A Gandhi Anthology, Book II edited by V. G. Desai Reviewed By Om Prakash Deepak

Published in “Mankind”, issue 660, probably 1959

Any anthology of Gandhiji’s thought is likely to be misleading, for, he did not present any system. He continued to amend and correct him-self till the last moment of his life. A Gandhian anthology, to be meaningful must trace the development of his ideas chronologically as well as in relation to other ideas. In the absence of any such attempt the two anthologies given by Mr. Desai and Mr. Prabhu present a confused and somewhat garbled picture.

Gandhiji was a spiritualist and as such, on many subjects, he thought on vertical rather than horizontal plane. He could not, for instance, conceive of man-woman relations as a harmony. It was either upgrade or downgrade. This, on the one hand, made him oppose birth-control through artificial means and on the other, plead for women concerning themselves primarily with the home. But from his own plane he considered men and women not only to be equal but considered women to be man's moral superior. And so, in effect, he became a great champion of women’s emancipation.

The problem of language – official and as medium of instruction - as we face it today goes to show how far has the Indian revolution been betrayed. Gandhiji’s opinion on the subject, particularly in relation to the South, is as relevant today as it was in 1931: "For the masses of the South who must take an ever growing part in national affairs, What can be easier – learning Hindi which has many words in common with their languages and which at once gives them access practically to the whole of North or to learn English, a wholly foreign tongue spoken only by a select few".

"The choice really depends upon one’s conception of Swaraj (Self-rule). If it is to be of and for only the English knowing Indians, English is undoubtedly the common medium. If it is to be for and of the starving millions, of the illiterate millions, of the illiterate, of the suppressed untouchables, Hindi is the only possible common language.

Most of Gandhi’s experiments in a new way of life have now been reduced to fads and frauds. Basic education is one of them. Conceived as an all-round education centred around crafts, it has become another means of receiving Government subsidies like Khadi and Ghani. About the so-called basic schools run by the government, the less said the better. Changes in curricula have been made to introduce eulogies of the leaders of the ruling party, big and small, living and dead. In the name of craft-work, more often than not, teachers and students buy something from the market to keep the records up-to-date. There is no break from the past. Only the element of fraud has increased. Mr Solanki has discussed problems of basic education at some length. But they can not be of any value unless we begin from the beginning - the need for educating all India's children and the realisation that there should be only one type of education for all the children, so far as methods and standards are concerned.

The degradation of Gandhiji’s experiments was probably inevitable, once the influence of towering personality was removed. Presented with the choice of early extinction or corrupted survival, the heirs of Gandhi in almost all cases chose the later. The story of Shantiniketan presents the same, familiar story. The problem of keeping Tagore’s idealism alive, which Gandhiji faced during his last visit to Shantiniketan has been finally solved. For, Shantiniketan itself is dead. In its place stands Vishwa Bharati, just one of the India’s many universities run and financed by the Government of India.


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