Some men changed their times...
One man changed the World for all times!

Comprehensive Website on the life and works of

Mahatma Gandhi


Hind Swaraj : Gandhi's vision and ground realities

- By R.P. Mishra

"In his single-track and many-sided nature, The dominating impression that one gathered was his identification with the masses, a community of sprit 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."

- Jawaharlal Nehru

Gandhi had a dream; he laid down his life for its religion but every six decided of this passing away, it has reminded a dream. The world id far more violent than it was in 1909; it is heading towards hara-kiri. The violent that war monger perpetrated against other people has now descended down to the individual level. There is war inside each individual, family, and society. Peace has become more illusive than ever before. The violent man used to subdue nature has now resulted in global warming and climate change, a phenomenon that has the potentials of wiping out all life form planet earth. We need peace; Mahatma Gandhi shown the way.

The purpose of this editorial is to examine how relevant Gandhi is today. The focus is on Hind Swaraj, the first booklet e wrote in 1909 to give vent to his feelings about the things as they were in India and the world then and to lay down some basic principal that can lead humanity to higher level of consciousness and thus to rise above the mundane. It is not only a book that prescribes how India can secure political freedom but also and more importantly, how humans can rise above the animal to become a world of peace Hind Swaraj, thought written in South Africa in the midst of struggle to secure that basic human rights of Indians living there, it is more relevant today than ever before.

Hind Swaraj was written in the midst of passive resistance, as Satyagraha was then to secure the basic human rights of the people of Indian origin living In South Africa. The principal underlying the movement emended from his Indian cultural roots, his exposure to western civilization during his study days, and his growing interest in freeing India from British colonialism. He was convinced that Indians outside their homeland would not be able to lead a dignified life as long as India remained a British colony. He was so hurt by the treatment he received at the hands of the whites of South Africa that he decided to lunch a movement that was uniquely Indian both in concept and method and had no history of being used on mass scale. It was to organize the people to protest against injustice but without use of violence in any form-in thought, words or action. He named it passive resistance i.e. to fight against something evil but never hurting the opponent. The first of this type of campaign was organized in August 1908, to get his countrymen resist the law that required them to carry registration certification. Nearly 2000 protesters participated in it and placed their certificates in a large iron pot and set it fire.

And the campaign of strikes and burning of registration cards went on for about seven years. Gandhi was jailed a number of times. The government tried to quell this resistance using brute force, but the brutality unleashed caused such an outcry both within and outside South Africa that the government was forced to negotiate with Gandhi. He returned to India in January, 1915 after 21 years of self-exile in South Africa.

Gandhi wrote Hind Swaraj in 1908 during his return visit to South Africa from India via London by ship. He completed writing in just ten days, and that too with left hand when the right hand started paining. The book first appeared in installment in Indian Opinion, and then came in a book form (in Gujarati) in 1909. It was proscribed at once by the Government of Bombay. Following the Upanishad tradition, he cast the book in the form of a dialogue between himself the 'The Editor', and an interlocutor 'The Reader'.

Giving the background underlying the book, Gandhi tells in the foreword or 'A word of Explanation', that he met some Indian revolutionaries in London. He was impressed by their "bravery", but he considered their zeal 'misguided' because they sought to free India by violent means, including bombing and political assassination. By the time Gandhi penned Hind Swaraj, he was already convinced that violence was not the Indian way of fighting injustice, and that it was the gift of the modern industrial civilization to humankind. He therefore, did not approve their violent ways. He was not against British nor was he against the West; he was committed to India and its values, and was against western industrial civilization paraded as modern civilization. He wanted independent India to be governed by Indian roots in because, 'it is the glitter of the modern world that seduced India and rendered it captive and grounded into submission. And said (page38) "The English have not taken India; we have given to them. They are not in India because of their strength, but because we keep them". Thus Hind Swaraj is as much a treatise on nonviolence as it is on the dangers inherent to modern civilization.

What Is Swaraj

Everyone appeared to known in 1909 the meaning of Swaraj; it meant freedom the British rule. But Gandhi had a different view of Swaraj. To him, self-rule meant not only the by Indians but also and more importantly, a rule by Indians but also and more importantly, a rule by Indians rooted in Indian Values, and ethos. Gandhi was not satisfied with Indian becoming free just by throwing the British out. This could be done by done by revolting against them, as the Americans did in 1776, and Indians too tried to repeat the American feat in 1857, even if unsuccessfully. Indians talking up arms to defend their birth right of liberty, equality and fraternity would have not been an illegitimate activity. But Gandhi changed the picture and made the struggle for independence form British rule but also form modern civilization.

The Freedom struggle in India aimed at:

  1. Forcing the British to quit India;
  2. Using only the nonviolent means;
  3. Training people to be good human beings by self-control (Swaraj). Applied to larger human congregates like villages, towns, cities and regional, it meant self- government charged with the responsibility of protecting the human rights of all citizens irrespective of their social, political, and economic background;
  4. Educating people to give priority to their duties to words others including nature; and
  5. Organizing the society and economy of free India in such a way that the basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, health, education, security, and self-esteem) of all were met satisfactorily and on a priority basis.

Elaborating on the means to attain Swaraj he tells the reader. "I believe that you want him million of Indians to be happy, not that you want to he reins of government in your hands. If that be so, we have to consider only one thing: how can the million obtain self-true?"3 Self administration by force of arms, for violence breeds violence and eye for eyes leaves every one blind. There is other way, a peaceful way. That is to refuse to obey the unjust laws and be ready to go to jail; to be beaten, and even killed. No government can function if the people in mass refuse to obey its laws. "What we need to do is sacrifice ourselves. It is a cowardly thought, that of killing others. Dhingra was a patriot, but his love was blind".4

Those who want to throe the British out by violence would not bring Swaraj. "In effect it means this: that we want English rule without the Englishman. You want the Tigers nature, but not the tiger; that is to say would make India English. And when it becomes English, it will be called not Hindustan but Englistan. This is not the Swaraj that I want".5

The model of Swaraj he presented before the people of India was Ram Raj (rule of Lord Ram) wherein people were sovereign; they were free from all sufferings. They followed certain ethical norms under which rights and duties were weaved together in to a common whole. Even the king was not spared of his obligation. He had to go in exile because the queen mother so watched; he had to live his wife because people had doubts about her chastity; his younger brother refuse to become king because it was the privilege of the elder brother; he did not cross river Ganga without paying the charges to the boatman; and he was so kind and generous that the tribal communities habiting the forest thought which he passed on his way to Lanka become his most ardent followers, He likened them to his brothers. Rama talked about duties, not of right. Following his steps, Gandhi considered rights and duties as two side of the same coin; none could exist without the order. He gave priority to duties if all individuals, communicates, and government authorities performed their duties well, the alone leads to neglect of duties, clashes of interests, and animosities among the people.

What Gandhi said then, came true in 1947. We forced the British out but the British system of governance and the British mentality continue to this day. There is hardly a difference between the pomp and show the British officer exhibited and the ones that our ministers and show the British officers exhibited and the ones that our ministers and officials display. Every one in India wanted to be treated as 'Lot Comandal' the common man's version of lord commander. Unless one gets X, Y, Z category security, he is not important. There are VIPs, VVIPs, VVVIPs,

India is the largest democracy of the world. Its democratic structure is a mixture of British and American systems. What is Indian therein? It is the people who run it - the Civil Servants, the members of parliament, and State Legislatures, and the judiciary. Only names have changed. ICS become IAS, House of Commons become Lok Sabha, House of Lord Become Rajya Sabha, and The Lord Chancellor becomes the Chief justice of India. It is surprising indeed that the draft of the Indian Pinal Code was prepared under the chairmanship Lord Macaulay and enriched by the provisions in the French Penal Code and Livingstone's code of Louisiana and puisne judges of the Calcutta Supreme Court, was enacted in 1860. Unfortunately Macaulay did not survive to see his masterpiece enacted into a law.

Indian Should not copy the West

Gandhi wanted India to develop in accordance with its cultural heritage; it should not copy the British way of governance. Commenting on the British Parliamentarians, he says: "The best men are supposed to be elected by the people. The member serves without pay and therefore, it must be assumed, only for the public weal. The electors are considered to be educated and there for we should assume that they would not generally make mistakes in their choice. ...But, as a matter of fact, it is generally acknowledged that the members are hypocritical and selfish. Each thinks of his own little interest ...when the greatest questions are debated; its members have been seen to stretch themselves and to doze. Some time the members talk away until the listeners are disgusted. Carlyle has called it the "talking shop of the world". Members vote for their party without a thought. Their so called discipline binds them to it. If any member, by way of exception, gives an independent vote, he is considered a renegade. Parliament is simply a costly toy of the nation".

Is the above statement of Gandhi on British Parliament and parliamentarians not application to our parliament today? More worrisome is the fact that the number of such Mps is on the increase. In 2004, there were 128 MPs with criminal record; in 2009, the number increased to 153; in 2004, there were 55 MPs with serious criminal charges; it increased to 72 in 2009. It has happened because, we have retained the British system of administration, and should I say, even the British mentality. No wonder then that Indian suffers from internal colonialism.

"The prime Minister is more concerned about his power than above the welfare of parliament. His energy is concentrated upon securing the success of his party. His care is not always that Parliament shall do right. In order to gain their ends, they have neither newspaper is their Bible. The same fact is differently interpreted by different newspapers, according to the party in whose interests they are edited."6

It is truer of India of 2009 than Britain of 1909. We had the privilege of having statesperson like J. L. Nehru, L. B. Shastri, Indira Gandhi, and A.B. Bajpai of the prime minister of India. The present prime minister of the country is known as honestly and sincerity, but we had the misfortunate of having many others who did not deserve this respectable position. They remind busy in protecting their respective chairs letting the country recede back economically, socially and culturally.

Gandhi was critical not only of the British institutions but also people for nor being in direct touch with the social realities and depending too much on newspaper for information: " To the English voters their newspaper in their Bible. They talk their cue from their newspapers which are often dishonest. The same fact is differently interpreted by different newspapers; according to the party in whose interested they are edited...What must be the condition of the people whose newspapers are of this type?" How true this statement is for India today? All that we have to do is to include electronic media especially TV in it. The 'forth estate' has failed the people of India; it has gone so commercial that public interest has become its secondary concern. The Hindustan Times, a leading News Paper of India organizes World summit of leading figures in various walks of life. This year's summit was represented by politicians, especially of the ruling party, cricketers, cinema and TV actors, businessmen and industrialists, medical specialists, and a number of foreign dignitaries. But not even one social worker, leave aside Gandhians of repute was invited to address the summit. This is where Gandhi and philosophy stand in Indian today.

Gandhi was critical of the railways, although he used them to reach the people in different part of the country, The criticism was, however, not against railway as such, as against speed and uncalled for movement of people from one part of the country to the others in search of work opportunities. Further:

1. The Railway used by the British to have complete grip over India. They sent their troop from one end of empire to another;

2. They spread communicable diseases like bubonic plague as people in affected areas movement to other parts of the country and;

3. They destroyed local self-sufficiency In food and other basic need by transporting them to other parts of the country to help businessmen make more profit and to the ports for export.

Gandhi criticized two professionals of the British days rather vehemently. He criticized the legal profession because it "teaches immorality, it is exposed to temptation from which few are saved. It is one of the avenues of becoming wealthy and their interest exists in multiplying disputes". He asks, "Why do they want more fees than common laborers? Why are their requirements greater?" In what way are they more profitable to the country than the laborers? The parties alone know who is right. We, in our simplicity and ignorance, imagine that a stranger, by talking our money, given us justice. What I have said with reference to the pleaders necessarily applies to the judges; they are first cousins; and the one gives strength to the other".

He was critical of the physicians too because they depute the people by feigning to make them healthy. It is because of them that people do not take care of their health. Relying to the questioner, Gandhi says:

"The English have certainly effectively used the medical profession for holding us. English physicians are known to have used their profession with several Asiatic potentates for political gain".

"Doctors have almost unhinged us. Sometimes I Think that quacks are better than highly qualify doctors. Let us consider the business of a doctor is to take care of the body, or, properly speaking, not even that. Their business is rally to rid the body of diseases that may afflict, it. How do these diseases arise? Surely by our negligence indulgence I overeat, I have indigestion, I go to a doctor, he gives me medicine, I am cured. I overeat again, I take pills again. Had I not taken the pills in the first instance, I would not have overeaten again. The Doctor intervened and helped me to indulge myself. My body thereby certainly felt more at ease, but my mind became weakened. A continuance of a course of medicine must, therefore, result in loss of control over the mind.

"I have indulged in vice, I contract a disease, a doctor cures me, the odds are that I shall repeat the vice. Had the doctor not intervened, nature would have done its work, and I would have acquired mastery over myself, would have been freed from vice and would have become happy".

Hospitals are institutions for propagating sin. Men take less care of their bodies and immorality increases. European doctors are the worst of all. For the sake of a mistaken care of the human body, they kill annually thousands of animals. They practice vivisection. No religion sanctions this. All say that it is not necessary to take so many lives for the sake of our bodies.

"These doctors violate our religious instinct. Most of their medical preparations contain either animal fat or spirituous liquors, both of these are tabooed by Hindus and Mohammedans. We may pretend to be civilized, call religious prohibitions a superstition and wantonly indulge in what we like. The fact remains that the doctors induce us to indulge, and the result is that we have become deprived of self-control and have become effeminate. In these circumstances, we are unfit to serve the country. To study European medicine is to deepen our slavery.

"It is worth considering why take up the profession of medicine. It is certainly not taken up for the purpose of serving humanity. We become doctors so that we may obtain honors and riches. I have endeavored to show that there is no real service of humanity in the profession, and that it is injurious to mankind. Doctors make a show of their knowledge, and charge exorbitant fees. Their preparations, which are intrinsically worth a few pence, cost shillings. The populations, in its credulity and in the hope of the ridding itself of same disease, allows itself to be cheated. Are not quacks then whom we known, better than the doctors who put on our air of humaneness?9

He did recognize that lawyers and doctors can e great help to the people but they also have the power to perpetuate strife or promote indulgence among the people. Unless there are proper mechanisms to ensure that they performed their duties responsibilities, they can inflict lot of harm to individuals and the society at large. That mechanism cannot be imposed from above, that comes from within and results from the restraint on desire and greed. This is what all religions preach but the western civilization as it has evolved during the last few centuries promotes acquisitive tendencies and does not promote restraint.

What the lawyers and doctors used to do in those days, is now being done by practically all professionals. Everyone is busy fleecing people especially the poorer sections of the society. Rarely would government servant do his duties without taking bribe. Corruption in government reigns supreme from top to bottom and it is growing by leaps and bounds. There is no attempt to check it except some politically motivated actions, here and there. Our education system is bereft of real education; it just trains to youth to secure fast dwindling good jobs. The joint family which helped the young to learn from the elders is becoming a thing of the past; the community (villages or urban neighborhoods) are in shambles. Why blame the lawyers and physicians only? Every section of the society is in the mad race for 'modernization'; everyone one want to reach the top in position, money and perks; all want their right but not many want wants to perform their duties.

We would not have another Gandhi to show the way. Each one of us, Indians as well as other countrymen will have to arouse the Gandhi sitting in a corner of our mind and heart. We will ourselves have to 'Be the change'. Hind Swaraj would be a handy guide for us all.

India had always been a Nation

British propagated the myth, that Indian was a nation before the British occupied it; it had many language, cultures and histories. Moreover, it has many small kingdoms, which were there even before the British entered India. The idea behind this assertion was to convince the people that India consisted of many nations. Once the British left India, it will break into pieces.

Gandhiji dismissed the idea propagated by the British and asserted that India was a nation from ancient times. "We were one nation before they (British) come to India. One thousand inspired us. Our mode of life was the same. It was because we were one nation that they were able to establish one kingdom. Subsequently, they divided us. "What do you think could have been the intention of those farseeing ancestors of ours who established Setubandha (Rameshwar) in the South, Jagannath in the East and Hardwar in the North as the places of pilgrimage? You will admit they were no fools..... They saw that India was one undivided land so mode by the nature. They, established holy places in various parts of India, and fired the people with an India of nationality on a manner unknown in other parts of the world".10

Dwelling on relation between Hindus and Muslim, he said: "Should we not remember that many Hindus and Mohamedans own the same ancestors and the same blood runs through their veins? Do people become enemies because they change their religion? Is the God of the Mohamedan different from the God of the Hindu? Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different road so long as we rich the same nation. The Vedic religion is different from Jainism but they do not belong to two different nations. Further, he states, "Those who do not which to misunderstand things may read up the Koran, and they will find therein hundreds of passages acceptable to the Hindus; and the Bhagawadgita contains passages to which not a Mahomedan can take objection.11

Be as it may, the British provide right. India was partitioned because a section of the Muslims led by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, however proved wrong when the eastern wing of Pakistan then known as East Pakistan separated nation. India was divided into two nation; India and Pakistan. Jinnah however proved wrong when the eastern wing of Pakistan then known as East Pakistan separated to form new nation of Bangladesh. And, as if to assert the unity of cultural India, There is a subtle move to convert the SAARC into a south Asian EU. Gandhi was right indeed.

Western Civilization is not True Civilization

Gandhi challenged the claim of the western (industrial) civilization as modern. "This civilization takes note neither of morality nor of religion". ...It "seeks to increase bodily comforts and it fails miserably even in doing so". "Civilization is like a mouse gnawing while it soothing us".12 "This situation has to be reversed. Our "strength lies in absence of fear, not in the quantity of flesh and muscle we have on our bodies".13 We are passing thought an era of globalization and modernization. It is worldwide in terms of information, goods, and services. But globalization does not spread truth, nonviolence, honestly, compassion, peace, and harmony worldwide. The western civilization is paraded as modern civilization; he said "it is a good idea". Real modern civilization is yet to come; western civilization is not modern civilization. Defining true civilization, he asys: "civilization that a mode of conduct which point out to man that path of duty. Performance of duty and observance of morality are convertible terms. To observed morality is to attain mastery over our mind and our passions. So doing, we know ourselves. The Gujarati equivalent for civilization means 'good conduct'.14

And he adds: "The more we indulge our passions, the more unbridled they become. Our ancestors, therefore, set a limit to our indulgences. They saw the happiness was largely a mental condition"15 "We have had no system of life - corroding competition. Each fallowed his own occupation or trade and charged a regulation wage. It was not that we did not know how to invent machinery, but our forefathers knew that, if we set our hearts after such things, we would become slaves and lose our moral fiber. They, therefore, after due deliberation decided that we should only do what we could with our hands and feed". They saw that kings and their swords were inferior to the sword of ethics, and they, therefore, held the sovereigns of the earth to be inferior to the Rishis and the Fakirs".17 The tendency of Indian civilization is to elevate the moral being that of the Western civilization is to propagate immorality"18.

The above views of the modern civilization are not only logical and realistic but also futuristic. True, many of us would not accept it because we are so much blinded by the so called modern life and living that we neither have the time to sympathize with, leave aside, share the pains of our next door neighbor, nor for the deteriorating health of the mother earth. He was right indeed when he said 'people living in it (civilization) make bodily welfare the object of life'. Living in good houses, over eating, consuming tons of medicines, and using knowledge to kill each other is considered to be civilization. There were times when human being lived in forests, wore skins and used sticks and spears as their weapons. They ploughed their lands manually (or used bullocks or hours); now tractors, combines, and thrash are used to produce for the market. Now they live in palatial house, wear beautiful clothes, and carry guns and revolvers to protect themselves. "Formerly, men were made salves under physical compulsion. Now they are enslaved by temptation of money and the luxuries that money can buy".19

He considered Indian civilization before it was corrupted by the west as closer to a true civilization than the western civilization. He pointed out that Roman and Greek civilization were annihilated, the might of pharaoh was broken, Japan was westernized and noting could be said about China, but "India is still, somehow or other, sound at the foundation".

Nothing can equal the seeds sown by our ancestors, he observes. "Civilization is that mode of conduct which point out to man the path of duty. A performance of duty and observance of morality are convertible terms. To observe morality is to attain mastery over our mind and our passions. So doing, we know ourselves. The Gujarati equivalent for civilization means 'good conduct'."20 Mind, says Gandhi is a restless bird, more it gets, more it wants and still remains unsatisfied. "Our ancestors, therefore, set a limit to our indulgences. They saw that happiness was largely a mantel condition. A man is not necessarily happy because he is rich or unhappy because he is poor".21

Mahatma Gandhi was all praise for the Indian way of life which considered of the same kind of plough, same cottages, same education system that existed thousands of years. "We have had no life corroding competition. Each followed his own occupation or trade and charged a regulation wage... This nation had courts, lawyers and doctors, but they were all within bounds. Everybody knew that these professions were not particularly superior; moreover, these vakils and vaids did not rod people; they were considered peoples dependents, not their masters....They enjoyed true Home Rule".22

In the appendix to the book, Gandhiji has quoted some appreciative comment on the quality of Indian life by Englishmen who were in Indian as officers of the East India Company or British government.

"The (Indian) civilization was not perfunctory, but universal and all-pervading-furnishing the country not only with political systems, but with social and domestic institutions of the most ramified description. The beneficent nature of these institutions as a whole may be judged form their effect on the whole world who show so much in their character the advantageous effects of their own civilization. They are shrewd in business, acute in reasoning, thrifty, religious, sober. Charitable, obedient to parents, reverential to old age, amiable, law-abiding, compassionate towards the helpless and patient under suffering".23

- J. Seymore Keay, M.P., Banker in India and India Agent, 1883

"If a good system of agroculture, unrivalled manufacturing skill, a capacity to product whatever can contribute to convenience or luxury; schools established in every village, for teaching, reading, writing and arithmetic; the general practice of hospitality and charity among each other; and above all, a treatment of the female sex, full confidence, respect and delicacy, are among the single which donate a civilized people..."24

- Colonel Thomas Munro who served in India for 32 year

"The Indian village has thus for centuries remained a bulwark against political disorder and the home of the simple domestic and social virtues. No wonder, therefore, that philosopher and the historians have always dwelt lovingly on this ancient institution which is the natural social unit and the best type of rural life; self-contained, industrious, peace-loving, conservation in the best sense of the world".25

- Sir William Wedderburn, Bart.

"It is already becoming clear that chapter which had a Western beginning will have an Indian ending, if it is nit to end in the self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous movement in human history, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way- Emperor Asoka's and Mahatma Gandhi's principal of non violence and Sri Ramakrishna's testimony of religious"26

-Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889-1975)

"India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages; she was the mother of our philosophy; mother through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother thought the Buddha; of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all. Perhaps in return for conquest, arrogance and spoliation, India will teach us the tolerance and gentleness of the mature mind, the quiet content of the inquisitive soul, the calm of the understanding spirit, and a unifying, a pacifying love for all living things".27

- Will Durant (1885-1981), an American historian

By quoting above passages from the writing of foreigners, Gandhi was trying to impress on Indians that their civilization was truly great and the village republics he was talking about was not a fantasy, it was the very foundation of Gandhi civilization. He sought to develop village industries to re-capture the spirit of the rural life in Indian village and thus the country to suit the present scientific age.

Gandhi was all for scientific and technological advancement but he wanted man to be become human being at the same time so that the new science and technology was not used for destructive purposes. Had he progressed culturally too and become more human, the world would have been a far happier place to live. There would have been no wars, nor there the problem of Global Warming and Climate Changes that threatens the very survival of life on planet earth.

Gandhi is often portrayed as a man against machinery. But he has been misrepresented in this regards, often deliberately to prove that he was against 'modernization' and 'development'. From him "The supreme consideration is man. The machine should not tend to atrophy the limbs of man. For instance, I would intelligent expectation. Take the case of the Singer's sewing machine. It is one of the few useful things ever invented, and there is a romance about the device itself". He said to G. Ramachandran, the founder of Gandhigram Rural Institute, now a University. In this machine age, man has become a cog in the wheel of the modern civilization and Gandhi was panting out the dehumanizing quality of machinery and the resultant alienation of man from his work. That is why he said: "What I object to is the craze for machinery, not machinery as such".

Gandhi on Human Rights

Gandhi has now been acclaimed by the world by the world as twentieth century's greatest man of peace and human right. He symbolizes Truth and Nonviolence and if the world would ever be without war, it would have to go the Gandhian way. He fought for the human right of the oppressed all through his life, first in South Africa and then in India. The United Nations has declared October 2, has birth day as the International day of nonviolence. This year, UNESCO has decided to launch Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education foe Peace and Sustainable development in India. Above all, the Mahatma has inspired many a peace prize winners of the world - Martin Luther King, Dalai Lama, and Aung san auu kyi, included. They all have fought for the human right of the people in their respective countries.

Many of the UN resolution and activities related to human rights have been inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. Apart from the year UN Millennium Declaration, 2000, which is inclusive of all aspects of human development, there are a number of resolution an human rights of specific target group such as the UN Declaration on Victims of crime and Abuse of power 2000 (UNTOC); International Decade for the Culture of the peace and Non-Violence for the children of the world (2001-20010); Rights of the Indigenous peoples (2007); Gender Equality, Development and Peaces from the Twenty- First century (2000); October 2 as the International Day of Non- Violence (2009).

While fighting for the human rights of the people, Gandhi impressed on them that rights and duties were two sides of the same coin. Those who want to enjoy rights must be prepared to perform their duties. Duties well perform by all will automatically protect the rights of all. He considers insistence on rights without corresponding duties as a great evil afflicting the society. "The capitalist and the Zamindar talk of their rights, the labour nr the other hands, the prince of his divine right to rule, the ryot of his right to resist it. If all simply insist on right and no duties, there will be utter confusion and chaos.

"If instead of insisting on the right everyone does his duty, there will immediately by the rule of order established among mankind. There is no such a thing as the divine right of kings to rule and the humble duty of the riots to pay respectful obedience to their masters. Whilst it is true that these hereditary inequalities must go as being injurious to the well-being of society, the unabashed assertion of rights of the hitherto down-trodden millions is equally injurious, if not more so to the same well- being. The latter behavior is probably calculated to injure the millions rather than the few claimants of divine or other rights. They bring in the orderly life of blissful contentment. It is therefore necessary that rights that do not directly come from duty well performed are not worth having. They will be nations sooner discarded the better. A wretched parent who claims obedient from his children without first doing his duly by them excites nothing but contempt. It is distortion of religious precept for a dissolute husband and to except compliance in every respect from his dutiful wife. But children who flout their parent, who is, every ready to do his duty towards them would be considered ungrateful and would harm themselves more than their parent. The same can be said about husband and wife. If you apply his simple and universal rule to employer and laborers, landlords and tenants, the princes and their subjects or the Hindus and the Muslims, you will find that the happiest relation can be established in all walks of life without creating disturbance in and dislocation of life and business which you see in India as in the other parts of the words. What I call the law of Satyagraha is to be deduced from an appreciation of duties and rights flowing there from".28

But Gandhi had a different view on this very important issue. According to him: "real rights are a result of performance of duty; and, where everybody wants right, who shall give them to whom? 29 "If man will only realize that it is unmanly to obey laws that are unjust, no man's tyranny will enslave him. This is the key to self-rule of home rule". "So long as the superstition that men should obey unjust laws exists, so long will their slavery exist. And a passive along can remove such a superstition".30

"Kings will always their kingly weapons. To use force is bred in them. They want to command, but those who have to obey commands do not want guns: and these are in a majority throughout the world. They have to learn either body-force or soul-force. Where they learn the former, both the rulers and the ruled become like so many madmen: but where they learn soul-force, the commands of the rulers do not go beyond the point of their swards, for true disregard unjust commands. Peasants have never been subdued by the sword, and never will be".31

One of the prime duties of the citizen is to protect the rights of others. This involves sacrifice of certain rights which impinge on the rights of other. That is why Gandhi cautioned the people of the India just before independence: "the great evil that is afflicting our society today" of everyone calming to have rights but not duties. "If all simply insist on right and no duties, there will be utter confusion and chaos. ...if instead of insisting on rights everyone does his duties, there will immediately be the rule of order established among mankind ... I venture to suggest that rights that do not flow directly from duty well performed are not worth having. They will be usurpations sooner discarded, the better".32

Pointed to the constituent Assembly, he had said a few days earlier "the proper question is not what the rights of the citizen, rather what constitute the duties of a citizen. Fundamental rights can only be those the exercise of which is not only in the interest of the citizen but not of the whole world".33 Earlier, in 1940 he reacted to the list of human rights H G Wells had cabled to Gandhi thus "Begin with a charter of duties of man. ... and I promise the rights will follow as spring follows winter. I write from experience. As a young man I began life by seeking to assert my right and soon discovered I had none, not even over my wife. So I began by discovering performing my duty by my wife, my children, friends, companions and society and found today that I have greater rights perhaps than any living man I know".34

Rights and duties in Gandhian praxis are two sides of the same coin provided of course that the coin is a legal tender and acceptable to all. There must be equality in rights and duties too. In a feudal society, the upper crust of the society has many rights and only a few duties; while the rest of the society has very few rights and many duties. A slave has no rights; he has only duties; a salve driver has no duties, he has only rights. For rapid and equitable progress rights and duties must be near equally shared by all section of the society. Those who wish to have rights must be ready and willing to perform duties.

Indian Civilization laid greater emphasis on duties and relatively less on rights. As it passed though various crises in its long journey of several millennia, duties always got precedence over rights. At times, the rights were usurped by those who wielded political or military power. And thus all rights rested with the powerful and duties with the weak. This happened during the British rile too. When Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1916, he challenged the trampling of human rights of the weaker sections of Indian society and the first thing he did was to educate the people and organize them to fight against it. While he prepared the country to fight against the British rule, he made frontal attack on same of the society evils such gender inequality, oppression of the untouchables (dalits), and exploitation of the peasantry.

Gandhi extended his concept of right and duties to other spheres of his activities. On relations between Hindus and Muslims. He said: "What is the duty of the Hindus towards his Muslim neighbor? His duty is to befriend him as man, to share his joys and sorrows and help him in distress. He will then have the right to expect similar treatment from his Muslim neighbour and will probably get the expect response. Supposing the Hindus are in a majority in a village with a sprinkling of Muslim in their midst, the duty of the majority towards the few Muslim neighbour is increased manifold, so much so that the few will not feel that their religion makes any difference in the behavior of the Hindus towards them. The Hindus will then earn the right, not before, that the Muslim will be natural friends with them and in times of danger both the communities will act as one man, but suppose that the few Muslims do not reciprocate the correct behavior of the many Hindus and show fight in every action, it will be a sign of unmanliness. What is then the duty of the many Hindus? Certainly not to over- power them by the brute strength o the many that will be usurpation of an unearned right. Their duty will be to check their unmanly behavior as they would that of their blood brothers. It is unnecessary for me to dilate further upon the illustration. I will close it by saying that the application will be exactly the same if the position is reversed. From what I have said it is easy enough to extend the application with profit to the whole of the present state which has become baffling because people do not apply in practice the doctrine of deriving every right form a prior duty well performed.

"The same rule applies to the princes and the ryots. The former's duty is to act as true servants of the people. The will rule not by right granted by some outside authority, never by the right of the sword. They will rule by right of service, of greater wisdom. They will rule by right of service, of granter wisdom. They will then have the right to collect taxes voluntarily paid and expect certain services equally voluntarily rendered, not for themselves but for the sake of the people under their care. If they fail to perform this simple and primary duty, the ryots not only owe no return duty but the duty devolves on them of resistance will become a crime against man in terms of duty if it takes the form of murder, rapine and plunder. Force that performances of duty naturally generate is the non-violence and invincible force that Satyagraha Brings into being".35

Gandhi wrote in chapter 16 (entitled "Brute Force") of Hind Swaraj: "The English in 1833 obtained grater voting power by violence. Did they by using brute force better appreciate their duty? They wanted the right of voting, which they obtained by using physical force. But real rights are a result of performance of duty; these rights they have not obtained. I do not wish to imply that they do no duties. They don't perform the duties corresponding to those rights; and as they do not perform that particular duty, namely, [to] acquire fitness, their rights have proved a burden to them.36

Later on September 16, 1992, while addressing in the labour on strike in Madras, Gandhi said: "It is your right to be advised by whomsoever you may choose and the company cannot dictate to you that you may not be advised by outsider. Ypou must insist upon your inherent right of selecting any Chairman or president you like of your Union, whether out of your own ranks or anybody else. You have right to demand such wages as will enable you to sustain life, to educate your children and live as decent human beings. You are entitled to insist upon having leisure and recreation from day to day. But you insist also corresponding duties to perform. You have to look after the property of your employers as if it was your own. These simple rights and duties once being understood must always be insisted upon and fulfilled as the case may be".37

In a brief essay, entitled "Can you avoid class War?" in the March 26, 1931 issue of young India, he wrote: "Every man has a n equal right to the necessaries of life even as birds and beasts have. And since every right carries with it a corresponding duty and a corresponding remedy for resisting any attack upon it, it is merely a matter of finding out the corresponding remedy is to non-cooperate with who deprives me of the fruit of my labour".38

In latter he rote on June 14, 1934: "I welcome the rise of the Socialist Party in the Congress. But I can't say that like the programme as it appears in the printed pamphlet. It seems to me to ignore Indian conditions and I do not like the assumption underlying many of its propositions which go to show that there is necessarily antagonism between the classes and the masses or between the laboures and the capitalist, such that they can never worth for mutual good. My own experience converging a fairly long period is to the contrary. What is necessary is that laboures or workers should know their rights and should also know how to assert them. And since there never has been any right without a corresponding duty, in my option a manifesto is incomplete without emphasizing duty, in my option a manifesto is incomplete without emphasizing the necessity of performance of duty and showing what that duty is".39

In the October 6, 1946, issue of Harijan, he wrote: " I have received letters from Harijan friends and some have been to see me too. They feel that now that power is in the hands of the people, there should be more than one Harijan minister {in the cabinet of the government of Republic of India} According to the population ratio, the number should be a least three and they should be similarly represented in every department. I am not ready to admit the correctness of all they say. My ideas in this regard are different Rights springs only from duties well done. Such rights alone are becoming and lasting. Holding the views I do, and having acted on them and made others act on them over the last fifty years. I have no interest left in fighting for personal rights. I shall therefore advise Harijan brethren that they should think only of their duties. They may be sure that rights will follow fast on the heels of duties done."

True democracy must recognize the dignity of each member of the society, irrespective of position and wealth he commands and ensure that nothing unjust is done to anyone. Rights of individuals are inalienable because they ensure freedom, which is the birth right of each human being. But freedom cannot be boundless; it cannot be used to take away the freedom of others. Freedom and rights have to be shared equally by all, including women, children, physically challenged, and poor. All human rights must be guaranteed by law and stage may come when even duties have to be guaranteed by law. The sharing of rights had the sanction of not only law but also the civil society. For example, it is the duty of the young to take care of their old parents. But if they do not adhere to their duty in this respect, it has to be enforced by law as it was done in India on Des.7.2007. Now the children who do not take care of their old parents would have give them a fixed amount each month.

Gandhi's views on human rights and duties were, however, not well understood and received in India. The importance given to duty in Indian culture has been so blatantly misused by those in power and authority to deny the legitimate rights of the weaker sections of the society that the majority of people the world over insist on rights and rights alone. Gandhi too, all through his life fought for the political rights of all those countries which were denied of their right to govern themselves; and the socio-economic and political rights of the of the poor, dalits, women, and other weaker sections of the society. No wonder then, that Gandhi has become a symbol of Human Rights the world over. He stands for justice for all but we know that law alone cannot ensure justice: we need a strong moral force that Gandhi used it defend the weak and thro the British out. That is why he laid equal emphasis on duties.

Indian Constitution lists all human rights but no duties. The current situation in India, more than six decades after independence, clearly points that so long as rights alone are insisted upon and the duties that each individual, community, society and nation must perform to make rights meaningful are neglected, no one can enjoy his rights peacefully. In fact the rights that people can claim today are only the legally enforceable rights. Theeducation system neither prepares the people to claim their rights, nor sensitizes them to perform their duties.

A large number of human rights NGOs have emerged to promote and protect the rights of individuals and groups of people by mediating between people and the state. Often they take up rights issues on moral grounds but seek the solution of the problems which the framework of the existing laws which remain dormant for either the people do not know them or they are too cumbersome for the common man. The role of these NGOS is very critical in the present context even if they do not give importance to duties. To some extent, it is natural and necessary. In a situation where violence is the rule rather than exception and people and forced to fight for resources, self respect and dignity, to talk about duties to them would amount to putting the cart before the horse.

Gandhi considered education as the most powerful process to make people aware of their rights and duties and to prepare them to fight for their right" What is the meaning of education? It simply means knowledge of letters. It is merely an instrument, and an instrument may be well used or abused Therefore, whether you take elementary education, it is not required for the main thing. It does not make men of us. It doe not enable us to do our duty. In its place it can be of use and it has place when we have broght our senses under sybjection and out our ethics on a firm foundation. Our ancient school system is enough. Character building has the first place in it primary education. A building erected on that foundation will last."

Gandhi on Human Settlements

Gandhi was not anti-city, but he considered cities unsustainable. He, time again, expressed his views in favour of villages for two main reasons: first, he identified himself with the poor and illiterate peasants of India and offered the swaraj or self- rule based on their own tradition and heritage.-Ram raiya: he considered village as a more sustainable human settlement than a city :and three he found it easier to convince the rural inhabitants of India of the efficacy of nonviolent struggle to attain freedom and to organize them for a long drawn struggle.

Unlike the peasants, the factory workers were more concerned about their wages than with freedom struggle, and elites more interested in comforts, luxuries and the privileges they had, than in social transformation and any movement to throw the British out. As against them, the villages were hard working and proud of their culture and dignity. The very fact that Indian villages survived innumerable wars fought by the kings and emperors, pointed to the resilience of rural culture and their occupational bases i.e. agriculture and handicrafts, self governance through their own village panchayats. That is why, he promoted khadi and villages industries, and aimed at sarvodaya - welfare of all, and anthodia - the last man. He was aware that village India was conservative and tradition bound, but he was confident that given attention , security, approprity, leadership and a better future, they would rise equal to the occasion and make India great culturally, socially and economically again.

Gandhi's vision of India as a nation of village republics as portrayed in Hind Swaraj was followed up by eminent economists such as J.C. Kumarappa who prepared a plan for the revival of Indian villages. In 1973, E.F. Schumacher, further elaborated it in his well known book -'Small is Beautiful: Economics as it people Mattered."He deprecated world bank approach to economic development which centered on GDP growth even if it led to dehumanization."Sustainable development" and appropriate technology "were his main thrusts. More recently, Joseph Stieglitz, Noble- prize winning economist, has followed up the Gandhi and philosophy.

"Man does not live by GDP alone," says the Economist who headed the panel of economists appointed by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, to measure the well-being of people for she did not consider GDP a true measure of welfare.

Independent India, however, did not buy Gandhi's idea of village republics; it adopted the western model of development. Today after 62 years of Independence, at least 25 per cent of the people of India are below the poverty line; half the population of cities lives in slums and shanties towns; clean water is scarce both in villages and cities. Sixty per cent of the population depends on agriculture but the contribution of agriculture to the GDP has secularly declined to come down to less than 20 per cent. Several thinkers have suggested sustainable approaches to development and diversification of the rural economy, but without much response from the central or state governments. The editor prepared a blue print of rural urban integration through a network of growth poles, growth centers, growth points, service centers and central villages as early as 1970.42 former president Abdul Kal0am Azad43 mooted a similar model of village development called PURA - Providing Urban Amenities in rural areas through physical connectivity (roads & power), electronic connectivity (communications network), knowledge connectivity (professional and vocational training), and economic connectivity ( providing best value for rural products and services. These models are in line with the vision Mahatma Gandhi to suit the needs of the 21st century.

Colonel Thomas Munro (1761-1827) who served in India for 32 years and was the governor of Madras (1823-27) had said "if a good system of agriculture, unrivalled manufacturing skill, a capacity to produce whatever can contribute to convenience or luxury; schools established in every village, for teaching, reading, writing and arithmetic ;in general practice of hospitality and charity among each other; and above all , a treatment of the female sex, full of confidence, respect and delicacy, are among the signs which denote a civilized people..."

Towards a just and Nonviolent Social order.

Gandhi picked up the rusting implements from the tool boxes of Hinduism, Jainism, Christianity, Islam, and other religions and sects and used them to chisel the model of a new social order wherein love penetrated all walks of life; where all enjoyed the dignity of being human being; where man and nature nurtured each other; where conflicts were resolved by love, and where wars were replaced by peace. His starting point was the individual who was born human, but was groomed brute. If man cannot create life; he cannot take it either, said he, and moved forward to encounter untruth by truth, violence by nonviolence; and war by peace.

He was not a philosopher or a saint; nor was he a politician. He was an ordinary human being with extraordinary sense of human touch and spiritual outlook. To him, human being being was created to take himself to a higher level of consciousness; to become a better human being. Gandhi saw humanity regressing towards its animal past. He set upon to reverse this trend and the method he adopted was truth and Nonviolence. He progressed and showed to the world that man need not indulge in violence to secure peace; peace can be secured by peaceful means alone.

He tried to go deep into all that was conducive to peace in religions, political thoughts, science technology, and in life of the common people of India .He was socialist because he believed in and toiled for equality of men and women and rich and poor, He went the extent of saying that all should get the same wages, irrespective of the work they did. There is no reason why the president of India gets higher salary than the person who keeps the Presidential House clean. He was a communist because he wanted the last man to rise and take over the reigns of his own life unhindered by any power including the state; he was a religious man for he believed in God that is truth and prepared to sacrifice himself for a pious objective; he was agnostic because he did not accept religious books to be God given; they were, instead, written by human beings inspired by God; and he did not adhere to any religious ritual; and he was a scientist because he would not trust anything that did not pass the test of rationality, the scriptures included. There is no aspect of life that Gandhi did not touch and express his views on.

If we have to hit upon one thing that shaped Gandhi's social Philosophy, it was the inviolability of human dignity.' Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains' said jean Jacques Rousseau in 1762 in his 'the Social contract or principles of political Right.'45 But said Gandhi "You must not lose faith in humanity is an ocean ;if s few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.' He walked running; at times faltered and despaired and then told his followers "When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won .there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fail. Think of it- always.'46 and he went on to say: I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary the evil it does is permanent. Moreover, victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.

We can thus understand why Gandhi with drew non- cooperation movement in 1921 after the chowri-chowra violence. The 1930 salt Satyagraha went on uninterrupted because the satyagrahis did not indulge in violence. The same was the case with the 'Quite India' movement of 1942; that the British left in 1947 was largely because the freedom struggle was not only practical but also ethical. Elaborating further, Gandhi said, "Passive resistance is a method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is reverse of resistance by arms. When I refuse to do a thing that is repugnant to my conscience, I use soul-force... If I do not obey the law and accept the penalty for its breach, I use soul-force. It involves sacrifice of self," He maintained that non-violence and passive resistance is a weapon of the brave and not that of the coward. A coward can never disobey that he disliked."If man will only realize that "it is unmanly to obey laws that are unjust. No man's tyranny will enslave him. This is the key to self-rule or home-rule."

He admired the courage of revolutionaries like Madanlal Dinghra and Bhagat Singh, but he did not approve of the violent methods they adopted. He was totally wedded to nonviolence and was more concerned with the means than with the ends (freedom). "The mean may be likened to a seed and the end to a tree; and there is just inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree... We reap exactly what we sow "observed he. Elsewhere he refers to bible (Matthew 26:52, King James Version) and says: those who "take the sword shall perish with the sword. And to strengthen his point, he mentions the failure of the bloody revolutions of the past to create a new man and anew society.

Gandhi is gone but not his thoughts. He continues to inspire the people who work for human dignity and freedom. Nelson Mandela in South Africa and Marti Luther King in the USA have become African and American Gandhi's. Dalai Lama and MS. Suu Kyi are current disciples of the Mahatma. In a recent interview US President Barack Obama expressed his wish to have a talk with Gandhiji over a lunch when he was asked whom he would choose among the great of the past and the present.

Concluding Remarks

Gandhi concluded Hind Swaraj with the following summary:

"Before I leave you, I will take Swaraj with the liberty of repeating:

1. Real home- rule is self rule or self-control.

2. The way to it is passive resistance: that is soul- force or love force.

3. In order to exert this force, Swadeshi in every sense is necessary'.

4. What we want to do should be done, not because we want to retaliate but but because it is our duty to do so...

5. In my opinion, we have used the term "Swaraj" without understanding its real significance. I have endeavored to explain it as I understand it, and my conscience testifies that my life hence forth is dedicated it its attainment."48

6. The time has come to change our priorities. The country is progressing fast economically, but people are receding back morally and ethically. Violence against nature has brought us to the door steps of global warming and climate Change and violence against ourselves and our fellow beings has produced international terrorism. No one appears to be safe. Let us change our priorities. Let us think afresh. We need an economy where nature and people matter; we need money but we need love affection, integration and solidarity more. Let us look back and think over what the Mahatma had said and done. We need real decentralization of power to empower the people. Let us create conditions under which everyone. Feels secure and everyone takes part in the development-economic, social and political. This would be the true tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.


  1. M.K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, Ahemedabad : Navjivan, Chapter 1
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid, Chap. XV
  4. Ibid, Chap. XV
  5. Ibid, Chap. IV
  6. Ibid, Chap. V
  7. Ibid, Chap. V
  8. Ibid, Chap. X
  9. Ibid, Chap. XII & VII
  10. Ibid, Chap. IX
  11. Ibid, Chap. X
  12. Ibid, Chap. VI & VIII
  13. Ibid, Chap. VIII
  14. Ibid, Chap. XIII
  15. Ibid, Chap. XIII
  16. Ibid, Chap. XIII
  17. Ibid, Chap. XVI
  18. Ibid, Chap. XIII
  19. Ibid, Chap. VI-VIII
  20. Ibid, Chap. XVII
  21. Ibid, Chap. XVII
  22. Ibid, Chap. XVII
  23. Ibid, Appendices
  24. Ibid
  25. Ibid
  26. Ibid
  27. Ibid
  28. Harijan, 6-7-1947, p. 217
  29. Ibid, Chap.XVI
  30. Ibid, Chap.XVI
  31. Ibid, Chap.XVII
  32. Harijan, 7.6.1947
  33. CWMG, 28.6.1947, 88, 230
  34. Hidustan Times, 16.4.1940
  35. Hind Swaraj, Chap. XVIII
  36. Ibid, Chap. XVI
  37. Young India, 19.2.1931
  38. Young india,26.3.1931
  39. Harijan, October 6, 1946
  40. Ibid, Oct.6, 1946
  41. Harijan 28-6-1947
  42. R P Mishra & K V Sundram, Regional Development Planning in India. New Delhi: Vikash, 1974
  43. APJ Kalam, Pura Model and societal Transformation: Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas, New Delhi: 2005.
  44. Hind Swaraj, Appendices
  45. Jean Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract or Principles of Political, 1762
  46. Unknown
  47. Hind Swaraj, Chap. XVII
  48. Hind swaraj, Chap. XX

Other Relevant Publications:

  1. David Selby, Human Rights (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 7
  2. Jack Donnelly, International Human Rights, (Colorado, West view press,1993),p.25
  3. Manoranjan Mohanty, "The changing Definition of Rights in india," in Sujata Patel, Jasodhara Bagchi, and Krishna Raj, eds., Thinking Social Science in India: Essays in Honor of Alice Thorner (New Delhi: Sage, 2002), p.437.
  4. Mummum Jah, "Nehru and Civil Liberties in India International Journal of Human Rights, Volume 7, Number 3, pp. 103-115
  5. M. K. Gandhi, "Rights and Duties, "In Raghavan Iyer, ed., Moral and political Writings of Mahatma Gandhi (Oxford; Clarendon Press, 1986) Vol.3, p.496.(First published in Harijan, 6 July 1947).
  6. Ibid, Vol.3, p.492-3.First published in the Hindustan Times, 16 April 1940).
  7. B.R. Ambedkar, Emancipation of the Untouchables (Bombay Thacker and co. ltd., 1972), p.15.(First published in 1943).For a discussion on various terms used for untouchables, see Harold R. Isaacs, The Ex-Untouchables, "in Michael L. Mahar. ed., The Untouchables IN CONTEMPORARY INDIA, PP .13-14.

Source: Anaskti Darshan, Vol. 5, No 1, January-June 2009