BOOK REVIEW-'HIND SWARAJ'


INTRODUCTION

M K Gandhi wrote the Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule on his voyage from London to South Africa, in 1909, at the young age of 37, when he embarked upon a journey that few people would ever undertake. At a point when it was absolutely dangerous, he tried looking up the difficult issue of civilizational conflict. His full name is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Hind Swaraj holds a significant place in the struggle of India against British rule, and is in itself a word to all of humanity itself. In 1910, it was banned by the British government for raising insurgency amongst the people. Gandhi originally wrote the book in Gujarati on board SS Kildonan Castle. It is written in the form of a conversation between two individuals: - the reader, a random Indian critic of the views and philosophies of Gandhi, who is enlightened by Gandhi, and the editor Gandhi himself. The reader argues the doubts of the citizens concerning struggles with independence, and Gandhi explains why those arguments are flawed and put forth his explanations. Gandhi was wise in choosing this eccentric form of writing as it provides him with the ability to discuss a broad range of topics with all their ramifications and complexities. This book is the elementary insight into Gandhian thought, and is key for anyone trying to understand his works.

Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule is the best place to start with for someone who wants to engage with the mystery and magic that is Gandhian thinking, because Gandhi himself has discussed all the questions that one might have in his philosophies, and this book is as much about his experiments with spirituality as it is about his experiments with practicality.

It has been written in 20 chapters and can be divided bluntly into two parts, the first a critique of modern or western culture, and the other is a description of the purposes and existence of Hind Swaraj and its methods to achieve true Swaraj.


CRITICAL ANALYSIS

Gandhiji speaks about the founding fathers of the Indian National Congress in the first chapter of the book and their contribution towards helping India achieve swaraj. He explains, how the need for swaraj gave rise to INC. He claims that if Dada Bhai Naoroji had not laid the foundation for it, people would not even have dreamed about Swaraj. He believes that just because he trusted the English nation, does not give us the right to dishonor him, because he was the first step in the stair of Indian nationalism. However, for professor Gokhale, he believes that while he had made himself a great English friends, no other Indian would have done as much as for Indian education as he did and he was willing to sacrifice his life in the name of his country. He says that Gokhale had valued thoughts different from his perspective and he should be considered as one of the pillars of swaraj and also the belief of Gandhiji that INC brought together people from different parts of the country to taste and analyze the situation and showed them to what swaraj means and how to achieve it, INC is strong and seeks the honour and respect from people.

Gandhiji believes that the concept of Swaraj took birth after the partition of Bengal. The people felt strong and united enough to resist the British. Gandhiji believes that “India awakened is not likely to fall asleep. The partition ignited the Swadeshi movement, and no longer does the sight of the British petrify Indians. The Indians no longer feared the death row, let alone imprisonment. The Indians now know that petitions to the crown must now be backed by force, and this spirit has spread to every part of India. However, the partition also divided the Indian leaders, into two groups, the Extremists and the Moderates, and there was undeniable enmity between the two groups. Gandhiji knew that this division was not good for the struggle, but at the same time he knew that it was upon the leader to decide how long this rift lasts.

Gandhiji has compared the British parliament to a sterile woman, because it has not done a single productive thing, and to a prostitute, because it is under the control of ministers who pass it amongst themselves. An ideal parliament should be free from the adulteries of humans, which is not possible, and the only thing stopping them from doing their absolute worst is fear. Their opinions are bound by the interest of their respective political parties, and Gandhiji believes had the responsibility of England been handed to a few good men rather than to the parliament, it would be much greater than what it was. Gandhiji says that England has not taken India, but instead we have given it to them. He says that we are responsible for the miseries we have invited upon ourselves, more than the ones who cause the misery. Gandhiji believes that the British have only been able to retain India for so long because of our interests in the commerce they give us, and because we are divided because of our interpersonal quarrels.

Gandhiji believes that Railways, doctors and lawyers have pushed India into poverty. He believes that doctors are all a sham, and the only reason that the English have such a hold on India is because of railways. Railways cause the spread of plagues and famines, evil now has speed and holy places have become unholy. He believes that before the entry of the railways and the British, Indians used to travel on carts and learn each other’s languages, and in a way, were more of a united nation than they are under British rule. Gandhiji is of the thought that when one goes to a lawyer for help in settling a dispute, the lawyers will always side with their clients and find ways to make the dispute bigger, rather than ending it, and the lawyer will do it out of greed for money. Gandhiji says that people should settle disputes amongst themselves, rather than paying money to an establishment that has helped the British secure such a comfortable stronghold in India.

Gandhiji sees human history as a struggle between truth, love and spirit, which bring people together to live in peace, and the other, the blunt force of violence and selfishness. Gandhiji believes that good and bad, and peace and war, are an intrinsic part of human nature. But he believes that the powers of unity and salvation must be the driving force behind liberty, and this is remarkably optimistic of him. Gandhiji believes that for the independence movement, education is an important topic because it speaks to the kinds of ideals that Indians want to pass on to future generations. It is also important to the audience of Gandhiji, who were usually well-off professionals who could attribute their education to their success. Gandhiji believes English education to be meaningless. He wants the Indians to see that morality and spiritual consciousness are the rightful indicators of their progress in life, not rich and status. Gandhiji however is not against the idea of the school system. He just believes that teaching children morality is more important than teaching them arithmetically.

The criticism of machinery or technology by Gandhiji is focused on how it helps the wealthy gain more from employees and in the process intensify economic and political disparities. Gandhiji, in particular, does not have a problem with injustice per se; he assumes that the poor should be as satisfied as to the wealthy. Rather, he is worried that poor people are forced to struggle to survive, and he sees that this pattern is increasingly exacerbated by technology and the centralization of power. Gandhiji says that to free India, one must get rid of the root cause of its slavery, the infatuation with modern civilization. He says that it is Swaraj when we can learn to rule ourselves. And Swaraj doesn’t necessarily mean the removal of the British, who can instead be Indianized. Just as a person needs to keep in control and keep in check the various parts of his consciousness and body to live a happy life, similarly a nation needs to act like a proper functioning individual to achieve true Swaraj.


RELEVANCE OF THE IDEOLOGIES IN THE BOOK

Gandhiji argues that force and vengeance are not justifiable ways of achieving what the activists want. Since the activists want justice, liberty and equality, they have to achieve them with free, just and equitable means. This brings us back to the two types of Swaraj, self-rule and home rule. Gandhi believes that only if they consciously perform their moral duties, that too freely, can individuals and countries genuinely rule themselves. No nation can therefore be coerced into Swaraj, they must choose it freely. However, the order in the global world is far from the practice of non- violence and it is more inclined towards the use of force and vengeance as it is depicted through the two famous world wars and skirmish between the borders and also the method to develop nuclear weapons by powerful countries is evident in showing the competitive and cruel side of countries for creating deterrence among the other countries. The idea of liberty and equality is far away from the idea of Gandhiji as the means to achieve is not justified in today’s world in accordance to his views.

Some phase of relevance still stands today and while his teaching could not help get India rid of modern society, we can still learn a lot from him. He said that while the ideals of our founding fathers are different and perhaps somewhat alienated from ours, we should never disrespect them but today’s young generation feels no shame in insulting our forefathers. The Swadeshi movement mentioned by Gandhiji can be seen mirrored in the “Make in India” and “Atmanirbhar Bharat” movements. The rift between the leaders of that time can be seen in the rift today between the left and the right leaders, with their interpersonal political interests and biases coming in the way of the nation’s good. The critique of Gandhiji on the parliament is heavily significant today too, with the Prime Minister working for the party and his own good, rather than for the nation.

The parliament is just a gold-mine for most of the ministers, who don’t even know what their responsibilities are. The religious tolerance and appreciation shown by Gandhiji is heavily required today, with communal agendas and differences becoming more apparent and brutal each day. His opinions on cow slaughter need to be listened to by the extremists, who have started valuing a cow’s life ore over a person’s life. His affinity for non-violence is what he is most known for, and the people today need to learn the necessity of non-violence, with both the authorities and the pubic getting violent with each other. Today, even a difference of opinion s can lead to bloodshed, and human life has lost value in the eyes of some. This thinking needs a severe change. Coming to his detest for modern civilization, that could be considered the insecurities of a man adapting to change, and to whom these new technologies and professions seem unreliable. And his fears are somewhat justified even today, as the world today is highly selfish, and has becomes so fast-paced that humanity is losing a sense of its priorities.

When asked what he believes to be the true civilization, Gandhiji said that the roots of the Indian civilization provide a strong foundation. He says that the world may consider Indians to be ignorant and blind, but it is so that India has learnt from experience and it is her strength that it denies learning from anybody, because there should be a limit to indulgences. He says that the chase of luxury shrouds from us the meaning of true happiness, actually lies in the mind. He believes that Indian civilization is superior to the Western civilization because it cultures the soul, rather than the body, as the latter does. The belief of India being superior than any other civilization is seen diluted to the extent as people are more relying on other nation’s product and culture. they are bringing outside country culture and practices in India. celebrating new year on 1st January is a practice now whereas according to our culture, new year starts from April or march and I bet that most of the countrymen are not even aware of our practices and traditions. The ignorance developed towards our country social problems is now more evident.

Gandhiji says that the introduction of a new religion in India does not destroy the nation, but instead they merge into it. “In reality there are as many religions as there are individuals”, He says that because of the railways, people conflict with those of a different religion, and thus there is unrest. Gandhiji says that Hindu and Muslims have been divided by the English, but they had worshipped the same god. On cow slaughter, he says that one must use persuasion to stop it, never violence. He says that it is religious leaders who divide the people, similar to what the British have been doing. The guidelines and principle of Gandhiji shows us the clear path to achieve our goal.


CONCLUSION

Looking at Hind Swaraj, one may reasonably conclude that Gandhiji understood some of the disastrous repercussions of modern civilization far better than most of his contemporaries, and that some of his worst conjectures and apprehensions have been validated rather than refuted by subsequent historical occurrences. The book tried to provide alternatives to avoid marginalization and discrimination. It implies a very powerful critique of modern society, on the brink of its utter rejection. A closer review, however, would indicate that his criticisms are much more complex and balanced than is commonly known. Gandhiji in the first instance, distinguishes western civilization from modern civilization per se.

At a deeper level, his views on man, society and nature expressed in Hind Swaraj were quite the test of the time. The indiscriminate use of the revolution in science and technology has caused a lot of problems. History is a testimony to the formulation by Gandhiji that the unbridled use of technology generated power concentration in a few hands. On a more optimistic hand, satyagraha has attracted global attention and it is the only right way to resolve a wrong. Hind swaraj contains some perennial truths despite its obvious polemic style that would not lose its sparkle and reflectivity with the lapse of time. It will still have its importance as long as humanity longs for a better social existence, a more meaningful and good life.



~Noopur Jaiswal



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