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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

 

Political Reforms and Mahatma Gandhi

Edwin Samuel Montagu (1879-1924); Secretary of State for India, 1917-22; visited India in November 1917, and was responsible, along with Lord Chelmsford, the then Viceroy, for the political reforms of 1918, later embodied in the Government of India Act, 1919. 

Mr. Montagu’s scheme of political reforms has been published and people differ in their views on it. Newspapers, too, have been expressing themselves on it. The scheme is good in parts but also strange in some ways. I have already expressed my views on it. It is necessary that we press for improvements which we desire in it. If we rest content with whatever is offered to us out of the many things we may have demanded, it would not seem that we were earnest in our demands. My opinion is that in anything that we demand by way of swaraj, we should agitate to get it as a matter of right, staking our very lives on it, and, simultaneously, stand by the Government and help it. In other words, in the war that is going on, we should send our men to France and Mesopotamia. We are not entitled to demand swaraj till we come forward to enlist in the army. It is futile to expect any results when we have not done our duty. It is extremely difficult to mention this in a public speech in Gujarat, especially in Surat, for the citizens of Surat see nothing about which they have to think and come to conclusions. It would seem from the attendance today that they had made up their mind on the subject. The first duty of a people all too eager for swaraj is to listen attentively and courteously to what is said on occasions like the present and accept whatever appeals to them and reject the rest. Till the people have learnt this, they will be unfit not only to enjoy swaraj but even to ask for it. All the 30 crores cannot go and listen to speeches but they may read newspapers and accept from them whatever they think best. 1

The public of Burma in discussing the political Reforms which should be adopted in Burma are in no way concerned with the events in the Punjab. The Government of Burma have certainly taken time by the forelock. We do not know what happened on the 1st of August in Rangoon nor do we know what reply the Indian promoters of the meeting returned to the Chief Secretary. But it is clear that, so long as the spirit embodied in the words of the letter from which we have quoted remains alive, the Reforms that the people of Burma might get would not be worth having. But an echo of the spirit is heard nearer Bombay also. We now know, more fully than we did before, the cause of the High Court notice served upon some of the satyagrahi lawyers of Ahmedabad. The notice was prompted by a letter addressed by the District Judge of Ahmedabad to the Registrar of the Bombay High Court. We give the full text of the letter elsewhere.3 It remains to be seen what action the High Court will take when the case is argued before it on the 25th instant. But it is curious the way the District Judge has pre-judged the issue. 2

Having been commanded by Panditji to say a few words to the students, I spoke before them at 7.30 on the morning of my departure, and gave them my ideas about student life . The student's stage of life is similar to the sannyasi's and his life should, therefore, be pure and celibate. Today two cultures are competing for the students' attention the ancient and the modern. Self-restraint was the key-note of the former. Ancient culture tells us that a man advances in the measure that he deliberately and with full knowledge reduces his wants. Modern civilization teaches us that man progresses by increasing his wants. The difference between self-restraint and selfindulgence is the difference between dharma and adharma. The ideal of self-restraint attaches less importance to the outward life than to the inner. There is a danger that in place of the ancient culture based on self-restraint, the modern civilization of self-indulgence will be accepted. Students can play decisive part in averting this danger. University students will be judged, not by their knowledge, but solely by their good conduct. Religious education and ethical conduct should be given the first place in this university. This requires the fullest co-operation from the students. Panditji himself is a man of piety and virtue. By bringing another man of similar qualities, viz., Anandshankar, he has provided an opportunity to the students. I should like them to make the best use of this opportunity and adorn their learning with dharma. These were the thoughts I placed before them on that morning. I have repeatedly expressed these ideas, in one form or another, at several places, and a summary of these same ideas which I explained to the students of Kashi University on getting this happy opportunity, I now lay before readers of Navajivan for them to think over. I am convinced that we cannot profit from political reforms unless we also give thought to religion. Religion will not be revived through these reforms. Rather, it is religion which will supply what the reforms may lack. 3

It should have been asked in 1920. In my view there is no special political field which is not related to social reform. They are both interrelated. If we do not earnestly go about the work of social reform, no political reforms are possible. I would, therefore, give the first place to the work of social reform and only the second place to purely political work, If there is such a thing. I took help from the sanatanists, whether for Gujarat Vidyapith or for the khadi work. But when they said that I should abandon my work for the removal of untouchability I told them that I would rather do without their help. The Mulji Jetha Market promised Rs. 35,000, but on some such condition. I told them that they could keep their money, I would do without it; but as for the removal of untouchability, I wanted it immediately. Till today I have not received the Rs. 35,000 from them. But the work for swaraj did not stop. It is dangerous to allow such things to find a place in our hearts. Let us not allow even such notions as ‘social’ and ‘political’ any place in our thinking. Let us not hinder national progress. It is true some sense of discretion will have to be shown. It would not be proper to go and resort to satyagraha when someone in our community calls people for dinner. It is enough if we avoid going to that feast ourselves. There are so many areas of social-reform activity that can go on side by side with political work. There too we shall stick to non-violence. But satyagraha is a mighty weapon. It cannot be used everywhere. Its use has to be limited. 4

 

References:

  1. Gujarat Mitra and Gujarat Darpan, 4-8-1918
  2. Young India 6-8-1919
  3. Navajivan, 29-2-1920
  4. Gandhi Seva Sanghke Panchama Varshik Adhiveshan (Brindaban,Bihar) ka Vivaran, pp. 50

 

 

 

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