MAHATMA GANDHI MEDIA AND RESEARCH SERVICE

MAHATMA - Life of Gandhi, 1869-1948

Chapter 09, Call Of The Villages, 1934-1938, 20min 33sec, Reel 21, 22

The film depicts how Gandhi settled in a village and dedicated himself to the cause of village-reconstruction through the revival of arts and industries to make the village self-reliant. It also explains his theory of education aiming at producing the whole man and highlights the reaction of the apostle of non-violence to the bursting of war-clouds over Europe.

Watch and download film


Commentary

Reel 21

 

Sequence 01 The outstanding event of the forty-ninth session of the Congress held under the Presidentship of Rajendra Prasad at Abdul Gaffar Nagar, Bombay, was Gandhi's retirement from the Congress for having failed to persuade it to change its creed from "peaceful and legitimate" to "truthful and non-violent" methods.

On October 28, 1934, the Congress reiterated its confidence in Gandhi's leadership, while reluctantly accepting his decision ...

Gandhi justified his physical severance from the Congress. "For me to dominate the Congress in spite of fundamental differences is almost a species of violence which I must refrain from ...

"No leader can give a good account of himself if his lead is not faithfully, ungrudgingly and intelligently followed ...

"Henceforward, my interest in the Congress will be confined to watching from a distance, enforcement of principles for which it stands.. .

"I would love to serve the Congress in my own humble manner whether I am in or outside it."

 

2 Realising that revivification of the villages, which were perpetually exploited, was a necessity if India was to exist and a remedy for its progressive poverty, Gandhi took his abode in the Ashram at Wardha.

 

3 For him, "Khadi was the sun of the village solar system and the various village-industries its planets ..."

"We should," he argued, "identify ourselves with the poor villagers, live as they live, help them to produce what we need and make full use of the local rawmaterial, local talent and local tools ... "

 

4 Distressed at the penetration of the machines in the villages, Gandhi observed, "From time immemorial, the villages of India have been pounding their own paddy...

"Unpolished rice and hand-ground whole wheat-flour apart from being nutritious also provide employment in the rural areas.. .

"We have suffered the village oilman to be driven to extinction and we eat adulterated oils... Gandhi persuaded the villagers to take to more rational ways of diet.. .

"in all our dietetics", he argued, "we mistake the shadow for the substance preferring bone-white sugar to rich, brown jaggery. ... "

His plea was that mechanisation is good where hands are too few... but an evil where there are more hands than are required for the work as is the case in India...

 

5 The remedy suggested by him was the protection of the village-industries, the village-crafts and the workers behind them from the crushing competition of power-driven machinery.. .

Gandhi believed that "If the village perishes, India will perish. .. "

 

6 Persuading the villagers not to turn open healthy spaces into breeding grounds for disease, Gandhi suggested burying of the night soil as the most economic method of its disposal; when mixed with refuse, it can be turned into golden manure ...

 

7 "So long as you do not take the broom and the bucket in your hands, you cannot make your towns and cities clean ... And cleanliness is not only next to godliness, it promotes health."

 

8 Gandhi believed in the infinite capacity of the soul for self-control. He gave a stern warning that birthcontrol by artificial means will lead to moral bankruptcy ...

He regarded woman not as an instrument of animal pleasure, but as the mother of man and a trustee of the virtue of her progeny ...

 

9 Non-violence which was at the root of all his activities was not confined only to India. .. Mussolini's attack on Abyssinia disturbed Gandhi ...

 

10 He appealed against the wave of darkness that was about to sweep the whole world. -If the recognized loaders of mankind, who have control over the energies of destruction, were wholly to renounce their use with full knowledge of the implications, permanent peace can be obtained...

 

11 "Non-violence to be a creed has to be all-pervasive ... It is my unshakable belief that India's destiny is to deliver the message of non-violence to mankind. .. "

 

12 Being convinced that the real India dwelt in her villages, Gandhi tramped to Segaon-later called Sevagram-a decadent village five miles from Wardha on June 16, 1936 to attain self-realisation through the service of the village-folk in steadfast faith ... He reached his destination, lived in a one-room mud but ... and war, soon at work ... Visitors from far and near began to gravitate here.. . Drawing inspiration from his new abode, he associated the villagers with the community life of the Ashram ...

 

13 Sevagram Ashram was but an experiment in truth and non-violence. Gandhi lived here with Kasturbai as a villager of his dream. The simple life was his chosen way ...

Here, Gandhi lived and worked beginning his day before dawn, never missing his prayers ... The little hut remained the scene of his many activities from morning till night.. .

He spun for hours and carded his cotton. .. "The greatest of my activity is charkha. I hold it to be the best part of my service-social, political and spiritual".

Sometimes he was engrossed in examining the details of the latest model of the spinning wheel and making suggestions to the designer. . .

People, high and low, sought refuge in the little mud hut where he dwelt... It also became the venue of the meetings of the Congress Working Committee. He did justice to all items, grave or gay, important or unimportant, for nothing was too trivial for him ...

He looked into every detail himself,. .. visited the ailing inmates who were treated according to his method of nature-cure... Among the patients.... Was a leper-a profound Sanskrit scholar. "Who will look after him if I don't?" thought Gandhi and gave daily massage to him.

He determined the patient's diet and made a scientific study of the leprosy germs to evaluate his progress.. .

He never failed to greet the new-born calves in the Ashram ...

Lying with a mud-poultice on his abdomen was a part of his permanent treatment for blood pressure prescribed by himself.. .

He knew the wonderful properties of mother earth. "That is why, instead of treading upon it, I have it on my head and on my abdomen," he said. It was his infinite faith in God that gave him the patience of a job and his unfailing good humour... .

The morning and the evening constitutionals were as much part of Gandhi's regular routine as the prayers ...

Details about the kitchen or the crops were discussed with those in charge of them. . .

Often, interviews of a serious nature were given and press statements dictated during the walks ...

In accordance with his desire to be in tune with the Infinite, he slept under the open sky.. .

 

Reel 22

 

Sequence 1 To promote contact with the villagers, the first village session of the Congress, according to Gandhi's conception, was held at Faizpur under the Presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru in December, 1936... Vast unsophisticated crowds thronged Tilaknagarthe bamboo village... All arrangements were befitting the village life.. .

President Nehru dwelt upon the growing menace of Facism in Europe... He hoped the logic of events would lead to socialism for India's economic ills.. .

Though Gandhi took no part in the Congress debates, opening the Khadi and Village Industries Exhibition, he said, "It is not enough that one wears khadi if he surrounds himself with videshi-things foreign in everything else... Khadi means the truest swadeshi spirit.

"Indian economic independence is not a product of industrialisation but economic uplift of every individual by his or her conscious effort...

"Real socialism has been handed down to us by our ancestors who taught, "All land belongs to God".

"Like the earth, we of it also belong to God and hence we must feel like one and not create boundary walls.. .

 

2 Gandhi realized that in the long run the future depended on the village school.

 

3 He expounded the theory of education through vocation which would promote the real, disciplined development of the mind by drawing out the best in the child and yet keeping him rooted in the soil with a glorious vision of the future ...

He wanted education to be based on village occupations and easily accessible to all.. .

Though education was to be based on a craft, Gandhi insisted that the child's intellect and heart were to be trained as much as his hands ...

 

4 Gandhi in his retirement from the Congress was no less a force than when active. His advice on political affairs was constantly sought.. . In February, 1937, on the Congress securing signal success at the polls, Gandhi advised the Congress majorities in seven provinces to form cabinets to hasten the march towards independence.. .

 

5 Office acceptance created a new ferment that began to leaven the dough of national life...

Gandhi wrote, "The offices have to be held lightly, not tightly. .. " He insisted that "the ministers dare not live in a style and in a manner out of all correspondence with their electors" and exhorted them to eradicate red-tape and to conduct themselves with ability, integrity and impartiality.. .

 

6 For Gandhi, office acceptance had a special meaning for progressive amelioration of the toiling millions.. . He stressed the need of immediate enforcement of prohibition, removal of untouchability, free and compulsory primary education, conversion of jails into reformatories and tax-free salt for the poor ...

 

7 The fifty-first session of the Congress met on the bank of the river Tapti at Haripura in rural surroundings under the stewardship of Subhash Chandra Bose, the youngest President in February, 1938.

At the Khadi and Village Industries Exhibition, Gandhi observed, "Khadi has been conceived as the foundation and the image of ahimsa ... A real Khadi-wearer will not utter untruth, will harbour no violence, no deceit, no impurity ... ."

"Do what you do for the sake of India. If you wear Khadi for my sake, you will burn khadi on the day you burn my dead body. But if you have fully understood the message of Khadi, it will long outlive me. .. "

After hoisting the National flag President Bose said,

(His voice) ... "Our struggle is no doubt a non-violent struggle ... But even a non-violent struggle demands an army, an organisation and a machinery ... ."

"India is going to be free and that we who live to-day are going to play a part in making India free ... ."

"There is no power on earth that can keep India in slavery anymore ..."

"Let us strive for India's freedom ... Vande Mataram ... . "

President Subhas Chandra Bose and the members of the Working Committee arrived at the open session of the Haripura Congress ...

President Bose put forward a case for national reconstruction: "Our chief national problems relating to the eradication of poverty, illiteracy and diseases can be effectively tackled only along socialistic lines ... .

"The state, on the advice of a Planning Commission, will have to adopt a comprehensive scheme for gradually socializing our entire agricultural and industrial system in the spheres of both production and distribution ... " Voicing the feeling of the nation, he concluded, "All India prays that Mahatma Gandhi may be spared to our nation for many years to come to keep our struggle free from bitterness and hatred ... We need him for the cause of humanity ... .

The Haripura session condemned the federal scheme for India on the ground that a constitution for India must be framed by the people themselves ...

 

8 In September 1938 came the moral catastrophe of Munich ... Compelled to heed the rumbling of the coming storm. Gandhi observed, "The peace Europe gained at Munich is a triumph of violence; it is also its defeat ... The science of non-violence can alone lead to pure democracy ..."

 

9 The plight of the Czechs moved Gandhi. Advising the small nationalities to refuse to obey Hitler's will and perish unarmed to save their honour, he maintained that if it was brave to fight, it was braver still to refuse to fight and yet refuse to yield to the usurper...

 

10 Soon after the Munich crisis, Gandhi traversed the whole of the North-West Frontier Province with Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan.

The Pathans, old and young, received Gandhi with joy...

Badshah Khan was convinced that non-violence could elevate his people and raise them to their full moral stature ...

Guiding the non-violent organization of Khudai Khidmatgars, Gandhi said, "The very name suggests that they are to serve and not to injure humanity.. . Non-violence is not a mere passive quality. It is the mightiest force God has endowed man with ...

"As a person who relied upon the use of force would have to undergo military training, so will a soldier of peace have to go through a definite training..."

Gandhi rounded off his tour by a visit to the remains of the Buddhist monastery at Takshshila, which reverberated with the ancient maxim, "Let man conquer anger with non-anger..."

 

Gandhi took leave of the pageant of India's glorious past that lay spread out before him ...