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Different Interpretations of Gandhi


Rohini Mokashi Punekar

DEBATING GANDHI: A READER
Edited by A. Raghurama Raju
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 388, Rs. 595.00

GANDHI, GANDHISM AND THE GANDHIANS: ESSAYS
By Thomas Weber
Roli Books, Delhi, 2006, pp. 361, Rs. 395.00

FRIENDS OF GANDHI: CORRESPONDENCE OF MAHATMA GANDHI WITH ESTHER FAERING (MENON), ANNE MARIE PETERSON AND ELLEN HORUP
Edited by E.S. Reddy and Holger Terp
National Gandhi Museum, 2006, pp. 288, price not stated.

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 3 March 2007

Debating Gandhi brings together essays by eminent scholars that offer contesting positions on the political philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi has been in the news lately. A rather quixotic notion of his life and works has been doing the rounds thanks to the impact of recent popular cinema; this rather refreshing image puzzlingly complements the fusty, mothballed set of notions the average youth is likely to carry over from history textbooks. The present volume offers and supports a number of issues for a fruitful debate on Gandhi, especially to someone (like the present reviewer) who teaches aspects of Gandhi’s political thought that encompasses his critique of modern science to curious, bright but frankly incredulous young students.   Convinced that there is need to provide a platform from where different interpretations of Gandhi can be brought together in a debate, leading to a better understanding of his thought, the editor has put together varied perspectives in an attempt to arrive at truth through argument and counter- argument. The essays are all well-known and widely read: the novelty is in their positioning in the present volume that set off an implicit debate. The volume is divided into six sections: the first brings together two essays on the impact of traditional ideas and western influences on Gandhi. ‘Traditional Influences on the Thought of Mahatma Gandhi’ by A.L.Basham and ‘Final Encounter: The Politics of the Assassination of Gandhi’ by Ashis Nandy come together for the first time. While the topics of these essays are dissimilar as are their conclusions, it is yet discernible that there is a ‘structural similarity’ that perhaps leads the writers to posit identical points of departure: the dignity of manual labour and the emancipation of women as significant preoccupations of Gandhi. The second section focuses on Gandhi’s negotiations with modernity: the first essay in this group is not surprisingly ‘The Moment of Manoeuvre: Gandhi and the Critique of Civil Society’ by Partha Chatterjee, followed by ‘On the Promotion of Gandhian Studies and the University Level’ by A.K. Saran. Both Saran and Chatterjee in a sense, agree that there is a serious incompatibility between Gandhi and modernity and refer to the Nehruvian legacy that co-opted him. The third essay in this section, ‘Indianization of Autobiography’ by Bhikhu Parekh provides a differing perspective, arguing that Gandhi actively Indianized a modern western literary form and this attempt is an ...


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