Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Community, Nation and Social Justice:
Interface of Gandhi and Ambedkar

Dr. P. Kesava Kumar
Lecturer in Philosophy
Pondicherry University

This paper is an attempt to discuss the political legacy of Gandhi in relation to dominant western political traditions as well as the political practices of contemporary Indian society. It is argued that western political theory is in crisis and its dominant liberal tradition based on weak foundations. The political insights provided by the indigenous thinkers may answer this crisis. The communitarian streak of the Indian thinkers with a blend of liberalism to certain extent resolves this crisis. Gandhi as a leader led the nationalist movement against the dominance of British colonial rule, and as a thinker he operated on the imagination of the community of ideal Hindu Society. At the same time Ambedkar is critical about hindu social order in any of its form and argued for moral community based on Buddhism. In the light of social justice the strength of these thinkers will be assessed by locating them in the context of nationalist movement.

The relation between individual and collective has explained by the many scholars, in different contexts with different concepts. The ‘social’, ‘community’, ‘nation’, ‘religion’, ‘language’, ‘region’ is the markers of collectivism. Each of these terms has different connotation and meaning. In the contemporary political theory, concepts of ‘community’, ‘nation’ and ‘social justice’ got attention and there are several attempts to redefine these concepts. These three concepts, seems to be distinct on their own, but are interrelated in building nation and strengthening democracy. Against the liberal individual, community becomes discussion point. And against the western colonialism, the discourse of nationalism got its importance. The problems are identified with both extremes and evaluated the strength and weakness of these positions on the basis of justice, common good, rationality or freedom.

With a specific purpose to evolve a theory of justice, this paper has probing into notion of ‘community’ and ‘nation’ by explaining through contemporary Indian thinkers such as Gandhi and Ambedkar. The intervention of these thinkers into larger streams of political philosophy provides some insights in exposing the weakness of dominant liberal political tradition by offering a solution to the crisis of liberal theory. Historically both of these thinkers are exposed to western education and its value system and challenged the western colonial rule as nationalists. Though they have agreement on common point for the freedom of the nation, but have differences in conceptualizing the Indian social reality. The world views of these thinkers have different implications in contemporary struggles of Indian society with the rise of hindu religious nationalism and dalit movement.
In understanding their political philosophy, the following questions will help in articulating the ultimate meaning and purpose of these thinkers: What is his conception of the human being and society? What are the cultural and historical roots of these conceptions in his thought? In what way does he connect democracy and social inequality? How does he resolve the question of individual and community? What are his conceptions of rights, freedom and justice that flows in both his thought and action? What kind of theory does he propose in bringing out the relationship between State and religion?

Both Gandhi and Ambedkar argued infavour of reflexive individualism as against liberal abstractive and possessive individual. Their individual is located in the social and cultural context. The individual had source in religion. For them religion acts as a moral community. Both of them differ with Marxism to certain extent by emphasizing on spiritualism. Gandhi invokes Hinduism and upholds its varnashrama dharma. Of course he argued for reformed Hinduism by opposing untouchability and treating women as equal. The ultimate end for Gandhi is Ramarajya through ahimsa, satyagraha and sarvodaya. Ambedkar considers Hinduism doesnot qualify to be called as religion for its anti social functioning and it could not be reformed. For him the ultimate end is equality, liberty and fraternity. One may found these values in Buddhism. Gandhi romanticizes the village for its simplicity and strong collective traditional values against the modern mechanistic world. Ambedkar argued that village is a centre of maintaining hierarchy and practicing untouchability. Gandhi gave utmost importance to political reform in the programmes of nationalist movement and tried to postpone the social reform in a given situation. For Ambedkar social precedes political. However, both the thinkers overcome the western model of tradition-modern dichotomy and viewed moral community, nation and social justice in their writings and actions from different perspectives.
It is well recognized and debated that contemporary western liberal political theory is in crisis. As it is noticed by some scholars the western liberal tradition based on the weak foundations. And at the same time, argued that different notions of modernity exist prior to the liberal tradition. It had the implication that west does not had monopoly over its claims of modernity and had different trajectories in different socio cultural contexts. In this context, the Indian thinkers like Gandhi and Ambedkar offers a solution to overcome this crisis from different perspectives. The theory and practice culminated in both leaders and emerged as power symbols of contemporary indian society. Both of them imbibed strong liberal impulses and always looked individual in relation to society. Both of them ultimately developed their theories of politics on moral autonomy of individual rather abstract individual. The morality has seen inseperable from the shared social beliefs lies such as in community, religion or nation. Debating Gandhi and Ambedkar in the contemporary Indian political scenario, not only provide two different view points on communitarian politics, and had greater implications for democracy.
Building of Nation state
Nationalism is an ideology that places the nation at the center of its concerns and seeks to promotes its well being. The definition of nation ranges from objective to subjective factors. The objective factors are such as language, religion, customs, territory and institutions, and the subjective factors such as attitude, perceptions and sentiments. As the Joseph Stalin explains from the former position, ‘A nation is an historically constituted, stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make up manifested in a common culture.’ The subjective position as reflected in Benedict Anderson, ‘it is an imagined political community- and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. Both of them have limitations in terms of including certain nations as nation. However, nation is not state and it is not an ethnic community. Nations are felt and lived communities whose members share a homeland and a culture. Nation is not an ethnic community despite some overlap in that as both belong to the same family of phenomenon of collective cultural identity. The ethnic community usually has no political referent and in many cases lacks a public culture and even territorial dimension. The nation on the other hand, must occupy a homeland of its own, at least for a long period of time, in order to constitute itself as nation. It also needs to evolve a public culture and desire some degree of self determination.[1]The nationalism of the 19th century Europe emerged out of the breakdown of the societies which embraced diverse ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups into relatively homogeneous communities. Where as nationalism of the 20th century India led to the fusion of people who spoke different languages, who belonged to different culures, and who subscribed to distinct historical traditions, into a single political community called nation[2].

The word ‘nation’ and political ideologies based on nation is loaded with emotions and had the capacity to manipulation Indian politics. Any claim or struggle has to be silent in front of the nationalism. Most of the radical struggles like Naxalite movements are forced maintain silence on this issue, otherwise dubbed as anti-national. For Parties like BJP came to power so easily with exploitation of sentiment of nationalism. They are consciously propagated and succeeded to certain extent by equating Indian with hindu through their middle class propaganda machinery. In the name of our nation and Indian identity attracted people from all castes including dalits and adivasis. This is coincided with people’s experience of threatening loss of culture and collective life in the wake of globalization. Within no time people realized that hindutva forces limited to cultural nationalism in a selected way, but not connected nationalism in economic and social development. They never bothered about swadeshi economy. Social equality and social justice are not in their project of nationalism. Cultural nationalism has no meaning unless until connects to social and economic equality. In the scheme of this upper caste Indian nationalism, social aspirations and imagination of dalits, adivasis, women got marginalized. Reflecting on this kind of situation, insight focused on the issue of nationalism and debated various questions in relation to this.
On the question of what makes a nation , Telugu writer Gurujada Appa Rao first modernist writer said that, ‘Nation is not just land, it is of people’(Desamante matti kadoyi, Desamante manushuloyi).Bendict Anderson argues that nation is nothing but the imagination of a community. Taking clue from this Partha chatterjee explains that building of the nation state taking place simultaneously, one from the social aspiration and anxieties of uppercaste hindu middle class from the above and so far marginalized lower castes from the below.
Ambedkar confronted with Gandhi and so called nationalist congress on this issue of freedom of the depressed castes. He hold the opinion that social precedes the political. Social equality only guarantees the political equality. From Gandhi to BJP hindutva are not interested in addressing this question. Rather they feel irritated when dalits raised this question. When dalits are asserting national identity through their political struggles, it needs critical and creative intervention on this issue. Otherwise ends up with dominant discourses. The editorial and editorial collective reflects that Insight is clear in understanding the question of nationalism and raised the relevant questions in making dalit nationalism. After all any nation came into existence, with the struggles of the people .Struggles shapes the nation. History of the people could not be manipulated for ever. I hope with the intense struggles of dalits and other marginalised groups democratic nation will come into existence.

Crisis of western political philosophy

Western social and political philosophers, since its beginnings, in the writings of Plato and Aristotle, have been primarily concerned with a set of basic questions about the nature of authority and political obligation, the idea of liberty and its proper limitations, conceptions of the just and good society, and the best form of government. These problems naturally arise when the perceived interests of individuals, groups, or institutions came into conflict, particularly in the times of general social change and political instability when people became increasingly aware of new possibilities. Individuals, groups, or nations will demand more freedom, recognition of rights, greater justice in the distribution of goods, or a larger share in political decision-making. For the social contract theorists of the early modern period- Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and others- the problem of political obligation was fundamental. They aimed to give a general account of why individuals are obliged to obey the laws of certain governments, at least under some conditions. The grounds of obligation is its morality, rationality or common good?
Historically, Greek thought followed the Christian natural law. In the west, Christian natural law was undermined by the individualism of seventeenth century. This period was informed by the new vision of progress and freedom. Science had revolutionized people’s life and thinking. Technological inventions brought in new wealth to society. Centralized and efficient nation states emerged in the world. Colonizing efforts of Europeans were happening in large scale. Relationship between individual and god was replaced by the relationship between individual and individual as the foundation of social enquiry. This individualism become the basic characteristic of the subsequent liberal tradition. The idea of social initiative and social control surrendered to the idea of individual initiative and individual control. In simple terms, new material conditions gave birth to new social relationships and new philosophy was evolved to afford a rational justification for the new world which had come into being. This new philosophy became known as liberalism. Liberalism acquired different flavors in different national cultures. Several non-western countries from 1950s onwards, have their own versions of mixed liberalism, not only borrowed from the west but also blended with their own cultural practices.

Freedom of an individual is a basic value and many thinkers tried to explain the restriction on freedom. Philosophers such as J.S. Mill have tried to give an account of what makes freedom valuable, under what conditions. An adequate theory of this type can serve as the basis for rational and principled restraint when liberty conflicts with other basic values. Justice is sometimes said to be the primary virtue of social institutions. It is one of the most significant respects in which legal and political arrangements, as well as economic systems and social hierarchies may be evaluated. Debate over the questions of distributive justice, especially-i.e. who is entitled to what share of benefits of social co-operation, and who must bear what burdens has always been in the forefront of western political philosophy. Libertarians such as Nozick follow classical liberals (particularly Locke) in defending a right to private property based on conceptions of legitimate acquisition and voluntary transfer.[3] The representative thinkers of egalitarians like Rousseau, Rawls and Ronald Dworkin emphasize the arbitrariness and deprivation, which appear to be a necessary part of such a system of ‘natural liberty’. They argue for more equal distributions of wealth and opportunity through political means, based on conceptions of equal worth of human beings.[4]

The difficulties in liberal theory lies in its basic foundations of seventeenth century individualism and its quality of possessiveness. The possessive quality lies in the conception of the individual as essentially the proprietor of his own person or capacities owing nothing to society. The individual was seen neither as a moral whole, nor as a part of a larger social whole, but as a proprietor of himself. The basic assumption of possessive individualism –that man is free and human by virtue of his sole proprietorship of his own person, and that human society is essentially a series of market relations, were deeply embedded in seventeenth century foundations. This theory may correspond with the market society of seventeenth century. In this relation of ownership, the actual freedom and actual prospect of realizing their full potentialities lead backwards to recognising the nature of the individual. The individual, it was thought, is free in as much as he is proprietor of his person and capacities. The human essence is freedom from dependence on the wills of others, and freedom is the function of possession. Society becomes the web of free equal individuals related to each other as proprietors of their own capacities. Society consists of relations of exchange between proprietors. Political society becomes a calculated device for the protection of this property and for the maintenance of an orderly relation of exchange. We could not say that seventeenth century concepts of freedom, rights, obligation and justice are all entirely derived from the concept of possession. But it can be shown that they were powerfully shaped by it.
Later theories of politics tried to articulate from the point of community or individual in relation to community. The inconsistency lies inherently in the market society itself. Market society automatically brings the class differentiations. The propertied class would like to hold power over the subordinate classes. Men no longer saw them selves fundamentally equal in an inevitable subjection to the determination of market. Alternatives emerged for the market system. Articulation of proletarian politics gave a serious blow to the liberal politics. There are altogether different assumptions about man and society. The community has replaced individual. Marxist theory aims at the radical change in society and its human relations. Human society has seen from the perspective of the class considers human being as primarily a producer. His relations are determined by his involvement in social production. Other than the Marxist notion there is a conservative political theory would like to see society from the point of view of community. Conservatism has reverence for tradition, religion and age old custom. Edmund Burke is the one of the examples for conservative tradition. Burke more than any thinker of eighteenth century approached the political tradition with a sense of religious reverence.

Conservatives stress the importance of tradition, custom and of network of longstanding groups and associations, all pre- requisites of social order. State plays a central role in conservative thought. It is the backbone of social order and authority, the guarantor of social hierarchy. As per the conservative views, the inherent imperfections of human nature make a strong state necessary. It is needed to control the anti-social impulses of the individual. State has been seen as a crucial institution necessary to prevent society from dissolving into disorder and chaos. The conservative thinkers consider the forms of inequality and privilege as ineradicable and necessary elements of society. ‘Inequality of function, role and power is as necessary to the social order as a whole as to the family’. According to conservative thought without hierarchical structure no society can survive. As per the traditional conservative perspective, social order is not and can never be achieved spontaneously by the free play of individual activities as claimed by liberals and anarchists. Social order has to be maintained through the strong leadership of those who hold positions of political responsibility. It does not mean that state is the only agency which maintains social order. The individualist position is ‘radical’ because of the implicit commitment to subject all beliefs and institutions to review, according none a privileged status of critical immunity. The communitarian position is ‘conservative’ in the sense that it accepts the validity of central categories of moral self-description that are entrenched within the practices and institutions of society.
In the late1970s political scientist Fred R. Dallmayr reiterated the statement of Peter Laslett, “the great tradition of theoretical literature stretching from Hobbes to Bosanquet had been broken and that for the moment, anyway, political philosophy is dead.”[5]This is not exactly true. But it shows there is no break in development of political philosophy and existing theories got some setbacks. Of course there are struggles of 70s, students revolt and Vietnam debacle changed the purpose and meaning of public life. Political thought shares the affliction of philosophy. True philosophy makes us to learn again to see the world. It seeks to render political life intelligible, political theory has to remain attentive to the concrete sufferings and predicaments of people and cannot pretend prematurely to knowledge or understanding. The crisis in political philosophy may be understood with the changed socio- economic developments and the unrelatedness of intellectual to the politics. In twentieth century, western political philosophy is marked with its defense of liberal democracy and legacy of civil rights against totalitarian or repressive forces. The economic practices and scientific rationality of west got different meaning in the developing nations. In recent times, the culmination of western science and economics leading towards dominance over other parts of the world invites competition and confrontation at global level. This situation has compelled the west to rethink and reformulate its central premises of its philosophy, and its conception of ‘reason’. And at the same time, there is a need to critically understand what constitutes ‘subjectivity’ and its cognitive activity. This dilemma seems to be aptly captured by Fred Dallmayr, ‘In the domain of political thought, the contemporary dilemma can be phrased broadly in terms of the relationship between ‘contract’ and ‘community’.”[6] Society is of collectives and generates political community. Far from involving only the aspect of inter subjective or inter individual contracts, a revision or modification of individualism in the light of communal bonds necessitates a general reconsideration of man’s relation to the world and nature-a reconsideration that inevitably conjures up the peril of objectivism and naturalism. Contemporary political theory appears precariously lodged at the cross roads of liberal individualism and post individualist communalism.[7]Christian Bay elaborates this in his article ‘from contract to community’, he links up the major predicaments of post-industrial society with the basic assumptions and preferences of ‘individualistic contract liberalism’ as inaugurated by Hobbes and Locke and it manifested in different forms. He notes that, liberals have ‘persistently tended to cut the citizen off from the person’, putting on their pedestal ‘a cripple of a man’ without a ‘moral or political nature’ and without ‘moorings in any real community’[8].
Communitarian critique of liberalism
Communitarians have sought to deflate the universal pretensions of liberal theory. Libertarianism is an individualist philosophy, with a strong focus on the rights of citizens in a democracy. Whereas the libertarian Rawls seemed to present his theory of justice as universally true, communitarians argued that the standards of justice must be found in forms of life and traditions of particular societies and hence can vary from context to context. Rawls argues that we have a supreme interest in shaping, pursuing, and revising our own life-plans. He neglects the fact that our selves tend to be defined or constituted by various communal attachments (e.g., ties to the family or to a religious tradition). Communitarians believe that there is too much focus on these concerns, arguing that "the exclusive pursuit of private interest erodes the network of social environments on which we all depend, and is destructive to our shared experiment in democratic self-government. They believe that rights must be accompanied by social responsibility and maintenance of the institutions of civil society if these rights are to be preserved, but libertarians believe that government actions to promote these ends actually result in a loss of individual liberty. Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor argued that moral and political judgment will depend on the language of reasons and the interpretive framework within which agents view their world, hence that it makes no sense to begin the political enterprise by abstracting from the interpretive dimensions of human beliefs, practices, and institutions. Michael Walzer developed the additional argument that effective social criticism must derive from and resonate with the habits and traditions of actual people living in specific times and places. In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre defended the Aristotelian ideal of the intimate, reciprocating local community bound by shared ends, where people simply assume and fulfill socially given roles.
The debate between liberals and communitarians is in part a dispute about what democracy requires. Liberals insist that democratic self-government requires a fair and neutral political framework in which individuals can enjoy freedom and be treated as equals. As such, a democratic state must be as minimal as possible; its primary function is to maintain the social conditions and political institutions under which free and equal persons can live harmoniously together. On the communitarian view, democracy requires that individuals embody the virtues that make them capable of the true freedom of self-Government, and that these virtues can be properly nurtured only within the context of a proper community. Therefore, the state in a democratic society must undertake the project of forming its citizens' characters by providing the necessary conditions under which communities, and hence the individuals who compose them, can flourish. A state that fails to embrace this formative role is illegitimate since it fails to provide the conditions necessary for freedom; it "cannot secure the liberty it promises, because it cannot sustain the kind of political community and civic engagement that liberty requires.
Liberals posit a self that is by nature autonomous and thus enters into social associations by voluntary choice. The democratic state is one among many associations that the self may choose to join, and it does so as a way of furthering its own interests. Accordingly, the democratic state must remain neutral with regard to questions about what individuals ought to pursue in life, about what kind of life is good. The individual's capacity to choose a conception of the good for himself is the essence of liberty. The policies of a democratic state must therefore not presuppose any specific moral conceptions beyond those required for protecting the individuals it governs. Communitarians argue that such a view of the nature of the self is false. According to communitarians, selves are essentially tied to the social contexts within which they live. Such contexts form the dispositions, desires, interests, and commitments of individuals. Communitarian thinkers in the 1980s such as Michael Sandel and Charles Taylor argued that Rawlsian liberalism rests on an overly individualistic conception of the self. Whereas so close to us that they can only be set aside at great cost, if at all. This insight led to the view that politics should not be concerned solely with securing the conditions for individuals to exercise their powers of autonomous choice, as we also need to sustain and promote the social attachments crucial to our sense of well-being and respect, many of which have been involuntarily picked up during the course of our upbringing.
There is a strong liberal stream exists in Indian political thought and the activities of state as it is adopted some of the features of western liberal democracy. And at the same time, there are historic nationalist struggles against the British colonialism based on the imagination of Indian community grounded on its shared history, culture and philosophy. In the late sixties, against liberal democracy, radical left movements came to forefront, by emphasizing working class as community. It had its limitation by down playing caste, religion and region. In the decade of eighties, the communitarian politics came to lime light with its full potential. This happened on one hand, with the rise of hindu nationalists attempt to define Indian nation as par with cultural traditions of hindu social order at the cost of marginalizing subaltern groups such as dalits, adivasis and women in a political process. On the other hand, the identity politics centred on caste, gender and region articulating their democratic social aspiration and provided a vision to reconstitute the social and political institutions. In this context, the communitarian politics has to be evaluated rationally, keeping the idea to strengthen the democratic nation. The common good plays a decisive role in pluralistic context.
Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj

Gandhi rejects collectivist theories of both state and society. He argued that only the individual could exercise conscience, and therefore morally legitimate power. The individual always to be treated as end in itself, while social institutions are always to be treated as colligible means to some greater end. The satyagrahi should be active politics if he can stand firmly for social justice and initiates constructive change. Where he can not, he must practice non cooperation.[9] He firmly believing in the fundamental unity of life, he rejected any distinction between public and private, between secular and sacred, and ultimately between politics and religion. Religion for Gandhi signifies spiritual commitment which is total but intensely personal, and which pervades every aspect of life.
India is known for its diversity in terms of caste, religion, language and region. He managed to derive a romantic political community which embraces many caste groups, religions into a common shared tradition. The structure of Indian society as understood by Gandhi, is characterized by social groups with diverging instead of converging social loyalties. But it was possible Gandhi argued, to devise a focus of loyalty that could knit such social groups into a creative political society. The nationalist movement he launched against British has operated on this loyalty principle.[10]

Gandhi interpreted ‘swaraj’ as self rule, i.e. also self control exercised by the individual. For Gandhi individual is the focus of the nation and interpreting the nation as essentially consisting of individuals who feels that they belong to it. Further by emphasizing the spiritual unity of all individuals Gandhi could pre suppose an immanent solidarity which was much stronger than abstractly conceived national sovereignty. This spiritual unity and self control is attained by right action, restraint and discipline. Self control can be attained only if there is complete freedom from all passions such as anger, hatred and selfishness which may arouse violent action that leads the self into bondage.[11]

In Hind Swaraj Gandhi equates modernism with sensual self-gratification, and condemns it primarily for this reason. The modern world view not only alienates us from nature, but also alienates our desires from any moral end. The teleology of the ancients, that which gave their life its ultimate meaning and purpose, has been eliminated in modernism.
In Hind Swaraj, as Anthony J. Parel has pointed out, makes a significant difference between a genuine nation formed as community (praja) and a nation of individuals merely held together by state power (rashtra). As opposed to the received view that it was British administration and British railways that made India a nation, Gandhi claimed that "India has been one country right from ancient times." Pilgrim saints, who walked the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent, unified India centuries before it was linked by iron rails. The fact that Gandhi claims a pre modern origin for the Indian nation does not necessarily mean that his political views are pre modern. His views on nationhood are not modernist either, for the modern state, as we have seen, is seen as analogous to the individual social atom writ large on the international level. As Parel states: "[Hind Swaraj] does not propound the modern concept of nation in so far as the latter is based on the notions of brute force, the priority of national interest, and a principle of exclusiveness based either religion, or language, or race." Even the relatively innocuous state apparatus of liberal democracy does not escape Gandhi's critical eye. Gandhi's vision of nationhood is one based on decentralized local control, assimilation and tolerance of cultural differences, and above all, nonviolence.
Complete independence through truth and non violence means the independence of every unit, be it a humblest of the nation, without distinction of race , color and creed. This independence is never exclusive. Sarvodaya rejects the utilitarian principle of greatest good of the greatest possible number’, because it does not admit any sacrifice. Gandhi’s emphasis on sarvodaya, on sacrifice and social harmony, has led some observers to believe that thewas against the individualism. According to Gandhi man alienates himself from the identity of god, man and the world.

Mission of Social Justice: Ambedkar
Unlike the dominant Indian philosophical traditions, his political thought is rational rather than speculative. In assessing the political philosophy of Ambedkar, the existing language of political traditions is not enough to capture his thought. He does not mean that his philosophy has an affinity and difference with the liberal, conservative and radical characterization of existing political traditions. This pragmatic approach is an innovative contribution to Indian political theory and practice. The essence of his pragmatism is to make Dalits, a center of any emancipatory project. His conception of community is very novel. He does not confirm to either Hindu ideal community or Marxist conception of community based on participation in production process. His conception of community is moral and ethical. It is not automatically available for participation in common affairs. His idea of community has to be created through hard and torturous process of moral transformation. When Ambedkar criticises Hindu community for its oppressive nature, he does it with a standard of individual liberty and freedom. When he is talking about suffering of individual members of Dalit community he is projecting an ideal model community based on equality, liberty and fraternity. So it is not correct to call Ambedkar as either a fierce individualist or as a strong communitarian. Ambedkar argued infavor of ideal community by pointing out the hindu community for its inhuman, oppressive and anti democratic ideals. The caste system prevents common activity and by preventing common activity it has prevented the hindus from becoming a society with a unified life and a consciousness of its own being.’[12]An ideal society should be mobile, should be full of channels for conveying a change taking place in one part to other parts. It is an ideal society there should be many interests consciously communicated and shared. There should be varied and free points of contacts with other modes of association. …fraternity, another name for democracy.. it is a primary more of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience[13].only when hindu society beces casless society that it can hope to have strength enough to defend itself. Without such internal strength, swaraj for hindus may turn out to be only a step towards slavery.[14]
Overcoming Tradition and Modernity dichotomy
The modern world view is characterized by universalism, rationalism and secularism. Modernity is opposed to the religious world view which is traditional. Tradition involves uncritical acceptance of the past which is in the form of dogmas, beliefs and super structures. Tradition is accumulated knowledge of the past which comes to its inheritors in the form of patterned hought and formula. Basically tradition isvested in religion and its irrational and mythical astructures. It is argued that contrary to tradition, modernity brings change in the attitudes, values and orientation of thinking and mental make up of the individual so as to make him/her rational , secular, liberal, self confident in a changing world. Modernity certainly involves break with the past. Reasoning plays predominant ole to evaluate beliefs, opinions, dogmas etc. modernity assumes that scientific thinking should have precedence over emotions and non-rational thought. Modernity also involves changes in the socio-economic and political structures facilitating industrialization , urbanization and democratization. From the economic point of view, modernity involves reorientation of the social structure bringing about material prosperity through increasing expansion of the productive forces of society and by equitable distribution of wealth. In short modern world view is based on empirical and scientific knowledge, and is incompitable with tradition on all important aspects of life.
It is argued by some thinkers that there is a dichotomous opposition between tradition and modernity. Modernity is considered to be the anti- thesis to tradition. But many scholars for different reasons contested the view that there is any dichotomy between tradition and modernity. Also some of the nationalist thinkers questioned the dichotomy between tradition and modernity. They challenged the hitherto dominant perspectives on modernity. Nationalist thinkers argued that modernity which is equated with industrialization, scientific and technological advancement was limited to western countries. the so called modernity suited colonial interests at the expense o colonized. Keeping this view in mind, which was put forward by the western colonial countries, was questioned. Gandhi’s ‘Hindu Swaraj’ in a fundamental sense, contested the above view. We can see in the thought of Gandhi a blend of tradition and modernity. He tried to integrate new patterns of thought and action on traditional culture. He attempted a merger of the three levels of Indian social system, viz., social stratification, culture, and polity into a pattern so that the break down of Indian tradition could be averted. Gandhi’s critique of western civilization ‘was critique of modernity and his central argument is that no enduring alternative can be pursued unless that alternative negotiated to the skills, capacities and wisdom of people.’[15]
When Vivek Pinto calls Gandhi’s work "critical traditionalism" and when Madhuri Sondhi suggests that Gandhi integrates Hindu dharma into modernism and that Hind Swaraj represents both a critique and an appropriation of modern ideas, both these authors are moving towards a constructive postmodern Gandhi. Indeed, Thomas Pantham has already arrived at this interpretation: "[Gandhi's] project . . . is one of overcoming modernism without regressing to traditionalism. In his approach, there is a merging of the reconstruction of Indian tradition and the reconstruction of Western modernity."

The contemporary Indian thinker, Ambedkar, also tried to overcome the tradition-modernity dichotomy. The critique of the tradition is accompanied in Ambedkar b refusal to accept readymade alternatives manufactured in the west. His philosophy is essentially ethical and religious and he keeps away from western thought. And at the same time, he attacked Hinduism and its claims as religion. His comment on Hinduism is illustrative of his position. ‘it is a misnomer to call it religion. Its philosophy is opposed to the very thing for which religion stands.’ Hence he considers Hinduism as anti-religious as for him, religion is love of truth. He upholds the moral basis of life while allowing critical reason to operate. He considers Buddhism as the only religion which can respond to the demands of modernity and culture. For him, Buddhist teachings are infallible and they are not making a claim to supernatural origin or authority. Buddhist teachings, he believes, appeal to reason and experience. By holding on to religiousness, he transcends the tradition-modernity dichotomy. He is critical of modernity and highlighted that the priority of social reconstruction can not be achieved without taking into account the legacy of tradition. He further considers that legal and political institutions do not have the capacity to reconstruct social solidarity, and therefore tries to provide a social basis for the liberal and political ethos which does not mean an uncritical acceptance of western modernity or indigenous traditionalism.

How the issue of caste and untouchability viewed by Gandhi and Ambedkar is decisive in assessing their political philosophy. The manner in which they differ from western liberal tradition and their proposal of moral community is crucial in initiating a dialogue with communitarian politics. The striking difference exists between Gandhi and Ambedkar on the conception of moral community/individual .Gandhi approached this problem from the caste hindu point of view and made an attempt to transform them at individual level. Ambedkar is critical about hindu social order from the point of dalits, the oppressive communities.
It is true that for Gandhi, Swaraj is unattainable without removal of the sins of untouchability as it is without hindu-muslim unity.[16] Gandhi claimed that the heart of the caste hindu could be changed by applying moral pressures within the framework of the hindu tradition. As Bikhu Parekh rightly pointed out, Untouchability was both moral and political problem. Gandhi’s campaign was conducted only at the moral and religious level. He concentrated on caste hindus rather than harijans, as appealed their feelings of shame and guilt, and succeeded in achieving his initial objections of discrediting untouchability and raising the level of hindu and, to a limited extent, harijan conscience. Since he did not organize and politicize the harijans, stress their rights and fight for a radical reconstruction the established social and economic order. Gandhi’s campaign was unable to go further. It gave harijans dignity but not power; moral and to some extent, social but not political and economic equality; self respect but not self confidence to organize and fight their own battles. It integrated them into the hindu social order but did little to release them from the cumulative cycle of deprivation. [17]
Unlike the unity argument put forwarded by Gandhi , Ambedkar’s critique provides a justice argument against caste system. Ambedkar makes difference between a (voluntary) political community, within which an individual exercises his legal rights, and a (coercive)cultural community within which individual could not even formulate their aims.A political community, argued Ambedkar may not be co-extensive withone cultural community, as is envisaged by the nation state. Ambedkar by arguing for the rights and basic needs of dalits, he challenges the assumptions of both nationalistic politics and indigenous communitarian politics.[18].
Ultimately truth for Gandhi as explained by Akeel Bilgrami, is not a cognitive notion at all. It is an experiential notion. It is not propositions purporting to describe the world of which truth predicated, it sonly our own moral experience which is capable of beingtrue..it is what in the end underlies his opposition to the enlightenment, despite the undeniably enlighten elements in his thought including his humanism and the concern that our moral judgments to be relevant to all people.[19] Ambedkar seems to provide an interesting point while talking about interrogating traditions of dominant groups and also becomes necessary to create critical, rational and democratic traditions by interrogating uncritical aspects of socio – cultural traditions of Dalit communities. The moral community of Ambedkar satisfies both test of reason and justice. Democracy needs not only equality at spiritual realm and should extend to every channel of life by providing equal opportunities to everybody to participate in it.
[1] Davis,Niva Yuval. Gender and Nation, Sage : London, 1997 p.13
[2] Kumar, Ravinder. Class, community or Nation ? Gandhi’s quest for a popular consensus in India. Modern Asian studies III, 4, pp.357-376

[3] Kymlicka, Will. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990. (pp.95-155).
[4] Knowles, Dudly. Political Philosophy. London: Routledge, 2001. (P: 177-237).
[5] Dallmayr, Fred R. ‘Political Theory at Cross Roads’ in From Contract to Community, Marcel Dekkar, Inc, New York, 1978. p.1
[6] Ibid.p.9
[7] Ibid p.9
[8] Bay, Christian, “Thoughts on Liberalism and Post- Industrial Society” in From Contract to Community. P.29-45.
[9] Iyer Raghavan Moral and political writings of MahatmaGandhi Vol.1 OUP, Delhi, 1986, p.7
[10] Kumar, Ravinder. Class, community or Nation ? Gandhi’s quest for a popular consensus in India. Modern Asian studies III, 4, p.376
[11] Rothermund, Indira The individual and society in GHandhi’s political thought , Journal of Asian studies Vol.28. No.2 (Feb.1969) pp.313-320.
[12] Dr.babasaheb ambedkar writing and speeches. Vol. 1 p.51
[13] Ibid p.56
[14] Ibid.80
[15] Rodrigues, Valerian , “Making aTradition critical: Ambedkar’s Reading of Budhism”, In Peter Robb, Dalit Movements and Meanings of Labour in India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993), p.305
[16] Gandhi (young India, 29th December 1920)quoted in Dr.babasaheb ambedkar writing and speeches.
Vol. 9 p.37

[17] Parekh, Bikhu colonialism, Tradition and reform an analysis of gandhian political discourseSAge ;, 1987 p.245-246
[18] Verma, Vidhu Colonialism and Liberation- Ambedkar’s quest for Disrtibutive Justice, EPW, September 25, 1999
[19] Bilgrami, Akeel Gandhi, the Philosopher, EPW, September27,2003

1 comment:

refractor said...

There is no doubt that the Brahmans are thieves. All the efforts should be made to eliminate their cultural hegemony.