Samaj (Society) and Freedoms - the relevance of Gandhi and Tagore’s Ideas Today

deadline for submissions: 
January 12, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Manipal University with Edinburgh Napier University
contact email: 

Collaborative International Conference on Gandhi & Tagore organised by MAHE and Edinburgh Napier University

Hosted by Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal, Karnataka

22 and 23 February 2019


Concept Note

Samaj and Freedom(s)  - The relevance of Gandhi and Tagore’s Ideas Today

In a letter to C.F. Andrews, Rabindranath Tagore said ‘We have no word for nation in our language. When we borrow this term from other people it never fits us’, For Rabindranath, nation with a small ‘n’ signified her samaj, the society which thrives when it embodies a country’s aspirations, is responsible for her progress and has the wellbeing of her citizens at the heart of its collective consciousness. When the samaj deteriorates to a moribund state, crushed by subservience to an outside power, riddled by superstition, marred by discrimination and inequality, a sense of apathy holds it back from realising its full potential. The reliance on samaj, rather than the state (Rabindranath’s Nation with a capital ‘N’), should rest with the people rather than the ruling power, a tradition that is, according to Tagore, intrinsic to India’s sense of collective unity, a unity in diversity which guarantees India’s continuity as a nation. This is the samaj that Gandhi sought to ignite with a sense of its own worth, rousing a nation to unite as one voice to seek swaraj, self-rule, the freedom of the people to rule themselves. As Gandhi said to Tagore, ‘Our national struggle is in reality a struggle for liberty worthy of a self-respecting nation.’ The self-respect and self-reliance that Gandhi wished to arouse in the Indian nation/her samaj, was through implementing social justice by ensuring social inclusion. Tagore reflected the same idea in his essay on ‘Freedom’ where he said, ‘In India the real cause of the weakness that cripples our spirit of freedom arises from the impregnable social walls we raise between the different castes.’ In tune with Gandhi’s concerns, Tagore went on to say, ‘To gain this freedom we need to liberate ourselves from the fetters of self and from all those passions that tend to be exclusive. It is this liberating principle that we must apply to an imprisoning world.’

In a world where conflicts continue, as narrow nationalism sweeps across Nations, driving wedges between social groups and nations, as borders are policed and walls constructed, as majoritarianism marginalises minorities, reinforcing the peripheral positioning of the ‘Other’ in a climate of intolerance and fear, samajic (social) stability is jeopardised and threatened and holistic progress of a community can thus be stalled. Tagore and Gandhi’s concerns about samajic (social) freedom(s) remain more relevant than ever.

To keep the spirit of freedom alive in society, we invite scholars/researchers to join this debate and share their thoughts and ideas on how we can protect and exercise our freedoms in a samaj marked by its sense of social responsibility, relying on the foundational tenets of acceptance, accommodation and creative experiment which can guarantee progress for the nation.  

Papers on the following broad themes are welcome :-

  • Liberty and Liberation in samaj 
  • Freedom(s) as basic human rights 
  • Creativity: the place of art and culture in samaj (society)
  • Inter-cultural dialogue and transnationalism
  • The Idea of Samaj/Society
  • Environment and sustainability
  • Education: holistic, creative and interdisciplinary
  • Rural reconstruction
  • Urban regeneration 
  • The position of Truth today


Conference Convenors:

Dr Padma Rani, Director, School of Communication, Manipal University 

Mr Varadesh Hiregange, Director, Centre for Gandhian and Peace Studies, Manipal University

Prof Bashabi Fraser, Director, Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies (ScoTs), Edinburgh Napier University

Abstract can be send to the mail id:

Last date for abstract: 30 October 2018

Acceptance of the paper: 15 November 2018

Submission of Complete paper: 12 January 2019

Last date for conference Registration: 22 January 2019


Registration fee:





3000 (INR)

50 (Pounds) / 65 (USD)

Student (Ph.D. Scholars and Graduate Students)


35 (Pounds) / 45 (USD)


Registration fee is exclusive of accommodation and travel.

Travel: The nearest airport to Manipal is Mangalore. It is connected by flights from Mumbai, Bangaluru and New Delhi. There are direct flights to Mangalore from Dubai, Abu Dhabi.