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

 

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi Reply to Welcome Address    

 

 

 

I thank you for the address of welcome to Mr. Ally and myself. I sympathize with the labourers in their hardships. We did put up a stiff fight when the £3 tax was imposed on them. It is very difficult now to get any redress in the matter. We cannot do much about work taken on Sundays. As desired by you, I shall convey the message of your address and your thanks to Mr. Ally. 1 I do not propose to speak at length, as it is already late. Both Mr. Ally and I are very grateful to you for the kind sentiments you have expressed about us. Unity is our greatest need here. We are sure to obtain our just rights if we stand united and demand them politely but firmly. We could not have achieved anything in England but for the help we received from the people there. We have seen that British rule is essentially just and we can find redress for our grievances through representations. But we should not be elated by our success. Our struggle has just begun. Now it is up to us to retain the fruits of victory. We have to explain things to the politicians here. Before I conclude, I would appeal to all of you to do your duty, working actively, with body mind and wealth, for the good of the community. 2 

Mr. Gandhi said he took the liberty of speaking in Hindi having ascertained previously from the Principal that the European staff of the College understood the language of the people and he was glad to know that they did. In the course of his address he said that it would be premature for him to offer any advice in regard to Indian problems, for he had been long away from the motherland. He needed to learn first before he spoke. He had come to learn and hoped to live and die in India now. Long years ago when he met his Master Mr. Gokhale, he felt he had found his guru in the sphere of politics and he had tried humbly and faithfully to follow him. In the religious sphere he had not met with a religious guru yet. But he must not leave people under a false impression in this respect. His Master, Gokhale, was a deeply religious man. Nobody worked with him in the closest contact but felt the depth of the reality of his essential religious temper. To Mr. Gokhale God was a great reality and truth was a great reality. This it was which explained his incessant and indefatigable labours which tried his physical powers at last. He was a Hindu but one of the right type. A Hindu sannyasi once came to him and made a proposal to push the Hindu political cause in a way which would suppress the Mahomedan and he pressed his proposal with many specious religious reasons.

Mr. Gokhale replied to this person in the following words: “If to be a Hindu I must do as you wish me to do, please publish it abroad that I am not a Hindu.” But Mr. Gokhale was a Hindu and his religion was fearlessness. He had a deep belief in God, in the eternal triumph of truth. This explained his arduous toil in mastering facts and in investigating truth. India’s greatest need was this great fear of God the fear of God alone and therefore no fear of man. That was the one thing we needed. Anarchism was not necessary. If it existed, it showed there was no fear of God. To face evil we must stand in the strength of God and truth; and there was that ancient text on the College walls that truth, not falsehood, eternally triumphed. Evil of any kind could not stand the searching light of truth and could only be rooted out in the strength of God through personal suffering and not through the infliction of suffering on others. That was the secret. Fear God, therefore, and do not fear men, and remember that ahimsa is our religion, the great gift of our rishis. What we have got to do is to bring this religion of the Fear of God into all our lives and even into politics. Nothing but this and the passionate love of truth will help us. I would exhort you therefore to obey your teachers and to be true to your College motto, to be rooted in the truth of it, so that you may worthily enter the citizenship of your motherland.” Then thanking the students for their splendid help in the South African crisis and their hospitality and kindness to the Phoenix boys when they were the guests of the Principal, Mr. Gandhi resumed his seat amidst loud and prolonged applause. 3

Mr. Gandhi in his reply thanked them for the honour shown to his wife and himself and said that the credit for their success in South Africa should be given to other people who have settled in South Africa. He said it was not the time for him to detail all they were doing in South Africa The Indians in South Africa were petty agriculturists, hawkers and petty traders. The cause of the trouble was the stubborn competition which our people offered to the Europeans domiciled in South Africa. There were many other things also which accounted for the struggle but the chief reason was the competition. Although a settlement had been arrived at for the time being, he said, they might assume that some kind of irritation remained and would remain so long as that competition remained. He said our people there were not men with scholarship or university men, but he told them that they were men that would enable India to be raised in the scale of nations. 4

I am exceedingly thankful to the people of Mayavaram for presenting this beautiful address to me on the occasion of our simply passing through your town or village whatever it may be called, on our way to places where I had hoped to see two widows of men who were shot during the struggle that went on for eight years in South Africa. I was able to see only one and I was not able to see the other whom I hope to see before I leave this great Presidency. It is therefore a matter of greater pleasure to me that you would not allow us to pass unnoticed even though it were simply a passing tour through Mayavaram. But if we have appreciated or if we have received this great and warm welcome from you, may I, for the first time after my return to the sacred land, commence to make a return for the great love that has been shown to us and with your permission I shall try to do so this evening. It was quite by accident that I had the great pleasure of receiving an address from my Panchama brethren, and there they said that they were without convenience for drinking water, they were without convenience for living supplies and they could not buy or hold land.

It was difficult for them even to approach courts. Probably, the last is due to their fear, but a fear certainly not due to themselves and who is then responsible for this state of things? Do we propose to perpetuate this state of things? Is it a part of Hinduism? I do not know; I have now to learn what Hinduism really is. In so far as I have been able to study Hinduism outside India, I have felt that it is no part of real Hinduism to have in its hold a mass of people whom I would call “untouchables”. If it was proved to me that this is an essential part of Hinduism, I for one would declare myself an open rebel against Hinduism itself but I am still not convinced and I hope that up to the end of my life, I shall remain unconvinced that it is an essential part of Hinduism. But who is responsible for this class of untouchables? I have been told that wherever there are Brahmins, it is they who are enjoying supremacy as a matter of right, but today are they enjoying that supremacy? If they are, then the sin will fall upon their shoulders and that is the return I am here to declare and that is the return I shall have to make for the kindness you are showing to me; often my love to my friends, relations and even to my dear wife takes devious ways. So my return here for your kindness is to suggest a few words which you were probably not prepared to listen to and it does seem to me that it is high time for Brahmins to regain their natural prerogative. I recall to my mind the beautiful verse in the Bhagavad Gita. I shall not excite the audience by reciting the verse, but give you simply a paraphrase. “The true Brahmin is he who is equimindedness towards a Pundit and a Pariah.” Are the Brahmins in Mayavaram equimindedness towards the Pariah and will they tell me if they are so equimindedness and, if so, will they tell me if others will not follow? Even if they say that they are prepared to do so but others will not follow, I shall have to disbelieve them until I have revised my notions of Hinduism.

If the Brahmins themselves consider they are holding a high position by penance and austerity, and then they have themselves much to learn, then they will be the people who have cursed and ruined the land. My friend the Chairman has asked me the question whether it is true that I am at war with my leaders. I say that I am not at war with my leaders. I seemed to be at war with my leaders because many things I have heard seem to be inconsistent with my notions of self-respect and with self-respect to my motherland. I feel that they are probably not discharging the sacred trust they have taken upon their shoulders; but I am not sure I am studying or endeavouring to take wisdom from them, but I failed to take that wisdom. It may be that I am incompetent and unfit to follow them. So, I shall revise my ideas. Still I am in a position to say that I seem to be at war with my leaders whatever they do or whatever they say does not somehow or other appeal to me. The major part of what they say does not seem to be appealing to me. I find her words of welcome in the English language. I find in the Congress programme a Resolution on Swadeshi. If you hold that you are Swadeshi and yet print these in English, then I am not Swadeshi. To me it seems that it is inconsistent. I have nothing to say against the English language. But I do say that, if you kill the vernaculars and raise the English language on the tomb of the vernaculars and then you are not favouring Swadeshi in the right sense of the term. If you feel that I do not know Tamil, you should pardon me, you should excuse me and teach me and ask me to learn Tamil and by having your welcome in that beautiful language, if you translate it to me, then I should think you are performing some part of the programme.

Then only I should think I am being taught Swadeshi. I asked when we were passing through Mayavaram whether there had been any handlooms here and whether there were handloom weavers here. I was told that there were 50 handlooms in Mayavaram. What were they engaged in? They were simply engaged chiefly in preparing sarees for our women. Then, is Swadeshi to be confined only to the women? Is it to be only in their keeping? I do not find that our friends, the male population, also have their stuff prepared for them in these by these weavers and through their handlooms. (A voice: There are a thousand handlooms here.) There are, I understand, one thousand handlooms; so much the worse for the leaders! If these one thousand handlooms are kept chiefly in attending to the wants of our women, double this supply of our handlooms and you will have all your wants supplied by your own weavers and there will be no poverty in the land. I ask you and ask our friend the President how far he is indebted to foreign goods for his outfit and if he can tell me that he has tried his utmost and still has failed to outfit himself, or rather to fit himself out with Swadeshi clothing and therefore he has got this stuff, I shall sit at his feet and learn a lesson. What I have been able to learn today is that it is entirely possible for me, not with any extra cost to fit myself with Swadeshi clothing. How am I to learn, through those who move or who are supposed to be movers in the Congress, the secret of the Resolution? I sit at the feet of my leaders, I sit-at the feet of Mayavaram people and let them reveal the mystery, give me the secret of the meaning, teach me how I should behave myself and tell me whether it is a part of Swadeshi, whether it is a part of the national movement that I should drive off those who are without dwellings, who cry for water and that I should reject the advances of those who cry for food. These are the questions which I ask my friends here. Since I am saying something against you, I doubt whether I shall still enjoy or retain the affection of the student population and whether I shall still retain the blessings of my leaders. I ask you to have a large heart and give me a little corner in it. I shall try to steal into that corner. If you would be kind enough to teach me the wisdom, I shall learn the wisdom in all humility and in all earnestness. I am praying for it and I am asking for it. If you cannot teach me, I again declare myself at war with my leaders. 5  

I have been travelling in various parts of India, and in the course of my travels, I have been struck with the fact that throughout India the hearts of the people are in a special degree drawn towards me. All brothers of Hindustan without distinction of creed or caste have been showing this attachment. But I feel convinced that this remarkable attachment to me is meant not for me but as a fitting tribute of admiration to all those noble brothers and sisters of ours in South Africa, who underwent such immense trouble and sacrifices including incarceration in jails for the service of the Motherland. It is undoubtedly this consideration which leads you to be so very kind to me. It was they who won the struggle and it was by reason of their unflinching determination to “do or die” that so much was achieved. Hence I take it that whatever tribute is paid to me is in reality and in truth paid to them. In the course of my tour in India, I have been particularly struck with one thing and that is the awakening of the Indian people.

A new hope has filled the hearts of the people, hope that something is going to happen which will raise the Motherland to a higher status. But side by side with this spirit of hope, I also had amongst my country-men, awe not only of the Government but also of heads of castes and the priestly class. As a result of this, we are afraid to speak out what is in us. As long as this spirit remains, there will be, and there can be, no true progress. You know that at the last session of the Congress, a re-solution was passed about self-government. For the attainment of that ideal, you and I, all of us, must work and persevere. In pursuance of that resolution, the Committees of the Congress and the Moslem League will soon meet together and they will decide what they think proper. But the attainment of self-government depends not on their saying or doing anything but upon what you and I do. Here in Karachi, commerce is predominant and there are many big merchants. To them, I wish to address a few words. It is a misapprehension to think that there is no scope in commerce for serving the Mother-country.

If they are inspired by the spirit of truth, merchants can be immensely useful to the country. The salvation of our country, remember, is not in the hands of others but of ourselves, and more in the hands of merchants in some respects than the educated people; for I s strongly feel that so long as there is no Swadeshism, there can be no self-government and for the spread of Swadeshism Indian merchants are in a position to do a very great deal. The swadeshi wave passed through the country at one time. But I understand that the movement had collapsed largely because Indian merchants had palmed off foreign goods as swadeshi articles. By Indian merchants being honest and straightforward in their business, they could achieve a great deal for the regeneration and uplift of the country. Hence merchants should faithfully observe what Hindus call dharma and Mohammedans call iman in their business transactions. Then shall India be uplifted. In South Africa, our merchants rendered valuable help in the struggle and yet because some of them weakened, the struggle was prolonged somewhat. It is the duty of the educated classes to mix freely with Indian merchants and the poor classes. Then will our journey to the common and cherished goal be less irksome. 6

The welcome address was certainly not in English, it was in sweet Hindustani, printed in the Urdu script. It was not printed either on silk, calico cloth or paper. That welcome address was printed on khadi. That khadi had been sent to Mecca Shariff and hallowed. The mother of a Jullundur lawyer, Naziruddin Shah, had supplied a piece from the khadi she had preserved for many years for use as her own shroud and the welcome address was printed on it. Today one hears stories of Muslims purposely using khadi for the bier. 7 I must say that just as not every man can eat or digest a rich dish, I wonder whether I can digest the glowing praises showered on me. Someday, perhaps, I shall deserve them. I am doing my best in that direction. I have been striving to be able to vanquish untruth with truth and anger by refusing to oppose it with anger, and I wish that I should lay down my life in the effort. But, at present, the epithets you have applied to me are misplaced. If, hearing them, I become indifferent or overbearing or smugly assume that I already deserve them because people have offered them to me, immediately my degradation would begin. My effort should be, above everything else, to maintain humility and see that I do not transgress the limits of propriety. The country’s good and mine lie in my working with this vigilance.

Your giving me a welcome address bespeaks the marvellous awakening in the country. It only means that the Municipality has realized its role. I hope to get much work for the country done through municipalities. And that is the reason why, in the resolutions adopted at the last two sessions of the Congress, municipalities have not been asked to join the non-co-operation movement. Being what they are, the municipalities involve some element of co-operation, but then, at present, there is not a single thing of ours which is free from it. There is co-operation even in eating one single grain of wheat. The non-co-operation we are employing at present is so light that even a child can shoulder its burden. If we can carry out intensive non-co-operation, it has such miraculous power that we can get swaraj in a day. But I have taken care to put before the country only a simple form of non-co-operation which the country will have strength enough to carry out, and every municipality can join it. If the municipalities in the country understand this and organize whatever work they can do, swaraj will be easy to win.

As regards what this Municipality can do, all I have to say is keep the promise you have given to make an effort to act upon the advice of the Congress. Gird up your loins for the removal of untouchability. I have mentioned this first, leaving aside the spinning wheel. The latter represents the supreme task to which we should bend all our efforts, but there is a still more important task for the Hindus, which is to see that not the slightest trace of untouchability survives. Work has to be done in the spinning-wheel movement, but in this our very mentality has to be transformed. Last night I went to the Bhangi quarters in Godhra. I was in agony at the sight of the conditions there. I wonder why Hindus, sharp-eyed as they are, cannot see what is visible even to the naked eye, why they do not know that there is a carbuncle on their back. You have been elected to get the city cleaned of its refuse, to look after the health of the people, to provide education for the children and to prevent diseases. You can do this only by raising the status of Bhangis. There will be no meaning in swaraj if you think merely of filling your pockets, just as England served its own interests on the pretence that it was fighting the War for the sake of small states like Belgium. Why do I call this Government Satanic? It had drawn the sword not for defending the weak but for devouring them. In our swaraj, in our dharmarajya, there will be only one aim, to serve the weak.

We can be called true Swarajists only if we do tapascharya to get pure swaraj which will provide cool shelter to all. Thus, the uplift of the Bhangis is your first duty. Their streets must be clean, their houses tidy; they should have a convenient source of water. I now call myself a Bhangi. Personally, I delight in spending some time in a Bhangi locality. That is, indeed, a recreation for me. Fondling their children gives me joy. The Municipality, therefore, cannot be said to have discharged its duty so long as the Bhangi quarter is not in such condition that a man like me can stay there and observe the rules of hygiene. By a national school, we should at the present time understand a school for spinning, for our education should provide us with the sustaining nourishment, which would make us free and radiant with vigour. I have been correcting my mistake with regard to education. If we try to impart no better education than what the Government provides, we shall go down. If we want to infuse strength into our people, the spinning-wheel is the only effective remedy. It is the basis of a golden plan for education. Introduce it in the schools and then you will not have to go begging to maintain them. 8

Mr. Gandhi, in his joint reply, said that he did not deserve the words of praise heaped upon him, for he had done nothing to their city or district. He repeated the suggestions he made on similar occasions recently at Bombay, Calcutta and Ahmadabad, and asked them to read and understand them. In the present political condition of India, the municipalities of India should take part in the national movement, but not at the sacrifice of their primary duties, cleanliness and sanitation. He was not an admirer of Western civilization, but in matters of sanitation, India had to learn a good deal from the West. India was essentially an agricultural country, and it ought to have been impossible for plague and other epidemics to spread in our cities, which were small compared to cities in Western countries. He felt pained whenever he heard people saying that these epidemics were divine dispensations. He was himself a believer in God, but human efforts had considerable scope for alleviating human miseries. When we ourselves break God’s or Nature’s laws, it is absurd to attribute these epidemics to God. He was glad to note that the relations between Brahmins and non-Brahmins, and Hindus and Mussalmans, were cordial, and while advising the audience to continue those relations, asked them to extend their love to the untouchables. 9 

I am grateful to the citizens of Porbandar for arranging that this address should be presented to me by the Diwan Saheb, and compliment them on their good sense in giving me a cheque for Rs. 201 instead of presenting the address in a casket of silver or sandalwood. If the people of this place do not understand my wishes and fulfil them, where else in this wide world can I expect the people to do so? I have said at so many places that I have no provision for the safe custody of articles of silver and other valuables. To make such provision is to invite trouble. I have been able to preserve my freedom only because I have refused to possess such articles. I have been, therefore, telling the country that those who wish to follow the path of Satyagraha should be ready to live in poverty and embrace death at any moment. How can I spare space for preserving a silver casket? I am, therefore, glad that you gave me a cheque instead. But, while on the one hand I offer compliments to you, on the other I pity myself for my avarice. My appetite is more than can be satisfied by this piece of paper.

A sum of two hundred and one rupees is not good enough for me. I say this because I can assure you that you will get from me twice as much as what I take from you or even more. I do not receive a single pice which does not grow into a veritable tree raining coins not through interest but through the manner of its use. It would be much better to perish than to live on interest. I put every pice to the best possible use and profit. I will use every pice I receive to help the country to preserve its purity and to clothe it’s naked. Every pie, more-over, will be accounted for. I have not come into contact with any person whom I might have told that he had given me enough. This is why my Memon friends always keep away from me. Were it not so, persons like Omar Haji Amod Zaveri would be present in this meeting. They tell me that wherever I meet them I try to rob them. It is, thus, very risky to be a friend of mine in these hard times. Only such persons who, being Hindus, are ready to offer their money freely for the service of the Bhangis, or are ready to use all their strength and their money to win the country’s freedom only such persons can afford to be my friends in these hard times.

The Thakore Saheb of Rajkot showered his love on me so much that I was almost drowned in the flood. But all the time I was trembling, wondering how long I would be able to retain his friendship. Why should I not feel happy at receiving an address from the hands of the Ruler of a State in which my father was a Diwan? My grandfather was the Diwan of the State during the rule of the present Maharana’s grandfather, and my great grandfather was Diwan to the latter’s father. The Rana Saheb’s father was my friend and client. Having received material benefit from him, is it possible that I would also not be pleased by an invitation from the present Maharana Saheb? But it is difficult to retain all friendships, for instance, I have not been able to retain that of the British. The reason is that I think it necessary to preserve only one friendship in this life, namely, God’s. God means the voice of conscience. If I hear it say that I must sacrifice the world’s friendship; I would be ready to do so. I am eager for your friendship and would not feel satisfied even if I could take away all your money. I will always ask you for more and, should you send me away, I would seek a place in God’s house.

My field of work is India. So long as a fire is raging in the country, I cannot possibly think of leaving it to go anywhere else. South Africa would welcome me, but at present I would not like to go even there as the fire in South Africa can be put out only when the fire in India has been put out. I have been appealing to all Princes for help in extinguishing that fire. Is it unreasonable of me to expect most from Porbandar in this matter? I expect similar help from the people too. I ask for co-operation from you all. If you give it, the result may be that all of us will resume co-operation with the British. I do not mean that we shall go running to them; rather, they will come running to us. They tell me that I am a good man, but that my co-workers are rogues, that incidents like the one at Chauri Chaura will betray me. But I believe in human nature. Everyone has a soul and can exercise soul-force as much as I. You can see the soul-force in me because I have ever kept my soul wide awake by humbly entreating it, or beating a drum or dancing before it. Yours may not be equally awake, but we are all equal in our innate capacities. The Rulers and their subjects, Hindus and Muslims, all are fighting one another but without God’s help they cannot move even a blade of grass. If the subjects think that they will cultivate strength and harass the Rulers and the latter think that they can be strong enough to crush the subjects, if Hindus believe that it is no difficult matter for them to crush seven crores of Muslims and the latter think that they can easily crush the twenty-two crores of Hindus nourished on no strength-giving food, then the Rulers and the subjects, Hindus and Muslims, all are thoughtless. It is khuda’s injunction; it is said in the Vedas and in the Bible that all men are brothers.

All religions proclaim that the world is held together by the chain of love, and learned students of Shastras

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