Translator’s Note: Here is a stimulating 1940 polemic against non-violence by none other than the Chairperson of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly that was responsible for lending to India the formal status of a sovereign, democratic republic. Aimed at the very “father of the nation,” Mahatma Gandhi, this happens to be what may be noted as just one of Dr. Ambedkar’s less known diatribes against the yet not quite questioned icons of our hierarchical society. Endearingly referred to in his native State as Bābāsāheb, one may find the barrister at his best here in an imagined court which could decide some of the basic principles for the strategy and tactics to be adopted to realize the real Dream India, that is, for the emancipation of our country and of its enslaved/semi-enslaved countrymen and women. This could perhaps be the first-ever English translation to come out of the editorial that he wrote for the August 10, 1940 issue of his Marathi weekly, Janatā, under the title: Ahimséché atirék kimva déshāché dhindhavdé?
In our last issue, we had advanced our viewpoint on a resolution on the war (the then ongoing Second World War) adopted by the Congress Working Committee. In this issue, we shall elaborate upon what we wrote earlier about that CWC resolution which had dealt with the question of non-violence. Last year (1939), on June 21, the CWC had proclaimed its stand on non-violence. Naturally, therefore, it was felt by a number of people that there was no particular need for such a resolution on the question non-violence. Yet, it had come out, and the specific circumstances in which the CWC had taken its stand came to light in the course of a speech by Maulana Azad at the Pune meet of AICC. As disclosed by the Maulana, Gandhi had suggested in September, 1938 that the CWC take a position on the issue. However, with the Munich Pact soon following suit, the matter had remained in abeyance. Then in the month of November, when the war was already underway, Gandhi had raised the issue once again, only to be rebutted and defeated by Maulana Azad himself. Gandhi pitched in again last June, now obstinate about a decision on the issue. Thus it was that the CWC was compelled to take a stand.
It was in the year 1920 that the concept of non-violence first found its way into the politics of our land. Since then, it has been hailed time and again from platforms of the Congress. However, there was no agreement on this between Gandhi and the Congressmen at large. Gandhi was well aware that while he talked in terms of non-violence as the cornerstone of all practice, the others meant it to be only a matter of policy. Even so, for 20 long years he did not bother to take this issue to a head. In doing so now, at this particular juncture, he had created a rather awkward situation. Congressmen, who at the onset of the war seemed to dig in their heels to face up to the British, now appeared to be at loggerheads with each other; indeed just short of being foes. The earlier unity with which Gandhi and the CWC were seen taking up cudgels against the British was now dislodged by a scenario wherein Gandhi and the CWC engaged in bouts of hair-splitting acrimony. Viewed from one angle, the culmination of their debate into a vain mal-agreement may seem regretful, but from another it would appear that it was better that things came to such a head. It cannot be said that in Gandhi’s political engagement, his ideas on violence versus non-violence were merely a question of principles. Today, it has become a question of the very means to secure our independence and the nation. Viewed in this light, it would be of prime importance to decide once and for all what opinion our people should hold on the question of non-violence. In this sense, it was good that Gandhi raised this issue once again, and created a situation where everyone was bound to come out in the open with their views on the subject.
It is essential that we understand what Gandhi meant by non-violence. Gandhi’s open letter of 6 July to the people of England on what course they should take in the event of a German aggression upon England provides a fair understanding. In that letter, he had offered the people of England the following advice: “The people of England should decide to resist Germany without the use of arms. Even before Hitler or Mussolini may launch an aggression on the soil of England, let it be known to them that they could come and take whatever they wanted. And in the event that Hitler actually launches an attack, let him take whatever he may want. What would Hitler and his soldiers want to take away? Copper from your homes? Then you should vacate your homes for them to take over, and should there not be any place for you to stay and should Hitler not let you flee the country, then you should be prepared to die at his hands. You should under no circumstance use arms for the sake of self-defence.” It is well known that the Gandhi scheme of self-defence was modestly rejected by the people of England. However, the scheme did provide a fair idea about Gandhi’s non-violence.
Gandhi did not stop at preaching non-violence to the British alone. He went on to add that should our own country also be subjected to foreign rule, not only should all options other than accepting such a fate be ruled out, but our country should, while making a declaration to that effect, also claim the credit for setting an example for the whole world to follow. Finding such unarmed resistance based on non-violence an impractical proposition for the defence of our country, the CWC had then refused to accept what Gandhi insisted. While clarifying its stand on the issue, the CWC sought to make an unfortunate distinction between opting for violence in a particular situation against the enemy and non-violence in another. This stance of preference to non-violence vis-à-vis the British, leaving the violent options for domestic and foreign matters would occur to us as a vital exposure of the CWC’s deceitful policies. If we leave aside such nuances and concentrate upon the main issue, however, it remains without doubt that a major difference of opinion has now surfaced between Gandhi and the CWC on how to defend India from foreign occupation.
Those who stand with Gandhi in the debate on violence versus non-violence may cite his honesty as the rationale for their support. However, this in itself would not make Gandhi’s view acceptable. In our view, honesty cannot be a consideration in arriving at a position on such questions. What ought to be considered should be how useful the concept of non-violence may be for the life of human beings. Taking somebody’s personal traits, such as honesty or the lack of it, into consideration would serve no purpose in such matters. One should not miss the point here that a person who may be honest could also be naïve, or even insane. The matter should rest not upon Gandhi’s honesty, but on whether his non-violence or passive resistance could indeed be an acceptable proposition. Two commonly found standpoints have to be considered before taking up this issue. The first is that non-violence or unarmed resistance is proposed not out of any apathy or non-seriousness. We generally come across two different approaches to the question of war. We do have a set of people who are inclined to apathy. To them, politics is always bad. All nations being essentially self-centered, none could be free of bad, self-motivated politics; therefore there is no point in hankering over war or peace. So they feel. Thus, they hold that a wise person should stay put, taking war as just another catastrophe, akin to natural calamities, something one cannot do anything about.
The other standpoint is that wars are inevitable. Not just inevitable, but also desirable. Those who think so consider the nation as an entity to be revered, a divine entity. Should it be necessary to engage in war in order to add to the nation’s prestige, magnificence and expanse, then, far from avoiding it, all of us ought consider it a great calling, and be ready to go to war for the glory of the nation. Regardless of whether or not the war may lead to the destruction of wealth worth cores, and with it, the nation’s whole divine property! For them, ‘everything is fair in war.’ Those, who have seen, heard or experienced how the use of brute force during wars leads to disastrous consequences, need not be told what a terrible catastrophe war is for the human race. If we leave aside the mentality of such a ruthless apparition as Hitler, as also that of those in our country who take pride in Aryan culture, we may not find even a single, reasonable person anywhere in the world who would see anything positive in brute force and war. At the same time, such apathy that leads people to think that wars are something destined, that it would be futile to oppose them, and to profess: ‘let what has to happen, happen,’ is not uncommon. Nevertheless, we do come across a number of people today, more than ever before, who are immersed in thoughts about how war can, on the contrary, be averted.
The scheme of non-violence or unarmed resistance certainly does not arise out of any apathy or non-seriousness. Nor is it so simple a matter as whether a scorpion that may have made its way to the sacred alter during one’s prayers ought to be killed or not. It is also not as if the advocates of the scheme of non violence or unarmed resistance could be naïve or insane. From the ongoing discourse on this subject, it would appear that some people may be under the impression that the unarmed resistance scheme is Gandhi’s alone. This also is not true.
On the face of the earth, there have been a number of people who, while opposing brute force, honestly believed in the benefits of unarmed resistance. If only to cite an example, the renowned professor, Bertrand Russell is one.
A distinguished thinker, Professor Bertrand Russell had made the same proposition as Gandhi’s in the August 1915 issue of an American monthly named Atlantic Monthly. He had proposed therein that should the people of England proclaim to offer unarmed resistance, the Germans would have no moral courage to attack. With neither an army, nor armour, an unarmed British populace would leave the Germans with no rhyme, nor reason to attack, and in case the Germans did invade, then with no fear of facing armed resistance, they would do so with a very small and weak army. Should they go on to decide to rule the land, and the British stage up non-cooperation, then in the first place, it would become impossible for them to conduct the affairs of governance; to fill up every little post, they would have to bring in men from Germany. First of all, they would, out of shame, stop short of aggression, but in case they did choose to attack the unarmed populace, then non-cooperation by the masses would make it impossible for them to rule and they would be compelled to retrace their footsteps before long. In this way, it would be possible to successfully defend the nation from foreign occupation by resorting to unarmed resistance.
Gandhi’s scheme happens to be no different from Professor Bertrand Russell’s. The only dissimilarity was that Professor Russell had sought some time-period, that of a generation, before actually implementing his scheme. He had been practical enough to add in the condition that his proposal may be brought into effect only after one whole generation would have been imbued with the principles of unarmed resistance. Far from waiting over a period of a generation, Gandhi appears unwilling to spare even a single moment. He seems to believe that his plan of unarmed resistance could be successfully carried out this very minute. On account of this distinction between the two, Gandhi stands liable to be accused of a tyrannical or extremist standpoint on the issue. Meanwhile, it would also make us wonder as to why, of all the countries in the world, we Indians alone should bear the sacrifice to provide the world with a lesson. Even so, it would appear not too easy to reject the scheme for its infirmities, backed as it has been by so practical a man as Prof. Russell.
It may be rather difficult to assess the utility of the Gandhi scheme of unarmed resistance for the human race. However, if we take a comparative view, weighing the benefits of unarmed resistance against the losses caused on opting for brute force, it should not be too difficult to arrive at an amicable position.
On being asked about the benefits of unarmed resistance, its advocates insist that unarmed resistance would engender a non-antagonistic frame of mind, and a person whose very conscience may be imbued with a non-antagonistic outlook would not only refrain from resorting to brute force against others, but the use of any force whatsoever would then be ruled out.
That is the thinking of Gandhi, and it is precisely this ideology that has to be examined here. That if everyone were to purify their minds and imbibe the principles of non-violence, it would solve everything. This thinking appears to have mainly two flaws. The first is that in the event of war, the main question thrown up before us would be whether to participate in the war or not. Instead, the real question is how to save our people from the war. If we harp the tune of forsaking one’s own self-interest for the sake of others, it might, admittedly, create a non-antagonistic frame of mind, but it would not ensure that this would really serve the interests of the others. Once wars ensue, it is the lives of people that are attacked. Lives are endangered. The threat of destruction looms large. All this cannot be averted by simply saying that we do not want destruction, and by doing nothing about it. Moreover, establishing just the principles of justice the world over would not do. There would be no solution unless those principles would be put into practice, unless one actually entered the arena of war and resisted one instance after another of assault upon justice. Being inclined towards justice by itself does not prove to be of use to anyone else, other than one’s own self, for when one may begin to act in accordance with justice, it would turn out that practice does not produce the desired result unless it is backed by an element of force.
From the above, we may infer that merely imbuing a non-antagonistic attitude bears no fruit. One indeed needs to act according to one’s inclinations (towards justice), but further when it comes to action, the use of force would become indispensable.
When advocates of unarmed resistance would have us believe that they did not use force at all, it would actually be an illusion. However, when they go on to explain that theirs was a moral force, not brute force, then that would be true. This now raises the questions as to how different is brute force from moral force, and whether it can always be said that moral force would be less brutal than brute force?
That brute force may lead to terrible destruction is quite obvious. Indeed that is why many people have an aversion to brute force. However, that moral force could also be equally destructive, and equally brutal, may not be as obvious. This is, nevertheless, true. This can be proved by a few examples. Take the case of a woman delivering a child which may not appear to be as handsome to her as she wished. A particular woman might in this eventuality find herself so disgusted that she may refuse to co-operate with the child. Instead of resorting to the brute act of strangulating the child to death, she may simply stop breast-feeding. Not offering her breast to feed may not seem to be as brutal an act as strangulating. From the point of view of the effect, however, it would be difficult to tell the difference between strangulating and refusing to offer a breast. Let us consider one more example. Suppose there happens to be a man in a village who chooses to live his life differently, with a different set of ideas than the rest of villagers. The villagers may opt not to kill him. Instead, they may not allow him to take water, not let him have access to the market and impose a total boycott on him, thus rendering it virtually impossible for him to live. Arguing that imposing the boycott was far apart from killing the man, someone could opine that the boycott was no brute force. However, if we pose the question this way: did boycotting the man not amount to killing him? The answer would be, yes, indeed.
The next question may be as follows. If moral force proved insufficient and the war would not be averted by it, should one still not resort to brute force? Those in favor of unarmed resistance may pin their hopes for success on some moral force inherent within the invading enemy. They might anticipate that on demonstrating their moral force, the enemy would feel ashamed, soften up, and beat a retreat, untoward events thus being averted. Prof. Bertrand Russell’s proposition was based on precisely such expectations. However, that does not answer our question.
What if an enemy turns out to be utterly shameless, and if abandoning all morality, he resorts to brute force against the unarmed masses? How long would the moral force generated by unarmed resistance then last? If our failure would appear to be imminent, then should we still not resort to brute force? If not to encroach upon the enemy, then should we not do so even for the sake of our defence? If such an option be ruled out, then what would be the difference between getting killed by the impact of the enemy’s brute force and opting for suicide? We may also come across some who seek to explain that the success of the unarmed resistance scheme depends not only on arousing the enemy’s conscience by moral force, but on two other factors: the moral strength of those offering unarmed resistance and the non-cooperation staged against the enemy. As a matter of fact, the basis of Professor Russell’s proposition was precisely this.
We, in India, need no illustration to explain how far non-cooperation by the unarmed masses can work as a form of resistance. It is far too easy to talk about its efficacy, but the practice of non-cooperation turns out to be quite another thing. The people of our country have gathered enough experience over the last twenty years to arrive at the conclusion that when non-cooperation is put into practice, it has not an iota of impact upon the opponent. Should our people speak out with all honesty, they could reveal to the whole world the real worth of non-cooperation. Should moral force or a combination of moral force and non-cooperation have really borne fruit, no one would have been so unreasonable as to insist upon resorting to brute force. The point here is: what if undesirable outcomes are not averted by non-cooperation? Should brute force not be resorted to even then?
The third question is: what if the objective of non-violence – that of exterminating brute force once and for all – remains unfulfilled on staging unarmed resistance? Should brute force not be employed still? This question may appear to be the same as the previous one. However, it is not so. The previous question pertained to what should be done in the event of an attack in the form of brute force. The present one pertains to doing away with brute force altogether. If the programme of the advocates of non-violence be to ensure that all attacks in the form of brute force be always met with unarmed resistance alone, then unarmed resistance would indeed be seriously problematic.
Adopting unarmed resistance with this understanding would mean that the world will never be able to break free from the grip of brute force. If the benefit of unarmed resistance adopted by one generation would not go to the next, then it would not be possible to break free from the grip of brute force, and the principle of non-violence would never succeed. Should the incidences of brute force not end once and for all, then unarmed resistance would appear to be of no more value than a child’s pranks. If the objective, that is, the elimination of brute force, cannot be achieved by unarmed resistance, then the question as to why not to resort to brute force becomes significant.
Now then, the following question would need to be examined: if brute force be used at one time, could there be some guarantee that no brute force would ever raise its head again? The answer to this is that following their victory through brute force, if the victors would use their victory not for the sake of some vested interests, but to create a new world, then the elimination of brute force after the use of brute force could be a possibility. The question to ponder over is whether the use of brute force with such a purpose may be called just.
The above reasoning would help derive the following principles for practice:-
The first principle would be that it would be unwise to suggest that brute force should never be resorted to. On the contrary, we are of the opinion that to insist that no brute force should ever be resorted to would amount to being insensible. The Negroes (Afro-Americans) in America, we know, remained under the yoke of slavery for years together. A great war, involving full-fledged brute force, had to be fought in order to ensure their emancipation. Had that struggle for emancipation relied upon mere moral force, it is indeed doubtful whether the Negroes (Afro-Americans) would have been free of slavery even to this day. We are, in fact, quite sure that it would be hard to find even a single sane person to whom the use of brute force in securing freedom from slavery for the Negroes (Afro-Americans) may appear to have been morally incorrect on the part of the American nation. Several nations in the world today are under the scourge of enslavement. They have all got to win their independence. To suggest that although they could secure their independence through moral force, yet brute force must nevertheless be adopted would, of course, make no sense. By the same token, to insist that brute force should not be employed even if their independence be unattainable by moral force would be most foolish. Force is the means, independence the end. If the end be noble and pure, then no philosophy of morality could be allowed to come in the way of the use of even extremist means to serve that end. If a philosophy of morality happens to come in the way, then one can safely conclude that it must be a phony philosophy. Non-violence is the means, not an end in itself, and the first of all principles would be that the means should be considered just if the end is just. The flawed, extremist ideas that one may come across in the discourse on non-violence could have arisen on account of not paying due attention to what constitutes the means and what the end. Non-violence, under no circumstance, can be considered an end in itself. Beyond doubt, it is one of the possible means that may be used. If the means of non-violence would suffice to attain an end, then there should be no need to resort to brute force. However, should non-violent means not be sufficient to achieve an end, and if the end would suffer on this account, then only a fool would insist that no other means but non-violence should be adopted.
The second principle would be that it would indeed be a sin to use brute force as a means to do injustice to someone, but there would be nothing sinful about using brute force to put an end to brute force. Indeed, it would be quite moral. The advocates of non-violence would appear to have messed up their ideas quite a bit on this issue. On the one hand, they opine that brute force should never be used to clinch a decision, but on the other, when someone adopts brute force against you, they would not let you restrict that brute force. They, unfortunately, fail to see the contradictoriness in their ideas in this regard. To not restrict a certain brute force would amount to letting that force have a free hand, rather it amounts to helping clinch the decision (in favour of that brute force).
The following guidelines may be derived from the above. Should brute force be employed against you by an opponent, you may, if need be, resist it with brute force. However, having clinched the issue in your favor by defeating the opponent, then, as a victor, you may not make use of the position that you have secured through brute force to perpetrate injustices upon your vanquished opponent.
Imposing one’s rule upon others after having employed brute force is a different matter. The two are two distinct matters, and it is precisely because this difference is often not grasped well enough that there is a profusion of mistaken ideas. In our view, it is essential to use brute force against brute force. Not only is this essential, but such a response would also be a just one. Should one’s brute force be the only way to destroy another’s brute force, and if the destruction of that brute force be desirable, then the use of brute force would be justified. Most people fail to realize that the world’s injustices were created not by the use of one brute force against another, but by the imposition of undesirable conditions by the victor against the vanquished. Instead of crying foul against the use of brute force, if the pacifists would vent their ire against the injustices meted out to the vanquished nations through brute force by the victorious ones in the course of their wars, then the world’s injustices could lead to an end; if the injustices could come to an end, then there would no more be any war; and if there would be no war, then the need to take recourse to brute force would be no more. That, according to us, is an important principle to be followed in order to lead to a reign of non-violence.
The third principle is that as the path of unarmed resistance is taken by a single nation alone, with the other nations not doing so, the means of unarmed resistance is bound to fail. It would be baseless to believe that if one nation takes recourse to unarmed resistance, the others would follow suit. A new path generally finds acceptance provided it may seem to be an easier option, not if it may seem tougher than usual. The other aspect is that methods are not generally found acceptable in isolation. For instance, if socialism be practiced by a nation all by itself, then the socialist system would not be implemented by all nations in general. However, if socialism be adopted by all nations together, it could be implemented for sure. The same would apply to unarmed resistance. There is a major difference between running a system and espousing it as a cause for a start. Often, the espousal of a cause may only end up in sacrifice alone, with the main objective of running a system with those ideals remaining elusive. Taking upon oneself, as a lone nation, the responsibility of carrying out a risky proposition, such as unarmed resistance, could be a chivalrous gesture, but not a wise decision. Indeed, unarmed resistance may turn out to be effective if carried out by all nations as a sort of spontaneous outburst. There could also be an international organization towards this end, with every nation willingly accepting non-violence as a principle. It cannot, however, be a measure to be adopted by just a nation or two all by themselves.
The principle of non-violence has been in existence in ancient India. As for the Aryans, they tended to violence as the objective as well as in practice. Yadnya was the very basis of their religion. In their yadnyas, violence and wine used to be essential constituents. Violence was put into practice in such extreme ways that some of the Aryan people grew sick of it. Mahavir was one of them. He detested the violence in Aryan religion and went on to found Jainism. The philosophies of these two religions, however, had their respective excesses. The extreme non-violence of Jainism as opposed to the extreme violence of the Aryan religion! Both were impractical. It was hence that Gautama Buddha founded another religion. Doing away with the two extremes, Buddhism was an attempt to take the middle path. ‘As far as possible, non-violence. If necessary, violence.’ This became the Buddhist dictum. Had Buddhism survived in our country till this day, there would have been no ground for the emergence of the non-violence discourse. Our Brahmin brothers, in their lascivious bid to outwit Gautama Buddha as a means to hold the masses in subjugation, aroused as the masses were against violence, seized upon the banner of non-violence, and to substantiate their new-found belief, gave up eating cow’s meat, and went on to become even vegetarians. Buddha’s ideology was thus relegated to the background, and non-violence came to be ingrained into the Hindu psyche. Over thousands of years, our people, having internalized such a mindset, came to be driven to docility, hence also lost their self-confidence. One may daresay, therefore, that he who strives to take the people towards that familiar path of extremist non-violence would, in our opinion, be our enemy rather than friend.
We do agree that all human existence ought to have some foundation in the form of moral principles. This should, admittedly, apply not to our personal lives alone, but also to the sphere of politics. In the past, there was a debate on this question in 1920 between Gandhi and Tilak. Tilak’s view was to abide by shatham pratishathyam (eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth) in politics. Later, perhaps out of embarrassment over the raw crudity of such an expression, he sought to cloak it with the allusion that his words had been misconstrued. Offering an explanation, he expressed agreement with the Gita’s ye yathaa maam prapadyante taamsthaiva bhajaamyaham (do unto others as others would unto you) as the principle to be followed in politics, disagreeing with Gautam Buddha’s akrodhen jine krodham asaadhum saadhana jine, kadariye daanen sachchen lokavaadina (strive to win over the other’s anger with pacification, villainy with sublimity, and falsity with truth). Gandhi, on the contrary, held that the teaching of the Buddha was superior to that of the Gita’s. Here, we are in agreement with Gandhi. We see no difference between the above principle from the Gita and Nana Fadnavis’ ‘An eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth.’ All the same, in spite of Gandhi’s leaning towards this particular Buddhist principle, there still remains a huge difference between Gautama Buddha and Gandhi on the outlook towards non-violence. Gautama Buddha looked upon non-violence as a matter of principle, not as a rule. Gandhi however preaches non-violence as a rule. A rule is different from a principle, and this difference is a major one. A principle is meant to be followed, whereas rules have got to be obeyed. Once a rule is decided upon, man becomes a slave of that rule. As for a principle, once it is adopted, we do hold it in reverence, but do not become its slave. Having lost sight of this difference, a number of societies have paid the price. With principles, one is flexible in practice. Rules, on the other hand, are strict; they are not to be broken. Rules can and do cause pressures and fissures in the society. While rules are a must for an ignoramus, principles are meant for the wise. No progress would be hindered by principles, but rules may impede it. Gandhi, it would appear, failed to comprehend these important distinctions.
Incidentally, it would be worthwhile to find out whether Gandhi’s thoughts on the crucial issue of non-violence underwent some changes over a period of time. To understand the views he held in the past, we could take a look at some passages from his earlier articles.
In Young India, dated March 2, 1922, Gandhi wrote as under:
‘I am sorry that I find a nervous fear among some Hindus and Mohammedans that I am undermining their faith and that I am even doing irreparable harm to India by my uncompromising espousal of non-violence.
‘I may be bold to say that violence is the creed of no religion and that, whereas non-violence in most cases is obligatory in all, violence is merely permissible in some cases. The non-violence that I have preached from Congress platforms is non-violence as a policy. If they do not believe in the expedient of non-violence, they must denounce it, but not claim to believe in the expedient, when their heart resists it. How disastrous it would be if, not believing in violence even as an expedient, I joined, say a violence party and approached a gun with a perturbed heart. The reader will believe me if I may say that I have the capacity to kill a fly. But I do not believe in killing even flies. Now, suppose I joined an expedition for fly-killing as an expedient. Will I not be expected, before being permitted to join the expedition to use all the available engines of destruction whilst remained attached to the army of fly-killers? If those who are in the Congress and the Khilafat Committees will perceive this simple truth, then they shall certainly either take the struggle this year to a successful end, or be as sick of non-violence as to give up that pretention and set about some other programme.’
Thereafter, in the issue dated March 9, 1922, he spelt out his ideas more clearly, as follows:
‘A correspondent from Lahore writes:
‘“So far as the facts about the Bardoli decision have come to light, it appears that the decision was arrived at either under the influence of Pandit Malaviya under some far-fetched notions of non-violence. In the former case, the act is most unworthy and in the latter case most unwise. Is not the ideal of the Congress swaraj, and not non-violence?”
‘It is impossible to withhold sympathy for the writer. His letter is typical of the attitude I saw reflected in Delhi. I have already given the assurance that Pandit Malaviya had nothing to do with the Bardoli decision. Nor have any far-fetched notions of non-violence anything to do with it. The correspondent’s letter is the best justification for it. To me the Bardoli decision is the logical outcome of the national pledge of limited non-violence.
‘I entirely endorse the opinion that swaraj is the nation’s goal, not non-violence. It is true that my goal is as much swaraj as non-violence, because I hold swaraj for the masses to be attainable save through non-violence. But have I not repeatedly said in these columns that I would have India to become free even by violence rather than she would remain in bondage?’
In an article on Hindu-Muslim “riots” in the Young India issue of May 29, 1924, he wrote on the subject as follows:
‘What I see around me today is, therefore, a reaction against the creed of non-violence. I feel the wave of violence coming. The Hindu-Muslim tension is an acute reflection of this trend.
‘I have never presented to India the extreme form of non-violence, if only because I do not find myself fit enough to redeliver that ancient message. Though my intellect has fully understood and grasped it, it has not as yet become part of my whole being. My strength lies in my asking people to do nothing that I have not tried repeatedly in my own life. I am asking my countrymen today to adopt non-violence as their creed only for the purpose of regulating the relations between the different races, and for the purpose of attaining swaraj. Hindus and Musalmans, Christians, Sikhs and Parsees must not settle their differences by resorting to violence and the means to attain swaraj must be non-violence. I do not say, ‘eschew violence, resort to non-violence’ in your dealing with robbers and thieves, or with nations that may invade India. But in order that we are better able to do so, we must learn to restrain ourselves. It is not a sign of strength but of weakness to take up the pistol on the slightest pretext. Mutual fisticuffs are training not in violence but in emasculation. My method of non-violence can never lead to loss of strength, but it alone will make it possible, if the nation wills it, to offer disciplined and concerted violence in time of danger.’
It needs no elaboration to understand how Gandhi’s earlier views, as expressed in the above passages, were different in comparison to his current opinions. To probe further, it would be most revealing if we try to understand why and how his opinions changed. One of the major reasons for this change appears to be that he may have developed a feeling that his stature as a ‘leader of India’ was not tall enough. Of late he may have developed an ambition to be known as a ‘reformer of the world.’ Many of Gandhi’s disciples may disagree with us about his craving for fame and prestige, but this is, nevertheless, a well-known fact. Gandhi looks upon himself as the father of unarmed resistance, considered as a ‘priceless treasure’, and ‘panacea for all troubles.’ He now aspires to magnify it into a principle to be put into practice for the salvation of not India alone, but for the salvation of the whole world. By applying this principle to India, he apparently desires to prove its efficacy to the whole world. If that could be done, then it would invariably establish Gandhi as second to none in the world. That is the position he seeks for himself
Leader of India or Reformer of the World?
In the course of the in-fighting within the Congress, Gandhi’s urge to don the cloak of a world reformer may have grown ever more intense. In the process, his views pertaining to non-violence underwent a transformation.
Evidence to this effect can be found in the February 23, 1922 issue of the Young India, in his article entitled, ‘No end to my sorrow.’ In his talk with a gentleman named, Paul Richard, on the Bardoli decision to break the law, Gandhi said:
‘I do not work for the freedom of India. I work for non-violence in the world, and that is the difference between me and Tilak. Mr. Tilak was telling me, “I would sacrifice even the truth for the freedom of my country,” but I am ready to sacrifice even freedom for the sake of truth.’
Making this explosive disclosure from his above-motioned interview with Gandhi, Mr. Richard commented that Gandhi’s thirst was not going to be quenched by his stature as leader of India; he now aspired for the stature of a world reformer. ‘Was this true?’ The editor of Lokmanya, the newspaper which carried this comment, had asked of Gandhi, to which the latter had replied as above under the title, ‘No end to my sorrow.’ He was constrained to add therein that, ‘It is not possible to deny the substance (of the words which Mr. Richard put in my mouth).’
Gandhi’s excesses of non-violence are but some of the many irreparable damages which he has done to our country. It is commonplace that men, given to drinking, commit brutalities upon their wives. However, a leader that brutalized the country which he led is one we would never find anywhere else in the world. Nowhere except in India. This may seem to have happened in a state of inebriation. One does get intoxicated on consuming alcohol, but alcohol is not the only way to get intoxicated. That the lust to be a Mahatma can also get you intoxicated was a fact that Gandhi has proved.
Translated by Prashant Rahi