Swaraj: Beyond Independence
Readers, whether workers and volunteers or not, should definitely realise that the constructive programme is the truthful and non-violent way of winning Poorna Swaraj. Its wholesale fulfilment is complete Independence. Imagine all the forty crores of people busying themselves with the whole of the constructive programme which is designed to build up the nation from the very bottom upward. Can anybody dispute the proposition that it must mean complete Independence in every sense of the expression, including the ousting of foreign domination?” – M K Gandhi, Constructive Programme – Its Meaning and Place, P. 3
We became independent on August 15, 1947, but have we attained Swaraj? This question may baffle many as we have tuned to equate political independence to Swaraj, in a way biggest sign of intellectual colonialism. When not just at nationally but at globally, we are celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji, what is that we need to contextualise about him to address the contemporary issues? In the post-Independent Bharat Gandhi’s name and surname has been used, misused and abused without following his message to a large extent. Now when we are in a position to play a constructive role at the global level, we need to revisit arguably the most influential son and messenger of Bharat to address the contemporary global challenges. Here, his civilisational concept of Swaraj and an innovative technique called Satyagraha become important.
Satyagraha for Gandhiji was not just a tool to fight against the British but a process to prepare the masses for the larger reconstruction. Preparing individual Satyagrahis for the larger cause of reconstruction with the values of dignity of labour, sacrifice and collectivism was the core to Gandhiji’s Satyagraha. Swaraj was not just a replacement of white British rulers with the Bharatiya ones but preparing every individual to act as per conscious and make him walk on the path of truth and non-violence was also important for Gandhiji. Without physical, moral and spiritual preparation, true constructive Satyagraha is not possible was the fundamental message of Gandhiji we forgot. When we are mindlessly following the path of materialism and progress is seen only in terms of GDP, this enlightenment of individuals becomes all the more important.
Beyond civil disobedience, non-cooperation and other methods of fighting with the evil, it was Gandhi’s Constructive Programme that was central for the revitalising Bharat at the collective level. In his constructive dimensions of Satyagraha, village industry and economy, removal of untouchability and providing education, Gau Sewa or Charkha etc. were crucial for inculcating a sense of equality and dignity. Community, not the State, should take care of the vital functions of the society to attain complete independence, was at the root of Gandhi’s Swaraj. Unfortunately, by injecting the non-Bharatiya, State centric socialistic ideas in our Government machinery, which in turn has percolated in the society, has bereft us of our soul – the societal self-sufficiency and autonomy based on voluntarism.
As Gandhiji explains in his Hind Swaraj, “We were one nation before they (British) came to India. One thought 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”. We are still grappling with the colonial hangover and arguing about our nationhood based on British paradigm. Getting rid of this approach of seeing ourselves from the colonial prism is the most critical part of attaining intellectual Swaraj.
Gandhiji’s Swaraj was meant for the entire humanity. The ideas such as every society has the right to develop itself as per the resources and requirement; not the greed but need should be the basis of getting resources from outside; developing a sense of trusteeship not just among the rich people but even among the prosperous countries were formed the basis for Gandhiji’s vision for global peace and harmony. As Gandhiji himself said, “there is no such thing as “Gandhism”, as he did not want to create another sect after him but just wanted to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and problem. Taking this legacy forward, we need to apply Gandhian method, which in a way is Bharatiya method of seeking the truth, to find solutions to the persisting problems like climate change, terrorism and growing inequalities.
Fortunately, Bharat is trying to assert this on the national and global stage under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi. The recent award for Swachh Bharat Mission and wider acceptability of Bharat on solar and counter-terrorism issues should be seen in this light. While celebrating 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji, a resolve to reinvent his Satyagraha for Swaraj that takes us beyond Independence and paves the way for self-rule in true sense will be the real tribute to the great son of Bharat.