GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229

E-mail- dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net;

dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com    

Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

 

Counter Violence and Mahatma Gandhi 

 

 

 

And has not the U. P. Government pronounced the movement revolutionary? Hitherto the word “revolution” been connected with violence, and has as such been condemned by established authority. But the movement of non-co-operation, if it may be considered a revolution, is not an armed revolt: it is an evolutionary revolution, it is a bloodless revolution. The movement is a revolution of thought, of spirit. Non-co-operation is a process of purification, and, as such, it constitutes a revolution in one’s ideas. Its suppression, therefore, would amount to co-operation by coercion. Orders to kill the movement will be orders to destroy, or interfere with, the introduction of the spinning wheel, to prohibit the campaign of temperance, and an incitement, therefore, to violence. For any attempt to compel people by indirect methods to wear foreign clothes, to patronize drink-shops, would certainly exasperate them. But our success will be assured when we stand even this exasperation and incitement. We must not retort. Inaction on our part will kill Government madness for violence flourishes on response, either by submission to the will of the violator, or by counter-violence. My strong advice to every worker is to segregate this evil Government by strict non-co-operation, not even to talk or speak about it, but having recognized the evil, to cease to pay homage to it by co-operation. 1

Repeatedly does one read in the papers that non-co-operation was a perfect failure? Several courteous critics often apologetically broach the question in conversations, and gently tell me that the country would have made great progress if I had not led it astray by my ill-conceived non-co-operation. I should not refer to this subject, which may be said to have no bearing on the politics of the day, but for my belief that non-co-operation has come to us as an active force that may assume a universal form any moment, and but for the purpose of reassuring those who are bravely holding on in the face of criticism and scepticism. Let me, how-ever, admit the dangerous half-truth that non-co-operation entirely failed the moment it became violent. Indeed, non-co-operation and violence are here contradictory terms. It is a living belief that violence lived on itself and it required counter-violence for its daily maintenance that gave rise to nonviolent non-co-operation.

The fact, therefore, is that the moment non-co-operation became violent it lost its vitality and nation-building character. But in so far as it was and remained non-violent, it was a demonstrably complete success. The mass awakening that took place in 1920 all of a sudden was perhaps the greatest demonstration of the efficacy of non-violence. The Government has lost prestige never to be regained. Titles, law-courts, educational institutions no longer inspire the awe they did in 1920. Some of the best lawyers in the country have given up law for ever as a profession and are happy for having accepted comparative poverty as their lot. The few national schools and colleges that remain are giving a good account of themselves, as witness the great organization that came into being in Gujarat when the floods turned into a waste what was once a rich garden. But for the students and teachers of national institutions and other non-co-operators the timely help that the afflicted peasantry of Gujarat received and so much needed would never have been at its disposal. It is possible to multiply illustrations of this character and prove that wherever there is real national life, a bond between the classes and the masses in India; non-co-operation is the cause of it. 2

I am not even now sure that it is. But it has become clear to me as never before that the unpreparedness in the sense that a non-violent atmosphere is wanting will, as time goes by, very likely increase as it has been increasing all these years. Young men are impatient. I know definitely many stayed their violent designs because in 1921 the Congress had decided to offer civil disobedience. That school has been more active than before because of my repeated declarations that the country was not prepared for civil disobedience. I feel then that if non-violence is an active force, as I know it is, it should work even in the face of the most violent atmosphere. One difficulty in the way was that the Congress claiming to represent the whole nation could not very well offer civil disobedience and disown responsibility for violence especially by Congressmen. I have procured discharge from that limitation by taking over the responsibility for launching on civil disobedience. I represent no one but myself and at the most those whom I may enroll for the campaign. And I propose at present to confine myself only to those who are amenable to the Ashram discipline and have actually undergone it for some time. It is true that I may not shirk responsibility indirectly for any violence that may break out on the part of the nation and in the course of the campaign. But such responsibility will always be there and can be only a degree more than the responsibility I share with the British rulers in their sins against the nation in so far as I give my co-operation however reluctantly and ever so slightly. For instance I give my co-operation by paying taxes direct or indirect.

The very salt I eat compels my voluntary co-operation. Moreover it has dawned on me never so plainly as now that if my non-violence has suffered the greatest incarnation of violence which the British imperialistic rule is, it must suffer the crude and ineffective violence of the impatient patriots who know not that by their ineffectiveness they are but helping that imperialistic rule and enabling it to consolidate the very thing they seek to destroy. I see now as clearly as daylight that my non-violence working as it has done against the British misrule has shaken it somewhat. Even so will it shake the counter-violence of the patriot if taking courage in both my hands I set my non-violence actively in motion, i.e., civil disobedience? I reduce the risk of the outbreak of counter-violence to a minimum by taking sole charge of the campaign. After all is said and done, however, I feel the truth of the description given to my proposal by The Times of India. It is indeed ‘the last throw of a gambler’. I have been a ‘gambler’ all my life. In my passion for finding the truth and in relentlessly following out my faith in non-violence, I have counted no stake too great, in doing so I have erred, if at all, in the company of the most distinguished scientist of any age and any clime. 3

I am unable to say what the Congress will exactly do, in view of the recent statement of the Working Committee. If you believe in non-violent treatment of anarchy and the like, naturally you will prepare yourself and your neighbours and those whom you can influence for non-violent defence. I quite agree with you that no responsible person can sit idly by in these times. Violent preparation would need long previous training. Non-violent preparation means mental adjustment. Possibility of anarchy there undoubtedly is. But if you are non-violent, you will not give way to fear. Do not anticipate anarchy, just as you do not anticipate death though you know that it is a certainty. If you are non-violent, you will believe that there will be no anarchy. But if unfortunately it comes, you and your companions of followers will give your lives to prevent it. Those who live their lives, in trying to kill those whim they regard as robbers or mischief makers, do no better, possibly they do worse. They risk their lives and there is darkness after they are gone. What is more, they may leave things worse by feeding the fire of violence by counter-violence. Those who die unresistingly are likely to still the fury of violence by their wholly innocent sacrifice. But this truly non-violent action is not possible unless it springs from a heart belief that he whom you fear and regard as a robber, dacoit, or worse and you are one, and that therefore it is better that you die at his hands than that he, your ignorant brother, should die at yours. 4

I am thankful to the signatories for their support of my appeal. I can assure them that immediately I see the psychological moment, I shall act up to the signatories’ expectation that I should address the spiritual leaders of the world. It is quite evident that the very thoroughness of the Nazi method makes them think that nothing but counter-violence can check the terror. I have suggested that counter violence can only result in further brutalization of human nature. Drastic diseases require drastic remedies. In this instance nothing but non-violence can cure Nazi violence. 5 It is an old argument. One used to hear it in old days in defence of terrorism. Sabotage is a form of violence. People have realized the futility of physical violence, but some people apparently think that it may be successfully practised in its modified form as sabotage. It lacked the quality of non-violence and could not take the place of full-fledged armed conflict. We have to deal with a power which takes pride in not recognizing defeat. In the early part of the British rule there were powerful risings. In several places the British were actually beaten. But they won in the end. A British statesman used to say, “I do not believe in wooden guns.” National struggles could not be won by “wooden guns”. It is my conviction that the whole mass of people would not have risen to the height of courage and fearlessness that they have, but for the working of full non-violence. How it works we do not yet fully know. But the fact remains that under non-violence we have progressed from strength to strength even through our apparent failures and set-backs. On the other hand, terrorism resulted in demoralization. Haste leads to waste. 6

The moral to be legitimately drawn from the supreme tragedy of the bomb is that it will no

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