While the world celebrates the 150th birth anniversary of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi with seminal works reflecting his character and life, like Ram Chandra Guha’s Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914-1948 or Anuradha Roy’s captivating work of fiction All The Lives We Never Lived, wherein Gandhi lingers in the backdrop; Aparna Basu’s latest publication Gandhi’s Vision: Freedom and Beyond (Publisher: Niyogi Books) marks a timely presence in the scene.
The presentations and representations on and of Gandhi are varied. “So much has already been written about Gandhi that one may well ask, is another book required?” The author clarifies, “We felt that what was necessary was a concerted effort to connect their [the National leaders’] actions and thought to problems and apprehensions of today’s India.” She also specifies, “Among those stalwarts who led the freedom movement, Mahatma Gandhi shines not only for the novel means of non-violence, but also for simultaneously wanting to root out social evils like communal hatred, untouchability and gender disparity.”
Aparna Basu’s Gandhi’s Vision: Freedom and Beyond begins with an emphasis on pre-Gandhian movements in India by capturing stalwarts like Raja Rammohan Roy, M. G. Ranade, Pherozeshah Mehta, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore, Surendranath Banerjea, Sarla Devi Chaudhurani, Bipin Chandra Pal, Sister Nivedita, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Annie Besant, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, along with several prominent figures of nation who ignited the flames of revolution before Gandhi came into the frame of India’s national struggle.
This book significantly specifies and details Gandhi’s struggle for independence along with his influential movements. “It is truly amazing how Gandhi mobilised people from all regions and social groups across the country – Hindu, Muslims and Parsis, peasants and landlords, workers and capitalists, the intelligentsia and the illiterates, men and women, the young and the old.”
In the course of the nineteenth century, India underwent a remarkable transformation. There were social and religious reform movements, a literary renaissance and an awakening of patriotic feelings. The social reform movements began with individual revolts against particular social customs and religious practices which had always been a feature of Indian society, but they adopted Western methods of organisation and propagation. Political ideas and associations developed which contributed to the emergence of Indian nationalism.Basu, Aparna. Gandhi’s Vision: Freedom and Beyond. New Delhi, Niyogi Books, 2018.
Later part of the book consists of Gandhi’s vision of India.
Gandhi dreamt of a free India, embodying a stable, flourishing and most essentially a sustainable nature. He maintained that Indian society was pluralistic in nature, “that Indian civilisation was committed to pluralism as a desirable goal; not just a collection of different ethnic, religious and cultural groups, but unity in diversity. It was an open civilisation with permeable boundaries allowing new influences to flow in and vitalise the old”
For Gandhi, freedom from British rule was not the end. It was only the beginning of an effort to build a new India. He held that real swaraj would come through constructive programmes which could be called the construction of purna swaraj by non-violent and truthful means which would help in achieving ‘independence of every unit, be it the humblest of the nation, without distinction of race, colour or creed’.Basu, Aparna. Gandhi’s Vision: Freedom and Beyond. New Delhi, Niyogi Books, 2018.
Basu assures a structural representation of the ideologies of Gandhi herein. She brings forth Gandhi’s belief that any progress is possible through proper knowledge and education. For him the power of knowledge and education was immense. Gandhi wrote, ‘Education does not mean a knowledge of letters but it means character building.’ His distinction between literacy and knowledge held that literacy in itself was no education. “Gandhi’s educational ideas grew out of his experiments in education with his family and in his ashrams in South Africa and India before they were formulated and publicly announced. By education he meant an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and man – body, mind and spirit.”
This book strongly upholds and puts forth the vision of Gandhi about freedom and beyond under the get-up of a coffee-table book. The vintage photographs represented within add value to the text, as each photographic reference holds the capacity to bring the context/s to the fore.
Dr. Himanshu Shekhar Choudhary