"Gandhi met some Indian revolutionaries in London. He was impressed by their 'bravery', but he considered their zeal ‘misguided’ because they sought to free India by violent means, including bombing and political assassination. By the time Gandhi penned Hind Swaraj, he was already convinced that violence was not the Indian way of fighting injustice, and that it was the curse of the modern industrial civilization to humankind. Thus Hind Swaraj is as much a treatise on nonviolence and satyagraha as it is on the dangers inherent to modern civilization."
~ RK Mishra
Gandhi's notion of Swaraj was, however, much more than simply a reactionary attempt towards decolonization in which the reference points for action and reflection were framed solely in relation to colonialism, industrialization or nationalism. The genius of Gandhi lies in taking us beyond post-modernist critiques of deconstructing the existing system and also beyond false bivalent debates, which force us to choose only between tradition vs. modernity or capitalism vs. communism or masculine vs. feminine. Swaraj is essentially a constructivist agenda, an invitation to another cosmovision, and is linked to supporting a new awakening for humanity. With this in mind, Gandhi links his Constructive Work Programme for village regeneration as a critical process in achieving purna (complete) swaraj. In this vision of purna swaraj, experimentation, (un)learning and reflection are necessarily deeply intertwined.
Swaraj is very relevant to us today, in that, it represents a deep recognition that people themselves must continuously strive to create a different set of reference points, institutions, structures and tools - which are consistent with the diverse cultures, values, philosophies, wisdom traditions, and needs of the sub-continent as well as with the principles of the natural world - to inspire and guide their own definitions of the good life. Such development must be geared towards supporting the struggle to liberate our individual and collective potentialities and to discover what it means to be fully human and fully in harmony with nature. It must be linked to and guided by larger principles of justice, love and hope. Critical to the concept of swaraj is a pluralistic and organic understanding of life: there is not, nor can there ever be, just one monoculture model of development for the entire world. Swaraj also requires that we regain our faith in the capacity of human beings and restore agency/locus of power back to individual and local communities (and stop seeing human beings as 'victims' or 'beneficiaries' or 'targets'). The process of swaraj seeks to create a reflective and participatory context for people to ask who we have been, who we are, and who we want to become, without the interference and intervention from externally-driven, prescriptive and homogenizing models of development. It also calls for us to engage in new ways with the complex challenges that threaten to overwhelm us. Underlying, catalyzing and providing continuous feedback to this process must be new opportunities and systems for conscious learning, un-learning, and up-learning which unleash the creativity, the sensitivity, the playfulness and the diverse forms of power within people.