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From the Archives: Gandhiji deplores disappearance of Swadeshi

Sep 30, 2023 04:21 PM IST

Gandhiji reminded the audience of how a pile had been made of foreign cloth in the early days of the movement and a huge bonfire was made of costly saris etc

Mahatma Gandhi in his post-prayer speech on Friday, said that he would like to speak on swadeshi for the occasion. He was told that with the advent of swadeshi raj in the shape of Swaraj, the spirit of swadeshi was fast disappearing from them and the stock of Khadi was perhaps at its lowest.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi at a Charkha demonstration in New Delhi in April 1946. For Gandhi, the charkha was a symbol of self-reliance(Underwood Archives/ Getty) PREMIUM
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi at a Charkha demonstration in New Delhi in April 1946. For Gandhi, the charkha was a symbol of self-reliance(Underwood Archives/ Getty)

It was an unusual sight to see people wearing what were called Gandhi topies. If that was true on any large scale, the dearly-loved liberty, in his opinion, would be short-lived.

Goodbye said Gandhiji then to the hope of India becoming the light of Asia as by right it should be. Pardeshi went side by side with luxury which a correspondent said was rampant everywhere. He fondly hoped that while the tragic picture might be true of the cities of India, it was not so of the villages if only because they were famishing.

ALSO READ: ‘No Swaraj without unity’, says Gandhiji

Immediately after his return to India in 1915, Gandhiji discovered that the centre of Swadeshi lay in Khadi. If Khadi went, he contended, there was no Swadeshi. He had shown that the manufactures in Indian mill did not constitute swadeshi. To that belief he clung even today

He reminded the audience of how a pile had been made of foreign cloth in the early days of the movement and a huge bonfire was made of costly saris etc. Pandit Motilaiji and Shrimati Sarojini Naidu too had added their finery to the bonfire and Motilalj had later written from jail to say how he had found true happiness in the purity and simplicity of Khadi.

ALSO READ: ‘Charkha is a symbol of non-violence’, says Gandhiji

Gandhiji deplored the fact that that spirit did not exist today. The 'charkha' was the centre of their Tricolour fing. It was the symbol of unity and the non-violent strength of the millions and the cementing force which bound those whom the three colours of the flag represented. The whole fabric of Swaraj hung on a thread of hand-spun yarn and it was their mightiest weapon.

He had already reminded them that if they had the swadeshi spirit in them, they would refuse to look to the West for the supply of their major wants. He had no quarrel in this time of extreme scarcity if India imported foodstuffs and cloth from outside provided it was proved that India was wholly unable to supply the two wants from within India.

This was in no way proved. He had not hesitated to say and he would repeat that India was fully able to manufacture her own Khadi and grow her own foodstuffs in her numerous villages.

ALSO READ: ‘Dominion in action’, says Mahatma Gandhi

But they had become too lazy to look inward and insist on supplying these two wants from within India's borders. He would go even so far as to say that he would face starvation and nakedness rather than look to the West to supply the two needs. They must learn to look upon all that was for their good as Swadeshi and all that was harmful as foreign. Without grim determination, it was not possible to do the right thing.

A correspondent deplored that whilst he (Gandhiji) was daily giving home thrusts, it was a sad reflection that the truth was uttered in the midst of selfishness. Traders were selfish. So were Princes, their Dewans, the Englishmen and even Congresmen. This was a sweeping remark.

But it bore the stamp of truth. It was terrible if the English residing in India and who, they were told would be leaving India, were intriguing. Congressmen were the salt of India. If the salt lost its savour wherewith was it to be salted?

Gandhiji then referred to a letter he had received from for advice from a Punjabi from the afflicted areas of that unhappy province. His advice to them was to be brave and remain in their house.

The Punjab was a long of the brave. Lalaji was called the lion of the Punjab and the Sikhs were a brave race. It was up to Punjabis to give birth to lions and not to goats. They must be fearless today. In order to quell their fear. they were asking for arms and ammunition.

He was afraid the Punjab was losing the bravery for which it was famous. Love of foreign finery had possessed their women. This meant deterioration and inability to distinguish between good and bad which led to cowardice. The Muslims were their brothers. If anyone sank to the level of beasts, it did not follow that all should do likewise. The Muslim could not go on killing them.

No one could live on killing. If he were killed by a Muslim what would the killer gain so long as he (Gandhiji) remained without any hatred in his heart? Love alone could win over hatred. Therefore, his advice to everyone was to stay there and to those who had run away he would also like to give the advice to return as soon as circumstances permitted.

Gandhiji also. referred to the vulgar folly of an anonymous writer who had written and threatened to kill young Manu Gandhi if she continued to recite the Quranic verse. He hoped it was meant as a joke. But even it was in bad taste. In any case why blame the child?

She only did what he told her to do and what would the writer gain by killing her? The gain would be entirely hers if she died reciting that glorious verse. It was all wrong assessment of values. They could discriminate between Swadesh and Bideshi only if they could discriminate between good and bad.

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