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Essay Paper on Gandhi

At the turn of the century the British rule was deeply entrenched in India and outright opposition to it was coming from outside the main political party, the Indian National Congress, by individuals and groups some of whom were operating in Europe and North America and were prone to use violent means to drive the English out of the subcontinent. Alarmed by their militant tactics young Gandhi wrote “Hind Swaraj” to lay down his own conception of “home rule” and to show how it was to be achieved. In so doing he gave home rule a dual meaning of self-government in the political sense and self-rule or self-improvement in the personal sense, the two meanings being inseparably intertwined. For Gandhi there could be no home rule without self-rule.

Gandhi was not opposed to British rule in India because Englishmen as foreigners were running the affairs of the colonial state. He wanted to see India freed not from the rule of the English but from the modern civilization that came with it. It was the modern civilization which was oppressing the people of India as much as the “nations of Europe” were being “degraded and ruined” by it. Thus, not the colonialism but the evils of modern civilization arising from the West concerned Gandhi most and are discussed at length in the Hind Swaraj. Among the harmful products of this “civilization” that receive strong reprobation are machines, factories, steam engines, railways and other means of rapid transportation, goods of bodily comfort and luxury.

The dissemination of Western legal system, medicine and commerce is also condemned as is the devaluation of religion and ethics. The English people are “not bad at heart,” they are simply “afflicted by this civilization,” but being “enterprising and industrious” they will cure themselves of this disease one day, predicts Gandhi in Hind Swaraj.

The British rule in India was established because Indians succumbed to the temptations of modern (Western) civilization. “The English have not taken India; we have given it to them,” says Gandhi. And as Indians became addicted to the products and comforts of modern civilization, turning away from religion and God, the English rule entrenched itself deeper and deeper in the Indian soil.

Though Gandhi believed that British civilization was greatly harming India, he did not believe that getting rid of the British would alone solve India’s problems. And if they weren’t solved, India without the British would be as bad off as India with the British. Besides, in Gandhi’s mind, strengthening Indian society was also the best way to combat the British — since it was only India’s weaknesses that allowed Britain to rule.

So, Gandhi set thousands of Indians to work on a wide-ranging “constructive program.” The program tried to inject new economic strength into India’s villages. It sought to improve village agriculture and, even more, to revive neglected village crafts. Gandhi believed that the villagers’ purchase of clothes and other goods made by urban factories — both British and Indian — was sucking the life- blood of village economies and ensuring the villagers’ own poverty and degradation…

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