Mohd Arshi Rafique, Hindustan Times
Lucknow: A Lucknow girl’s simple query to know if Mahatma Gandhi was ever conferred the title of ‘The Father of The Nation’ has come a cropper. From the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to the ministry of home affairs (MHA) no one seems to really know the answer to the 10-year-old’s question.
They coolly forwarded the RTI plea of class VI student Aishwarya Parashar to the National Archives of India (NAI), the body that claims to be the repository of the non-current records of the Government of India. Surprisingly, the NAI, after a hectic search in their records, was unable to find the desired information and requested Aishwarya to come and search for it in NAI’s public records and library material herself.
Jayaprabha Ravindran, assistant director of archives and chief public information officer (CPIO) wrote back in a letter dated March 26: “As per search among public records in the National Archives of India, there are no specific documents on the information sought by you.”
As a consolation, it has promised to provide Aishwarya all facilities permissible under the rules, if she chooses to visit the national archives.
Aishwarya, expectedly, is amused. “The first piece of history taught to us in school is about Mahatma Gandhi as Father of the Nation. I never knew, I was asking such a difficult question,” she says.
Popular notion, nothing official
According to reports, when a demand to confer the title of ‘Father of the Indian Constitution’ on Dr Ambedkar was made, deputy prime minister LK Advani, in a letter to Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit in 2004, had written: “It is not, however, feasible to formally confer the title of ‘Father of Indian Constitution’ on Dr Ambedkar, since Article 18 (1) of the Constitution specifically provides that “no title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the state.”
Advani further said: “I may clarify that although Mahatma Gandhi is popularly known as “Father of the Nation,” no such title was ever formally conferred on him by the government.”
History has it
Father of the Nation is an honorific title given to a man considered the driving force behind the establishment of a nation. As per Wikipedia, it was Subhas Chandra Bose who used the term for Mahatma Gandhi, in a radio address from Singapore in 1944. Later, it was recognised by the Indian government. When Gandhi was assassinated, India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, in a radio address to the nation, had announced that the Father of the Nation “is no more.”