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Gandhi's Vision and Ground Realities

Work inspired by Gandhi's 'Hind Swaraj'.

Published in 1909, this book expresses Gandhiji's views on Swaraj, modern civilization, mechanization, British rule, railways, Hindu-Muslim feud, etc. A casual read of a book of merely eighty-four pages would be a past time, but to have a sense of the book, a great deal of encouragement, zeal, and passion is required. It's a book written in simple language, with easyto-understand words, and it tells us about the struggle of the poverty-stricken Indians, but why Gandhiji wrote this book is the question that stands before us which leads to Gandhi's vision of India, his essential philosophy, and his ideologies.

"The original Hind Swaraj is written in Gujarati. It has had a chequered career. It was first published in the Indian Opinion of South Africa. It was written in 1908 during my return voyage from London to South Africa. I came in contact with every Indian anarchist in London. Their bravery impressed me, but I felt that their zeal was misguided. I felt that violence was no remedy for India's ills and that her civilization required the use of a different and higher weapon for self-protection. The Satyagraha of South Africa was still an infant, hardly two years old. But it had developed sufficiently to permit me to write of it with some degree of confidence. What I wrote was so much appreciated that it was published as a booklet. It attracted some attention in India and the Bombay Government prohibited its circulation. I replied by publishing its English translation."

The above quotation is from the first page of Gandhi's 'Hind Swaraj' published in Young India 1921. He was so disturbed by the condition of his fellow countrymen who were crushed under the heel of British rule that he said, "I have written because I could not restrict myself." Gandhiji had a dream and he laid down his life for it. A dream to achieve 'Swaraj' for his fellow countrymen and the world. His definition of 'Swaraj' is different from what people think. As his book says, "In effect, it means this: that we want English rule without the Englishmen. You want the tiger's nature, but not the tiger; that is to say, you would make India English. And when it becomes English, it will not be called Hindustan but Englishtan. This is not the Swaraj I want."

As Jawaharlal Nehru said about Gandhiji, "In his single-track and yet many-sided nature, the dominating impression that one gathered was his identification with the masses, a community of spirit with them, an amazing sense of unity with the dispossessed and poverty-stricken not only of India but of the world. Even religion, as everything else, took second place to his passion to raise these submerged people."

(Photo Source: The New York Times)

Gandhiji wrote this book to give vent to his feelings about the circumstances and conditions as they were in India and the world during 1909 and before, and to lay down some basic principles that can lead humanity to a higher level of consciousness and to rise above the mundane. It is not only a book that prescribes how India can secure political freedom but also more importantly, how humans can rise above the animal to become a world full of peace. His ambition was "to wipe every tear from every eye". Various situations compelled Gandhiji to word his thoughts and views.

Primarily, 'Hind Swaraj' deals with two issues, a critique of modern civilization, and the nature and structure of Indian Swaraj and the means and methods to achieve it. Amid passive opposition, 'Hind Swaraj' was published as Satyagraha was then to protect the fundamental human rights of the people of Indian descent living in South Africa. During his study days, the principle underlying the movement emanated from his Indian cultural origins, his exposure to western culture, and his increasing interest in liberating India from British colonialism. Gandhiji was highly convinced with the thought that no sort of dignified life will be present in the fate of the Indians as long as India remained a colony of the British.

Giving the meaning behind the book, Gandhiji