Remember Lage Raho Munnabhai? This fall, it seems that many civic-minded Indians are taking the Gandhian techniques shown in the film and applying them to real-life problems and protests, with the demand for accountability from government officials being the most common application. Instead of Bandhs and riots, in the past couple of months protesters have been sending flowers and doing Pujas, hoping that people whose work shows signs of negligence and incompetence will “get better soon.” Here are some of the examples of “Gandhi-giri” I came across in a quick search:
- Doctors and students shame a delinquent health minister (Ramadoss) to take stronger action on the Dengue Fever epidemic (700 infections and 26 deaths in Delhi alone)
- A writer proposes reforms to the educational system, using Gandhi-giri as a concept,
- In Gujarat, a carpenter did it to make sure a flaky client paid up for services rendered
- Farmers used it to shame government officials in drought-ridden areas to approve loans to farmers
- Politicians keep it in mindwhen they consider how to describe their policies in clear Hindustani (“Garibi Hatao”) as opposed to archaic Sanskrit (“Gribi Unmoolan”).
And those are just a few examples; more are given in this recent Boston Globe article. My cousins in Delhi tell me that elderly people are stripping off clothes (this is directly out of Lage Raho Munnabhai) to shame government officials in charge of pensions to actually disburse their funds. And there are stories about pavement dwellers, in response to trash flagrantly dropped where they live by thoughtless passers-by, cheerfully (but pointedly) cleaning it up — again right out of the film.
It’s not all good, of course. Vidhu Vinod Chopra is reportedly using his own invention to lobby the government of Gujarat to give his film tax-free status, which it already has in many other states. That seems a bit much; “Gandhi-giri” may well just be this year’s fashion, which will get old as soon as other super-rich people start using it to demands perks and privileges.
Gandhi-giri: flash in the pan, or a sign of a real revival in non-violent civic engagement amongst Indians of all classes?