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Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj: Self-Governance in India

Hind Swaraj is a book written by Gandhi, which represents his view on modern civilization. The Reader and The Editor are the main characters who engage in a dialogue, where the latter explains his understanding of self-governance in the Indian state. In this book, Gandhi summarizes his view on the social order that should be established in India. Hind Swaraj provides arguments for the need to re-establish the social order in India and ultimately abolish the traditions and practices that originated from the British Empire.

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Firstly, it is necessary to examine the meaning of the book’s name to determine its central idea. “Swaraj” can be translated from Hindu as self-rule and refers to the form of governance promoted by Gandhi for India (Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj). At the time when Gandhi wrote this work, India was an English colony, meaning that all aspects of life were controlled by the foreign government. He, however, wanted to see a free country, without any signs of English influence. More specifically, Gandhi wanted the state that is governed similarly to the United Kingdom, but without the attributes, or as he refers to it, the tiger’s nature with no tiger (16). This is reflected in the way Gandhi addresses people speaking English when he states that they should speak Hindu first. Gandhi wrote that “to give millions a knowledge of English is to enslave them” (10). This perhaps, reflects the idea of a connection between one’s culture and the language they speak, as in order to be successful in the British Empire, an Indian would have to learn English, completely abandoning his or her native tongue. Therefore, the theme of Hind Swaraj is Gandhi’s view of self-governance in India.

In the concluding chapter of the Hind Swaraj, the Editor summarizes his views on the Home Rule by declaring his 19-point program addressed at the Reader. Gandhi provides advice to all Indians, for example – “if a doctor, he will give up medicine, and understand that rather than mending bodies, he should mend souls” (144). This also represents the overall view of Gandhi on the Indian civilization that merged with the English state, since here he offers to return to traditional values instead of worshipping those brought to India by foreigners. He offers similar advice to people of other professions, which supports the idea that Hind Swaraj and the 19 point program are written for all Indians, and the purpose of it is to provide that any other form of government apart from self-rule cannot be successful (Ghandi 146). Therefore, the 19-point program aims to outline the way the self-government can be achieved.

Editor’s 19-point program is addressed to the Reader and all Indians in general. However, technically, Gandhi himself noted that he wrote Hind Swaraj for his friend since he states, “I wrote the entire Hind Swaraj for my dear friend Dr. Pranjivan Mehta” (‘Hind Swaraj or the Indian Home-Rule’ (1909)). It is possible that Dr. Mehta and his conversations with Gandhi served as an inspiration for the dialogue, allowing Gandhi to develop better his argument based on the understanding of some questions that Indians may have. The Reader and the form of dialogue Gandhi use in this work help address some questions in more detail, since the author can respond to criticism of his ideas, building a more persuasive argument (Saroj). Apart from that, Gandhi critiques some universal elements of civilization, which are present even today. Therefore, his 19-point program is addressed primarily to the people of India, but also can be used by other nations to review their core values and morality.

Gandhi’s philosophy was based on non-violence as the primary approach to achieving one’s goals. It embodies the principles of true civilization and nonviolence because Gandhi sees the real strength in the lack of fear, which cannot be manifested through violent acts. In the book, Gandhi reflects on the extremists who want to object to the British rule in India through violence, bombings, and other aggressive acts (10). However, the author does not agree that this is an appropriate way of achieving independence.

Additionally, Gandhi condemns modern civilization in his work. Mainly, he suggests that in many aspects of social life, the impact of the British governing had a negative effect on Hindus (Gandhi 34). One example is a religion since fewer people practiced any tradition under British rule. Gandhi even explains that he does not think that all British people are bad (35). However, he views them as overly selfish, which is inconsistent with Indian traditions. In general, Gandhi’s critique of modern civilization is corrected to the irreligiousness o that people in India developed while being ruled by the British Empire. This does not relate to any specific religion that people in India practice, but outlines the lack of universal values that underline all religions. Hence, the approach Gandhi takes to critiquing the Indian state also refers to the author’s overall critique of modern civilization.

Gandhi’s main argument is that the ideology, which the British Empire brought to India, is destructive and can be seen as a test to the civilization. He argues that it is not enough to replace the English rulers with Indian ones if both are guide by the same principles and carry out the same policy (Gandhi, 73). As a result, instead of an independent nation, the state would become Englistan, a mixture of India and England. Instead, people should focus on essential values, such as duty and morality.

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Gandhi’s 19-point program embodies true civilization and non-violence. Gandhi states the following two rules – “1. Real home-rule is self-rule or self-control. Hind Swaraj” and “2. The way to it is passive resistance: that is soul-force or love-force” (146). These quotes reflect his view on civilization as something achieved through passive resistance. Moreover, Gandhi does not believe that violence can help them achieve the desired independence from England. He states, “The force of love and pity is infinitely greater than the force of arms” (Gandhi, 146). While the extremists, whom Gandhi mentioned in his work, would disagree, this approach signifies a more mature way of achieving independence and home rule. Therefore, Gandhi’s work is an embodiment of values that civil society should practice.

It provides a more effective way of achieving Swaraj because Gandhi criticizes the approaches of extremists and modernists, pointing out their weaknesses. The violence that extremists impose on others to provide that they should have a free and self-governed state goes against the argument that these people have the competence to self-rule. Gandhi himself is “neither an extremist nor a moderate,” moreover, he does not consider himself a third party (146). Instead, he argues that his position is both compliant and different from the two, as Gandhi believes that home rule cannot be achieved by merely abolishing English people. Therefore, Gandhi argues that his opinion is a combination of different views, which makes his viewpoint unique and more effective in comparison to others.

Overall, Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj is a dialogue between the Editor and the Reader regarding the possibility of achieving self-governance in India. In this work, Gandhi outlines some of the critical issues with the Indian civilization affected by the British Empire. Moreover, he critiques human culture in general and argues for the need for peaceful resistance. The work highlights the need to abandon all negative aspects of civilization that led to irreligiousness or lack of real values.

Works Cited

“The Gandhian Concept of Self-Rule.” Mahatma Gandi. Web.

“Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj: A Summary And Centennial View.” Mahatma Gandi. Web.

Gandi, Mahatma. Hind Swaraj. Navajivan Trust, 2010.

Saroj, Salil. “Civil society in Gandhian perspective.” The Hills Times, 2020. Web.

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