Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society Summer School “Gandhism and Maoism” – 1.
By Ashish Rajadhyaksha
on July 4th
Ashish Rajadhyaksha is the Director and Senior Fellow at Centre for the Study of Culture & Society, Bangalore. He was involved in the curation of various international film festivals and has published multiple books and produce extensive essays on cinema, technology, and democracy.
In the topic of “Gandhism and Maoism”, Ashish attempted in providing us with critical process of Indian struggle for independence through the lenses of two prominent figures of Indian nationalism and the iconic figures of decolonization; Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.
By tracing off retrospectively of their contradictory legacies in the formation of Indian nationalism, from the American Civil Rights movement in the United States to contemporary political struggle and positioning of the Occupy Central in Hong Kong, Gandhism has provided and presents formidable strategies and praxis in the realm of non-violence struggle worldwide. In this, with the emerging demands of the further democratization process, how do we then juxtapose Gandhism to our contemporary democracy?
By interrogating into paradoxical and complex perspectives of Gandhi on the cultures of cinema to the technological advancement experienced by India prior to the Independence in 1947, Ashish provides us with an illuminating point of views in understanding the development of liberal political practices stems and inherited, amongst others from the progressive tradition from various milieu of the societies.
Unraveling the significant contributions of the symbolic politics of everyday lives; through the banning of “modern” clothing, abandonment of examination, the usage of Charkha spinning wheel in opposing the European-made machinery during the pre-independence India, it serves as a vital signifier and structure in contesting the formation of India nationalism.
The utilization of diverse symbolic political and cultural signifier of India nationalism provides us with a critical projection on how the masses are consolidating itself to partake and involve directly in furthering the democratization cause in achieving the cause of Independence.
Of the conviction on how India’s independence not only will affect India tremendously, both Tagore and Gandhi were extrapolating the significance of the struggle to whole world in the realm of intellectual and ideological by rethinking the complexities of colonialism and its contradictions of cancerous ideology of colonialism of which it does not only confine and affect those who were being colonised but also the coloniser themselves.
By putting what they perceive as the contradiction and the ideological roots of the problems, Tagore situating his argument on the need to furthering the question of the political trajectory to move beyond the concept of nation and Gandhi through its consistent critiques in questioning modernity in its most fundamental way. These particular political positioning by both human of great stature then provide us with the foundation that triggers one of the most important 20th centuries modern-classic debate to the questions of nation and modernity.
In probing and problematizing the concept further, it does provide us with the insights in recognizing the certain structure of practice to the intellectual positioning of both; Tagore through his emphasization of organicism and Gandhi on his instrumentalist approach to the intellectual tradition. With the rigorous contrarian perspectives put forward by both thinker, the emergence process of democratization will no longer be the same in the modern day India.
 Gandhi, et al. The Mahatma and the Poet: Letters and Debates between Gandhi and Tagore, 1915-1941. National Book Trust, India, 2005.