Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule is a book written by Mohandas Gandhi aboard a ship in 1908. It was first published in serialized form in his newspaper Indian Opinion. The book is in dialogue form, with Gandhi playing the part of the "The Editor" and his putative young interviewer as "The Reader." Gandhi addresses a wide range of issues and doles out firm opinions, but it is important to remember that he himself cautioned readers that his views on any given topic evolved with time.
In Hind Swaraj, we see that Gandhi had a unique vision of India, one that was quite unorthodox among the Indian nationalists of the day. He starts off on the nature of British rule. He asserts that the British did not take India, but that Indians gave it to them by actively co-operating and often collaborating with them. He maintains that the idea of an Indian nation existed much before the advent of the British and cites Shankaracharya’s setting up of four temples across India as an example. According to him, the British idea of civilization is decadent and can only lead to destruction. He dissents with everyone in stating that parliamentary democracy is a corrupt form of government and that India should not adopt it.
Gandhi has extremely passionate views about modern education and industrialization. He vehemently opposes any changes to India’s traditional ways of life and brands all devices of industrialization and formal education as counter-productive. The extent of his bitter opposition to modern civilization can be seen at the end of the text when he extols doctors and lawyers to abandon their professions.
Politically, Gandhi projects himself as neither a Moderate nor an Extremist (The older Moderates and younger Extremeists formed the two leading camps of the Indian nationalist movement before Gandhi essentially took over from them). He does criticize the youth’s disregard for the Moderate leaders of yore and praises them for sowing the seeds of Swaraj (self-rule) in India. At the same time, he criticizes the Extremist tendencies for violence. He believes that the youth have an entirely wrong idea of freedom. In his eyes, India merely wanted to drive out the British and continue to embrace British ideals. This, he says, is wrong and he argues that India should do its best to preserve its ways.
Gandhi also displays a healthy optimism in regard to Hindu-Muslim relations. He does not concur with others when they say that Indian Muslims are really foreigners. Although he extols Muslims to respect and preserve cows (cow-slaughter was a touchy issue of the time), he does not want to force himself upon them. He feels that any future Indian government must be inclusive of all religions and the Indian population must ingest healthy doses of each other’s cultures to function as one people.
Perhaps the most important idea that he tried to convey was about the nature of Swaraj. While Swaraj was a cause that was dear to countless Indians, few really viewed it in the same terms as Gandhi. To most people, the realization of Swaraj simply meant Indians running their own country. To Gandhi, however, Swaraj was a more personal idea. It meant the rejection of what he saw as unholy influences of the West and the acceptance of traditional Indian spiritual and cultural values. Swaraj, then, had little to do with the removal of the British from India. While their eviction would have helped in maintaining traditional ways and preventing negative influences from outside, it was mostly besides the point. A true Ram Rajya (utopia) had little to do with who held the reigns of power, but depended heavily on Indians adopting Gandhi's ideas about Indian tradition and spiritualism. The British were welcome to stay on in India as long they gave up their industrialized, liberal-capitalistic ways and adopted simple agrarian lives.