THIS ‘seed text’ by Mahatma Gandhi was written between November 13 and 22, 1909 on his way to South Africa from England aboard the steamer ‘Kildonan Castle’. Ten days of continuous writing on the ship’s stationery were marked by Gandhi’s restless intensity as he wrote when he no longer could ‘restrain’ himself. When the right hand tired, Gandhi wrote 38 pages with his left hand. The hand-written manuscript comprised 88 questions posed by the reader and 88 responses by the editor in 20 chapters spread over 271 pages and an introduction of five pages.
While Jawaharlal Nehru believed in modern development of the country, Gandhiji put forth his view for Hind Swaraj, where he advocated village as a metaphor in 1909. He conceded that it may well come to pass that he remained the only person to believe in it. It could indeed be that India, like the rest of the world, is swept in the modern ‘math-like circling’ towards ‘self-destruction’. Gandhiji said his duty was to continue to do what he could to “save India and through it the world from such a fate”.
Gandhiji classified his views on the modern civilisation thus: “My countrymen impute the evils of modern civilisation to the English people and therefore, believe that the English people are bad, and not the civilisation they represent. My countrymen, therefore, believe that they should adopt modern civilisation and modern methods of violence to drive out the English. Hind Swaraj has been written in order to show that they are following a suicidal policy and that, if they would revert to their own glorious civilisation, either the English would adopt the latter and become Indianised or find their occupation in India gone.”
It is interesting to read that most of the answers provided by Gandhiji are laced with wry humour and irony. Referring to passive resistance, Gandhiji said, “Passive resistance is a method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is the reverse of resistance by arms. When I refuse to do a thing that is repugnant to my conscience, I use soul-force.”
Gandhiji’s dislike for English education comes to the fore when he says, “It is worth noting that by receiving English education we have enslaved the nation. Hypocrisy, tyranny, to cheat and strike terror into the people…Is it not a most painful thing that if I want to go to a court of justice, I must employ the English language as a medium. That when I become a barrister, I may not speak my mother tongue and that someone should have to translate to me from my own language: Is not this absolutely absurd? Is it not a sign of slavery?”
There are many valuable suggestions made by Gandhiji but today we have moved so far ahead of them in the past 60 years or more that it is not possible for us to go back to them.
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