Mahatma Gandhi A Historical Biography

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Item Code: IDL215
Author: Bidyut Chakrabarty
Publisher: Lotus Collection Roli Books
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 8174365060
Pages: 326
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.8"
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Book Description
From the Jacket

Quite distinct from the abundant literature available on Mahatma Gandhi, this historical biography attempts to articulate the historiography of India’s freedom struggle of which Gandhi was undoubtedly the central figure. Relooking at key issues and themes that have been raised in the research conducted over the past few decades, this is an interpretative essay that seeks to contextualize Gandhi and his ideology of ahimsa and satyagraha.

Instead of focusing merely on Gandhi’s personal life, Prof. Bidyut Chakrabarty also conceptualizes the evolution of his ideas in the context of anticolonial nationalism. A nationalism of the Mahatma that for the first time in the history of the independence struggle reached every village and taluk of the state. A nationalism for a country and a society based on his principles of nai talim (new education) and servodaya (uplift of all). But was it the right path and ideology for a new and emerging nation?

Despite being Gandhi-centred, the biography is thus imbued with questions which it attempts to answer. Though a unique study of one of the most prominent personalities of the twentieth century, it addresses areas of human concerns, which will always remain universal in scope and content.

Bidyut Chakrabarty holds a doctorate from the London School of Economics and is now Professor and Head of the Department of Political Science and also the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Delhi. He has several publications and has lectured extensively in India and abroad.


This Historical Biography is a Critical Gandhian response to those who tend to belittle the academic feats of any kind by referring to their ‘pipe-line’ publications. In this world of academia, these individuals flourish by networks drawing not on serious academic works, but on ‘back-scratching’ among those belonging to the so-called ‘mutual admirer club’. In the name of academic excellence (justifying their academic pretensions) these individual despite having devastatingly damaged the natural growth of our academia survive as ‘parasites’. The aim of this biography is thus two-fold: first, to reiterate the basic dictum of academia: Vidya Dadati Vinayam (Learning makes people humble), and secondly, to uphold the spirit of fraternity among those in the academia who still believe that academics is not merely a profession, but also a vocations. Instead of a fraternal bond, factions seem to have ruled the roost now. The schism between factions is not ‘principle-based’ but ‘personalized ideology’, largely idiosyncratically defined self-seeking means.

Gandhi’s life is instructive. In his fight against the mighty imperial power, he was guided by ahimsa, which he never compromised even in adverse circumstances. Following the Chauri Chaura, Gandhi, for instance, withdrew the Non Cooperation Movement despite opposition from his colleagues. To him, it was ‘a Himalayan blunder’ and yet, he defended his decision simply because the campaign had deviated from ahimsa. The same Gandhi did not, however, assert to the extent he was expected when the Congress stalwarts agreed to accept partition as a major condition for the final transfer of power. Gandhi was thus a true ‘organic’ intellectual who epitomized ‘praxis’ in its classical definition.

Formatted in ‘life and times’ perspective, the biography is both a tribute to this greatest Indian and an intellectual account of his ideas and deeds that he undertook in a specific historical context of British colonialism. I owe a debt of gratitude to my family, my peers, my teachers and those who interacted with me when I had an opportunity to speak on Gandhi. I am thankful to my colleagues in the South Asian Studies Programme of National University Singapore, especially Professor Peter Reeves for his personal care and intellectual support during my stay in the campus. In the completion of this work, Dr Ian Copland of Mohash University, Melbourne, had a very significant role, which he played more as a true friend in the Down-Under and less as a sponsor. I fondly remember Professor Ronald Terchek for having kindled my sustained interest in Gandhi and ahimsa. Professor Bob Frykenberg contributed immensely to this project by providing relevant inputs as and when I had asked for. My colleague in the University of Hull (England), Professor Bhikhu Parekh remains a constant source of inspiration to my intellectual feat. Without Dipakda’s uncritical support in my fight against those distorting the system for narrow personal gains, it would not have been possible for me to remain Gandhian in my response. Subratada and Dipa Boudi made my regular trip to their home in CR Park most interesting not only because they provided ‘food for thought’ but also for their fulfilling company.

I thankfully remember my students and my family. Sanchita contributes to my tenacity by expressing doubts in my ability to handle our children, Barbie and Pablo, and my academic works simultaneously. Barbie and Pablo have sustained my interests in creativity by their constant engagement in activities that are not stereotypical and hence require innovations while gauging their nature and impact. By her frugal lifestyle, my mother makes me believe in the natural beauty of simple life long before I was drawn to Mahatma’s philosophy of life. My Calcutta-based sisters provide resources for life in circumstances, which are not exactly conducive for academic creativity.

Finally, I would like to remember those individuals pretending to be my friends when the cloud disappears and blue sky is visible with an earnest request to avoid indulging in hara-kiri for narrow personal gains. We survive if we appreciate academic excellence regardless of creed, colour and clan. We ruin ourselves if we do otherwise.

Back of the Book

‘The last two years of Gandhi’s life were most significant for India’s freedom struggle, The 1946 communal riots in Calcutta and Noakhali convinced the leading Congress stalwarts, including Nehru and Patel, of the need for Partition despite the fact that none of them endorsed the two-nation theory. What is also striking is the conspicuous absence of Gandhi in the final negotiation for the transfer of power. Gandhi had no alternative; it seems , but to accept the decision of other younger leaders, Was Gandhi strategic in his response for was he persuaded by the arguments made in favour of Partition, one wonders. The doubt persists because the Mahatma was never at ease with the idea of Pakistan, Jinnah’s separate Muslim state. In his prayer meeting in June 1947, he argued, “Pakistan is a bad thing

What is there to rejoice over it? Our country has been divided. What is there in it to celebrate…our land has been divided; does it mean that we should divide our hearts? How can the people of a country become two people? India can have only one people.”


Introduction 1
1 Articulation of a New Ideology: Gandhi, Satyagraha and Ahimsa 40
2 The Rise of Gandhi as a Pan-Indian Leader: The Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience Movements 81
3 Do or Die: Gandhi’s Articulation of Freedom 125
4 The Mahatma and the Masses 188
5 Gandhi and his Colleagues: Rabindranath Tagore and B.R. Ambedkar 235
6 The Mahatma and the Marginal Gandhi 277
Conclusion 296
Glossary 314
Bibliography 316
Index 323
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