How Gandhi’s writings justify a security state using notions of “cleanliness”

24 February 2019

In the book Gandhi and Philosophy: On Theological Anti-Politics, the authors Shaj Mohan and Divya Dwivedi conduct an in-depth philosophical study into the thoughts and writings of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Among other things, Mohan and Dwivedi examine Gandhi’s political and scientific thoughts as expressed in his writing, such as in his weekly journal Young India, to understand anew his position on various issues, such as will, truth, violence, law and anarchy. In the following excerpt from the book, the authors study Gandhi’s position on the relationship between the state, privacy and security. They note that Gandhi justifies actions such as surveillance measures and restrictions on a free press as symptoms of a fundamental problem—the “sin of secrecy.” Mohan and Dwivedi write, “ Gandhi’s covenant seeks to bring about the elimination of the sin of secrecy by demanding of men that they lead their inner lives and outer lives as if under the watch of a judge of morals.” The authors also discuss how Gandhi’s beliefs on privacy are influenced by his pernicious positions on caste and race. For Gandhi, they write, “The state in which all men think only clean thoughts succeeded upon by clean speech and act would be determined by the notion of ‘cleanliness.’”

The quest of the passive resister is to remove the masks, the crypts, sepulchres, codes, and milieus which deny the exposure of man to the Truth that is God. Often that which denies Truth is enticing and alluring, and gives man a false sense of sufficiency in it.

Shaj Mohan a philosopher based in India.

Divya Dwivedi is a philosopher based in the subcontinent. She is an assistant professor in the department of humanities and social sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

Keywords: surveillance security Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi philosophy