For Love of Country: Gandhi and Tagore

In Mrinal Miri & Bindu Puri (eds.), Gandhi for the 21st Century: Religion, Morality and Politics. Springer Nature Singapore. pp. 63-108 (2023)
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Abstract

As is fairly well-known several issues raised by Tagore became a subject of some debate between Gandhi and him during the years between 1915 and 1941 (Puri, 2015). These issues could be broadly categorized into two, those concerning an uncritical adoption of the western modular nation as the end/goal by those engaged in the movement for India’s freedom and those concerning satyagraha (in the form of non-cooperation, boycott, fasting, etc.) as the unquestioned “moral” (Bhattacharya, 2008: 49) means to that end. This essay will examine the first set of issues and argue that though Tagore had difficulties with what he described as “the nation of the west” (Tagore, 1996: 425) these difficulties did not amount to a rejection of the “case for self-determination-the forging of the national links” (Berlin, 1999: 264) or of an independent politically reorganized Indian nation but were targeted at the uncritical acceptance of “the nation of the west” (Tagore, 1996. 425)/“cruel epidemic of evil” (ibid., 424) which was “sweeping over the human world” (ibid.); as the goal of India’s struggle for freedom/swaraj. This essay will take issue with scholars who argue that Tagore’s arguments against the western nation did not distance him from Gandhi because both shared insights into the illegitimacy of the nation-state. It will suggest, to the contrary, that what these thinkers had rejected was the modular western nation-state which they saw as a product of enlightenment modernity, and that this was not a rejection of the nation per se. Gandhi and Tagore came together in their “love of country” (Bhattacharya, 2008: 70), expressed in/by a resolve of building a praja or great eastern nesan in continuity with the premodern communities of India’s past. One which was modelled closely along the lines of harmony in diversity and in the spirit of Tagore’s swadeshi samaj/indigenous Indian society.

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Bindu Puri
Jawaharlal Nehru University

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