B. N. Rau –Retrieving the Lost Memory in the Constitution Making from the Labyrinth of Competitive Politics Dr. A. Raghu Kumar avadhanamraghukumar@gmail.com

“The distinction between the past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion” Albert Einstein

Nations being governed by the Constitution, the grund norm in Hans Kelsen’s diction, is a modern phenomenon. The idea of attempting a constitution for the guidance of the general conduct of societies gained momentum with the French Revolution (1789-1799), the American War of Independence (1775-1783), and its constitution making in these two countries. But both countries and its peoples remember its makers vividly even today. Constitutions are made with longtime visions of the nation in view and are made mostly in generally defined terms, with fewer particularities. The nuances are left for the future dispensations. The opportunity of participating in the making of the Constitution of a nation rarely comes and when it comes, the men with wisdom and living with a sense of presence can never refuse to take the burden unto them, and mostly with unbound enthusiasm. Such an occasion came to Indian people by the end of 1945-1946. When the Cabinet Mission made its plan public on 16 May 1946, the whole nation waved with new passion.

Granville Austin , in one of the best and most precise account of the making of the Indian Constitution noted: “Gandhi expressed the truth of the necessity of Constituent Assembly first – that India must shape their own destiny, that only in the hands of Indians could India become herself when in 1922 he said that Swaraj would not be the gift of the British Parliament, but must spring from ‘the wishes of the people of India as expressed through their freely chosen representatives.” The Indian National Congress made the demand for a constituent assembly part of its official policy since 1934. Rejecting the White Paper of 1933, released by the British-India Government, known also as “The proposals for Indian Constitutional Reform”, the Congress Working Committee resolved: “The only satisfactory alternative to the White Paper is a constitution drawn up by a Constituent Assembly elected on the basis of adult franchise or as near it as possible, with the power, if necessary, to the important minorities to have their representations elected exclusively by the electors belonging to such minorities.” Thereafter, in many provincial legislative assemblies and in the central legislative assembly in 1937, at the Congress at Faizpur, Haripura, and Tripuri, and at the Simla Conference in 1945, the Congress reiterated that India could only accept a constitution drawn from the people and framed ‘without any interference by a foreign authority.’

Britain accepted the idea that an elected body of Indians should frame the Indian Constitution. It was in this atmosphere that the newly elected Labour Government announced in September 1945 that it was contemplating the creation of a constituent body in India and ordered that national elections be held during the winter so that freshly created provincial legislatures would be ready to act as electoral bodies for a constituent assembly. The British government followed this move in January 1946 by sending a Parliamentary Delegation to India, which reported that the tide of independence was running fast, and then by dispatching a Cabinet mission in the following March. The Indian Independence Act passed by the British Parliament came into effect on 15 August 1947, giving legality to the Constituent Assembly, the status it had assumed since its inception. The Cabinet Mission Plan became outmoded, and the Constituent Assembly settled down to draft free India’s constitution.

Austin observes that: ‘The Constituent Assembly was a one-party body in an essentially one party country. The Assembly was the Congress and the Congress was India.’ ‘The Assembly, the Congress and the Government were, like the points of a triangle, separate entitles, but, linked by over-lapping membership, they assumed a form infinitely meaningful for India.’ In the elections held for the Members of the Constituent Assembly, of the total 1585 seats in the provincial assemblies, the Congress won 925 or 58 per cent. Although the outcome of the Assembly elections in July 1946 had made the Congress master of the Assembly, party policy ensured that Congress members there represented the country. After partition, when the composition of the Assembly, except for the representation of the Princely States, had become settled, the minorities were ensured that they had 88 of the 235 seats allotted to the provinces, or 37 percent, of the provincial membership. Additionally, as has been pointed out, the ideological spectrum of the Assembly was broadened by the inclusion of non-Congress ‘experts’ as well as by the diverse nature of the Congress membership itself. In the words of K.Santhanam , ‘There was hardly any shade of public opinion not represented in the Assembly.’

Nehru, Patel, Prasad, and Azad, in fact, constituted ‘an oligarchy’ within the Assembly. Austin said about their role in gripping terms: ‘their honor was unquestioned, their wisdom hardly less so. In their god-like status they may have been feared; certainly they were loved.’ The Congress Assembly Party, a unit formed by Congress for overseeing the Constitution making process, was the unofficial and private forum that debated every provision of the Constitution, and in most cases decided its fate before it reached the floor of the House. ‘Every amendment and every provision suggested … was put before the Congress Party and then it was finally debated upon and passed with or without amendment by the Assembly, which alone had the final say in the matter.’ Ambedkar’s advice, in legal matters and drafting rather than on policy, was frequently sought.

The uniqueness and significance of Indian Constitution lies in its very making. H. R. Khanna , the celebrated judge of the Supreme Court, who through his stunning opinions shook the conscience of the nation in the habeas corpus case of ADM, Jabalpur, in Kesavananda Bharati case, and in the Indira Gandhi’s case, said: ‘When the Constitutional Convention to draft the Constitution of the United States met in 1787 behind closed doors, it adopted at a very early stage a rule “that nothing spoken in the House be printed or otherwise published or communicated without leave.’ ‘As against that the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly which framed the Constitution of read like an open book.”

Most of the famous world Constitutions – either of America, French, USSR etc., are the creations of few unelected, self considered intellectuals or chosen representatives of the people in power. In contrast, India Constitution represented the broader element of representative character, though not of absolute adult franchise. In the pre-partition scenario, the total members were to be 389 – 292 from the Provincial Councils, 93 from Princely States, 4 from the Chief Commissioners’ Provinces. After the boycott of the Muslim League, the total Members were reduced to 299. Though the election of members was based on the qualified adult franchise based on the 1935 Act, ‘which excluded the mass of peasants, the majority of small shopkeepers and traders, and countless others from the polls through tax, property, and educational qualifications,’ and in the final count only 28.5 per cent of the adult population could vote in the provincial assembly elections of early 1946’, ‘the Congress and its candidates covered a broad ideological spectrum.’

Although the outcome of the 1946 elections, coupled with the exit of the regions of the present Pakistan and Bangladesh, ‘made the Congress master of the Assembly, party policy ensured that Congress members represented the country.’ After the partition, when the composition of the Assembly, except for the representation of the Princely States, had become settled, the minorities had 88 of the 235 seats allotted to the provinces, or 37 per cent of the provincial membership. The Congress even ensured regional imbalances by accommodating almost one per every 10 lakh population. Minority representation was Nepalis – 1, Sikhs – 5, Parsis – 3, Christians – 7, Anglo-Indians – 3, Backward Tribes – 5, Muslims 31 and Scheduled Castes – 33.

The Congress ensured the presence of even non-Congress members. The non-Congress members who were elected under the direction of the Congress High Command included Dr. Ambedkar, Alladi Krishna Swamy Ayyar, H.N. Kunzru, K. Santhanam, M.R. Jayakar, Bakshi Tek Chand and Gopala Swamy Ayyangar. Even though officially Communist and Socialist groups and even the Hindu organizations such as Hind Maha Sabha and RSS boycotted the Constitution, Congress ensured that some members represent their views. On the whole 20 Members – Nehru, Patel, Prasad, Azad, Ambedkar, Pant, Sitaramayya, Ayyar, Gopala Swamy Ayyangar, K.M. Munshi, Satyanarayan Sinha, M.A. Ayyangar, Jiaramdas Daularam, Shankarrao Deo, Durgabhai Deshmukh, J.B. Kripalani, T.T. Krishnamacharya, H.C. Mukherjee, N.M Rau, and Mohammed Sadulla played very active role. They even ensured the presence of a communist in Somnath Lahiri and of the Hindu outfits in M.R Jayakar and Shyam Prasad Mukherjee etc.

The activities of the Constitution making were in fact organized where ‘the Assembly, the Congress and the government were like the points of a triangle, separate entities, but, linked by over-lapping membership, they assumed a form infinitely meaningful for India.’ The role of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, and the concerted activities of ‘the Oligarchy’ – consisting Nehru, Patel, Rajendra Prasad and Maulana Azad – who played the role of the elderly in conducting the deliberations in a conducive atmosphere and without any hiccups is well documented. The Constituent Assembly met for the first time on December 9, 1946 and continued its deliberations till November 26, 1949 on the day when it was finally adopted. In these two years 11 months and 18 days, it sat for 169 days in 12 sessions and in the form of 22 Committees.

But there was one key person who prepared the initial Draft Constitution for consideration of the Assembly, and which was debated, modified and adopted on 26th November, 1949 and came into effect on 26th January, 1950. He was also the person the Assembly consulted as the final statement on almost all the important Articles. In the competitive political environment of the post-Mandal and post-Babri Masjid, slowly this great administrator, judge and jurisprudent lost his ground in the area of discussion in the Indian constitution making for more political reasons. Many law students, even while specializing on Constitutional law in their graduate or post-graduate levels dismay when asked about this forgotten hero – Sir B. N. Rau, and his role in the constitution making. This less sung and forgotten hero in the memory lane of the Constitution making in the post- 1990’s milieu was the one who submitted the basic document for the Assembly to debate and deliberate.

Austin said on the role of Sir Rau : “One more individual, B.N Rau, must be placed among those important in the framing of the Constitution. As Constitutional Advisor, Rau’s advice was heard in the Assembly’s inner councils, although he was not an assembly member. A legalist, an eminent advocate and judge, a student of constitutional history, and an able draftsman, one of the more Europeanized intellectuals in the Assembly, Rau looked to Euro-American constitutional precedent perhaps even more than other Assembly members for the divices to be used in Indian Constitution.” In fact, the Congress formed a party unit within, well known as the Assembly Party, which also played an important role in the Constitution making. “Every amendment and every provision suggested … was put before the Congress Party and then it was finally debated upon and passed with or without amendment by the Assembly, which alone had the final say in the matter.”

The contribution of Rau can also be gauzed from the very statement of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. On 29 August 1947 the Constituent Assembly passed a resolution to constitute a Drafting Committee. The Constituent Assembly’s resolution setting up the Drafting Committee, under the Chairmanship of B.R. Ambedkar, declared that it was being set up to scrutinize the Draft of the text of the Constitution prepared by the Constitutional Advisor giving effect to the decisions taken already in the Assembly and including all matters ancillary thereto or which have to be provided in such a Constitution, and to submit to the Assembly for consideration to text of the Draft Constitution as revised by the Committee. Even in his concluding speech in constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949 Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said : “The credit that is given to me does not really belong to me. It belongs partly to Sir B.N. Rau, the Constitutional Advisor to the Constituent Assembly who prepared a rough draft of the Constitution for the consideration of Drafting Committee. A part of the credit must go to the members of the Drafting Committee who … Much greater share of the credit must go to Mr. S.N. Mukherjee, the Chief Draftsman of the Constitution. … The task of the Drafting Committee would have been very difficult one if the Constituent Assembly has been merely a motely crowd … The possibility of chaos was reduced to nil by the existence of the Congress Party inside the Assembly which brought into its proceedings a sense of order and discipline. … The Congress Party is, therefore, entitled to all the credit for the smooth sailing of the Draft Constitution in the Assembly.” Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the President of the Assembly also said Rau ‘was the person who visualized the plan and laid the foundation’.

Constituent Assembly Secretariat (CAS), set up in May 1946, as an interim bureaucratic agency tasked with helping drafting of the Constitution. Sir Rau, the Constitutional Advisor, along with S.N. Mukherjee, the Joint Secretary – together played an important role of Chief Draftsman of the Assembly. Before taking over as Advisor, he defined the character of the Secretariat – “The whole organization is non-political in character. Its services are equally available to every member, irrespective of party and creed.” With the Assembly’s seal of approval on parliamentary principles, the drafting of the constitution was handed over by the Assembly to its Drafting Committee and to the Constitutional Adviser, B.N. Rau. The Assembly then adjourned for more than a year. Rau produced his draft in a month. From October 1947 until mid-February 1948 the Drafting Committee was busy converting this document into the Draft Constitution – which consisted primarily of the committee’s borrowed and modified provisions of the British and American Constitutions and the 1935 Government of India Act.

Sir Benegal Narsing Rau (26 February 1887- 30 November 1953), famously known as Sir B.N Rau CIE, was an Indian Civil Servant, jurist, diplomat and statesman. A graduate of the University of Madras and Cambridge, Rau entered the Indian Civil Service in 1910. In 1934, New Year Honors’ List, he was placed as a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) and a knighthood in 1938. He was instrumental in revising the entire Indian Statutory Code (1935-37), and was made judge of the Bengal High Court at Calcutta (Kolkata) in 1939. His tenure as the judge of Calcutta High Court was interrupted by two additional projects – to preside over a court of inquiry concerning wages and working conditions on Railways in India, and to work in the Commission for reforms concerning Hindu Law. He was also a Chairman of the Indus Waters Commission which submitted its report on riparian rights of India in 1942. He functioned briefly as the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir 1944-45. After resigning as the Prime Minister of J&K in 1945, he was asked to serve in a temporary capacity in the Reforms Office of the Government of India to work on constitutional and federal issues. Later he was appointed as the Secretary in the Governor General’s Office, worked on constitutional reforms, until he became the Constitutional Advisor to the Constituent Assembly in 1946. He was also India’s representative to United Nations Security Council from 1950-1952. He was also a judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice, Hague between 1952 and 1953. He was regarded as a candidate for the post of Secretary-General of the UNO 1950s.

B.N Rau was responsible for the general structure of the Constitutional democratic frame work. He prepared an initial draft in February 1948. This draft was debated revised and finally adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949. As part of his research in drafting the Constitution, he travelled to U.S.A., Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom – held personal consultations with judges, scholars and authorities on constitutional law. Among others, he met justice Felix Frankfurter of the American Supreme Court, who advised him against the inclusion of a clause for ‘due process’ as the word imposes undue burden on the judiciary. But Rau’s suggestions in the course of the Assembly debates against this clause had originated on a different consideration – he considered the due process as one which put unwarranted burden on legislature and confers a right on unelected body like judiciary to veto the acts of the duly elected legislature.

When the Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee met for the first time on 27 February 1947, it had before it draft list of rights prepared by B.N. Rau, Shah, Munshi, Ambedkar, Harnam Singh, and the Congress Experts Committee, as well as miscellaneous notes and memoranda on various aspects of rights. Rau’s ‘draft rights’ were a rich source before the Assembly in addition to the extensive passages on rights in Rau’s Constitutional Precedents. Drawing on this mass of precedent, the sub-committee drafted the rights during the meetings held in March and April, 1947. Even during the framing of the Directive Principles, the most weighty support came for these principles from B.N. Rau and Ayyar, and secondly from Ambedkar and K.T.Sha – whose suggestions proved to be thoroughly liberal in outlook. It was beyond the common sense and even imaginative extent of many Members that such principles could be accommodated in th Constitution itself, more so when they were not justiciable.

Of the four, Rau was the most influential in this regard. He approached the question of fundamental rights, unlike Sapru, Ayyar, and many other British-trained lawyers, with certain skepticism. The difficulty of defining negative rights and then of effectively protecting them led him to skip this ‘controversial ground’, and instead to prefer to set out the positive rights merely as moral precepts for the State and to bar the interference of the ordinary courts. This belief, in turn, led to Rau’s acknowledged emulation of the Irish example of distinguishing between justiciable and non-justiciable rights, and so his putting the emphasis on precepts. His notes on Precedents during the actual drafting of the Directive Principles supplied the members of the sub-committee with authority necessary for the same.

In later months Rau publicly defended the Directives : ‘… Many modern constitutions do contain moral precepts of this kind’, he wrote in The Hindu in August 1948, ‘nor can it be denied that they may have an educative value.’ Had there been scope, he would also have lifted the Principles above the level of precepts. It may be occasionally necessary, he believed, for the States to invade private rights in the discharge of one of its fundamental duties – e.g. to raise the nation’s standard of health, of living, etc. But the Fundamental Rights being justiciable and the Directive Principles being without legal force, the private right may over-ride the public weal. It is thus a matter for careful consideration, he continued, whether ‘the Constitution might not expressly provide that no law made and no action taken by the state in the discharge of its duties under Chapter III of Part III (the Directive Principles) shall be invalid merely by reason of its contravening the provisions of Chapter II (the Fundamental Rights).’ In the course of the debates, Munshi, Ambedkar, and Shah had gone even farther than Rau. They even tried made the Directive Principles an even more rigorous social programme, ie., justiciable. They disliked mere precepts and in the end, supported them in the belief that half a loaf was better than none.

Another area where B.N. Rau’s advice to the Assembly had greater impact had been on the clause relating to ‘due process of law’. He was consistent that the committees should dispense with due process altogether. He considered that the courts, manned by an irremovable judiciary not so sensitive to public needs in the social or economic sphere as the representatives of a periodically elected legislature, and will in effect, have a veto on legislation exercisable at any time and at the instance of any litigant. He admitted that the clauses are a safeguard against predatory legislation, but they may also stand in the way of beneficent social legislation. He opined that it might be a wise idea to steer a middle course and to adopt the device in the Irish Constitution which provided that the exercise of certain rights be regulated by the principles of social justice.

But one area Rau’s ideas were not seriously taken remains to be the area of election and role of the President vis-à-vis the Cabinet. Rau suggested greater discretionary powers to the President. But in this regard the Assembly prevailed over Rau and limited the role of the President giving higher authority to the elected governments. Sarbani Sen quotes from K. M. Munshi : “But in acting as a constitutional counterpoint to the majority dominance in the Cabinet, any scope for arbitrary would have to be limited, and the Assembly took care to reduce or reassign the discretionary powers that Rau had initially considered for the president.” We can see in the constitution making of India that none is given a higher status, and that it was the collective product of the many and that is why it is the document of: “We the people of India. … ”. The tasks before the Assembly were accomplished by the collective will of all the members, and thus of the people of India, with ‘remarkable idealism and a strength of purpose born of the struggle for independence’ as commented by Austin in the preface to his great work.

Apart from being an able administrator and jurisprudent, Rau left a rich legacy of written contribution. B. N. Rau’s Constitutional Precedents in 3 Volumes, published by the Government of India Press (1947), New Delhi, his Explanatory Notes on clauses and Annexure to the Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee report and his another important work – The Parliamentary System of Government in India (1949), The Indian Constitution (Manchester : Manchester Guardian) speak volumes of his legal and administrative acumen and the range of his thoughts on constitutional and legislative theories.

Biswaraj Patnaik , in an article “B.N. Rau: The forgotten architect of Indian Constitution” wrote: “The Indian Constitution was drafted by a core committee of seven experts headed by Dr. BR Ambedkar. All were legal experts or administrative luminaries including Sri B.N. Rau, KM Munshi, N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar, Syed Mohammed Saadullah, N. Madhava Rao ….” The writer however considered: “….Rau was not a member of the Constituent Assembly but was the most important expert who did the primary thinking and writing. He has been religiously ignored by frontline politicians who never gave him his due space in history. Rau is the principal framer of the Indian Constitution; others only did the cosmetic job here and there….” Rinchen Norbu Wangchuk quotes Ornit Shani, from her seminal work – “How India Became Democratic” saying ‘Rau was the leading authority in guiding the process of making the universal franchise from a constitutional perspective.’

On the occasion of India successfully completing 70 years of the Republic life, and still marching forward steadily, let us recollect the names of those great persons and pay our tributes to them who in more than one ways contributed to the making of the Constitution into a real republic with all the elements of modernity and ancient wisdom, and the much needed balance. One such person to be retrieved from the archives of the dusty files of the bygone era, and from the depths of the memory lane, and to be deservingly restored to his due place is B. N. Rau, the Advisor to the Constituent Assembly. There are many who lie ignored under the carpet of history who have no followers or vote banks to demand space but make their presence felt through their work. They even defy the ever increasing efforts of many to write and rewrite history and erase the public memory.

Gandhi and the idea of sustainable development Dr. A. Raghu Kumar Advocate

Nostalgia is no good guide. The time can’t so easily run backwards. It may not be possible to revisit pastoral societies. Every individual or community wants to grow from its present state of affairs to a higher level. Progression is a natural urge and stagnation is indicative of a disease. One of the indicators of growth is economic development. The Western civilization most specifically from the beginnings of the 19th century conceptualized a particular method of development – industrial development with mass production as its basic narrative. Irrespective of their political, sociological and ideological differences, the Western scholarship whether Capitalists or Communists or Social Democrats, there was a consensus of the mode of development – industrial, and mass-production oriented. The nations which were under colonial rule also adopted this model as the only acceptable. The competitive targets of development made developing and developed countries to irrationally exploit their natural resources without concerns for the future. Gandhi was one rare voice which challenged this notion.
Even the religious and philosophical ideas of the West supported this model under the considered opinion that the creation of the God is for the consumption of the man. The philosophers hitherto forgot that the resources of the nature are not unlimited while the human wants are. They forgot that we are dependent on the availability of the natural resources or that the natural resources are finite. The mode of development conceived and adopted by the West and followed by the other decolonized countries led to unimaginable exploitation of the resources of the earth and its resources. As a consequence of this development model consumerism made deep inroads into the societies. One of the ingredient of the present consumerism is ‘use and throw’, a concept purposefully introduced for the greed of the manufacturers in the twentieth century. The West even heckled and ridiculed the development models of the East in general and India in particular – as Hindu growth rate, a highly pejorative description of the Indian economy. This ridicule introduced during the liberalization, privatization and globalization era in the post-WTO world has gone deep into the psyche of all the developing nations which rose up after a long slumber into devouring hunger.
Above all, the model started hurting the environment and ecological balance. The carbon pollution reached such unbearable levels that the human survival on earth has become doubtful. The average temperature levels are continuously increasing compelling the nations for urgent remedial action. Tons of toxic material is released everyday into the rivers and seas, threatening safe water to the future generations and even the survival of many water creatures. Several forms of waste – industrial, plastic, electronic, petrochemical, radioactive etc., are dumped on ourselves. It was only during the late 1990s when the consumption of the developing world also started craving for more that the policy makers woke up. Even the sincerity of the policy makers needs to be doubted in this new argument. In this milieu, the global fora of development started revisiting the idea of development. E.F. Schumacher , the German born British economist, made a compulsive argument in his series of essays, collected and published as Small is Beautiful made a beginning for the cause of alternative development model. Schumacher’s concepts derived their inspiration from the conventional Asiatic models of development and mostly from Buddhist and Gandhian thought. “In the excitement over the unfolding of his scientific and technical powers, modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man.” Gandhi said: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not any man’s greed”. What exactly he meant by that expression? Though shrouded with un-academic and uneconomic expression, the message is loud and clear. We nature can satisfy the needs of all. But when the development models are designed on the consumerism and economic growth as the only indicators, the greed is setting the agenda.
The concept of the sustainable development is multi-dimensional and multi-modal. Economic development cannot be viewed as something independent of the environmental paradigm. The type of development should ensure ecology and environmental impact, and shall keep under its edifice the future generations and their needs. There should be environmental, social, moral and spiritual balance and development sans these is in real terms a degradation and retardation. Sustainable development means to “fulfill the present needs without compromising the needs of future generation.” It needs a philosophy of: Reduce-Recycle-Reuse. Want have to reduced, the products must be such that they are capable of recycling and reuse. We have to urgently dispense with the production model of use and throw.
Asiatic societies have long since lived in harmony with the natural world. They have been practicing this ‘reduce-recycle-reuse model since time immemorial. But the victory of the Western intellectualism over the Asiatics and other African, Latin-American thinking process and demolition of the indigenous intellectualism and uniformization of wisdom led to the present predicament. During the freedom struggle, there was a deeper churning process on the future development model for the independent India. The success of Japan on one side and that of the USSR, England and USA were the known role models for modernists. But one individual was crying in wilderness. He was beseeching on the Indian intellect to think independently. But the Indian intellectuals were by that time intoxicated with the development theories of the West and considered this noble voice as anachronistic and retrograde. This voice was of Gandhi who said : “We must have industry, but of the right kind.”
After series of crises – environmental and existential, the World Fora started realizing the folly. Sustainable development adopted by the World Commission of Environment now considers that development can not dominate environment. Therefore development should be seen as a delicate balance between human needs and nature’s capacity to give, hence emerged concept of sustainable development. The consequences like global warming, climatic change, draughts and floods, resource depletion, social and political unrest, diseases, disharmony, mental stress, increased crimes rates, extinction of plants and animals etc are demanding our urgent attention. Basic law of economics also recognizes that resources are limited and needs are always unlimited. Human beings should satisfy their needs within these limited resources. This fact is being realized day by day with depleting natural resources. The naïve confidence of the pre-Nineteenth century supremacy of man over other beings is no more available to us. World commission on Environment and development has defined sustainable development as “A process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investment, the orientation of technological development and institutional change all are in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.”
Some economists suggest that a new economic system at global level is necessary for long term survival of the human race on earth. ‘The present economic system is characterized by maximum flow of money, maximum profit, maximum production, maximum consumption, and maximum resources use.’ This ‘frontier economy’, as it is called now, should be replaced by ‘spaceship economy.’ A spaceship economy or sustainable economy promotes conservation of renewable resources, product durability and a clean and healthy environment. In 1987, the Bruntland Commission published its report, “Our Common Future”, in an effort to link the issues of economic development and environmental stability. In doing so, this report provided the oft-cited definition of sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” . Albeit somewhat vague, this concept of sustainable development aims to maintain economic advancement and progress while protecting the long-term value of the environment; it “provides a framework for the integration of environment policies and development strategies.”
The precautionary principle establishes that “where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measure to prevent environmental degradation” . Explicitly stated in the Rio Declaration, the notion of common but differentiated responsibilities recognizes that each nation must play their part on the issue of sustainable development. Developed nations, therefore, bear greater responsibility in light of the resources they require and the pressures they exert on the environment. The term ‘sustainability’ should be viewed as humanity’s target goal of human-ecosystem equilibrium, while sustainable development’ refers to the holistic approach and temporal process that lead us to the and point of sustainability.” “The spatial distributron of development in Europe and its underlying sustainability correlations.” In the man-machine dichotomy, the West’s model of development stood on behalf of the machine, condemning man to be subservient to its own creation. This world view was challenged since long in many Eastern Societies which stood for machine only as a tool in the hands of man, serving man. However, the movement of idea decisively defeated the voices against machine’s superiority over two centuries. After Buddha, there was one person who stood against this onslaught of machine over man, ridiculed by the modernists and materialists alike. Sunil Sahasrabudhey argues: “In fact, Gandhi’s opposition to the machine is so complete that it looks like a challenge to modern science, to its claims of veracity, universality, enlightenment, and material well-being.”
Sudheendra Kulkarni explained: ‘Mainstream Western ideas of scientific and technological development have historically been imposing on the thought process of all other systems. From the Industrial Revolution onwards, the mode of production invoked by the West inflicted an incalculable amount of senseless harm upon the environment. However, the very idea of development became problematic now. Gandhian philosophy provides a viable conceptual foundation on which to build genuinely sustainable development. He wasn’t an environmentalist in the modern sense since the major environmental problems of the present emerged only after 1990s. Protection of the environment and sustainable development were not quire on the global or India’s agenda when Gandhi was alive. Nevertheless, we see how he was far ahead of his time in warning the world about the potentially disastrous consequences of the Western model of economic growth, which has, alas, now become, with some local variations, the globally accepted model.’ But he was a dedicated practitioner of frugality, of recycling and reuse, and a trenchant critic of various aspects of modernity. His Hind Swaraj was a severe critique of the West and its civilization, and here Gandhi meant by civilization, the mode of development after the industrial revolution. Gandhi’s cosmic view conceives evolution ‘to be impossible without the cooperation and sacrifice on the part of all species, human and nonhuman alike.’ His social, economic and political ideas developed within a conceptual framework that assumed the internal interconnectedness and interdependence of the universe in its entirety. He was an admirer of John Ruskin’s Unto the Last. He was also influenced by Leo Tolstoy’s idea of cooperation as the prime way of life. Gandhi was not against technology as such. What he opposed was the technology which makes man subservient to the machine.
Lord Keynes in 1930s wrote: “….fair is foul and foul is faire; for foul is useful and fair is not….” This is an example of how the development was conceived by the West’s best mind. But the Eastern wisdom feels inconvenient to accept this proposition. Theodore Roszak in his ‘Introduction’ to E.F. Shcumacher’s Small is Beautiful said: “….Schumacher’s point was that Gandhi’s economics, for all its lack of professional sophistication (or perhaps for that reason) was nonetheless the product of a wise soul, one which shrewdly insisted on moderation, preservation, and gradualism, on the assumption that to seek “progress” by releasing cataclysmic social change is only a way to demoralize the many and make them the helpless dependents of the rich and expert few. And even then, it may not be a way to feed the hungry.

Sudheendra Kulkarni examines the Gandhian environmentalism as integrally linked to his world-view of nonviolence. ‘It is an arrogant assumption,’ he wrote, ‘to say that human beings are lords and masters of the lower creatures. On the contrary, beings endowed with greater things in life, they are the trustees of the lower animal kingdom’. He wanted ‘to realize identity with even the crawling things upon earth, because we claim descent from the same God, and that being so, all life in whatever form it appears must essentially be so’. In a highly original re-interpretation of colonialism, he affirmed that lording over nature and lording over other ‘inferior’ people are both manifestations of colonialism.

Kenneth E. Boulding (1910-93), an American economist and peace activist who was greatly influenced by the life and teachings of Gandhi, posed a pertinent question: ‘Are we to regard the world of nature simply as a storehouse to be robbed for the immediate benefit of man? … Does man have any responsibility for the preservation of a decent balance in nature, for the preservation of rare species, or even for the indefinite continuance of his race?’ Gandhi had recognized this inherent conflict between economic and ecology in the modern era of limitless consumption fed by limitless exploitation of nature. Erich Fromm (1900-80), a widely respected American psychoanalyst, echoed Gandhi’s concerns when he observed : ‘Material production was once supposed to be a means for a more dignified, happier life and the aim was clearly the fuller, more dignified and more human life. Today production and consumption have become ends in themselves. Nobody asks any longer, why or what for? We are happy discovering how we can produce more. In fact, our economic system is based on ever increasing consumption and production. But why we want to produce more, why we want this, that, and the other… is a question which is not asked.’

Robert Hart , in his essay ‘Gandhi and the Greens: Road to Survival’, writes; ‘In today’s world, generally Gandhi’s truest political heirs are the Greens.’ Long before the 3-R principle of reduce-recycle-reuse became popular in the discourse on sustainable development, he had made its compliance mandatory in his ashrams. Most of the letters he wrote were on the blank side of the reusable paper that came to him. He made the utmost use of the pencils he wrote with, until they became one-inch stubs and hence incapable of being gripped by his fingers. His ashrams were exemplars of zero-waste, the modern principles of sustainable development.. ‘Gandhi abhorred the industrial civilization because it was based on callous exploitation of non-renewable resources. It made bodily welfare the sole object of life, which reduced man to nothing but a clever animal’. He adds: As in agriculture, so in industry and in every other walk of life, we need to give our attention to the developing and perfection of nonviolent methods to find answers to the threefold crises of the modern world – the crisis of resource exhaustion, the ecological crisis and the crisis of man’s alienation and disorientation. All this requires work – that is, Gandhian work with a spirit of truth and nonviolence which inspired Gandhi’.

Petra Kelly (1947-92), a founder of the German Green Party, acknowledged: ‘In one particular area of our political work we have been greatly inspired by Mahatma Gandhi. That is in our belief that a life style and method of production which rely on an endless supply and a lavish use of raw materials generates the motive for the violent appropriation of these raw materials from other countries. In contrast, a responsible of these raw materials, as part of an ecologically oriented life style and economy, reduces the risk that policies of violence will be pursued in our name.’ Another pioneer of the green movement in Europe was Arne Naess (1912-2009), who is internationally known as the originator of a sub-movement called Deep Ecology. His spiritual vision, which affirms the unity and sacredness of nature, was deeply influenced by Buddha Spinoza and Mahatma Gandhi. Naess’s writings on Gandhi, such as his books Gandhi and the Nuclear Age (1965) and Gandhi and Group Conflict: An Exploration of Satyagraha, (1974) shaped the thinking of both the green and peace movements around the world.

The change in our approaches started with the realization that the earth has a limited supply of resources, that recycling and the use of renewable resources will prevent the depletion of resources, that life’s value does not depend on our material wealth alone, that we must develop a symbiotic relationship with nature, that we must live in NATURE and in UNITY with nature and minimize the waste we long for extended living on earth. For this we need appropriate technology – small and medium sized machines which maximize human output. This was the idea Gandhi introduced in the form of Charkha during the freedom struggle. The charkha stands as a symbol for such technology which would not displace the human hands.

Gandhi and Romain Rolland Conversations – Art & Truth (Satyam, Sivam, Sundaram and Sat, Chit and Ananda)

The boycott of Simon Commission in 1928, and several incidents in its aftermath, led to an impasse in the ongoing dialogue for political reforms between Indian people and the British government. By 1930s, the socio-economic situation world over, was also undergoing rapid changes. The Wall Street crash of October 1929 and the spiraling world economic depression hit the Indian peasants, workers and trading classes as well. The political atmosphere was in total disarray. Civil disobedience or armed revolution – these were the two alternatives before the people. Younger elements in the Congress and elsewhere were impatiently in favour of militant action. But the elder generation, including Gandhi, knew well that England had stood on a better footing when it comes to dealing with revolutionary responses. Many freedom fighters were looking towards Gandhi for a call. For weeks, Gandhi had been waiting for the prompting of his ‘inner voice.’
On 2 March, 1930, Gandhi wrote a long letter to the Viceroy intending to start civil disobedience, now on the issue of Salt, giving a dead line of 11 March. The British Raj salt laws made it a punishable crime to possess salt not obtained from the British government monopoly. As usual the Government turned a cold eye to the caution of Gandhi. Many political leaders also felt the call for satyagraha on the issue of salt was inconsequential. But, as 11 March neared, Indians slowly turned to be fervent, sizzling with enthusiasm about the course of events to take place. Scores of foreign and domestic correspondents were swarming the Sabarmati Ashram. Thousands surrounded the village and waited. On 12 March, Gandhi and seventy eight satyagrahis of the Ashram left Sabarmati to Dandi, south of Ahmedabad. Through the winding roads from village to village, the entourage marched for two hundred and forty two miles in twenty four days. When Gandhi reached the sea at Dandi on 5 April, the caravan had grown into an army of several thousands. The next morning he picked up some salt left by the waves. Gandhi had broken the British law.
In fact, Gandhi’s act of walking all through two hundred and forty miles, with several colleague satyagrahis, in public view, and converting the spectacle into convergence of several thousands of Indians into a mela was intended to be an open and public defiance of the mighty Government. Louis Fischer wrote : “Gandhi did two things in 1930; he made the British people aware that they were cruelly subjugating India, and he gave Indians the conviction that they could, by lifting their heads and straightening their spines, lift the yoke from their shoulders. After that, it was inevitable that Britain should someday refuse to rule India and that India should someday refuse to be ruled.” Another immediate consequence of the ‘inconsequential’ had been the revival of political dialogue with Congress in the Second Round Table Conference.
Romain Rolland, the French dramatist, art theoretician and Nobel laureate [1915] wrote a philosophical biography of Gandhi – Mahatma Gandhi in 1924, without ever visiting India, or even seeing or meeting Gandhi once. He also earlier wrote two great books on the teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahansa and Vivekananda in the similar fashion. He was also instrumental in changing the course of the ‘spiritual pilgrimage’ of Madeleine Slade, daughter of a British admiral, from Beethoven to Gandhi. She was introduced to Gandhi through the words of Rolland: “He is another Christ’, he said. He further said: “The only living person worthy of the sort of veneration you have felt for Beethoven is Mahatma Gandhi.” These words deeply influenced Slade, who straight away came to India to join Gandhi in November 1925, became Mirabehn, spent 33 years of her life in India, and she returned to England in 1959, again spent the rest of her life in the devotion of Beethoven. She started her life in a divine love to Beethoven, and ended it again in the same, while in the intervening period Gandhi took the place of Beethoven.
At the end of the Second Round Table Conference, while on his way back home, Gandhi visited Rolland’s villa near Geneva, on the specific insistence of Mirabehn. The meeting between Gandhi and Europe’s one of leading pacifists took place for six days December 1931. In those few days several European intellectuals met him and discussed various issues with him. In the backdrop of failed Western rationality in the wake of the WWI, the Europe was in a moral and ethical crisis. In this milieu, a deeply insightful and passionate dialogue took place between the two great minds on the subject of Truth, God and Art. Robert Payne wrote: ‘But Romain Rolland no longer possessed the fire of St. Dominic. Old, sick and disillusioned, he was coming more and more under the influence of communism, and his first words were to express his profound regret that Gandhi never met Lenin. “Lenin, like you, never compromised with the truth,” he exclaimed.’ The conversations between these two great men were recorded by Rolland’s sister.
Romain Rolland asked Gandhi as to why he regarded God as Truth. Gandhi replied: ‘In my very early youth I was taught that the Hindu scriptures knew almost a thousand names of God, but these thousand names are not nearly enough. I believe that God has as many names as there are living creatures, and this is why we also say that God is without name. And since God has many forms, we also consider him as being without form. And since he speaks to us in many tongues, we consider him speechless. … With those who say that God is Love, I too say that God is Love. But in my heart I thought that though God may be Love, God is, above all, Truth. If it is possible for human language to give its complete description of God, my conclusion is that for me, God is Truth. But two years ago I made a step further, to say that Truth is God’ [Emphasis supplied].
“Gandhi explains that he came to this conclusion after an ‘incessant search for Truth’ which had begun about fifty years earlier. He had felt then that the nearest approach to Truth was made by ‘love’, but he had recognized that the word ‘love’ has many meanings in the English language. Moreover, human love, in the sense of passion, could also become ‘a degrading thing’ . He added: ‘But I have never found a double meaning to the word “Truth”. Even the atheists do not doubt the necessity or the power of Truth. In their passion to discover Truth, the atheists have not hesitated to deny the existence of God – and from their point of view they are right’. Gandhi then continues to give more reasons for his belief that ‘Truth is God’: ‘I might add that millions have used the name of God and committed atrocities in his name. This is not to say that scientists, too, do not very often commit cruelties in the name of Truth; I know how in the name of science and truth, all sorts of frightful cruelties are perpetrated on animals by vivisection. So there are a certain number of difficulties on the way, however one describes God. But the human mind has its limitation, and we must work within these limitations when we try to conceive of a Being or an Entity beyond our powers of apprehension. … The Sanskrit word for Truth means literally “That which exists – Sat”. For this and for several other reasons I have come to the conclusion that the definition “Truth is God” satisfies me best. And when you want to find the Truth which is God, the only infallible way to it is by Love, which means Nonviolence’ [Emphasis supplied].
At this point, Roland interjected the flow with a question – ‘But what is Truth?’ Gandhi answered it with the same steady reflection: ‘A difficult question. But I have solved it for myself by saying that it is what the inner voice tells us. You will ask: “How is it then that different people think different and contrary truths? Well, we see that the human spirit works through innumerable media, and that the evolution of the human mind is not the same for all men. It follows that what may be truth for one man is non-truth for another. … all I can say to you in all true humility is that Truth cannot be found by anyone who has not achieved an abundant sense of humility. If you want to swim in the bosom of the Ocean of Truth, you must reduce yourself to zero. I can go no further along this fascinating path’ [Emphasis supplied].
Rolland expressed certain reservations about Gandhi’s explanation in respect of the attributes of Truth. If truth can be approached through ‘what the inner voice tells us’, there can be no universal truth and the idea of truth itself becomes an uncertain project. In doing so, he also drew Gandhi’s attention to another important element in their discussion i.e., art. Rolland: ‘If it is true that “Truth is God”, it seems to me that it lacks a very important attribute of God, which is Joy. For – and I insist on this – I cannot conceive of a God without joy. … I found this joy, which truth was not sufficient to prove to me, in beauty, and this is where I found myself in opposition to Tolstoy; I attribute a capital importance to art and beauty. By this I mean true art and healthy beauty.’ ‘Great art has harmony as its essence, and it brings peace, health and equilibrium to the soul. It communicates them at once by the sense and by the mind, for both senses and mind have the right joy. Beauty manifests itself in many ways; beauty of line, beauty of sound, beauty of colors, etc., and at the bottom of them all, the inner order, the hidden harmony which is in essence moral. The troubles of the soul are filtered and sublimated through it. Art is the bread of thousands of souls, above all in some refined races, who without beauty (either in nature or in art) would be destitute. All the different routes leading to peace and harmony are good; none of them must be closed, and the ideal would be to associate them all: -which happens in history at some supreme moments when all the inner forces of a people run together, producing books of religion, beauty, science and dreams for whole peoples.’
Rolland’s thoughts on ‘art’ prompted Gandhi to explain his own views on the subject. ‘For me, the definition of Truth is a universal one. The Truth is made manifest in many ways. Any art which is inconsistent with Truth, which is not linked to Truth, is no art. I would not classify art as a thing distinct from Truth. I am against the formula “art for art’s sake”; for me, art must be based on Truth. I reject beautiful things which pass for art if they express non-truth instead of Truth. I would subscribe to the formula: “Art brings joy and is good”, – but on the condition I have stated. By Truth in art I do not mean the exact reproduction of exterior objects; it is the living object which brings living joy to the soul and which must elevate the soul. If a work does not achieve this, it is worthless. If Truth does not bring joy, it is because Truth is not in you….’ Then Gandhi spoke of a Hindu religious song of morning prayers, and the holy formula ‘sat-chit-ananda’: ‘sat’ meaning ‘truth’, ‘chit’ ‘that which lives’ and ‘true knowledge’ (knowledge that is not void of true perception), and ‘ananda’ ‘ineffable joy’. In this conception, Truth is inseparable from joy. ‘Yet,’ Gandhi insists, ‘one must suffer in the search for Truth; one must undergo disappointments, fatigues and afflictions without number; but despite everything you draw joy and felicity from it’ [Emphasis supplied].

The Gandhi-Rolland dialogue also focused on the menacing political situation in Europe, whose sky was already being darkened by the clouds of fascism and the approaching Second World War. Madeleine Rolland, the writer’s sister, who recorded this conversation wrote : ‘They discuss the grave problems which they have at heart, my brother describes for Gandhi the tragic situation of Europe – the sufferings of the people oppressed by dictators; the drama of the proletariat who in their desperate effort to break the shackles of an anonymous and ruthless capitalism and pushed forward by their legitimate aspiration for justice and freedom, see only one way out, that of rebellion and violence. For man in the West is by education, by tradition and by temperament unprepared for the religion of ahimsa… Gandhi listens, reflects… when he answers, he reaffirms his unshakeable faith in the full power of nonviolence… At times their conclusions vary: yet always they commune with each other through their common love for humanity, their identical desire to alleviate its misery, their fervent search for Truth, in its multiplicity of aspects.’

What is the significance of this conversation between the two greats of the time from West and the East in terms of ontological and epistemological studies? “The East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet” says the refrain of Rudyard Kipling’s ballad – ‘The Ballad of East and West’. Are there any congruent areas in the thinking of the East and the West? In Gandhi’s explanative we find two strands – that he revised his idea of ‘God is truth’ to ‘Truth is God’, and that ‘Joy’ is a part of truth. What significance can a modern reader attach to the revised idea of Gandhi from ‘God is Truth’ to ‘Truth is God’? The first and foremost is the subordination of God to Truth, a decisive step forward in achieving unity of thought between the believer and non-believer. As far as the reformation of idea of ‘Truth is God’ is concerned, it also has several connotations and provides for several possibilities in social sciences. Atheists, rationalists, materialists, and Marxists of all varieties deny the existence of any super-human reality. There may not be a God to them, but there is truth. Still, if there can be a Truth which takes into its fold – ‘God’, by subordinating God to Truth – if God can be proved within the parameters of Truth, there is no reason to deny his existence. The eternally contentious matter can thus be temporarily kept in abeyance and the two camps can work together. It is an original proposition of an agnostic. It allows the believer within the fold of a seeker of truth; it also doesn’t deny him his existential position by degrading him to unscientific subhuman. He is now a co-traveler along with the so called ‘enlightened beings’ having the so called Midas touch of rationalistic thinking.
The second narrative in the discourse – ‘There could be no joy if it is not true, since there can be no art which is not true.’ ‘Joy’ is the raison d’être of the art – both in the East and the West. Art is conceived as one which gives ‘joy’. But the complementary question that troubles the mind of a true artist always is – ‘Can there be a joy based on falsehood?’ And if there is one – can it give ‘a joy forever’? ‘A thing of beauty is joy forever!’ proclaimed John Keats. The question again sought is – can there be a beauty which is not true? In defining the idea of God or Godhead, the Hindu philosophy invokes two important concepts, apart from the nirguna and niraakara meant for higher mediations. One is sat, chit, ananda and the other is satyam, sivam, sundaram. The second one defines more attributes – Truth, Goodness, and Beautiful. Both these concepts together constitute the idea of ‘art’ equally in an enlightened proposition and contain in its fold – the concepts of the West and the East in this area.
In the ‘Republic’, Plato considered art as an imitation of the object and events of ordinary life, – a work of art is ‘a copy of a copy of a form’. ‘Art as form’ has its own adherents even in the twentieth century West in ‘formalists’. The www.britanica.com considers the meaning of ‘formalism’ as one that ‘can best be seen by noting what it was reacting against: art as representation, art as expression, art as a vehicle of truth or knowledge or moral betterment or social improvement.’ In the Indian Hindu tradition – the word ‘sahitya’ (sa + hita) connotes the good of the reader or the society in general. Sahitya, an art form, is pursued by the classical Hinduism for the ‘truth’, ‘knowledge’ or moral upliftment of the target group. This idea is very much available in the Communist / Marxist tradition also, though with the emphasis on non-spiritual or rather materialist concerns. ‘Art for art sake’ is challenged by many including religious theorists, socialist and communist theorists.
This controversy has always been there, and Gandhi’s contribution to the predominant ideas of the West – ‘art for art sake’ or ‘art as a copy of a copy of the nature’ is a continuum in the discourse. But in Gandhian discourse, reassessing Gandhi’s ideas of art is significant in the sense that Gandhi was projected as ignorant this area, which is not true. “Gandhi’s contributions to the general field of the arts are not given the kind of attention that they deserve,’ contends Anthony J Parel . Gandhi put two great theories of art of his time – Leo Tolstoy’s ‘What is Art?’ and John Ruskin’s ‘A joy for Ever” – And Its Place in the Market,’ as Appendices to his Hindu Swaraj, which according to Parel proves the point that Gandhi had a serious interest in art, but the interest is laid in the practical side of things more than theoretical ones. Parel gives a detailed analysis of Gandhi’s ideas on art in the chapter on “Art and society” in his comprehensive exposition of Gandhi’s Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony . He had an idea of art, and that was constructed on the traditional Hindu concept of ‘satyam, sivam, sundaram’ or ‘sat, chit, ananda’ which includes in its comprehensive schema – truth, good, beauty, consciousness and joy.
One important interception in the conversations was the role of ‘inner voice’, especially in social and personal experiments of a public intellectual. ‘Positivism’ is a philosophical system which recognizes only that truth which can be scientifically verified or which is capable of logical or mathematical proof, and thereby rejects metaphysics and theism. But the confidence of scientific positivism has its own inconvenient questions in the recent developments in science. Even physical sciences and mathematics, the so-called definitive sciences, at certain higher levels, from the mid of twentieth century, entertained such concepts as ‘relativity’ and ‘uncertainty’. The most advanced studies in astrophysics and human biology – genetics, DNA structures etc., also led to awe and wonder bordering spirituality. It has its own impact on social sciences. It has sufficiently shaken the solid structures of scientific, rationalist and materialistic thinking in the recent past. The condescending approaches of one to the other as possessing the higher truth have been challenged seriously in the twentieth century sociology through ‘cultural or social relativism’. Now, in the social dialogue, we can allow space for pluralistic nature of ‘truth’. In the heydays of positivism, and much before the relativistic social sciences emerged, Gandhi powerfully argued for such an eventuality by invoking the idea of ‘inner voice’.
Most of the religious or other social conflicts emerge out of the exclusivist claims by one to have an access for higher truth. Gandhi advocated the possibility of ‘plural or multiple truths’ within the idea of ‘Universal Truth’. ‘Inner voice’ is not unknown to the religious or theological truths. ‘Intuition’ has always been the known method in many theological systems. The difficulty arises from the societal pressures in the form of ‘authority’ – scientific, rationale, materialistic, in stifling this tool of epistemology, and placing ‘reason’ and ‘rationality’ of a special kind above every other method in validating knowledge. Gandhi is one, in modern times, but much in advance, who restored this ‘intuition’ or ‘inner voice’ to its respectable place, which can release a seeker of ‘truth’ from many unwarranted and suffocating socio-psychological compulsions. It offers scope for pluralistic concept of truth and its existence in many ways simultaneously – a kind of Anekantavada of Jainism, and thus helps in reducing social tensions. The possibility of coexistence of the science of a higher mind and the belief systems of a common man, and the rare synthesis in this regard is undeniably one contribution of Gandhi.

Gandhi and the Authority – An Examination in Anarchist Tradition

Dr. A. Raghu Kumar


On 15 August 1947, when the crowds were swarming into New Delhi from all sides, and Nehru was about to deliver one of the finest speeches on such a great dawn, reminding the people of India of the culmination of ‘the tryst with destiny’ long years ago the people of India had made, “The first uncertain sputtering of a candle had appeared in the windows of the house on Beliaghata Road just after 2 a.m., an hour ahead of Gandhi’s usual rising time.  The glorious day when his people would savor at last their freedom should have been an apotheosis for Gandhi, the culmination of a life of struggle, the final triumph of a movement which had stirred the admiration of the world.  It was anything but that.  There was no joy in the heart of the man in Hydari House.  The victory for which Gandhi had sacrificed so much had the taste of ashes, and his triumph was indelibly tainted by the prospects of a coming tragedy.  … ‘I am groping,’ he had written to a friend the evening before. ‘Have I led the country astray?’[1]   How do we understand this person who refuses to rejoice in his own offspring?  What binds him or refuses to bind him to any particular pleasure?   

All interpretations of India are ultimately autobiographical”, says Ashis Nandy.[2]  In understanding Gandhi, and his philosophy, his struggles within and without India, the trajectory of his life, and the culmination of his nonviolence in the assassin’s bullet is not just autobiographical or biographical of Gandhi; it has, in fact, become an inalienable part of Indian history.   There are several readings of Gandhi, at several layers, including a facet which explains him as unconventional, atypical and always relating himself with an authority disobligingly.  From the first biography of Gandhi written by Joseph J. Doke, a Christian missionary in South Africa in 1909[3], there are several incisive readings and roving inquiries into his life from various angles and philosophical standpoints. 

Some such important readings include Romain Rolland’s Mahatma Gandhi[4], Erikson’s Gandhi’s Truth[5], Pannalal Dasgupta’s Revolutionary Gandhi[6],  Manu Gandhi’s memoir[7]Bapu – My Mother, Louis Fischer’s[8] The Life of Mahatma Gandhi,  Robert Payne’s[9] The Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi, and  Ashis Nandy’s[10] The Intimate Enemy.   The list is not exhaustive, but indicative of exploring unknown depths of this presumably spiritual maverick. Any one, at the initial reading of his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, would arrive at an idea of Gandhi as primarily a law-abiding citizen.  His family legacies, his loyalties to the British rule time and again, and his ambivalences even till the early phases of the Second World War lead us to such derivatives.  But Gandhi also makes a parallel contra-reading.   All his life was a continuous and long struggle against ‘authority’ – authority of every kind!  All his understanding of religious texts such as Bhagavad Gita, caste or class, swaraj, modernity, freedom, liberation of the individual or society, rights and duties, the concept of Truth and God, nonviolence, brahmacharya, health, food, community living etc., defied the reasoning of known epistemology.  To cite one, he said once: ‘Freedom is often to be found inside a prison’s walls, even on a gallows; never in council chambers, courts and class rooms.[11]  Was Gandhi an anarchist or iconoclast internally, while externally offering a different posture?

In the list of anarchists at wikipedia.org we find the name of Gandhi as one standing with the insignia of “anarchist” along with Proudhon, Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin, William Godwin, Emma Goldman, Tolstoy and Bhagat Singh etc.  Gerald Runkle[12] writes: “The essence of anarchism is individual liberty. … Anarchism thus opposes authority in all its forms; government rule, social constraint, religious domination and moral compulsion.’ … ‘The anarchist, as Proudhon proclaimed, accepts no master, recognizes no sovereign’.  The idea that Gandhi was an anarchist has always been contested by most of his adherents.  But his life provides for humongous evidence of his strained relationship with every ‘authority’ from childhood to his last breath, an inalienable ingredient in anarchist thought.  Another problematic area in this description has always been the conceptual connotations of the very word – ‘anarchism’.  The historical experience of the West with anarchism has been awfully brimming with the overtones of violence.  However, even in anarchic tradition of the West there are certain subaltern layers of non-violence.   

George Woodcock[13] considered ‘anarchism’ as a doctrine which poses a criticism of the existing society and strives to change it.  “All anarchists deny authority; many of them fight against it.  But by no means, all who deny authority and fight against it can reasonably be called anarchists.  Historically, anarchism is a doctrine which poses a criticism of existing society; a view of a desirable future society; and a means of passing from one to the other.”  But there are some basic features common to many, if not all, anarchists: refusal to establish systems, naturalism, deeply moralistic tendencies, anti-historicism, apolitical or anti-political approaches, direct and individualistic action, rejection of or suspicious outlook towards all forms of government or authority etc.      

But the difficulty now revolves also around understanding ‘authority’.   The idea of ‘authority’ has undergone a great change.   ‘Authority’ manifests in different incarnations in the course of a modern man’s life, not just in ‘the King’ or ‘the priest’ as in the pastoral societies. We may locate him in a parent, a teacher, an employer, a policeman, a judge, a leader, a guru, a caste-head etc.   Consequently we have as many counter-shades of antonyms also.  Many a time, we may not challenge the authority; we may just escape its sovereignty.  The escape, sometimes, may also be in the form of art, literature, spirituality or in an appeal to the something unknown higher.  We need to negotiate with the ‘authority’, mostly unavailingly.  Gandhi’s theory and activity were constructed, undoubtedly, mostly around moralistic or spiritual normative.  

Very early in Gandhi’s career, Sir C. Sankaran Nair[14] [1857-1934] [who was the President of the Indian National Congress for 1897 and a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council for 1915] had accused Gandhi of being ‘an anarchist’ in an essay titled ‘Gandhi and Anarchy’.  Anthony J. Parel rejects this claim as unfounded and presents Gandhi’s harmoniously constructed philosophy of modern State in his work.  At the end of Dandi March on 06.04.1930 – Mrs. Sarojini Naidu[15] hailed him as “Law breaker”.  The Right Hon’ble V.S Srinivasa Sastri[16] also described Gandhi as a “philosophical anarch” who could not be swayed by rational arguments.  Gandhi himself described his utopia as ‘enlightened anarchy’ contends Vinit Haksar.[17]

            In fact, Gandhi’s life appears to be a series of such violations of the conventional authority or wisdom.   From childhood, in many of his acts, we find a typical discordant, while apparently being an obedient person.  Erikson[18] cites an anecdote from Gandhi’s early childhood: “… for when his father was not there, he was inclined to usurp strange rights.  He would remove the image of the ruling Prince from its customary stool and put himself in its place, a habit of pretending to be his father’s master …”   Raja Rao[19] quotes another anecdote:‘ … and once it’s said, he even took one of the idols from their sacred seats, and placed himself in the god’s place’.   Gandhi’s decision to go to London to pursue law ended up in the caste elder-men passing a gag order against him: “In the opinion of the caste, your proposal to go to England is not proper.”   Hinduism had long held taboo against travelling beyond sea.  Gandhi said to them that he would nevertheless go.  He replied firmly: “I think the caste should not interfere in the matter”.  Consequently the headmen ostracized Gandhi: “This boy shall be treated as an outcaste from today”. 

There were three Englands, by then, within England – England in England, England in India, and England in South Africa.  England in England is a very sophisticated nation through the Enlightenment awakening of the eighteenth century.  Most of the Indian renaissance is the result of our intellectual contact with this England.   But England as a colonial power was always different.  England in South Africa is no sophisticated State rather it was a State with all prejudices – color, class etc.  This is the specific additional element which enriched Gandhi’s approach towards the England.  His journey from Durban to Pretoria and the incident that occurred at Pietermaritzburg where he was removed from first class compartment on the insistence of a white man is well-known and was a turning point of his life.  It is now in the deep memories of many Indians and even the Westerners thanks to the great film of Richard Samuel Attenborough of 1982.  This is not the last experience to Gandhi of a different England and a different Whiteman.  Fischer[20] raises the question: ‘Why, of all people, did it occur to Gandhi to resist the evil?’ and tries to answer it: ‘… Was it this inherent anti-authoritarianism that made him rebel against the government color line? …  Was it destiny, heritage, luck, the Gita or some other immeasurable quantity?’ 

The white man always relied on some kind of slavery.  With the demise of European feudalism, conditions became increasingly unfavorable to the institution of slavery; maintaining slaves was expensive, and a growing population increased the availability of cheap labour, making slavery economically less favourable.  When the slavery was found economically and morally indefensible, the England had adopted innovative methods.  One such was the ‘indentured labour’ intelligently introduced in South Africa, in the guise of contractual freedom of the labourers.  During 1890-1 some 150,000 Indian emigrants were settled in South Africa, most of them having taken up their residence in Natal.  “Semi-barbarous Asiatics” was the description of Indians of South Africa in the statute books.  Though by religion they were different formulations, the White racial arrogance put them in the parenthesis of a common nomenclature “coolies”; all Indians were known as “coolies” or “sammis” i.e., “coolie merchants”, “coolie clerks”, “coolie barristers” etc.   It is in this process of understanding the different England in South Africa, unknown to the Indian students in England or USA or Germany, he underwent a transformation in his life and philosophy.  Here he was also introduced to the writings of Tolstoy and John Ruskin. 

Within a week of his arrival he visited the Durban court.   The magistrate asked him to take off his turban which he refused to obey and left the court promptly.  Some newspapers described him as an “unwelcome visitor”.[21]    During the year 1894 the Natal Government sought to impose an annual tax of £25 on the ex-indentured Indians.   Gandhi campaigned against the law, and the struggle which started in 1893 had gone up to the end of 1914.   It is here Gandhi experimented with his method of struggle – ‘means’, i.e., ‘satyagraha’ for the first time in 1907.  

In Transvaal during January 1908 in the agitation against compulsory registration of Indians, Gandhi and his colleagues were once summoned to the court.  The questions and answers in the trial between the Judge Mr. Jordan and Gandhi make an interesting reading: 

Jordan:            The question is, have you registered or not?  If you have not registered this is an end of the case.  If you have any explanation to offer as regards the order I am going to make, that is another story.  There is the law, which has been passed by the Transvaal legislature and sanctioned by the Imperial Government.  All I have to do and all I can do is to administer that law as it stands.

Gandhi:           I do not wish to give any evidence in extenuation and I know that legally I cannot give any evidence at all.

Jordan:            All I have to deal with is legal evidence.  What you want to say, I suppose, is that you do not approve of the law and you conscientiously resisted it.    

Gandhi:           That is perfectly true.

Jordan :           I will take the evidence, if you say you conscientiously object to the law. 

Gandhi asked for the indulgence of the Court for five minutes but Mr. Jordan refused to grant it.  “You have defied the law” he bluntly said.

Gandhi:           Very well, Sir, then I have nothing to say.

Jordan :           Leave the colony within forty eight hours.  That is my order.

Gandhi refused to comply with orders.  So on January 10, 1908, Gandhi and others who attended the court for sentence ‘pleaded guilty’ to the charge of disobeying the order to leave the colony.  The magistrate sentenced Gandhi to two month’s simple imprisonment.  “The role of a political prisoner is far more honorable than that of a lawyer,” he declared.   This was his first prison experience.

            Gandhi returned to India in January, 1915.  The first exhibition of the rebel in him on Indian soil occurred on 4 February, 1916 at Hindu University Central College (now Benares University).  The ceremonies were attended by illustrious and glittering persons such as the Viceroy, bejeweled maharajas, maharanis and high officials apart from Mrs. Besant and Malaviya.  He spoke in such gathering about the poverty of India, comparing the richly bedecked nobleman with the millions of the Indian poor counterparts.  ‘There is no salvation for India unless you strip yourselves of this jewelry and hold it in trust for your countrymen in India’.  He declared ‘our salvation can only come through the farmer.  Neither the lawyers, not the doctors, nor the rich landlords are going to secure it’.   There was a commotion.   Mrs. Besant repeatedly ordered Gandhi to close his talk.  The Viceroy, the maharajas, the noble officers left the meeting one by one. 

From then on, in all his interventions, whether it was Champaran movement in the cause of indigo farmers (1917), or the stike in the cause of Ahmedabad Textile workers (1918), or the subsequent movement of ‘boycott of foreign goods or cloths’, civil disobedience movements during 1921-22, or at Bardoli (1928) or the Salt March (1930) or the Quit India movement (1942), he was giving the British Authority, the concrete proof that their might, hitherto dreaded and unquestioned, could be challenged by Indians.  Gandhi was arrested on 10 March, 1922 on the charges of sedition for his three articles written for Young India.  The first one appeared in Young India dated 19 September 1921, titled ‘Tampering with Loyalty’.   ‘I have no hesitation in saying that it is sinful for anyone, either soldier or civilian, to serve this government…. Sedition has become the creed of Congress….Non-cooperation, though a religious and strictly moral movement, deliberately aims at the overthrow of the government, and is therefore legally seditious…”   In the second article, ‘A puzzle and its solution’, dated 15 December, 1921, he wrote ‘Lord Reading must understand that non-cooperators are at war with the government.  They have declared rebellion against it…”   The third one ‘Shaking the Manes’ dated 23 February, 1922, opens with the most challenging sentence: ‘How can there be any compromise whilst the British lion continues to shake his gory claws in our faces?’  He further added: ‘No empire intoxicated with the red wine of power and plunder of weaker races has yet lived long in the world.’   ‘The fight that was commenced in 1920 is a fight to finish, whether it lasts one month or one year or many months or many years. …’.    

At the preliminary hearing of the case he was asked to state his profession and he declared it as ‘farmer and weaver’, and as usual pleaded guilty.    ‘The Great Trial’ was held on 18 March, 1922 before Mr. Justice C.N. Broomfield, District and Sessions judge.  After the charge was read out by the Advocate General, the judge asked Gandhi whether he wished to make any statement.  He had a ready written statement.  The statement read: ‘The Advocate General was entirely fair…. It is very true and I have no desire whatsoever to conceal from this court the fact that to preach disaffection towards the existing system of government has become almost a passion with me’.   He concluded saying: ‘I do not ask for mercy.  I do not plead any extenuating act.  I am here, therefore, to invite and cheerfully submit to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is a deliberate crime and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen.  The only course open to you, the Judge, is, as I am going to say in my statement, either to resign your post, or inflict on me the severest penalty if you believe that the system and the law you administer are good for the people.  I do not expect that kind of conversion, but by the time I have finished my statement you will perhaps have a glimpse of what is raging within my breast to run this maddest risk that a man can run.’    ‘I came reluctantly to the conclusion that the British connection had made India more helpless than she ever was before, politically and economically….. I have no doubt that both England and the town-dwellers of India will have to answer, if there is a God above, for this crime against humanity which is perhaps unequalled in history’.   ‘But I hold it an honor to be disaffected towards a government which in its totality has done more harm to India than any previous system’. ‘In my opinion, non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is co-operation with good.’

            Gandhi did not think ‘Swaraj’ in itself as an end.   In his ‘Hind Swaraj’ [1909], written during his return from England, after series of discussions with both the British liberal intellectuals on South African question, and with the freedom fighters of India operating from London with militant means, he had expressed a different idea of ‘Swaraj’.   For him ‘Swaraj’ is a mental state, not physical or political liberation from England.   If, for the sake of independence the Indians want to continue the materialistic aims of the Western Civilization, modes of production and production relations, he found no reason for political independence at the first instance, since this could however be achieved even under the British regime.   In his idea, the Indians had to overcome the slavery and imitation of the West within.  On 2 March, 1930, as a preparatory step to Salt Satyagraha, Gandhi sent a long letter to the Viceroy:

Dear friend,

Before embarking upon Civil Disobedience and taking the risk I have dreaded to take all these years, … Whilst, therefore, I hold the British rule to be a curse, I do not intend harm to a single Englishman or to any legitimate interest he may have in India. … And why do I regard the British rule as a curse? It has impoverished the dumb millions by a system of progressive exploitation and by a ruinous expensive military and civil administration which the country can never afford.

            It has reduced us politically to serfdom.  It has sapped the foundations of our culture.  And by the policy of cruel disarmament, it has degraded us spiritually. …

            The iniquities sampled above are maintained in order to carry on a foreign administration, demonstrably the most expensive in the world.  Take your own salary. It is over 21,000 rupees [about £1,750] per month, besides many other indirect additions… You are getting over 700 rupees a day against India’s average income of less than two annas (two pence) per day.  Thus you are getting much over five thousand time India’s average income.  The British Prime Minister is getting only ninety times Britain’s average income. …

            Nothing but organized non-violence can check the organized violence of the British government.

My ambition is no less than to convert the British people through non-violence…..

… But if you cannot see your way to deal with these evils and if my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the eleventh day of this month I shall proceed with such co-workers of the Ashram as I can take, to disregard the provisions of the salt laws…      

This letter is not in any way intended as a threat but is a simple and sacred duty peremptory on a civil resister. …

I remain,         

                                                                                                Your sincere friend

                                                                                                M.K. Gandhi

As 11 March neared, Indians slowly turned to be fervent, sizzling with enthusiasm about the course of events to take place.  Scores of foreign and domestic correspondents were swarming the Sabarmati Ashram.   Thousands surrounded the village and waited.   On 12 March, after regular prayers at Ashram, Gandhi and seventy eight satyagrahis of the Ashram left Sabarmati to Dandi, south of Ahmedabad – famously called the Salt Satyagraha.  Through the winding roads from village, the entourage marched for two hundred and forty two miles in twenty four days.  In the area he travelled, over three hundred village headmen gave up their government posts.   When Gandhi reached the sea of Dandi on 5 April, the caravan had grown into an army of several thousands.  The next morning he picked up some salt left by the waves.  Gandhi had broken the British law which made it punishable crime to possess salt not obtained from the British government monopoly.   His act of walking all through two hundred miles, with several colleague satyagrahis, in public view, and converting the spectacle into convergence of several thousand of Indians in a mela was intended to be an open and published defiance of the mighty Government.   

            What was the effect of this act of defiance?   ‘Every villager on Indian’s long sea coast went to the beach or waded into the sea with a pan to make salt!  It provoked the State with terrible law and order problems.   Pandit Malaviya and other moderate co-operators resigned from the Legislative Assembly.   The police began invoking violence.   But civil resisters did not resist the use of force by the authorities.  People were beaten and bitten in the fingers by constables.  The state had shown its cruelty, and incapacity.   Congress volunteers openly sold contraband salt in cities.   Hundreds were handcuffed or their arms fastened with roes and led off to jail.  The agitation spread far and wide to all corners of the country.  Teachers, professors and students made salt at the sea and inland, and were sent to jail in batches.  A series of arrests, prosecutions and sentencing to jails went on!  About sixty thousand political offenders adorned the prisons by their presence.

“Gandhi did two things in 1930; he made the British people aware that they were cruelly subjugating India, and he gave Indians the conviction that they could, by lifting their heads and straightening their spines, lift the yoke from their shoulders.   After that, it was inevitable that Britain should someday refuse to rule India and that India should someday refuse to be ruled.”[22]   He said he would do his part outside the official world.  According to Gandhi, ‘That government is the best which governs the least.[23]   After Salt Satyagraha and the Second Round Table conference in 1930-31, and his internment from 3 January, 1932 in Yeravda Jail to 8 May 1933, the Poona-Pact, and for another short incarceration from 1 Aug to 23 August, Gandhi was mostly away from freedom struggle concentrating on his ‘constructive program’ which encompassed spinning, challenging untouchability, inter-religious dialogue etc.  Shortly after midnight of 8 August, 1942, Gandhi gave ‘Quit India’ call.   “….Every one of you should, from the very moment, consider himself a free man or woman and even act as if you are free and no longer under the heel of this imperialism…”   

‘In comparison to other groups during anti-British anti-colonial struggles, Gandhi organized the Hindus as Indians, not as Hindus, and granted Hinduism the right to maintain its character as an unorganized, anarchic, open-ended faith.’[24]  He was not just agitating for freedom of his people.  ‘Gandhi was a living antithesis set up against the thesis of the English.’[25]   Most of the counter-players of Gandhi believed in some kind of theories based on masculinity, valor, physical force and the supremacy of the arms.   Gandhi also thought in those terms in his childhood.  Later Gandhi found the folly of it, and ‘used two orderings’, the first one – ‘saintliness’ and the second one – ‘femininity’.   He employed these terms in a kind of qualitative differentiation in degree – ‘femininity’ as superior to masculinity, which in turn is better than cowardice.[26]  Here Gandhi had employed the idea of ‘masculinity’ and ‘violence’ as synonymous with the ‘authority’, and contemplated his fight against both cowardice and authority.  D.R. Nagaraj[27] says: ‘According to Gandhi, fear is the source of violence.  Strictly speaking, his philosophy of violence is nothing but a spiritual analysis of the phenomenon of fear.’    “…..Gandhi’s achievement of awakening Indian people and lending them through an almost bloodless national revolution against foreign rule… was influenced by several of the great libertarian thinkers.  His nonviolent technique was developed largely under the influence of Thoreau as well as of Tolstoy, and he was encouraged in his idea of a country of village communes by an assiduous reading of Kropotkin.”[28] 

In fact, his later experiments on ‘brahmacharya’ at the last phases of his life were constantly directed against this male-female dichotomy and transcending to the higher synthesis of androgyny.  Thus he located the ‘State’ or ‘Authority’ not just in the political form, but in various points such as the religious heads, teachers, conservatives, the so-called revolutionaries and the very ‘kshatriya-hood’ or ‘masculinity’.  It is in this context, Manubehn’s expression – ‘Bapu – My Mother’ needs a further examination in understanding Gandhi.  In fact many women found equality and more freedom in the company of Gandhi, and many more writings of women acquainted with him provide for these reflections.         

            Even his concept of sanatinism is contrary to the accepted normative descriptions of it by the orthodox Hindu or the established monasteries of Hindu order.   He ‘moved on the periphery of English society during his three years stay in London, absorbing ideas from a wide range of sources, discovering the wisdom of the East through the eyes of the West.  He associated with socialists, anarchists, radical Christians and feminists.’[29]   Gandhi also drew upon Henry Summer Maine’s Village Communities of the East and West (1881).  As an alternate to centralist systems such as capitalism and communism in which labour was placed as degraded and alienated from the factors of production, these anarchists proposed a decentralized social and economic system.  The idea of organic communities, self-governing and self-sufficient in the necessities of life, free to co-operate and associate with one another on the basis of mutuality had impressed Gandhi’s intellect since then.  We may also appreciate that the type of community living experimented by him in name of various ashrams, away from the State, and living within community, on certain self-defined terms has also been a peculiar feature of certain anarchist groups.  Even Gandhi was said to have visited and be influenced by the Trappist monastery in Durban 1895 in this regard apart from his readings into Ruskin’s Unto This Lost in 1904.  After his Phoenix Settlement (1904-1910), he later established Tolstoy Farm (1910-1913), Sabarmati or Satyagraha Ashram (1915-1933) and Sevagram (1934-1948).  In fact his community experiments in the form of ashrams combined the features of both the East and the West monastic living, while simultaneously converting them into laboratories for his ideas of religion, education, manual labour, self-sustenance and ultimately ‘satyagraha’.           

William Godwin[30] said: Man “must consult his own reason, draw his own conclusions and conscientiously conform himself to his ideas of propriety.”  The ‘inner voice’ of Gandhi resembles this proposition which had constantly driven Gandhi to differ with the established interpretation of conventional ideas, religious texts, political and legal theories generally accepted by the society as most advanced and as containing higher rationality. 

Gandhi was deeply influenced by several philosophers, activists and social theoreticians of both from the West and the East including Thoreau’s idea of civil disobedience. But none could permanently stay as ‘guru’ in his mind.  ‘If the Mahatma concludes all this with the remark that “the throne” of guru had “remained vacant” in his life even up to Moksha time,’ Erikson[31] writes, ‘one could be tempted to follow the throne imagery in his life, from the time way back in Porbandar when little Moniya had sat himself in the place of Thakorji’s picture to all the real or symbolic thrones and top jobs he would come close to in one context or another.  It would appear that he never occupied one and yet never bowed to one either.  Any throne, or for that matter any prime ministership, was too sedentary a place for a pilgrimage.’  His actions during his stupendous work in Naukhali dousing the flames of bigotry generated by the partition, and his observance of fast and silence on the day India achieved formal independence makes a compelling reading of an anti-authoritarian and libertarian Gandhi.  

Coming back to our starting point – it’s true that Gandhi was a law-abiding citizen, but when his ‘inner voice contradicts the proposition, he challenges the authority in various forms – from teasing to open challenge.   He contemplates an area of such challenge, and then he chooses his method of challenge within his major frame work of Truth and nonviolence.  He allows sufficient time and scope for his counter-player to withdraw or change it.  Then he openly announces his intention of violating the authority.  He gives even sufficient propaganda for his actions.  Then on a fixed time, date and place, he consciously attempts to violate it.  If the other side attempts to use force, he refuses to surrender to it.  When the counter-player invokes the legal remedies he surrenders to the process voluntarily.  He accepts the charge and demands for maximum sentence.  He does not demand evidence in the sense of an accused in the modern revolutionary practices.  He doesn’t avoid trail or delay it on technicalities.  At the first instance itself he accepts his dereliction, and asks for maximum penalty.  Thus he compels an equally moral and ethical counter-narrative in the conscience of the prosecutor or the State.

            Anhony J. Parel may be more correct in saying that Gandhi was not an anarchist and that his philosophy tends towards harmonious construction of tradition and modernity.  If we examine various concepts of anarchism, and more specifically the revolutionary politics of it which are overwhelmingly violent, and highly individual, they may not be properly fitting into the Gandhian scheme of things.   Yet if we carefully examine his actions – not accepting any specific authority as the final arbiter, constantly questioning the absolute authority within and without, series of acts violating ‘the Law’ or ‘the Authority’ consciously and his volunteering the penalty imposed by the authority without resistance, the communities he established on the lines of many anarchist communities, his fascination to jails, and his idea of the State etc., they border certain terrains of anarchism.   It is an open ended debate and deserves further research.   

[1] Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, © Larry Collins and Pressinter, S.A., 1975, Freedom at Midnight, Tarang Paper Backs (Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd), p.262-3

[2] Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism, Oxford University Press, 1983, p-80

[3] Doke, Joseph J., M.K.Gandhi, An Indian Patriot in South Africa, 1909, Indian Chronicle, London

[4] Romain Rolland’s Mahatma Gandhi: The Man who became One with the Universal Being, Translation from the Frenchby Catherine D. Groth, Publications Division, Govt. of India, 1924, 2004

[5] Erik H. Erikson, Gandhi’s Truth: The Origins of Militant Non-violence, © 1969 W.W. Norton & Company. Inc., New York

[6] Pannalal Dasgupta, Revolutionary Gandhi, Translated from Bengali by K.V. Subrahmonyan, Earthcare Books, Kolkata, 2011

[7] Manu Gandhi, Bapu – My Mother Ahmedabad, Navjivan, 1949

[8] Louis Fischer (1951), The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, HarperCollins, 3rd impression, 2008

[9] Robert Payne, The Life and Death of Mahatma Gandhi, Rupa & Co., © 1969, 1997 by Sheila Lalwani Payne

[10] Ashis Nandy, op.cit.

[11] Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, p-50

[12] Gerald Runkle, (1972),  Anarchism Old and New, Delacorte Press / New York, p.3

[13] George Woodcock, Anarchism: A history of Libertarian Ideas and Movements, © 1962 World Publishing, New York, p.9

[14] Anthony J. Parel (2006), Gandhi’s Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony, Cambridge, p-56

[15] D.G. Tendulkar, Mahatma – Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Publications Division, Govt. of India,  1961, 2018, Vol-3, p-31

[16] Robert Payne, op.cit.p.390

[17]Vinit Haksar, Gandhi and Liberalism, Satyagraha and the conquest of Evil, South Asia Edn, Routhedge, Oxon & New York © 2018, p.224

[18] Erik H. Erikson, po.cit., p.108

[19] Raja Rao, © 1998, 2004, The Great Indian Way – A life of Mahatma Gandhi, Vision Books, Preface, p.39

[20] Fischer, p.58-59

[21] D.G. Tendulkar, op.cit., Vol-1, p.36

[22] Fischer, p-345

[23] Young India, 2 January 1937

[24] AshisNandy, op.cit., p.26

[25] Roll May, Power and Innocence:  A search for the sources of violence,  New York: Delta, 1972, p-112 as quoted in Ashis Nandy’s op.cit p-49

[26] Ashis Nandy, op.cit., p.53

[27] D.R. Nagaraj: Listening to the Loom – Essays on Literature, Politics and Violence, Ed by Prithvi Datta and Chandra Shobhi,  Permanent Black,   (c) 2012 Girija Nagaraj and Amulya Nagaraj, p-272

[28] Woodcock, p-234

[29] Mark Thomson, Gandhi and His Ashrams (1993), Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, p.18

[30] William Godwin, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and its Influence on Morals and Happiness,  (Third Edition), F.E.L. Priestly, Ed, The University of Toronto Press, 1946, Vol. I, p-168 as quoted in Runkles, op.cit., p.4

[31] Erikson, p.163S

The ‘summer’ of the Right and the ‘fall’ of the Left

 Dr. A. Raghu Kumar


In the English literary symbolic tradition ‘summer’ and ‘fall’ represent not only just seasons, but something more.  The ‘summer’ has been symbolized as a child or a woman wearing a crown of corn ears and bearing a sheaf in one hand and a sickle in the other.  The symbolic animal of ‘summer’ is a lion or a dragon.  It is the time of romance and infinite potential.  The color of ‘summer’ is yellow and temperatures move from mild to warm.  If spring is the time of birth, then summer is the time of youth where one moves through the world with godlike ease and comfort [Source: www.symbolism.org   Copyright© 2001 John Frain].  ‘Fall’ is a season where life is a reaped and winding down, middle age and a time to count one’s blessings.  ‘Fall’ represents a time for transformations, both personal and environmental, a season drenched in tradition, and it is the perfect time to reflect and embrace change.  We leave the summer heat behind and blooming flowers are replaced by crisp leaves. Symbolism is etched in the spiritual fabric of ‘fall’.   Many traditions have been passed down and modified over the years.  As you look back into your heritage you may find that ‘fall’ means a lot more than you expected.  What is often been seen as a morbid subject, ‘fall’ has given a positive spin to death.  While passing of time and death of a loved one will cause sadness and mourning, ‘fall’ reminds us that death doesn’t always have to leave us sad [From: lzmarieauthor.com, Source: https://www.thelivingurn.com].

One day one young friend posed a question to me: ‘Sir, I am doing an experiment in the lab for about few months.  But I am not getting the intended result.  The experiment is giving me anxious moments!  What shall I do?’   I casually said: ‘If the inputs and conditions of experiments are correct according to you, you must accept the result as correct and must discard your hypotheses.’   My younger friend stared at me askance and left the scene with a sigh of disbelief, probably finding my answer as incoherent.  But that is how I understood the law of hypothesis and thesis.  If your hypothesis repeatedly fails in a lab, you cannot discard the result as incorrect, but check the correctness of hypotheses.

            Shattered by the electoral verdict of the Indian common man in May 2019, the left is struggling hard to find the answers.  Going into huddle at times and popping out occasionally, they blame the EVMs, the Hindutva forces and the consequent polarization of the electorate.  They even blame the Congress and many other actors in the political play but rarely look into themselves.  Why don’t they examine themselves?  Why don’t they check the facts of the history for a moment?  After all, their thesis was also humanly made!   ‘Communism’, ‘socialism’ and many such projects promise good and wonderful distant lands.  Marx is no doubt a Prometheus or a Moses promising us leading to that El Dorado.  Yes, he said: ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways: the point however, is to change it,’ [Theses on Feuerbach, Thesis-XI].  But the fact remains that the history of the philosophy of interpreters did not end by then, and in fact it just began!  

No idea that enters human experience would be obliterated totally without a trace.  ‘Secularism’ is also one such idea which made its entry into political lexicon in many participative democracies.  Marxists have gone a bit further in that direction by constructing their theory and action on the ‘scientific’ foundations of dialectical and materialistic approach to history, a sojourn beyond the mere ‘secularism’.    Here the categories such as ‘idea’, ‘spirituality’ and ‘religions’ are discarded.  They upended Hegel, or they thought so.  But even after its appearance on the world stage for over a century back, ‘dialectical and materialistic’ approach did not displace spirituality or religion from human rationality.  Moreover, the experience of world citizens for the past decade or two would point to its growing phenomenon.  ‘Dialectical materialism’ did not make a serious dent into human nature.   But the thinking that we, the intellectuals, forming the higher layers of the society, got a Midas touch and epiphanous revelation by initiation into Marxism, and that we need to pity the common man for his poverty of thought had gone deep into the Marxist intellectual sections.  They feel they are carrying the burden of saving this poor common folk!   There are several challenges before the Marxists or communists.  One such is ‘religion’.   Religion is not just the ‘sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions’!  It is much more than ‘illusory happiness’ and ‘the opium of the people’!  The ‘abolition’ of religion is no more in sight and on the contrary the scepter of religion started haunting the communist world now with much more vigor and intensity.   In fact, it re-emerged as a powerful contender for its space challenging the so called enlightenment ‘rationality’.

The other challenge before the Marxist praxis is ‘nationalism’, ‘an ideology and movement characterized by the promotion of the interests of a particular nation, especially with the aim of gaining over its homeland’ [the definition of nationalism is taken from https://en.m.wikipedia.org>wiki].  From the eighteenth century onwards it has grown as a countervailing power and a road-block against onward march of forming universal homogenous groups such as ‘class.’    It is true that its radical variants, either on the Left or on the Right had problematic patterns.  But the two World Wars in the first half of the twentieth century questioned the universal human rationality beyond return.  The freedom struggles of peoples of many nations from the mid of 19th century and through the Indian freedom struggle created serious questions of universalism.  The crumbling Soviet Bloc of late 1980s fortified the idea of ‘nationalist’ demands.  Even those politics that are considered fairly evolved in the democratic process viz., of the British, or the France, or most of the Europe or the US could not grow beyond ‘nationalism’ as the current history demonstrates.  Whenever the ‘nationalist’ demanded space, universal narratives suffered badly.  How do we redefine the appeal for ‘working men of all countries unite!’?  How far-cry is it now in the given socio-political reality?  ‘The specter of communism’ stopped haunting the Europe long back, now counter-narratives are in fact haunting Communism!  Though the world had seen its threatening shades in the Hitler’s Germany, nationalism continues to appeal to the people.  

Globalization’ could be understood more as a missed opportunity for the Left’s universal claims.  Before globalization could settle down, it was challenged powerfully by regional aspirations.  Regional aspirations forcibly entered the space at all international fora, challenging the possible emergence of a universal human being.  Contrary to claims of universality, the emerging trend is protecting the regional aspirations – the local.  With regionalism also emerged the idea of social relativism – cultural, religious etc.   ‘Glocalization’ joined the social science dictionary without much ado. The Left in fact actively defended the regional rights!

Relocating ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’, even within the Indian roots, is not so an easy task.  Even when, as utopians and dreamers, we endeavour to paint an image of these egalitarian ideas, the internal contradictions are enormous.  By conceding the probability of resolving even these contradictions by a higher ideal, the first requirement is that – all these different shades of the Left should be ready to accede some of their territory for others.  Given the experience of the Marxist faith in the supremacy of their theory and practice, the future remains uncertain.  Primarily, every shade, within the left of the centre, has to come out of the illusion that their ‘Guru’ and their ‘Book’ is only absolutely correct.   Each must be ready to admit the insufficiency of each theory and the merit of others.  It becomes a very big challenge to the Marxists, and in fact to a greater degree, even to Socialists. There must also be material contingency even for such tactical reconciliation.  Who is ready for this allowance for others?

Being an ostrich of ‘class construction’, the Left ignored the suffocation of the ‘second sex’ for a longtime.  The feminist movement however could make some sense to the Left.  But in India, the problem of ‘caste’ has become a greater challenge.  As usual the Indian Left refused to take into cognizance the problem of ‘caste’ in India for a longtime.   When it started understanding its significance and tried some allowance to the Ambedkarite narratives in its construction, though not internally convinced, the social dialectics underwent some more twists.   Even though Lohia was initially a critic of the Marxist ‘socialism’ and made great foundational contribution to the localized understanding of it, and during later part of his political career, even wished to work along with Communists and the Ambedkarites, there is no evidence to argue that Lohia’s arguments on caste or socialism or history were ever considered seriously by ‘the other side’.   Lohia, a brilliant and a rare original scholar, died as a disappointed soul with the Left’s indifference.  And in the meanwhile, the social forces are undergoing a process of advancement and nationalism is overtaking the space.  The Left lagged in this process a generation behind.  After all, the history cannot stagnate in theory!

Indian communists fought a relatively easier fight, though not a friendly one, with Congress.  Most of the higher layers of the Congress obliquely recognized communists as progressive thinkers, except when it comes to dealing with those militant sections of it.  Congress in itself had, and continues to have, sufficient left-wing sympathizers.  But the post-2000 narratives are not that easy.  The left demolished the relatively ‘centrist’ political ideologies like Congress etc., over a period of time, but couldn’t occupy the space so evicted by them.  Science doesn’t permit the existence of vacuum in the nature for longer periods, and some matter always waits for occupying the space.   The space created by the Left and the Janata Pariwar, dismantling the ‘centrist’ positions, without a scheme or means of occupying the same, in the meanwhile, has now been successfully occupied by the Right.  Now the struggle would not be as easy as it was during the Congress heyday.

Dear Left, what next?  Since my younger days when I read Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach, certain doubts always were lingering in me.  Marx said: ‘The question whether objective truth can be attained by human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question.  It is in practice that man must prove the truth, that is, the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking.  The dispute over the reality or unreality of thinking which is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question’ (Theses on Feuerbach, Thesis-II).       ‘Social life is essentially practical.  All mysteries which lead theory astray into mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of his practice,’ [Theses on Feuerbach, Thesis-VIII].   ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways: the point however, is to change it,’ [Theses on Feuerbach,  Thesis-XI].  We may find the stress on ‘practice’ or ‘change’ in these narratives.  Post-Marx, not only Marxists, almost all the political philosophies went in a mad rush for practice.

Even when reading ‘The Communist Manifesto’ I was swarmed by doubts and incredulities.  Its doors were opened with a big-bang – ‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.’  I have been baffling with understanding this proposition for over decades.  As a broad categorization, the evolutionary changes of societies may be said to have certain generalizations.  But a universal declaration of this nature could not go well within me.  ‘The middle classes’ that have become a significant political force in the mid-20th century does not fit into the descriptions.   See the projection – ‘… entire sections of the ruling classes are, by the advance of industry, precipitated into the proletariat, or at least threatened in their conditions of existence. …’ ‘Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class.’  But post-Marxist history defied Marxist logic.  In nation after nation, the proletariat happily compromised with the bourgeoisie power structures.   In some advanced industrial countries, they even refused to recognize the international character of the working class.   ‘What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.’  The history of American trade union movement makes a different reading; the ‘grave-diggers’ have actually turned out to be the guardians of the capitalist fort!    The continuous migration of faith even among the Indian communists from industrial workforce to agrarian labourers to tribal’s deep lands also points its finger to the crisis in theory.  

Change!  Everything flows!  You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you!   Heraclitus!   Change!  Practice!  These mantras dominated all the other theories also.  But the Newton’s laws of force also point towards the inherent nature of ‘inertia’ in the phenomenal world.   Change and practice are not so easy terms to be accommodated without challenge.  In an individual or in a system of thought, a continuous urge for action may not be so healthy.    Not only misplaced stress on action and even the fatigue of meaningless action take over the individuals and the societies!  Except for barren adherents, doubts inundate the thinking and experiencing mind. 

Understanding the failure is as important as celebrating the success.   I have not started writing this as response to Ramachandra Guha’s ‘Does the Indian Left have a future?’ [22.06.2019 The Telegraph].  I started this contemplative course after about two weeks or so of the people’s decisive mandate and after going through the analyses of various intellectuals, right and left.   Some celebrated the forward march of the Right through wonderful paeans, and some others scribbled elegies for the Left.  Guha writes: ‘If the Left in India hopes or wishes to rise up from the ashes, then the first thing it must do is to become more Indian.  In 1920, shortly before the Communist Party of India was established, the Mumbai Marxist, S.A. Dange wrote a pamphlet exalting Lenin over Gandhi.  Ever since, Indian Communists have found their heroes in a country other than India’.  He further said: ‘The problem with these foreigners is not just that they were foreigners.  They were also totalitarians’.  There were references to the indigenous socialist tradition, and personalities like Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Rammanohar Lohia, Jayaprakash Narain etc.   ‘In the wake of the Lok Sabha elections, there is talk of the need to “unify” the different communist parties, and bring them under one platform,’ Guha hopes.    The need to move from the position of Communist to Democratic Socialist is contemplated, with a hope that it would be ‘a modest first step’ towards a renewal. 

Doubt’ is the foundation of all the growth narratives.  If we have no doubts, even while failures are glaring at us, and we repeatedly re-affirm our faith in the theory and blame only the practicing individuals for all failures, secure ‘The Book’ beyond criticism, it is Ahankara.   Ahankara refuses the need for reflexive processes.   Who needs homilies, more so, in the category of persons who firmly believe that they attained the highest realization?  Can an Advaitin be convinced about some errors is his thinking?  It equally applies to Marxists.  A person or community or institution which entertains a doubt about the correctness of a practice or theory may venture for introspection.   However, if a strong adherent had a strong faith that his theory can never go wrong, it is the end of it.   It accepts no criticism or suggestion.   Marxists all over the world suffer from this intellectual arrogance.  History did not teach them anything.   The historical experience of USSR, or of the most of the East Europe or China never caused any such need for introspection in the Left.  Instead there are more confirmations, re-assurances and re-affirmations of faith in the Book.

Where is the possibility of rethinking?    Any system, of theory or practice, has to have either ‘an internal critic’ or hear ‘the external critic’.  When we refuse the hearing for both, where is the way out?  Does the Left need a piece of advise?          A group of people who think they had formulated their theory on the basis of historical experience, refuse further inputs of the same historical experience.  The left has developed quite a defensive mechanism; if they succeed they claim success to their effort.  If they fall, they attribute it to somebody else.  Capitalism fails them.  Consumerism fails them.  Globalization fails them.  Congress fails them in India.  Any other person except ‘I’!  

The idea of reconciling various contradictory theories has always been the intellectual persuasion.  Reconciling Marx and Gandhi, Gandhi and Ambedkar, Marx and Ambedkar, and Lohia and Ambedkar etc., are some of these wishful contemplative exercises doing the rounds in the academic world.    For the cadre-level followers, and the commoners, these endeavors may not offer much difficulty.  But for those who think they are experts of those theories and consider themselves as serious disciples of their Gurus, it is a tough challenge.  The probability of success of these endeavors is also very much suspect.  The hitherto history of the idea has not offered any such reasonable success.  Though temporarily they appear to have reconciled, in the absence of synthesis arising out of historical experience, they repel with greater vigour and vengeance at times.  It is better for each idea to work out its own path at its own cost, succeed or perish or learn lessons.

            We may at times, in our Indian context, refer to Jayaprakash Narain’s post-emergency political experiment.  But the nuances of it need to be examined with higher rigor.   The taboo of ‘political untouchability’ of the Right (Jan Sangh) had been successfully lifted by that experiment.  It also demonstrated another lesson of history i.e., for dismantling Congress, the immediate Frankenstein Monster, many shades of the left refused to cognize the waiting Right, for an opportunity to come out of the miasma of the patricide.  The space created by the eviction of the Congress has been successfully occupied by the Right, leaving the Left fretting and fuming!

            The question whether it is the end of the road for the left can definitely be answered in negative.  Nothing ends anything.  But, certainly there are some ringing warning bells, indicating that the time is ticking away.  The left needs to understand or re-appreciate the role of ‘religion’ or ‘spiritual pursuits of man’, ‘nationalism’, ‘regionalism’ and ‘cultural relativity’ along with ‘caste’ – the specific Indian problem.  Historical experience shall be the guiding factor, but not the theory alone.  A morning message posted by a friend read like this: ‘You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending!’      

But time is merciless; it moves on.  As Omar Khayyam, philosophically said: 

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit       

            Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

            Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.


Men construct huge structures, make endowments, inscribe their names on monuments, create memorials, demonstrate their authority with seals imprinted with their images, consecrate statues and there by long for permanence.  One of the well known, the Statue of Liberty, has an inscription on its citadel, a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), “The New Colossus”.  Considered as one of the finest piece of sonnets in English   Literature, in this sonnet Lazarus compares the Statue of Liberty to the Colossus of Rahodes, one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World.  The colossus of Rhodes no longer stands.  Constructed to celebrate the Rhode’s victory over the Cyprus, it was said to be approximately 70 cubits or 33 meters (108 feet) high, the approximate height of the present day Statue of Liberty. Erected by Charles of Lindos in 280 BC, it Collapsed during an earth quake of 226 BC.  Parts of it were preserved, though never rebuilt, it stands as a big question to the endeavors of men or their ideas of permanency!

            But my Statue of Liberty, says Lazarus:

 “Not like the brazen giant of Greek Fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land;

            Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates  shall stand

            A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

            Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles…..”

Thus describes Lazarus, the Statue of Liberty as the mother of exiles, and as distinguishable from the Colossus of Rhodes.  While Colossus of Rhodes stand for ancient Greek and Roman civilization exhibition the power, authority and victory in a war, the Statue of Liberty, says Lazarns, stands for Compassion, a Mother of Exiles !

            “Keep ancient lands, your storied

            Pomp!” Cries she

            With silent lips, “Give me your tired, your poor,

            Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

            The wretched refuse of your teeming shore

            Send these, the homeless, tempest – tossed to me,

            I lift my lamp beside the golden door! “

            But is she now the same, personification of Liberty as Lazarus so passionately praised? When the doors are shut to immigrants, and walls are erected with the neighbouring states, is she the same who cried “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” and invited those tired poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free? Lazarus’ claims also their luster?

            Statues stand higher and higher.  Competitive devotees clamour for lengthier, stronger, higher idols to consecrate their Gods, Kings and Gurus, owned or appropriated.  Now the ancients are also in the race of surpassing all that is tall in the world.  Sardar, one of the triumvirate of the freedom struggle with Gandhi and Nehru, standing as the Statue of Unity, a new Colossal, bigger than his mentor in the very land of the mentor, 182 meters high, on the river island constructed by a Multinational Company, with the aid of a much tainted Public Sectors’ money consuming about Rs.3,000/- crores of a developing India, looking down condescendingly his mentor and all his Comrades-in-arms or with inexplicable consternation?   Housing within his steel frame, reinforced concrete and bronze cladding exhibition, garden museum, and with all the potential of inviting thousands of tourists.  Challenging many including the Spring Temple Buddha, he occupies now more than two hectares, which probably might not have ventured to occupy while alive !.

            There is another statue, which also stood for power and authority, the statue of Egyptian King Ozymandias.

            P.B. Shelly (1792-1822), in “Ozymandias” reveals the nature and state of statue.

 “I met a traveler from an antique land on the sand, who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert….. Near them,

Half sunk, a sheltered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,…..

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:

‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Nothing beside remains. Round the / decay / Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Ozymandias, the ancient Egyptian King, now known as Ramesses II, regarded as the greatest and most powerful Egyptian Pharaoh now stands as ‘two vast and trunkless legs of stone’, conveying ephemeral nature of human pursuits, with the civilizations themselves disappearing into a whisper.

Here is a response to Shelly, by his contemporary Keats (1795-1821) – “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, describing the Time’s irrelevance to the physical, with a suggestion that it is the art that is anti-dote of this impermanence of time.  The art on the Grecian Urn, a decorative pot from   ancient Greece, survives the test of time.  Empires, Emperors, Civilizations and Cultures appear, and again disappear traceless but the piece of art remains.

“Thou still unravishid bride of quietness,

Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,


What men or gods are these? What /  maidens loth?

What mad pursuit? What struggle to / escape?

What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?


When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other / woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom / thou say’st,

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is / all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

            The earth is limited.  The life is limited.  But the beauty of an art transcends time and space.  A life gets immortalized by art. In one of the best descriptions of a noble person our ancient sage–poet and grammarian, Bhirtrhari, writes:

            “Keyurani na bhushayanti purusham

            hara na chandrojjwalah

            Na snanam na vilepanam na

            Kusuman nalankrta murdhajah

            Vanyeka samalankorati purusham

            Ya samskrta dharyate

            Kshiyante Khalu bushanani

            Statam vagbhusanam bhusanam”

Anklets, bracelets, necklesses, bath, smearing of sandal or wearing flowers and garlands, well dressed hair – do not add to the value of a true man.  Only the words uttered, even that rendered with culture, adds to the beauty of a nobel man.  All that glittering ornaments vanish, and what remains is the beauty of the words spoken. Will the statue do?

We remember Sardar as one of the greatest freedom fighters, as the man with absolute integrity, honesty and sincerity of purpose as the greatest adherent to his master Gandhi, as the comrade in arms with Nehru, as the unflinching freedom fighter and as the Iron Man with Iron grit to unifly the nation He is one of the tallest figures of modern Indian history.  Hugeness of his statue distances us from him.  We want to remember the Patel as one that triumvirate – Gandhi, Patel and Nehru –who constituted a formidable force in that anti-colonial struggle, probably one of the best human struggles and liberation movements of the world! The madness to dislocate him with huge structure need not disturb the serious student of freedom struggle of India, to appreciate and re-appreciate his contribution to the nation.

Dr. A Raghu Kumar


What is philosophy? Do we really need one?

Philosophy is the world of ideas, the ideas which can offer solace to the struggling human being in this world.  Over centuries, from the Greek to the early 20th centuries in maintained a connectivity with the common man, though as a subject matter it was the domain of some upper layers of the society.  But most philosophers since ages in every society were guides of the ordinary people in times of crisis.  As the subjects of human study expanded over years, the philosophy also struggled hard to prove its own existence. Even with the expanding area of knowledge in all spheres of human life and experience, philosophy maintained its distinction as either one explain away the complexity and multiplicity, and or as one relating it to human predicament, and offering the reason for continued enthusiasm of the man in this wilderness.  There was also deeper connect between the growing branches of knowledge, and the need to reconcile the same with general needs of the society.  Even up to the mid of 20th century, the purpose of philosophy was to universalize the individualized knowledge.

But post-1950s, with several uncertainties and relative nature of outcomes, even with in science, and with a higher intensity in social sciences, the project of philosophy has itself lost its path somewhere into relativity, uncertainty, and ultimately into a mere play of words.  Now the philosophy has gone so far away from the people, and become so irrelevant to a common man that a regular question would be raised by any ordinary person if somebody claims he has been pursuing philosophy – “What do you do with the study of philosophy?”

Man started his journey with the unfathomable fury of nature contesting his existence.  Somewhere in the way religion offered some solace.  Later scientific inquiry started unfolding the secrets of nature one by one.  Positive sciences in an alliance with secular philosophies led man to some certainty.  But the humongous scientific inquiry split into minute studies.  Suddenly by the mid of twentieth century, man was returned back to his existential doubts, where philosophy distanced itself from its role.  Now the spiritual unrest of man needs to be addressed by the religion again?  Does philosophy has the strength and intent to offer anything to the man?

Dr. A. Raghu Kumar, Advocate
Flat No. 401, Shashank Residency,
Tarnaka, Hyderabad
Email: avadhanamraghukumar@gmail.com

What is literature?

What is literature?  Does it have any universal appeal?  As John Keats contemplated – is a thing of beauty a joy forever!  With the advent of certain social philosophies – Marxism etc., the discourse has undergone a serious change of course.  It views literature as reflections on the social institutions, and with teleological ends of ‘social responsibility’.   Several earlier and later forms and movements of literature have challenged this notion.  In Marxist literature ‘utopians’ have come to be bitterly ridiculed.  But with human experience of Marxist dystopias, this slang of ‘utopianism’ lost its significance.  However, there are other equally contesting areas – theocratic societies also ordain the purpose of literature as sub-serving the needs of the dominant clergy, again in the name ‘social purpose’ with some difference of content.  Even dreams become punishable if they stand the test of ‘morality’ of these societies.

What is the purpose of literature or is there any imposed ‘purpose’ to the literature, either by the self or the society?       

Dr. A. Raghu Kumar, Advocate
Flat No. 401, Shashank Residency,
Tarnaka, Hyderabad
Email: avadhanamraghukumar@gmail.com

Some questions on legal theory

What is law?  It remains as puzzling as it was, even after it was so wonderfully delineated by H.L.A Hart in 1960s.  Over the centuries societies are tending to be more and more legalistic than ever in the past.  The ‘free man’ is an endangered species.  The leviathan of Hobbes had really become so suffocating that the choice of man is almost reduced to nullity.  The law which had its origins in the need of a meek individual’s assertion of his place in the society has now slowly become a Frankenstein’s monster, threatening its own creator. The Western societies have struck some resemblance of balance somehow giving some hope for some free space to individual.  But in the other societies, where the ideas of legality and justice have not yet gone deeper, the law still remains in the rudimentary form which had not yet gone beyond idea of ‘the sovereign command’.   The will of the people is rarely reflected in the law, though some of them have some forms of democratic governments.  Nothing can be said of those increasingly theocratic societies where law and the religion remain undistinguishable.

The ideas of social and cultural relativity, which have emerged as powerful challengers of ‘universality’ of any subject prevent any intervention from the external force, even while the ‘sovereign power’ in each society is empowered to violate even basic rights of its citizens.  The project of universality had come to a dead end.  Even the government sponsored genocides are either ignored or neglected for the sake of non-interference.  What happened to the ‘rights of man’ as a universal goal?  The very idea of modernity appears to have come to be an irrelevant thing.  Does law has a universal nature and appeal?  Can legal theory regain its centrality in the study of human societies?  What stares at its future?  How to balance the law, and the free choice of an individual?      

Dr. A. Raghu Kumar, Advocate
Flat No. 401, Shashank Residency,
Tarnaka, Hyderabad
Email: avadhanamraghukumar@gmail.com