- This article refers to the concept of Swaraj as propagated by Gandhi. See self governance for general usage of the term Swaraj.
Swaraj can mean generally self-governance or "home-rule" (swa- "self", raj- "rule") but the word usually refers to Mahatma Gandhi's concept for Indian independence from foreign domination. Swaraj lays stress on governance not by a hierarchical government, but self governance through individuals and community building. The focus is on political decentralization. Since this is against the political and social systems followed by Britain, Gandhi's concept of Swaraj laid stress on India discarding British political, economic, bureaucratic, legal, military, and educational institutions.
 Key concepts
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Swaraj is a kind of Individualist Anarchism. It warrants a stateless society as according to Gandhi the overall impact of the state on the people is harmful. He called the state a "soulless machine" which, ultimately, does the greatest harm to mankind. Adopting Swaraj means implementing a system whereby state machinery is virtually nil, and the real power directly resides in the hands of people. Gandhi said, "Power resides in the people, they can use it at any time." This philosophy rests inside an individual who has to learn to be master of his own self and spreads upwards to the level of his community which must be dependent only on itself. Gandhi said, "In such a state (where swaraj is achieved) everyone is his own ruler. He rules himself in such a manner that he is never a hindrance to his neighbour"; and also "It is Swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves."Gandhi explained his vision in 1946:
"Independence begins at the bottom... A society must be build in which every village has to be self sustained and capable of managing its own affairs... It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without... This does not exclude dependence on and willing help from neighbours or from the world. It will be a free and voluntary play of mutual forces... In this structure composed of innumerable villages, there will be ever widening, never ascending circles. Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose center will be the individual. Therefore the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle but will give strength to all within and derive its own strength from it."
Thus, basically a nation is said to have achieved its Swaraj, when its people govern themselves directly, are entirely self sufficient not only as a whole but as individuals as well, and have an innate sense of nationhood that is identified by themselves and not their government.
Gandhi was undaunted by the task of implementing such a utopian vision in India. He believed that by transforming enough individuals and communities society at large would change. He said, "It may be taunted with the retort that this is all Utopian and, therefore not worth a single thought... Let India live for the true picture, though never realizable in its completeness. We must have a proper picture of what we want before we can have something approaching it."
 Efforts for implementation
In 1917, Gandhi asked Indians nationwide to sign a petition demanding Swaraj. This petition was supported by, among others, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Ram Manohar Lohia. Critics include Muhammad Ali Jinnah (who said that only a constitutional struggle could lead to independence; see Proposed Indian Round Table Conference 1922) and Rabindranath Tagore.
In 1919, the Navajivan Trust, a publishing house, was founded by Gandhi to educate through publications common Indians about the principles of Swaraj, in their native tongue. The trust is still in existence today and according to its initial promises is totally self reliant having accepted absolutely no donation or grant throughout its existence.
Gandhi also decided to popularise the spinning wheel in India around the same time to make hand-spun cloth out of Khadi. This was part of an economically inclined plan to make Indians work towards self sufficiency, a key component of Swaraj. Gandhi believed that anything that would help India get out of its grinding poverty would in the end help in attaining Swaraj. This movement called The Khadi Movement later gained fame by the term Swadeshi. The spinning wheel or the Charkha became a symbol of the Indian freedom struggle, and was incorporated into many flags.
At the Indian National Congress annual session in September 1920, delegates supported Swaraj, and in the same year they agreed with Khilafat leaders to work and fight together for both causes. This can be regarded as the official launching of the Swaraj movement by the Congress. However, over the years, political ideas gained momentum in the Congress and in 1927, Jawaharlal Nehru introduced a resolution demanding "complete national independence" called Purna Swaraj which was a more politically inclined goal. The Payyannur Conference in May 1928 passed a resolution requesting the Indian National Congress to adopt “Complete Independence” instead of Swaraj as its goal. Another political group the Swaraj Party which also was against the British merged with the Congress soon after.
 After Gandhi
It is generally believed that Gandhi's model of Swaraj has not been followed by the Indian government. He had wanted a system of a classless, stateless direct democracy. For achieving this he wanted to disband the Congress Party after independence. He said, "Its task is done. The next task is to move into villages and revitalize life there to build a new socio-economic structure from the bottom upwards." However none of these objectives were achieved when India became independent. India, although a federation, got a strong central government. Representative democracy, rather than direct democracy was adopted. The Congress Party was not disbanded. Rather it went on to become one of the frontrunners in running the government of India.
 See also
- The history of community development
- Vinoba Bhave
- Sri Lanka Independence Struggle
- Philosophical Anarchism
Organisations today that advocate Swaraj include the International Simultaneous Policy Organisation (www.simpol.org) founded in the UK at the beginning of the 21st Century by John Bunzl.
- ↑ What is Swaraj?. Retrieved on July 12, 2007.
- ↑ Parel, Anthony. Hind Swaraj and other writings of M. K. Gandhi. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, 1997.
- ↑ What is Swaraj?. Retrieved on March 3, 2007.
- ↑ Non-Western Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context. Jason Adams. Retrieved on March 18, 2007.
- ↑ Jesudasan, Ignatius. A Gandhian theology of liberation. Gujarat Sahitya Prakash: Ananda India, 1987, pp 236-237.
- ↑ Jesudasan, Ignatius. A Gandhian theology of liberation. Gujarat Sahitya Prakash: Ananda India, 1987, pp 251.
- ↑ Murthy, Srinivas.Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy Letters. Long Beach Publications: Long Beach, 1987, pp 13.
- ↑ M. K. Gandhi. Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule. Ahmedabad, Gujarat: Navajivan Publishing House, 1938.
- ↑ Murthy, Srinivas.Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy Letters. Long Beach Publications: Long Beach, 1987, pp 189.
- ↑ Parel, Anthony. Hind Swaraj and other writings of M. K. Gandhi. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, 1997, pp 189.
- ↑ The Navjivan Trust. Retrieved on March 3 2007.
- ↑ Rajmohan Gandhi. Patel: A Life. ASIN: B0006EYQ0A, pp 171.
- ↑ Bhattacharyya, Buddhadeva. Evolution of the political philosophy of Gandhi. Calcutta Book House: Calcutta, 1969, pp 479.
- ↑ Jesudasan, Ignatius. A Gandhian theology of liberation. Gujarat Sahitya Prakash: Ananda India, 1987, pp 225.
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