This article argues that Gandhi's book Hind Swaraj was centrally concerned with undermining the influence of the violent “terrorist” wing of nationalism on Indian political militants. In particular he sought to question the inspiration that Japan's military defeat of Russia in 1905 had given to the terrorists. For Gandhi, the Japanese example led in a militaristic and Westernizing direction. To this he counterposed his own model of peaceful resistance and idealized village life. Gandhi's critique of modernity needs to be understood within the context of this project, which explains some of the inconsistencies of his relation to ideas of the modern. In the long run, the doctrine of Hind Swaraj successfully positioned Gandhi as the most radical and national of Indian political leaders, while at the same time almost surreptitiously leaving the door open to pragmatic engagement with the colonial power. This article also emphasizes the South African location of Gandhi's book; his campaign in the Transvaal and its unique conditions were crucial to the formation of the ideas put forward in it, and the unification of South Africa in 1910 was a key reference point for his constitutional notions. Winning the battle for the minds of the Indian political elite, a campaign that he launched through Hind Swaraj, was the necessary preliminary to Gandhi's later, broader achievement.

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