For the past thirty years, I have been preaching
and practicing satyagraha. The principles of satyagraha, as I know it to-day,
constitute gradual evolution.1
Satyagraha differs from Passive Resistance as the
North Pole from the South. The latter has been conceived as a weapon of the weak
and does not exclude the use of physical force or violence for the purpose of
gaining one’s end, whereas the former has been conceived as a weapon of the
strongest and excludes the use of violence in any shape or form.
The term satyagraha was coined by me in South
Africa to express the force that the Indians there used for full eight years,
and it was coined in order to distinguish it from the movement then going on in
the United Kingdom and South Africa under the name of Passive Resistance.
On the political field, the struggle on behalf of
the people mostly consists in opposing error in the shape of unjust laws. When
you have failed to bring the error home to the law-giver by way of petitions and
the like, the only remedy open to you, if you do not wish to submit to error, is
to compel him by physical force to yield to you or by suffering in your own
person by inviting the penalty for the breach of the law. Hence satyagraha
largely appears to the public as Civil Disobedience or Civil Resistance. It is
civil in the sense that it is not criminal.
The law-breaker breaks the law surreptitiously and
tries to avoid the penalty; not so the civil resister. He ever obeys the laws of
the state to which he belongs, not out of fear of the sanctions, but because he
considers them to be good for the welfare of society. But there come occasions,
generally rare, when he considers certain laws to be so unjust as to render
obedience to them a dishonour. He then openly and civilly breaks them and
quietly suffers the penalty for their breach. And in order to register his
protest against the action of the law-givers, it is open to him to withdraw his
co-operation from the state by disobeying such other laws whose breach does not
involve moral turpitude.
In my opinion, the beauty and efficacy of
satyagraha are so great and the doctrine so simple that it can be preached even
to children. It was preached by me to thousands of men, women and children
commonly called indentured Indians with excellent results.
The spirit of non-violence necessarily leads to
humility. Non-violence means reliance on God, the Rock of Ages. If we would seek
His aid, we must approach Him with a humble and a contrite heart.
Non-co-cooperationists may not trade upon their amazing success at the Congress.
We must act, even as the mango tree which droops as it bears fruit. Its grandeur
lies in its majestic lowliness.
Non-co-operation is not a movement of brag,
bluster, or bluff. It is a test of our sincerity. It requires solid and silent
self-sacrifice. It challenges our honesty and our capacity for national work. It
is a movement that aims at translating ideas into action. And the more we do,
the more we find that much more must be done than we had expected. And this
thought of our imperfection must make us humble.
A non-co-operation strives to compel attention and
to set an example not by his violence, but by his unobtrusive humility. He
allows his solid action to speak for his creed. His strength lies in his
reliance upon the correctness of his position. And the conviction of it grows
most in his opponent when he least interposes his speech between his action and
his opponent. Speech, especially when it is haughty, betrays want of confidence
and it makes one’s opponent sceptical about the reality of the act itself.
Humility therefore is the key to quick success. I hope that every non-co-operationist
will recognize the necessity of being humble and self-restrained. It is because
so little is really required to be done and because all of that depends entirely
upon ourselves that I have ventured the belief that Swaraj is attainable in less
than one year.
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 preaching of non-violence.
They seem almost to imply that violence is their creed. I touch a tender spot if
I talk about extreme non-violence in their presence. They confound me with texts
from the Mahabharata and the Koran eulogizing or permitting violence. Of the
Mahabharata I can write without restraint, but the most devote Mohammedan will
not, I hope, deny me the privilege of understanding the message of the Prophet.
I make 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. But I have not put before India the final form of non-violence.
The non-violence that I have preached from Congress platforms is non-violence as
a policy. But even policies require honest adherence in thought, word and deed.
If I believe that honesty is the best policy, surely whilst I so believe, I must
be honest in thought, word and deed; otherwise I become an impostor.
Non-violence being a policy means that it can upon due notice be given up when
it proves unsuccessful or ineffective. But simple morality demands that, whilst
a particular policy is pursued, it must be pursued with all one’s heart. It is
simple policy to march along a certain route, but the soldier who marches with
an unsteady step along that route is liable to be summarily dismissed. I become
therefore incredulous when people talk to me sceptically about non-violence or
are seized with fright at the very mention of the word non-violence. 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 when I say that I have the capacity for killing 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 I
remained in the army of fly-killers? If those who are in the Congress and the
Khilafat committees will perceive this simple truth, we shall certainly either
finish the struggle this year to a successful end, or be so sick of non-violence
as to give up the pretention and set about devising some other programme.
I hold that Swami Shraddhanandji has been
needlessly criticized for the proposition he intended to move. His argument is
absolutely honest. He thinks that we, as a body, do not really believe in
non-violence even as a policy. Therefore, we shall never fulfil the programme of
non-violence. Therefore, he says, let us go to the councils and get what crumbs
we may. He was trying to show the unreality of the position of those who believe
in the policy with their lips, whereas they are looking forward to violence for
final deliverance. I do say that, if Congressmen do not fully believe in the
policy, they are doing an injury to the country by pretending to follow it. If
violence is to be the basis of future government, the councilors are undoubtedly
the wisest. For it is through the council that, by the same devices by which the
present administrators rule us, the councilors hope to seize power from the
former’s hands. I have little doubt that those who nurse violence in their
bosoms will find no benefit from the lip-profession of non-violence. I urge,
therefore, with all the vehemence at my command, that those who do not believe
in non-violence should secede from the Congress and form non-co-operation and
prepare to seek election or rejoin law courts or Government colleges as the case
may be. Let there be no manner of doubt that Swaraj established by non-violent
means will be different in kind from the Swarak that can be established by armed
rebellion. Police and punishments there will be, even under such Swaraj. But
there would be no room for brutalities such as we witness to-day both on the
part of the people and the Government. And those, whether they call themselves
Hindus or Mussulmans, who do not fully believe in the policy of non-violence,
should abandon both non-co-operation and non-violence.
For me, I am positive that neither in the Koran
nor in the Mahabharata is there any sanction for and approval of the triumph of
violence. Though there is repulsion enough in Nature, she lives by attraction.
Mutual love enables Nature to persist. Man does not live by destruction.
Self-love compels regard for others. Nations cohere, because there is mutual
regard among the individuals composing them. Some day we must extend the
national law to the universe, even as we have extended the family law to form
nations – a larger family. God has ordained that India should be such a nation.
For so far as reason can perceive, India cannot become free by armed rebellion
for generations. India can become free by refraining from national violence.
India has now become tired of rule based upon violence. That to me is the
message of the plains. The people of the plain do not know what it is to put up
an organized armed fight. And they must become free, for they want freedom. They
have realized that power seized by violence will only result in their greater
Such, at any rate, is the reasoning that has given
birth to the policy, not the dharma, of non-violence. And even as a Mussulman or
a Hindu, believing in violence, applies the creed of non-violence in his family,
so are both called upon without question to apply the policy of non-violence in
their mutual relations and in their relation to other races and classes, not
excluding Englishmen. Those who do not believe in this policy and do not wish to
live up to it in full, retard the movement by remaining in it.
When a person claims to be non-violent, he is
expected not to be angry with one who has injured him. He will not wish him
harm; he will wish him well; he will not swear at him; he will not cause him any
physical hurt. He will put up with all the injury to which he is subjected by
the wrong-doer. Thus non-violence is complete innocence. Complete non-violence
is complete absence of ill-will against all that lives. It therefore embraces
even subhuman life, not excluding noxious insects or beasts. They have not been
created to feed our destructive propensities. If we only knew the mind of the
Creator, we should find their proper place in His creation. Non-violence is
therefore in its active form good will towards all life. It is pure Love. I read
it in the Hindu scriptures, in the Bible, in the Koran.
Non-violence is a perfect state. It is a goal
towards which all mankind moves naturally though unconsciously. Man does not
become divine when he personifies innocence in himself. Only then does he become
truly man. In our present state, we are partly men and partly beasts and in our
ignorance and even arrogance say that we truly fulfil the purpose of our
species, when we deliver blow for blow and develop the measure of anger required
for the purpose. We pretend to believe that retaliation is the law of our being,
whereas in every scripture we find that retaliation is nowhere obligatory but
only permissible. It is restraint that is obligatory. Retaliation is indulgence
requiring elaborate regulating. Restraint is the law of our being. For highest
perfection is unattainable without highest restraint. Suffering is thus the
badge of the human tribe.
The goal ever recedes from us. The greater the
progress, the greater the recognition of our unworthiness. Satisfaction lies in
the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.
Therefore though I realize more than ever how far
I am from that goal, for me the Law of Complete Love is the law of my being.
Each time I fail, my effort shall be all the more determined for my failure.
I know my own limitations only too well. I know
that any such attempt is foredoomed to failure. To expect a whole mass of men
and women to obey that law all at once is not to know its working. But I do
preach from the Congress platform the deductions of the law. What the congress
and the Khilafat organizations have accepted is but a fragment of the
implications of that law. Given true workers, the limited measure of its
application can be realized in respect of vast masses of people within a short
time. But the little measure of it to be true must satisfy the same test as the
whole. A drop of water must yield to the analyst the same results as a lakeful.
The nature of my non-violence towards my brother cannot be different from that
of my non-violence to the universe. When I extend the love for my brother to the
whole universe, it must still satisfy the same test.
A particular practice is a policy when its
application is limited to time or space. Highest policy is therefore fullest
practice. But honesty as policy while it lasts is not anything different from
honesty as a creed. A merchant believing in honesty as a policy will sell the
same measure and quality of cloth to the yard as a merchant with honesty as a
creed. The difference between the two is that, while the political merchant will
leave his honesty when it does not pay, the believing one will continue it, even
though he should lose his all.
The political non-violence of the non-co-operator
does not stand this test in the vast majority of cases. Hence the prolongation
of the struggle. Let no one blame the unbending English nature. The hardest
fibre must melt in the fire of Love. It cannot be dislodged from that position
because I know it. When British or other nature does not respond, the fire is
not strong enough, if it is there at all.
Our non-violence need not be of the strong, but it
has to be of the truthful. We must not intend harm to the English or to our
co-operating countrymen, if and whilst we claim to be non-violent. But the
majority of us have intended harm, and we have refrained from doing it because
of our weakness or under the ignorant belief that mere refraining from physical
hurt amounted to a due fulfillment of our pledge. Our pledge of non-violence
excludes the possibility of future retaliation. Some of us seem unfortunately to
have merely postponed the date of revenge.
Let me not be misunderstood. I do not say that the
policy of non-violence excludes the possibility of revenge when the policy is
abandoned. But it does most emphatically exclude the possibility of future
revenge after a successful termination of the struggle. Therefore, whilst we are
pursuing the policy of non-violence, we are bound to be actively friendly to
English administrators and their co-operators. I felt ashamed when I was told
that in some parts of India it was not safe for Englishmen or well-known
co-operators to move about safely. The disgraceful scenes that took place at a
recent Madras meeting were a complete denial of non-violence. Those who howled
down the chairman because he was supposed to have insulted me, disgraced
themselves and their policy. They wounded the heart of their friend and helper,
Mr. Andrews. They injured their own cause. If the chairman believed that I was
scoundrel, he had a perfect right to say so.
We must try patiently to convert our opponents. If
we wish to evolve the spirit of democracy out of slavery, we must be
scrupulously exact in our dealings with opponents. We may not replace the
slavery of the Government by that of the non-co-operationists. We must concede
to our opponents the freedom we claim for ourselves and for which we are
fighting. The stoutest co-operationist will bend to the stern realities of
practice if there is real response from the people.
But there is a non-violent boycott which we shall
be bound practice, if we are to make any impression. We must not compromise with
what we believe to be an untruth, whether it resides in a white skin or a brown.
Such boycott is political boycott. We may not receive favours from the new
councilors. The voters, if they are true to their pledge, will be bound to
refrain from making use of the services of those whom they have declined to
regard as their representatives. They must ratify their verdict by complete
abstention from any encouragement of the so-called representatives.
The public will be bound, if they are
non-co-operationists, to refrain from giving these representatives any prestige
by attending their political functions or parties.
I can conceive the possibility of non-violent
social ostracism under certain extreme conditions, when a defiant minority
refuses to bend to the majority, not out of any regard for principle, but from
sheer defiance or worse. But that time has certainly not arrived. Ostracism of a
violent character, such as the denial of the use of public wells is a species of
barbarism, which I hope will never be practiced by any body of men having any
desire for national self-respect and national uplift. We will free neither Islam
nor India by processes of coercion, whether among ourselves or against
Non-co-operation being a movement of purification
is bringing to the surface all our weaknesses as also excesses of even our
strong points. Social boycott is an age-old institution. It is coeval with
caste. It is the one terrible sanction exercised with great effect. It is based
upon the notion that a community is not bound to extend its hospitality or
service to an excommunicate. It answered when every village was a self-contained
unit, and the occasions of recalcitrancy were rare. But when opinion is divided,
as it is to-day, on the merits of non-co-operation, when its new application is
having a trial, a summary use of social boycott in order to bend a minority to
the will of the majority is a species of unpardonable violence. If persisted in,
such boycott is bound to destroy the movement. Social boycott is applicable and
effective when it is not felt as a punishment and accepted by the object of
boycott as a measure of discipline. Moreover, social boycott to be admissible in
a campaign of non-violence must never savour of inhumanity. It must be
civilized. It must cause pain to the party using it, if it causes inconvenience
to its object. Thus, depriving a man of the services of a medical man, as is
reported to have been done in Jhansi, is an act of inhumanity tantamount in the
moral code to an attempt to murder. I see no difference in murdering man and
withdrawing medical aid from a man who is on the point of dying. Even the laws
of war, I apprehend, require the giving of medical relief to the enemy in need
of it. To deprive a man of use of an only village well is notice to him to quit
that village. Surely, non-co-operators have acquired no right to use that
extreme pressure against those who do not see eye to eye with them. Impatience
and intolerance will surely kill this great religious movement. We may not make
people pure by compulsion. Much less may we compel them by violence to respect
our opinion.2 It is utterly against the spirit of democracy we want to
There are no doubt serious difficulties in our
way. The temptation to resort to social boycott is irresistible when a
defendant, who submits to private arbitration, refuses to abide by its award.
Yet it is easy to see that the application of social boycott is more than likely
to arrest the splendid movement to settle disputes by arbitration which, apart
from its use as a weapon in the armoury of non-co-operation, is a movement
fraught with great good to the country. People will take time before they
accommodate themselves to private arbitration. Its very simplicity and
inexpensiveness will repel many people even as palates jaded by spicy foods are
repelled by simple combinations. All awards will not always be above suspicion.
We must therefore rely upon the intrinsic merits of the movement and the
correctness of awards to make themselves felt.
It is much to be desired if we can bring about a
complete voluntary boycott of law courts. That one event can bring about Swaraj.
But it was never expected that we would reach completion in any single item of
non-co-operation. Public opinion has been so far developed as to recognize the
courts as signs not of our liberty but of our slavery. It has made it
practically impossible for lawyers to practice their profession and be called
Non-co-operation has greatly demolished the
prestige of law courts and to that extent of the Government. The disintegrating
process is slowly but surely going on. Its velocity will suffer diminution if
violent methods are adopted to hasten it. This Government of ours is armed to
the teeth to meet and check forces of non-violence. How can a handful of
Englishmen resist a voluntary expression of opinion accompanied by the voluntary
self-denial of thirty crores of people?
I hope, therefore, that non-co-operation workers
will beware of the snares of social boycott. But the alternative to social
boycott is certainly not social intercourse. A man who defies strong clear
public opinion on vital matters is not entitled to social amenities and
privileges. We may not take part in his social functions such as marriage
feasts, we may not receive gifts from him. But we dare not deny social service.
The latter is a duty. Attendance at dinner parties and the like is a privilege
which it is optional to withhold or extend. But it would be wisdom to err on the
right side and to exercise the weapon even in the limited sense described by me
on rare and well-defined occasions. And in every case the user of the weapon
will use it at his own risk. The use of it is not as yet in any form of a duty.
No one is entitled to its use, if there is any danger of hurting the movement.
Popular imagination has pictured satyagraha as
purely and simply civil disobedience, if not in some cases even criminal
disobedience. The latter is the very opposite of satyagraha. The former, i.e.
civil disobedience, is undoubtedly an important branch but by no means always
the main part of satyagraha. To-day, for instance, on the question of Rowlatt
legislation civil disobedience has gone into the background. As satyagraha is
being brought into play on a large scale in the political field for the first
time, it is an experimental stage. I am therefore ever making new discoveries.
And my error in trying to let civil disobedience take the people by storm,
appears to me to be Himalayan because of the discovery I have made, namely, that
he only is able and attains the right to offer civil disobedience who has known
how to offer voluntary and deliberate obedience to the laws of the state in
which he is living. It is only after one has voluntarily obeyed such laws a
thousand times that an occasion rightly comes to him civilly to disobey certain
laws. Nor is it necessary for voluntary obedience that the laws to be obeyed
must be good. There are many unjust laws which a good citizen obeys so long as
they do not hurt his self-respect or the moral being, and when I look back upon
my life, I cannot recall a single occasion when I have obeyed a law whether of
society or the state because of the fear of punishment. I have obeyed bad laws
of the society as well as of the state, believing that it was good for me and
the state or the society to which I belonged to do so, and I feel that having
regularly and in a disciplined manner done so, the call for disobedience to a
law of society came when I went to England in 1888, and to a law of the state in
South Africa when the Asiatic Registration Act come to the conclusion that civil
disobedience, if it has to be renewed, shall be offered in the first instance
only by me as being the fittest to do so, and the duty of fellow satyagrahis
will be to assimilate for the time being the first essential just mentioned of
civil disobedience. In the instruction I have drawn up, I have suggested that
civil disobedience by the others should not be taken up for at least one month
after I have been taken charge of by the Government. And then too by one or two
chosen satyagrahis , chosen in the sense above mentioned, and only if it is
found that no violence has been offered after my incarceration by the
satyagrahis so-called or others acting in co-operation with them. The next duty
then is for the remaining satyagrahis themselves to observe perfect calm and
quiet and to see that others do likewise. You will, therefore, see to it that
after I have offered civil disobedience, if I do, there is no hartal, no public
meetings and no demonstrations of any kind whatsoever so as to give excitement.
And I feel sure that if perfect peace is observed after my incarceration,
Rowlatt legislation will go, by reason of that very fact. But it is quite likely
that the Government may remain perfectly obstinate. In that event, under the
conditions I have already mentioned, it will be open to the satyagrahis to offer
further civil disobedience and continue to do so till every satyagrahi has
rendered a good account of himself.3
The Growth of Congress
The communal riots in Allahabad – the headquarter
of the Congress, and the necessity of summoning the assistance of the police and
even the military show that the Congress has not yet become fit to substitute
the British authority. It is best to face this naked truth, however unpleasant
it may be.
The Congress claims to represent the whole of
India, not merely those few who are on the Congress register. It should
represent even those who are hostile to it and who will even crush it, if they
can. Not until we make good that claim, shall we be in a position to displace
the British Government and function as an independent nation.
This proposition holds good whether we seek to
displace British rule by violent action or non-violent.
Most probably by the time these lines appear in
print, peace will have been established in Allahabad and the other parts. That,
however, will not take us further in our examination of the fitness of the
Congress as an organization ready to displace British authority in its entirety.
No Congressman will seriously doubt that the
Congress is not at the present moment capable of delivering the goods if it was
called upon to do so. If it was capable, it would not wait for the call. But
every Congressman believes that the Congress is fast becoming such a body. The
brilliant success at Haripura will be cited as the most conclusive proof of the
The riots and certain other things I can mention
should make us pause and ask ourselves whether the Congress is really growing
from strength to strength. I must own that I have been guilty of laying that
claim. Have I been over-hasty in doing so?
It is my conviction that the phenomenal growth of
the Congress is due to its acceptance and enforcement, however imperfect, of the
policy of non-violence. Time has arrived to consider the nature of Congress
non-violence. Is it non-violence of the weak and the helpless, or of the strong
and the powerful? If it is the former, it will never take us to our goal and, if
long practiced, may even render us for ever unfit for self-government. The weak
and helpless are non-violent in action because they must be. But in reality they
harbor violence in their breasts and simply await opportunity for its display.
It is necessary for Congressmen individually and collectively to examine the
quality of their non-violence. If it does not come out of real strength, it
would be best and honest for the Congress to make such a declaration and make
the changes in its behaviour.
By this time, i.e. after seventeen years’ practice
of non-violence, the Congress should be able to put forth a non-violent army f
volunteers numbering not a few thousands but lacs who would be equal to every
occasion where the police and military are required. Thus, instead of one brave
Pashupatinath Gupta who died in the attempt to secure peace, we should be able
to produce hundreds. And non-violent army acts unlike armed men, as well in
times of peace as of disturbances. They would be constantly engaged in
constructive activities that make riots impossible. Theirs will be the duty of
seeking occasions for bringing warring communities together, carrying on peace
propaganda, engaging in activities that would bring and keep them in touch with
every single person, male and female, adult and child, in their parish or
division. Such an army should be ready to cope with any emergency, and in order
to still the frenzy of mobs should risk their lives in numbers sufficient for
the purpose. A few hundred, may be a few thousands, such spotless deaths will
once for all put an end to the riots. Surely a few hundred young men and women
giving themselves deliberately to mob fury will be any day a cheap and braver
method of dealing with such madness than the display and use of the police and
It has been suggested that when we have our
independence riots and the like will not occur. This seems to me to be an empty
hope, if in the course of struggle for freedom we do not understand and use the
technique of non-violent action in every conceivable circumstance. To the extent
that the Congress ministers have been obliged to make use of the police and the
military, to that extent, in my opinion, we must admit our failure. That the
ministers could not have done otherwise is unfortunately only too true. I should
like every Congressman, I should like the working committee, to ask themselves
why we have failed, if they think with me that we have.
(Harijan, 26th March 1938)
Satyagraha and Nazism
One must feel happy that the danger of war has
been averted for the time being. Is the price paid likely to be too great? Is it
likely that honour has been sold? Is it a triumph of organized violence? Has
Herr Hitler discovered a new technique of organizing violence which enables him
to gain his end without shedding blood? I do not profess to know European
politics. But it does appear to me that small nationalities cannot exist in
Europe with their heads erect. They must be absorbed by their larger neighbours.
They must become vassals.
Europe has sold her soul for the sake of a
seven-days’ earthly existence. The peace Europe gained at Munich is a triumph of
violence; it is also its defeat. If England and France were sure of victory,
they would certainly have fulfilled their duty of saving Czechoslovakia or of
dying with it. But they quailed before the combined violence of Germany and
Italy. But what have Germany and Italy gained? Have they added anything to the
moral wealth of mankind?
In penning these lines my concern is not with the
great powers. Their height dazes me. Czechoslovakia has a lesson for me and us
in India. The Czechs could not have done anything else when they found
themselves deserted by their two powerful allies. And yet I have the hardihood
to say that, if they had known the use of non-violence as a weapon for the
defence of national honour, they would have faced the whole might of Germany
with that of Italy thrown in. They would have spared England and France the
humiliation of suing for a peace which was no peace; and to save their honour
they would have died to a man without shedding the blood of the robber. I must
refuse to think that such heroism, or call it restraint, is beyond human nature.
Human nature will only find itself when it fully realizes that to be human it
has to cease to be beastly or brutal. Though we have the human form, without the
attainment of the virtue of non-violence, we still share the qualities of our
remote reputed ancestor, the orang-outang.
(Harijan, 8th October 1938)
If I have called the arrangement with Herr Hitler
‘peace without honour’. It was not to cast any reflection on British or French
statesmen. I have no doubt that Mr. Chamberlain could not think of anything
better. He knew his nation’s limitations. He wanted to avoid war, if it could be
avoided at all. Short of going to war, he pulled his full weight in favour of
the Czechs. That it could not save honour was no fault of his. It would be so
every time there is a struggle with Herr Hitler or Signor Mussolini.
It cannot be otherwise. Democracy dreads to spill
blood. The philosophy for which the two dictators stand calls it cowardice to
shrink from carnage. They exhaust the resources of poetic art in order to
glorify organized murder. There is no humbug about their word or deed. They are
ever ready for war. There is nobody in Germany or Italy to cross their path.
Their word is law.
It is different with Mr. Chamberlain or Mr.
Daladier. They have their Parliaments and chambers to please. They have parties
to confer with. They cannot maintain themselves on a perpetual war footing, if
their language is to have a democratic accent about it.
Science of war leads one to dictatorship pure and
simple. Science of non-violence can alone lead one to pure democracy. England,
France and America have to make their choice. That is the challenge of the two
Russia is out of the picture just now. Russia has
a dictator who dreams of peace and thinks he will wade to it through a sea of
blood. No one can say what Russian dictatorship will mean to the world.
It was necessary to give this introduction to what
I want to say to the Czechs and through them to all those nationalities which
are called ‘small’ or ‘weak’. I want to speak to the Czechs because their plight
moved me to the point of physical and mental distress, and I felt that it would
be cowardice on my part not to share with them the thoughts that were welling up
within me. It is clear that the small nations must either come or be ready to
come under the protection of the dictators or be a constant menace to the peace
of Europe. In spite of all the goodwill in the world England and France cannot
save them. Their intervention can only mean bloodshed and destruction such as
has never been seen before. If I were a Czech, therefore, I would free these two
nations from the obligation to defend my country. And yet I must live. I would
not be a vassal to any nation or body. I must have absolute independence or
perish. To seek to win in a clash of arms would be pure bravado. Not so, if in
defying the might of one who would deprive me of my independence I refuse to
obey his will and perish unarmed in the attempt. In so doing, though I lose the
body, I save my soul, i.e. my honour.
This inglorious peace should be my opportunity. I
must live down the humiliation and gain real independence.
But, says a comforter, ‘Hitler knows no pity. Your
spiritual effort will avail nothing before him.’
My answer is: ‘You may be right. History has no
record of a nation having adopted non-violent resistance. If Hitler is
unaffected by my suffering, it does not matter. For I shall have lost nothing
worth. My honour is the only thing worth preserving. That is independent of
Hitler’s pity. But as a believer in non-violence I may not limit its
possibilities. Hitherto he and his likes have built upon their invariable
experience that men yield to force. Unarmed men, women and children offering
non-violent resistance without any bitterness in them will be a novel experience
for them. Who can dare say it is not in their nature to respond to the higher
and finer forces? They have the same soul that I have.’
But says another comforter, ‘What you say is all
right for you. But how do you expect your people to respond to the novel call?
They are trained to fight. In personal bravery they are second to none in the
world. For you now to ask them to throw away their arms and be trained for
non-violent resistance seems to me to be a vain attempt.’
‘You may be right. But I have a call I must
answer. I must deliver my message to my people. This humiliation has sunk too
deep in me to remain without an outlet. I, at least, must act up to the light
that has dawned on me.’
This is how I should, I believe, act if I was a
Czech. When I first launched out on satyagraha, I had no companion. We were
thirteen thousand men, women and children against a whole nation capable of
crushing the existence out of us. I did not know who would listen to me. It all
came as in a flash. All the 13,000 did not fight. Many fell back. But the honour
of the nation was saved. New history was written by the South African
A more apposite instance, perhaps, is that of
Khansaheb Abdul Gaffar Khan, the servant of God as he calls himself, the pride
of Afghan as the Pathans delight to call him. He is sitting in front of me as I
pen those lines. He has made several thousands of his people throw down their
arms. He thinks he has imbibed the lesson of non-violence. He is not sure of his
people. I have come to the Frontier province, or rather he has brought me, to
see with my own eyes what his men here are doing. I can say in advance and at
once that these men know very little of non-violence. All the treasure they have
on earth is their faith in their leader. I do not cite these soldiers of peace
as at all a finished illustration. I cite them as an honest attempt being made
by a soldier to convert fellow-soldiers to the ways of peace. I can testify that
it is an honest attempt, and whether in the end it succeeds or fail, it will
have its lessons for satyahrahis of the future. My purpose will be fulfilled, if
I succeed in reaching these men’s hearts and making them see that, if their
non-violence does not make them feel much braver than the possession of arms and
the ability to use them, they must give up their non-violence, which is another
name for cowardice, and resume their arms, which there is nothing but their own
will to prevent them from taking back.
I present Dr. Benes with a weapon not of the weak
but of the brave. There is no bravery greater than a resolute refusal to bend
the knee to an earthly power, no matter how great, and that without bitterness
of spirit and in fullness of faith that the spirit alone lives, nothing else
(Harijan, 15th October 1938)
Passive Resistance and Anti-Semitism
Several letters have been received by me asking me
to declare my views about the Arab-Jew question in Palestine and the persecution
of Jews in Germany. It is not without hesitation that I venture to offer my
views on this very difficult question.
My sympathies are all with the Jews. I have known
them intimately in South Africa. Some of them became lifelong companions.
Through these friends I came to learn much of their age-long persecution. They
have been the untouchables of Christianity. The parallel between their treatment
by Christians and the treatment of untouchables by Hindus is very close.
Religious sanction has been invoked in both cases for the justification of the
inhuman treatment meted out to them. Apart from the friendships, therefore,
there is the more common universal reason for my sympathy for the Jews.
But my sympathy does not blind me to the
requirements of justice. The cry for the national home for the Jews does not
make much appeal to me. The sanction for it is sought in the Bible and the
tenacity with which the Jews have hankered after return to Palestine. Why should
they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where
they are born and where they earn their livelihood?
Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense
that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and
inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs. What is going on in Palestine to-day
cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct. The mandates have no sanction
but that of the last war. Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce
the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly
as their national home.
The nobler course would be to insist on a just
treatment of the Jews wherever they are born and bred. The Jews born in France
are French in precisely the same sense that Christians born in France are
French. If the Jews have no home but Palestine, will they relish the idea of
being forced to leave the other parts of the world in which they are settled? Or
do they want a double home where they can remain at will? This cry for the
national home affords a colourable justification for the German expulsion of the
But the German persecution of the Jews seems to
have no parallel in history. The tyrants of old never went so mad as Hitler
seems to have gone. And he is doing it with religious zeal. For, he is
propounding a new religion of exclusive and militant nationalism in the name of
which any inhumanity becomes an act of humanity to be rewarded here and
hereafter. The crime of an obviously mad but intrepid youth is being visited
upon his whole race with unbelievable ferocity. If there ever could be a
justifiable war in the name of and for humility, a war against Germany, to
prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race would be completely justified.
But I do not believe in any war. A discussion of the pros and cons of such a war
is, therefore, outside my horizon or province.
But if there can be no war against Germany, even
for such a crime as is being committed against the Jews, surely there can be no
alliance with Germany. How can there be alliance between a nation which claims
to stand for justice and democracy and one which is the declared enemy of both?
Or is England drifting towards armed dictatorship and all it means?
Germany is showing to the world how efficiently
violence can be worked when it is not hampered by any hypocrisy or weakness
masquerading as humanitarianism. It is also showing how hideous, terrible and
terrifying it looks in its nakedness.
Can the Jews resist this organized and shameless
persecution? Is there a way to preserve their self-respect, and not to feel
helpless, neglected and forlorn? I submit there is. No person who has faith in a
living God need feel helpless or forlorn. Jehovah of the Jews is a God more
personal than the God of the Christians, the Mussulmans or the Hindus, though as
a matter of fact, in essence, He is common to all and one without a second and
beyond description. But as the Jews attribute personality to God and believe
that He rules every action of theirs, they ought not to feel helpless. If I were
a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim
Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German might, and challenge him
to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to
submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this I should not wait for the
fellow-Jews to join me in civil resistance, but would have confidence that in
the end the rest were bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews
were accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than
now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and
joy which no number of resolutions of sympathy passed in the world outside
Germany can. Indeed, even if Britain, France and America were to declare
hostilities against Germany, they can bring no inner joy, no inner strength. The
calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews
by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the
Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have
imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had
wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the
God-fearing, death has no terror. It is a joyful sleep to be followed by a
waking that would be all the more refreshing for the long sleep.
It is hardly necessary for me to point out that it
is easier for the Jews than for the Czechs to follow my prescription. And they
have in the Indian satyagraha campaign in South Africa an exact parallel. There
the Indians occupied precisely the same place that the Jews occupy in Germany.
The persecution had also a religious tinge. President Kruger used to say that
the White Christians were the chosen of God and Indians were inferior beings
created to serve the Whites. A fundamental clause in the Transvaal constitution
was that there should be no equality between the Whites and coloured races
including Asiatics. There, too, the Indians were consigned to ghettoes described
as locations. The other disabilities were almost of the same type as those of
the Jews in Germany. The Indians, a mere handful, resorted to satyagraha without
any backing from the world outside or the Indian Government. Indeed the British
officials tried to dissuade the satyagrahis from their contemplated step. World
opinion and the Indian Government came to their aid after eight years of
fighting. And that too was by way of diplomatic pressure, not of a threat of
But the Jews of Germany can offer satyagraha under
infinitely better auspices than the Indians of South Africa. The Jews are a
compact, homogeneous community in Germany. They are far more gifted than the
Indians of South Africa. And they have organized world opinion behind them. I am
convinces that, if someone with courage and vision can arise among them to lead
them in non-violent action, the winter of their despair can in the twinkling of
an eye be turned into the summer of hope. And what has to-day become a degrading
man-hunt can be turned into a calm and determined stand offered by unarmed men
and women possessing the strength of suffering given to them by Jehovah. It will
be then a truly religious resistance offered against the godless fury of
dehumanized man. The German Jews will score a lasting victory over the German
gentiles in the sense that they will have converted the latter to an
appreciation of human dignity. They will have rendered service to fellow-Germans
and proved their title to be the real Germans as against those who are to-day
dragging, however unknowingly, the German name into the mire.
And now a word to the Jews in Palestine. I have no
doubt that they are going about things in the wrong way. The Palestine of the
Biblical conception is not a geographical tract. It is in their hearts. But if
they must look to the Palestine of geography as their national home, it is wrong
to enter it under the shadow of the British gun.
A religious act cannot be performed with the aid
of the bayonet or the bomb. They can settle in Palestine only by the goodwill of
the Arabs. They should seek to convert the Arab heart. The same God rules the
Arab heart who rules the Jewish heart. They can offer satyagraha in front of the
Arabs and offer themselves to be shot or thrown into the Dead Sea without
raising a little finger against them. They will find the world opinion in their
favour in their religious aspiration. There are hundreds of ways of reasoning
with the Arabs, if they will only discard the help of the British bayonet. As it
is, they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling a people who have done no
wrong to them.
I am not defending the Arab excesses. I wish they
had chosen the way of non-violence in resisting what they rightly regarded as an
unwarrantable encroachment upon their country. But according to the accepted
canons of right and wrong, nothing can be said against the Arab resistance in
the face of overwhelming odds.
Let the Jews who claim to be the chosen race prove
their title by choosing the way of non-violence for vindicating their position
on earth. Every country is their home, including Palestine, not by aggression
but by loving service. A Jewish friend has sent me a book called The Jewish
Contribution to Civilization by Cecil Roth. It gives a record of what the Jews
have done to enrich the world’s literature, art, music, drama, science,
medicine, agriculture, etc. Given the will, the Jew can refuse to be treated as
the outcast of the West to be despised or patronized. He can command the
attention and respect of the world by being man, the chosen creation of God,
instead of being man who is fast sinking to the brute and forsaken by God. They
can add to their many contributions the surpassing contribution of non-violent action.
(Harijan, 26th November 1938)
I do not think that the sufferings of Pastor
Niemoeller and others have been in vain. They have preserved their self-respect
intact. They have proved that their faith was equal to any suffering. That they
have not proved sufficient for melting Herr Hitler’s heart merely shows that it
is made of harder material than stone. But the hardest metal yields to
sufficient heat. Even so must the hardest heart melt before sufficiency of the
heat of non-violence. And there is no limit to the capacity of non-violence to
Every action is a resultant of a multitude of
forces even of a contrary nature. There is no waste of energy. So we learn in
the books on mechanics. This is equally true of human actions. The difference is
that in the one case we generally know the forces at work, and when we do, we
can mathematically foretell the resultant. In the case of the human actions,
they result from a concurrence of forces, of most of which we have no knowledge.
But our ignorance must not be made to serve the cause of disbelief in the power
of these forces. Rather is our ignorance a cause for greater faith. And
non-violence being the mightiest force in the world and also the most elusive in
its working, it demands the greatest exercise of faith. Even as we believe in
God in faith, so have we to believe in non-violence in faith.
(Harijan, 7th January 1939)
Satyagraha as a means of National Defence
In the course of the conversation with the members
of the working-committee, I discovered that their non-violence had ever gone
beyond fighting the British Government with that weapon. I had hugged the belief
that Congressmen had appreciated the logical result of the practice of
non-violence for the past twenty years in fighting the biggest imperialist power
in the world. But in great experiments like that of non-violence, hypothetical
questions have hardly any play. I myself used to say in answer to questions that
when we had actually acquired independence we would know whether we could defend
ourselves non-violently or not. But to-day the question is no longer
hypothetical. Whether there is on the part of the British Government a
favourable declaration or not, the Congress has to decide upon the course it
would adopt in the event of an invasion of India. For though there may be no
settlement with the Government, the Congress has to declare its policy and say
whether it would fight the invading host violently or non-violently.
So far as I can read the working committee’s mind
after a fairly full discussion, the members think that congressmen are
unprepared for non-violent defence against armed invasion.
This is tragic. Surely the means adopted for
driving an enemy from one’s house must, more or less, coincide with those to be
adopted for keeping him out of the house. If anything, the latter process must
be easier. The fact, however, is that our fight has not been one of non-violent
resistance of the strong. It has been one of passive resistance of the weak.
Therefore there is no spontaneous response in our hearts, at this supreme
moment, to an undying faith in the efficacy of non-violence. The working
committee, therefore, wisely said that they were not ready for the logical step.
The tragedy of the situation is that, if the Congress is to throw in its lot
with those who believe in the necessity of armed defence of India, the past
twenty years will have been years of gross neglect of the primary duty of
Congressmen to learn the science of armed warfare. And I fear that history will
hold me, as the general of the fight, responsible for the tragedy. The future
historian will say that I should have perceived that the nation was learning not
non-violence of the strong but merely passivity of the weak, and that I should
have, therefore, provided for Congressmen’s military training.
Being obsessed with the idea that somehow or other
India will learn true non-violence, it would not occur to me to invite my
co-workers to train themselves for armed defence. On the contrary, I used to
discountenance all sword-play and the display of stout lathis. Nor am I even now
repentant for the past. I have the unquenchable faith that, of all the countries
in the world, India is the one country which can learn the art of non-violence,
that if the test were applied even now, there would be found, perhaps, thousands
of men and women who would be willing to die without harbouring malice against
their persecutors. I have harangued crowds and told them repeatedly that they
might have to suffer much, including death by shooting. Did not thousands of men
and women brave hardships during the salt campaign equal to any that soldiers
are called upon to bear? No different capacity is required from what has been
already evinced, if India has to contend against an invader. Only it will have
to be on vaster scale.
One thing ought not to be forgotten. India unarmed
would not require to be destroyed through poison gas or bombardment. It is the
Maginot Line that has made the Siegfried Line necessary. And vice versa. Defence
of India by the present methods has been necessary because she is an appendage
of Britain. Free India can have no enemy. And if her people have learnt the art
of saying resolute ‘No’ and acting up to it, I daresay no one would want to
invade her. Our economy would be so modeled as to prove no temptation for the
But some Congressmen will say: ‘Apart from the
British, India has so many martial races within her border that they will want
to put up a fight for the country which is as much theirs as ours.’ This is
perfectly true. I am therefore talking, for the moment, only of Congressmen. How
would they act in the event of an invasion? We shall never convert the whole of
India to our creed unless we are prepared to die for it.
The opposite course appeals to me. Already, the
bulk of the Army is manned by the Mussulmans of the North, Sikhs and Gurkhas. If
the masses of the South and Centre wish to become militarized, the Congress,
which is supposed to represent them, will have to enter into competition with
the former. The Congress will then have to be party to an enormous military
budget. There may be all these things without the Congress consent. It will make
all the difference in the world whether the Congress is party to them or not.
The world is looking for something new and unique from India. The Congress will
be lost in the crowd, if it wears the same old outworn armour that the world is
wearing to-day. The Congress has a name because it represents non-violence as a
political weapon par excellence. If the Congress helps the Allies as a
representative of non-violence, it will give to the Allied cause a prestige and
a power which will be invaluable in deciding the ultimate fate of the war. But
the members of the working committee have honestly and bravely not made the
profession of such non-violence.
My position is, therefore, confined to myself
alone. I have to find out whether I have any fellow-traveller along the lonely
path. If I am in the minority of one, I must try to make converts. Whether one
or many, I must declare my faith that it is better for India to discard violence
altogether even for defending her borders, For India to enter into the race for
armaments is to court suicide. With the loss of India to non-violence the last
hope of the world will be gone. I must live up to the creed I have professed for
the last half-century, and hope to the last breath that India will make
non-violence her creed, preserve man’s dignity, and prevent him from reverting
to the type from which he is supposed to have raised himself.
(Harijan, 14th October 1939)
An Appeal to Every Briton
In 1896 I addressed an appeal to every Briton in
South Africa on behalf of my countrymen who had gone there as labourers or
traders and their assistants. It had its effect. However important it was from
my viewpoint, the cause which I pleaded then was insignificant compared with the
cause which prompts this appeal. I appeal to every Briton, wherever he may be
now, to accept the method of non-violence instead of that of war, for the
adjustment of relations between nations and other matters. Your statesmen have
declared that this is a war on behalf of democracy. There are many other reasons
given in justification. You know them all by heart. I suggest that, at the end
of the war, whichever way it ends, there will be no democracy left to represent
democracy. This war has descended upon mankind as a curse and a warning. It is a
curse inasmuch as it is brutalizing man on a scale hitherto unknown. All
distinctions between combatants and non-combatants have been abolished. No one
and nothing is to be spared. Lying has been reduced to an art. Britain was to
defend small nationalities. One by one they have vanished, at least for the time
being. It is also a warning. It is a warning that, if nobody reads the writing
on the wall, man will be reduced to the state of the beast, whom he is shaming
by his manners. I read the writing when the hostilities broke out. But I had not
the courage to say the word. God has given me the courage to say it before it is
I appeal for cessation of hostilities, not because
you are too exhausted to fight, but because war is bad in essence. You want to
kill Nazism. You will never kill it by its indifferent adoption.
Your soldiers are doing the same work of
destruction as the Germans. The only difference is that perhaps yours are not as
thorough as the Germans. If that be so, yours will soon acquire the same
thoroughness as theirs, if not much greater. On no other condition can you win
the war. In other words, you will have to be more ruthless than the Nazis. No
cause, however just, can warrant the indiscriminate slaughter that is going on
minute by minute. I suggest that a cause that demands the inhumanities that are
being perpetrated to-day cannot be called just.
I do not want Britain to be defeated, nor do I
want her to be victorious in a trial of brute strength, whether expressed
through the muscle or the brain. Your muscular bravery is an established fact.
Need you demonstrate that your brain is also as unrivalled in destructive power
as your muscle? I hope you do not wish to enter into such an undignified
competition with the Nazis. I venture to present you with a nobler and braver
way, worthy of the bravest soldier. I want you to fight Nazism without arms, or,
if I am to retain the military terminology, with non-violent arms. I would like
you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity.
You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of your
beautiful island, with your many beautiful buildings. You will give all these
but neither your souls, nor your minds. If these gentlemen choose to occupy your
homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will
allow yourselves man, woman and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to
owe allegiance to them.
This process or method, which I have called
non-violent non-co-operation, is not without considerable success in its use in
India. Your representatives in India may deny my claim. If they do, I shall feel
sorry for them. They may tell you that our non-co-operation was not wholly
non-violent, that it was born of hatred. If they give that testimony, I will not
deny it. Had it been wholly non-violent, if all the non-co-operators had been
filled with goodwill towards you, I make bold to say that you who are India’s
masters would have become her pupils and, with much greater skill than we have,
perfected this matchless weapon and met the German and Italian friends’ menace
with it. Indeed the history of Europe during the past few months would then have
been written differently. Europe would have been spared seas of innocent blood,
the rape of so many small nations, and the orgy of hatred.
This is no appeal made by a man who does not know
his business. I have been practicing with scientific precision non-violence and
its possibilities for an unbroken period of over fifty years. I have applied it
in every walk of life, domestic, institutional, economic and political. I know
of no single case in which it has failed. Where it has seemed sometimes to have
failed, I have ascribed it to my imperfections. I claim no perfection for
myself. But I do claim to be a passionate seeker after Truth, which is but
another name for God. In the course of that search, the discovery of
non-violence came to me. Its spread is my life mission. I have no interest in
living except for the prosecution of that mission.
I claim to have been a lifelong and wholly
disinterested friend of the British people. At one time I used to be also a
lover of your empire. I thought that it was doing good to India. When I saw that
in the nature of things it could do no good, I used, and am still using, the
non-violent method to fight imperialism. Whatever the ultimate fate of my
country, my love for you remains, and will remain, undiminished. My non-violence
demands universal love, and you are not a small part of it. It is that love
which has prompted my appeal to you.
May God give power to every word of mine. In His
name, I began to write this, and in His name, I close it. May your states men
have the wisdom and courage to respond to my appeal. I am telling His Excellency
the Viceroy that my services are at the disposal of His Majesty’s Government,
should they consider them of any practical use in advancing the object of my
(Harijan, 6th July 1940)
By writing that ‘Appeal to Every Briton’ I have
invited upon my head and extra load of work which without God’s help I would be
ill able to bear. If it is His will that I should shoulder it, He will give me
the strength to carry on.
When I decided to confine myself mostly to writing
in Gujarati or Hindustani, I had no notion that I would have to write the
appeal. It came to me like a flash, and the courage to write it came with it. I
had resisted till then all pressure from English and American friends to give
guidance. But I could not see my way. Now, having addressed that appeal, I must
follow up the reactions to it. A large amount of correspondence is pouring in
upon me. Save for one angry telegram, I had nothing but friendly criticism from
Englishmen and even appreciation from
I was grateful to H. E. the Viceroy for forwarding
my offer to His Majesty’s Government. The correspondence with regard to it the
readers have already seen or will see in this issue. Though no better response
to the appeal was to be expected, I cannot help saying that it was the knowledge
of the determination to carry the war to a victorious end that had prompted my
appeal. No doubt the determination is natural and worthy of the best British
tradition. Nevertheless the awful slaughter that the determination involves,
should induce a search for a better and braver way to achieve the end. For peace
has its victories more glorious than those of war. The non-violent method would
have meant no abject surrender. It would have confounded all modern tactics of
war, indeed rendered them of no use. The new world order, which all dream of,
would surely have been found. I hold a new order to be impossible, if the war is
fought to a finish or mutual exhaustion leads to a patched-up peace.
Let me, therefore, examine the argument advanced
in a letter received from a friend. Here it is:
‘Two English friends, who admire you, say your
appeal to every Briton cannot have any effect just now. It is impossible to
expect the man in the street to do a complete volte face with any degree of
understanding – indeed it is impossible for the understanding to do, as you say,
without a heart-belief in non-violence. The time to mould a new world on your
lines will be after the war. They realize your way is the right one, but they
say it needs endless preparation and instruction and big leadership – none of
which they possess. Regarding India, they say the attitude of the present
authority is deplorable. Long ago India should have been declared as independent
as Canada, and her people should be allowed to work out their own constitution.
But what they are extremely perplexed about now is that you want absolute
independence straight away, and the next step you will take is “no further help
to Britain in the prosecution of war, surrender to Germany, and opposition to
her by non-violent means”. You must explain what you mean in more detail so as
to remove this misunderstanding. This is an honest reaction.’
The appeal was intended to produce the effect now.
It could not come out of the mathematical calculation. If the conviction could
have come, action was an easy matter. The mass mind responds under pressure.
That the appeal has not produced the intended result shows that either my word
has no power or that God has a purpose of which we have no knowledge. The appeal
has come from an anguished heart. I could not suppress it. It was not written
for the moment. I am quite sure that it enunciates a truth of eternal value.
If the ground is not prepared from now, there may
be no time left after a dismal termination of the war for evolving a new order.
Whatever the order, it will be in no response to a conscious or unconscious
effort from now. Indeed the effort began before my appeal I hope that it has
stimulated it, perhaps given it a definite direction. I suggest to the
non-official leaders and moulders of British opinion, if they are convinced of
the truth of my position, to work for its adoption. Compared to the big issue
raised in my appeal, the question of Indian independence pales into
insignificance. But I hold with the two Englishmen that the British Government’s
attitude is deplorable. The two friends are wholly wrong in the deduction they
have drawn from the assumed recognition of India’s independence. They forget
that I am out of the picture. Those who are responsible for the working
committee’s last resolution have meant free India’s co-operation with Britain.
With them, there is no question of surrender to Germany or non-violent
But I must here tarry on Indian independence and
its implications, tempting though the subject is.
The cuttings and correspondence before me say that
the Congress rejections of my advice to abstain from preparation for military
defence of India precludes me from making the appeal to Britain or from
expecting a favourable response. The argument is plausible, but only plausible.
The critics say that, if I have failed with my people, I have no right to expect
Britain whilst she is in the midst of a life and death struggle to listen to me.
I am a man with a mission. India’s millions have never tasted the bitters of war
as British have. Britain, if she is to fulfil her declared purpose, needs a
radical change in her policy. I feel that I know the change that is needed. My
inability to persuade the working committee is irrelevant to the theme under
discussion. There is no analogy between India’s case and Britain’s. I am,
therefore, wholly unrepentant, I maintain that in issuing my appeal I have acted
wholly as a lifelong friend of Britain.
A writer, however, retorts: ‘Address your appeal
to Hitler.’ In the first place, I did write to Herr Hitler. My letter was
published in the Press some time after I addressed it. In the second place,
there can be no meaning in my appeal to Herr Hitler to adopt non-violence. He is
marching from victory to victory, I can only appeal to him to desist. That I
have done. But to Britain, which is just now on the defensive, I can present the
really effective weapon of non-violent non-co-operation. Let my method be
rejected on merits, not by bringing inapt analogies or untenable arguments. The
issue raised by me, I venture to think, is of universal importance. The
usefulness of non-violent methods seems to be granted by all the critics. They
gratuitously assume the impossibility of human nature, as it is constituted,
responding to the strain involved in non-violent preparation. But that is
begging the question. I say, ‘You have never tried the method on any scale. In
so far as it has been tried, it has shown promising results.’
(Harijan, 21sth July 1940)
A friend quotes from a letter received from an English friend:
‘Do you think that Mahatma’s appeal to every
Briton is going to produce right reactions in the mind or heart of a single
Briton? That appeal has probably created more ill-will than anything else
recently. We live in astonishing and critical times, and it is frightfully
difficult to decide what should be done. At any rate we should try to avoid
obvious dangers. So far as I can see, Mahatma’s unadulterated policy must
inevitably lead to disaster for India. How far he himself intends following it I
do not know, for he has a wonderful way of adapting himself to his material.’
Well, I happen to know that many more than one
single heart have been touched by my ‘Appeal to Every Briton’. I know that many
English friends were anxious for me to take some such step.
But I do not want to take comfort from the
approbation, however pleasing in itself, of English friends. What is of value
for me is to know that at least one Englishman thinks as stated in the extract.
Such knowledge should put me on my guard. It should make me more careful, if
possible, in the selection of the words I use to express my thought. But no
displeasure even of the dearest friends can put me off the duty I se clearly in
front of me. And this duty of making the appeal was so peremptory that it was
impossible for me to put it off. As certain as I am writing this, the world has
to come to the state to which I have invited Britain. Those who will be
witnesses of that happy and not far-off event will recall my appeal with
gladness. I know that the appeal has hastened its advent.
Why should a single Briton resent an appeal to him
to be braver than he is, to be better than he is in every respect? He may plead
inability, but he cannot be displeased by an appeal to his nobler nature.
Why should the appeal breed any ill-will at all?
There is no cause given for it by the manner or the matter of the appeal. I have
not advised cessation of fight. I have advised lifting it to a plane worthy of
human nature, of the divinity man shares with God Himself. If the hidden meaning
of the remarks is that by making the appeal I have strengthened Nazi hands, the
suggestion does not bear scrutiny. Herr Hitler can only be confounded by the
adoption by Britain of the novel method of fighting. At one single stroke he
will find that all his tremendous armament has been put out of action. A warrior
lives on his wars whether offensive or defensive. He suffers a collapse, if he
finds that his warring capacity is unwanted.
My appeal is not from a coward to brave people to
shed their bravery, nor is it a mockery from a fair-weather friend to one in
distress. I suggest to the writer to re-read my appeal in the light of my
One thing Herr Hitler, as every critic, may say: I
am a fool without any knowledge of the world or human nature. That would be a
harmless certificate which need excite neither ill-will nor anger. It would be
harmless because I have earned such certificates before now. This one would be
the latest of the many editions, and I hope not the last, for my foolish
experiments have not yet ended.
So far as India is concerned, my unadulterated
policy can never harm her, if she adopts it. If India as a whole rejects it,
there can be no harm accruing except to those who may foolishly pursue it. The
correspondent has lighted upon my strong point when he says: ’Mahatma has a
wonderful way of adapting himself to his material.’ My instinctive knowledge of
my material has given me a faith which cannot be moved. I feel within me that
the material is ready. My instinct has not betrayed me once. But I must not
build much upon past experience. ‘One step enough for me.’
(Harijan, 28th July 1940)
Ahimsa and Himsa
If we turn our eyes to the time of which history
has any record down to our own time, we shall find that man has been steadily
progressing towards ahimsa. Our remote ancestors were cannibals. Then came a
time when they were fed up with cannibalism and they began to live on chase.
Next came a stage when man was ashamed of leading the life of a wandering
hunter. He therefore took to agriculture and depended principally on mother
earth for his food. Thus from being a nomad he settled down to civilized stable
life, founded villages and towns, and from member of a family he became member
of a community and a nation. All these are signs of progressive ahimsa and
diminishing himsa. Had it been otherwise, the human species should have been
extinct by now, even as many of the lower species have disappeared.
Prophets and avatars have also taught the lesson
of ahimsa more or less. Not one of them has professed to teach himsa. And how
should it be otherwise? Himsa does not need to be taught. Man as animal is
violent, but as spirit is non-violent. The moment he awakes to the spirit within
he cannot remain violent. Either he progresses towards ahimsa or rushes to his
doom. That is why the prophets and avatars have taught the lessons of truth,
harmony, brotherhood, justice, etc. –all attributes of ahimsa.
And yet violence seems to persist, even to the
extent of thinking people like the correspondent regarding it as the final
weapon. But, as I have shown, history and experience are against him.
If we believe that mankind has steadily progressed
towards ahimsa, it follows that it has to progress towards it still further.
Nothing in this world is static, everything is kinetic. If there is no
progression, then there is inevitable retrogression. No one can remain without
the eternal cycle, unless it be God Himself.
The present war is the saturation point in
violence. It spells to my mind also its doom. Daily I have testimony of the fact
that ahimsa was never before appreciated by mankind as it is to-day. All the
testimony from the West that I continue to receive points in the same direction.
The Congress has pledged itself to ahimsa however limited. I invite the
correspondent and doubters like him to shed their doubts and plunge confidently
into the sacred sacrificial fire of ahimsa. Then I have little doubt that the
Congress will retrace its step. ‘It is always willing.’ Well has Pritan, our
Happiest are those that plunge in the fire,
The lookers-on are all but scorched by flames.
(Harijan, 11th August 1940)
Fasting in Non-violent Action
If the struggle which we are seeking to avoid with
all our might has to come, and if it is to remain non-violent as it must in
order to succeed, fasting is likely to play an important part in it. It has its
place in the tussle with authority and with our own people in the event of
wanton acts of violence and obstinate riots, for instance.
There is a natural prejudice against it as part of
a political struggle. It has a recognized place in religious practice. But it is
considered a vulgar interpolation in politics by the ordinary politician though
it has always been resorted to by prisoners in a haphazard way with more or less
success. By fasting, however, they have always succeeded in drawing public
attention and disturbing the peace of jail authorities.
My own fasts have always, as I hold, been strictly
according to the law of satyagraha. Fellow satyagrahis too in South Africa
fasted partially or wholly. My fasts have been varied. There was the
Hindu-Muslim unity fast of twenty-one days in 1924, started under the late
Maulana Mohomed Ali’s roof in Delhi. The indeterminate fast against the
MacDonald Award was taken in the Yeravda Prison in 1932. The twenty-one days’
purificatory fast was begun in the Yeravda prison and was finished at Lady
Thakersey’s, as the Government would not take the burden of my being in the
prison in that condition. Then followed another fast in the Yeravda prison in
1933 against the Government refusal to let me carry on anti-untouchability work
through Harijan (issued from prison) on the same basis as facilities had been
allowed me four months before. They would not yield, but they discharged me when
their medical advisers thought I could not live many days if the fast was not
given up. Then followed the ill-fated Rajkot fast in 1939. A false step taken by
me thoughtlessly during that fast thwarted the brilliant result that would
otherwise certainly have been achieved. In spite of all these fasts, fasting has
not been accepted as recognized part of satyagraha. It has only been tolerated
by the politicians. I have, however, been driven to the conclusion that fasting
unto death is an integral part of satyagraha programme, and it is the greatest
and most effective weapon in its armoury under given circumstances. Not every
one is qualified for undertaking it without a proper course of training.
I may not burden this note with an examination of
the circumstances under which fasting may be resorted to and the training
required for it. Non-violence in its positive aspect as benevolence (I do not
use the word love as it has fallen into disrepute) is the greatest force because
of the limitless scope it affords for self-suffering without causing or
intending any physical or material injury to the wrong-doer. The object always
is to evoke the best in him. Self-suffering is an appeal to his better nature,
as retaliation is to his baser. Fasting under proper circumstances is such an
appeal par excellence. If the politician does not perceive its propriety in
political matters, it is because it is a novel use of this very fine weapon.
To practice non-violence in mundane matters is to
know its true value. It is to bring heaven upon earth. There is no such thing as
the other world. All worlds are one. There is no ‘here’ and no ‘there’. As Jeans
has demonstrated, the whole universe including the most distant stars, invisible
even through the most powerful telescope in the world, is compressed in an atom.
I hold it therefore to be wrong to limit the use of non-violence to cave
dwellers and for acquiring merit for a favoured position in the other world. All
virtue ceases to have use if it serves no purpose in every walk of life. I would
therefore plead with the purely political-minded people to study non-violence
and fasting as its extreme manifestation with sympathy and understanding.
(Harijam 26th July 1942)
1. Extracts from Young India. Vol. I by M. K.
Gandhi (Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedebad)
2. In Young India of 9th March 1922, commenting on
a letter received by him from a well-known resident of Feni in the Noakhali
district alleging that the Congress Volunteer Corps had become an organization
for bad characters, that the whole country thereabout was under it and that
these were guilty of extortion, terrorism and humiliating rowdyism, Mr. Gandhi
wrote asking the Congress Committee to inquire.
‘An inquiry therefore is a simple matter.
Meanwhile, as I know that publication is also half the remedy, I gladly place
the columns of Young India at the disposal of those who can send authentic
instances of intimidation, coercion, assaults, social boycott by or on behalf of
non-co-operators whether Congressmen or Khilafatists. Indeed every Congressman
is a Khilafatist, and every Khilafatist is a Congressman, but since we have two
organizations in the country I appeal to both to be merciless in exposing our
own wrong-doing. I could find a thousand excuses for the wrong-doing of the
administrators if only because we impute to them nothing better, whereas we
claim to be immaculate so far as non-violence and honesty are concerned. We
shall bring the struggle to a successful issue far more quickly by being strict
with ourselves. There is no excuse whatsoever for intimidation, coercion,
assault or social boycott on our part. I would urge the correspondents, who may
send me letters of complaints, to be brief, strictly accurate and to write in a
clear hand on one side of the paper only. It is not an easy matter to go through
the heavy correspondence pouring in from day to day. Compliance with this simple
request will ensure quicker attention. Correspondents will take care to avoid
vague generalizations. Specific details as in the Nokhali letter are absolutely
necessary to inspire belief and to assist Inquiry.
3. Extract from Young India, Vol. III by M. K.
Gandhi (Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedebad)