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
Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India
Students, Teacher and Mahatma Gandhi
You must have read a summary of my speech to students in Ahmadabad. I want to talk to you about some of the things I said to them. I shall talk to your elders in the evening. Wherever I go, I like to keep alive the close contacts which I have established with students. Being myself a father of four sons, I understand the son’s duty towards his parents. I was myself a son once and some persons whom I respect as elders are still living. Hence I know very well the duty that sons owe to fathers. A son can be advised to disobey his father, if the occasion demands this. I may thus seem to be giving contradictory advice. What I am going to say to you, I have already told my sons. I have a good many sons, have had quite a few children entrusted to my care and I have brought them up. Only yesterday, a couple belonging to one of the untouchable communities expressed their desire to entrust their daughter to my care. The girl has stayed with me before now.
I told her father that he could leave Lakshmi with me only if he gave up all claims on her. I did not make this condition with all parents who entrusted their children to me. Even so, I regard as my very own the children whom I have brought up. I have given my sons advice no less harsh than what I give the students these days. On the right occasion, you can rise against me, your parents and the whole world. If I did not say this, I should violate what I understand to be dharma. If one would prosper in dharma, one should, if need be, sacrifice one’s parents, relations and all others in a yajna undertaken in real sincerity of heart as Prahlad sacrificed his father. Prahlad did not offer violent resistance to his father, Hiranyakashipu, nor did he obey his order forbidding him to worship Vishnu an order repugnant to his conscience but said: “In this matter, I will obey His order that is your father, and the grand-father of your grand-father.” Your parents would say you should not leave schools and I say you should. If you understand that what I am asking you to do is your dharma, tell your parents respectfully that you cannot attend your schools. This is your duty if you have been sincerely moved. Why do I give such advice? What I say is not meant for students of 10 or 12 years of age. They are not free to think for themselves. They should do their parents’ bidding. According to our Shastras, a child should be lovingly reared for five years, should be disciplined for ten years “disciplined” not with physical punishment but with instruction and persuasion, and a son of 16 should be regarded as a friend. Why do I give such advice to young men? For many years I have co-operated with the Government, with the British Empire. Nobody could have given better co-operation than I did, for there was nothing better. My co-operation was inspired by no selfish motive. I did not want any brother or son of mine to be employed in Government service, nor did I wish to be honoured with a title.
My attitude, therefore, was entirely disinterested. I gave my co-operation as a matter of dharma, duty. I gave obedience to this regime, not because of the punishment it can inflict, but because I thought it my duty to do so. I shall give you one illustration. When my third son was born, I was faced with the question whether I should get him vaccinated against smallpox. I have a conscientious objection to vaccination. Yet, in 1897, I got the child vaccinated. If a child is not vaccinated within a certain number of days, one is liable to punishment. This law exists only on the statute book. People do not respect it as they should. I felt that either I should respect it or clarify my position to the Government, which meant that I should disobey it respectfully since I do not accept as valid the public opinion which it reflects. However, I thought it better to obey it so long as I did not get it amended and hence I got my child vaccinated. But there was an occasion afterwards to resist this same thing, vaccination. While in South Africa, we went to jail. According to the prison rules, one must be vaccinated. We are non-cooperated, offered civil resistance. We told the Government that it could keep us in jail longer if it chose, but that we would not agree to vaccination. At last, the Government had to issue an order exempting people from vaccination on grounds of conscience. How far have I not gone in co-operation? I believe it to be the highest dharma indeed to swallow and put up with minor harassments on the part of the Government. Even after we have won swaraj, fraud, robbery and Dyerism will flourish. I am not naive or hypocritical enough to say that with swaraj will come Satya Yuga. After all, it will be swaraj in Kaliyuga and not in Satya Yuga. It will be the kind of swaraj which the British and the Arabs enjoy. But the Dyerism of that time will be tolerable. Power will be in our hands, so that, at the most, we ourselves will have abused it, or will have allowed it to be abused. But what has happened today is not this. It has been done against our will. Had Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy or Lord Sinha been appointed by us, it would have been a different matter. What we protest against is the way things are done and not the skin of those who do them]. If my friends Dayalji and Kalyanji act unjustly, I may protest and may not even accept milk offered by them. Mr. Andrews, Mahomed Ali and Shaukat Ali are as brothers to me, but I would not accept their appointment as Viceroy since they would have been appointed by the Government.
When power is in our hands, we may appoint even Lord Chelmsford as Viceroy, if we trust him, and may dismiss him when we cease to trust him. Today the whole of the country is asking Lord Chelmsford to resign, but there he is. I would give only the kind of co-operation I have explained here. Since that is not possible, I advocate non-cooperation. I cast the accounts of the Government’s rule and found that it had taken away more than it had given. I saw that the Reforms gave no reforms, but made the position worse. The Government’s power is maintained not because of its machine-guns, but because of our deluded love for it. This love has taken three forms: Love for the councils, which Dwijendranath Tagore has compared to [Sita’s] infatuation for the illusory deer, love for the courts and love for education. I say nothing about titles and similar honours, for very few have them. But we are very much in the grip of the three abovementioned infatuations. Our great leader, the learned and veteran Lala Lajpat Rai, is also their victim. Madan Mohan Malaviya, whom I have always revered, also believes that I have lost my head and that I am misleading the people.
He thinks that it is dharma to enter councils and to attend schools. To my mind, it is a sin to enter councils and attend courts and an altogether heinous sin to attend schools. There is a reason why I cannot succeed in convincing lawyers. I know how attached they are to things of this world. It is not easy to forsake children, to give up the arm-chair and the motor-car. But a student has no such problem. He can be led as desired. If I do not stop those who receive education for slavery and persist in attending schools and colleges, we shall not succeed in loosening the roots of the Empire. That is what I want to do. Through the students, the Empire gets the manure it needs; they are like the Niagara Falls—like the waters of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the Brahmaputra combined. This bare hint will be enough to make you see that we should have none of this education which breeds ignorance this education for slavery. Unless I teach you the A B C of how to shake off your slavery, everything else will be unavailing. If you go on pouring milk into an unclean vessel, instead of the latter becoming clean it is the milk that will become dirty. So long as we remain like a vessel polluted by slavery, all education will be mere waste. If there are any gods above and if they see that India is like an unclean vessel, the rain of education will be to no good purpose. First, therefore, see that you are clean. If you do not learn law or medicine, India is not going to sink into the bottomless pit; with slavery, it will. It will not, then, is a country inhabited by human beings but by beasts. Not to speak out one’s mind out of fear of anyone even of a great Empire this is to be a slave. The first lesson we have to learn is to shake off this fear. May the lesson of Jallianwala and the humiliation of Islam fill everyone with the fire which has possessed me? The Hindus have two dangers to face. If the Muslims became slaves, through them the Hindus too would be enslaved. This is as simple as the rule of three.
If we would protect Hinduism, would spend our time in devotions to Vishnu, sitting under a tree, it is our duty to help the Muslims. If the latter should behave aggressively to you in future, I would tell them to remember this time. You, too, can say that one Gandhi from among you—no matter what kind of man he was in other ways did something on your behalf. If nothing avails, you may fight it out. I, for one, would ask you to be brave men. As between a man who is ready to lay down his life fighting and another who will do so without fighting, the latter is the braver man. How much stronger of breath must be the man who climbs the Himalayas without a stick in hand or without getting himself carried up in a doli than the one who climbs in this way? Having reached the top, such a man will turn to the country and greet it with a peal of happy laughter. The friend sitting by my side (Mahomed Ali) looks upon this as the weapon of the weak.
Whether or no he is right, it is only in this way that one can learn even to use the sword. I told my friend Shaukat Ali that the Muslims did not have the strength to make self-sacrifices. When they have the strength to die, they will see that there is no need for a sword at all. Even so, you are welcome to draw the sword when you think it is necessary to do so. An Empire which has betrayed Islam, which made India crawl on its stomach it is that even if one person was made to do which forcibly remove the purdah off the faces of India’s women this happened in the Punjab how is it possible to co-operate with such an Empire? No matter how many metalled roads they build and what peace prevails in the country we would rather have rivers of blood flow. Nay, even if we had to go without railways and ships and even if the administration were to break down, I would rather prefer that to the present condition. If you are fired with the same zeal that I am, even those among you who have been forbidden by their parents can leave their schools and colleges. One student’s father told me that he would watch how the national school which has been started runs and then see what he should do. A man who withdrew his child from a Government school only after he had, in this manner, first satisfied himself about the working of a national school could be of no help in winning back the freedom of the country. One should not be exercised whether one would have education or not. Even if it were possible to teach the idea of freedom to a man who continued meanwhile in his state of slavery, one cannot teach him how to win freedom. If you feel that you have rightly understood what I am saying, give up everything.
You will get all things afterwards. It is a divine law that he who lives in utter devotion to God will have all things given to him. If all the students in Surat left their schools and colleges, how happy the result would be. The professors and teachers would then come asking you on what terms you would remain. You should tell them that, once the connection with the Government was broken off and its aid rejected, you would provide the expenses of the institutions even by begging. This was the ancient way. In those times the pupil approached the teacher with sacrificial wood in his folded hands, told him that he would fetch his fuel and looks after his cattle, and prayed to be instructed. In Poona, there is one such Students’ Home for orphans which the inmates maintain by begging from door to door. You should do the same rather than sacrifice your humanity by attending the present schools. Great indeed are the hopes built on you. Here in Surat you have these two great institutions. Their students can do every fine work. Surat has lost its sutra these days. I expect the people here to make it a point of honour to have education on their own terms or go without it altogether. If all the students showed this strength, we would have the desired result in a month’s time. But even if it be that only a few stray students are convinced of this, they should leave the schools this very day. I would tell the students who did this that they had taken one step towards swaraj, had spoken up eloquently for the country.
If you get no help from your people at home, work with your bodies. Learn, what you do not know at present, how to use your hands and feet, but do not remain in slavery. Believe it for a truth, students that we needs must give up the love of schools, courts and councils if we want swaraj for the country. The first and last step towards swaraj is to purify ourselves. Those who have been endowed with teeth will be provided with food, not by this Government but by a Government above this Government. This is for us the first lesson, which has gone out of our minds. I for one give no credit to the Government or the rich for providing food [to the people]. Though the Government was there all the time, thousands of people died victims of the famine in Orissa. There is no dearth of rich men in the country, but even so thousands of these victims went their way to seek refuge in God. Have God’s name on your lips, take courage and, without making any calculations without balancing profit and loss give notice to your parents and teachers that you cannot attend your schools and colleges. Do not say this, being carried away by my words. I am only trying to stimulate your heart and your reason. Unless convinced, no child has a right to disobey its parents. Only that child has such a right whose heart is on fire as mine is. In the effort to rescue parents addicted to drink from the hold of that evil habit, a son should renounce his inheritance, his home and the protection it provides. If you see that you are getting your education under the shadow of slavery, take the plunge tomorrow, even if you have to go against the wishes of your parents.
Q. Mahatmaji, do you believe that the country will remain peaceful if you are arrested or exiled? Yes. If it does not, I shall believe that we are unworthy. If I rule out the sword, it is not because I do not know how to use it or because I am weak. Even this moment I can fire a revolver. If I wish, I can put a dagger into a man’s bowels. I have ruled them out, however, because there is no great profit in them. If the country does not remain peaceful when they arrest me or Shaukat Ali or Mahomed Ali, I would think that it had not learnt the lesson. Violence in such circumstances would be natural in Ireland or Arabia, for there everyone has the right to carry arms and knows how to use them. If I were among them and the Government tried to arrest me, the people would say that it would have to fight them before it could take me away. But conditions here are not the same. If in this country peace was not preserved, I would have to retire into the Himalayas for I cannot permit violence on my account. However, the Hindus have no such strength, nor the Muslims. I told the latter in Allahabad that this was not a new idea I was placing before the people.
All scriptures have spoken of it, but we had forgotten it till today. If they thought [I told them] that they were strong enough right then to fight and save Islam, they were free to draw the sword. Suppose we succeed in attacking the Viceroy unobserved and killing him, or get someone to do so, we would not have saved Islam thereby. The result would be martial law. Even that would not matter, were it not that India would be completely suppressed. For India, what I am recommending is a weapon not of the strong but of the weak. If the Muslims had the requisite strength, they would have asked me who I was to advise them against drawing the sword, would have told me that they had the injuction of the holy Koran. Among the Hindus, too, there are some who do not listen to me. Even so, it should be remembered that the country has come round and accepted this line. The men and women who died in Jallianwala Bagh were not martyrs or heroes. Had they been heroes, when General Dyer came on the scene in all his pride, they would have fought with swords or sticks or would have stood up before him and faced death. There are no Sikhs in the country today who resort to hijrat, as did the Imam, there are no such Gurkhas and certainly no Vanias; as for the Rajputs, they are now no better than Vanias. If, therefore, violence should break out in the country on my arrest, I would say that you had been defeated, for you simply do not have the strength to succeed in it. On the day I am arrested, you should leave your schools if you will not do so today, and the lawyers should give up practice, the policemen should leave their service and army should throw away its arms. I am, moreover, a farmer.
The farmers should declare on that day that they would pay no taxes. The day this happens, our freedom will be assured. Perhaps they will arrest all three of us together. Till now, I used to pray that they should arrest the two of us at the same time. Now I pray that it should be all three. That is why I did not give my consent to Shaukat Ali when he wanted to go to Delhi alone for, if we are to be arrested, I should like both of us to be arrested together. When the Government goes mad, it will arrest all three of us or the one who seems to it the guiltiest. The Government cannot put us down with force. I ought to have the right to tell it that, if it ruled without regard to law, we would send it out bag and baggage. So far, we used to think one thing in our mind and say another on the platform, and peace was described as unrest. That has gone now. Certainly, I trust these two brothers so far that I am sure that the day they want violence, they will give advance notice and say that from that time on no English life was safe. You may ask them about this. Ask them separately. Then ask me. If you get the same reply from all three, believe it and, when we are arrested, let all of you become volunteers and go out to preserve peace. Otherwise, there will be martial law. That in it would not matter; but the difficulty is that we do not have the strength to keep up the struggle so as to force the Government to prolong the martial law. Mahatmaji, if you advise that children should be withdrawn from English schools, why do you not advise that they should also be withdrawn from the Municipal primary schools? Municipalities may also forgo Government aid, repudiate all connection with it and so become free.
The Nadiad Municipality is about to take such a step. If you advise withdrawal from schools, why you not ask people to forgo other help from the Government, to stop using trains or availing themselves of benefits like water-taps, etc, I am a “practical idealist”, and so I place before the people only such programmes as can be implemented. Even so, I would congratulate anyone who refrained from using these things. When it was suggested by Mrs. Besant, by way of answer to my non-cooperation, that the Government should refuse to deliver postal articles to me and Shaukat Ali, to issue us railway tickets, and so on, I had congratulated my friend. I told the friends present then that, if this happened, it would be a great day indeed. The work of khilafat or non-co-operation would not stop in consequence. Mahatmaji, since primary education is compulsory here, how can we ask anyone to stop going to school? Education is compulsory; there is no compulsion to attend a particular school. About non-co-operation, what should people do in the Indian States? The subjects of Indian States are slaves of slaves. At the moment, let us confine ourselves to direct slaves. If, however, anyone in an Indian State leaves school or college on his own, that would be another matter. Only, I would not go and start an agitation there. My doing so would put the rulers in an awkward position. It would be a different matter, of course, if the Gaekwar of Baroda himself felt that, in trying to protect the religion of his Muslim subjects, he should even go to the length of abdicating. What should people do if the Government forced the national schools to close down? This is a shrewd Government and will not take such a step. Even if it does, that will not stop national education. On the contrary, those students and teachers who refuse today to leave school or college will then leave them forthwith and the teachers will start going round and teaching pupils in their homes. No Government can stop this. If the Government does so, it would mean that the Hindu should not read the Gita, since it talks of war, and the Muslim should not read the Koran. The Government simply cannot take such a step.