Gandhian swaraj, diminishing the kshatriya
by Radha Rajan on 03 Jul 2009 4 Comments

[This chapter makes the distinction between Aurobindo swaraj and Gandhi's swaraj. Along the way we mark the beginning of the de-hinduising of the INC when the Moderates import Dadabhai Naoroji as President of the INC when they realize that the Nationalists intended to present Tilak for the post. Aurobindo correctly summarised this move as being rejection of Tilak's steadfast Hindu identity. This chapter also looks at Hindu understanding of Nation and Nationhood by citing Kautilya's exposition on alien rule or vairajya. Finally this chapter demonstrates how Gandhian swaraj led to Nehruvian secularism – Author]

Our study of Gandhi’s political career in South Africa demonstrated that his Satyagraha did not yield anything the Empire was not willing to concede. It established tangentially that Gandhi’s encounter with the British Empire in South Africa was not intended to bring the Empire down by ending Apartheid colonial rule in South Africa, but merely to persuade the British government to look favourably upon the migrant Indian community there and enhance their social and political status above that of native Africans, through amendment or repeal of some discriminatory laws.

We hope to establish that when Gandhi returned to India, his political career was consistent with his sojourn in South Africa, with no difference in objectives, and with disastrous consequences for Hindus and their motherland. Gandhi rendered Hindus politically impotent and fathered modern India’s politics of minority-ism. It is our contention that:

- The so-called freedom movement was never a freedom movement.

- Until 1942, the INC under Gandhi’s leadership and under his explicit injunction, never contemplated ending colonial rule.

- The call for ‘swaraj’ at the 1920 Nagpur Congress and for ‘purna swaraj’ at the 1928 Lahore Congress was a mockery of the Tilak/Aurobindo war-cry that galvanized the entire nation in the two decades between 1890-1910 on one hand, and on the other hand deceived ordinary Indians about the content and meaning of Gandhian swaraj which was never intended to be complete political independence entailing the exit of the Empire.

- It was only in 1942 when world events weakened the Empire and made continued occupation of India increasingly untenable that the INC issued the utterly redundant notice to ‘Quit India.’

- When the Empire finally decided to quit, it did so only on its terms with an ascendant Islam vivisecting the Hindu nation, with Nehru firmly positioned to inherit the mantle of leadership from Gandhi, with Jammu & Kashmir twisted into a permanent thorn in the nation’s flesh by Nehru and Mountbatten, with Hindus decisively disempowered politically, and the basis of nationhood of the new nation-state floundering in rampant confusion.

- But the most disgraceful situation was that on 15 August 1947, when India allegedly became ‘independent’ to the emotive vacuity of Nehru’s tryst with ‘freedom at midnight,’ the nation was actually a Dominion of the British Empire. What we achieved on 15 August was self-rule within the Empire because Nehru had consented to the King of England to remain Head of State for three more years, until January 1950, while falsely celebrating 15 August 1947 as official Independence Day.

- Complete political independence was thus still in the future, though the groves of Nehruvian academia continued to perpetuate a falsehood.

Even before the INC split decisively in December 1907 into two factions – those advocating the mendicant policy calling themselves Moderates, while those wanting nothing less than total political independence calling themselves Nationalists, the radically different objectives before the Congress as perceived among followers of these two sections was already evident by 1906 on the issue of who should be the president of the Calcutta Congress in December that year.

The Nationalists wanted Tilak while the Moderates wanted to import Dadabhai Naoroji from London knowing that Tilak would never set himself up against a man who was widely respected and held in high esteem. Aurobindo unerringly concluded that objections to Tilak becoming president of the INC originated from Gokhale, Surendranath Banerjea and Pherozeshah Mehta because Tilak was perceived as being Hindu and as advocating Hindu nationalism.

“The Indian Mirror, which is now the chief ally of the government among the Congress organs in Bengal, has chosen naturally enough to fall foul of Mr. Tilak. Mr. Tilak, we learn, has seriously offended our contemporary by giving honour to Mr. Bhopatkar on his release from jail; his speeches on the Shivaji festival were displeasing to the thoughtful and enlightened men who congregate in the office of the Indian Mirror; and to sum up the whole matter, he is a man of extreme views and without ‘tact’. Ergo, he is no fit man for the presidential chair of the Congress.

“It is interesting to learn on this unimpeachable authority, what are the qualifications which the moderate and loyalist mind demands in a President of the ‘national’ Congress. It is not the great protagonist and champion of Swadeshi in Western India. It is not the one man whom the whole Hindu community in Western India delights to honour, from Peshawar to Kolhapur and from Bombay to our own borders; it is one who will not talk about Shivaji and Bhavani – only about Mahatmas. His social and religious views may not agree with those of the ‘enlightened’, but we have yet to learn that the Congress platform is sacred to advanced social reformers, that the profession of the Hindu religion is a bar to leadership in its ranks. Mr. Tilak’s only other offence is the courage and boldness of his views and his sturdiness in holding by them.”  (The “Mirror” and Mr. Tilak, Bande Mataram, August 28, 1906, pp 140-41)

Aurobindo’s incisive intelligence perceived the nascent trend in the INC to de-Hinduise itself; but even he failed to develop the thought further. In 1906, the move to dilute the Hinduness of the prominent leaders of the INC could only have been either to please the powerful Parsee community or the Imperial and Indian British governments because courting the Muslims was still in the future. Knowing well enough that nominating Gokhale (who had expressed regret to the British government for the Boycott campaign) for Presidentship would trigger a revolt in the Congress ranks, in what would become decades later a trend-setting back-room manoeuvre or a coup d’etat, the ‘moderate’ and loyalist factions in 1906 presented Dadabhai Naoroji for presidentship as fait accompli. 

“The plea that it had long been known Mr. Naoroji was coming to India and it was therefore thought fit to ask him to preside at the Congress, is one which will command no credit. Not until Mr. Tilak’s name was before the country and they saw that none of their mediocrities they had suggested could weigh in the scale with the great Maratha leader. Not by these sophisms will the Calcutta autocrats escape the discredit of their actions.” (A Disingenuous Defence, September 14, 1906, Bande Mataram, pp 171-72)

A similar coup d’etat was attempted in October 1911 when a private suggestion was made to Gandhi, after his profitable London visit in 1909 and now the author of the ‘banned’ Hind Swaraj, to accept the Presidentship of the INC; Gandhi, eager by now to return to India for a more ambitious political role, wired his acceptance with alacrity but withdrew his acceptance when it was communicated to him that it was merely an ‘inquiry’ and not an offer. Pandit Bishen Narayan Dhar was subsequently elected President. Needless to say, the choice of President for the Congress was determined only by the goal that the Congress had set for itself: the goal was not political freedom or end of colonial rule.

“Our immediate problem as a nation is not how to be intellectual and well-informed or how to be rich and industrious, but how to stave off imminent death, how to put an end to the white peril, how to assert ourselves and live. It is for this reason that whatever minor differences there may be between different exponents of the new spirit, they are all agreed on the immediate necessity of an organized national resistance to the state of things which is crushing us out of existence as a nation, and on the one goal of that resistance – freedom.” (Aurobindo, The Doctrine of Passive Resistance, Its Necessity, page 96)

‘End to white peril’, ‘organized national resistance’, ‘freedom’, these were the goals which the Nationalists sought to place before the Congress by nominating Tilak for Presidentship. The Congress rejected the attempt by the Nationalists to redefine its raison d’etre and signalled its rejection by choosing instead to bring back empire loyalist Dadabhai Naoroji from London. Aurobindo accurately diagnosed the condition of educated Indians as being steeped in tamas – a state of languor which did not perceive its enslavement and therefore felt no desire to end it.

Excerpted from
Eclipse of the Hindu Nation: Gandhi and his freedom struggle
Radha Rajan
New Age Publishers (P) Ltd., Delhi, 2009
Price: Rs 495/-
ISBN 81- 7819 - 068- 0
The book may be ordered from the publishers at
or at 011-2649 3326/ 27/ 28 

The author is editor,

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