Gandhi’s Failure: Anticolonial Movements and Postcolonial Futures
by Sandipto Dasgupta, Ashoka University, New Delhi
M.K. Gandhi was the undisputed leader of India’s struggle for independence. Yet his vision for postcolonial India was completely marginalized at the moment of decolonization. The article takes this seemingly paradoxical juncture as the vantage point from which to offer a critique of Gandhi’s political thought and more broadly an analysis of the shift from anticolonial movements to postcolonial rule. Through the voices of Gandhi’s two most significant contemporary critics—B.R. Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru—the article shows how his ideas failed to either inspire the struggle of the ruled (Ambedkar), or address the anxieties of the would-be rulers (Nehru). Gandhi’s vision for a postcolonial India persisted within the conceptual constellation of negating colonial modernity, rather than the historical possibilities of postcolonial futures. These predicaments provide an opportunity to analyze the persistence of modern western political imaginaries in the decolonized world. Not through mere assertions of continuity or mimicry, but rather through the concrete struggles, aspirations, and anxieties that constituted the strands of those transitional moments.