Indian Home Rule (Hind Swaraj)

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Author: MK Gandhi with introduction by Prof SR Mehrotra
Publisher: Promila & Co, published in association with Bibliophile South Asia         
Pp 238, ISBN 978-93-80188-02-7, Rs 495)

Indian Home Rule is Mahatma Gandhi’s primary work, and a key to the understanding both of his life and thought, and South Asian politics in the twentieth century. Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj is a fundamental text for any understanding of the man and his mission. The greatness of Mahatma Gandhi was his simplicity. Hind Swaraj literally means ‘self-rule in India’, was the first definitive writing of Mahatma Gandhi, and which continued to evoke critical interest the world over even now.

He had gone to England to hold talks with the British government on problems faced by Indian community in South Africa. He wrote the book on the ship during his return journey in just 10 days -between November 13 and 22, 1909.

As stated by Gandhiji himself: “I wrote the entire Hind Swaraj for my dear friend Dr Pranjivan Mehta. All the arguments in the book is reproduced almost as it took place with him.”

A must read if we are to change for the better! The editor enlightens the reader on true swaraj, the corruption of western civilization, and most importantly: self-rule! It was published in the Indian Opinion in Natal and was soon banned by Government in India because it contained ‘matter declared to be seditious’. On that, Gandhi published the English translation from Natal to show the innocuous nature of its contents. The ban was finally lifted on December 21, 1938.

Hind Swaraj has 20 chapters and two appendices. Appendix I lists twenty references for further reading, including six by Tolstoy, two by Thoreau, two by Ruskin, one by Plato (Defence and Death of Socrates), and one by Mazzini (Duties of Man), and one each by Dadabhai Naoroji, and RC Dutt on the economic condition of colonial India.

This only shows that how crystal clear were Gandhiji’s thoughts on Indian civilization and that it had little to learn from the modern. Appendix II gives testimonies by eminent men to this effect.

In chapter IV page 127, Gandhiji explains  what is Swaraj? “In effect it means this: that we want English rule without the Englishman. You want the tiger’s nature, but not the tiger; that is to say, you would make India English. And when it becomes English, it will be called not Hindustan but Englistan. This is not the Swaraj that I want.”

This new edition of Gandhiji’s most important and well known work, Indian Home Rule or Hind Swaraj, has been issued to mark its centenary.  What was Hind Swaraj? When precisely did it take shape? Who was Dr Pranjivan Mehta, for whom Gandhiji wrote this work? Why the British authorities in India ban this book? Why was Gandhiji in such a hurry to write and publish it in 1909-10?

All these and many more such questions have been appropriately answered.  Prof Bimal Prasad who wrote the foreword of this volume believes and very rightly so Prof SR Mehrotra’s introduction contained the best exposition of the genesis and significance of Hind Swaraj, based as it was on most thorough research and study on the subject.

–GS Jolly

 

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