New Delhi: The Mahatma Gandhi bequeathed by history is a watered-down, saccharine version of the original man, claims a new book which talks of what he really stood for.
In "What Gandhi Says," American political scientist and author Norman G Finkelstein draws on extensive readings of Gandhi's oeuvre to set out the basic principles of his approach as well as to argue that it had contradictions and limitations.
"He is the saintly, other-worldly eccentric who would not hurt a fly, and looked as if he could not even if he were so inclined," he writes.
The author dubs Gandhi as the shrewdest of political tacticians "who could gauge better than any of his contemporaries the reserves and limits of his people and his adversaries."
He says the real Gandhi did loathe violence but he loathed cowardice more than violence.
"If his constituents could not find the inner wherewithal to resist non-violently, then he exhorted them to find the courage to hit back those who assaulted or demeaned them," the book, published by Fingerprint, says.
According to Finkelstein, if Gandhi preached simultaneously the virtues of non-violence and courage, it was because he believed that non-violence required more courage than violence.
"Those who used non-violence not to resist but instead as a pretext to flee an assailant were, according to Gandhi, the most contemptible of human creatures, undeserving of life," he says.