The Gandhi-King Community

For Global Peace with Social Justice in a Sustainable Environment

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. - 09404955338, 09415777229

Email-dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net; dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com

 

 

Political Value and Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi was a great political man. He followed always values of politics. He did never compromise to it. He took decisions in the favour of society. Political values are ideas expressing the attitude of social groups as a whole, toward the needs of other social groups and of the whole of that society, ideas that have significance for political subjects. Present-day confrontation of social systems and civilizations implies a confrontation between various systems of values. As creations of given social forces, each type of civilization embodies the values of the respective social forces. We distinguish between the logic of politics and society. And the axiological approach to values. To some degree the former disregards the intrinsic substance of value. The axiological approach is based on historical experience, on the social situation, on the interests and ideology determining the way in which a social group, a human community, a society ascertains values, no values and anti values. In Marxist philosophy, there is a correspondence between these two approaches. Mahatma Gandhi described, “If he, with a poet's imagination, had seen that I was incapable of wishing to cramp the mind of the Indian woman, and I could not object to English learning as such, and recalled the fact that throughout my life I had fought for the fullest liberty for women, he would have been saved the injustice which he has done me, and which, I know, he would never knowingly do to an avowed enemy. The Poet does not know perhaps that English is today studied because of its commercial and so-called political value.”1

We define political values as political relationships, institutions, organizations, views and ideas resulting from the transforming, creative sociopolitical practice of the social forces that meet the requirements of social progress and of the development of human personality on a social scale. We reject the postulation of an abstract hierarchy of values or exclusivist of values, but nevertheless emphasize the special role of political values. Mahatma Gandhi described, “I happened to preside at a meeting of condolence on the death of the great Irish patriot Macs winey and humbly expressed my opinion that I could not ethically justify the fast on the facts that the public had then before them. I have since seen no new facts to alter my opinion. I am not here concerned with the political value of that celebrated fast, if it had any. Nor must I be understood to cast any reflection upon the memory of the deceased patriot. I am simply giving my view as a satyagrahi on the ethics of the fast.”

Without denying the intrinsic character of political values a characteristic procedure of several spiritualistic axiological constructions-we acknowledge their mediating role in the creation-and, respectively, assimilation-of these values. The man of today experiences the values centered on political values. For all the differences between civilizations and their values, the common fundamental interests of mankind the necessity of setting up a new economic and political order, of creating a new climate of peace and cooperation among states and peoples require the assertion and promotion of common, general, and acknowledged political values. Mahatma Gandhi described, “I wish that I could isolate the spinning-wheel from several other things, from the politics of the country. But you are aware I have said on more than one occasion that all these departments of life are interwoven and intermixed, that it is impossible to isolate them from the other departments of life. But I do know that, apart from the political value of the spinning-wheel, and to produce khaddar, if we are to remove the economic distress under which this land is labouring, if we are to serve the dumb millions of India, we cannot do without khaddar, we cannot do without the spinning-wheel. I therefore humbly commend it to the attention of the Municipal Councillors. I ask you to give it a place in your schools and I ask you whether you are Englishmen or Indians, whether you are Mussalmans or Hindus, whether you belong to one political school or other in the country, to give place to the spinning-wheel and khaddar in your homes.”3

In modern societies of India it has been polarized on caste and communal basis into following unbridgeable sections Upper castes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled tribes, Other Backward Class and Minorities. Stratification of Indian society has been done in most insensitive manner for the purpose of balancing the power. It has become a bye-word for Indian politicians. Mahatma Gandhi described, “It is quite true that the spinning-wheel cannot be introduced as a subsidiary employment amongst those like the Punjab farmers whose time is almost fully occupied with more profitable concerns. But the middle class who have always ample time to waste if they feel for their country as a whole should think of the millions of paupers and for their sake wear khaddar and spin for half an hour per day by way of example and encouragement if nothing else. Its greatest political value should not escape your keen penetrative intellect. It lies in the fact that millions who are today leading less than animal life will have an honourable occupation and a means of livelihood. Today they can be induced to do nothing whilst they are passive instruments of submission to any tyrant. And why does khaddar lose its political importance because I invited Lord Reading to use it? Will non-cooperation or civil disobedience lose their importance if I invited Lord Reading to take to either or both? Lastly, civil revolution on a mass scale I hold to be an impossibility unless we acquire sufficient control and influence over the masses so as to ensure their abstention from disturbing the peace of the country by a violent demonstration. Every time in the past when I have called off Civil Resistance upon outbreak of violence, you will find that Congressmen had a hand in it and that therefore it had apolitical value. I should not hesitate to go forward even if there were a thousand eruptions in the country if I was sure that they had nothing to do with the political upheaval and those Congressmen have no hand in them directly or indirectly.”4

Mahatma Gandhi described, “It is well that the correspondent grants the economic value of khaddar. I venture to suggest to him and to those who think with him that its political value springs from its economic value. A starving man thinks first of satisfying his hunger before anything else. The celebrated incident of a disciplined sage like Vishwamitra, whose austerities have hardly been matched, stooping even to steal forbidden food when he was famishing, shows the stress under which a starving man labours. He will sell his liberty and all for the sake of getting a morsel of food. Sailors struggling for want of food in mid-ocean have been known to resort to cannibalism in order to satisfy their hunger. Such is the position of millions of the people of India. For them liberty, God, and all such words are merely letters put together without the slightest meaning. They jar upon them. They will extend a welcome to any person who comes to them with a morsel of food. And if we want to give these people a sense of freedom we shall have to provide them with work which they can easily do in their desolate homes and which would give them at least the barest living. This can only be done by the spinning-wheel. And when they have become self-reliant and are able to support themselves, we are in a position to talk to them about freedom, about Congress etc. Those therefore, who bring them work and means of getting a crust of bread will be their deliverers and will be also the people who will make them hunger for liberty? Hence the political value of the spinning-wheel, apart from its further ability to displace foreign cloth and thus remove the greatest temptation in the way of Englishmen to hold India even at the risk of having to repeat the Jallianwala massacre times without number. And why should khaddar lose its political value because I invite Lord Reading to adopt it? Surely we have no quarrel with Englishmen as such. The method of non-co-operation is a method of conversion of Englishmen to thinking in terms of India. If they will respond to our dearest aspirations; if they will make common cause with us and wear khaddar; co-operate with us in making India dry and reducing the frightful military expenditure and are prepared to remain in India not on the strength of their bayonets but on that of our goodwill; will they not be welcome co-workers in common cause? In my opinion the invitation to Englishmen to adopt khaddar and the spinning-wheel enhances their political value, while at the same time it robs them of the slightest trace of suspicion that there is in them any antagonism to Englishmen as such.”5

During their imperial rule, the British had divided the Indian society into five major groups, giving each one an independent political identity based on the political power and the amount of wealth, they hold. The water-tight compartmentalization of Indian society had been done by Censuses during British rule into Minorities, Scheduled Castes, now popularly known as Dalits or SCs, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward castes and Higher Castes. Mahatma Gandhi described, “And is the present programme quite so tame as it is made to appear? Was the picketing of liquor traps a tame affair? Let Dr. Kanuga and his band of volunteers who were assaulted by angry liquor dealers and their myrmidons answer. Let the hundreds of the prisoners in Assam answer who were mercilessly clapped into the Assam jails because they had the audacity to picket opium dens. Was the burning of foreign cloth a tame affair? Let Sarojini Devi who gave her very beautiful costly foreign scarf and many girls who gave up their rich foreign silks and other fineries they had learnt to treasure answer. There is nothing to prevent Congressmen now from picketing liquor traps or opium dens or from collecting and burning foreign cloth. Apart from the great social and economic value of these two very powerful items they have a political value of the very first order. If we achieve boycott of foreign cloth we remove from Britain’s path the greatest incentive to greed, and if we stop the liquor and drug revenue, we force the rulers to reduce the ever-growing military expenditure. These two things so easy to accomplish, so well suited to employ the energy of a vast mass of people, I hold, will go a long way towards the fulfillment of the national purpose, if we can but accomplish them.”6

Today lower castes, which are more tenacious about their caste than the higher, could be easily swayed emotionally in the name of caste-based reservations. Reservations Policy has given the 'backwards' and identity as a composite and powerful political pressure group. They have grouped together and increased their numerical strength. It has helped them to emerge as a powerful and assertive pressure group and unite, organize and fight vigorously for the seats of power. A large number of educated people of so-called 'Backward-castes' have already entered into the corridors of power and are occupying important places, exercising authority. Dalits and Muslims are being wooed with vigor by all major national political parties. Mahatma Gandhi described, “The statement made by me just after my interview with H. E. the Viceroy has had a mixed reception. It has been described as sentimental twaddle by one critic and as a statesman-like pronouncement by another. There are variations between the two extremes. I suppose all the critics are right from their own standpoint and all are wrong from the absolute standpoint which in this instance is that of the author. He wrote for no-body’s satisfaction but his own. I abide by every word I have said in it. It has no political value, except what every humanitarian opinion may possess. Interrelation of ideas cannot be prevented.”7

The transformation of untouchables into Harijans, Depressed class and now Dalits is a classic example, where a fraction of society is increasingly distancing itself from the mainstream and establishing firmly its separate identity. The organized intolerance of some groups due to over consciousness about their separate identity has grown out of proportions now, perpetuating agitation and violence. They desire a complete hold on political power plus protection of those laws and policies indefinitely, which were started sixty years ago for enabling them to join the mainstream. They want to have a cake and eat it too, but without much effort or blending their ways. Mahatma Gandhi described, “To say that unless we associate charkha work with Political work it will have no political value, betrays a thorough ignorance of the non-violent technique. Let me take ‘service of the lepers’ which is another item in the 18-fold constructive programme. Surely, it cannot be associated with any kind of political work in the accepted sense. Yet it would be absurd to say that it has no value in terms of swaraj. Under the non-violent technique every real service rendered, every right act performed does bring the country nearer to the goal of political independence though in itself it may not have any direct political significance.”8

Mahatma Gandhi did work his whole life for improvement of backward classes. Mahatma Gandhi described, “If the love for khadi is as genuine as to cover moral and spiritual values, surely the writer should be able to learn spinning easily at his age. The late Pandit Motilal Nehru learnt it, after he was fifty. The late Ali Brothers learnt it, though they did not practice irregularly. And all these three learnt it for its national and political value in the highest sense of the term. As a matter of fact most of the public workers learned it late in life.”9 It is a matter of shame that after giving so much constitutional and government protection to weaker sections, incidents of discrimination keep on increasing. Instead of over-looking the interests of the whole society or whole of the nation, it is desirable that law-implementing machinery should get tough on perpetrators of injustice. Discriminatory practices or oppression of weaker sections of society is unacceptable to the whole of humanity. Instead of blaming an invisible institution for discrimination, deep wisdom and honesty of purpose is needed to find out right methods and courage to strive for it sincerely. So-called 'Backward castes' need to understand the spirit of Indian Constitution and try to adapt thinking, culture and life-style of the mainstream of the nation. Otherwise, there will always be cultural rifts, both in their lives and minds, threatening the unity of the nation from time to time. Today, when the whole world is reeling between economic depression and terrorism, people expect from the government to bring in change in economic situation and in fight against terrorism. Mahatma Gandhi wanted to change the economical positions of poor person through farming and spinning. So he always encourages them for it.

 

 

References:

 

 

  1. VOL. 23 : 6 APRIL, 1921 - 21 JULY, 1921, Page- 215
  2. VOL.28 : 22 MAY, 1924 - 15 AUGUST, 1924, Page-  386
  3. VOL. 30 : 27 DECEMBER, 1924 - 21 MARCH, 1925, Page-  351
  4. LETTER TO SARDUL SINGH CAVEESAR; March 12, 1926
  5. Young India, 18-3-1926
  6. Young India, 17-1-1929
  7. Harijan, 16-9-1939
  8. Amrita Bazar Patrika, 6-1-1946
  9. Harijan, 28-4-1946

 

 

 

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