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ARTICLES > EDUCATION > In the Field and in the Academy: An Outsider's Observations
In the Field and in the Academy: An Outsider's Observations
By Thomas Weber*
This is based on the Fourth Annual Gandhi Lecture delivered at the Vardhaman Mahaveer Open University in Kota, on 21 July 2012.

I FIRST WENT TO India in 1975 as a young person with a strong interest in the country and its most famous son. I returned in 1979 specifically to find Gandhi and have been back on Gandhi quests about a dozen times since. I have now spent something over three years of my life there, much of it at Gandhi ashrams or in the Gandhi archives of various libraries, or talking to old Gandhians, many of whom I had the privilege of calling friend before they passed away. Hopefully this gives me some small claim to make comments on the status of what may be termed “Gandhism” in India. And, as an outsider, I have no political axes to grind or profit to make from taking any particular stand.
At about the time that I was preparing to return to India in July of this year, I saw a notice for the setting up of yet another Gandhi research centre in India, this time at relatively out of the way Jalgaon. My immediate reaction was: isn’t this great, there must be a lot of interest in Gandhi. But then a question also came to my mind: How many such institutions of good quality can India accommodate? With the opening of yet another research centre, my mind has been playing with the thoughts of what all these centres mean. What is the quality of the research that comes out of them? Do they indicate a genuine resurgence in Gandhi scholarship or are they merely a sign that various universities or those high up in the Gandhian firmament had their own personal needs that have to be filled? That they cannot be seen to be lagging behind the competition? Are we trying to compensate for disappearing Gandhians by endowing Gandhi institutions? And are these institutions lulling us into feelings about the health of Gandhism in the country while Gandhian activists fade away with us hardly noticing?
A few years ago I attended meetings to help prepare the course outlines for an M.Phil in Gandhian thought which is now being offered by the Indira Gandhi National Open University. Most of those around the table were teachers of Gandhian studies or Gandhi-related subjects in their respective universities. At that time similar questions come up for me as I was confronted with the spread of Gandhi-related academic courses. And similar questions were again raised a short time ago when the first issue of the International Journal of Gandhi Studies was issued from America and the GITAM Journal of Gandhian Studies was launched in India. So, what is going on? Has Gandhi really taken on a brilliant new career? What I hope to explore in this brief comment is the future of Gandhian activists, Gandhian institutions, Gandhi scholarship and Gandhian courses in Indian tertiary education.

Disappearing Field Gandhians
Perhaps Gandhi has taken on a new career, but it is a different one to the one I first encountered in India. If my memory is sound, when I first went to the land of Gandhi in 1975 there were Sarvodaya bookstalls at most large railway stations. They are rare now. And there were far more Gandhian activists who identified as Gandhians (the The Bhoodan/Gramdan movement was not far in the past and the JP movement was at its height). On the other hand there were very few Gandhi courses at universities. As the years have gone by and the old Gandhians have disappeared and their ashrams have been converted into small museums, the number of Gandhi research centers, tertiary level Gandhi courses and Gandhi journals has grown exponentially.
By way of summary, one could say that Gandhian activism, once the main occupation of the Gandhian community, seems to have been replaced by an academic interest in Gandhi. Of course pedagogy and research are not bad things. In the heyday of the post-Gandhi Gandhian movement, in the time of JP and Vinoba, there were training camps and workshops for activists and the JP-inspired Gandhian Institute of Studies at Rajghat in Varanasi was a focal point of international peace and nonviolence scholarship. But now it seems that most of Gandhian pedagogy is theoretical and the interest in Gandhi is academic rather than practical. Perhaps times have changed and it is a good thing that there is enough of an academic interest to keep the many Gandhi courses and journals alive. After all, Gandhi was adamant that he did not want to found any sect that carried on in his name. Still, as I have not been able to do a count, I wonder just how many Gandhi-related courses there are now being offered around the country. I also wonder just how many Gandhi centers and research institutes there are (someone recently informed me that there are over 400 Gandhi centers in tertiary educational institutions) and how many small Gandhi ashrams have become little more than local museums. Perhaps the academic interest in Gandhi, as Gandhians themselves disappear, was simply inevitable and may yet bear fruit and help shape a more Gandhian future. So far no one seems to have collected the evidence needed for us to understand the outcome of this movement. However, for me at least, there is still a question of whether this evolution, even if it was not a consciously decided one, has been positive.
Of course it may have been merely symbolic, but back then, when I first came to India specifically in search of Gandhi, there were still plenty of self-identified Gandhians plying charkas (and greeting others with hanks of hand spun cotton). Now even in ostensibly Gandhian institutions it is rare to find anyone spinning regularly. And rather than being a symbol of a Gandhian lifestyle, khadi seems to have been co-opted as the uniform of politicians or trendy fashion for the stylish young. And one wonders which of these groups is the least Gandhian. So, is this just a change or is it a loss? Perhaps spinning was a product of its time, but Gandhian activism is timeless and needed more than ever.
A Directory of Gandhian Constructive Workers, published less than half a century after the Mahatma’s death, lists less than 90 who could be identified as being younger than 60 and only five less than 40 years old among the almost 700 entries. One can only wonder how thin that book would have become if it was updated and republished now over fifteen years later. And one could wonder how thick a book listing Gandhian academics, as opposed to constructive workers, would have become. Almost all of those who were acquainted with Gandhi personally have passed away and, although there are many youngsters in India doing grassroots work in a Gandhian vein, often under the umbrella of the National Alliance of People’s Movements, perhaps it is not unjustified to say that there is no longer a Gandhian movement as such in India today. This certainly does not mean that Gandhi has disappeared from the scene—again one needs only to look at the proliferation of Gandhi courses in universities, Gandhi study centres, and Gandhi journals that are on offer to dispel such a notion.
As we near the centennial anniversary of Gandhi’s arrival back to India from South Africa as the Mahatma, perhaps it is time to look at the legacy of Gandhi and his followers in his homeland. And perhaps it is a task that should be undertaken by all those who consider themselves as part of the Gandhi family. Even outsiders like me.
In 1983, Paul Clements, in his investigation of the Gandhian movement, wrote that,
[The Gandhian movement] is remarkable in modern times because of its longevity and its combination of institutional strength and ability to maintain a creative edge. Thirty-five years after Gandhi himself was assassinated it continues to attract adherents. It has evolved along with independent India and continues to offer a vital alternative to the prevailing ideas about how India should develop.]
Fifteen years ago, that is about a dozen years after Clements’ optimistic words, I wrote that this did not seem to be the case fifty years after Gandhi’s assassination. Then I noted that following the political battles of the mid-1970s JP Movement, much of the energy of those we could still call Gandhian activists revolved around the work of long-term village development projects. This may have been a logical next-step following upon the heels of the Bhoodan/Gramdan movements and the splits in the Gandhian movement during JP’s Total Revolution. However, when I came to write, I could ask whether this was still the Gandhian movement or, while valuable, something else. And since then most of the JP-inspired Gandhians have aged and Gandhism in India seems to have taken a very different tack.
As the Gandhians disappear, it does not mean that Gandhi has become irrelevant in all circles. Where benefit can be gained by the cooption of Gandhi, he is still very relevant. A prime example is his employment in the political sphere. Almost twenty years ago, senior Gandhian Manmohan Choudhuri noted that many young people in India saw the then Congress government as Gandhi’s party. They saw that the political system was riddled with corruption, and in their minds this tainted the Mahatma and gave the Gandhian movement and philosophy, about neither of which the young knew very much, a bad name. Choudhuri remarked that, “Today Gandhi is being presented to the people as a fusty old grand dad who admonishes children to keep quiet, not to contradict their elders, to have respect for those in authority and so on. As ‘Father of the Nation’ he has been turned into the “patron saint of the Government of India.” Those who do not “care a fig for any of his ideas and principles ... use Gandhi for winning elections”. This was an interesting observation in its time, but one cannot help wondering how many of the young today think of Gandhi at all when they think of politics. Of course certain politicians still try to appropriate Gandhi for their own benefit. One needs only to remember the recent self-righteous indignation among certain politicians over the publication of a Gandhi biography by American author Joseph Lelyveld. They had not read the book, but inaccurate hearsay was enough for them to use the Father of the Nation for their own purposes.
In the late 1980s, the American resident Indian scholar Ishwar Harris also wrote about the then current position of the Gandhian movement in India under the title “Sarvodaya in Crisis”. In his analysis, coming just a few years after Clements’ reasonably positive observations, he noted that the movement, once seen as the guiding star for the future of India, had been more or less reduced to the status of a voluntary social work agency that had become factionalised with its programs faltering and its leading figures aging. He concluded that Gandhi has been defeated in India and was on the verge of being ignored. Although even during the destruction of the Babri Mosque at Ayodhya the Gandhian groups could not co-ordinate their efforts in any significant way, resulting in a brave but small and ultimately ineffective action that was overtaken by circumstances, this does not mean that Harris is right in every sense. The Gandhian movement certainly has faded even further since the time he wrote, and neither Swadhyaya, the hope of the 1990s, nor Anna Hazare, the brief hope for some in 2011-12, have filled the gap. However, it is demonstrably not correct to assert that Gandhi has been defeated in India and is on the verge of being ignored. Gandhi is now as present as ever, but he has to a significant degree moved from the field into the academy.

The Gandhi of the Academy
When I started my Gandhi quest in India, there were some small local Gandhian newsletters and there was the more or less scholarly journal Gandhi Marg. The American and the GITAM journals I mentioned earlier are just the latest manifestation of a more recent proliferation of the many hard copy Gandhi journals, mostly published in India. Having seen the coming and going of titles such as Ahimsa Nonviolence, Anasakti Darshan, Journal of Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, Gandhian Studies, Gandhians in Action, Sarvodaya, Sansthakul, Journal of Peace and Gandhian Studies, Gandhian Perspectives, Gandhi Jyoti and the Journal of the Gandhi Media Centre, makes one wonder about their viability and, indeed, desirability. Being blunt, there really is not enough quality research and writing to justify so many journals and often they tend to be second rate and do not last for too long. I have often wondered why the Gandhi scholars in India have not concentrated their efforts on one journal, say Gandhi Marg as the most obvious candidate, and made it into a world quality resource of top-notch Gandhi scholarship, before this opportunity slips overseas as may now be happening.
When I first came to India there were few Gandhi courses offered in universities and even fewer in English. And I did not come across any Gandhi research centers except the then exceptional ones at Rajghat in Varanasi, which, when I last visited, was a shell of its former brilliant self, and the Gandhi Peace Foundation in Delhi. As I have already mentioned, more recently many Gandhi-related journals have come and gone and yet another major Gandhi research centre has opened and new Gandhi-related university courses, such as the one currently being advertised by IGNOU, are regularly being introduced. Is there really enough interest to make all these endeavors viable? Should we be cooperating to enable a few world-class centers and journals to flourish? Because I do not have the figures, I have been wondering how many Gandhi journals are actually published, how many university-level courses there are on Gandhi and Gandhian thought, and how many Gandhi research centers there really are. And I have been wondering why there are so many. In my most optimistic imaginings I like to think that it is because of an increased genuine hunger to understand Gandhi by the youth of the country. Perhaps the young who had their appetites for Gandhi whetted by the movie Lage Raho Munnabhai now have a variety of places to go to further their knowledge and are flocking to tertiary institutions and devouring the journal literature. But it would be nice to have concrete evidence for this.
Gandhi was greatly concerned with education and championed a scheme based on socially and culturally appropriate work related to basic human needs, such as the provision of food and clothing undertaken by the school community of children and adults. While it is probably unrealistic for university level urban academic courses to expect the students to develop rural self-sufficiency skills through manual work as part of their study program in the 21st Century, it would be interesting to know how many Gandhi-related courses are purely academic and how many have a community outreach program. Such programs exist at Gandhigram rural university in Tamil Nadu, where participation in the Shanti Sena (peace brigade) is built into the curriculum, and at the Gandhi-founded Gujarat Vidyapith, where the Gandhi course has a large practical component. It would be instructive to determine what difference there is in the levels of participation in socially responsible activism among the graduates of those courses that included community work and those that did not.
There are also other questions which could profitably be asked about the many Gandhi courses being taught around the country. The course outlines that I have seen, and I assume all the others, have noble sounding preambles and learning objectives. But are they in fact being fulfilled? Perhaps if there was some research available on who did these Gandhi courses and why, and what the outcome for them was, we would be pleasantly surprised. Who does enroll in the courses? Are they young people with a genuine interest in Gandhi, perhaps young activists or potential activists who are looking for theory to guide their actions? Why else might students do these courses? Just to get certificates for job or promotion prospects? Do the students, in fact, become more activist from having done the courses? And if not, why not? What happens to them? Are the courses appealing to non-Hindu students? Why are more overseas students not coming to India, the land of the Mahatma, to study Gandhi through these courses? We might also ask who are teaching these courses, what their qualifications are, whether these teachers have any field experience, what is on the course syllabuses and what efforts are made to ensure that the courses are stimulating, up to date and relevant?
More recently I again had cause to wonder. I was involved in an advanced seminar on Gandhi held at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Simla. Many of the wonderfully keen students were doing peace studies courses at some of India’s best universities. Of course they had heard of all the major Western peace and conflict resolution theorists (they were well versed in the writings of Johan Galtung and John Paul Lederach) but they knew nothing about Vinoba and JP’s Shanti Sena that was so innovative and important in India in the 1960s and 1970s and set an example for peace teams worldwide. Ironically, I was teaching the lessons of the Shanti Sena to my peace studies class in Melbourne while the Indian students had, incredulously, never heard of it. Presumably the Gandhi study courses are a little less blinkered and their students know of this great legacy.

Taking Gandhi Seriously
If, as I have been suggesting, Gandhi seems to be disappearing from the field but becoming of more and more academic interest—we need to consider whether this has been a worthwhile trade off. To me it seems clear that there are not enough scholars doing original research to keep all the journals viable and it seems that every second university or Gandhi centre wants its own journal. This results in the publication of a lot of second rate articles that repeat well worn themes and even, far too regularly, plagiarise each other. In the competition, Gandhi is spread “too thin”. Gandhi deserves better. If we want Gandhi to be taken seriously, those of us who have scholarly leanings must also take him seriously.
There was a time when you could say nothing bad about the Mahatma (or given some of the protests about the production of Attenborough’s classic film, perhaps say nothing about him at all). Now, possibly because of an early lack of critical research, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Now it is fashionable to do hatchet jobs on Gandhi. It appears that the best way to get published and read is to write about Gandhi’s sexuality or emphasise that he was a bad husband or father, or that he was a racist, as a way of debunking what is often referred to in these writings as the “myth of the Mahatma”. Rather than a saint who attracts uncritical and superficial hagiographies relegating him to the position of cute mascot and hence scholarly or policy irrelevance, or a deviant who is not to be taken seriously because of sensationalist debunking, we need to see Gandhi as the complex human being that he was, one who deserves careful attention because, in the final analysis, he got most things right and has a great deal to teach us. Gandhi is too important to be above criticism and too important to be merely the target of sensation seekers.
Perhaps I should go back to the beginning and explain where these particular thoughts of mine have come from. One of the best (but least known) analyses of Gandhian nonviolence available in the English language is in the book Gandhi and Group Conflict: An Exploration of Satyagraha. It was written by that great Norwegian philosopher, and founder of the Deep Ecology movement, Arne Næss. One day, when he was staying at my family’s house while he was in Melbourne for a conference, I got him to sign copies of his Gandhi-related books that I had on my bookshelves. He found another of his early books on my shelves, one that I had to admit that I had only glanced at rather than read. I recalled that Gandhi was not mentioned anywhere in the text or index and I asked him about that. He explained that the 1966 book, Communication and Argument: Elements of Applied Semantics, was about a Gandhian way of arguing but he deliberately left Gandhi out in order that the book be taken seriously.
Why would this have been the case? Why was Gandhi not being taken seriously? Why in the circles the book was aimed at, was Gandhi so unrespected that his message had to be provided surreptitiously? Let me reiterate, if we want Gandhi to be taken seriously we must take him seriously. And if we have a seeming cottage industry churning out uncritical biographies, copying material from each other with very little original thought or research, who is going to take the subject seriously?
I suspect that most of us are aware that there is too much mediocre writing on Gandhi and this means that many intellectuals disregard the Mahatma because of his less than rigorous interpreters. If we have dozens of Gandhi journals, that all have to be filled, it is almost inevitable that they will be filled with articles that cover the same shallow ground and will continue to make the dismissal of Gandhi easy in learned circles. (Of course I am not suggesting that these are the only circles that should be written for, Gandhi books for children and Gandhi beginners are also important and can be inspiring, but they will not get the notice of policy makers or those in positions of power.)
Far too much has been published on Gandhi that is neither original nor particularly good. It seems that it is important for every Indian academic to produce a book or at least an article on Gandhi and every time I am in India I see hundreds of new titles, many of which will most probably never be read. I always buy several of them and when I return home, and have time to go through them, realise that the gems are few and there are far too many that should never have been published. Perhaps, in the Gandhian spirit, we should keep more trees alive. While there is certainly writing of exceptional quality on Gandhi in India, to a large degree I think that it is not a preposterous assertion to say that quality is being drowned by quantity.

Gandhi Centres and the Ashram
During my most recent trip to India, I again had a chance to walk the hallowed ground of the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad and do some work in the archives. I have been a regular visitor to the Ashram since 1982 when I was preparing to re-walk Gandhi’s Dandi yatra. And since then I have been there fairly frequently to catch up with Ashram friends and to do research work while completing writing projects. During these periods, as well as times spent visiting Sevagram Ashram and other Gandhian centres, I have often wondered as to their relevance and future in the 21st Century. Over the years I have imagined, in particular, what the Sabarmati Ashram might become and how it could play its role in spreading the message of Gandhi, how it could be ensured that the most effective use is made of this unique world significant resource. Of course, as with Sevagram, it probably has a large role to play as one of India’s most historical sites, as a museum and as a pilgrimage place (or even just a green oasis in the bustle of chaotic Ahmedabad). And it has just as important a role as an educational resource for school children, and as a place that fosters various educational programs and craft undertakings. My particular concern, however, is to think through ways that the Ashram could be made an even more satisfying venue for visiting researchers. Gandhi research needs more than universities.
For researchers such as me, and at least a few others who come from outside India each year, besides the historical atmosphere which in powerful ways supports the research experience, the heart of the Ashram is the archive. The Ashram probably has the best collection of Gandhi letters and other documents in existence, but the collection is not complete. If I am not mistaken, at the moment there are still important papers at the Nehru Memorial Library and the National Archives in New Delhi (when will the Pyarelal papers be released?) that the Ashram does not have copies of and vice versa. Is it possible for the institutions to get together to ensure that they each have as complete sets as possible? A “one stop shop” would greatly assist overseas scholars with limited time, and there is still something special about doing Gandhi research at the Ashram where the Mahatma walked and worked, and where one can still feel his spirit rather than in a museum/library in Delhi or Jalgaon. Of course, in the fullness of time all the Gandhi documents will presumably be digitised and made available to scholars from around the world via computers without them having to visit India at all. However, there will always be times when it will be important to see the actual documents to check margin notes, writings on the back, or to take care of missing information from incomplete scanning (which will always happen regardless of care— just have a look at problems introduced into the revised edition of Gandhi’s Collected Works), or to provide perspective to scholarship by actually being at a Gandhian site that much of the material refers to.
This leads me to another possibly important issue. Of course this may merely be the idle dreams of a far off scholar who does not understand the politics behind the management of Gandhi institutions, but could the Ashram be positioned so that it ensures that its outstanding collection is used by scholars in a way that helps to promote first-class Gandhi scholarship, and possibly to help to create a worldwide community of Gandhi scholars?
Some sort of international Gandhi research hub in India would be invaluable. And it seems to me that if it could be instituted at the Sabarmati Ashram, it could become the most important place in the world for scholars to come and work, to meet other scholars, to share information and discuss ideas. It could foster greater contact between various Gandhi experts and ensure that Gandhi scholarship is carried out at the highest level. I have long had a vision of there being a place in India where Gandhi scholars from around the world could come and work with the best of local scholars and inspire each other. Having access to documents, whether in hard copy or digital form, is not the same as having a group of like-minded people working in the one place. And if the place had a Gandhian atmosphere (such as the Ashram could provide, but simple academic libraries and archives, no matter how good they are, cannot) it would be a wonderful thing.
This dream may be worthy, but there is a problem. As with the Gandhi journals, there are now many Gandhi centres. Of course it is important to enthuse young people with a sense of Gandhian activism and so universities should have Gandhi centres. But, at least from an outside view, the question arises as to how many quality Gandhi research centres the country can accommodate. I do not think that in this sense competition is productive. The materials and the scholars to work on them, like the articles in Gandhi journals, end up being spread too thin. No critical mass that could form into an international scholarly Gandhian community is likely to develop. How much real Gandhi research is done at Gandhi research centres? How much of the time are they lying idle? All Gandhi researchers have friends they made serendipitously at the canteen of archives or ashrams. Imagine the cross-fertilisation of ideas that could occur if there was one really good centre that attracted the best of Indian and overseas scholars. In short, perhaps one or two quality research centres may be of greater value than a proliferation of many largely unused ones. Less can be more.

Conclusion: Gandhi, Cooperation and Competition
By way of conclusion, it appears to me that there is a trend to giving us a less activist and more bureaucratic Gandhi. Perhaps it is time to think through the implications of this development. Perhaps the trade off in relocating Gandhi from the field to the academy has been inevitable with the arrow of time. Once, committed Gandhi disciples dedicated their lives to service. This is fairly typical in newly formed organisations. After the passing of the leader the organisations tend to become bureaucratic and sources of employment. This is a fairly well established general trend. Given that Gandhism faces these new realities, can it be seen as being positive, or could any positive elements in it be fostered so that there is still a viable and meaningful Gandhi establishment in India? Here we must ask a question of why everyone seems to need their own bit of Gandhi. While ashrams close, university courses open. And each university with a Gandhi centre seems to desire a Gandhi journal. As local sarvodaya workers disappear, bureaucracies with Gandhi in their names flourish. Have we traded Gandhian praxis for Gandhi certificates and degrees that seem to be mere markers of having done tertiary study? Is there really enough interest to make all these endeavours viable? Should we be cooperating to enable a few world class centres and journals to flourish? If we knew that this flourishing of the academic approach to Gandhi leads to Gandhian praxis, it would be wonderful. Until we do know, and we should be making efforts to find out, we need to ask whether it wouldn’t be better if there was some scope for cooperation so that there was a really good Gandhi research centre (at Sabarmati Ashram say) and one top class journal (say Gandhi Marg) instead of all the competition. Why is there this seeming scramble to set up centres, courses, journals? Surely fewer top quality examples would be better for spreading the message, for making Gandhi research respectable and perhaps even influential. And this means a cooperative rather than competitive approach to Gandhi courses, journals, and research centres.
Regardless of the saintliness or otherwise of Mahatma Gandhi, unsurprisingly even Gandhians are human and have all the possible human foibles and the movement, if it can be called that, is not free from politics and competition. Of course this should not come as a surprise. The question becomes, given this situation, what is the best way forward?
Now there are far more institutions for the seekers of Gandhi to go to, far more Gandhi-related conferences to attend, far more avenues to publish in. Do they provide the best facilities, are they relevant to the current political situation, are they inspiring? Are they driven by a selfless desire to spread the word of the Mahatma (in a way that tries to ensure that it is taken seriously), or are they a reflection of competition, of not wanting to be left behind, of a perceived need to be seen to be doing good? In the end we need to ask whose needs are being met. Are they those of people who want to write “editor” or “conference organiser” on their bio data pages? Of those who want to see their names in print when they have little to say? Of university administrators who need to promote their institutions? I think that it would be a worthwhile project for someone in the Gandhian community to genuinely try to answer the question of why there are so many courses and centres. Surely it cannot be just because there is money in the form of the University Grants Commission largesse to set them up. I would like to think that it is because of a demand by the young who long to know more about the Mahatma and his message. If this is the case, there should be a large cohort graduating from their courses and emerging from the centres to return to the field  to complete Gandhi’s constructive work tasks. If this is not happening, we should be asking, why not? If the courses, centres and journals are there without a positive and observable objective, is there any way to tweak the content of the courses, programs of the centres and contents of journals to aid the outcome of fostering Gandhian praxis and to inform public policy?
If there is any value in what I have been trying to say and the questions that I have been asking, it should be possible to agree that the biggest need is to spread the message of Gandhi in the most effective way. Is smaller with increased quality better? Or is the sheer number of avenues for the spreading of Gandhian philosophy an opportunity we could make more of with a little creative thinking?
Some of what I have been saying may sound like criticism, but it is more due to envy and to point out a great opportunity. Where I come from there will never be a Gandhi research centre or a viable Gandhi journal and only a few university students, mostly those doing regional studies with an India focus, will be introduced to Gandhi at all, but even that will generally only be to Gandhi the Indian politician. In India there is the possibility to do so much more. Imagine Gandhi courses with serious constructive work components that were training the future troublesome people we need to make the world a more just and sustainable place. Of course if they proved to be too troublesome, even in the best possible sense, University Grants Commission funds would probably quickly dry up. But this is no reason to remain uncontroversial. Imagine students getting course credits for lengthy work placements with programs deemed Gandhian. Imagine foreign students coming to India to qualify in Gandhian philosophy and work in the research centres so that they can take Gandhi back home with them, the way those who set up international peace brigades took the lessons of the Shanti Sena to the world. Imagine policy makers looking for direction in the output of Gandhi research centres and scholarly journals published in India. Either this future is grasped or Gandhi becomes just another philosopher studied at university and the Gandhi ashrams become tourist theme parks.

  1. Balasubramanian, K., (comp.) Directory of Gandhian Constructive Workers, New Delhi: Gandhi Peace Foundation, 1996.
  2. Choudhuri, Manmohan, "The Global Crisis, Gandhi and the Gandhians", Vigil, 1994, vol.11, no.22/23, pp.3-13.
  3. Clements, Paul, Lens into the Gandhian Movement: Five Village
  4. Development Organisations in Northeast India, Bombay: Prem Bhai, 1983.
  5. Harris, Ishwar C., "Sarvodaya in Crisis: The Gandhian Movement in India Today", Asian Survey, 1987, vol.27, no.9, pp.1036-1052.
  6. Weber, Thomas, "Gandhi is Dead. Long Live Gandhi: The Post Gandhi Gandhian Movement in India", Gandhi Marg, 1996, vol.18, no.2, pp.160-192.
Source: Gandhi Marg, Vol. 34, Number 3 & 4, July-December 2012

* THOMAS WEBER is an Honorary Associate of the Politics and International Relations Program at Melbourne's La Trobe University. He has been a regular visitor to India in search of Gandhi since 1975, and in 1983, following the timetable of the 1930 yatris, he re-walked the route of Gandhi's Salt March from Sabarmati to Dandi. His Gandhi and peace/nonviolence related books include Going Native: Gandhi's Relationship with Western Women; The Shanti Sena: Philosophy, History and Action; Gandhi, Gandhism and the Gandhians; Gandhi as Disciple and Mentor; edited with Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, Nonviolent Intervention Across Borders: A Recurrent Vision; On the Salt March: The Historiography of Gandhi's March to Dandi; Gandhi's Peace Army: The Shanti Sena and Unarmed Peacekeeping; Conflict Resolution and Gandhian Ethics; and Hugging the Trees: The Story of the Chipko Movement. Email: