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Anarchism in India has never taken the name anarchism, and is relevant primarily from its effects on movements for national and social liberation.
Unlike the modern Western Anarchist theories, the Vedic Anarchism is a time tested and successfully established anarchist model of the ancients. The rishis who have given Vedas are the first founders of Vedic anarchist societies. They dwelled in forests outside the control of any state or governments, and enforced a values based living through the knowledge on Rta and dharma. Unlike the Western anarchism that emphasises priority to anti-state and anti-rulers policies, Vedic Anarchism deals with balance of powers, non-hierarchical and decentralised polity, community living, and ecologically sustainable lifestyles through its varna, ashrama, dharma, and Janapada systems.
The Janapada system created a non-hierarchical and decentralised polity of root-level democracy.
Each of the Janapadas was named after the Kshatriya tribe (or the Kshatriya Jana) who had settled therein. Within each Janapadas existed the Varna system distributing the socioeconomic powers, creating village communities that are completely independent from the state and completely inter-dependent within itself.
The Vedic polity of root-level democracy has turned the entire India as a community and village based society. These villages are completely self-sufficient, self-governing (swaraj), cooperative, nature bound, and ensured complete independence from the state and its politics. Thomas Munroe, Charles Metcalfe, and Mark Wilks are a few of the Orientalists who have eloquently described this importance village communities held in India.
The village communities [in India] are little republics, having nearly everything they can want within themselves, and almost independent of any foreign relations.....Dynasty after dynasty tumbles down; revolution succeeds to revolution;....but the village community remains the same....nearly everything that they want within themselves and [are] almost independent of any foreign relations.
These communities contain in miniature all the materials of a State within themselves, and are almost sufficient to protect their members, if all governments are withdrawn.
Because of the Janapada system, anarchism ruled the roots and roosts of India irrespective of kings and other types of rulers. Its influence is very strong and far reaching, even in the colonial period, the colonialists found that the establishment of Vedic anarchism through its village communities as the most difficult barrier to break and could not completely enforce their hegemony.
See also: Anarcho-pacifism
The local conditions were pertinent to the development of the heavily anarchic Satyagraha movement in India. George Woodcock claimed Mohandas Gandhi self-identified as an anarchist. Gandhi also considered Leo Tolstoy's book, The Kingdom of God is Within You, a book about practical anarchist organisation, as the text to have the most influence in his life.
Before 1920, a partly anarchist inspired movement was represented by one of the most famous revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement, Bhagat Singh. Though a Marxist, Bhagat Singh was attracted to anarchism. Western anarchism and communism had influence on him. He studied the writings of Mikhail Bakunin, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Singh wrote in an article:
The ultimate goal of Anarchism is complete independence, according to which no one will be ... crazy for money ... There will be no chains on the body or control by the state. This means that they want to eliminate ... the state; private property.
Singh was involved in the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association and Naujawan Bharat Sabha (Translated to 'Youth Society of India'). By the mid-1920s Singh began arming of the general population and organised people’s militias against the British. From May 1928 to September 1928, Singh published several articles on anarchism in Punjabi periodical "Kirti".
See also: Buddhist anarchism
Indian revolutionary and the founder of the Ghadar Party Lala Har Dayal was involved in the anarchist movement in United States. He moved to the United States in 1911, where he became involved in industrial unionism. In Oakland, he founded the Bakunin Institute of California which he described as "the first monastery of anarchism". The organisation aligned itself with the Regeneracion movement founded by the exiled Mexicans Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón. Har Dayal understood the realisation of ancient Aryan culture as anarchism, which he also saw as the goal of Buddhism. The Ghadar Party attempted to overthrow the British in India by reconciling western concepts of social revolution - particularly those stemming from Mikhail Bakunin - with Buddhism.
Main article: MPT Acharya
MPT Acharya was a contemporary of Har Dayal in London and fellow revolutionary in India House. Like a number of other Indian revolutionaries of the time, Acharya turned to socialism at the end of first world war to aid the Indian cause. However he was disillusioned by the communist movement and by the early 1920s had turned towards Anarchism, along with Virendranath Chattopadhyaya. He took an active role in promoting Anarchist works in and was contributed at this time to the Russian Anarchist publication Rabotchi Put. In 1931, he lived in Amsterdam working with the school of Anarcho-syndicalism. Acharya came to be acquainted in early 1930s acquainted with Marxist-leaning Indian industrialist from Bombay, Ranchoddas Bhavan Lotvala. Lotvala had financed The Socialist, one of the first Marxist periodicals in India. Lotvala also financed the translation and publication of many leftist literature including the Communist manifesto. The British-Indian ban on Acharya was lifted in 1935 and he returned to Bombay that same year, where he managed a living as a journalist. During this time, Acharya wrote eight articles during this time which would later be collated to be published as a book called Reminesces of a Revolutionary. From Bombay, Acharya established correspondence with Japanese anarchist Taiji Yamaga and Chinese anarchist Lu Jinbao. The result of the correspondences led to the three establishing contacts with Commission de Relations de l’Internationale Anarchiste (Liaison Commission of the Anarchist International). In the following years, Acharya contributed to anarchist publications such as Freedom in London, Tierra y Libertad in Mexico and Contre Courant in Paris. He also remained in correspondence with Albert Meltzer for more than fifteen years.
In the following years Acharya was appointed secretary of the Indian Institute of Sociology, established under Lotvala's patronage in the 1930s. In later years, Acharya's influence on the institute saw it adopts a number of statutes in 1947 and subsequently the institute adopted the name of Libertarian Socialist Institute. His views on economic matters were profound and in 1951, Free Society Group of Chicago published his work How Long Can Capitalism Survive? in 1951.
Australian Christian anarchist Dave Andrews lived in India between 1972 and 1984. In 1975, he and his wife founded and developed a residential community in India called Aashiana (out of which grew Sahara, Sharan and Sahasee – three well-known Christian community organisations working with slum dwellers, sex workers, drug addicts, and people with HIV/AIDS). When Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984, thousands of Sikhs were murdered by violent mobs. Andrews resisted this through non-violent methods of intervention. The Andrews' were forced to flee India soon thereafter.
...Gandhi [...] sometimes called himself an anarchist...
Look, we looked out the window and mobs of people were chasing down Sikhs because a Sikh had killed the Prime Minister, and people were in the backlash, slaughter the Sikhs. But I said, ‘If it was your father, or your husband, or your son, wouldn’t you want somebody to intervene?’ And I can remember at the time Ange said, ‘Yes, of course I would.’ The framework for a global ethic is recognising we’re all part of the same family, and realising that we’ve got that responsibility. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, I am, because I’m part of the same family, and that was an impulse to respond, to intervene, and to save some people’s lives. And that was I think highly significant.
There is one thing you need to know about Dave Andrews. He is dangerous. For example, after Indira Gandhi was shot, two or three thousand people were killed in twenty-four hours in the riots that followed. Mobs rampaged through streets looking for Sikhs to murder. Dave convinced Tony, a friend , that it was their job to go out and save these Sikhs. Finding a besieged house, they put themselves between an armed mob and a Sikh family and saved them from certain death. That's why Dave Andrews is dangerous. He is ordinary, yet believes ordinary people should take extraordinary risks to confront the cruelty in our world.
Graduated from Queensland, Australia, and went to India in 1972 with his wife Angie to set up a home for junkies, drop-outs and other disturbed people in Delhi. They subsequently founded a community for Indians, which they developed and ran until they were forced to leave India in 1984.