Socio-Political Thought Gandhi by Bidyut Chakrabarty

By Bidyut Chakrabarty

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What is distinctive about this conceptualization is the role of non-violence in the campaign for swaraj, especially in the Gandhian phase of India’s freedom struggle. For the Mahatma, the means by which independence was to be achieved was as important as independence itself. However, the demand for complete freedom dawned on the nationalists gradually. The Moderate wing of the nationalist movement had, for instance, identified independence with autonomous status for India within the British Empire.

27 Political freedom is the second important characteristic of swaraj. For the Moderates, political freedom meant autonomy within the overall control of the British administration. Even the most militant of the Moderates, like Surendranath Banerji, always supported constitutional means to secure political rights for the Indians within the constitutional framework of British India. Unlike the Moderates, the Extremists did not much care about the methods and insisted on complete independence, which meant a complete withdrawal of the British government from India.

As an ideal, it set the ideological tenor of a struggle against the British; as a principle, it provided the nationalists with a blueprint for an independent India. Swaraj was never conceptualized in its narrow meaning of ‘political independence’; instead, its wider connotation was constantly hammered out to highlight that it was qualitatively different from mere political independence. Given its Indian roots, swaraj was always preferred presumably because of its semantic familiarity among the participants in probably the most gigantic freedom struggle in the twentieth century.

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