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Posted on April 17th, 2014, by

Contemporaries called Gandhi the conscience of mankind, a prophet, a saint, but above all, they saw him as the spiritual leader of India in the fight against British imperialism for their liberation. Gandhi was not just a politician in the narrow sense of the word. At all stages of the struggle for the independence of India, he served as the spiritual leader of the Indian National Congress (INC) without being its official head. Today, we must admit that it was under his leadership that the people of India achieved independence.

In his first book Hind Swaraj (1910), Gandhi for the first time expressed condemnation of enrichment at the expense of people and limiting freedom of the people by the state, he also expressed the understanding of patriotism as a strive for the common good and freedom from colonial rule, and the firm conviction that the social evil and violence of the state must be struggles only by non-violent means. India was dependent on Britain, enslaved by it; therefore, basing on Hind Swaraj ideas, to Gandhi the struggle for truth, freedom and national identity was inseparable from the struggle for freedom. While in the beginning of his way as a spiritual leader and the actual head of the organized national liberation movement, Gandhi considered it possible to protect the life, dignity and rights of Indians and achieve self-government within the British Empire, in the course of the struggle he came to believe that only British withdrawal from India, its full independence and obtaining a true national purpose and identity can ensure the free development of the country and solution of all the social problems in India.

Indeed, it is difficult not to agree with Gandhi that not high enough national consciousness, as a part of the Indian national identity, is the consequence of ill-being in the country’s recent history. Colonization, repression and domination of the imperialist ideology have to some extent distorted the national public consciousness, led to the loss of the national state, and have divided the nation.

Having taken the path of political struggle, Gandhi urged to show perseverance in the truth above all in the struggle against colonial domination, against imperialist exploitation and imperialist system as a whole, because this system in accordance with his ideas was deeply immoral and oppressed national spirit. In its turn, independence from a foreign country involves the rejection of borrowing of foreign practices of government, and thus the acquisition of a truly national experience. Gandhi (1910) believed that India needs new forms of government different from political institutions of the West, which should be based traditional institutions of communal self-government, panchayats.

In the economic sphere independence and the formation of national identity takes the form of encouraging domestic production and limiting import of goods (swadeshi). In particular, Gandhi (1910) believed that capitalism existing in the West and developing in his own country was not compatible with the original Swaraj and could not have a future in India. Gandhi also believed unacceptable the dependence on imported goods that meet basic human needs, being sure that the violation of the principle of Swadeshi was the cause of political dependence and underdevelopment of states: if no goods were imported from abroad, India would have been a country of abundance.

The important part of the state independence is also its ethno-cultural component. Thus, Gandhi repeatedly stressed the need to preserve cultural and historical identity, the specific content of Indian culture. Gandhi (1910) used to always emphasize that his outlook was based on truly Indian values, Indian civilization, and that it was not appropriate to mechanically transfer to India the socio-economic, political, and ethical institutions of people and countries belonging to other civilizations and cultures. In particular, all religious and philosophical grounding of Gandhi’s social and political programs, as shown above, is based on traditional Hindu images (satyagraha, ahimsa, brahmacharya, sarvodaya, panchayat, swadeshi). At the same time, his teachings are characterized by some print of secularism originating from traditional Hindu tolerance and understanding of the single essence of all religions: the destiny of the people of India were inseparable to him from the destiny of humanity, and in the Indian culture he found the reflection of human values, such as non-violence. Only spiritual perfection, according to Gandhi (1910), can help people realize the need of non-violence, and only this realization can end the violence over nature, wars, conquests and colonization, conflicts between nations, and give every nation the opportunity to develop in its unique way.

However, it should also be noted that stating one’s independence to the world is not enough, it is not even enough to be recognized by the international community as an independent state. The main thing is to move from the formally legal to real independence, while the awareness of backwardness and national complex have been a persistent problem. In this regard, Gandhi (1910) believed that serving the truth the man should, above all, overcome the mentality of a slave in oneself, brought up in the centuries of oppression and violence by colonial rulers, and to do that one must get rid of fear for one’s life, for one’s creature comforts. Courage should be the basis of the new morality; only moral courage can bring Indians victory in the struggle for desired swaraj.

In addition, the core of national identity as a component of the independence of the state is the formation of a nation as unified civil and political community. That is why, an important aspect of Gandhi’s public life were his efforts to achieve social justice. It can be said that the struggle for swaraj and social justice were inextricably linked to Gandhi. Indeed, the first resolution of the Indian National Congress resolution on civil disobedience to achieve swaraj included at the insistence of Gandhi a special point on the need to abolish the institution of untouchability, as no swaraj is impossible without this institution being abolished (Gandhi, 1910).

On a whole, an important condition for a healthy national organization is the self-reliance and independence of all the world community subjects, while all of them should achieve the prosperity on their own, without using other peoples as a means. Such an attitude to one’s own and to any other peoples is understood as the healthy nationalism filled with the realization of national identity. At the same time, according to Gandhi (1910), the measure of independence of the state is not its closedness, but on the contrary, the ability to cooperate with other even more powerful states as equal. Throughout his life, mahatma Gandhi sought to prove that violence cannot be used even for the sake of the highest ideals, and rousing the masses to organized non-violent struggle for the ideals of independence, justice and national unity is only possible by following the spiritual traditions of the nation and recognizing at the same time the priority of human values over the social, class and national interests. Following this path, Gandhi achieved freedom for his country and left a study of the formation of national consciousness to the future generations.

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