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

 

Salvation Army and Mahatma Gandhi 

 

If orphanages were reserved for orphans alone, they could be self-supporting in a very short time. We have much to learn from the Salvation Army in this respect. The orphanages which they run have a soul in them. Ours are by comparison soulless. They have given refuge to thousands of children, have made men of them, have found employment for them. The children in our orphanages have not been given this sense of security. Some have been found petty jobs. These may be left out of account. The general practice in our orphanages is to send away the children when they come of age. Not so with the Salvation Army. In its institutions the orphans, when they come of age, start working in its factories, in the same way that a son in the family who has grown up is regarded as an additional shield and support for the family. It is necessary that such a family feeling be injected in our institutions too. 1

During the self-denial week, the members of the Salvation Army take a vow to abstain from taking jam or other eatable for a fixed period. During Lent, the Roman Catholics undergo certain privations. That is also a vow. In each case, the result expected is the same, viz., purification and expression of the soul. By these resolutions, you bring the body under subjection. Body is matter, soul is spirit, and there is internal conflict between matter and spirit. Triumph of matter over the spirit means destruction of the latter. It is common knowledge that [this is] in the same proportion that we indulge the body or mortify the soul. Body or matter has undoubtedly its uses. 2 The Government too teaches us this. Since it punishes, it also enlists, to some extent, the help of institutions like the Salvation Army for reforming communities which are given to robbery and other evil ways. We are in a better position than the Government to undertake this task; for we have the whole class of sadhus and fakirs for the purpose. If its members cultivate the qualities of true sadhus and fakirs, they can be of the utmost help ill this work. Let no one think that organized efforts are necessary for this purpose. Inhabitants of every village or town in which national awakening has taken place should, without waiting for a lead from others, make arrangements for their protection and undertake the work of reforming [the thieves]. If this is satisfactorily done even at a few places, the practice will spread to other villages. 3  

You can picket liquor shops quietly and advise drunkards in their houses, in these seven days, to refrain from drink, just like the Salvation Army. You must subject yourselves to introspection and come out like Ramachandra. Take a vow to cleanse your hearts, keeping God, and not Satan, as your witness, and make your life simple and easy. If you do these, you will have truly observed the Youth Week. May God give you that intellect and strength. 4 Wean them from their rascality by going amongst them as fearlessly as some of those Salvation Army girls who go into the dens of thieves and gamblers and drunkards, fall on their necks and at their feet, and bring them round. The service will deck you more than the fineries that you are wearing. I will then be a trustee for the money that you will save and distribute it amongst the poor. I pray that the rambling message that I have given you may find a lodgment in your hearts. 5

I ask the ladies in particular to help in this. They should visit the homes of those who drink and plead with them. I have seen women of the Salvation Army do this. Why should not the women of India do the same? Are they the Hindu, Muslim and Parsi women less capable of doing good? Are not those who are caught in the vice their own brothers? If I go and reason with them, they will quarrel with me as they will with other men. They will not, however, be disrespectful or insulting to any woman. They are not such beasts that they will not understand you. As soon as they come in contact with you they will be awakened, they will step back and, seeing the love and affection pouring from your eyes, they will conclude that it is some sati or yogini confronting them and ashamed of themselves they will give up liquor. 6 I have a letter from Mr. John Collett which I enclose herewith. I send you also a copy of my letter to Mr. Collett. Will you please tell me whether you will care to receive the cards and the medals for the use mentioned in the letter? 7 

The Salvation Army wants to teach people about God. But they come with bread. For the poor bread is their God. Similarly we should bring food into the mouths of the people through khadi. If we succeed in breaking the idleness of the people through khadi, they will begin to listen to us. Whatever else the Government might do, it does leave some food for the villagers. Unless we can bring food to them, why should the people listen to us? When we have taught them what they can do through their own efforts, then they will want to listen to us. That trust can best be generated through khadi. While working out the khadi programme our aim should be purely humanitarian, that is, economic. We should leave out all political considerations whatsoever. But it is bound to produce important political consequences which nobody can prevent and nobody need deplore. 8 I remember years and years ago in the early nineties when the brave Salvation Army people, at the risk of their own lives, used to carry on picketing at the corners of notorious streets of Bombay which were filled with houses of ill fame. There is no reason why some such thing should not be organized on a large scale. As for gambling on the racecourse, it is, so far as I am aware, an importation, like many other importations, from the West, and if I had my way I would withdraw the protection of the law that gambling on the racecourse enjoys even to the extent it does. The Congress programme being one of self-purification, as is stated in so many words in the resolution of 1920, the Congress can have nothing to do with income derived from any vice. The Ministers will, therefore, use the authority that they have obtained for educating public opinion in the right direction and for stopping gambling in high quarters. It is useless to hope that the unwary public will not copy the bad manners of the so-called high-placed people. I have heard it argued that horse-racing is necessary for breeding good horses. There may be truth in this. Is it not possible to have horse-racing without gambling, or is gambling also an aid to the good breeding of horses? 9

Begging is an age-old institution in India. It was not always a nuisance. It was not always a profession. Now it has become a profession to which cheats have taken. No person who is capable of working for his bread should be allowed to beg. The way to deal with the problem will be to penalize those who give alms to professional beggars. Of course begging itself by the able-bodied should be penalized. But this reform is possible only when municipalities conduct factories where they will feed people against work. The Salvation Army people are or were experts in this class of work. They had opened a match factory in London in which any person who came found work and food. What I have, however, suggused is an immediate palliative. The real remedy lies in discovering the root cause and dealing with it. This means equalizing the economic condition of the people. The present extremes have to be dealt with as a serious social disease. In a healthy society concentration of riches in a few people and unemployment among millions is a great social crime or disease which needs to be remedied. 10

This evening I wish to devote to Sylhet. I have received frantic telegrams from Sylhet about the serious riots that have broken out there. The cause is not known. I am sorry that I am unable to go just now to Sylhet, nor am I vain enough to think that my presence would immediately abate the mob fury. I know, too, that one should not without peremptory cause abandon his present duty, however humble it may be, in favour of one which may appear to be higher. To adopt the Salvation Army language, we are all soldiers of God to fight the battle of right against wrong, by means which are strictly non-violent and truthful. As His soldiers ours is “not to reason why”, ours is “but to do and die”. Though, therefore, I am unable to respond to the urgent call of the sufferers of Sylhet, I can appeal, not in vain, to the authorities in East Bengal in general and Sylhet in particular to put forth their best effort on behalf of the sufferers and deal sternly with the recalcitrants. Now that there is peace between the Hindus and the Muslims, I am sure the authorities do not relish these ugly outbreaks. It would be wrong and misleading to underestimate the trouble by calling it the work of goondas. The minorities must be made to realize that they are as much valued citizens of the State they live in, as the majority. Let the Premiers of the two divisions of Bengal meet often enough and jointly devise means to preserve peace in the two States and to find enough healthy food and clothing for the inhabitants and enough work for the masses in East and West Bengal. When the masses, Hindu and Muslim, see their chiefs acting together and working together honestly, courageously and without intermission, the masses living in the two States will take the cue from the leaders and act accordingly. To the sufferers I would advise bravely to face the future and never to give way to panic. Such disturbances do happen in the lifetime of a people. Manliness demands there should be no weakness shown in facing them. Weakness aggravates the mischief, courage abates it. 11

 

References:

 

  1. Mahatma Gandhini Vicharsrishti
  2. Letter to Esther Faering, January 25, 1919
  3. Navajivan, 29-1-1922
  4. The Hindu, 23-11-1925
  5. With Gandhiji in Ceylon, pp. 16-21 
  6. Navajivan, 13-4-1930
  7. Letter to Salvation Army, June 14, 1931
  8. The Hindustan Times, 17-10-1935
  9. Harijan, 4-9-1937 
  10. Harijan, 8-6-1940
  11. Harijan, 7-9-1947

 

 

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