The Impact of Gandhism on Assamese Novels: With Special Reference to “Jibanor Batot” And “Dawar Aru Nai”

Nurul Islam

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as we call him Gandhiji and the father of the nation, spearheaded the Indian struggle for independence against the British rule in India and had been the greatest political and spiritual leader of modern India. He had a political, economical and social philosophy of life, which together later on has been termed as Gandhism. Gandhi was such an influential personality in Indian society that during his time almost every Indians were influenced by his ideals. Particularly non-violence policy has been recognized by one and all. His philosophy has opened up to the world a new dimension of the Indian attitude towards life, society and spirituality. His entire life and work represent the perfect synthesis of religiousness and society. Religion, the source of his entire social and political attitude is not creedal. Gandhi says: “I do not believe that the spiritual law operates in a field of its own. On the contrary, it expresses itself only the ordinary activities of life. It thus affects the Economic, the Social and Political fields.” (Mahatma Gandhi, Young India, 3 September 1925)1.

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Gandhi advised the people of India to use the same ideal in the field of politics, economics, and society and also in the individual life. Gandhi’s influences in the socio-political and economic history in Assam had tremendous effects. In Assam also thousands of volunteers under the leadership of Gandhi took part in the freedom struggle. Even literary and cultural personality like Jyotiprasad Agarwalla participated very actively in the non-cooperation movement. The other phases of agitation like Civil Disobedience of 1930 and Quit India Movement of 1940 received very good response from the people of Assam. Many authors of later days had their experiences of freedom struggle during those days, which were reflected by them later on in their writings.

Assamese writers including the novelists could not escape from the great influence of Gandhism which was a spirit of that age. A group of Assamese novelists just after the great historical novels of Rajanikanta Bordoloi, like Daibachandra Talukdar, Dandinath Kalita, etc. wrote some novels of social reformation based on Gandhiji’s philosophy of life and Indians Freedom Struggle Movement. After independence, the novelists like Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya, who wrote mainly political novels, Navakanta Baruah, Yogesh Das, Arun Sarma, etc. brought new themes and forms based on the incidents and characters of Indian Freedom Struggle Movement. The story- line also underwent changes along with forms during that time.

The scope of Gandhi’s thought and ideas are very comprehensive. Gandhi has not excluded any aspects of human life from his area of discussion. But yet basic characteristics of Gandhiji’s thought and ideas are – God, Truth, Ahimsa (non-violence), Satyagraha (Adherence to truth), politics, religion, education, economic and social concepts. These ideals and thoughts of Gandhi has permanent validity and relevance in the present age of Science and Technology. Gandhi used the term God, Truth and Ahimsa in a synonymous way. Gandhi himself says “I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and non-violence are as old as hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scales are I could. In doing so I have sometimes erred learnt by my errors. Life and its problems have thus become to me so many experiments in the practice of truth and non-violence. In fact it was in the course of my pursuit of truth that I discovered non-violence.” (D.M. Dutta, The Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, p.77) 2.

According to him truth and non-violence are not different. They are like the two sides of a coin. Ahimsa is the means and truth is the end. Gandhi was a firm believer of God. According to him, God is not external. He is in every body’s heart. He says “There is an indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it though I do not see it. It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies proofs, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses” (Young India, October, 11, 1928) 3. He says, self realization is the only way to God realization and this is possible through the service to the society.

In 1925 he wrote Young India that “God made his luck in India. So, if he could not serve human being than he would be liar. He said he don’t Know how to serve the Society and will never know. He tried his best to reduce the pain and suffering of the Champaron cultivators, and said as he always became face to face with God, Ahimsa and Truth. Gandhi’s best method is Satyagraha through which other methods are developed. According to Gandhi Truth is God and Satyagraha is ‘agraha’ of ‘Satya’ and thus, it means holding fast to truth” (N.K. Bose, “Selection from Gandhi, pp.218) 4.

Gandhi though was a 20th century philosopher yet he never separated politics from religion. According to him politics is the inseparable part of morality and religion. In Gandhi’s eyes religion is not Hinduism or Islam. Religion is universal law and this law pervades every body’s heart. In reality Religions involve in every field. According to him, real religion can never teach hatred. In this regard politics should be based on religion. Gandhi says with firm that those who say that there is no any relation between religion and politics don’t know what religion is”. Even in politics he made experiments and successfully worked on the conviction that hate and violence could be conquered by love and suffering. (B.K. Bose, Selection from Gandhi, P, 27) 5.

In Gandhi’s thought political freedom is very important. This is called Swaraj. That is why he had launched a non-violent struggle in order to gain political freedom for India. He says “As every country is free to eat, to drink and breathe, even so is every nation free to manage its own affairs, no matter how badly” (Young India 15-10-31) 6.
Gandhi’s aim was how to develop countrymen and he knew that ‘without true education development can never be possible.’ Therefore, Gandhi defines education in this way, “By best education I mean an all round drawing out of the best in child and man body, mind and spirit.” “I hold that true education of the intellect can only come through a proper exercise and training of the bodily organs” (Harijan, 31st July1937) 7.

Gandhi was not the supporter of western education. Therefore, he gives the preference on the method of ‘Buniadhi Shiksha’ which may make Indians’ real education. He was in favour of women education. But he never supported Britisher’s method of education for women. He wanted a separate training method that can make a woman economically free.

Gandhi wanted a classless society where there should not be any differences between higher and lower, poor and rich, educated and uneducated, etc. According to him society should be based on morality, humanity and equality. Gandhi says, such a society is a Sorvodaya society. The characteristics of such a society are love, Ahimsa, truth and justice.

Gandhi’s economic is in favour of the upliftment of the poor class of the society. He wanted such an economic base of society where every village should be self-contained at least with respect to daily necessities of life, like food, clothing, basic education, health, sanitation and similar other things. Gandhi was aware that complete economic equality is not possible. Therefore, according to him the economic basis of society must be moral one. Society must be based on love and trust. He was against too much of industrialization. He says, too much of Industrialization poisons the very spirit of man. So, he was in favour of small industries where the individuals will be benefited individually. He thought that each and every individual should give importance on crafts like, carpentry, poultry, spinning, weaving or any other similar handicraft. By actually doing manual work while learning, the individual will develop interest in his work and will be able to give out his best (Harijan, 31st July 1937) 8.

This paper will basically see the Yogesh Das novel “Dawar Aru Nai” and Bina Boruah’s novel “Jibanar Batat”. These two novels are influenced by Gandhism. In “Dawar Aru Nai” one of the main characters of the novel Bakhar is the epitome of Gandhi’s idealism of truth, peace and non-violence. Bakhar stands on non-violence and a clean, corruption free life is guided by the great Gandhian Principles and “Jibanar Batat” depicts the influence of Indian freedom movement in the villages of Assam. Dharani, a weaving master and husband of heroine Tagar suffered long spell of imprisonment for taking part in the non-cooperation movement and other agitational programmes in the area. In this novel, the master story-teller brings out very clearly how the rural people of Assam supported heartily the Indian freedom struggle and suffered even imprisonment.

The novel “Dawar Aru Nai” has shown the evil impact of war on society. There may be negative and positive impact of war. Therefore war is not useful for human society. Of course, this novel is not against war. It has shown that though there is bad effect of war, yet sometimes war is important for human civilization and peace i.e noble Bakhor said to his wife: “Look kuki, common people does not want war but peace. But I cannot deny that for the sack of peace war is fought” (Dawar Aru Nai, Page 62) 9. After this Bakhor thinks again. “War is needed. To teach the savage people bullet of gun is important. There is no any way without ‘Tit for Tat” (Dawar Aru Nai, page 63) 10. Therefore; the purpose of this novel is not to show the destructive aspect of war, rather it has shown the evil impact of war on human society and morality. It can be found out from the story and plot of the novel. In this novel Bakhor asked Bhim to write about war. When he was teaching and admired Bhim for his writing. Bhim writes: “War is bad, because war makes men bad; war breaks down the heart of men. It breaks down the family and society. The man becomes bad when he goes for war (Dawar Aru Nai, Page 105) 11.

Thus, this novel has shown the evil effect of war. The purpose of this novel is not to show the negative impact of war or to make the plot of war. Of course, this novel has reflected the 2nd World War, its news and opinion regarding war. For example, in one place of the novel Bakhar thought: The world cannot be left in the hand of arbitrary ruler. If the Europe is left in the hand of Hitler, it would mean to sacrifice a civilization. To allow to do anything to the homeless Jews does not mean civilization” (Dawar Aru Nai, Page 63) 12.

Thus the character of the Bakhar focuses very clearly the Gandhian ideology. Bakhar understand very well that peace is possible through non-violence, not through violence. In this novel though Bakhar has not directly participated in the national movement but yet he stands as a symbol of Gandhiji’s Sacrifice, tolerance, self-control, peace and Ahimsha. So, it is seen that Bakhar as a simple boy though not directly involved in the national movement but yet influenced by the ideology of Gandhi. Bakhar is the symbol of courage, patience, sacrifice and love, who never hated others.

In the novel “Jibanar Batot” also shows the impact of Gandhism through the character of Dharani, a weaving master. This novel has shown that Dharani himself particited in the national movement and suffered long spell of imprisonment and later on he became a leader in Raha region of upper Assam and led the people of the Raha area for the national movement.

It has said in the novel that “Dharani gives importance on suffering of the country by leaving all the responsibilities at his wife’s hand. Nothing is impossible to do. Dharani himself was involved in the development of the villagers. In that time non-cooperation movement is started. Students started to make the villagers aware by leaving schools and colleges. There is only sound everywhere in the villages “Vande Mataram, Mahatma Gandhi Ki Joy, Bharat Mata Ki Jay”. The unaware people of the villages became aware by that sound. Every villagers boycott foreign goods and burned their cloths. Picketing is started in every opium shop (Jibanar Batot, page 126) 13.

“It is good, nobody get courage to sell opium for the torture of the volunteers. No no , these cannot be done.” “You see how I sell opium, opium addicted cannot leave opium. There is no scarcity of seller if there is money. Let’s see, it would be more benefited to sell in the village rather to sell is the shop” (Jibanar Batot, Page-127) 14.

It is proved that Gandhi’s ideas of non-cooperation movement are shown in this novel. Moreover, Gandhi’s aim was to make Assam free from Opium which is shown by the volunteers of the national movement. In that time opium consumption in Assam had become a cause of great concern because addiction to the drug reached immense proportion and was consumed irrespective of the price demanded. Gandhi’s fervent appeal to the volunteers to make Assam free from opium had a stirring effect. This found in the novel very clearly.

When Tagar, the wife of Dharani was tortured by police, the villagers and the volunteers of the national movement were gathering in front of the police station in protest. When general public is trying to break down the police station, the volunteers requested to the common villagers and said: “My dear friends, you do not forget the non-violence method of Gandhiji. There is no any force or torture in the non- co-operation movement. Remember that we don’t come to punish the police man. We have come to release one of our colleagues’ wife. We already request to the police man. All of you wait with the patience up to solution” (Jibanar Batot, Page 139) 15.

Again the hero of the novel, Dharani master requested to the common man to go home back and said loudly. “My dear friends, I have come to surrender my own. You please go home without being revengeful. I know you are much hurt because of the disrespect to my wife. But for the freedom of the country such humiliation should be regarded as blessings. We must be ready to make greater sacrifice than this” (Jibanar Batot , page 141) 16.
Again he says: “You go home without delay, otherwise it may be problem for all of you. You already know the responsibilities of the movement. The freedom of the country is not possible by the jealousy of the wealth of the richest, power of the powerful people or jealousy of education of the educationists. Freedom of India is possible by the blood of heart of the poor, cultivations and illiterate villagers who can sacrifice their live.” (Jibanar Batot, Page-181) 17.

Moreover, Dharani was trying to make his wife understand that to make the Indians free we must have to bear such disrespect without any hesitation. He tried to clean her mind like the air clean the deep cloudy sky. (Jibanar Batot, page-142) 18. Thus, this novel shows Gandhi’s ideology through the character of Dharani. Even, through the character of Dharani the increase of spinning and weaving in the village has been shown. This novel reflected the establishment of several committee on the basis of Gandhi’s ideology. Volunteers of the national movement had also shown those who were doing their respective duties.

From the above discussion it can be concluded that these two novels are directly or indirectly seems to come under the influence of Gandhism. The novelists themselves also are found to be influenced by Gandhian ways and thoughts, while depicting the mentality and activities of the characters, scenes, situation, language, themes, etc. in their novels. Therefore, it can be said that the impact of Gandhism is found in these two Assamese novels “Jibanor Batot” and “Dawar Aru Nai”.

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The writer is Nurul Islam, HoD of Philosophy, Karmashree Hiteswar Saikia College, Sixmile, Guwahati (India)

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