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September 2, 2008

Hind Swaraj

This booklet is a reprint, with slight modifications, of a research paper I wrote way back in
1982. It deals with the struggle that I went through in trying to understand what Gandhi stood for, culminating in a realization that his small booklet "Hind Swaraj" written in 1908
contained the essence of his approach to life.

"Hind Swaraj" is not an easy book to understand, especially for people used to logical
reasoning. That is perhaps why Nehru and other followers of Gandhi were aghast at what he had written, and rejected it as a panacea for India's problems. But serious students of Gandhi would be making a blunder if they ignored its contents and message.

August 23, 2008


Mahatma Gandhi had conveyed the quintessence of his ideas in a small booklet titled Hind
Swaraj, which was first published using a question-answer format in the columns of the
Indian Opinion of South Africa in 1908. As he came to occupy a position of pre-eminence on the political and social scene in our country, this booklet was read widely and reprinted
several times. However, his ideas as conveyed in this booklet found little acceptance, even
among his admirers and followers. Many thought the booklet represented a view-point that he must have discarded with the passage of time. But Gandhi corrected them, saying:
"The booklet has gone through several editions and I commend it to those who would care to read it. I withdraw nothing except one word of it, and that in deference to a lady friend."

However, Gandhi did concede that he had been unable to win others over to his point of
view. Hence he made an all-important distinction between his 'corporate activity' - where, in deference to the wishes of others, he was omitting a crusade against modern civilization - and his personal goal, wherein the objective remained the attainment of Swaraj as spelt out in the booklet:

"But I would warn the reader against thinking that I am today aiming at the Swaraj described therein. I know that India is not ripe for it. It may seem an impertinence to say so. But such is my conviction. I am individually working for the self-rule pictured therein. But today my corporate activity is undoubtedly devoted to the attainment of Parliamentary Swaraj in accordance with the wishes of the people of India."

The above passage was written in 1921. Could it be that in the year 2008, a full century after the publication of Hind Swaraj, India is getting ripe for its message? There are a few signs, some faint and some not so faint, that not only in India but all over the world, there is a growing disenchantment with the 'fruits' of modern civilization, which Gandhi had
condemned in unequivocal terms. But does this mean we are getting ready to make the great transformation necessary to actually follow the lead given by Gandhi? What would such a step imply, both at the personal and societal level? It is the purpose of this booklet to address these important questions.

Gandhi Peace Foundation
New Delhi 1982

To download the full text of this brochure as a pdf file, click here.

Posted by ananthu at 9:15 AM