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

 

Russo-Japanese War and Mahatma Gandhi 

 

The bigger the war, the bigger the extent of chaos. The fraud and trickery, that were exposed during the Crimean War1, and other sundry happenings that have later come to light, are most distressing. During that war, a large stock of boots was purchased and despatched to the front for the use of soldiers, but they all were found to be for the left foot! A large quantity of foodstuff for the army was sent from England; but when it was consumed, instead of helping to feed the army, it proved deleterious being very rotten meat. It was not only merchants who wanted to become millionaires, but even the generals on the front, the politicians who were out to sacrifice a large number of precious lives, and leaders who called themselves benefactors of the state, committed fraud. Large stock of useful medicines sent out for soldiers and officers on their deathbed disappeared mysteriously before reaching the hospitals for which they were bound, and not a trace of them was found. Merchants, the so-called patriotic generals and high Government officials thus went on misappropriating hundreds of useful and valuable articles to fill their pockets at the expense of hundreds of poor soldiers who had gone to the front to fight for their country, leaving their homes and hearths.

When a news correspondent sent a full account of this, describing the condition of the army encamped at Sebastapol, the whole nation was so enraged that the ministry in power had to resign. In addition to this, there was a long list of oppressive tyrannies. But all these are insignificant incidents compared to those of the last Boer War. A scrutiny of how contracts, for the supply of provisions, uniforms, etc., to the army, were given and executed during that was has revealed how public money was utterly wasted. This was due solely to the misconduct of the autocratic officials. Contracts were blindly given by the departments concerned to contractors who were their favourites or were known to them and who made a profit of 50 to 500 per cent on some of the goods supplied. Such corruption was not confined to Great Britain alone. The defeat France sustained in 1879 was due to its officers who had become slaves of mammon. For, at the time of that war, the French Government had kept every necessary article ready. Millions and billions had been spent on these arrangements at the very start, but all that expenditure was incurred secretly. All these things was purchased and stored—on paper only. Although money was spent like water, articles of even ordinary military use ran short at the very outset of the war. The reports of the present Russo-Japanese War, too, are astounding. Last April, a million roubles were given to Duke of Sergius to be spent on feeding and clothing the army in Manchuria.

This stock was despatched to Manchuria in the month of May; but, instead of reaching there, it got transported directly from Moscow to Danzig, and from thence, goods worth thousands of pounds were sold for a song in Germany. Large sums of money were raised through subscriptions for the benefit of the widows of men and officers killed in the war; but not a farthing of that money reached the poor widows. The bags of suger despatched to the battle-field were found to contain sand instead of sugar! No trace could be found of millions of roubles that disappeared during the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway. But this is not all. Innumerable examples have been recorded of the corruption and bribery practised in Russia. 1

Tolstoy is still writing with great energy. Though himself a Russian, he has written many strong and bitter things against Russia concerning the Russo-Japanese War. He has addressed a very pungent and effective letter to the Czar in regard to the war. Selfish officers view him with bitterness, but they, and even the Czar, fear and respect him. Such is the power of his goodness and godly living that millions of peasants are ever ready to carry out his wish no sooner than it is spoken. 2 There is an island to the east of China named Weihaiwei. This island was given by the Chinese Government to the British Government on certain conditions, one of them being that the whites could occupy the island as long as Port Arthur was in Russian possession. Now, since Russia has been obliged to vacate Port Arthur, as a result of the Russo-Japanese War, China has asked Britain to quit Weihaiwei. China refuses to pay the large expenditure incurred by Great Britain on the island. There is a likelihood of serious trouble arising out of this situation which may involve the Governments of China, Germany1 and England. 3 

Kodama joined the Japanese army in 1872, where his ability quickly attracted notice and he rose rapidly, becoming Lieutenant-Colonel in 1880. He became General in 1904. During the last Russo-Japanese’ War, he was Marshal Oyama’s chief lieutenant. True to the nature of the Japanese people, he remained very patient and serene in war and was never impetuous. When, in the bloody battle of Layoyang, the Russian army made a fierce charge on the Japanese, he was at breakfast. As the Russians were marching towards General Kodama’s camp:, his men, concerned for the safety of their General, requested him to shift to another place. He replied that this he could never do, adding that, if his soldiers came to know he had left the front-line, they might waver and lose heart. It was therefore better for him to remain where he was. This brave conduct of the leader gave the soldiers courage and enabled them to repel the Russian attack. In build and appearance, General Kodama resembled an Englishman. Sixteen years ago, he was sent to Europe by the Japanese Government to study western techniques of warfare. He gave proof of his proficiency during the last Chinese War. In appreciation of his services in that war, the Mikado made him a Baron. He was considered a capable man in Japan and it was expected that he would one day become Prime Minister. He was 53 when he died. 4

General Smuts has offered to repeal the Asiatic Registration Act, but on certain conditions which are unacceptable. That a further battle remained to be fought in the Indian war in the Transvaal has now become clear. In every great war, more than one battle has to be fought. The Russo-Japanese war lasted for over a year. In the course of that war, four or five well-known battles were fought, at Port Arthur, Mukden, etc. The Boer War also lasted for two or three years and came to an end only after several battles had been fought. The war of the Transvaal Indians is not an armed conflict as these were. Save for that, this, too, is a war. For, if we think of the consequences, this war [waged] through satyagraha is no whit less of a war than those fought with gun and powder. Victory or defeat in this war will have Far-reaching consequences for Indians in other Colonies. No otherconsequence can be more important than this.1 Looking at it thus, we can unhesitatingly compare this fight by a handful of Indians in the Transvaal to the great campaigns mentioned above. 5

India has to make her choice. She may try, if she wishes, the way of war and sink lower than she has. In the Hindu-Muslim quarrel, she seems to be taking her first lesson in the art of war. If India can possibly gain her freedom by war, her state will be no better and will be, probably, much worse than that of France or England. Paste examples have become obsolete. Not even Japan’s comparative progress can be any guide. For, “the science” or war has made much greater “progress” since the Russo-Japanese war. Its result can only be studied in the present condition of Europe. We can safely say that if India throws off the British yoke by the way of war, she must go through the state Mr. Page has graphically described. 6

 

References:

 

  1. Indian Opinion, 24-6-1905
  2. Indian Opinion, 2-9-1905  
  3. Indian Opinion, 26-5-1906  
  4. Indian Opinion, 1-9-1906  
  5. Indian Opinion, 27-6-1908
  6. Young India, 20-5-1926

  

 

 

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