Anarchism in India: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Anarchism in India

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In India, anarchism never took the form of formally named "anarchism".[1] The relevance of anarchism in India is primarily its effects on movements for national and social liberation.


Anti-government philosophy in ancient Hindu thought

In ancient Hindu thought, there are predecessors to the concept of a stateless society; for example, the Satya Yuga is often described as a possible anarchist society in which people govern themselves based on the universal law of dharma.[2] But at the same time while a stateless society is seen as a possibility, much of Hindu political thought focuses on the inherently evil nature of man and therefore of the divine right of kings to govern so long as they protect the people from harm; in the event that kings do not govern on the basis of dharma, Chanakyasutras allow that it is better not to have a king than have one who is wanting in discipline.[2] This contrasts with the Western notion of a universal divine right of kings regardless of the consequences.

Gandhi and anarchism

The local conditions were pertinent to the development of the heavily anarchic Satyagraha movement in India. George Woodcock claimed Mohandas Gandhi self-identified as an anarchist.[3] Anarchism in India finds its first well-known expression with a statement by Gandhi:[1]

The state evil is not the cause but the effect of social evil, just as the sea-waves are the effect not the cause of the storm. The only way of curing the disease is by removing the cause itself.

In Gandhi's view, violence is the source of social problems, and the state is the manifestation of this violence. Hence he concluded that "[t]hat state is perfect and non-violent where the people are governed the least. The nearest approach to purest anarchy would be a democracy based on nonviolence."[1] For Gandhi, the way to achieve such a state of total nonviolence (ahimsa) was changing of the people's minds rather than changing the state which govern people. Self-governance (swaraj) is the principle behind his theory of satyagraha. This swaraj starts from the individual, then moves outward to the village level, and then to the national level; the basic principal is the moral autonomy of the individual is above all other considerations.[1]

Gandhi’s admiration for collective liberation started from the very anarchic notion of individualism. According to Gandhi, the conscience of the individual is the only legitimate form of government. Gandhi averred that "Swaraj will be an absurdity if individuals have to surrender their judgment to a majority." He opined that a single good opinion is far better and beneficial than that of the majority of the population if the majority opinion is unsound. Due to this swaraj individualism he rejected both parliamentary politics and their instrument of legitimization, political parties. According to swaraj individualism the notion that the individual exists for the good of the larger organization had to be discarded in favor of the notion that the larger organization exists for the good of the individual, and one must always be free to leave and to dissent.[1] Gandhi also considered Leo Tolstoy's book, The Kingdom of God is Within You, a book about practical Anarchist organization, as the text to have the most influence in his life.

Bhagat Singh

Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh was attracted to anarchism

Before 1920, an anarchist movement was represented by one of the most famous revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement, Bhagat Singh. Singh was attracted to anarchism.[4] Western anarchism and communism had influence on him. He studied the writings of Mikhail Bakunin, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky.[1] Singh wrote in an article:[4]

The ultimate goal of Anarchism is complete independence, according to which no one will be ... crazy for money ... There will be no chains on the body or control by the state. This means that they want to eliminate ... the state; private property.

Singh was involved in the Hindustan Republican Association and Naujawan Bharat Sabha (Translated to 'Youth Society of India').[1][5] By the mid-1920s Singh began arming of the general population and organized people’s militias against the British. From May 1928 to September 1928, Singh published several articles on anarchism in Punjabi periodical "Kirti",[4] a pro-independence paper, on which he equated the traditional Indian idea of "universal brotherhood" to the anarchist principle of "no rulers". Despite being influenced by the writings of Lenin and Trotsky, Singh never joined the Communist Party of India because of the anarchist influence on him.[1] Anarchist ideas played a major role in both Gandhian and Singhian movements for swaraj.[1]

Har Dayal's anarchist activism in US

Indian revolutionary and the founder of the Ghadar Party Lala Har Dayal was involved in the anarchist movement in United States. He moved to the United States in 1911, where he became involved in industrial unionism. In Oakland, he founded the Bakunin Institute of California which he described as "the first monastery of anarchism". The organisation aligned itself with the Regeneracion movement founded by the exiled Mexicans Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón. Har Dayal understood the realisation of ancient Aryan culture as anarchism, which he also saw as the goal of Buddhism. The Ghadar Party attempted to overthrow the British in India by reconciling western concepts of social revolution - particularly those stemming from Mikhail Bakunin - with Buddhism.[6]

Dave Andrews

Australian Christian anarchist Dave Andrews lived in India between 1972 and 1984. In 1975, He and his wife founded and developed a residential community in India called Aashiana (out of which grew Sahara, Sharan and Sahasee – three well-known Christian community organisations working with slum dwellers, sex workers, drug addicts, and people with HIV/AIDS). When Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984, thousands of Sikhs were murdered by violent mobs. Andrews resisted this through non-violent methods of intervention. The Andrews' were forced to flee India soon thereafter.[7][8][9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Adams, Jason. Non-Western Anarchisms: Rethinking the Global Context Zalabaza Books, Johannesburg, South Africa.
  2. ^ a b Doctor, Adi Hormusji. (1964) Anarchist Thought in India. Bombay; New York: Asia Pub. House.
  3. ^ Woodcock, George (2004). "Prologue". Anarchism: a History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. Peterborough: Broadview Press. pp. 21. ISBN 1551116294. ""...Gandhi [...] sometimes called himself an anarchist...""  
  4. ^ a b c Bhagat Singh and the Revolutionary Movement
  5. ^ Martyrdom of Sardar Bhagat Singh by Jyotsna Kamat. Cited by University of California Berkely Library on South Asian History
  6. ^ Ghadar Movement: Ideology, Organisation and Strategy, Harish K. Puri, Guru Nanak Dev University Press, Amritsar: "The only account of Hardayal's short stay in that island Martinique, comes from Bhai Parmanand, a self exiled Arya Samajist missionary from Lahore, who stayed a month with him there. Har Dayal used that time, says Parmanand, to discuss plans to found a new religion: his model was the Buddha. He ate mostly boiled grain, slept on the bare floor and spent his time in meditation in a secluded place. Guy Aldred, a famous English radical and friend, tells us of Hardayal's proclaimed belief at that time in the coming republic "which was to be a Church, a religious confraternity . . . its motto was to be: atheism, cosmopolitanism and moral law' Parmamand says that Har Dayal acceded to his persuasion to go to the USA and decided to make New York a centre for the propagation of the ancient culture of the Aryan Race." (page 55) and "the ideal social order would be the one which approximated to the legendary Vedic period of Indian history because, as Har Dayal affirmed, practical equality existed only in that society, where there were no governors and no governed, no priests and no laymen, no rich and no poor." (page 112), referencing The Social Conquest of the Hindu Race and Meaning of Equality.
  7. ^ "The Spirit of Things". Retrieved 2007-12-25. "Look, we looked out the window and mobs of people were chasing down Sikhs because a Sikh had killed the Prime Minister, and people were in the backlash, slaughter the Sikhs. But I said, ‘If it was your father, or your husband, or your son, wouldn’t you want somebody to intervene?’ And I can remember at the time Ange said, ‘Yes, of course I would.’ The framework for a global ethic is recognising we’re all part of the same family, and realising that we’ve got that responsibility. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, I am, because I’m part of the same family, and that was an impulse to respond, to intervene, and to save some people’s lives. And that was I think highly significant."  
  8. ^ Dave Andrews; David Engwicht (1989). Can You Hear The Heartbeat?. Manila: OMF Literature. "There is one thing you need to know about Dave Andrews. He is dangerous. For example, after Indira Gandhi was shot, two or three thousand people were killed in twenty-four hours in the riots that followed. Mobs rampaged through streets looking for Sikhs to murder. Dave convinced Tony, a friend , that it was their job to go out and save these Sikhs. Finding a besieged house, they put themselves between an armed mob and a Sikh family and saved them from certain death. That's why Dave Andrews is dangerous. He is ordinary, yet believes ordinary people should take extraordinary risks to confront the cruelty in our world."  
  9. ^ "Lion Hudson: Christi-Anarchy - Dave Andrews". Retrieved 2008-01-01. "Graduated from Queensland, Australia, and went to India in 1972 with his wife Angie to set up a home for junkies, drop-outs and other disturbed people in Delhi. They subsequently founded a community for Indians, which they developed and ran until they were forced to leave India in 1984."  

Further reading

  • The Libertarian. (quarterly,1951- ) Bombay: Bombay Socialist Institute.
  • The gentle anarchists : a study of the leaders of the Sarvodaya movement for non-violent revolution in India by Geoffrey Ostergaard and Melville Currell, Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1971
  • "The Perennial Appeal of Anarchism" in Polity, Vol. 7, No. 2. (Winter, 1974), pp. 234–247 by Michael R. Dillon


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address