Mohandas K. Gandhi, Excerpts from Hind Swaraj
or Indian Home Rule (1910)
4. WHAT IS SWARAJ?
Reader: I have now learnt what the Congress has done to
make India one nation, how the Partition has caused an awakening,
and how discontent and unrest have spread through the land. I
would now like to know your views on Swaraj. I fear that
our interpretation is not the same as yours.
Editor: It is quite possible that we do not attach the same
meaning to the term. You and I and all Indians are impatient to
obtain Swaraj, but we are certainly not decided as to what
it is. To drive the English out of India is a thought heard from
many mouths, but it does not seem that many have properly
considered why it should be so. I must ask you a question. Do not
think that it is necessary
to drive away the English, if we get all we want?
Reader: I should ask of them only one thing, that is:
"Please leave our country." If, after they have complied with this
request, their withdrawal from India means that they are still in
India. I should have no objection. Then we would understand that,
in their language, the word "gone" is equivalent to "remained".
Editor: Well then, let us suppose that the English have
retired. What will you do then?
Reader: That question cannot be answered at this stage. The
state after withdrawal will depend largely upon the manner of it.
If, as you assume, they retire, it seems to me we shall still keep
their constitution and shall carry on the Government. If they
simply retire for the asking we should have an army, etc., ready
at hand. We should, therefore, have no difficulty in carrying on
Editor: You may think so; I do not. But I will not discuss
the matter just now. I have to answer your question, and that I
can do well by asking you several questions. Why do you want to
drive away the English?
Reader: Because India has become impoverished by their
Government. They take away our money from year to year. The most
important posts are reserved for themselves. We are kept in a
state of slavery. They behave insolently towards us
and disregard our feelings.
Editor: If they do not take our money away, become gentle,
and give us
responsible posts, would you still consider their presence to be
Reader: That question is useless. It is similar to the
question whether there is
any harm in associating with a tiger if he changes his nature.
Such a question is
sheer waste of time. When a tiger changes his nature, Englishmen
theirs. This is not possible, and to believe it to be possible is
contrary to human
Editor: Supposing we get Self-Government similar to what
the Canadians and the
South Africans have, will it be good enough?
Reader: That question also is useless. We may get it when we
have the same
powers; we shall then hoist our own flag. As is Japan, so must
India be. We must
own our navy, our army, and we must have our own splendour, and
India's voice ring through the world.
Editor: You have drawn the picture well. In effect it means
this: that we want
English rule without the Englishman. You want the tiger's nature,
but not the
tiger; that is to say, you would make India English. And when it
it will be called not Hindustan but Englistan. This is not the Swaraj
that I want.
Reader: I have placed before you my idea of Swaraj as
I think it should be. If the
education we have received be of any use, if the works of Spencer,
others be of any importance, and if the English Parliament be the
Parliaments, I certainly think that we should copy the English
people, and this to
such an extent that, just as they do not allow others to obtain a
footing in their
country, so we should not allow them or others to obtain it in
ours. What they
have done in their own country has not been done in any other
country. It is,
therefore, proper for us to import their institutions. But now I
want to know your
Editor: There is need for patience. My views will develop
of themselves in the
course of this discourse. It is as difficult for me to understand
the true nature of
Swaraj as it seems to you to be easy. I shall, therefore,
for the time being,
content myself with endeavouring to show that what you call Swaraj
is not truly
Chapter 5. THE CONDITION OF ENGLAND
Reader: Then from your statement I deduce that the
Government of England is
not desirable and not worth copying by us.
Editor: Your deduction is justified. The condition of
England at present is
pitiable. I pray to God that India may never be in that plight.
That which you
consider to be the Mother of Parliaments is like a sterile woman
and a prostitute.
Both these are harsh terms, but exactly fit the case. That
Parliament has not
yet, of its own accord, done a single good thing. Hence I have
compared it to a
sterile woman. The natural condition of that Parliament is such
outside pressure, it can do nothing. It is like a prostitute
because it is under the
control of ministers who change from time to time. Today it is
under Mr. Asquith,
tomorrow it may be under Mr. Balfour.
Reader: You have said this sarcastically. The term "sterile
woman" is not
applicable. The Parliament, being elected by the people, must work
pressure. This is its quality.
Editor: You are mistaken. Let us examine it a little more
closely. The best men
are supposed to be elected by the people. The members serve
without pay and
therefore, it must be assumed, only for the public weal. The
considered to be educated and therefore we should assume that they
generally make mistakes in their choice. Such a Parliament should
not need the
spur of petitions or any other pressure. Its work should be so
smooth that its
effects would be more apparent day by day. But, as a matter of
fact, it is
generally acknowledged that the members are hypocritical and
thinks of his own little interest. It is fear that is the guiding
motive. What is done
today may be undone tomorrow. It is not possible to recall a
single instance in
which finality can be predicted for its work. When the greatest
debated, its members have been seen to stretch themselves and to
Sometimes the members talk away until the listeners are disgusted.
called it the "talking shop of the world". Members vote for their
party without a thought. Their so-called discipline binds them to
it. If any member, by way of
exception, gives an independent vote, he is considered a renegade.
If the money
and the time wasted by Parliament were entrusted to a few good
English nation would be occupying today a much higher platform.
simply a costly toy of the nation. These views are by no means
peculiar to me.
Some great English thinkers have expressed them. One of the
members of that
Parliament recently said that a true Christian could not become a
member of it.
Another said that it was a baby. And if it has remained a baby
after an existence
of seven hundred years, when will it outgrow its babyhood?
Reader: You have set me thinking; you do not expect me to
accept at once all
you say. You give me entirely novel views. I shall have to digest
them. Will you
now explain the epithet "prostitute"?
Editor: That you cannot accept my views at once is only
right. If you will read
the literature on this subject, you will have some idea of it.
Parliament is without
a real master. Under the Prime Minister, its movement is not
steady but it is
buffeted about like a prostitute. The Prime Minister is more
concerned about his
power than about the welfare of Parliament. His energy is
securing the success of his party. His care is not always that
Parliament shall do
right. Prime Ministers are known to have made Parliament do things
party advantage. All this is worth thinking over.
Reader: Then you are really attacking the very men whom we
considered to be patriotic and honest?
Editor: Yes, that is true; I can have nothing against Prime
Ministers, but what I
have seen leads me to think that they cannot be considered really
they are to be considered honest because they do not take what are
known as bribes, let them be so considered, but they are open to
influences. In order to gain their ends, they certainly bribe
people with honours.
I do not hesitate to say that they have neither real honesty nor a
Reader: As you express these views about Parliament, I
would like to hear you
on the English people, so that I may have your view of their
Editor: To the English voters their newspaper is their
Bible. They take their cue
from their newspapers which are often dishonest. The same fact is
interpreted by different newspapers, according to the party in
they are edited. One newspaper would consider a great Englishman
to be a
paragon of honesty, another would consider him dishonest. What
must be the
condition of the people whose newspapers are of this type?
Reader: You shall describe it.
Editor: These people change their views frequently. It is
said that they change
them every seven years. These views swing like the pendulum of a
clock and are
never steadfast. The people would follow a powerful orator or a
man who gives
them parties, receptions, etc. As are the people, so is their
have certainly one quality very strongly developed. They will
never allow their
country to be lost. If any person were to cast an evil eye on it,
they would pluck
out his eyes. But that does not mean that the nation possesses
every other virtue
or that it should be imitated. If India copies England, it is my
firm conviction that
she will be ruined.
Reader: To what do you ascribe this state of England?
Editor: It is not due to any peculiar fault of the English
people, but the condition
is due to modern civilization. It is a civilization only in name.
Under it the nations
of Europe are becoming degraded and ruined day by day.