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Understanding Gandhi’s Imagination of India

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Understanding Gandhi’s Imagination of India
SOURCE: DavidHardiman:Gandhi in His Time and Ours
If the nation is an “Imagined Community,” whatSORT OF NATION WASGANDHIIMAGINING?
Why and How does Gandhi imagine the nation?
*personal experience of racism* fight for equal citizenship of empire in South Africashaped his vision of nationalism,DIALOGISM, always open to, welcome debateNo FIXED PHILOSOPHICAL system (others called it GANDHISM)For himself, it was a search for truth which was always evolving. No grand political theory.Welcome debate and discussion.Not always practice what he preach, but open to discussion, and changed his mind often enough on IMPORTANT issues, that we can see him as someone who was not dogmatic
What sort of Nation?
Hardimansays Gandhi’s nationalism“had little in common with the collectivist, monolithic, aggressive and xenophobic nationalism of some of the Western and Central European countries” (16)Nationalism was Incorporative. Hindu and Muslim and others. He did not always succeed, but PRINCIPLE was incorporative not parochial. Unlike that of many peersNot unique, nor first to do so, Gandhi’scomposite nationalism BUILT On these ideas, an IMAGINATION of India as loose constellation of communities, whom he sought to bring together through appeal to MORAL issues, whether it beRowlattAct,Khilafat, or Salt.*Not anti British per se, as long as they change their approach to India and to what they value, not a chauvinistic nationalism*nationalism based onkarma, notbhoga(where material pleasure takes on an almost spiritual dimension, “love” for cars, or homes, or possessions, these cannot be objects of love according to Gandhi) Karma otoh = good conduct“su-dharo”*REVERSED British stereotype of always, inevitably divided, caste-ridden, stagnant, India to claim it was always a nation, harmonious etc.
What sort of State?
*Believes in dynamic political space outside of state, for private property, trusteeship, as counter to state, so not believe in power politics, even asked INC to disband in 1948*Although he tempered his argument about the state in later years, still suspicious of it.Wantedminimalist government. But did agree in later years that poor and oppressed needed state, and also to curb communal violence. (21)* Both something in common with but also deeply antithetical to anarchism.Gandhibelieved strongly in discipline, but SELF discipline, not by state, and certainly not violence (20-21)
Reworking Older Ideas
Gandhi not the first to use either AHIMSA, SATYAGRAHA, or even CIVIL DISOBEDIENCEin India.Butrepresented “a highly creative intervention” (41) in its theory and practiceHardimanrecounts a long history to Civil Disobedience (CD)Jodhpur, Surat merchants {42-43}Dharna{44-45}even threat of suicide ({46} or selfmoritfication{46-47}etc]British have no respect for these traditional forms of protest, criminalize them, often crush by force (48-9)]Modern states that claim to follow rule of law but monopolize violence are more susceptible to Civil DisobedienceDIALOGIC RESISTANCE goes to the very heart of what Gandhi’s ideas were all about. DIALOG was key Through opening a dialog, try to persuade the opponent of your truth. An example is the use of PUBLICITY, which is what G use for first SatyagrahaChamparan(49-50)discussed earlierWhat G did was to rework older forms of CD to suit both his key moral concepts and new realities. Thus protest not motivated by hatred of opponent, but with desire to persuade, to open channels of communicationGandhi created“new language of protest” that both built “on older forms of resistance while at the same time accepting the colonial censure of all forms of violent protest.In time his new methods were to become as ritualized as the older forms of resistance” (51)
Satyagraha and Ahimsa
Satyagraha, truly dialogic, change heart of opponent, “in satyagraha there are no enemies” (52) opposed by others, who felt like collaboration. Gandhi said look at results, if you pressure, no heart change, victory is only partial “only when the opponent had understood the force of the counter-argument and had acted on that basis that there would be any genuine and durable success.” (54)Gandhi used BOTH, moral argument and non violent coercion (fast, mass protest) as H says “What was crucial ... was his political skill in knowing which line to play at each twist and turn.” (54)Individual Conscienceimportant to Gandhi, which he took from Thoreau, Tolstoy, Quakers, but it could not be ONLY a matter of individual action. However, no coercion or pressure, e.g. through sanctions of caste or community. Yet, this did and does happen, despite G saying “no society can be built on a denial of individual freedom” (57)Ahimsaolder tradition, again reworked, not a technical ahimsa ofJainabaniyae.g. (58) insist on truth but not by inflict suffering on opponent but oneself (59) not out of cowardice, quite the opposite, strengthThe question of whether or not it can be used in face of implacably violent enemy is very debatable, G probably wrong in asking Jews to use it against Nazis, though some successes (of Aryan spouses of Jews imprisoned (61)REPEAT:Modern states that claim to follow rule of law but monopolize violence are more susceptible to Civil Disobedience
Gandhi and Swaraj
WHAT DOES Gandhi mean by SWARAJ?Multivalent word. Means self rule, but does that mean we will rule over our own people or we need to have control over ourselves? As we will see fromHind Swaraj, Gandhi used the term to include BOTH MEANINGS. For his SWARAJ as much about SELF DISCIPLINE as HOME RULESo for Gandhi’s political actions as well as for the moral regeneration he sought, DISCIPLINE was paramount. This included individual self restraint and self discipline, variety of ways, celibacy particularly important. BUT ALSO COERCIVE DISCIPLINE when necessary, but, asHardimansays, his was very different discipline, from that of later “Gandhians” such as Desai orVinobaBhave(31-32)
Nation Above All? (Not STATE, nation!)
A strength or weakness ofGandiannationalism was that it sought to be BEYOND ALL DIVISIONSOverlook differences of CLASS,CASTE,or GENDERINDIA...bound together not by “interests” but by “neighborliness” (we will discuss some limitations later, peasants and women)This worked sometimes, and not at others. Because sometimes local and national were well connected, well articulated, such as inBardoliin 1928, but in other cases, such asChauriChaurain 1922, not so, where the local issues that had brought the folks inChauriChaurato Gandhian Satyagraha were hardly resolved when G decide to call off movement because of violenceIn part, though only in part, thanks to this disarticulation, came Gandhi’s notions of what H terms the DISCIPLINED NATION. Perhaps because of frequent DISARTICULATIONS, G very emphatic on DISCIPLINEAlso created some CONTRADICTIONS. We will explore those in our reading ofHind Swaraj





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Understanding Gandhi’s Imagination of India