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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Hind Swaraj times...

Interestingly, Baba Ramdev's demands letter submitted to the Prime Minister (one of the versions that has appeared on-line) has a reference to this small book written by Mahatma Gandhi in 1909. 

In the Appendix submitted, it states:
3. To end foreign laws, customs and culture prevailing in the independent Bharat so that every Indian can get economic and social justice.  We should follow Mahatma Gandhi’s book named Hind Swaraj mentioning that after independence we need to remove British system and adopt Bhartiya system.

It is important to know that one of the fundamental disagreements between Gandhi and Nehru was over the views Gandhiji expressed regarding the future development and governance of India in the book Hind Swaraj. Gandhiji time and again had reiterated that he stood by what he said in this book written much before his arrival in India or leading the Indian freedom struggle. 

Some of the important differences are part of the publication "Quintessential Gandhi" published  by Samanvaya in 2005. Later republished in English and Tamil by Kizhakku Padhippagam.

Here below are few excerpts that may be of interest and quite relevant in the context of the on-going debate:

The key … is to realise that it [Hind Swaraj] is not an attempt to go back to the so-called ignorant, dark ages. But it is an attempt to see beauty in voluntary simplicity, poverty and slowness. … the modern rage for variety, for flying through the air, for multiplicity of wants, etc., have no fascination for me. They deaden the inner being in us. Therefore, even whilst I am travelling at the rate of 40 miles per hour, I am conscious that it is a necessary evil, and that my best work is to be done in little Sevagram … and in the neighbouring villages to which I can walk. But being a highly practical man I do not avoid railway travelling or motoring for the mere sake of looking foolishly consistent”.
Harijan, October 14, 1939.

Gandhi's vision of Hind Swaraj was countered, however, b many, including by one of his young close associates, Jawaharlal Nehru, as early as 1928. Provoked by Gandhiji's letter (dated January 4th, 1928), Nehru elucidated the reasons for his dissent as follows: 

You know how intensely I have admired you and believe in you as a leader who can lead this country to victory and freedom. I have done so in spite of the fact that I hardly agreed with anything that some of your previous publications – Indian Home Rule, etc., - contained. I felt and feel that you were and are infinitely greater than your little books… Reading many of your articles in Young India – your autobiography, etc., - I have often felt how very different my ideals were from yours. ”
Letter from Jawaharlal Nehru, Allahabad, January 11, 1928.

"...You misjudge greatly, I think, the civilization of the West and attach too great an importance to its many failings. You have stated somewhere that India has nothing to learn from the West and that she had reached a pinnacle of wisdom in the past. I certainly disagree with this viewpoint and I neither think that the so-called Ramaraj was very good in the past, nor do I want it back. I think that western or rather industrial civilization is bound to conquer India, maybe with many changes and adaptations, but none the less, in the main, based on industrialism. You have criticized strongly the many obvious defects of industrialism and hardly paid any attention to its merits. .... It is the opinion of most thinkers in the West that these defects are not due to industrialism as such but to the capitalist system which is based on exploitation of others”.
Letter from Jawaharlal Nehru, Allahabad, January 11, 1928.

Gandhiji seems to have been taken aback by such an outburst and wrote to Nehru:
The differences between you and me appear to me to be so vast and radical that there seems to be no meeting ground between us…I suggest a dignified way of unfurling your banner. Write to me a letter for publication showing your differences. I will print it in Young India and write a brief reply”.
Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru, January 17, 1928.

But Nehru was not prepared to have a public discussion of his views.

Seventeen years later in 1945, similar differences relating to the shape of indenendent India’s polity arose again between Gandhiji and Jawaharlal Nehru. In Oct 1945, Gandhiji had said:
You will not be able to understand me if you think that I am talking about the villages of today. My ideal village still exist only in my imagination. Men and women will live in freedom, prepared to face the whole world. … Nobody will be allowed to be idle or to wallow in luxury. Everyone will have to do physical work. Granting all this … a number of things … will have to be organized on a large scale. Perhaps there will even be railways and also post and telegraph offices. I do not know what things there will not be. Nor am I bothered about it. If I can make sure of the essential things, other things will follow in due course”.
Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru, October 5, 1945.

I believe that if India, and through India the world, is to achieve real freedom, then sooner or later we shall have to go and live in the villages - in huts, not in palaces. Millions of people can never live in cities and palaces in comfort and peace. Nor can they do so by killing one another, that is, by resorting to violence and untruth. I have not the slightest doubt that, but for the pair, truth and non-violence, mankind will be doomed. We can have the vision of that truth and non-violence only in the simplicity of the villages”. - Gandhi to Jawaharlal Nehru, October 5, 1945.

Nehru however demurred again as in 1928 and wrote:
The question before us is not one of truth versus untruth and non-violence versus violence…I do not understand why a village should necessarily embody truth and non-violence. A village, normally speaking, is backward intellectually and culturally and no progress can be made from a backward environment. Narrow-minded people are much more likely to be untruthful and violent”.
Nehru to Gandhi, October 1945

Indeed as freedm seemed imminent, the elite openly began to be drawn to modernity and its institutions.

Eighteen years later, however, when India had been launched on the Western road by the British and the Indian elite, Jawaharlal Nehru spoke in a somewhat sombre mood in September 1963, conceded:

My mind was trying to grapple with the problem of what to do with more than 5,50,000 villages of India and the people who live there. …If we were to think purely in terms of output, all the big and important factories in India are not really so important as agriculture. ...what Gandhiji did was fundamentally right. He was looking all the time at the villages of India, at the most backward people in India in every sense, and he devised something. It was not merely the spinning wheel; that was only a symbol. He laid stress on village industries, which again to the modern mind does not seem very much worthwhile.
…People think that he was against machinery. I don’t think he was against it. He did not want machinery except in the context of the well-being of the mass of our people. What he suggested – cottage industry - was something which immediately benefitted the people, not only in regard to employment but also in production”.
Speech by Jawaharlal Nehru, to a seminar on ‘Social Welfare in a Developing Economy’, New Delhi,
Septmeber 22, 1963.

In the Indian Parliament in December 1963 again he spoke:
I begin to think more and more of Mahatma Gandhi’s approach. It is odd that I am mentioning his name in this connection. I am entirely an admirer of the modern machine, and I want the best machinery and the best technique, but, taking things as they are in India, however rapidly we advance towards the machine... the fact remains that large numbers of our people are not touched by it and will not be for a considerable time. Some other method has to be evolved that they become partners in production, even though the production apparatus of theirs may not be efficient as compared to modern technique, but we must use that, for otherwise, it would be wasted. That idea has to be kept in mind. We should think more of the very poor country men of ours and do something to improve their lot as quickly as we can. This problem is troubling me a great deal”.
Reply to the Debate on Planning, Lok Sabha, December 11, 1963

1 comment:

thiru said...

Wow...what a realisation from Reply to the Debate on Planning, Lok Sabha, December 11, 1963.........

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