Hind swaraj —


Gandhiji went to South Africa in May 1893 in connection with some legal matter of an Indian trader settled there. At that time there prevailed a deep feeling of racial discrimination among the white colonisers of South Africa against the native black people and the Indian, Chinese and other “coloured” settlers. Gandhiji began to have personal experience of the racial prejudices of the whites almost as soon as he reached there. Around that time, the governments of the various colonies in South Africa began a new initiative to give statutory form to the prevailing attitudes of racial discrimination against the coloured and black people. The colonies of Natal and Transvaal were particularly active in enacting a spate of new discriminatory laws. A year after reaching South Africa, Gandhiji began to organise the Indian community there to oppose such laws. He got the legal matter that had brought him to South Africa settled outside the courts within the year. But he continued to stay there for as long as 21 years to conduct and lead the struggle of Indians in South Africa against the daily humiliations being visited upon them by the white governments through the enactment of newer and newer discriminatory laws.

At the very beginning of this long and difficult struggle, it was clear to Gandhiji that the struggle was not for obtaining any particular privileges or concessions for the Indians, but to protect their dignity as human beings representing the great civilisation of India. By that time, he had probably already begun to realise that the modern civilisation of Europe is founded in injustice, untruth and irreligion, aniti, asatya and adharma, in Gandhiji’s phrases. Therefore, from the beginning, he presents the struggle of the Indians in South Africa as a fight to uphold justice, truth and dharma against injustice, untruth and adharma. He was thus able to arouse in the Indian community the feeling that they were not engaged in any ordinary struggle, but in a great dharmayuddha, the eternal fight of good against evil. Through this great struggle, Gandhiji and the Indian community were able to stem the flood of discriminatory legislation only to a limited extent. The colonies of South Africa were busy creating the legislative structures of Apartheid, which could be finally dismantled only in the late twentieth century after much suffering and sacrifice by millions of black and coloured people. But, the human and civilisational dignity of the Indians in South Africa was indeed asserted and protected the moment the Indians there determined to organise and join the fight against what they knew to be evil, the moment they decided to sacrifice their ordinary comforts for the sake of the dharmayuddha.

Having defined the struggle of the Indians against the discriminatory regimes of South Africa in this manner, Gandhiji was faced with the question of finding the appropriate means for fighting such a struggle. What would be the weapon in this fight for the protection of justice, truth and dharma against injustice, untruth and adharma? Gandhiji meditates on this question for long, studies intensively the classical literature of Indian civilisation, reads what the few dissenting western scholars had to say on these issues, and goes through diverse experiences in the course of the struggle. Ultimately, in 1906, he and the Indian community, that he was leading, together arrive at “Satyagraha”. In a mass meeting held on September 11, 1906 in Johannesburg, the Indians take the vow that they would not accede to law based in injustice, untruth and adharma, and they would gladly undergo any punishment that might be meted out to them for such disobedience of established law.

This was the first Satyagraha. It continued for several years. In the course of the Satyagraha, thousands of Indians willingly underwent the terrible sufferings of the jails in South Africa, many went to jail not once but several times, many rich traders willingly lost their all and were reduced to poverty, many sacrificed their own lives and those of their dear ones, Gandhiji himself and his eldest son Harilal were jailed and subjected to torture and humili-ation several times, at one stage even Kasturba chose to go to jail. Through such suffering, undertaken willingly and gladly in the fight against injustice, untruth and adharma, the Indians in South Africa recovered their dignity and self-respect, they became more and more confident of themselves and their own power, and in the process, Satyagraha came to acquire greater and greater efficacy and sharpness.

In the course of the South African struggle, Gandhiji twice went to London to seek intervention of the imperial government and mobilise support for the cause. His first visit was in 1906, soon after the launch of Satyagraha, and the second in 1909, when Satyagraha had considerably intensified and matured. During his second visit, he stayed in London for nearly four months. In this period, he got an opportunity to closely observe the British state and society, which were then the foremost proponents and protectors of modern civilisation. He also saw the functioning of their parliamentary system and other institutional arrangements. And, he interacted with sever-al representatives of the nobility and high society of Britain, who ran these structures and arrangements. Having observed all this, he came to a firm conclusion that the modern European civilisation and its institutional framework, including the parliamentary system, are founded in injustice, untruth and adharma; and to fight this evil enshrined at the root of modern civilisation, while protecting justice, truth and dharma, the only possible weapon is that of Satyagraha, and that weapon is indeed infallible.

Gandhiji had arrived at these two principles through his studies, experiences and struggles. But it seems that his experience of the London of 1909, and its high society and institutional arrangements, made him decide to write down the conclusions that he had long arrived at. On November 13, 1909, he boarded the ship, Kildonan Castle, bound for South Africa with the determi-nation to further intensify the Satyagraha there. During the two weeks he spent on the sea, amidst his various other commitments, he wrote Hind Swarajya. And, he began preparing for its publication soon after arriving in South Africa. He reached Johannesburg on December 2, 1909. The first half of Hind Swarajya was published in the Indian Opinion of December 11, and the second half in the subsequent issue of December 18.

The main lessons of Hind Swarajya are these two: One, modern western civilisation and all its institutions and arrangements are founded in injustice, untruth and irreligion; this civilisation is not civilisation but barbarism, it is a disease. And two, Satyagraha is the only and an infallible remedy for this disease. Gandhiji gets the confidence to write this text from his experience of Satyagraha in South Africa, but his concern is with India and the timeless Indian civilisation based in dharma. Through Hind Swarajya, he is searching for the way to free India and Indian civilisation from British domination. That is why he places the teachings of Hind Swarajya in the context of the political, social, economic and strategic situation of India at that time.

From his experience, Gandhiji knows that Satyagraha can succeed only when the whole society together and unitedly participates in it. Therefore, in Hind Swarajya, he discusses in some detail the issue of bridging the gap between the so-called moderate and extremist factions of the Indian National Congress; and of bringing together the Hindus and the Muslims. He worries about the potential of the railways, the courts, the lawyers, the doctors, and the English educated elite to destabilise Indian society and make it lose confidence in itself and in the Indian civilisation. And he also shows the path of Swadeshi for defending the Indian economy and the discipline of controlled consumption – on which it is based – from the modern industrial economy and technology. But there is only one objective behind all this, and that is to prepare the people of India for Satyagraha against the injustice, untruth and irreligion of modern civilisation and thus protect India and her civilisation.

Hind Swarajya is an inspired text. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the modern western civilisation had conquered nearly the entire world, and India had been suffering under the British for more than 150 years. At such a time, Hind Swarajya proclaims the greatness of Indian people and their civilisation, and also gives voice to the resolve of India not to suffer injustice, untruth and irreligion any more, to fight the evil of modern civilisation and its empire through Satyagraha, and thus counter injustice with justice, untruth with truth, and irreligion with religion.

In the Foreword to the Gujarati text of Hind Swarajya, Gandhiji says, “I have written because I could not restrain myself.” While returning from England to South Africa he seems to be in a hurry to write this text. And, he writes it with such speed that when the right hand gets tired, he continues writing with the left. Inspired texts get written in such compulsive urgency.

We are publishing this foundational text of modern India in its original unaltered form. Fortunately, Navajivan Press had published the hand-written manuscript of Hind Swarajya in facsimile form in 1923. In the first part of this work, we have used the facsimile copy to transcribe Gandhiji’s manuscript into printed Gujarati script. The available Gujarati editions of Hind Swarajya vary from the hand-written original at several places. But, inspired foundational texts need to be preserved in their entirety; every word of such texts is sacred.

Gandhiji wrote Hind Swarajya in an unbroken flow. In the 271 hand-written pages of the text and 5 of the Foreword, there are only a few places where he has struck through or overwritten some words or phrases. In an appendix to our Gujarati edition, we have given a list of all such instances. From this appendix, one can appreciate the care Gandhiji bestows upon the selection of appropriate words in every context. He seems to be concerned about when to refer to the white people as Sahebs and when as Goras, where to make an attribution to the Europeans and where to the British, when to use the term “Parsi” and when to use “Zoroastrian”, and so on.

Some changes seem to have occurred while printing the hand-written manuscript in the Indian Opinion. Most of these changes concern orthography and spellings of different words. Gandhiji him-self is very careful about these matters, but it seems that similar care could not be exercised during the printing of the text in the Indian Opinion. In addition to such minor alterations, there are also some other changes that have been introduced in the printed text. In our Gujarati edition, in another appendix, we give a list of such differences between the original text and that of the Indian Opinion.

In the second part of this edition, we give the original Gujarati text of Hind Swarajya in Devanagari script. In parallel to the text in Devanagari, we also give a verbatim translation in Hindi. While preparing this translation, we have tried to keep the sequence of words as close to the original Gujarati text as possible. Because of this, some of the sentences in our Hindi translation may look somewhat odd. Our effort is to enable the Hindi reader read and comprehend the original Gujarati text through our Hindi translation. Gujarati language, especially in Gandhiji’s hand, has a flow and rhythm of its own. We have tried that the Hindi reader may be able to appreciate the flow and rhythm of Hind Swarajya in the original Gujarati version.

In the second part of this edition, we have also given the two appendices of the first part in devanagari script.

Gandhiji translated Hind Swarajya into English within two or three months of the publication of the Gujarati original. In the third part of this edition, we give the unaltered text of Gandhiji’s own translation. To this part, we have appended a note on the important English editions of Hind Swarajya and also listed the instances where these editions have varied from the original. We have also taken the liberty of adding explanatory notes on some of the major concepts and issues of Hind Swarajya.

In the original, Gandhiji sounds like an old wise man, sitting in the village square and explaining the nuances of duty, morality, truth and religion, the proper observance of which constitutes civilisation. Our purpose shall be fulfilled, if through this edition of Hind Swarajya some Indians are enabled to see Gandhiji once again as the wise man that he was, to listen to his great discourse on dharma and civilisation again, and to resolve to act accordingly.

We have tried to ensure that in editing and translating this text we do not vary from the original, and the sanctity of this foundational text is not violated in any manner. But errors there still would be. We beg forgiveness of the reader for these.

Uday Meghani and Kalpana Mehta have given much time in helping us read and understand the original Gujarati. Several other colleagues have contributed to the making of these editions of Hind Swarajya. We are thankful to all of them.

J. K. Bajaj and M. D. Srinivas

Vasantha Panchami, Kali 5112

February 8, 2011


J.K. Bajaj and M.D. Srinivas
Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai, 2011

Part 1: Gujarati Text according to
Gandhiji’s Manuscript
ISBN 81-86041-29-x; Price 100/-
Part 2: Text in Devanagari Script with Verbatim Hindi Translation
ISBN 81-86041-30-3; Price 200/-
Part 3: Gandhiji’s English Translation published
in 1910 under the title “Indian Home Rule”
ISBN 81-86041-30-1; Price 200/-
The three parts are also available together in a single Volume
ISBN 81-86041-32-x; Price 500/-
Hindi Translation based on Gujarati Manuscript
ISBN 81-86041-32-8; Price 40/-