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Gandhi biography claims he was bisexual and racist

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  1. Stuart Neyton 28 Mar 2011, 9:05am

    wait, so he was in love with someone of a different race, and was racist?

    Something doesn’t add up here

  2. Jock S. Trap 28 Mar 2011, 9:14am

    It claims he was racist against Black South Africans, Stuart.

    I think it’s too easy to make claims when that person is no longer with us. Certainly possible he was Bi though, he influenced a lot of people and remains an important historical figure.

    1. Mohandas Ghandi’s racism has already been documented elsewhere. Nothing new about that.

  3. I have no idea about the truth of these tales.

    What I do know is that the manner in which Gandhi is revered as the saviour of India, in a manner like a ‘god’ is very untruthful and misleading.

    He was a human being like anyone else so it’s perfectly feasible that he was a racist bisexual.

    Whether he was or wasn’t of course is merely conjecture at this stage.

  4. Had heard he had a racist streak before, I don’t think he’s quite the cut and dried saint everyone imagines.
    Mind you the bisexual angle brings a whole new meaning to that old Cole Porter lyric…
    “You’re the top, You’re Mahatma Ghandi”.

    1. “You’re the top” – ha! It certainly does!

  5. He was only human after all. In love with woman. In love with man. Racist? Why not? Racism is based on pride, ignorance and prejudice and is learned behavior. We also learn not to be prejudiced or at least keep it to ourselves. It is easy to hate. Takes guts to love.

  6. I think you have to understand the race comments in context. I’m not excusing them, but it is not as simple as the text on its own implies.

  7. Ashlee Kelly 28 Mar 2011, 10:30am

    Ghandi being a racist is nothing new. The man detested black people.

    I can’t really see him being bisexual, though :/

    1. Paddyswurds 28 Mar 2011, 10:45am

      @Ashlee Kelly…. That Ghandi “detested” Black people is debateable. The colonial powers who certainly detested him had ample opportunity to debase his memory. They done it to one of their own Sir Roger Casement, with the Black Diaries. You can see him as a racist but not bisexual? What is your evidence…ancedotal to say the least. I think your comment says more about you than it ever could about the Great Ghandi.

  8. Fanfiction is always so hilarious.

    1. Galadriel1010 28 Mar 2011, 2:54pm

      I resemble that remark.

  9. I see my comment was removed. Ah, such is the life of us keen racists…

    Anyway, I treat Gandhi the same way as Churchill – love the quotes and don’t care about the private life.

  10. When I lived in Samoa, I perceived that the Indians living there were highly organised, methodical, industrious, and civilised. I perceived that the Samoans were “laid-back” and did not care for organization or working industriously. I therefore liked the Indians but did not like the Samoans. This does not make me a racist, however.

    1. Staircase2 28 Mar 2011, 2:39pm

      Racism is not about observation – its about prejudice (literally ‘pre judging’ people BASED on their race or perceived race)

      Different cultures ARE different from each other – and the way we interact with life and the world is different based on the way we view the world.

      There are only two things which are contentious in your statement James:
      1) that being organised, methodical etc equals ‘civilised’ (it doesnt (in fact the word ‘civilised’ has enormous racist connotations)
      2) that you ‘therefore’ liked the indians and disliked the samoans

      there is one other thing worthy of mention: that you dont seem to be aware of the irony that both you and ‘the indians’ were in SAMOA – the Samoans own country – behaving in non-local ways and then judging the locals harshly for behaving like….er…..locals.

      . ….”When in Rome” etc etc

  11. Had heard comment that he was racist but nothing authoritative …

    Seems to be conjecture at first glance … but equally I can see it is possible – doesn’t alter that he made some good decisions as Indian leader …

    He is overly revered by some as he was only human. No racism can be excused but the context of the time and the scenario may give some mitigation.

    Whether he was or wasn’t bisexual – hardly relevant – particularly now he is dead …

    1. In the era Gandhi was educated it was standard to evaluate civilisation in terms of literature, recorded history, architectural and monuments, philosophy, art etc (even more recently – Auberon Waugh [probably mischievously] caused a stir in Australia in the 1980s by dismissing the Aborigines as “a culture that couldn’t even manage a clay pot”), and Africans, particularly those in southern Africa, were then seen as being severely deficient in those terms.

      A significant chunk of the South Asian populations are exaggeratedly proud of being ‘Indo-Aryan’, and to this day see sub-Saharan Africans as being somehow ‘lesser’. This is not to excuse such attitudes, just to recognise that they were (and are) conventional.

      1. @Rehan

        I think contextualisation is important but it doesnt excuse (as you rightly say)

        What is necessary is encouraging those who are still engaged in these perceived views of superiority over others based on racial grounds to examine their thought processes and recognise they are inconsistent with their demands for equality. That encouragement can be made by a combination of condemnation of racial attitudes and other more supporting actions.

        There are many examples of racist history linked to Britain, I don’t think it should be a surprise that there is also such views in other countries such as India. The current racist views need to be confronted but often the best way of ensuring cultural changes that are required is from leaders within the cultures themselves driving forward positive policies and mindsets that are supportive.

        1. True, but I think it’s pointless and, frankly, a little cheap to use terms like ‘racist’ in the headline when, in the context of the time, almost everyone was racist, by our definition today – I mean, have you read some of the things Churchill said about Gandhi and other Indians? They even shocked people of his own generation!

          Really, my point isn’t original, it’s just that using our values to judge those of people – even people seen as heroic — in the past is really rather a waste of time.

          On the other hand, I must admit this apparently strong bond between Gandhi and Kallenbach is certainly worthy of finding out more about.

  12. Fletch the Lech 28 Mar 2011, 11:26am

    This is great news. Another reason to love Gandhi, if he swung both ways!

  13. It’s not hard to believe Gandhi and Hallenbach were lovers when you see this photo of them together with Gandhi’s secretary in 1913.
    As far as racism is concerned there was a different attitude in Gandhi’s time to such things, to refer to South African blacks as uncivilsed and as kaffirs then would not be the same as saying those things now.
    I don’t believe the racism slur.

  14. The gay thing is new to me, but the racism claims have been around for a while. Iv don’t think they’re going to shock people too much.

    1. Bi Social Network 4 Apr 2011, 8:05am

      gay does not = bisexual one means like one sex, the other means more than one sex.

  15. Gandhi was a 19th century figure – he was born in 1869 and grew up in a world where beliefs about racial superiority and inferiority were pervasive and respectable (a lot of Americans are still in denial about this re. Lincoln). His sexuality may be moot but he was pretty anti-sex per se, seeing it as a distraction from spirituality (he became celibate while still married).His real significance is the achievement of helping to end British rule in India without violence and hatred. The tragedy was his inability to prevent partition and the Hindu-Muslim bloodshed which accompanied it.

  16. Ahana Banerjie 28 Mar 2011, 5:46pm

    I think it’s too much. . labeling Gandhi as gay or bisexual is okie then mentioning in the last line that he slept with his grand-niece would be like crossing the limits. In India it’s a traditional practice that elderly people of the home can sleep with their grand-children like their parents but that doesn’t mean making love with them or getting into any kind of physical intimacies. Please don’t try to demean or put down every emotion or practices of a human being,, be it the Mahatma or any common man in India to such low standards.

    1. TheSuburban Bi 28 Mar 2011, 8:10pm

      True, Ahana, but Ghandi made it clear that he slept next to his grand-niece and other young, nubile women to test his resolve and strengthen his commitment to celibacy. Okay, fine, except these girls/women are people and not there to be used by an old man for his personal improvement program, so people do have the right to criticise.

      As for his bisexuality (the claim is not, as some above and other articles have claimed, that he was gay or didn’t really like women after all; Ghandi’s writings and struggles with celibacy in his marriage point clearly to his genuine desire for women in his lifetime) — again, consumation is not the issue as a person can be bi if a virgin or celebate or impotent… it’s about emotional, romantic and sexual attraction.

      So, yeah, it appears, if the quotations are authentic, that he had a clear emotional and romantic attraction for this man, whether he ever consumated it or not is neither here nor there.

      1. I agee with you. He shouldn’t have been using the young ladies (or any ladies for that matter) in his quest to prove his commitment to being celibate.

        Gotta say from that photograph I wouldn’t rule out his being BI but then I don’t worship Ghandi. He was OK and that’s about it for me. Also, he was a human being like the rest of us with his good points and his bad points. He did tend to be racist from what I have read but I understand that that was pretty much par for the course back in his day.

        And if Ghandi had a romantic/emotional attraction for the gentleman in question, then it really is not be any of our business, now is it? Sometimes the GLBT community does reach in its efforts to find homosexuality and bisexuality wherever it can.

      2. Sorry, meant to say “…it really is not any of our business, now is it?”

        1. Why not? You could just as easily say that it’s exactly the business of the ‘GLBT community’ (whatever that is) to reverse the centuries-old assumption that notable public figures can only be exclusively heterosexual..

          1. Quite right Rehan!

      3. Ciaran McHale 29 Mar 2011, 9:27am

        Gandhi endlessly carried out all sorts of experiments in his quest to find a better way of living. From reading biographies about him, it is clear that some of his experiments were successful, but many failed, and most of them would be considered bizarre/misguided/delusional by most people.

        If the nude-but-celibate sleeping arrangements were consensual (and I have not read anything to suggest otherwise), then I think it is unfair to claim that Gandhi somehow “used” the young women. The sleeping arrangements were just another one of his unusual experiments.

        1. TheSuburban Bi 30 Mar 2011, 12:30pm

          Well, Ciaran, I’ve debated just the point you make with others and used to say what you’ve said: the women/girls consented, so no troubles.

          But some of the girls were quite young, early teens — plus it was a very patriarchal society, where females do what they are told — plus the fact that he was a man of enormous stature and sprititual importance who was practically worshipped by some of his followers: that leads to exactly the kind of power imbalance that makes for abusive scenarios.

          Now, it’s not our place to tell these women they were abused and they must say so on our terms…. but there’s enough there that critics of his methods have a right to raise the issue.

  17. Why try to make the man look bad years after his death? Could it be he was a great man who got the job done in a peaceful way. No matter what spin the haters put on him he will always be a great man. Like Martin Luther King. These are people who fought for justice and freedom and civil rights and equality for their people.

    1. Some might say that recognising a same-sex attraction isn’t in fact trying to make a public figure “look bad”.

        1. @The Suburban Bi

          I would find that article a little more admirable if it spelt Gandhi’s name correctly!

          1. TheSuburban Bi 30 Mar 2011, 3:50pm

            @Rehan — already fixed.

          2. Oh, much better, well done!

  18. Paddyswurds 29 Mar 2011, 12:54pm

    From the photographs I’ve seen of Gandhi he was a pretty slight man. One decently sized black knob and he’d have been crippled, hence the negativity towards the black race.

  19. And then there’s this article from The Times of India
    which claims that it’s our beloved Daily Mail that reviewed the book as saying Gandhi was racist and bisexual, while Lelyveld ‘denied having suggested anything of the sort’.
    Go figure.

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