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The Mahatma and Modern India Author(s): Judith M. Brown Source: Modern Asian Studies , Vol.

The Mahatma and Modern India Author(s): Judith M. Brown Source: Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 3, No. 4, Gandhi Centenary Number (1969), pp. 321-342 Published by: Cambridge University Press

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ModernAsianStudzesIII, 4 (I969),










CENTENARYcelebrationsof the birthof any prominentman attract assessmentsof his character,careerand influence.Nothingcould be moreunderstandable,particularlyin the caseof M. K. Gandhi,who wasby commonconsentone of the greatestleadersAsiahasproduced in an eraof colonialnationalismsand decolonization,who in his own life time was called a saint and a machiavellianpolitician,and who hasbecomein independentIndiabotha nationalmythandan embar rassment.Accountsof theimportanceof Gandhiin modernIndiatend to fallintotwomaincategories.Therearethosewhodismisshim,often regretfully,as an idealist whose utopian plans for a democracyof villagecommonwealthsanda non-violentsocietyhavecollapsedin the face of economic and political necessityand the machinationsof unscrupulouspoliticians.In thewordsofJayaprakashNarayan,'Ifyou considerthe politicalideologiesattainingin India today,you svould findthat somehowone who is calledthe Fatherof the Nationis com- pletelymissingfromall of them'.lSuchpessimismassessesGandhias if he had beensolelya dispenserof blue-printsfora bravenewworld, and fails to see him as a dynamicleader whose greatestinfluence flowedfromthe typeof movementhe led and the techniqueshe used, ratherthanfromthe peculiarlypersonalidealshe held. On the other hand, thereare thosewho hail him as the Fatherof India and try to drawdirectcausalconnexionsbetweenhisidealsandmanyofthemajor

changeswhich have occurredin India since I947

oicial abolitionof Untouchabilityand the institutionofpanchayatraj. Butthisis theperspectiveofthebiographer.It underratesthecomplexi- ties of politicsand societyand theirinteraction,and turnsa blindeye to the innumerablecrosscurrentswhichmakeup the mainstreamof Indiansocialandpoliticalactivity. Bearingin mind these types of analysesand their weaknesses,I havelimitedthe scopeof this articleto two objectixles.Firstly,I trace someof the mainideasGandhiput forward,discussinfluenceswhich coincidewith or militateagainsttheseideas,andinvestigatetheirfate in modernIndia. I concludethat generallyit is fruitlessto look for the Mahatma'sinfluencein contemporaryIndia in termsof direct


1 p. Mason(ed), IndiaandCeylon:UnityandDiz)ersity,London,I967,

p. 295.






'legacies'.This may seema rathernegativeundertaking;but it clears thegroundforthe second,morepositivepartof my argument-that to see the influenceof Gandhion India'sdevelopmentit is morefruitful to look at his leadershipof the nationalmovement,in which he was

manifestlyposverful,thanto searchforGandhian'legacies'in solutions to socialand politicalproblems.For in such cases,despitethe myth


the Mahatma,his ideals are only one of many contributoryand

competingfactorsin modernIndia. One importantareaof discussionmustbe the natureand powerof the government,for it is in this spherethat Gandhianslike Narayan feel most bitterly that India has deviatedfrom the paths Gandhi indicated.Gandhiwas not a systematicpoliticalphilosopher,and his ideaschangedconsiderablyin the courseof his life. But at the rootof

all hislaterthoughtwerethebeliefssetoutin hisbooklet,HindSwaraj.2 Writtenin I909, it showedthat a recentvisit to Englandhad finally persuadedGandhi that westerncivilization,with its factoriesand machinery,masscommunications,noise and violence,was depriving manof quietandthe powerto cultivatethosespiritualqualitieswhich lie at theheartof Gandhianphilosophy,particularlythosehe described as truthand non-violence.3As a corollaryhe turnedagainstthe par- liamentaryformsof governmentand the powerof the executivewhich appearedto accompanysuchcivilization,andresistedtheirimposition on India underthe Britishraj. The precisenatureof the indigenous governmentGandhifavouredfor India changedwith the years.At firsthe envisageda benevolentautocracy;butby I9I8 he believedthat someformof electedgovernmenton parliamentarylineswasnecessary as an interimstageof politicaldevelopment.Writingto someonehe had met in Londonin I906 and I909 when the idealsof HindSwaray were formingin his mind, he discussedthis apparentinconsistency

You haveremindedme of whatI usedto sayin London,viz., that benignautocracywasthebestformof Government,andhaveaskedme howI reconcile[thiswith]myactivityin connectionwiththeHomeRule movement.I stillretainthepositionheldbymein London.Butthatform of Governmentis an impossibilitytoday.Indiamustpassthroughthe throesof ParliamentaryGovernmentand,seeingthatit is so,I naturally supporta movementwhichwill securethe besttypeof Parliamentary Government 4

HindSwarajreproducedin fullin fAeCollectedWorksof MahatmaGandhi,Vol.I0, (TheCollectedWorksare in processof publicationby the Governmentof India,New Delhi; theyarecitedbelowas C.W.).




3 Indian0y7inion,X OctoberI909, C. W., Vol. 9, pp. 3889.

4 Gan&i to FlorenceWinterbottom,XI }SebruaryI9I8,



Vol. I4,


2 I0.







His idealby I93I

'enlightenedanarchy'.Butrealizingthatsuchanidealwasunattainable in reality,he insistedthatin the immediatefuturethe maincharacter- istic of the state shouldbe the least possiblegovernment,5and the

completedecentralizationof power.

wasthe witheringawayof the state,what he called

The end to be soughtis humanhappinesscombinedwith full mental and moral growth. This end can be achievedunder decentralization. Centralizationas a systemis inconsistentwith the non-violentstructure of society.6

Theculminationof Gandhi'splansforthedecentralizationofpowerare

in a documentdated30JanuaryI948,

this he advocatedthe disbandingof the Congressas a politicalgroup, its transformationintoa socialserviceorganization,andthe devolution of authorityto three tiersof electednationalservants,of which the bottomtiershouldbe the villagepanchayat.7 But after Indian independencewhen leaderswere forginga new

constitutionit becameabundantlyclearthat Gandhi'sideal was only one strandin currentthought.Dr Ambedkar,Chairmanof the Draft- ing Committee,proclaimedthat

the day of his assassination.In

The love of the intellectualIndianforthe villagecommunityis of course

infiniteif not pathetic the ruinationof India

den of ignorance,narrow-mindednessand communalism?I am glad the Draft Constitutionhas discardedthe village and adoptedthe individual

as its unit.8

I hold that thesevillagerepublicshave been

What is the village but a sinkof localism,a

Besidesuchradicalcriticismsof any proposalto constructan Indian polityon the basisof the villageunit,therewerealsothe implications of Congressplansfor a socialistsociety.In the wordsof the foremost exponentof this streamof thought,JawaharlalNehru,'Politicalfree- dom, independence,wereno doubtessential,but theywerestepsonly in the rightdirection;withoutsocialfreedomand a socialiststructure of sccietyand the State,neitherthe countrynor the individualcould

5 GfoungIndia,2July I93I, quotedin S. AbidHusain,TheWayofGandhiandJ%ehru



37, 50.

6 Harijan,8January Ig42, ibid.,p. 36.

7 V.

P. Varma, ThePoliticalPhilosophyof MahatmaGandhiandSarsodaya,Agra,

I 959,


I 99-20

I .

H. Tinker,'Traditionand Experimentin Formsof Government',C. H. Philips (ed), PoliticsandSocietyInIndia,London,I963,








developmuch'.9Implicitin suchplanswasthe increaseof statepower to redistributewealth,to organizeresourcesand production,and to providethe sanctionof forcebehindlegislativereformof certainsocial practices.It is ironic that Gandhi,who had spent so much effiort decrying the so-called unbridledpower of the British raj, found himselfat theendof hislifein uneasyalliancewithfutureIndianrulers who plannedfar greaterinterferencein society,and envisagedwider governmentalpowersthanthe Britishhad everdaredto contemplate. It was not only the ideologyof Nehruand the socialistswhichjostled with Gandhianideals for prominencein independentIndia's new government.Therewereseverepracticalproblems,too.AfterPartition large areas of the countrywere badly disorganizedby communal violenceand the influxof refugees,and neededfirm administrative control.The structureof governmentwhich India inheritedfromthe departingraj was essentiallyauthoritarian,and devolutionon the grandscalewouldprobablyhaveresultedin politicalchaos.Moreover, leaderswho had spentmostof theirlives in conflictwith the raj for controlof governmentwerenaturallyreluctantto relinquishauthority to villagecommunitieswhenunfetteredpowereventuallycamewithin theirgrasp. Out of this conflictof ideals and political necessityemergedthe federalconstitutionof India, conferringlarge powerson the central and stategovernments.By this time Gatldhiwas dead. It was left to thepremierof theU.P. to complainthatthe'constitutiollis a miserable failure.The spiritof Indianculturehasnot breathedon it: the Gand- hismby whichwe swearso vehementlyat homeand abroaddoesnot inspireit. It isjust a pieceof legislationlike, say, the MotorVehicles Act.'l° Since I950, and particularlysince the establishmentof the PlanrlingCommission,governmentcontrolhasreachedout fromDelhi and the Statecapitalsinto nooksand cranniesof publiclife wherethe Britishneverventured,and deep into people'sprivatelives, too. In theoryanyway,governmentregulatessocialcustoms,it orderswhen childrenshallattendschool,it rationsanddistributesfoodon occasion, it interestsitselfin methodsof agriculture,it determinesthe size of landholdings,it regulatesand initiatesindustrialenterpriseas svellas performingthe traditionalrolesof the tax-collectorandthepoliceman.

9 J. Nehru, 24nJutobiography,London, I936,



For a study of Nehru's

socialistanddemocraticbeliefs,see;1:).E. Smith,J%ehruandDemocracy,Calcutta,I 958.

10Addressto University Convocation,Agra, I9

November I949,

quoted by

H. Tinker,'Traditionand Experimentin Formsof Government',Philies op.cit.,









'The little Sngerhas becomethe whole hand. Governmentis cvery-- whereandinescapable.'ll Butamidstthisgrowthof governmentpowerhasbeenone develop-

mentwhichat frst sightlooksexplicitlyGarldhianin originand sub- stance,the irlstitutionof panchayatraj.This entailsthe devolutionof muchpoweroverlocalconcernsandsubstantialfundsto a three-tiered structureof electedbodiesat the levelsof village, developmerltblock and district.The breakthroughtowardspanchayatraj came with tlle publicationin I957 of the Reportof theTeamfor theStudyof Communaty ProjectsandJfifationalExtensionService.The chairmanof the teamwhich producedthe reportjBalwantrayMehta, was a formerGandhian workerfrom Gujarat,and throughhim a directconnexionbetween Gandhi'sideals and panchayatraj can be traced.But Mehta himself insistedthat it wasnot dogmaticadherenceto Gandhianidealswhich promptedthis reform;ratherit was administrativenecessity.l2The C:ommunityDevelopmentprojectsof the early I950S, desigrledlargely to increasefood production,had not succeededin their object, and

it washopedthatthe devolutionof somerealpowerto localcommuni-


So farpoliticalcommentatorsandanthropologistshavebeenunable to produceanycomprehensivepictureoftheactualworkingof thisnew structure,as it is stillin its earlystagesand the evidenceis piecemeal. In some areas-Soodproductionand the generallevel of village pros-

perityhas increasedrapidly;l4but theseare perhapsexceptional.As

a reportfromRajasthanin I960 commerlted,villagerswerewillingto

spendcommunalmoneyonschools,dispensariesandroadswhichwould benefitthemall. But the improvemerltof irrigationand otherameni- ties, crucial to economicdevelopment,rarely benefitedthe whole village,and consequentlypanchayatsfoundit difficultto decidehow to allocatefunds.I5In otherplaces,as in partsof Gujaratwherethe go- ahead Patidarcasteis strong,village developmentforgeson without

the helpof newpanchayats,whichareevenlookeddownon by villagers

11W. H. Morris-Jones,7CheGovernmentandPoliticsof India(2ndedition),London,






Tinker, 'Traditionand Experimentin Forms of Government',Philips,

of. cit.,p. I83.

13 G. Rosen,DemocracyandEconomzcChangeznIndia,(Revisededition),Berkeleyand




8 14Fortwosuccessfulpanchayatsin Bihar,seeK. Nair,BlossomszntheDust,London,





Reportofa Study7CeamonDemocraticDecentralizationznRajasthan,quotedin Rosen,





as somewhatirrelevantgovernmentcreations.l6The fate of panchayats

reallyseemsto dependon the stateof theindividualvillagein the first


is a dominantcastewillingto useit constructively,orwhetherthereare

competingcastesor warringfactionswhichuse thepanchayatas a new arenafor their traditionalbattlesratherthan as an agencyfor self- governmentand an instrumentof development.

It is alsodebatablewhetherpa1achayatrajis workingin a way which

is really consonantwith Gandhi'svision. Althoughpower has been devolvedto villagelevelsitsaccompanimentis an armyof development officersandworkersfromvillagelevel upwards.Thesebringthe pres- tige and authorityof governmentwith them,and thoughtheoretically they workin cooperationwith the electedpanchayat,thereis danger that theirpresencemay makelocal autonomyinto a sham.Similarly,

Gandhienvisageda harmonious,non-violentsocietyandstateif central powerwas devolvedto the localities but in many placespanchayats are at the mercy of castesor factionsdisputinglocal supremacy.I7 In suchcasesthey do nothirlgto promotevillageharmony.Quite the reverse,theyincreaseexistingdivisionsand rivalriesby providingfur- ther prizesfor the successful.Panchayatrajdemonstratesat the local level how democracycan most cruellydivide in a complicatedand diversesociety,just as instalmentsof constitutionalreformdid at a higherlevelin the lastfortyyearsof the Britishraj.

whetheror not thereareinterestedlocalleaders)whetherthere

A discussionof thenatureandextentof statepowerin modernTnclia

is importantbecauseit seemsto be typicalof thefateof so manyof the

ideals GandhiwishedIndia to reflect,ideals and plans which some commentatorsliketoseeashls'legacy'toIndia.ButinthiscaseGandhi's ideal wasonly one strandin a conflictof differingidealsand political

necessities.It was only overridingpolitical and

and even then, the end product,contemporary15anchayatraj,is often distortedfromthe Gandhianidealby thenecessitiesof politicalcontrol and the powerof existingsocialgroups. Virtuallyidenticalis the fate of Gandhi'shopesfor the economic future of India. His vision was self-sufficientvillage communities producingthe Ilecessitiesforsimple,rurallife, with no needfor towns

put into practice when it coincidedwith economicpressurestowardsa similargoal,

For a casewherethe traditionalcouncilcontinuedto

rulethe villageand the statutorypanchayatwasmerelyan instrumentof liaisonwith

theadministration,seeF. G. Bailey,PoliticsandSocialChange.Orissain I959,

16 Nair, op.cit.,pp. I70-8.





Tinker, 'Traditionand Experimentin Formsof Government',Philips I68, I84.

17 H.

0p. Cit., pp.







with their factoriesand their endlesspossibilitiesfor exploitingthe poor.l8This clashedwith the plans of other Indian leadersfor a prosperousIndia able to hold its own as a modern,industrialized nation.What could have been moreinimicalto the Gandhianideal thanNehru'spronouncement,'I amallfortractorsandbig machinery, and I am convincedthat the rapidindustrializationof Indiais essen-


height of the natioralistmovement,and a whole sectionof Nehru's TheDiscoveayofIndiais devotedto reconcilingthe two views.20At the heart of the differencewas Gandhi'svision of a non-violentsociety. iForNehruit was a questionof makingIndiapoliticallyand economi- callystrong.He wrote:

.'?19Sucha clashobviouslyembarrassedIndianleadersat the

It can hardlybe challengedthat, in the context of the modernworld, no countrycan be politicallyand economicallyindependent,evenwithin the frameworkof internationalinter-dependence,unless it is highly industrializedand has developedits powerresourcesto the utmost.2l

ForGandhitheoverridingnecessitywasnotsuchconventionalstrength, but non-violence,as he explainedin I939.

eschewsexploitationaltogether,and exploitationis the essenceof violence.You have to be rural-mindedbeforeyou can be non-violentandto be rural-mindedyouhaveto havefaithin thespinning-


In practicethe naivetyof Gandhianeconomicshasgivenway to the FiveYearPlanswithemphasison rapidindustrialization.The Second Plan, for example, particularlystressedthe developmentof heavy industriesin orderto make India independentof foreignsuppliesof producergoods, and consequentlyable to accumulatecapital and reducethe foreigndebt.23Suchreasoningwouldhavebeen anathema to Gandhiansimplicity.However,in deferenceto Gandhianideals and the clear need to increaserural incomes,the governmenthas subsidizedcottageindustries.But the Third Plan commentedcurtly that underthe SecondPlan 'the resultsobtainedin respectof both

18 Fora surveyof Gandhi'seconomicideal,see Husain,op.cit.,pp. 39-46. 19J. Nehru, SheDiscoveryofIndia(paperbackimpressionof 4th edition),London, 1960,p. 4I2.


Ibidz pps409-I6

21 Ibid.,p. 4I4.


Harijan,4 NovemberI939,

quotedin Husain,op.cit.,p. 44.


PapersrelatingtotheFormationof theSecondFive-LearPlan,I955, quotedin Rosen,

Op. Cit.,


I 26.





productionandemploymentwerenotcommensuratewiththe expendi-


In one areaof economicpolicy,however,Gandhi'sideas did par- tially coincidewith thoseof Nehru and the moresocialistleadersof Congress that is, the problem of landlordismand landholding. Gandhi'sideal villagewas a communityof peasantscultivatingtheir ownlandandproducingtheirownfood,freefromlandlordswhomight subjectthemto a ruralequivalentof the industrialexploitationhe so decriedin towns.Nehru'ssocialistvisionincludedruralequality,while

his industrialplansneededa sourldagriculturalbase to supportthe industrialsectorof the economy.Bothlinesof thoughtpointedto some limitationof the great zemindariestatesexistirlgin parts of India. Gandhiwouldhavepreferredthe methodto be moralpersuasion,but as earlyas I928 Nehruhad mootedtho limitationof landholdingby law.25WherlCorlgresscametopowerit determinedto abolishzemindari and othertitlesin land whichcamebetweenthe governmentand the peasant,andto enforcemaximumlimitson landholding,in an attempt


to lessen rural inequalityand to provideincentivesfor

peasantcultivators.Despiteconsiderableoppositionfromthejudiciary, which was corlcernedto protectthe propertyrightsof individuals,26 by the end of the SecondFlve Year Plan all intermediatetitles in land wereabolished,and graduallylocal governmentsbeganto enact so-called'ceiling'legislationagainstlargelandholders. However,onceagainsocialconditions,particularlythe powerof the dominantlandholdingcastes in each area, conspiredto defeat the

idealsof Gandhianand socialistplanneralike.Take Raichurdistrict, once part of Hyderabad,as an example.There in I955-6, out of 2 I 3,953 landholders,only 549 officiallypossessedmore than the 'ceiling'legislationallowedwhenitwaspassed,althoughthiswasknown to be an area of large estates.27In Andhraas a whole, as in many other parts of India, landholdersredistributedtheir lands among their familiesand relatives a legal dodge which doubtlessaccounts forthe easewithwhichsuchlegislationpassesthroughlocallegislative assemblieseventhoughtheyoftencontainlargegroupsof landholding


The corollaryto 'ceilirlg'legislation,the legislativeprotectionof formertenants,has similarlybeen ineffiectivein manyplaces.Former

24 ROsen, op.cit.,p. I75 25 Smith,J%ehruandDemocracy,pp. I33-4.

For a discussionof the conflictsbetweenNehruand thejudiciary,and conse- quentadditionsto the Indianconstitution,see ibid.,pp.


27 Nair,op.cit.,p. 6I.

28 Ibid.,p. 62.








tenantsoften surrendertheir lands, apparentlywithoutcompulsion. Butsuchsurrendersarevoluntaryin nameonly.Forfearofthepowerful landlordnearby,able to makelife uncomfortablein the immediate circleof the village)is greaterthan beliefin protectionthroughthe courtsor from a distant government.29Moreover,there have been unforeseeneXectsof 'ceiling'and tenancyprotectionlaws which are certainlycontraryto the interltionsof the legislators.As landholders sharetheir lands amongtheir relativesthereis less surplusland for temporarytenantsto work; and people who formerlyearned their living by taking on temporarytenuresharrebeen degradedto the positionof day labourers.30Moreoverasome powerfullandlordslike the Patidarsin the Kairadistrictof Gujarathave,throughtheircontrol of the recordkeepers,manipulatedland titles and used some of the provisioItsof tenancylaws to evict their terlantsand turn them into agriculturallabourers.3lThis hits the low castesparticularly,demon- stratingthatpoweraccruesto thosewho alreadypossessit, irlthiscase the local dominantlandowllingcastes. Clearlyit tleeds more than well-intentionedlawsto alterthe balarlceof powerin ruralIndia. So far only the fate of Gandhis politicaland economicidealshas been corlsidered.It would be a valid criticismto say that after all Gandhiwas not primarilyinterestedor instrumentalin formulating constitutionsandeconomicplans,andthatit wouldbefairerto evaluate his influence-on moderrlIndia in an area of life in which he was supremelyinterestedSo let us turnto caste-- a topicto whichGandhi devoteda rrastamountoftimeandenergy.ForGandhi,castepresented two distinctproblems -the rlatureof caste divisionsin general,and the particularissue of Untouchability.To take the more general questionfirst:Gandhis attitudeto the institutionof castedeveloped considerablyovertheyears Brollghtupa strictHinduin theVaishnava tradition,-heacceptedcastedivisionswithoutquestionduringhis time in SouthAfricaand afterhis returnto India in I9I5* He wrotein a Marathimagazinein I 9 I6 thatcastewas'a perfectlynaturalinstitution

. * *investedwitha religiousmeaning,anda readyagentforsocialand moralreform.'Thesebeingmy views,'he wrote,CIam opposedto the


At this stage he still upheld the prohibitionson intermarriageand

29lfairnop.cit.,p. 64*

31NI.Weiner,PartyBuildingina NewJ%ation.SheIndian;NationalCongress,Chicago

50 Ibid, pp-644-

and London,X967,pp. 8g-go. SimilarexamplesfromOrissacf powerfullandholders vitiatingtenancyprotectionlegislationaregivenin Bailey,op.cst.,pp. 74-5.

32 BharatSevak,OctoberI9I6,

C. W.,

Vol. I3,







interdiningbetweenpeoplewho belongedto differentvarnas,though not betweenmembersof differentcasteswithineach of the fourgreat divisions.In I93X, however,he came out againstall restrictionson intermarriageandinterdining;andin I946 it was announcedthat no couplescouldbe marriedat his Sevagramashramurllessone of them wasan Untouchable.Somewherein theinterveningyears,mostclearly betweenI9I6 and I926 he had begunto distinguishbetweencasteas actuallyfoundin India, and his ideal of caste,what he called varna- shrama.Varnashramawasa cooperativesocietywithits membersdivided into occupationalgroups,each fulfillingtheir own functions,but all of equalstatus:andit wasthisidealof casteto whichGandhiadhered for the rest of his life.33In upholdingvarnashramaas opposedto the current practice of caste distinctions,Gandhi was compromising between the claims of orthodoxyand reform.But in his attitude towardsUntouchabilitythere was no element of compromise.As earlyas I907 he condemnedthe practicewithouthesitation;34and in I9I5 wrote,'If it wereprovedto me that this is an essentialpart of Hinduism,I for one would declare myself an open rebel against


Thereareseveralstrandsin Indianthoughtfromthelaternineteenth centuryonwardswhichtie up with Gandhi'sattitudeto caste.Within the spectrumof the earlysocialreformmovementtherewere many shadesof opinion,rangingfromthe mosttimid to the mostradical.36 But graduallythe radicalbegan to predominate,particularlyas the spreadof educationand communicationshelpedto weakenparochia- lismsof all kinds,includingthe distinctionsand loyaltiesof caste.By the I9XOS there was a body of opinionwhich called for the entire abolitionof caste,and an even strongerfeelingamongstthe educated that the practiceof Untouchabilityshouldbe prohibitedif India was to standon equal termsas a modernnation with westerncountries. The personalexampleof Gandhi,whose activitieswere reportedin mirlutedetail during the national movement,was undoubtedlyof great importancein making these ideas acceptablein India. But

33 For the developmentof Gandhi'sview of varnashrama(alsocalled varnadharma

and varnashramadharma),see D. Dalton, 'The GandhianView of Caste,and Caste

after Gandhi',P. Mason,of. cit., pp.

castecompiledby R. K. Prabhuis M. K. Gandhi,Yarnashramadharma,Ahmedabad,


A collectionof Gandhi'swritingson

I 962.


Gandhito ChhaganlalGandhi,2I April I907,

C. W.,

Vol. 6,




Speechby Gandhion I May I9I5,

EheHindu,3 May I9I5,

C. W.,

Vol. I3,




Fora surveyof thesocialreformmovemerlt,seeC. H. Heimsath,IndianJ%ational-








Congresssocialismandthe actualparticipationof lowerandUntouch- ablecastesin civildisobediencealsocontributedto a radicalapproach. At orlepointit lookedas if the Untouchablesunder Dr Ambedkar's leadershipwouldtrytofinda solutionto theirproblemthroughpolitical separatism.ButGandhi'sgreatfastleadingto the PoonaPactscotched this plan. Instead,Congressretainedtheir allegiance,but was com- mittedto abolishingUntouchabilitywhenit cameto power.37Conse- quentlyinthe I 950ConstitutionUntouchablestatuswasabolished,and thiswasreinforcedbythe I 955UntouchabilityOXencesAct,applicable to thewholeofIndia.38On thepositiveside,scholarshipswereprovided forUntouchablesin schoolsand colleges,specialseatswereallottedto themin the LokSabhaandStateLegislativeAssemblies,anda certain percentageof governmentjobs werereservedforthem. But what of actual practice?Untouchabilityis sanctionedby the traditionof generations,an embeddedattitudeand socialhabit hard to rootout. Moreover,as a ritualstatusgivento certainoccupational groups,it cannotbe abolishedby the strokeof a legislator'spen, but only as thosegroupsfind new occupations-and increasingprosperity to freethemfromtheirdegradedstatusandgive themin eXecta new statusto replacethe old. In townsthis happensmorerapidly,except whereUntouchableslive in casteblocsor keeptheirtraditionaloccu- pations.Butin villagesthereis stillplentyof evidencethat Untoucha- bilityis as real a statusas everit was.39Althoughthe problemof the erstwhileUntouchablesis essentiallyan economic one, such is the complexityof Indiansocietythatsometimesthe veryprosperitywhich should undermineold ritual distinctionsbecomesan incentive for retainingcommunalidentityand degradedstatus.40Even the protec- tive discriminationgivento ex-Untouchablesin educationandgovern- ment has backfired,makingformerUntouchabilitya statusin which men have a substantialvested interest.4lClearly despite Gandhi's

A. M. Muzumdar,SocialWelfarein India.MahatmaGandhi'sContributions,New York, I964,

38 For the scope of the Constitutionand the UntouchabilityOffencesAct, see

M. Galanter,'ChangingLegalConceptionsof Caste',Milton Singerand Bernard

S. Cohn (ed), StructureandChangeinIndianSociety,Chicago,I968,






39 H. Orenstein,'Leadershipand Castein a BombayVillage', R. L. Parkand

I. Tinker (ed), LeadershipandPoliticalInstitutionsin India,Princeton,I959,

Nair, op.cit.,pp.

40 For the case of the Chamarswhose traditionallydegradingleatherworkhas becomeextremelyprofitable,seeL. I. and S. H. Rudolph,TheModernityof Tradition. PoliticalDevelopmentinIndia,Chicagoand London,I967, p. I34.

41 The Maharsof WesternIndia are one of the clearestexamplesof a group deliberatelytradingon the new benefitsavailableto them if they admit to being




I 87.



M .


campaignagainstUntouchability,and despitevirtuallyrevolutionary legislation,Untouchablestatuspersistsand is even being artificially prolongedin modernIndia. It is difficult to generalize about the power and importance of caste distinctionsas a whole comparedwith the specificissue of Untouchability,since these distinctionscover so many areas of life and vary in differentregions.But it seemsthat graduallythe ritual importanceof caste is weakeningas educationspreadsand as the endogamouscircle begins to sviden.42However, though the ritual implicationsof caste may weaken, caste and sub-castegroups are findingnew areasof activityin public life which makenorlsenseof Gandhianideals of a harmonioussocietyof interdependentgroups. Educationalarldeconomicdevelopment,andthe devolutionof power, firstfroman imperialto an Indianraj and then downthroughState to jianchayat,have disturbedold balancesof power, providednew opportunitiesfor social and economicadvancement,and with them the meansof obtainingcorrespondingpoliticalinfluence.This process of changeand modernizationmightbe expectedto weakencasteties, but in someunforeseenwaysit hasservedto reinforcethem. One way is throughthe reservationofjobs and seatsin legislatures for 'backward'classes,a categorywhichincludessome low castesas well as ex-Untouchables.As in the caseof the latter,somelow castes like the Lingayatsof Mysore,are determinedto retainthe statusof 'backward'for the politicaland economicadvantagesit now affiords themthoughiIl facttheireconomicpositionhasso improvedthatthey llolongerdeservethetitle'backward'.43In anotherwaypoliticalchange has throwncastegroupsinto prominence.Operatingwithirlthe new systemof massfranchisepoliticianshave to find appropriatemethods of courtingpoliticalsupport;andthe castegroupwithits localleaders and supra-villagenetworksis a ready made instrumentfor political mobilizationifpoliticianscallcaptureitsloyalty.Realizingthispolitical potential, political scientistsand anthropologistshave studied the modernpoliticalrole of castein considerabledetail. One thing that

Mahars.Even Christiansand Muslims,theoreticallycastelesscommunities,in some placesnow claimvigorouslythat they have amongthem ex-Untouchableswho are

eligible for governmentbenefits. See H. R. Isaacs, India'sEx-Untouchables,(ISt





42 M. N. Srinivas,SocialChangeznModernIndia,Berkeley& Los Angeles, I966,




43 A. Betaille,'The Futureof the BackwardClasses:The CompetingDemandsof Statusand Power',M:ason,op.cit.,p. 89. Fora discussionof the diEcultiesinvolved in findinga suitablecriterionof 'backwardness',see D. E. Smith,Indiaas a Secular State,Princeton,I 963, pp. 3I 6-22.







emergesfrom the recent voluminous literatureon that role is the great variety to be found in diffierentregions, among different castes, and at diffierentlevels of political life. In State level politics alone there are several distinct patterns of caste activity. Sometimes whole castes go consciously into politics as organized groups.44In other cases groups

of castes form political alliances to

Sometimes caste loyalties are only one of a number of means which politiclans use to attract votes: economic, cultural and social loyalties and interests are also called into play.46But though the factors which 'dilute' the power of caste in politics are increasing, caste is certainly

a live issue and a powerfulweapon, and where it operates it increases bitternessin politics hence the derogatory use of the word 'casteism' in contemporary Indian political jargon. The harmonious ideal of Gandhi's varnashramais still an ideal and no reality. The cases on which this discussionhas so far centred make it clear

that Gandhi's ideals have often left little mark on Indian society and politics; and where they have been influential they have often been distortedin practice by social conditions. B7hatis left by the Mahatma in modern India is not a social and political reformation,but merely a tiny group of devoted Gandhians. Some, under the leadership of

doctrines of Sarvodaya,the welfare

Jayaprakash Narayan, preach the

preserve or better their position.45

of all. Like Gandhi, they believe that the future of India lies with village communities and the end of partzrpolitics and factional strife. Others, led by Vinoba Bhave, have since I952 toured the country,

askingfor giftsof larldand goods to form the basisoScooperativevillage communities on the Gandhian model.47Their political power in terms of numbersand institutionsis minimal. But they have caught the public imagination by sourldinga note of simplicity and tradition in a period of rapid change and deviation from traditionalpaths. In a strangeway they provide a focus for much of the current political discontent in India, even though many of their ideas are virtually impossible to enact. They are presentas a constant reminderof the heroic days of the

44 E.g.,theNairsof Kerala,Rosen,op. Cit.,p. 77; theJatavsofAgra,O. M. Lyneh,

'ThePoliticsof Untouchability:A CasefromAgra,India',Singerand Cohn,op. cit.,

pp. 227-35

45 RecentlytheRajputsof GujarathaveadmittedlowercasteKolisto thestatusof

Kshatriyaandalliedwiththemin the GujaratSabhain orderto capturepowerfrom the Patidar-dominatedCongress,M. N. Srinivas,'Mobilityin the CasteSystem',

ibid.,pp. I98.

46 The Vanniyarsof Madrashave progressedfrom the simple form of political activityin overtlycastepartiesto thismoresophisticatedstagewheremanynon-caste


47Fora discussionof the Sarvodayamovement,see

26-7, 88-I03*






nationalistmovement,andarea standingcritiqueofanyIndiangovern- ment. Butsurelyit is to the daysof the nationalistmovementthatwe must turn if we are to see the influenceof Gandhion modernIndia? To look for directcausallinksbetweenhis idealsand whatis happening in contemporarypolitics and society is really to pose the wrong questions.Gandhiwasnot a formulatorof constitutionsor a plannerof economies;nor even a full time politician,sincefor long periodshe would retirealmostcompletelyfrom politics,and devote himselfto the serviceof the Untouchablesand to filling India with spinning- wheels.The concretepreparationfor the governmentof independent India was done by the Nehrusand Patelsof the nationalmovement. They were the creatorsof a partymachineand the architectsof the new state, and one couldrightlyaskwhat theirdirectlegacywas to modernIndia in termsof policiesand institutions.Gandhiprovided the inspirationand the dynamicleadership,particularlyat critical momentsin the movement,and it is his leadershipwhich has left indeliblemarkson contemporaryIndia ratherthan his specificplans forsocialandpoliticalreform. Gandlli'srole as a leadercan be describedas essentiallythat of a mediatorbetweenvariousgroupsandforces.In the firstplace,though onoccasionnotevena Congressmember,he becamethe acknowledged leaderandsymboloftheanti-Britishagitation.Assuch,heheldtogether a groupof politicalleaders,mediatingbetweentheirdiverseideologies and aims.His veryriseto powerin I920 wasbasedon thismediatory function. The Congressesheld at Calcutta and Nagpur in I 920 completelyreversedthe earlierCongresspolicyof cooperatingin the Montagu-Chelmsfordconstitutionalreforms. The reason for this dramaticrevisionlay in the politicalforcesGandhicontrolled,andthe wayhe usedthem.Congressfromitsinceptionuntil I920 had beenthe preserveof educatedgroups,predominantlyHindus of high caste, who camefromthe threePresidencieswhichhad beenlongestunder Britishinfluence.They alone were equippedby their educationto fencewiththe rajin westernstyleinstitutionsforpoliticalpower:they alonehad the qualiScationswhichwouldmakethemthe beneSciaries of the concessionsof placeand powerin governmentserviceand the LegislativeCouncilswhichwerethe heartof theirpoliticaldemands. Standing outside this tiny, sophisticatedworld of the professional politicianswerevastgroups,areasandcommunitieswhoseaimsmight be very differentif theirpoliticalpotentialwas ever released.It was thispotentialwhichGandhibeganto releasein I920. His strength,as







shownin thevotingpatternsat CalcuttaandNagpur,layin thesupport

of sectionsof the Muslimcommunity,rousedto activityin the Khilafat movement,in the supportof representativesfromregionswhichhad previouslyplayed a peripheralpart in politics-Bihar, U.P., the Punjab,Gujaratand the Hindi-speakingpartsof C.P.-and in the supportof merchantgroupswhoseloyaltieshad previouslylain with the raj. It was not that Gandhicompletelyswampedthe olderstyle politicians,but ratherthat this novel supportmade him the most dangerousopponent and the most powerfulpotential ally in the politicalsituationof Ig20.48EvenB. G. Tilak,in the weeksbeforehe died, was acutelyawarethat his followerswerefacedwith a critical decisionby Gandhi'sincreasingpower.Accordingto a contemporary report,one of 'Tilak'slast coherentutterancesduringhis finalillness' was 'thatGandhishouldbe regardedas a politicalpowerand not be lightlythwartedor opposedby the Nationalistslest they shouldfind

themselvesin a minorityand lose their lead in

Presidencypoliticiansrealizedtheir predicamentand many of them

turnedto Gandhiat the end of I920 ratherthanslide into obscurity;


tersso that the olderpoliticiansretainedinfluence,if not leadership, in the nationalmovement.One Bombaypoliticianput the situation neatly:

.'.49 The

We have expressedour diSerencesas regardsthe programmeof Non- co-operationto MahatmaGandhirecentlyandhe hasconcededProvincial

autonomyso far as it agreed with the fundamentalprinciplesof his Non-co-operationand thuswe are nowin a positionto workout the pro-

grammeasit maysuitusbest

the rightto ourselvesto expressour diffierencesamongstourselveswhen- ever a properoccasionarrives,to closeup our rarlksand oXera united frontto the Governmentunderthe guidanceof the onlyman-Mahatma

Gandhi who can be somewhatof a leader to us, under the present


The timeis ripeforusall now,reserving

But preciselybecauseof the increasingdiversityof thosewho had begunto participatein politicswith theirown particularaimsunder

48 Foran analysisof votingpatternsin the Calcuttaand NagpurCongressesand

an investigationof thesourcesof Gandhi'spower,seeJ. M. Brown,'Gandhiin India, his emergenceas a leaderand the transformationof politics'(Cambridge Ph.D. dissertation,I 968 ), pp.


49 BombayPresidencyPolice,SecretAbstractof Intelligenceof I920, S. B. BombayPresidency,Poona,27 August.

50 M.R.JayakartoB. S. Moonje,sJanuary Ig2I,JayakarPapers,Chronological


I 4-72


par. I2II,





Gandhi'sleadership,his mediationbetweenthe

at a meetingof the




Khilafat Conference,when Muslimhorses.Congress

inJune I920

Gandhiwas tryingto ride both Hindu and

had deferreda decisionon

until the

was to keep the

as not to alienatethe Hindusby

by deliveringarl ultimatumto the

mediationand a potentialHinduallianceon

he wouldretire.The Governorof Bombayreportedthisincident:


specialsessionin September,and Gandhi's unenviabletask

non-cooperationover the

Muslimssufficientlyhappyand underhis controlso

wild speechesor actions.He did this

Muslims:they could have his

his termsonly,otherwise

He informedthe

grammeit wouldbe

of whichhe shouldbe the

Khilafat Committeethat in orderto

carryout his pro-

two or three


MartialLaw Committee

necessarythat arlinternalcommitteeof

dictator(he usedthisword)shouldbe


and he

of the Khilafat sayingthatjust as

so in the shouldbe

of himselfand

proposedthat this shouldbe

Movement.He explainedthe choice of

ordinarylaw was

suspendedin the use of

this name by Martiallaw,


caseof the KhilafatCommitteeits

suspendedpro tem., if

powerof actionand

they desiredhis

co-operation,in favour

his 'committee'.Thiswas silentlyaccepted.5l

Boththe mediationand the

then throughoutGandhi'scareer.There


afterthe brief


Hindusand Muslims.SomeHindusas well

cularlythose underthe membersof the Hindu

politicianspreferredto stick

united anti-Britishfrontin a Congresswhich becamea coalitionof preservea


Mahasabha.But on the whole the Hindu

influenceof SubhasChandraBose, and the

dictatorialtendencywere presentfrom

were those who refusedto

Congresson the


bring together



his life'sworkwas to


togetherunder Gandhiand

One writerhasgoneso faras to call the

partysystemirl itself,in

expression, conciliationand

untilrecentlynot only in the central

modernCongressan entire

which conflictinggroupsand


compromise.52This processcouldbe seen

Congressparty, where Nehru




thelocalities.At thelocallevelCongresssuccessin


51 Sir GeorgeLloyd to E. S.


52 R. Kothari,'The Rosen,op.cit., pp. 64.

Montagu,25 June Ig20, MontaguPapers, India


PartySystem',She EconomicWeekly,3 June I 96I, quoted in







powerand insuringunityhasrestedverylargely,too, on its poweras the Governmentpartyto mediatebetweenlocalgroups,andto provide them with meansof expressionand roadsto power.53The inclusive, synthesisingnatureof Congresshas undoubtedlycontributedto the comparativestability of Indian politics in the two decades since independence,and the successfulworkingof elected, parliamentary forms of government-phenomenarare in the post-independence historyof Asianand Africanstates.ModernIndia owes muchto the Mahatmafor this, becausethe natureof Congresswas very largely determinedby his ideal of it as the voice of all India, and by the mediatoryqualitiesof his ownleadership. In a secondway Gandhiwasa mediatorduringthe nationalmove- ment-between the educated, high caste groups who had moved easilyin politicssincethelate nineteenthcentury,and the widersocial groupswhichhave movedinto politicssincethe FirstWorldWar. It is oftensaid that Gandhiwas instrumentalin creatingmasspolitical awarenessand participationin India, and that from I920 onwardshe harnessedtogetherthe Seelingsof the massesand the ambitionsof an

elite. As more work is done on the actual mechanicsof Gandhi's politicalleadershipit becomesclearthat thisis an over-simplification. It is quitetruethat Gandhimovedwith easein the club-roomsof the IndianBarsandthepoliticalassociationsoftheprofessionalpoliticians, as well as in the markettownsand villages,interpretingthe different


whomone mightcall ruralandsmalltownelitesthat Gandhiactedas politicalmediator,and rarelybetweenthe politiciansand the masses.

The legendof the Mahatma'ssuccessin makingmasspoliticalcontact

makesthissoundlike-heresybesidethe dogmasof Indian nationalist history;and of coursetherewereoccasionswhen Gandhihad direct politicalinfluenceon ordinaryvillagerswithno claimsto the statusof

an elite group.For example,duringthe I920

villagenot a singlepersonvoted afterGandhihad visitedthe district the previousday.54Occasionslike this doubtlessmultipliedwith the yearsas he becamea trulyall-Indiafigure.But generallyspeakingto the reallypoorand illiterateGandhi'smessageand appealwas social and religious.To the moreprosperouspeasants,and the tradersand professionalmen of small towns his appeal became more overtly political:whileat the highestlevelsof politicalparticipationhe could

each other. But it was betweenthe politiciansand those

electionsin one U.P.

couch demandsin the languageof legislaturesarldconstitutions.It


53 Weiner,op.cit., pp. 469-72.

54 V. Chirol,IndiaOldandNew,London,I92I,







was between these latter groups that Gandhi acted as a political mediator. This processcan be tracedin Gandhi'scareerrightfromthe time when he launchedhimselfinto Indian politicswith the Champaran satyagrahaof I9I7. In Champaran,thoughhe movedthroughthevilla- ges, his key men were a smallgroupof professionalmen fromBihar towns, most of whom were lawyers. Among them was Rajendra PrasadfromChaprawho wasto becomeone of Gandhi'schiefhench- menin Bihar.The only one of the groupwho had hithertohad much real politicalexperiencewas BrajKishorePrasad,who had been a memberof the BiharLegislativeCouncil,and had attendedCongress. AmongGandhi'shelperswerealsobusinessmenfromlocaltownswho realizedthat if Gandhi'scampaignagainstthe plantingcommunity wassuccessfulit mightincreasetheirownpowerand prosperityin the area.Of the fourmainpeasantleaderswhom Gandhiused,the most prominentwas the son of a prosperousBrahmincultivatorwho had

personalgrievancesto vent againstthe planters.55Clearlysuch mer belongedto a ruralandurbanelite,andassociationwiththemwasnot politicalcontactwith the masses.Similarlyin the Kairasatyagrahaof I9I8 Gandhi'sworkwas not with the poorestpeasants,but with the prosperousPatidarcommunityof this districtof Gujarat,while his most importanthelperswere either Patidarsthemselvesor lawyers fromGujaratitowns,workingthroughthe infantpoliticalassociations theyhad begun,particularlythe GujaratSabha,the GujaratPolitical Conferenceand the local branchesof the Home Rule League.Both Patidarand lawyer, VallabhbhaiPatel was the foremostof these associates.56The same patternof leadershipappearsin the Rowlatt

satyagrahaof I9I9

and in the rlon-cooperationmovementbegun in

I920. In everycase Gandhiuseda middlegroupbetweenthe masses and the politiciansin the role of politicalsub-contractor.In Biharin I920 this middlegroupconsistednot only of smalltown pleadersbut

also of Muslimreligiousleaders,particularlythe maulvis,who were interestedin the Khilafatcause.57In Maharashtrathe policereported that the ordinaryvillagersunderstoodvirtuallynothingof what was said at non-cooperationmeetings,but that village officialslike the

55 Fora descriptionof Gandhi'sassociatesin Champaran,see undatedletterfrom

W. H. Lewis,SubdivisionalOfficer,Bettiah,to the Commissioner,TirhutDivision, B. B. Misra(ed),SelectDocumentsonMahatmaGandhi'sMovementinChamparanI9I7-I8,


pp. 339-43.

56 J. M. Brown,'GandhiIn India, I9I5-20',




Searchlzght,29 April I920,

Governmentof India,HomePolitical,A, September

I 920,

Nos. Ioo-3.







talatis,patelsandshrofsdid, andvillagers'behaviourwoulddependon


ButthoughGandhi'sleadershipdid not createmasspoliticalaware- nessas is sometimesglibly suggestedwithouta detailedstudyof the mechanicsof that leadership,his kind of political sub-contracting significantlyextendedthe rangeof real politicalparticipationbothin townsand in the countryside.Thishas beenreflectedin the changing


tedfewhavehad to giveway to, or at theveryleastsharepowerwith, powerfulruralelitestakingactivepartin politicsforthe firsttime. In Belgaum,forexample,by themid I g30stherehadoccurreda dramatic declinein the powerof the Brahmins,who were the earliestleaders and participantsin local politics,in the face of non-Brahminagricul- tural castes,particularlythe Lingayats.59An interestingcorollaryto this is the very recentindicationthat in someplacesthe ruralelites

mobilizedby Gandhiarenowbeingdisplacedor challengedin politics by groupsfrombelowthem in socialand economicranking groups who were barelytouchedby Gandhi'sleadership.In the Mahatma's home territoryof Gujarat,the Patidarswho followedhim from I9I8 onwardsand effiectivelymade up the local Congresswere in I962 defeatedin Kaira district by a Bariya-Rajputalliance under the bannerof a KshatriyaSabha.60 From I9I7 onwardsGandhimediatedbetweenthe smallgroupsto whompoliticshad becomea naturalactivityoverseveraldecadesand a widerspreadof groupswhobeganto be activein politicsforthe first time. As he did so he traineda new kind of leaderwho has risento prominencein the yearssinceindependence.The Nehrusand Patels of politics urbane,fluentin English,often educatedin Englandor qualifiedat the EnglishBar aregivingwayto, orat leastneedingthe assistanceof, men like Kamarajwho until recentlyspokeno English, the late PrimeMinisterShastriwho had neverleft Indiauntilhe took up ofiice.This new styleof leaderis betterequippedto representand understandthe rural groupswhose power has increasedsince the introductionof adultsuffrage,andto dealwithlocalpartybossesthan werethepoliticalleadersofthedayswhenpoliticswerestillthepreserve of an urban elite.6l India's comparativelysmooth transitionfrom


BombayPresidencyPolice,SecretAbstractof Intelligenceof I920,

par. I49I


Poona, I2 November.

59 Weiner,op.cit.,pp. 234-5. 60 Ibid.,pp I°5-I° 61The introductionof adultsuffragehastenedthe proeessof expandingpolitical participation,and shiftedpowereven morequicklyto the dominantruralcastesin the regions,casteswhiehthengainedmorepowerthroughthe institutionofpanchayat





elitistpoliticsto a stageof far widerparticipationin politicalactivity owesmuchto Gandhi'sabilityto interpretbetweendifferentgroupsand to trainnewleaderswho couldtap a widerrangeof supportthaxltheir predecessors.This is a politicaldividendof very great value to an ex-colonialterritorywhereviolencecan so easilyeruptfromthe bitter- ness of social,economicand regionaldivisionsif those divisionsare reflectedin a monopolyof politicalpower. In a thirdspherealsoGandhi'srolewasthatofmediator in matters of socialandpoliticalideology.Comparedwithan oldergenerationof politicianswho owedmuchof theirpoliticalthinkingto educationon Englishliberallines,andmadeCongressthesobermorning-dressaffair that it once was, Gandhiappearedboth in outwardappearanceand in his attitudesand argumentsto be far more traditionallyIndian. Indeedthiswaspartof his strengthas he stretchedout to groupsnot yet involvedin the sophisticatedgame of western-stylepolitics.But in many ways he reinterpretedtraditionallyIndian ideas to justitr moremodernor westernattitudes,andsimilarlyinterpretedthe more modernin tertnsofthetraditional.Oneofthemostobviousexamplesof thiswashis attitudetowardscastedivisions.His egalitarianideasowed muchto hiswesterneducation,but he tookcarealwaysto clothethese ideasin traditionalforms,stressingthat varnashramawas a purification of corruptHindupractice,and not a departurefromHindutradition. Similarlyhe emphasizedthat his criticismof the contemporarytreat- mentof womenin Indiawasnot an attackon Hinduismfromoutside, but a call to returnto the originaltenetsof Hinduism.

Thesestatementsof mine may haveverbalsimiIaritywith the occasional attacksof Christians,but, apartfromthissimilarity,thereis no commorl groundbetweenus. The Christians,in theirattacks,seekto strikeat the roots of Hinduism.I look upon myselfas an orthodoxHindu and my attackproceedsfromthe desireto rid Hinduismof its defectsand restore it to its pristineglory.62

In somewhatthe sameway Gandhi'sidealof an Indiannation,and a goodIndian,atfirstowedmuchto examplesof nationalismandheroism fromoutsideIndia. In SouthAfricahe set himselfthe taskof uniting the Indiancommunityand educatingits membersin the qualitieshe thoughtmade nationsgreat, using his writingsand the columnsof IzadiazaOpinionin particular.He drewheavilyon the livesof nationalist

raj. Thisshiftin thebalanceofpowertothecountrysideisoneof themainthemesdealt with in Rosen,op. cit.

68 Speechby Gandhion 20 FebruaryI9I8,

C. W.,

Vol. I4,










arldexhortedhisaudienceto followmenasdiverseasOliverCromwell, GeorgeWashingtonandFlorenceNightingale,in thebeliefthatnations wereas greatas the peoplethey contained.65By the time he returned to India,however,hiswritirlgswereorientatedfarlesstowardswestern examples,and his stressfell increasinglyon the traditionallyIndian- hencehis useof wordslikeswarajandswaleshi,his emphasison verna- culareducation,village communitiesand the wearingof khadi.This new kindof expositionwaspartof theideologicalstructurehe builtup roundhis conceptof the supremacyof sstyagraha,truthor soul force. Much of that ideologyand the resultingpersonalidiosyncracieswere rejectedin India, but Gandhi'srestatementof westernpoliticalideals of nationhoodandindependencein overtlyIndian,evenHindu,terms and symbolswasof greatpsychologicalimportanceto theleadersofthe nationalmovement.It removedthe stingof the chargethe Britishhad alwayslaid againstthem,thattheywere'denationalized',representing nothingbut themselves,a groupof over-educatedbabus.It alsohelped to unifythe groupswho participatedin the movementby stressingthe traditionalinoppositionto thedivisionswhichBritishruleandinfluence had causedor exacerbated.66Even in the mundanemattersof dress and language,by dressingthe leadersin khadiand exhortingthemto speak a vernacular,Gandhibroughtthem closerto the rest of the population,appearingto iron out the differencesbetweenrich and poor, educatedand illiterate.Literallyand metaphoricallyGandhi clothedthe leadersof modernIndiain the robesof tradition,andthus easedIndia'spassageinto the modernworld.67

63 E.g., a passagein HindSwsraj,C.W.,Vol. I0,



an articlein Invdian

Opinion,22 July I905,

Opinion,27 July I907, C.W., Vol. 7, p. I22 and IndianOpinion,4 April Ig08, C.W., Vol. 8, p. I75

64 Acourseofarticlesentitled'Egypt'sFamousLeader')IndianOpinion,28MarchI 908, +April I 908, I I AprilI 908, I 8 AprilI 908,C.W.,Vol. 8, pp. I 66-7, I74-6, I 87-8, I99.

65 IndisnOpinion,g September I905, C.W., Vol. 5, pp. 6I-2; IndianOpinion,

27July Ig07,C.W.,Vol. 7, p. I22.

66 Of coursestressingthe traditionaland the Hindu also involveddangers.The increasinglyHinducharacterof the nationalmovementhelpedto alienateMuslims and to push theminto demandsfor a Pakistanwherethey wouldbe freefromthe dangerof Hindu raj. Use of vernaculars,also, was fraughtwith uncertainties.It might bring educatedand uneducatedtogether,but it might also emphasizethe difEerencesbetweenthe regionsof India and the claimsof theirvariousvernaculars forofficialrecognitionand use.

67 This processof using traditionin the serviceof modernityis workedout in somedetailin relationto Gandhi'sleadershipby the Rudolphsin a sectionof their recent book, entitled, 'The TraditionalRoots of Charisma:Gandhi',iEtudolphsF ap.cit.,pp. I 57-249.



pp.R7-8; numerousreferencesas in Indisn





In discussingMahatmaGandhi'sinfluenceon modernIndia it is misleadingto studyhis idealsand to try to see themas legaciesleft to his country,thoughthisis a temptingway to celebratehiscentenary. Societyandpoliticsarefartoo complexto reflecttheidealsofonemanj eventhoughhe wasoneof the greatestleadersIndiahasproducedand at timesevenseemedto personifytheIndiannation.Onlythecollusion ofidealswithsocialandeconomicpressurescanproduceradicalchange in traditionalsocieties:wherethe ideal aloneis present,in practiceit is eitherforgottenor distorted.This can be seenin microcosmin the fate of satyagrahaand its politicalapplicationin non-violentpassive resistance.This aboveall was Gandhi'smessageto India. It was for himthe manifestationof a consumingvisionof a non-violentworld,as well as a superblyadaptabletechniquefor conductingand resolving conflicts.Butin modernIndiatheidealhasgoneby the boardbothin externalrelationsand in internalpolitics. Militaryinterventionin Goa, and warswith Chinaand Pakistanhave ended an era of non- violencein foreignaffairsand of the diplomacyof non-alignment.68 Within India since Nehru'sdeath the coalitionhe held togetheris splittingup, andpoliticalstrifehasbecomemorebitterandincreasingly erupts irlto open violence. Moreover,the techniqueof satyagraha, whichGandhihopedwouldneverbe usedin an Indiawhichhadwon swaraj,69 has become a method of last ditch political blackmail.70 Political,economicand socialpressureshave conspiredto distortthe Gandhianoriginal. Solutionsto the problemsof modernIndia have to be, and are being,forgedby the politiciansof the '60sand '70s,in responseto the needsof the day, and not accordingto an ideologyfashionedin the early I9OOS by one who had no experienceof the pressuresof admini- strativeand economicnecessityin a vast under-developedcountry, andwhosemainconcernwasto rousehis countrymento a visionof an independentdestiny.The Mahatmawasnot the Fatherof the Nation in the sensethat he bequeathedto it a blue-printfor a new order; but ratherbecausehe bridgedthe gap betweenthe old orderand the new.

68 For evidenceof this change,see the figuresfor the increasein government

expenditureon defencesince I962,

Rosen,op.cit.,p. 37.

69 W. H. Morris-Jones,'Mahatma Gandhi Political Philosopher?', Political

Studies,Vol. VIII, I960,

70 E.g., the resortto satyagrahaby peoplehopingto get certaintownsand areas

includedin theirown linguisticprovinces,Weiner,op.cit.,pp.

tortionof the Gandhianoriginalcan be seenin the threatsof politicalleadersto fast to deathwhentheyhavebeenunableto get theirway throughthe normalconstitu- tionalchannelsof politics.




The samedis-