Hind Swaraj : Gandhiji's Vision for India
- Posted by: "MD Kini" Dear Vinay,
Here is an article based on Mahatma's seminal book, Hind Swaraj, which
gives an indication of his vision for India. His India is based on the
concept of Sarvodaya, welfare of all. Today swaraj has not reached 400
million people who are below the poverty line and there is rampant
corruption in all spheres of life. His idea that there is enough for
the needs of all but not enough for the greed of all is still
relevant. Let share his views with all Karmoyogis.
With good wishes,
Hind Swaraj : Gandhiji's Vision for India.
"Before I leave you, I will take the liberty of repeating :
1.Real home-rule is self-rule or self-control.
2.The way to it is passive resistance: that is soul-force or love-force.
3.In order to exert this force, Swadeshi in every sense is necessary.
4. What we want to do should be done, not because we object to the
English or because we want to retaliate but because it is our duty to
In my opinion, we have used the term "Swaraj" without understanding
its real significance. I have endeavoured to explain it as I
understand it, and my conscience testifies that my life henceforth is
dedicated to its attainment."
This is the last para of the book, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule,
written by Mahatma Gandhi in 1908, 101 years ago.The book contains his
thoughts on the Indian struggle for Independence and the modern
Non-violence and passive resistance.
While non-co-operation movement in 1921 was withdrawn after
Chowri-Chowra violence, it was successful in 1930 when Gandhiji
started his Salt Satyagraha. There were some violent incidents during
the "Quit India" movement. However, his non-violent agitations not
merely mobilized Indian people for Swaraj but threatened the British
throne like no other violent struggle could. Mahatma's non-violence
was not merely practical but ethical as well.
While admiring the courage of freedom fighters like Madanlal Dinghra
and Bhagat Singh, Gandhiji disapproved their methods as he firmly
believed in the efficacy of non-violence and passive resistance. He
was more concerned about the ethics of not merely the ends ( freedom)
but also the means ( struggle for freedom). " The means may be likened
to a seed, and the end to a tree; and there is just the inviolable
connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed
and the tree. ...We reap exactly what we sow," he observed. He also
said that those who take the sword shall perish by the sword. We all
know how the bloody revolutions have failed to create a new man and a
Explaining the method of passive resistance, Gandhiji said, " Passive
resistance is a method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is
reverse of resistance by arms. When I refuse to do a thing that is
repugnant to my conscience, I use soul-force .If I do not obey the law
and accept the penalty for its breach, I use soul-force. It involves
sacrifice of self." He maintained that non-violence and passive
resistance is a weapon of the brave and not that of the coward. A
coward can never disobey a law that he dislikes. " If man will only
realize that," he said, " it is unmanly to obey laws that are unjust,
no man's tyranny will enslave him. This is the key to self-rule or
No wonder, Gandhiji's agitations based on these two principles, were
emulated by Nelson Mandela for the freedom of South Africa and by
Martin Luther King for equal rights of African-Americans in USA. In a
recent interview President Barack Obama expressed his wish to have a
talk with Gandhiji over a lunch when he was asked whom he would choose
among the great of the past and the present.
Mahatma Gandhi's views on modern civilization are rational and
logical. However, many today may not accept them as they are addicted
to the comforts and luxuries of modern life. According to him ` people
living in it (civilization) make bodily welfare the object of life'
and then, he gives some examples. People in Europe live in
better-built houses than they did hundred years ago. "This is
considered an emblem of civilization" . Hundred years ago people wore
skins and used spears as their weapons, and now they use long trousers
and carry revolvers. Earlier, people ploughed their lands manually (
or used horses), now steam engines (or tractors) are used to amass
great wealth. " Formerly, men were made slaves under physical
compulsion. Now they are enslaved by temptation of money and the
luxuries that money can buy."
Gandhiji has been misunderstood on the issue of machinery. He
clarified " What I object to is the craze for machinery, not
machinery as such." He said, " The supreme consideration is man. The
machine should not tend to atrophy the limbs of man. For instance, I
would make intelligent exceptions. Take the case of Singer's Sewing
Machine. It is one of the few useful things ever invented, and there
is a romance about the device itself." In this machine age, man has
become a cog in the wheel of the modern civilization and Gandhiji was
pointing out the dehumanizing quality of machinery and the resultant
alienation of man from his work.
Gandhiji is a great critic of the modern institutions such as
parliament, the press, the railways, professions such as doctors and
lawyers. His insights on them are acutely penetrating.
His observations on the British Parliament are not very flattering. "
.. it is generally acknowledged that the members are hypocritical and
selfish.. When the greatest questions are debated, its members have
been seen to stretch themselves and to doze. Carlyle has called it the
`talking shop of the world'.Members vote for their party without a
thought .Parliament is a costly toy to the nation." Do we find a
reflection of our own parliament and assemblies in these remarks of
Mahatma Gandhi ?
Same goes for newspapers. " To the English voters their newspaper is
their Bible. They take their cue from their newspapers which are often
dishonest. The same fact is differently interpreted by different
newspapers, according to the party in whose interests they are edited
What must be the condition of the people whose newspapers are of this
type ? " How true even today in India and now we have to add TV news
as well. No wonder the so-called `fourth estate' can distort peoples'
The railways have enabled the British to send their troops from one
end of India to another and they also spread bubonic plague, increased
the frequency of famines as food grains are sent to distant places to
get more money. Lawyers promote quarrels instead of solving them. "
The parties alone know who is right. We, in our simplicity and
ignorance, imagine that a stranger, by taking money, gives us
The doctors do not cure but help people to indulge, says Gandhiji... "
I overeat, I have indigestion, I go to a doctor, he gives medicine, I
am cured. I overeat again. I take his pills again. Had I not taken the
pills in the first instance, I would have suffered the punishment
deserved by me and I would not have overeaten again my mind became
Of course, there is a positive side to all these professions. They
have enormous power to help people and they also have the power to
perpetuate strife or promote indulgence among the people. However,
there is no mechanism to ensure that all these people do their job
responsibly. That comes only from restraint on desire and greed. That
is what all religions preach but the acquisitive society that is built
in the world over in last few centuries does not promote it.
The modern civilization emphasizes the freedom of man ( human rights)
but not the obligations of man to society. It makes him an automaton
that has no time for reflection. He wants to satisfy his wants, not
needs. In pursuit of his desires, he forgets values of life. Man is
born free but finds himself in chains of wants and desires.
Writing on Indian civilization, Gnadhiji points out that Roman and
Greek civilizations were annihilated, the might of Pharaohs was
broken, Japan was westernized and nothing could be said about China,
but " India is still, somehow or other, sound at the foundation".
Nothing can equal the seeds of sown by our ancestors, he observes. "
Civilization is that mode of conduct which points out to man the path
of duty. Performance of duty and observance of morality are
convertible terms. To observe morality is to attain mastery over our
mind and our passions. So doing, we know ourselves. The Gujarati
equivalent for civilization means `good conduct'."
Gandhiji says that the mind is a restless bird, more it gets, more it
wants and still remains unsatisfied.
" Our ancestors, therefore, set a limit to our indulgences. They saw
that happiness was largely a mental condition. A man is not
necessarily happy because he is rich, or unhappy because he is poor."
Mahatma Gandhi was all praise for the Indian way of life which
consisted of the same kind of plough, same cottages, same education
system that existed for thousands of years. " We have had no life
corroding competition. Each followed his own occupation or trade and
charged a regulation wage This nation had courts, lawyers and
doctors, but they were all within bounds. Everybody knew that these
professions were not particularly superior; moreover, these vakils and
vaids did not rob people; they were considered people's dependents,
not their masters .They enjoyed true Home Rule. "
In the appendix to the book, Gandhiji has quoted some appreciative
comments on the quality of Indian life made by Englishmen who were in
India during his time.
" The civilization was not perfunctory, but universal and
all-pervading furnishing the country not only with political
systems, but with social and domestic institutions of the most
ramified description. The beneficent nature of these institutions as a
whole may be judged from their effects on the character of the Hindu
race. Perhaps there are no other people in the whole world who show so
much in their character the advantageous effects of their own
civilization. They are shrewd in business, acute in reasoning,
thrifty, religious, sober, charitable, obedient to parents,
reverential to old age, amiable, law-abiding, compassionate towards
the helpless and patient under suffering." ( J.Seymore Keay,M.P.,
Banker in India and India Agent, writing in 1883).
" If a good system of agriculture, unrivalled manufacturing skill, a
capacity to produce whatever can contribute to convenience or luxury;
schools established in every village, for teaching, reading, writing
and arithmetic; the general practice of hospitality and charity among
each other; and above all, a treatment of the female sex, full of
confidence, respect and delicacy, are among the signs which denote a
civilized people..." ( Colonel Thomas Munro who served in India for 32
" The Indian village has thus for centuries remained a bulwark
against political disorder and the home of the simple domestic and
social virtues. No wonder, therefore, that philosophers and the
historians have always dwelt lovingly on this ancient institution
which is the natural social unit and the best type of rural life;
self-contained, industrious, peace-loving, conservative in the best
sense of the word." ( Sir William Wedderburn, Bart).
Mahatma Gandhi was just drawing attention of Indians to their great
civilization and the heritage of village republics. Gandhiji with his
charkha and village industries sought to re-capture the spirit of the
rural life in our villages and the country to suit the present
India is one nation.
Gandhiji dismissed the idea propagated by the British that India was
not one nation before the British established their rule in India. "
We were one nation before they came to India. One thought inspired
us.Our mode of life was the same. It was because we were one nation
that they were able to establish one kingdom. Subsequently, they
" What do you think could have been the intention of those farseeing
ancestors of ours who established Setubandha (Rameshwar) in the South,
Jagannath in the East and Hardwar in the North as the places of
pilgrimage ? You will admit they were no fools ..they saw that India
was one undivided land so made by the nature. They, therefore, argued
that it must be one nation. Arguing thus, they established holy places
in various parts of India, and fired the people with an idea of
nationality in a manner unknown in other parts of the world."
Mahatma Gandhi also believed that the differences between Hindus and
Muslims were of no consequence for living together. " Should we not
remember that many Hindus and Mahomedans own the same ancestors and
the same blood runs through their veins ? Do people become enemies
because they change their religion ? Is the God of the Mohamedan
different from the God of the Hindu ? Religions are different roads
converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take
different roads so long as we reach the same goal ? Wherein is the
cause or quarrelling ?" The followers of Shiva and those of Vishnu
disagree but still they belong to the same nation. The Vedic religion
is different from Jainism but they do not belong to two different
nations. Further, he states, " Those who do not wish to misunderstand
things may read up the Koran, and they will find therein hundreds of
passages acceptable to the Hindus; and the Bhagawadgita contains
passages to which not a Mahomedan can take objection."
The Mahatma's Vision.
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi became Mahatma Gandhi when he identified
himself with the poor and illiterate peasants of India and offered
them Swaraj or self-rule based on their own tradition and heritage
Ram Rajya. He made them aware of their own strength when he mobilized
them through satyagraha. As he repeatedly stated the weapon of
non-violence and passive resistance can be used only brave men.
Though educated in England, he was not enamoured by the wealth and
life in that country. He saw alienation of the factory workers and
hypocrisy of the elite. He found in the Indian rural life a life of
hard work, culture and dignity. In spite of many wars in India, Indian
villages had survived with their agriculture and handicrafts organized
by the village panchayats. He did not wish India to be a carbon copy
of the West. He promoted khadi and village industries even during the
freedom struggle. His ideal was sarvodaya welfare of all and he
wanted to reach the last man- unto the last.
Eminent economists such as J.C.Kumarappa prepared a blue-print for the
revival of villages. Later in 1973, another economist E.F.Schumacher,
offered a similar scheme in his book, Small is Beautiful Economics
As If People Mattered. He also highlighted dehumanizing effect of
single-minded pursuit of gross domestic product. He advocated `
sustainable development' and `appropriate technology' which are in
tune with the Gandhian philosophy. The latest to join the Gandhian
view is Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel-prize winning economist, who headed the
panel of economists appointed by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French
President, to measure the well-being of people as the GDP ( Gross
Domestic Product) does not represent the true well-being.
Sustainability of economy, happiness and natural resources are to be
included in the measurement of progress. " Man does not live by GDP
alone", says the Economist of London
However, Independent India did not follow his vision of village
republics but adopted the western model not merely in political system
but also in the economic system. Today, after 65 years of
Independence, at least 30 crore people out of about 120 crore are
below the poverty line; half the population in the cities live in
slums and shanties; water is a scarcity both in towns and cities,
though India gets one of highest rainfalls in the world and has many
perennial rivers. Only 40 percent of the land is irrigated while 60
percent of the population depends on agriculture and contributes just
20 percent to the GDP. In our pursuit of industrialization,
agriculture has been neglected except during the Green Revolution.
Provide our farmers with water, they will produce enough and more of
food-grains, fruits and vegetables.
Our former President Abdul Kalam has mooted a new model of village
development which updates the vision of Mahatma Gandhi to suit the
needs of the 21st century, and it is called, PURA Providing Urban
amenities in Rural Areas through physical connectivity ( roads &
power), electronic connectivity ( communications network), knowledge
connectivity ( professional and vocations training), and economic
connectivity ( providing best value for rural products and services).
Let us change our priorities. Let villages be the focus of
development. Let decentralization of power empower the people and let
us make every one take part in the development economic, social and
political. This would be the true tribute to the vision of Mahatma