Anarchism in India
Anarchism in India has never taken the name anarchism, and is relevant primarily its effects on movements for national and social liberation.
Non-government philosophy in ancient Hindu thought
In ancient Hindu thought, there are predecessors to the concept of a stateless society; for example, the Satya Yuga is often described as a possible anarchist society in which people govern themselves based on the universal law of dharma. But, at the same time while a stateless society is seen as a possibility, much of Hindu political thought focuses on the inherently mixed nature of man (benign and malign) and therefore of the divine right of kings to govern so long as they protect the people from harm; in the event that kings do not govern on the basis of dharma, Chanakya sutras allow that it is better not to have a king than have one who is wanting in discipline. This contrasts with the Western notion of a universal divine right of kings regardless of the consequences.
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Unlike the modern Western Anarchist theories, the Vedic Anarchism is a time tested and successfully established anarchist model of the ancients. The rishis who have given Vedas are the first founders of Vedic anarchist societies. They dwelled in forests outside the control of any state or governments, and enforced a values based living through the knowledge on Rta and dharma. Unlike the Western anarchism that emphasises priority to anti-state and anti-rulers policies, Vedic Anarchism deals with balance of powers, non-hierarchical and decentralised polity, community living, and ecologically sustainable lifestyles through its varna, ashrama, dharma, and Janapada systems.
The Janapada system created a non-hierarchical and decentralised polity of root-level democracy.
Each of the Janapadas was named after the Kshatriya tribe (or the Kshatriya Jana) who had settled therein. Within each Janapadas existed the Varna system distributing the socioeconomic powers, creating village communities that are completely independent from the state and completely inter-dependent within itself.
The Vedic polity of root-level democracy has turned the entire India as a community and village based society. These villages are completely self-sufficient, self-governing (swaraj), cooperative, nature bound, and ensured complete independence from the state and its politics. Thomas Munroe, Charles Metcalfe, and Mark Wilks are a few of the Orientalists who have eloquently described this importance village communities held in India.
|“||The village communities [in India] are little republics, having nearly everything they can want within themselves, and almost independent of any foreign relations.....Dynasty after dynasty tumbles down; revolution succeeds to revolution;....but the village community remains the same....nearly everything that they want within themselves and [are] almost independent of any foreign relations.||”|
|“||These communities contain in miniature all the materials of a State within themselves, and are almost sufficient to protect their members, if all governments are withdrawn.||”|
Because of the Janapada system, anarchism ruled the roots and roosts of India irrespective of kings and other types of rulers. Its influence is very strong and far reaching, even in the colonial period, the colonialists found that the establishment of Vedic anarchism through its village communities as the most difficult barrier to break and could not completely enforce their hegemony.
Gandhi and anarchism
The local conditions were pertinent to the development of the heavily anarchic Satyagraha movement in India. George Woodcock claimed Mohandas Gandhi self-identified as an anarchist. Gandhi also considered Leo Tolstoy's book, The Kingdom of God is Within You, a book about practical anarchist organisation, as the text to have the most influence in his life.
Before 1920, a partly anarchist inspired movement was represented by one of the most famous revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement, Bhagat Singh. Though a Marxist, Bhagat Singh was attracted to anarchism. Western anarchism and communism had influence on him. He studied the writings of Mikhail Bakunin, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Singh wrote in an article:
|“||The ultimate goal of Anarchism is complete independence, according to which no one will be ... crazy for money ... There will be no chains on the body or control by the state. This means that they want to eliminate ... the state; private property.||”|
Singh was involved in the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association and Naujawan Bharat Sabha (Translated to 'Youth Society of India'). By the mid-1920s Singh began arming of the general population and organised people’s militias against the British. From May 1928 to September 1928, Singh published several articles on anarchism in Punjabi periodical "Kirti".
Har Dayal's anarchist activism in US
Indian revolutionary and the founder of the Ghadar Party Lala Har Dayal was involved in the anarchist movement in United States. He moved to the United States in 1911, where he became involved in industrial unionism. In Oakland, he founded the Bakunin Institute of California which he described as "the first monastery of anarchism". The organisation aligned itself with the Regeneracion movement founded by the exiled Mexicans Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón. Har Dayal understood the realisation of ancient Aryan culture as anarchism, which he also saw as the goal of Buddhism. The Ghadar Party attempted to overthrow the British in India by reconciling western concepts of social revolution - particularly those stemming from Mikhail Bakunin - with Buddhism.
MPT Acharya was a contemporary of Har Dayal in London and fellow revolutionary in India House. Like a number of other Indian revolutionaries of the time, Acharya turned to socialism at the end of first world war to aid the Indian cause. However he was disillusioned by the communist movement and by the early 1920s had turned towards Anarchism, along with Virendranath Chattopadhyaya. He took an active role in promoting Anarchist works in and was contributed at this time to the Russian Anarchist publication Rabotchi Put. In 1931, he lived in Amsterdam working with the school of Anarcho-syndicalism. Acharya came to be acquainted in early 1930s acquainted with Marxist-leaning Indian industrialist from Bombay, Ranchoddas Bhavan Lotvala. Lotvala had financed The Socialist, one of the first Marxist periodicals in India. Lotvala also financed the translation and publication of many leftist literature including the Communist manifesto. The British-Indian ban on Acharya was lifted in 1935 and he returned to Bombay that same year, where he managed a living as a journalist. During this time, Acharya wrote eight articles during this time which would later be collated to be published as a book called Reminesces of a Revolutionary. From Bombay, Acharya established correspondence with Japanese anarchist Taiji Yamaga and Chinese anarchist Lu Jinbao. The result of the correspondences led to the three establishing contacts with Commission de Relations de l’Internationale Anarchiste (Liaison Commission of the Anarchist International). In the following years, Acharya contributed to anarchist publications such as Freedom in London, Tierra y Libertad in Mexico and Contre Courant in Paris. He also remained in correspondence with Albert Meltzer for more than fifteen years.
In the following years Acharya was appointed secretary of the Indian Institute of Sociology, established under Lotvala's patronage in the 1930s. In later years, Acharya's influence on the institute saw it adopts a number of statutes in 1947 and subsequently the institute adopted the name of Libertarian Socialist Institute. His views on economic matters were profound and in 1951, Free Society Group of Chicago published his work How Long Can Capitalism Survive? in 1951.
Australian Christian anarchist Dave Andrews lived in India between 1972 and 1984. In 1975, he and his wife founded and developed a residential community in India called Aashiana (out of which grew Sahara, Sharan and Sahasee – three well-known Christian community organisations working with slum dwellers, sex workers, drug addicts, and people with HIV/AIDS). When Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984, thousands of Sikhs were murdered by violent mobs. Andrews resisted this through non-violent methods of intervention. The Andrews' were forced to flee India soon thereafter.
- Indian independence movement
- Adams, Jason. Non-Western Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context Archived 2015-10-01 at the Wayback Machine Zalabaza Books, Johannesburg, South Africa.
- Doctor, Adi Hormusji. (1964) Anarchist Thought in India. Bombay; New York: Asia Pub. House.
- Y. K Mishra - Bihar (India); Tribes of Ancient India, 1977
- Vasudeva Sharana Agrawala - India; India in the Time of Patañjali, 1968, p 68, Dr B. N. Puri - India; Socio-economic and Political History of Eastern India, 1977, p 9, Y. K Mishra - Bihar (India); Tribes of Ancient India, 1977, p 18, Mamata Choudhury - Ethnology; Tribal Coins of Ancient India, 2007, p xxiv, Devendra Handa - Coins, Indic - 2007; The Journal of the Numismatic Society of India, 1972, p 221, Numismatic Society of India - Numismatics .
- A History of Pāli Literature, 2000 Edition, p 648, Some Ksatriya Tribes of Ancient India, 1924, pp 230-253, Dr B. C. Law.
- Metacalfe, Charles (1830). Report from the Select committee in the House of Commons, Evidence, III Revenue, Appendices, minute dated November 7, 1830. London. Search this book on
- Elphinstone, Mountstuart Elphinstone (1821). Report on the Territories Conquered from the Paishwa. Calcutta: Government Press. p. 17. Search this book on
- Woodcock, George (2004). "Prologue". Anarchism: a History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. Peterborough: Broadview Press. p. 21. ISBN 1-55111-629-4.
...Gandhi [...] sometimes called himself an anarchist...Search this book on
- Weber, Thomas (January 2010). "Tolstoy and Gandhi's Law of Love". SGI Quarterly. Archived from the original on 2012-12-07. Retrieved 2012-11-21. Unknown parameter
- Bhagat Singh and the Revolutionary Movement Archived 2015-10-01 at the Wayback Machine
- Martyrdom of Sardar Bhagat Singh by Jyotsna Kamat. Cited by University of California Berkeley Library on South Asian History
- Ghadar Movement: Ideology, Organisation and Strategy, Harish K. Puri, Guru Nanak Dev University Press, Amritsar: "The only account of Hardayal's short stay in that island Martinique, comes from Bhai Parmanand, a self exiled Arya Samajist missionary from Lahore, who stayed a month with him there. Har Dayal used that time, says Parmanand, to discuss plans to found a new religion: his model was the Buddha. He ate mostly boiled grain, slept on the bare floor and spent his time in meditation in a secluded place. Guy Aldred, a famous English radical and friend, tells us of Hardayal's proclaimed belief at that time in the coming republic "which was to be a Church, a religious confraternity . . . its motto was to be: atheism, cosmopolitanism and moral law' Parmamand says that Har Dayal acceded to his persuasion to go to the USA and decided to make New York a centre for the propagation of the ancient culture of the Aryan Race." (page 55) and "the ideal social order would be the one which approximated to the legendary Vedic period of Indian history because, as Har Dayal affirmed, practical equality existed only in that society, where there were no governors and no governed, no priests and no laymen, no rich and no poor." (page 112), referencing The Social Conquest of the Hindu Race and Meaning of Equality.
"The Spirit of Things". Archived from the original on 10 January 2008. Retrieved 25 December 2007.
Look, we looked out the window and mobs of people were chasing down Sikhs because a Sikh had killed the Prime Minister, and people were in the backlash, slaughter the Sikhs. But I said, ‘If it was your father, or your husband, or your son, wouldn’t you want somebody to intervene?’ And I can remember at the time Ange said, ‘Yes, of course I would.’ The framework for a global ethic is recognising we’re all part of the same family, and realising that we’ve got that responsibility. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, I am, because I’m part of the same family, and that was an impulse to respond, to intervene, and to save some people’s lives. And that was I think highly significant.Unknown parameter
Dave Andrews; David Engwicht (1989). Can You Hear The Heartbeat?. Manila: OMF Literature.
There is one thing you need to know about Dave Andrews. He is dangerous. For example, after Indira Gandhi was shot, two or three thousand people were killed in twenty-four hours in the riots that followed. Mobs rampaged through streets looking for Sikhs to murder. Dave convinced Tony, a friend , that it was their job to go out and save these Sikhs. Finding a besieged house, they put themselves between an armed mob and a Sikh family and saved them from certain death. That's why Dave Andrews is dangerous. He is ordinary, yet believes ordinary people should take extraordinary risks to confront the cruelty in our world.Search this book on
"Lion Hudson: Christi-Anarchy - Dave Andrews". Archived from the original on April 21, 2005. Retrieved 2008-01-01.
Graduated from Queensland, Australia, and went to India in 1972 with his wife Angie to set up a home for junkies, drop-outs and other disturbed people in Delhi. They subsequently founded a community for Indians, which they developed and ran until they were forced to leave India in 1984.Unknown parameter
- The Libertarian. (quarterly,1951- ) Bombay: Bombay Socialist Institute.
- The gentle anarchists : a study of the leaders of the Sarvodaya movement for non-violent revolution in India by Geoffrey Ostergaard and Melville Currell, Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1971
- "The Perennial Appeal of Anarchism" in Polity, Vol. 7, No. 2. (Winter, 1974), pp. 234–247 by Michael R. Dillon
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