The evolution of the Mahatma’s thought and philosophy

Source: The post is based on an article The evolution of the Mahatma’s thought and philosophypublished in The Hindu on 4th October 2022.

Syllabus: GS 1

News:  The article discusses the change in the views of Gandhiji after returning to India from South Africa.

Gandhi was greatly influenced by the writings of Leo Tolstoy and John Ruskin.He adopted the idea of hatred of violence and consumerism from the writing of Leo Tolstoy. While respect for labour and concern for the poor was adopted from the writings of John Ruskin.

Gandhi included, acquired knowledge in his book Hind Swaraj, composed in 1909.

What did Gandhi write in his book Hind Swaraj?

He wrote that once India gains swaraj it will have to stay away from the evils of western societies.

According to Gandhi, evils of the western societies were –

  • Electoral democracy because Parliaments were the emblems of slavery.
  • Women should not go out for work as this will lead to the movement for the voting rights as it was in the West.
  • Modern industry based on machinery should be rejected.

However, he thought that some faults that Indian society had was child marriage and polyandry. However, no mention was made of polygamy or untouchability in his book.

He indirectly praised caste system for lowering market competition as it assigns a fixed occupation to everyone. He also had faith on varnashram.

He proclaimed that India was being ruined by the three evils (railways, lawyers and doctors) brought by the British.

He said that India should continue to buy from Manchester rather than build cotton mills in India.

He believed that there was no need of compulsory education and religious education was enough.

Gandhi did not present any proposal in his book for the removal or alleviation of poverty even though he was concerned for the poor. He also did not provide any guidance on how India under Swaraj was to be governed.

The only modern idea adopted by Gandhi in his book was that a nation should not be identified with any one religion.

These were the views of Gandhi when he arrived India in 1915.

However, Gopal Krishna Gokhale was his teacher and he was against his views written in Hind Swaraj. He encountered Gandhi on the idea of untouchability that was ignored in Hind Swaraj.

How did Gandhi views evolve from writings in Hind Swaraj?

He did not mention anything about untouchables in his book but after the establishment of ashram at Ahmedabad in 1915 he admitted an untouchable couple into it.

Gandhi participated in Champaran struggle against indigo-planters. This made him go against his views on right of property.

Gandhi went on a hunger-strike in favour of striking textile mill workers which was against his views on the establishment of modern industry in India.

During the Non-Cooperation movement (1920-22), the main demand was for protection of Khilafat which was a purely Islamic institution under the Ottoman Empire in Turkey. This was the invocation of religion as a source of political action, while Gandhi’s view in his book were against using religion as a source of political action.

Moreover, Gandhiji formulated ‘Constructive Programme’ in 1924. The Programme concentrated to work in the villages to promote the use of Khadi and reject machine-made cloth and British made cloth. It also campaigned for Hindu-Muslim unity and removal of untouchability.

Gandhi also supported Nehru’s draft resolution on Fundamental Rights in the Karachi session of the Congress on 31 March 1931. This resolution provided many principles which Gandhi opposed earlier, such as, women should not only become voters but also appointed to public offices and exercise of trade, etc.

Gandhiji went on fast against the separate electorates created for depressed castes by the Government’s Communal Award of August 1932.

The Poona Pact proved a signal for Gandhiji from 1932 onward to initiate a nationwide campaign against untouchability and for their upliftment.

Gandhiji later avoided giving any sanction to the caste system or any philosophical defence of varnashram.

His concerns for Hindu-Muslim unity became ever more focused. He stood firm against communal violence in the year of Independence for which he paid with his life on January 30, 1948.

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