Creative Regeneration

Gandhi's notion of Swaraj was, however, much more than simply a reactionary attempt towards decolonization in which the reference points for action and reflection were framed solely in relation to colonialism. The genius of Gandhi lies in taking us beyond post-modernist critiques of deconstructing the existing system and also beyond bivalent solutions, which force us to choose only between tradition vs. modernity. Swaraj is essentially a constructivist agenda and is linked to creating a new path for humanity. With this in mind, Gandhi links his Constructive Work Programme for village regeneration as a critical process in achieving purna (complete) swaraj. In this vision of development, action and reflection are necessarily deeply intertwined.

Swaraj is relevant to us today, in that, it represents a deep recognition that people themselves must continuously strive to create a different set of reference points, institutions, structures and processes - which are consistent with the diverse cultures, values, philosophies, wisdom traditions, and needs of the sub-continent as well as with the principles of the natural world - to inspire and guide their own development. Such development must be geared towards supporting the struggle to liberate our individual and collective potentialities and to discover what it means to be fully human. It must be linked to and guided by larger principles of justice, love and hope.

Critical to the concept of swaraj is a pluralistic and organic outlook on development: there is not, nor can there ever be, just one model for the entire world. Swaraj also requires that we regain our faith in the capacity of human beings and restore agency/locus of power back to individual and local communities (and stop seeing human beings as 'victims' or 'beneficiaries' or 'targets'). The process of swaraj seeks to create a reflective and participatory context for people to ask who we have been, who we are, and who we want to become, without the interference and intervention from externally-driven, prescriptive and homogenizing models of development. Underlying, catalyzing and providing continuous feedback to this process must be new opportunities and systems for conscious learning, un-learning, and re-learning which unleash the creativity, sensitivity and intrinsic motivation of people.