Social Scientist. v 9, no. 97 (Aug 1980) p. 47.

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Premchand and Gandhism

PREMGHAND was a towering figure in Hindi literature symbolizing a whole generation of fighters for freedom and social justice. In popular eyes he is regarded as an admirer of Gandbi and propagator of Gandhism, The reasons for this are twofold: i) Premchand held Gandhi personally in high esteem because in the eyes of Indian masses Gandhi represented Indian freedom; ii) there has been a consistent effort to belittle Premchand's left-wing association, particularly his sympathies with socialism. Unfortunately a few progressives have also subscribed to this view and labelled him an idealist writer with Gandhian influence. He was, no doubt, an idealist, but not a spiritualist or Utopian like Gandhi who wanted to remove social grievances without a real social upsurge.

Premchand was certainly influenced by Gandhi's personality. He saw Gandhi as a pioneer in mobilizing the masses during the national movement. Premchand, therefore, had great expectations from Gandhi for the emancipation of the poverty stricken tenants and workers.1 Gandhi, in the eyes of Premchand, was not only great as a man, but was the repository of great social power.2

But what Gandhi projected was not a new social philosophy but application of ethical and moral values of olden times to practical life.8 Probably it was because of this that millions of people were ready to sacrifice their lives at his call. It was on the basis of an outmoded ideology that Gandhi drew the masses into the national movement, and whenever a mass movement was about to slip into the hands of peasants and workers, he tried his best to avert it.

Premchand was not only swayed initially by what he thought of Gandhi as a man of the masses, but was also moved by his own burning sense of nationalism. According to Maxim Gorki, ^A writer, firstly, is a product of his times. He shares the events

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