Special Correspondent

MUMBAI: Preparations are afoot to celebrate the centenary of ‘Hind Swaraj’ (Indian Home Rule) written by Mahatma Gandhi.

It is his seminal work; his first book considered the seed for Gandhism. The Mahatma spells out his powerful message of ‘ahimsa.’ It was this text that Tolstoy, Romain Rolland, Nehru and Rajaji read and commented upon.

The year-long celebrations, marked by special meetings and seminars, will be held from November 8 throughout the country.

Besides the national level celebration committee headed by Tibetan spiritual leader Samdhong Rinpoche, panels have been formed in most of the States and even in many districts, says Ankush Sawant, a member of the Maharashtra Committee that recently held an orientation camp at the Sevagram Ashram of Gandhiji, Wardha.

He told The Hindu that the meetings would propagate Gandhiji’s views on satyagraha, democracy, education, communal harmony, and protection of environment, while taking up the challenge of explaining Gandhism even to those who interpreted it negatively.

Gandhiji wrote ‘Hind Swaraj’ in just 10 days, between November 13 and 22, 1909, on board s.s. ‘Kildonam Castle’ during his return voyage from England to South Africa after a failed mission to London. The British Parliament was to debate a draft bill for the creation of the Union of South Africa.

The Indian community had sent the Transvaal Indian deputation consisting of Hajee Habib and Gandhiji to London to lobby for its interests.

The Mahatma pondered over India and independence during the four-month stay and deliberated on issues with the Indian ‘anarchists’ and others. Among them were Dr. Pranjivan Mehta, Shyamjikrishna Verma and V.D. Savarkar.

Earlier, he read works on Indian philosophy and books by Tolstoy, Ruskin, Thoreau and Emerson.

Gandhiji wrote in Gujarati on the ship’s stationery at such a furious pace that when he felt pain in the right hand, he continued with the left as if he were under some inspiration. “I have written because I could not restrain myself,” the author writes in the foreword of the book, dated November 22, 1909.

On March 10, 1910, ‘Hind Swaraj’ was intercepted at Mumbai and given to the Gujarati interpreter of the Madras High Court to check if it was seditious. When this news reached the author in South Africa, he lost no time in translating the work into English to provide the English an authentic version. This is the only book he wrote in two languages.