It is evident from this brief outline of Gandhiji'sprojected Ram Rajya that he did not intend a monarchy or the existence of castes. The fact that he used the phrase ?village republic? is significant. Varna was supported by him, not as an oppressive social arrangement but as the recognition of the various demands of labour in an organically related community. Hence, learning and knowledge would be accumulated equally by all. All members of the community are obligated to defend their community. Wealth is to be produced by all members of the community and to be distributed equally. Menial services should be undertaken by all members of the community.
It is, therefore, difficult to see why critics would willfully misunderstand Gandhiji'sviews as an example of his advocacy of varna and caste.
One may see his vision as Utopian, but that is a different matter from saying that he supported the caste system and that he was indifferent to the existence of Untouchability. Nor can it be said that he did not do anything about it in the existing circumstances of his day, as indeed the entire world knows. His choice of the phrase Ram Rajya and the name Harijan (children of God) which Dr Ambedkar took objection to, was simply because he was a Hindu. It may not be irrelevant to point out that Dr Ambedkar himself chose to become a Buddhist. This is his privilege and right and indeed who shall complain about the noble figure of Gautama the Buddha? But so was the figure of Rama in Gandhiji'sinterpretation. We know from his Autobiography that the reading of the Tulasidas Ramayana was a regular feature of the Gandhi household in Gujarat where he grew up, and this set the course for his devotional attitude to the name Rama, which he also saw as a generic name for God. Hence, Ram Rajya. And as we have seen above, there is nothing in the village republic that smacks of discrimination or oppression or the existence of castes.
Dr Ambedkar'sview of Gandhiji was often coloured by his frustration with the Indian National Congress and the slowness of reform. But he overlooked the fact that both Congress and Gandhiji were deeply involved with the life and death struggle with the colonial government and that Gandhiji himself differed on many issues with the Congress. There was also the question of the separate electorate for the Dalit community which Ambedkar advocated and Gandhiji rejected, on the grounds that the future Indian polity would then become a fractured one. Gandhiji respected Dr Ambedkar but on the question of the unity of the Indian polity he was uncompromising. Dr Ambedkar was bitter at the time and continued to feel so, even when the Nehru government inducted him as the Law Minister in the cabinet and he was charged along with others to frame the Indian Constitution. His bitterness has become a fateful legacy to the Dalit movement which he helped to establish. The Dalit movement may have legitimate grievances with Indian society today, but those grievances certainly cannot be laid at Gandhiji'sdoor.
The trend today worldwide is towards taking a fresh look at the Gandhian vision of the village republic. Our world has become over industrialised and over monetised, as recent events in the global economy have shown. Climate change and environmental disasters loom over the planet. Poverty and food shortage are global and both India and the world need a Gandhian style project. It is hoped that the new government at the centre, will incorporate some aspects of that project, especially the emphasis on agriculture(It may interest the reader to note that there is a shortage of agricultural labour in Kerala. And, of course the suicides of farmers in other states is well known.).
Now more than ever the Gandhian vision must be reclaimed, especially by those who are devoted to the well being of India. As Deendayal Upadhyaya expressed it :
With the support of universal knowledge and our heritage, we shall create a Bharat which will excel all its past glories, and will enable every citizen in its fold to steadily progress in the development of his manifold latent possibilities and to achieve . . . a sense of unity with the entire creation…
This is our message to humanity at the cross roads. May God give us strength to succeed in this task (Integral Humanism : Fourth Lecture 1965).
Or, as Gandhiji put it:
I may be taunted with the retort that this is all Utopian and, therefore, not worth a single thought. If Euclid'spoint, though incapable of being drawn by human agency has an imperishable value, my picture has its own for mankind to live. Let India live for this true picture, though never realisable in its completeness. We must have a proper picture of what we want, before we can have something approaching it.
If there ever is to be a republic of every village in India, then I claim verity for my picture in which the last is equal to the first or, in other words, no one is to be the first and none the last3.