GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338

E-mail- dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com;dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net

 

 

Kanpur and Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi had a heartily relationship with Kanpur. Ali Bandhu lived there. He was a famous associate of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi spoke, “From Delhi I had in any case to go to Prayag. When I returned from there after meeting Pandit Motilal Nehru, I was pressed to go to Kanpur. The citizens of Kanpur urged me to go there for a few hours and open the Swadeshi Bhandar, saying I could leave by the next train. I could not refuse them. Kanpur is between Prayag and Delhi and is four hours from Prayag by Mail. It is a centre of commerce and mills, like Bombay. The climate too is excellent. This was the first venture here by way of a swadeshi store; Hasrat Mohani’s being the chief hand behind it. Thousands attended the opening ceremony and the people’s enthusiasm was boundless.”1 Mahatma Gandhi spoke, “There is not much time left before the Kanpur Congress. The reception committee was faced with unexpected difficulties. The obstacle that the committee met in getting land has now been removed. However, in order the complete the preparations within the time left, a large number of volunteers and large sums of money are required. My expectations are that the reception committee will receive that help and the work will be speeded up.”2

Mahatma Gandhi spoke, “Mr. Gandhi in declaring the exhibition open said that it was a holy task for him to perform this ceremony. He heard from Mrs. Sarojini Naidu that there were 30 conferences to be held this week. He had received more than one invitation to preside over conferences but had declined all of them. He considered himself fit only for this function. Though he was for Hindu-Muslim unity, he could not accept it if there was no room for khaddar in it. I dream of nothing but khaddar. I undertook to open the exhibition only after getting an assurance from Pandit Jawaharlal that there would be nothing foreign here. From my five years’ experience of khaddar I can assure you we have made tremendous progress. In 1920 I myself sold khaddar at 17 as a yard. Even at that price people were willing to buy and wear it. Now you can get good khaddar at 9 as per yard. That is progress, steady and remarkable. In the beginning all who wore khaddar caps were considered to be khaddar-wearers. Now it is not so. But the number of full and complete khadi-wearers has considerably increased. But they did not act fully what could I do? I had no reason to disbelieve them they did not carry out their promises and therefore we failed to achieve swaraj within the expected year. Even today I tell you with all the confidence that I can command that if only you all completely boycott all foreign and Indian mill-made cloth, you will achieve swaraj within less than a year. But remember the condition that you must implicitly do what I request you to do. Proceeding, Mr. Gandhi said that the quality of charkhas and the number of charkhas had increased. He had even put a price on his autograph. Anyone who wanted his autograph was asked to take a vow that he would wear khaddar.”3

Mahatma Gandhi spoke, “Mahatma Gandhi, the retiring President of the All-India Congress Committee, in formally handing over “the reins of the Congress Government”, as he called it, to Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, acknowledged the support he had invariably received from every member of the Committee who had never questioned his rulings and instantly obeyed every call he made, but he wished he could say the same regarding the call made upon them by the resolutions that they were themselves instrumental in passing. If they had responded to that call they would have been in a better and stronger position, and now that the burden of guiding Congress politics was passing on to the shoulders of Mrs. Naidu, he wished her every success and prayed that under her regime the situation would be brighter and so many dark clouds might at least disappear. She had rendered the most wonderful service in South Africa. By her poetry she bewitched the Europeans there, by her sweet reasonableness she disarmed all opposition and by her diplomacy she was able to beard the lion in his own den. For the moment the anti-Asiatic legislation was dropped. For the moment the Europeans there felt that if people like Mrs. Sarojini Naidu could go to South Africa there would not be trouble. He had even received letters from his English friends in South Africa:”Send Sarojini Naidu again to South Africa or people like her.” These facts showed that she could achieve several things and was capable of guiding them. But he warned her against being over-generous, as women generally were, regarding Congress funds which at the present moment were probably not more than a lakh and a half.”4

Mahatma Gandhi spoke, “Shri Babasaheb Paranjape and Shri Sambamurti have asked me to withdraw this resolution. What right has I to do so? It is only an accident that I have been asked to introduce it. The author of the resolution is the Working Committee. Why do you, moreover, appeal to me? That does no credit to me, or to you. Who am I, after all? Forget me altogether; if you want democracy, do not think of the position of the person sponsoring a resolution. Consider the merits of the Resolution itself. Besides, what is it you ask me to withdraw? Do you want me to withdraw the most deeply cherished principles of my life? Shri Jayakar and Shri Kelkar have also raised objections. You forget that the qualification for the franchise depends on the aim we have in view. Shall we run away from something just because it is difficult to put into practice? Why not give up talking of swaraj, since it is so difficult to secure it? If I were convinced that swaraj could be won merely by enrolling one crore members, I would do away with the fee of four annas and remove the restriction in regard to age, would in fact have no condition at all. If you wish to undo all that has been achieved, why don’t you have a resolution permitting everyone to become a member of the Congress?

But, my good friends would not anyone who is not ready to put his body to the slightest trouble for the sake of the Congress feel ashamed of calling himself a Congressman? If you really wish to be rid of foreign cloth, dismiss mill cloth from your mind. I belong to a province which has a large number of textile mills, and I have happy relations with mill-owners. But I know that they have never stood by the country in the hour of its need. They plainly tell us that they are not patriots that their sole aim is to make money. If the Government wants, it can force all cotton mills to close down, can stop the import of machinery, but it would never dare to throw our spinning-wheels and spindles into fire. It prevented a German engineer from coming here. I have faith in the English character as I have faith in human nature but it is also a trait of the English that the interests of their country come first to them, and these interests can be served only by keeping Lancashire alive and by dumping their poor manufactures into countries like India against their wishes. To fight these British, we shall have to make our blood as cheap as water. Winning swaraj is no play, it is not so cheap. One must be ready to pay for it with one’s head; it cannot be had for nothing. Today you may oppose me, but the time is near when all of you will say that Gandhi was right. So long, therefore, as the majority is with me, I appeal to the others not to obstruct this resolution because of a little sacrifice they may have to make.

Why should we assume that the members of the Congress will not act honestly? Can we not expect that people will follow at any rate the resolutions which they themselves have passed? Yes, of course, if you object on principle to wearing khadi, if it offends your conscience, you should certainly leave the Congress. But you cannot ignore a Congress resolution while remaining in the Congress. So long as I remain in the Congress, I must abide by a resolution passed by it even if very few people had voted with me. And you talk, moreover, of the tyranny of the majority! A handful of men are ruling over you according to their arbitrary will, and we do not even seem to be conscious of their tyranny. But we know how to raise fanciful objections to truth. I warn you, if you bid good-bye to khadi, the people, too, will bid good-bye to you there will be nothing to distinguish you from the Liberals if you give up khadi. We are a strange people; we expect leaders to wear nothing but khadi even when we ourselves do not do so. I may not have served the people as well as Babasaheb; but, in the ten years during which I have served them I have come to know them fully and that is why I warn you that you will gain nothing by giving up khadi.”5

Mahatma Gandhi spoke, “In his Hindi speech on the Congress resolution about the situation in South Africa, Mr. Gandhi said that the Class Areas Bill if passed into law would compel every Indian with any sense of self-respect to leave South Africa. It was worse than repatriation inasmuch as it was legalized expulsion without any compensation to be given to those expelled. It symbolized the determination of the white race to root out the Asiatics from South Africa. Not even the tallest amongst the Indians doctors, barristers like Mr. James Godfrey, one of the members of the deputation who was born and bred up there and who is visiting India for the first time were to be suffered to stay there. The resolution suggested three solutions of the question arbitration, round table conference and, failing both, the Government of India asking the Imperial Government to exercise the right of veto. It asked Indians to stand by their countrymen in the hour of their trial, and to render them full help. If they decided on Satyagraha, the Indians should render them all material help in their power. Fain would he start a Satyagraha campaign in India on this tremendous issue, but the atmosphere was against him. If the Hindu and Mussalmans could convince him that they were united for a peaceful campaign of Satyagraha, if they could convince him that they had forgotten their differences in the dark hour of the Hindus and Mussalmans in South Africa, He would readily gird up his loins and get ready for the fight. Until then, the fight had to be carried on by the Indians over there, and India had to rest content with rendering them all help in her power.

In order that Dr. Rahman may understand his feelings in the matter, and in order also that his word of warning may reach the ears of the South African statesmen, Mr. Gandhi expressed himself at length in English thus: I do not know if you have, received copies of the resolution that is in my hand; in that case, I want to spare you the trouble of listening to the resolution and save some portion of the nation’s time. This is how the resolution reads this is the resolution which I have not only the greatest pleasure in submitting to you for approval but I consider it a rare privilege that I am authorized by Sarojini Devi to place it before you. She has introduced me to you as a South African. She might have added, ‘by adoption’. Though born in India, I was adopted by South Africa, and you will discover that when Dr. Rahman, the leader of the deputation to which you will extend your cordial welcome comes on this platform, he will tell you that Indians of South Africa claim that they have given me to you. I accept that claim. It is perfectly true that whatever service I have been able to render it may be disservice to India, comes from South Africa. If it is disservice it is not their fault, it is through my limitations. I propose to place before you facts in support of the statement made here that the Bill, which is hanging like the sword of Damocles over the heads of our countrymen in South Africa, is designed not merely to heap greater wrongs upon their heads, but virtually to expel them from South Africa.”6

Mahatma Gandhi spoke, “Gandhiji who was at the Working Committee meeting was informed of the state of affairs in Cawnpore by the representative of the Associated Press and he made the following statement: The Working Committee which is sitting at the time of giving this message having read the report of the awful communal strife going on in Cawnpore has felt troubled and grieved over the events there. I cannot too strongly condemn this strife. A committee will certainly investigate the causes, but indications have been coming in from other sources also to show that the slightest thing disturbs the mental balance. I can only hope that the poison will not be allowed to stay and that people will remain calm and not allow the harmonious relations to be disturbed. I hope also that the local leaders in Cawnpore will put their heads together and quickly restore peace. Let it be remembered by those who are in a hurry to achieve India’s freedom that every such strife makes progress towards the goal more and more difficult.”7

Mahatma Gandhi spoke, “Let us not try to apportion the blame. Let us forget the fact that we are Hindus and Mussalmans. Let us remember that we are Indians, and the shame of Cawnpore is the shame of India. As for the Hindus, however, newspapers say that it was likely that Hindus were more to blame. And what for was all this carnage? How could we go so mad? I am grieved to have to inform you that Sjt. Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi is reported to be missing or killed. Who would not be grieved over the death of such a genuine and earnest selfless comrade? But there is another view of the case. Rather than that a number of insignificant poor Hindus be killed, is it not well that a leader like Ganesh Shankar should have been killed? Rather than the death of a number of hapless poor Mussalmans, would not the death of Dr. Ansari in the cause of peace or unity be more welcomed? For the knife in Dr. Ansari’s body would act as the knife in the bodies of us all. It was therefore fortunate that Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, who was so eminently free from communal bias, which was an institution in him, and who was the foremost worker of the place, should have laid down his life in the cause of peace. Let his great example be an inspiration to us all; let it awaken us to our sense of duty. I ask you to give your anxious consideration to the matter and help in the solution of the vexed question. Let the shame of Cawnpore teach us a lesson so that we may feel that even the loss of 300 men and women was not too high a price to be paid for permanent peace.”8

Mahatma Gandhi spoke, “Gandhiji felt grateful to the Sabha for having invited him to receive the address. Gandhiji agreed with the members of the Sabha that Swami Dayanand had tried to serve the Depressed Classes and that he had taken a great part in the removal of untouchability. Mahatma Gandhi said that his connection with the Arya Samaj was Arya Pratinidhi Sabha. It “gave an account of the work which was being done by the Arya Samaj, specially in connection with the Antiuntouchability movement Not recent but dated back to the time when he was is South Africa and he was glad to mention that the connection was getting closer and stronger. In the end, Mahatma Gandhi wished that his connection with the Arya Samaj might get closer still in future and that he and the Arya Samaj might serve their God and country together.”9

Mahatma Gandhi spoke, “Gandhiji, replying, said that Rs. 501 was too small an amount from Cawnpore women. They were rich and could give more if they wanted to. He was all the same obliged to them and felt sure, he said, that they would give more. He then emphasized that women had a very important part to play in the Harijan uplift movement. He called upon them to take up uplift work and do their best to improve the social and economic condition of the Harijans who, he said, were as important a unit of human society as the caste Hindus. Women, he said, could do a good deal more than men and therefore women must come out and take up the work in all earnestness, sincerity and devotion which were characteristic of the womenfolk. He appealed to them in strong terms to use khadi for therein, he said; lay the salvation of the struggling and starving millions. By using khadi they could provide them with work and food. Charkha, he said, was the panacea for all ills. Charkha, he said, was remarkable and by the use of charkha women could bring about the economic emancipation of the country. He laid great stress on women’s education. No social uplift, he said, was possible unless women were educated. An educated woman was an asset not only to the family but to the country as a whole. He then exhorted them to give up purdah, come out and take up the responsible duties which they had to discharge. Purdah killed their independence. It took away their spirit, their very life and the sooner the women-folk gave it up the better for all concerned.”10

 

References:

 

  1. VOL. 19: 29 SEPTEMBER, 1919 - 24 MARCH, 1920 354
  2. Navajivan, 25-10-1925
  3. The Leader, 26-12-1925
  4. The Hindustan Times, 27-12-1925
  5. Navajivan 3-1-1926
  6.   SPEECH ON RESOLUTION ON SOUTH AFRICAN, December 26, 1925
  7.   The Bombay Chronicle, 27-3-1931
  8. Young India, 2-4-1931
  9. The Leader, 29-7-1934
  10.   The Leader, 30-7-1934
  11.  

 

 

 

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