Atheist Centre 50+ Golden Jubilee (1940-1990)
International Conference on
"Future of Atheism -- Humanism"
Vijayawada, December 29-31, 1990
[OCR, HTML, editing, Cliff Walker]

Gora -- A Man of Thought and Action
Dr. Sunanda Shet, M.A., Ph.D.

On this occasion of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Atheist Centre, it is only apt that we remember Gora and his contributions to the cause of atheism and social change. As a research scholar on Gora I had the opportunity to know his work and philosophy intimately and hence I would like to present a few of his thoughts.

Gora was a man of thoughts and a man of action. By his thought he wanted to create more action which he believed would help to establish a society based on equality, self-respect and love.

Though the philosophy of atheism has a tradition in India and it is as old as Indian culture itself, alone among modern Indian thinkers, Gora presented Positive Atheism as an alternative to God centred religions, social economic and political structure. Atheism as a philosophy of Godlessness was always considered negative in its spirit and approach but Gora wanted atheism not only as a philosophy of godlessness but also assert the condition that arises due to the negation of god. His atheism denies God and all associated beliefs like soul, karma, re-birth, other-world and determinism. He wanted atheism positive in its approach to human problems and human relations. He believed firmly that atheism alone can make man assert his free-will and accept responsibility for his actions and get rid of the slave-mind and also make him moral, social and honest to himself and to the society.

His philosophy of atheism emanated from his understanding, that belief in god and religion is at the base of all problems in society and by striking at the very root of it, things could be set right.

He followed the foot steps of Mahatma Gandhi in all his social activities and accepted Gandhi as his mentor in all constructive work programmes. He believed dearly in the Gandhian concepts like non-violence and Satyagraha. It is curious to note that he has been called by a few as "more Gandhian than most of the Gandhians". Excepting the question of belief in God and religion, there was no ideological conflict between Gora and Gandhi, and I understand that Gora was completely in harmony with the spirit of Gandhism.

Again it is interesting to note that Gora was a great admirer of Karl Marx. He admired the sacrifices of the communists and their championing the cause of economic equality and abolition of private property. His association with the communists continued right from 1930s. Gora had his differences with the communists as well. While the communists stood for total revolution, secret methods and totalitarian socialism, Gora stood for non-violence, open methods and democracy. Thus he was a non-believer, an absolute atheist, a Gandhian to a great extent and a Marxist to the extent he could be. This mixture, a mixture of opposites, could not be understood by common man. Looking from the stand point of Gandhism and Marxism he appeared contradictory. But he was consistent in his philosophy and in upholding the dignity of man. While attempting to uphold the free-will and individual liberty of man he was compelled to oppose all forces that stood against it. This could be understood by a very few intellectuals and as much his positive atheism could not make much head-way with the people. Gora stood by this intellectual exercise making it his way of life in the hope that one day it might become a reality.

In the social field Gora fought for social equality and for the upliftment of individual freedom. All his programmes, unfortunately merged with the programmes of Gandhian movement which had taken up such programmes on a large scale. Moreover, Gandhian movement was the most popular and powerful movement of the time to liberate India from foreign domination and also for the upliftment of the downtrodden. Still Gora is known for his un-conventional programmes like beef and pork functions to bring about communal harmony, championing the cause of unwed mothers, criminal rehabilitation, self-respect marriages and fight against superstitions.

In the economic field he stood for economic equality. Though he appreciated the commitment of the communists to the abolition of private property and economic equality, he pinned his faith in Gandhian methods. At the same time he could not agree with the plan of Trusteeship, which Gora thought, was too good to be real.

In the political field Gora's concept of partyless democracy could not win him political patronage as it is largely believed that this concept of partyless democracy is an utopia. Gora worked hard to inculcate the idea of partyless democracy in the minds of the people exposing the evils of party democracy. He held party democracy responsible for degenerating democracy into party dictatorship and encouraging groupism. sectarianism and power politics. He held that a true democracy can bloom only when it is partyless. Gora, being an idealist and a staunch individualist, could not compromise with the existing situation. Pinning his faith in an ideal he held dear, constantly working to achieve the same in his own way and hoping that one day it might become a reality, Gora lived his life the way he wanted.

Gora's work for uplifting the human dignity is admirable. His ideas for creating a society devoid of inequality, hatred, war and conflicts are lofty. His approach was human, his actions were impressive and his service was selfless. He breathed a supreme sense of sacrifice, sincerity, devotion and commitment in his family also. His wife, children and grand children are carrying forward the work started by Gora with a missionary zeal. On this occasion of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Atheist Centre, I wish them all success in their endeavours to keep the memory and work of Gora alive and I wish them many more years of service to the society.