English (en) | Change Language

The word Swadeshi is rooted in the Indian cultural context and may be said to be deeply embedded in the Indian psyche. During the freedom struggle, the nationalist leader, Balagangadhar Tilak made a declaration – “ Swaraj is my birth right” to the then British government. This marked a public declaration of a radical departure from the position that had been till then widely held and expressed, namely, to seek reforms and improvement within the broad framework of the British colonial administration. However, it was left to Gandhiji who returned to India in 1916 after a long sojourn in South Africa to give flesh and muscle to this concept. During the three decades that followed his return to India from South Africa he came up with a series of constructive programmes that were all clustered around the concept of Swadeshi and Swaraj. Swaraj may be loosely translated as – “Self rule or Rule in accordance with once own basic or innate nature”. However, Gandhiji died within a few months of attainment of political freedom by India. While his influence at the level of thinking and philosophy has been deep and pervasive in Indian public life, it is a fact that he was not around to shape the destiny of free India after January 1948. It is still an open question as to what difference it would have made to the development of free India had he been around in public life even for a few years after attainment of independence. However, it is a fact that he never had the responsibility of (or chose not to) administering a modern nation state. Thus we are left guessing in terms of how he would have interpreted Swadeshi and Swarajya as an independent nation was evolving its thinking in policies from 1950 onwards. A very large number of individuals and organizations in India are still inspired and guided by the thinking and philosophy of Swadeshi though they may or may not choose to use this particular term. This monograph is an attempt to provide a summary and overview of some recent experiences in this area reflecting the work of the COMPAS partners from India.