Nation-building is a process of promoting ‘we’-feeling based togetherness among citizens of a given nation-state. It is contingent upon the foundational specificities of a given nation-state as articulated in its constitution. It is a multi-layered phenomenon where ideology, history, culture, polity, economy, territory, demography and ecology play important roles. It is achieved through institutionalizing a set of national ideals, values and goals. Every society has a few conducive factors as well as a variety of internal and external challenges in this context. Therefore, there are great diversities of ways of nation-building in the modern world-system. The Gandhian way of nation-building is a communitarian approach with twin thrusts – a) character-building of men and women in the society, and b) socio-cultural, economic and political reforms based on togetherness of truth, non-violence, spirituality, selfless service, Swadeshi and Satyagraha.
This is a national seminar to organise a meaningful interface between practitioners and analysts of the Gandhian way of nation-building for:
1. Comprehensive understanding of its strengths, impact and limitations, and
2. Exploring the way forward in the context of the opportunities and challenges before the 21st century India about nation-building deficits.
The Gandhian way of nation-building has evolved through experiments about building a non-violent social order. It has come into being by the labour of love for building a humane society based upon the troika of truth, non-violence and Satyagraha. It was a result of convergence of initiatives and efforts by collectives of men and women in settlements, farms, Ashrams and prisons; villages and towns; South Africa and India - between 1904 and 1948 and beyond under the guidance of Gandhi and his close associates. Gandhi Sewa Sangh (1923-’48), Sarvodaya Samaj (1948 – 1975) and Sarva Sewa Sangh (1948 till present) were the most significant bodies which contributed towards the making of the Gandhian way of nation-building.
It is significant that Gandhi Sewa Sangh evolved between 1923 and 1934 into a hub of constructive workers under the supervision of Gandhi. He resigned from Congress in 1934 to devote his total time to the task of untouchability eradication and other constructive work. It was an umbrella body which coordinated with Charkha Sangh, Gram Udyog Sangh, Harijan Sewak Sangh, Hindustani Taleemi Sangh, Go-Sewa Sangh, Maharogi Sewa Mandal, Sewagram Ashram Pratisthan, Rashtrabhasha Prachar Samiti, Kasturba Aspatal, Hindustani Pracar Sabha, Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha, Mazadur Mahajan Sangh, Charmalay, Krishi Aujar Sudhar Samiti, Gosamvardhan Goras Bhandar, Kasturba Trust, Navajeevan Trust, Magan Sangrahalay Samiti, Gram Sewa Mandal, and Mahila Sewa Mandal. Rajgopalachari (Tiruchengodu), Rajendra Prasad (Muzaffarpur), Gangadhar Rao Deshpande (Hudali), ShriKrishnadas Jaju (Wardha), Haribhau Upadhyay (Hatundi), Balubhai Mehta (Narawad) and Jeevram Kalyanji Kothari (Bhadrak) were the first seven coordinators of the centres of Gandhi Sewa Sangh in 1929. According to the new constitution adopted in 1935, it aimed at the following activities: 1. Khadi Prachar, 2. Gram Sewa, 3. National education, 4. National language, 5. Prohibition, 6. Harijan Sewa, 7. Communal harmony, 8. Women, 9. Health care, 10. Disaster relief work, 11. Go-sewa, and 12. Gandhi Sahitya.
The essential features of the Gandhian way
The Gandhian way was called ‘Constructive programme’ which was complemented by a scheme of character-building for all seekers of nation-building.[i] It contained Satyagraha-centric nineteen spheres of socio-cultural, economic, political, health and educational activities. The socio-cultural tasks emphasised: 1. Communal unity, 2. Removal of untouchability, 3. Women, 4. Adivasis, 5. National language, and 6. Provincial languages. The economic priorities identified were: 1. Khadi, 2. Other village industries, 3. Improvement of cattle, 4. Economic equality, and 5. Prohibition. The political aspect of the Gandhian way stressed the significance of working about the needs of: 1. Kisans, 2. Labour, 3. Students, and 4. Adult education. The tasks in the sphere of health and education were the following: 1. Village sanitation, 2. Education in health and hygiene, 3. Basic education, and 4. Lepers.
According to Gandhi, “Readers, whether workers and volunteers or not, should definitely realize that the constructive programme is the truthful and non-violent way of winning Poorna Swaraj. Its wholesale fulfilment is complete independence. Imagine all the forty crores of people busying themselves with the whole of constructive programme which is designed to build up the nation from the very bottom upward.” He further underlined its significance in the following words:” Civil disobedience, mass or individual, is an aid to constructive effort and is a full substitute to armed revolt. Only the ways are different. Action in either case takes place only when occasion demands. Training for military revolt means learning the use of arms ending perhaps in the atomic bomb. For civil disobedience it means constructive work.”
The practitioners of the Gandhian way of nation-building were expected to build their individual life based on a set of eleven vows (‘Ekadash Vrat’) for enhancing their capacity for self-evolution as well as nation-building. Because individual freedom and social responsibility were not in conflict for Gandhi. Indeed, the idea that personal commitment is the starting point for bringing about change on a grand scale is one of Gandhi’s major contributions. In seeking to bring about radical change through the transformation of public standards, principles, values and ethics the Gandhian way brought to bear a profound moral and religious consciousness.
About the Gandhian vision
Nation-building is a continuous quest to promote unity and minimise ‘othering’ as every society contains several socio-cultural and economic cleavages including caste, class, gender, ethnicity, language, religion, and races. The imperatives of nation-building are informed by the nature of power structure and political system, among other factors. Gandhi presented his ‘constructive programme’ as the way for Swaraj and nation-building in India during the transition from the British colonialism to post-colonial parliamentary set up. His ideas about future of Indian people and society were comprehensively summed up by Kishorlal G. Mashruwala (1935), R. K. Prabhu (1947) and R. K. Prabhu and U. R. Rao (1945/ 2015). In each of these collections, there is a recurring pattern of emphasis upon the themes listed in Constructive Programmes.
But it must be underlined that the Gandhian vision was often approached with scepticism by the ‘modernist’ minds and ideological formations. According to S. Radhakrishnan, “There is a common criticism that Gandhiji’s vision outsoars his perception, that he proceeds on the comfortable but incorrect assumption that the world consists of saints. This is a misrepresentation of his views. He knows that life at best is a long second best, a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible.” He further points out that, ”In the progress of societies three stages are marked, the first where the law of the jungle prevails, were we have violence and selfishness; the second where we have the rule f law and injustice with courts, police and prisons, and the third where we have non-violence and unselfishness, where love and law are one. The last is the goal of civilized humanity and it is brought nearer by the life and work of men like Gandhi.”
At the same time, it is significant that Gandhiji was determined to go further in the direction of mass mobilization, particularly calling upon students-youth, to contribute towards nation-building after the end of the colonial rule. Gandhi wished to take up three tasks at the first opportunity to take country nearer to his conception of freedom. He had told to Dr. Sushila Nayyar: “If I survive the flames (meaning the communal conflagration) my first job would be to reform politics.” The other two tasks were organization of the youth and mobilization of the masses. Gandhiji had been deeply worried over the growing indiscipline among the youth, particularly the students, and restlessness among the people, born of a feeling of frustration and disillusionment. Frustration arose from the increasing tendency to officialise nation-building activities in pursuance of the goal of the welfare state and adoption of a pattern of development in which the common man had little say and which was largely beyond his comprehension…If God gave him the chance, said Gandhiji, he would once again call out the students to take their due share in the task of nation-building as he had done at the beginning of the non-cooperation movement, organize them, and provide them suitable outlets for their idealism and creative energy so that it could find fulfilment in the service of the common man. Finally, he would undertake an all-India tour to awaken the masses to the grand opportunity that had opened out before them to take their destiny in their own hands and mould it according to their wish.
The sub-themes of the seminar on the Gandhian way of nation-building
Here are the following sub-themes which may be relevant for the purposes of the national seminar on the Gandhian way of nation-building:
CALL FOR PAPERS
A limited number of participants will be invited for the Seminar. Those interested in participating should send -by email-an abstract of 1000 words of the proposed paper along with their brief C.V. (of around 200 words) to:
Professor Anand Kumar (Retd)
Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla
With a copy to:
Ms. Ritika Sharma
Academic Resource Officer,
Indian Institute of Advanced Study,
Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla- 171005
The last date for submission of abstract (1000 words) is 21st April 2019 till 12:00 midnight. The Institute intends to send Invitation letters to selected participants by first week of May, 2019. It is the policy of the Institute to publish the papers not proceedings of the seminars it organizes. Hence, all invited participants will be expected to submit complete papers (English or Hindi), hitherto unpublished and original, with citations in place, along with a reference section, to the Academic Resource Officer, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla– 171005 by 15th May, 2019. IIAS, Shimla will be glad to extend its hospitality during the seminar period and is willing to reimburse, if required, rail or air travel expenses from the place of current residence in India, or the port of arrival in India, and back.
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