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'Re-editing' Gandhi's Collected Works-By TRIDIP SUHRUD
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(Courtsey Economic and Political Weekly)

Economic and Political Weekly November 20, 2004 4967
TRIDIP SUHRUD
Gandhiji had a unique capability of
attracting men and women of great
talent and commitment towards
him and his cause. Maganlal Gandhi, Henry
Polak, Herman Kallenbach, Imam Saheb
Abdul Kadar Bavazir, Mahadev Desai,
Pyarelal, Swami Anand, Vinoba, Kakasaheb
Kalelkar, Kishorlal Mashruwala, Narhari
Parikh, Miraben and many others like them
were men and women of exceptional virtues.
They were thinkers and servants of
the people. Gandhiji was fortunate during
his lifetime, and even after his assassination
there were individuals and institutions
ready to commit themselves to the
preservation and propagation of his legacy.
It was a similar impulse that guided the
project to compile all of Gandhiji’s writings
and make them available to readers.
The project, which was conceptualised in
February 1956, came to be known as the
Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi
(CWMG). The government of India
decided to create an advisory board and
vested all control and direction of the
project in the board. Morarji Desai was
the chairman of the board. At various
points several individuals worked as
members of the board. These included
Kakasaheb Kalelkar, Devdas Gandhi,
Pyarelal, Maganbhai Desai, G
Ramachandran, Shriman Narian, Jivanji P
Desai, P M Lad, R R Diwakar, Ramdhari
Sinha ‘Dinkar’ and Shantilal Shah. From
1956 to 1959, Bhartan Kumarappa and
Jairamdas Doulatram worked as the chief
editor of the project. In February 1960,
K Swaminathan – a man who was equally
comfortable with the European literary
and philosophical tradition, Sanskrit
poetics and Tamil literature as well as the
ashram of Ramana Maharshi – was appointed
chief editor. He continued to work
on the CWMG project till his eyesight
began to fail him in his early nineties. A
project that was conceived in 1956 was
closed in 1994 with the publication of the
100th volume. Men such as U R Rao,
R K Prabhu and C N Patel assisted
Swaminathan.
The task before the CWMG editorial
team was not easy. Gandhiji’s writings
were spread over three countries – South
Africa, India and England. They were in
government files, in offices of newspapers,
with thousands of individuals who corresponded
with him and in the diaries of his
companions like Mahadev Desai. Gandhiji
wrote mainly in three languages, English,
Gujarati and Hindi. The CWMG team
decided to bring out these volumes at least
in these three languages. The work on the
Gujarati version, called Gandhiji No
Akshardeh, was entrusted to the Navajivan
Trust, and the publications division of the
ministry of information and broad casting,
was responsible for the English and
Hindi versions. Each document had to be
verified and authenticated. Gandhiji’s
associates, H S L Polak and Chhaganlal
Gandhi were called in to verify and
authenticate South African papers. The
government, like other institutions,
participated in the process of acquiring
new material. The government, for
example, acquired a substantial part of the
Gandhiji-Herman Kallenbach correspondence
at an auction in South Africa in the
early 1990s. They tell a story of an abiding
friendship.
The editors and the advisory board
decided on three guiding principles: (a)
the aim of the series would be to reproduce
Gandhiji’s actual words, (b) reports of his
speeches, interviews and conversation in
indirect speech would be included when
they were proved to be authentic beyond
doubt, and (c) later research was likely to
lead to the discovery of more material –
the Gandhi-Kallenbach correspondence –
and all such new material would be published
as supplementary volumes. Of the
100 volumes, 1-90 reproduced Gandhiji’s
writings, speeches, letters, interviews, and
notes in chronological order; volumes 91-
97 were the so-called supplementary
volumes which dealt with material that
had become available later, while volumes
98-100 contained index of subjects,
index of persons and a volume containing
prefaces to the set. The CWMG has long
since come to be recognised as one of the
finest examples of editorial and translation
work undertaken anywhere in the
world. At least two generations of Gandhi
scholars have expressed their deep indebtedness
to these self-effacing men. Except
for a fine biographical sketch by
Ramachandra Guha it is very difficult to
find any recent assessment of
K Swaminathan, of C N Patel, there is
nothing of consequence to be found in
English. But the CWMG endured.
Until recently, that is. In 1998, the
publications dvision decided to ‘re-edit’
the CWMG. The exercise was aimed at
bringing uniformity, strict chronology and
authenticity. Uniformity meant that all
volumes ought to be of the same size –
of 500 pages each! Chronology required
that all the material of the supplementary
volumes be incorporated at its appropriate
chronological order. The publisher’s
note in the revised edition of 2001 has
this to say about authenticity: "The
objective of the series is to reproduce
Gandhiji’s actual words as far as possible;
reports of his speeches, interviews,
conversations which did not seem to be
authentic have been avoided, as also
reports of his statements in indirect form"
(emphasis added). The exercise thus
involved a process of re-authentication
and therefore subsequent deletion of
material ‘which did not seem authentic’.
It also involved a process of realigning the
material from supplementary volumes. The
exercise, which began in 1998, resulted
in the publication of a revised edition of
100 volumes of CWMG, in English and
Hindi. A CD-ROM version was also
published.
The entire exercise is deeply flawed. We
are not informed who the chief editor of
this set is, the editorial team and advisory
board remains a mystery. What, if any,
were the measures adopted to ascertain the
authenticity of material that has been
omitted? We are not even given a listing
of the material that has been thus found
inauthentic and deleted.
‘Re-editing’ Gandhi’s
Collected Works
The exercise to ‘re-edit’ the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi
is non-transparent and flawed, and displays an inefficiency and
callousness that makes the revised publication incapable of being a
standard reference. The new edition should be scrapped, and the
original collected works reinstated as the only and most authentic
version of the writings and utterances of Gandhi.
Economic and Political Weekly November 20, 2004 4968
A group of individuals and independent
scholars in Gujarat have been examining
the revised print edition and the CD-ROM.
Our exercise is yet ongoing, but the findings
are deeply disturbing. There are about
500 entries missing from the CD-ROM
version, but they must not all be inauthentic.
Of these, about 215 entries have been
subsequently added to the revised print
edition. There are about 300 entries missing
from the print edition. Thus, we now
have three versions of the CWMG: the
original, the revised edition of 2001 in
print, and the CD-ROM version. The
individual prefaces of the original set
became irrelevant in the process of restructuring
the data. The revised edition as well
as the CD have omitted all the prefaces
and even the independent volume of prefaces
has been excluded in the revised
edition. In the original set, each volume
contained a list of sources and
acknowledgements specific to that particular
volume. The new editors failed to
even identify the sources for each volume.
Instead, they have taken the list of sources
of the original set, combined them and
printed as one consolidated list that occupies
42 pages in each volume. Thus, 4200
pages of data that is largely meaningless
to a reader have been added. The indices
have been similarly mauled. The original
had 4,000 main entries and 9,000 subentries
for the volumes of indices. In the
revised edition, a significantly large number
of sub-entries are missing thus making
‘action’ a verb and robbing it of all its
philosophical significance. Vinoba Bhave
and Bhave, Vinoba are different individuals
for the editors. Many key entries have
been reduced in size.
The work is incapable of becoming a
standard reference. Let us take the supplementary
volumes. One of the main aims
of the exercise was to bring chronological
uniformity to the set. It therefore required
subsequently acquired material to be incorporated
as per date and year. The table
gives a summary of missing entries from
volumes 91-97, the supplementary volumes
of the original CWMG.
The table demonstrates that even the
exercise of rescheduling has been done
with an ineptitude, inefficiency and callousness
that is shocking. Are we to assume
that these letters – many of which
are housed in the national archives, the
Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and
the collection of the CWMG itself – are
now found to be inauthentic? We do not
know if the entries have been re-edited in
Table: List of Missing Items
Number Vol No Vol No Sr No As
(old) (revised) Per Old Vols Date Description
1 97 10 2 1909 Letter to Chhaganlal Gandhi
2 97 26 addenda 3 March 17, 1922 Letter to Mazharul Haq
3 97 26 45 March 18, 1922 Letter to Prabhudas Gandhi
4 97 26 46 April 2, 1923 Letter to Kashi Gandhi
5 97 26 47 April 8, 1923 Letter to Narandas Gandhi
6 97 56 209 August, 28, 1932 Letter to Nirmala Gandhi
7 97 80 330 April 22, 1941 Letter to Prabhudas Gandhi
8 97 80 331 May 23, 1941 Letter to Prabhudas Gandhi
9 91 21 addenda 14 November 18, 1920 Letter to Narhari D Parikh
10 91 21 addenda 15 November 18, 1920 Letter to Anasuyaben Sarabhai
11 91 22 addenda 16 February 26, 1921 Letter to Anasuyaben Sarabhai
12 91 27 addenda 21 April 8, 1924 Letter to Manilal Doctor
13 91 30 addenda 23 February 21, 1925 Letter to Rameshwardas Birla
14 91 32 addenda 25 August 14, 1925 Letter to G D Birla
15 91 36 addenda 29 After October 10, 1926 A Talk
16 91 37 addenda 30 1926 Letter to Haribhau Upadhyaya
17 91 38 addenda 31 January 24, 1927 Letter to Mridula Sarabhai
18 91 42 addenda 38 Before August 1, 1928 A Letter
19 91 6 50 On or after February 25, Letter to Chhaganlal Gandhi
1907
20 91 6 51 February 10, 1907 Letter to Chhaganlal Gandhi
21 91 6 52 February 20, 1907 Letter to P S to Governor, Transvaal
22 91 6 53 March 1, 1907 Letter to Chhaganlal Gandhi
23 91 19 230 March 23, 1920 Telegram to Mathurdas Trikumji
24 91 23 269 Before June 30, 1921 Letter to Kunvarji Anandaji Kapadia
25 91 26 306 March 6, 1922 Letter to S A Brelvi
26 91 26 308 After March 21, 1922 Letter to Baba Lakshmandas
27 91 26 309 Before August 24, 1923 A Note
28 91 27 310 February 28, 1924 Message to Romain Rolland
29 91 27 311 March 4, 1924 Letter to C Vijayaraghavachariar
30 91 27 312 March 12, 1924 Telegram to Jawaharlal Nehru
31 91 27 313 On or after March 13, 1924 Letter to Ramdas Gandhi
32 91 27 314 March 17, 1924 Letter to Ramdas Gandhi
33 91 27 315 March 24, 1924 Letter to Mahadev Desai
34 91 27 316 March 25, 1924 Letter to Radha Gandhi
35 91 38 554 January 23, 1927 Letter to Ramkrishna Chandiwala
36 91 38 555 January 24, 1927 Letter to Anasuyaben Sarabhai
37 91 38 556 January 31, 1927 Letter to Anasuyaben Sarabhai
38 91 38 557 February 3, 1927 Letter to Motiram Shaukiram Adwani
39 91 38 558 February 6, 1927 Letter to Motilal Roy
40 91 38 559 February 7, 1927 Message to International Congress
against imperialism
41 91 40 614 After November 25, 1927 Letter to Anasuyaben Sarabhai
42 93 74 332 October 10, 1938 Letter to Mathurdas Trikumji
43 93 74 333 October 13, 1938 Letter to Pyarelal
44 93 74 374 January 21, 1939 Letter to Mathurdas Trikumji
45 95 26 43 March 5, 1922 Letter to the Editor, The Survey,
New York
46 95 26 44 December 1922 A Letter (Presumably to Madan
Mohan Malaviya)
47 95 27 45 March 31, 1924 A Silence Day Note
48 95 27 46 Before April 3, 1924 Letter to Anasuyaben Sarabhai
49 95 32 53 August 21, 1925 Letter to C Ramalinga Reddy
50 95 32 54 On or before August 31, Letter to Haribhau Upadhyaya
1925
51 95 32 55 After September 23, 1925 Fragment of a letter
52 95 35 63 May 12, 1926 Letter to Amy Jacques Garvey
53 95 38 70 Before January 10, 1927 Letter to Vasumati Pandit
54 95 38 71 January 10, 1927 Letter to Vasumati Pandit
55 95 38 72 After February 2, 1927 Letter to Vasumati Pandit
56 95 38 73 After February 2, 1927 Letter to Vasumati Pandit
57 95 43 90 December 18, 1928 Letter to Benarsidas Chaturvedi
58 95 45 94 March 23, 1929 Letter to Prabhavati
59 95 80 154 May 14, 1941 Letter to Venkataswami Naidu
60 95 84 163 August 27, 1944 Telegram to M A Jinnah
61 96 4 1 July 3, 1905 Letter to Millie Graham Polak
62 96 9 2 September 19, 1908 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
63 96 9 3 February 9, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
64 96 9 4 April 5, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
65 96 9 5 June 19, 1909 Draft Will and Testament
66 96 9 6 June 21, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
67 96 9 7 June 22, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
68 96 9 8 June 23, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
69 96 9 9 July 3, 1909 A Letter
(Contd)
Economic and Political Weekly November 20, 2004 4969
70 96 9 10 July 3, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
71 96 9 11 July 7, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
72 96 9 12 July 17, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
73 96 9 13 July 21, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
74 96 9 14 July 30, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
75 96 10 15 August 7, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
76 96 10 16 August 12, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
77 96 10 17 August 20, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
78 96 10 18 August 28, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
79 96 10 19 August 30, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
80 96 10 20 September 10, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
81 96 10 21 September 17, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
82 96 10 22 September 24, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
83 97 10 23 October 1, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
84 97 10 24 October 27, 1909 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
85 97 10 25 November 14, 1909 Letter to Millie Graham Polak
86 97 10 26 November 15, 1909 Letter to H S L Polak
87 97 22 286 January 22, 1921 Letter to H S L Polak
88 97 23 287 April 10, 1921 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
89 97 24 290 September 29, 1921 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
90 97 72 311 December 28, 1937 Telegram to Herman Kallenbach
91 97 74 319 January 20, 1939 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
92 97 75 320 February 5, 1939 Letter to H S L Polak
93 97 75 321 March 2, 1939 Telegram to Amrit Kaur
94 97 75 322 March 8, 1939 Letter to Herman Kallenbach
95 97 75 323 March/April 1939 Notes to Herman Kallenbach
96 97 75 324 March/ April 1939 Note to Herman Kallenbach
97 97 81 327 August 30, 1941 Letter to H S L Polak
the sense of providing a new ‘improved’
translation, improving Gandhiji’s writings.
One chance evidence shows that such
an exercise might have been attempted.
Following are two excerpts of a letter to
G D Birla, which was written in Hindi, a
comparison of the two shows that linguistic
changes might have also been
attempted.
Bhaishri Ghanshyamdasji,
God has given me mentors. I consider you
as one of them. Many of my children, many
sisters and elderly people such as you and
Jamnalalji want to see in me perfection.
Knowing this how could I be distressed
by your letter. I want you always thus to
caution me.
You have three complaints: (i) that I absolve
the Swaraj Party of the charge of corruption;
(ii) that I gave a certificate to
Suhrawardy; and (iii) that I have been
trying to make Sarojini Devi the president.
In the first place, it is a man’s duty to hold
fast to truth as he sees it after due striving,
even if it should appear a mistake to the
world. He cannot become fearless otherwise.
I desire nothing so much as moksha.
But I would shun even moksha if it went
against truth and non-violence (CWMG,
Vol 91, pp 525-26).
Dear Shri Ghanshyamdas,
God has provided me with consciencekeepers.
You, I think, are one of them.
Some of my own children, some ladies
and a few grown-ups like Jamnalalji and
yourself want to make me a perfect man.
Regarding you thus, how could I be offended
by your letter? In fact, I want you
always to caution me in this manner.
You complain against three things: One,
my absolving the Swaraj Party of the charge
of corruption; two, my giving a testimonial
to Suhrawardy; and, three, my trying to
get Sarojini Devi elected as [Congress]
president.
In the first place, it is one’s duty to say
only that which, after a painstaking inquiry,
one has come to regard as the truth,
even if the world considers it to be an error.
In no other way can one become fearless.
I cannot consider anything dearer to me
than moksha. Yet even that moksha I would
renounce if it were to conflict with truth
and non-violence (CWMG, E book, Vol
29, p 29).
If this is any indication, it proves that
the exercise has been not just of re-arranging
and deleting but also of re-editing the
textual matter.
Such callousness to a work of archival
nature cannot be tolerated by any individual
committed to academic and intellectual
integrity. It is our demand that the
revised edition, including the CD-ROM,
be recalled and scrapped, the original
CWMG be reinstated as the only and the
most authentic version of the writings and
utterances of Gandhiji. The government
must take statutory steps to ensure that no
attempt to re-edit or recast the CWMG is
made even in future.
Table: List of Missing Items (Contd)
Number Vol No Vol No Sr No As
(old) (revised) Per Old Vols Date Description

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