Back| Next GANDHI'S LETTERS TO AMERICANS > Message to the Associated Press of America, April 12, 1937
Message To The Associated Press Of America, April 12, 1937
[In 1937, elections were held in India under the Government of India Act, 1935, which provided for a limited franchise. The Indian National Congress denounced the Act as it retained British domination and did not meet Indian demands for freedom. The Congress, however, contested the elections and won absolute majority in six of the eleven provinces and became the largest party in three others. It decided on 16 March to accept office if assurances were given that the Governors of provinces would not use their special powers or veto.
This led to a discussion as to whether such assurances could be given under the 1935 Act. The Congress resented a statement on 6 April by Lord Zetland, Secretary of State for India, criticising Gandhiji who, he said, had either not read or forgotten the 1935 Act. The Governors began to form ministries of persons nominated by them.
The crisis was resolved in July when the Congress decided to accept office in the light of clarifications by the Viceroy in a statement on 21 June.
Gandhiji had resigned from membership of the Congress in October 1934 and devoted himself mainly to his "constructive programme," but continued to be consulted by the leaders of the Congress.]
You ask me to give a special message for the readers of your 1,300 American newspapers, whom you serve. I would like Americans first of all to know my limitations and our internal politics. They should know that I am not even a primary member of the Congress. Whatever influence I possess is purely moral. Congressmen recognise in me the author of purely non-violent action and its technique and, therefore, so long as the Congress retains its creed of truth and non-violence, Congressmen are likely to be guided by my advice whenever it has anything to do, directly or indirectly, with non-violent action, but those who can speak with authority are the President of the Congress, i.e., Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and the Working Committee, i.e., the Congress Cabinet. I function purely as a humble adviser.
For me the present issue is not political, but moral. It is a fight between truth and untruth; non-violence and violence and right and might; for I hold that Lord Zetland could not have uttered the speech he did, unless he was conscious of the might of the sword behind him.
It seems as if British statesmen are repenting of even the limited electorate they have created in India. If they were not, they ought to have bowed to the will of the majority as represented by their elected leaders. Surely, it is violence to impose nominated Ministries on the electorate of their creation.
The crisis is of their own making. It is presumption on their part to interpret Acts of their Parliament. Their jurisprudence has taught us that no man can take the law into his own hands, not even the King. Evidently, the maxim does not apply to the British Ministers. Proof of the pudding is in the eating.
I have offered an honourable way out. Let a judicial tribunal of joint creation give the interpretation. It will be time for them to plead incompetence when the tribunal finds in favour of the interpretation. Till then Congress demand for assurances must be held valid.
I must repeat that the latest gesture is one of the sword not of goodwill; certainly not of democratic obedience to the will of a democratic majority.