New Delhi: Mahatma Gandhi’s 1909 work “Hind Swaraj” is grounded in ‘dharma’ which is often but inadequately translated as religion, says a new book on the father of the nation scheduled to be launched on January 1 by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
Authors J K Bajaj and M D Srinivas say their book “Making of a Hindu Patriot: Background of Gandhiji’s Hind Swaraj” has evolved out of their earlier effort to prepare an authentic edition of “Hind Swaraj” based on Gandhi’s handwritten manuscript of 1909 in Gujarati and his English translation of the text published from Phoenix in 1910.
They say they have tried to tell the story of the evolution of “Hind Swaraj” as a text of religious patriotism and of Gandhi as a Hindu patriot, perhaps the greatest, Deshbhakta Mahatma, of our times.
“We tell this story largely in his own words,” say Bajaj, founder-director of Centre for Policy Studies, and its founder-chairman Srinivas.
Gandhi always perceived himself as a Hindu, perhaps a better Hindu than most others, and that is how his contemporaries saw him, they say.
They argue that Gandhi’s early contact with the people of a different civilisation made him to “think consciously about the faith and ways of the ordinary small-town Hindu that he had imbibed and taken for granted since his early childhood”.
“In South Africa, under pressure to convert from some of his Christian and Muslim well-wishers, he began a serious exploration into his own religion, and also Islam and Christianity, to discover for himself the meaning and responsibility of being a Hindu,” says the over 1,000-page book, published by Har-Anand Publications.
“At the same time, faced with the extreme prejudice against Indians, to which he was personally exposed within the first few weeks of his arrival there (South Africa), he began to study and mediate on the difference between the Indian and the modern Western civilisation,” it says.
According to the authors, “Hind Swaraj” is best read as a text of religious patriotism.
“Leading and engaging in this (Satyagraha) struggle for establishing and preserving the dignity of India and the Indian people were thus a religious duty. It was also a patriotic duty. The two for him had become the same. He could say with conviction, as he did often, that patriotism for him was an aspect of his religion,” they say.
They had published an ‘authentic edition’ of “Hind Swaraj” in 2011. It was released by Bhagwat and Narendra Modi, who was then chief minister of Gujarat.
On New Year’s Day, “Making of a Hindu Patriot” will be launched by Bhagwat at Gandhi Darshan, Rajghat.
“Some of the top leaders of the RSS and the BJP have been invited for the launch. This is perhaps the first physical book launch in the pandemic and we are ensuring all COVID-19 norms are in place,” says Narendra Kumar, founder-chairman of Har-Anand Publications.
In February, Bhagwat had unveiled another book on Gandhi at the Gandhi Smriti memorial. He had then termed Gandhi as a “hardcore Sanatani Hindu” who stuck to his faith and respected other faiths as well.