REFLECTIONS ON GANDHIJI’S ‘HIND SWARAJ’
Gandhi had certain views of his own, on important aspects of human life. Several such ideas of Gandhi are given in his book “Hind Swaraj”. In the past, many western thinkers had reviewed this book and given their opinion. The present book has ten Chapters and three appendices. While the first Chapter is the editorial of Aryan Path magazine, rest of the nine Chapters give comments of nine western thinkers. Chapter one discusses about east getting into the grip of bad effects of western civilization, with some western thinkers now appreciating the ideas given in Hind Swaraj. Chapter two gives comments of John Davys Befresford. He says that India could not have become free, if it were to adopt western civilization. Means and ends are equally important. Use of soul force and passive resistance is considered better. Chapter 3 gives comments of C. Delisle Burns. According to him, Gandhi repudiates western ideals, values, actions and thoughts, but also speaks about the evils of Indian civilization like child marriages, child widows and animal sacrifices etc. Non-cooperation is considered an effective weapon. Chapter four gives comments of George Douglas Howard Coles. It states that Gandhi could not bridge the gap between human beings to his satisfaction. Gandhi had said that moral difference between right and wrong is fundamentally important. Further he opposed use of force and preferred passive resistance, for getting justice and resolving of grievances. Gandhi did not recommend use of armed rebellion by India. While western civilization is not an enemy of human soul and should not be condemned, Gandhi’s influence should spread in the west also. Evil lies in the person misusing the mechanism, and not in the mechanism. Cole says that he would risk a war to put an end to horrors. As per Chapter five which gives the comments of Hugh I’anson Fausset, non-violence is a technique for applying political pressure. Non-violent means for various ends may change both means and ends. Gandhi considers machinery as evil, but this is considered arbitrary. The soul-force of love can resist the ill effects of machinery. The writer considers Hind Swaraj as the modern greatest book. Chapter six gives the views of Gerald Heard, according to whom Gandhi uses love as the agent of soul-force, for solving the problems between the parties. Cole praises Gandhi for his courage. Chapter seven gives comments of John Middleton Murry, according to whom, the spinning wheel and plough are also machines, and that if non-violence is used merely for political pressure, it loses its efficiency. Gandhi’s claims are now being recognized against brute force. Gandhi wanted to save India from western civilization and also use of machinery. According to the writer, self-rule can be obtained through passive resistance or soul-force. As per the comments of Claude Houghton Oldfield given in Chapter eight, this book has two essential themes viz. western civilization is no good and that love is power. We must fight evil with resistance, and that self-rule is the only freedom. Chapter nine gives the comments of Irene Rathbone, who considers Hind Swaraj as a phenomena and not just a powerful book, since it gives correct means for correct ends. Chapter ten gives the comments of Frederick Soddy, who apparently did not find any major success of doctrines of Gandhi, after visit to India. Gandhi wanted to replace violence with self-sacrifice. His thoughts are applicable to Europe as much as to India. Practising of passive resistance needs greater fearlessness. When changes can be made without violence, people should not be made to die.
Mrs. Sophia Wadia had sent copies of Hind Swaraj to several western thinkers. While some general criticism had been made by several writers, all had said that condemning of machinery by Gandhi was not in order. But in a dialogue, Gandhi had stated that he is not against machinery but against being crazy for machinery. Appendix one is a piece written by Mahadev Desai, Secretary and associate of Gandhi, and the second Appendix is a write-up by Prof. Nand Kishore Acharya, an author and editor, in which he presents his independent views, while the third Appendix gives Who’s Who of the contributors. Appendix two discusses two more relevant books besides Hind Swaraj. Gandhi wanted a free, equal and non-violent society. Swaraj had three main points ---self rule, passive resistance and swadeshi, in which the last one laid stress on human labour, local resources and local needs. Aryan Path magazine had published these comments in 1938, and later on these were brought out in the form of a book, with the above title. The present book is a reprint of the same by Prakrit Bharati. The western thinkers covered in this book are mostly writers, authors and editors, with one being a Nobel laureate. Out of nine, three are British nationals. The book is considered worth reading by researchers and the general public alike.