respect I had for you. You are the Father of our Nation. You have taken us so far along the path of freedom and independence. You must see the hand of God in the fact that I have overcome my shyness.

I object to your sleeping in the same bed with members of the opposite sex. In February 1945 or so, I was given the draft of a statement to type. I was shocked by the contents…I must tell you that even before I know of this. One day Amin-bhai came and told me that he was shocked to see Manu [Manu Gandhi — Gandhi’s own grand niece] getting into your bed.

In those days I was more shy than I am now. My only friend in the ashram was Amin. Even then I came to know of the discussions about this affair because the ashram people are so careless and can’t keep their mouth shut. Everybody objected to your doing this.

Apart from the question of any affect on you, what about the effect on girls?

There is something of other wrong with them [the women who sleep naked with Gandhi]. [The] Punjabi girl who lived opposite my room in Matunga. She used to weep unrestrainedly and that not caring whether others saw her or not. She laughed also unrestrainedly. And then here is Dr. Sushila-behn [the 24-year-old in-house physician at the ashram who Gandhi also used for his ‘experiments’]. How many are the days when she has not wept? She is a doctor and yet she is always a patient, always is ill. Who has heard of a doctor who cries out at night?

Even then the whole thing is considered wrong by the world. I do not like it. Nirmal babu [Bose] does not. Sucheta-behn [Kriplani] did not like it and said, “However great he may be, he cannot do such things. What is this?” You must admit that there is something in our objection. You cannot waive it aside.

As for blood relations [this is in reference to Manu Gandhi]. The world is sceptic even there. There have been cases of immorality between father and daughter, brother and sister.

I object to your having massage done by girls. When I was studying in college, I read a report saying you were being massaged by Dr. Sushila-behn. And now I find you do get yourself massaged by girls.

Those people who know that you are naked during massage time say that you could at least put a cover over it [his genitals].

The same objection I hold against girls coming to the bathroom when you go there. Ramachandran saw you like that and said you had fallen a little from his estimation. However great you may be, you cannot do these things.

Your placing your hands on shoulders of girls. You had written once that you gave up this practice because others intimated you with evil intention. I have not come across any other writing saying you could resume it. So it was strange to me why you resumed it. During the two years I have been with you, about 50 letters or so objecting to this practice from admirers and calumniators came. None of them got any reply.

Your being seen naked [during his bath and massage] jars on the mind of strangers, admirers though they might be. Ramachandran did not like it. He said it was the limit.

Ever since the 17th December [1946], when in the small hours of the morning you made those dreadful sounds, dreadful because it came from you man of such eminence, even otherwise unbecoming for any wise or old man, my head has not been at peace. I have heard of another such instance from Mr. Ramachandran of the API [Associated Press of India] when you told Sushila-behn to leave you. I have seen such another instance at Delhi. But this event shook me to my depths. I said to myself that God and the nation would not forgive me if I kept quiet.

You commit Himalyan blunders. But you refuse to see these things and when told, you are irritated. I say you are conceited and constitute yourself to be the repository of all the wisdom in the world.

And now to my charges. Unless [my demands] are fulfilled, I [will] depart. I beg to differ and go away. Your actions to which I object:

1. Your sleeping with any member of the opposite sex.
2. Being massaged by any member of the opposite sex.
3. Allowing yourself to be seen naked by any member of the opposite sex.
4. Allowing yourself to be seen naked by strangers and even by people who are of your party who are not so intimate.
5. Placing your hands on the shoulders of girls when walking.

Advertisements

I Need Protection and Your Urgent Action on the ‘Palm Place Syndicate’ Benami (Fake) Bank Accounts: My Letter To @RBI @RBIGov @dir_ed and @Kolkata_Police

On 16 Nov, 2015, I Had Sent the Following Letter to The Offices Addressed Below, Requesting Protection and Urgent Action on  Benami (Fake) Bank Accounts under the Name “Palm Place Syndicate,” And on the Criminal Nexus Involved, Who Are a Serious Threat to Me and My Mother’s Safety

TO: Mr. Gaurav Sharma, DC of Police, SE Division, Kolkata
TO: Mr. Raghuram Rajan, Governor, Reserve Bank of India, Mumbai
TO: Mr. Karnal Singh, Director, Enforcement Directorate, New Delhi

1. I have enclosed in the letter for Mr. Gaurav Sharma, DC Police, SE, Kolkata, a cheque (no.689087 of SBI) from my mother, Indira Banerji of the amount Rs.6000/- made out A/C Payee to “Palm Place Syndicate.” This is the benami (fake) bank account (S/B 04770100017689 in Indian Overseas Bank, Ballygunge Park Rd., Kolkata), I have already complained about to all your offices. We’ve been forced to put Rs.1,04,000/- into this account since June 2015, due to harassment, threats, assault and destruction of our property. I am writing, because we cannot take this anymore and we urgently need the police, RBI and ED to take action on these accounts and on the individuals involved in this extortion nexus to ensure our safety. The banks have refused to act as it involves internal corruption. Karaya police station has not acted despite our FIRs on extortion, assault, and property damage (FIR 217, FIR 292, FIR 539). [See Appendix 21]

2. At the back of the check my mother has written this note to explain why she is sending it:
“I, Indira Banerji, do not want to put this money in the account S/B 04770100017689 which is under the name ‘Palm Place Syndicate.’ But I have been forced under threat, violence and other pressure to deposit this and other cheques by the following:
1) Biman Dhar (Address, Phone)
2) Prem Prakash Sahoo (Address, Phone)
3) Somnath Bhattacharyya (HR, Premiere World Tech Ltd., Address, Phone)
4) Michael J. Pook (Employee of Premier World Tech, Occupant of Indira Banerji’s flat no.7 for 28 years, Phone)
5) A.K. Ghosh (Victor Moses Co., Address; phone)
I am asking Mr. Gaurav Sharma (D.C. Police, SE) to give the check to one of the five above , if he thinks this is right.”

3. In October 2014, I discovered the ‘Palm Place Syndicate’ account in the Standard Chartered Bank (a/c 33610022158) into which these men had been making my mother put money for “maintenance” of her ownership flats for many years, is a benami (fake) account. The account has no registration, PAN, identity proof, or address proof, and had been in the bank’s legal cell since 2010. We found this out when Mr. Biman Dhar, Mr. Nikhilesh Chandra Roy [phone], Mr. Prem Prakash Sahoo and Mr. Pinakpani Chakravarti [phone], conspired to make my mother, Indira Banerji a signatory to that account in Sept 2014, by saying they now wanted a “lady” to take care of the “building society account.” I discovered that the account had already been served the final legal closure notice two months prior to that. Prior to this, they had blocked my mother from any access to this bank account even though with two flats she is a majority flat owner in the building. [See Appendix 1, 3, 7, 8]

4. They also pulled out all the money in the account through K.R. Sriram, the auditor who (I then realized) had been making fake audit reports on Palm Place Syndicate’s benami bank account till 2013. Mr. Sriram has refused to communicate with us. [See Appendix 4, 10, 11, 12]

5. Mr. Biman Dhar and the other flat owners have refused to give us any proof of registration and byelaws for ‘Palm Place Syndicate’ as a registered building society. They make random demands for large sums of money and make us deposit the money directly in the account without giving any receipt. They make random cash withdrawals, write checks to ‘self’, give fake name of companies for repair and paints, and refuse to provide any bills, accounts or receipts for money taken or used. Their demands keep escalating and now they want in lakhs. They have conspired to harass us by sabotaging our drinking water, destroying our property, and physical violence. They are doing this because there are no official documents, and they are using the benami accounts to extort money but likely also for other illegal activities. We don’t know how many benami accounts in how many banks they have under this name of ‘Palm Place Syndicate,’ or what activities they are used for. One owner, Mrs. Ruchi Jain [phone] told us she had also opened an account with Mr. Dhar in (more…)

Why Indian Women Pray for Long Lives for their Husbands Even as Millions are Killed for Dowry

2015-10-30-1446192468-9986684-sindoorkhelaritabanerji.jpg

Last week millions of Hindu women proudly celebrated a festival whose fundamental tenet is misogynistic. This is the festival of Karva Chauth. Women deprive themselves of food and water all day, and after sunset break their fast after they’ve viewed the moon through a kitchen sieve. They’ve been told that if they do this, the gods will ensure long lives for their husbands. In a country where every year, more than a 100,000 married women are murdered for dowry — burnt, hung, stabbed, poisoned, drowned, or driven to suicide — by their husbands and in-laws, and not a day goes by without media reports of such deaths, this womanly fixation on ensuring a long life for the husband seems sort of bizarre. But there is a cultural explanation for Indian women’s fixation on their husbands’ long lives….

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE http://www.huffingtonpost.in/rita-banerji-/karva-chauth-a-womanly-ce_b_8429386.html

Why Does India Fake Literacy?

I suppose it needs to be said that the literacy figures for India are simply abysmal. For women in particular it is about 60%.

But the really bad news is that that isn’t a real estimate of how many can actually read and write in India. When there was a lot of angst expressed over how India houses almost half the world’s illiterates, the government got down to work on it — of course Indian style.

They created a new official definition for ‘literacy.’ By this unique Indian method, anyone who can read and write their name is officially counted as literate!! So Sita who can write S I T A, but doesn’t know the alphabets, can’t read and write anything else, considers herself literate.

Not only that, these women even when they work and earn, have no idea of how much they are actually earning or should be earning. They have no concept of savings, or calculation of change when they go shopping and take whatever change is handed over to them. So among the 60% women literates, 84% (see below) have little or no idea of how to handle daily cash transactions!

There was a Sita who had worked as a part-time domestic help for for me for a year. She was proud to call herself “literate” and insisted on signing the pay register instead of putting her thumb print as is customary for “illiterates” in India. They are called the “angootha chchaps” (thumb printers) — an offensive term.  Naturally no one wants to own it.   I had about 12 ‘signatures’ from Sita, all wildly varying in shapes and proportions. She turned down repeated requests from me to allow me to teach her. She said what she ‘knew’ sufficed her. Of course I or someone was always there to fill her forms, help her with her banking etc. But she was happy and proud to say she could write.  As I suppose is India!

#Women Politicians Molested While Campaigning for Upcoming #Elections in #India

I think what is bothersome is how most female politicians in India take this kind of sexual molestation by men in public venues into their stride. It comes with the job attitude! If the women in the position of power and politics don’t kick up a huge storm over this, is it any surprise they are not out there speaking for the common women’s rights? A slap? That’s enough? Is it any surprise that as people’s representatives these women often function like they know that this is a country for men, by men, and of men, and they are here only to serve men?

NEWS REPORTS FROM THE 50 MILLION MISSING CAMPAIGN

March 30, 2014

nagmaPolitics and government are often touted as venues for the empowerment of women in India.  But the fact is that female politicians are subject to the same kind of harassment and sexual molestations in public spaces, like women in India are on a daily basis, even as they campaign for the upcoming elections in April 2014.

Politician Nagma, despite a strong ring of bodyguards, has been groped on numerous occasions, sometimes by male politicians and sometimes by men in public gatherings.  Last week Nagma responded by publicly slapping one man who grabbed at her.  Some female politicians don’t get out of their cars because they fear being molested.  Others clear wide spaces and speak only from a raised platform.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/lok-sabha-elections-2014/news/Women-politicians-face-sexist-slurs-pawing-seek-safety-inside-cars/articleshow/32934688.cms

View original post

%d bloggers like this: