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
Subhash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi -I
The very first thing then that I would have done would have been to summon Indians of position and trust, and I would have shown them all the papers and would have been guided by them. In the case of Subhas Chandra Bose, I would have confronted him with my suspicion and published his statement. In consultation with those Indians of position and trust, I would also have summoned Deshbandhu Das and put the whole burden of responsibility on his shoulders, in so far as the suspected members of his party were concerned. By this procedure I would have quietly ensured public peace or been assured that the information given to me was wrong. This is the least I would have done, and that too if I had no trust in my legislature, or if there was no time to summon it. What is more, I would have realized my own unenviable position. I would have seen at once its hypocrisy. Having therefore dealt with the crisis, I would have tried to discover the true disease, of which the crisis was but a symptom. For that purpose, I would have summoned representative Indians before me and tried to ascertain why there were young, able and otherwise peaceful men, who would mercilessly kill innocent men and recklessly put their own lives in danger. I would have learnt that they had no selfish end and that they wanted liberty for their country. I would therefore have been guided, in dealing with the root cause, by the advice of the summoned representatives, taking care that no legitimate foreign interest was thereby jeopardized, and having done this I would have breathed free in the knowledge that it would be equally the business of my legislature as mine to deal with any such future eruption. 1 The longer young men like Subhas Bose are denied the right of a fair trial and yet kept under lock and key, the quicker is our pace towards our goal. Fight for freedom is no mock affair. It is so real and so terrible that it will require the best of thousands of us. Let us not grudge the price. 2
I wish it was possible for me to tender the Government of Bengal congratulations upon the release of Sjt. Subhas Chandra Bose. The release has been granted, not because public opinion demanded it, not because Government considered the Chief Officer of the Calcutta Corporation to be guiltless, nor because they considered that he had been sufficiently punished for a crime of which neither he nor the public has any knowledge, but because their own medical officers considered the distinguished prisoner to be seriously ill, so seriously ill as to cause fear about his life. If Sjt. Subhas Chandra Bose is a danger to society or to the life of anybody, and if he is a man of determination as he is reputed to be and even believed by the Government to be, he is no less dangerous because he is seriously ill. Why should the Government be afraid of his dying in their prison? Surely it is not customary with them to release every prisoner who becomes dangerously ill. And if it was right to discharge him for his illness, why was he not discharged when he first showed signs of tuberculosis? Papers have been for a long time full of information about the alarming character of his disease. His brother repeatedly warned the Government about the prisoner’s illness. It is, I venture to suggest cowardly flinging a dying man in the face of his relatives and washing oneself of the guilt of his death. This release brings us no nearer to the solution of the question of imprisonment or indefinite detention, without trial, of prisoners whom Government chooses to suspect. The Bengal Regulation remains where it was. More or less healthy detenus must continue to rot, and are now deprived of the support of an agitation which was kept at a fairly high pitch because a powerful man was under detention. No doubt some sort of agitation will still continue for the release of the other detenus. But there is every fear of its lacking strength. Indian nature is grateful for the smallest mercies. It is easily satisfied. And the public will condone the detention of the other prisoners for the release of Sjt. Subhas Chandra Bose, forgetting that the release is due not to any relenting on the part of the Government but due to Nature’s supreme intervention. It may seem cruel, but I must confess that I would far rather not have any release at all than have a release on false issues, which merely complicate the main issue and make it more difficult to deal with than before; for behind the agitation for the release of the detenus is the great question of the liberty of the citizens and the question of extraordinary powers exercised over the lives of people by an utterly irresponsible Government. The one consolation that the public can derive from this painful affair is, that Sjt. Subhas Chandra Bose up to the very last moment manfully declined to accept the humiliating conditions from time to time proposed by the Government for his discharge. Let us hope and pray that he will be soon restored to health and that a long life of service will be vouchsafed to him. 3
It seems to me therefore to be waste of time and inconsistent with respect to make any appeal to the administrators in behalf of the political prisoners Lala Dunichand has in view. And he has in mind the prisoners of the Gadar party, the Punjab Martial Law prisoners and the Bengal detenus. Nor need we be led astray by solitary discharges like that of Sjt. Subhas Bose. In spite of the agitation that was set on foot he would in all probability not have been discharged if his precarious health had not come to the rescue. Indeed, have they not said in the plainest language possible that they were released purely on grounds of ill health? Has not Earl Winter ton flatly declined to release the Bengal detenus in answer to the appeal to create a favourable atmosphere for their precious Statutory Commission? 4 I was told that I could look forward to meeting you at Madras. But that was not to be. Will you kindly tell me why you have preferred the cry of boycott of British goods, principally British cloth, to boycott of foreign cloth and why also boycott of British cloth only pending settlement? 5 In my opinion, we must not take in everything, even in the shape of machinery unless we are absolutely certain that it is beneficial and requires encouragement without which it would not be taken up by the public. I do not believe in distracting public attention by introducing in the Exhibition, even things that may be beneficial but that may not require Congress patronage for use by the public. Thus, for instance, I would not have in the Exhibition watches which we do not manufacture but we do need but which the various manufacturers have ample means of advertising. But in this matter we may differ in our opinion and if such is the case, there is no reason why each opinion should not be put before the public without leading to bitterness or acrimony. If there is anything definite against Satis Babu showing that he has been unscrupulous in his propaganda, I would gladly write to him about it. 6 I have enclosing the circular about the Exhibition. I see now what you are aiming at and I can appreciate your standpoint. But I am sorry I cannot endorse it. According to the circular you will be free to admit many foreign exhibits and mill-cloth. The only difference between Madras and Calcutta would be that Calcutta will exclude British goods, whereas British machinery was exhibited at the Madras Exhibition. In the circumstances I would personally like to abstain from identifying the All-India Spinners’ Association with the Exhibition. 7
It does not follow that because Jai Hind was devised by Subhas Babu as a war cry in armed warfare, it must be eschewed in a non-violent action. On that basis even Vandemataram may have to be given up because there are instances of people committing violence with this cry on their lips. If a thing is essentially an evil it becomes a positive duty to abjure it in my opinion Jai Hind and Vandemataram have almost the same meaning. In one we make obeisance to Mother India and thereby wish her victory; the other merely wishes her victory. There is no question of singing the two together. As I have said before Jai Hind cannot replace Vandemataram. I have not read what Subhas Babu is reported to have said about me. But I am not surprised at what you tell me. My relations with him were always of the purest and best. I always knew his capacity for sacrifice. But a full knowledge of his resourcefulness, soldier ship and organizing ability came to me only after his escape from India. The difference of outlook between him and me as to the means is too well known for comment. 8 Subhas Babu Will never pardon the loin-cloth. We must bear with him. He cannot help himself. He believes in himself and in his mission. He must work it out as we must ours. 9 You attribute to me powers I know I do not possess. There are no-changers and pro-changers nowadays. It would be wrong on my part to interfere with the discretion of co-workers in matters outside the operations which keep them in touch with me. If there is any specific thing against any of them, I shall gladly go into it. But whether I can be of any service or not I wish you could find a way out of this unseemly wrangling. 10
You are becoming more and more an enigma to me. I want you to live up to the certificate that Deshbandhu once gave me for you. He pictured you to me as a young man of brilliant parts, singleness of purpose, great determination and above pettiness. Your conduct in Calcutta therefore grieved me, but I reconciled myself to its strangeness. But in Lahore you became inscrutable and I smelt petty jealousy. I do not mind stubborn opposition. I personally thrive on it and learn more from opponents than from friends. I therefore always welcome sincere and intelligent opposition. But in Lahore you became an obstructionist. In connection with the Bengal dispute, in your writings to the Press you were offensive and the discourteous, impatient walk-out nearly broke my heart. You should have bravely recognized the necessity and the propriety of your and other friends’ exclusion. It was not aimed at you, Prakasam or Srinivasa Iyengar. It was meant merely to strengthen the hands of the young President by providing him with a cabinet that would be helpful in carrying forward the national work. There was no question surely of distributing patronage, of placating personal interest, however high they may be. The question was one of devising measures for achieving independence in the shortest possible time. How could you, having no faith in the programme, or Prakasam, with philosophic contempt for the present programme, or Srinivasa Iyengar, with his unfathomable unbelief in Jawaharlal and Pandit Motilalji, forward the nation’s work? But all the three could help by becoming sympathetic critics offering sound suggestions along their own lines. There was certainly no undemocratic procedure. If the putting off the names en bloc did not commend itself to the Committee, the Committee could have so expressed its opinion and that would have been also a fair measure of the strength of your party. But I do not want to continue the argument. 11 I cannot tax my memory as to know about the details. The exhibition I remember vividly. But there of course our ideals differed. I do not believe in the showy part in connection with what is intended to be a pure education for the masses. But I should have a battle royal with you on these things if you had leisure. I assure you I have no partiality for khadi workers. They naturally engage my attention because they have so much in common with me. I would love to have the same contact with you. But I cannot have that privilege as our methods and outlook on life seem to differ. I do not mind these differences, what I mind is bitterness. 12
At 10 p.m. Gandhiji received Mr. Subhas Bose who kept him engaged till 2.30 a.m. I understand Mr. Subhas presented his case for the release of all Bengal political prisoners and the right to carry on propaganda in favour of independence. Gandhiji explained to him that the Delhi Truce Pact had only suspended hostile activities and the civil disobedience programme, and did not prevent anybody from carrying on propaganda for independence for India. As a matter of fact, the Congress could present its case for independence at the R. T. C. As regards the release of political prisoners convicted of violence and Bengal Ordinance detenus, Gandhiji is reported to have said he could not place it as a condition precedent to truce, as he was not in a position to give an undertaking to the Government that prisoners convicted of violence would not again resort to it during the truce period if released. He was sure their detention was only a question of six months at the most, and at the time of concluding peace finally the Congress would be justified in making release of all political prisoners a condition precedent. 13 I do not think you should worry the Sadhu. That he is known to be mad rather appeals to me because of the fellow feeling between us. Even without his warning, I know that if I have to go to Europe I put my health in danger. But it does not matter; if I am destined to do some service there, somehow or other my health will keep. 14 As to the Settlement itself, I have no doubt whatsoever that the Congress would have put itself in the wrong if it had not entered upon it. And it was certainly patriotic on the part of Sjt. Subhas Chandra Bose and the young men who were behind him to have withdrawn their opposition and given their support to the Settlement Resolution at Karachi. The Karachi Congress did not lower the independence flag. The Congress mandate is clear on the point. 15 It may be quite advisable. But I am a representative and not a free-lance like you. My wishes should be dominated in this instance by Bengal. Subhas Babu is here to advise me on the subject. 16
I was certainly grieved by Vithalbhai’s death, though for him it was deliverance. We had well known that he would die in a foreign country. He seems to have been looked after very well. Subhas, it seems, was beyond all praise. From all sources I hear reports of his wonderful attention to Vithalbhai. 17 I know what it means for a prisoner to hear from friends. I share your regret that we cannot freely exchange views even on absolutely non-political questions. I am surprised that you are not getting your copy of Harijan. I am inquiring. Yes, my dietetic experiments continue unabated. Just now I am trying to find jangly edible leaves and I have succeeded beyond expectations. I am not having any fresh vegetables from outside Segaon. The second thing I am doing is to use lemons and gur as an effective substitute for fresh fruit. After many experiments I have come to the conclusion that cow milk, fresh green vegetables (including leaves and fruit of plants), onion and garlic, wheat or any other grain, gur and any juicy fruit make a perfect diet. Generally I recommend avoidance of pulses for brain workers vegetable protein is not so easy to digest as animal protein. I have mentioned onion and garlic. They are both strongly recommended by many medical men. 18 My fever an attack after twelve years of freedom was the cause of the lateness of my reply to your questions.
(1) Tea or coffee I do not consider being essential to health. They often do harm. They may remain harmless, if tea is weak and straw colour and coffee drunk with plenty of milk with only a spoonful or two of coffee.
(2) If received fresh from the udder well cleaned and from a healthy cow, milk drunk fresh unboiled unwarmed is the best food. Next best is pasteurized milk. For some stomachs sweet curds are the best. They having the yeast obviate even the use of fruit.
(3) Leafy vegetables must always be taken, better if taken as salads. All leaves are not edible in the raw state. Onion, pumpkin with the skin, Pandora, brinjal, lady’s finger, turnips, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, and cauliflower are good additions to leaves. Potatoes and starchy tubers should be taken sparingly.
(4) Dates are a fine food for a healthy stomach. Raisins are more digestible. I can take both freely but all cannot. All can take raisins and sultanas.
(5) Garlic and onion in a raw state are strongly recommended in the West. I take raw garlic regularly for blood pressure. It is the best antitoxin for internal use. It is also recommended for tubercular patients. I think the prejudice against these two harmless vegetables is due to the odour which is the essence of them and it arose with the rise of Vaishnavism. Ayurveda sings the praise of both unstintingly. Garlic is called poor man’s musk and so it is. I do not know what villagers would do without garlic and onion.
(6) Yes, lemons and gur or honey are a good substitute for sweet oranges. I think this answers all your questions. 19
Mahadev returns today or rather tonight. He had an hour with Subhas Chandra Bose, evidently after his release. I am glad Mahadev went in time to greet him as a free man. But who knows whether he is now free or he was freer when he was a prisoner. 20 I am sure that a full measure of relief will be forthcoming, if the atmosphere of non-violence is not disturbed, by the step taken by the Government. Even Congress insists on observance of non- violence; indeed, it is its political creed. Congress Ministers know that their existence, as such, depends solely on the observance of non-violence. I hope that the released detenus will so act as to materially help the creation and consolidation of a non-violent atmosphere, on which Mr. Subhas Chandra Bose has justly laid stress in his message on the eve of his departure for Europe for his health. 21
Subhas Bose: Bapu, may I ask you a question? What is the future programme of the Board?
Gandhiji: The most immediate piece of work before the Board is the preparation of textbooks for teachers. Next, the Board must approach the different Congress ministers and chalk out the plan of work for each province, with due consideration for the present limitations and capacity of work. Thirdly, the Board must itself conduct an experimental centre to test the syllabus it has drawn up, and must revise its own recommendations at every step in the light of the experience thus gained. Fourthly, the Board must organize and conduct as many training schools as possible. Every training school serves a double purpose. It may not only train future teachers, but every training school also means a demonstration school of basic education.
Subhas Bose: What about the expenses of the Board?
Gandhiji : We shall have to beg for it. I do not think it right to expect any financial contributions from the Congress governments, because that would provide an opportunity for the criticisms of the opposition party.
Subhas Bose: Bapu, this is as regards the problem of rural basic education. What is your suggestion as regards the problem of basic education in urban areas? Some municipalities, e. g., the municipalities of Calcutta and Bombay, are doing some work in this direction and would like to extend their work in progressive primary education. What is your suggestion as regards the problem of primary education in cities?
Gandhiji: According to my educational philosophy, there is no fundamental difference between the basic education in a rural and an urban area. The aim in both is the same the development of the intelligence through a vocation. The system of training that is evolved for rural areas will also be applicable to urban areas. I know from personal experience that the products of primary education in urban areas are good-for-nothing, but, for the present, I do not wish to divide the energies of the Board. If it succeeds in solving the problem of rural education, the other problem will also be solved. If ten years of work are devoted to rural education, you may consider that the whole problem of primary education whether rural or urban has been grappled with. Subhas Bose next asked whether a representative of a city municipality with some experience of municipal education could not be a member of the Board, so that he could attempt, if he liked, to adapt the findings of the A. I. E. B. for the purpose of urban basic education.
Gandhiji: Certainly. The Board will be a representative body. All the members of the Board are representatives of the city. Where shall I find real villagers as members? 22
I do not wish to win independence through hooliganism which will destroy the Congress if it enters that body. Everybody has the right to criticize provided the criticism is fair, decent and truthful. No ban was imposed on Dr. Khare for contesting the election of the leadership of the C. P. Assembly Party nor did Mr. Subhas Chandra Bose threaten any member while exercising his right to vote, not did I deprive Dr. Khare of his right to contest the election. 23 I hope the statement will be soon published. I suppose it will be issued in pamphlet form. Of course the poison is there but as the agitation is wholly false it is bound to die out. Maharashtra can never be lost for the Congress province and I would feel unmoved if in doing right all the provinces were lost. 24 I must dictate this as I am willfully blind. Whilst I am dictating this Maulana Saheb, Nalini Babu, and Ghanshyamdasji are listening. We had an exhaustive discussion over the Bengal Ministry. I am more than ever convinced that we should not aim at ousting the Ministry. We shall gain nothing by a reshuffle. And probably we shall lose much by including Congressmen in the Ministry. I feel, therefore, that the best way of securing comparative purity of administration and continuity of a settled programme and policy would be to aim at having all the reforms that we desire carried out by the present Ministry. Nalini Babu should come out, as he says he would, on a real issue being raised and the decision being taken by the Ministry against the interests of the country. His retirement from the Ministry would then be dignified and wholly justified. I understand that so far as the amendment of the municipal law is concerned, separate electorate for the scheduled class is given up. There is still insistence on separate electorate for Mussalmans. I do not know whether opposition should be taken to the breaking point. If the Mussalman opinion is solid in favour of separation, I think it would be wisdom to satisfy them. I would not like them to carry the point in the teeth of the Congress opposition. It would be then a point against the Congress. If my opinion is acceptable to you, the release of the Prisoners becomes a much simpler matter than it is today. And if this opinion commends itself to you there should be an open declaration about the new policy. This ought to result in easing the tension that prevails in Bengal, and Bengal will be automatically free from the state of suspended animation. Maulana Saheb is in entire agreement with this opinion and so are Nalini Babu and Ghanshyamdas. 25
Shri Subhas Bose has achieved a decisive victory over his opponent, Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya. I must confess that from the very beginning I was decidedly against his re-election for reasons into which I need not go. I do not subscribe to his facts or the arguments in his manifestos. I think that his references to his colleagues were unjustified and unworthy. Nevertheless, I am glad of his victory. And since I was instrumental in inducing Dr. Pattabhi not to withdraw his name as a candidate when Maulana Saheb withdrew, the defeat is more mine than his. I am nothing if I do not represent definite principles and policy. Therefore, it is plain to me that the delegates do not approve of the principles and policy for which I stand. I rejoice in this defeat. It gives me an opportunity of putting into practice what I preached in my article on the walk-out of the minority at the last A. I. C. C. meeting in Delhi. Subhas Babu, instead of being President on the sufferance of those whom he calls rightists, is now President elected in a contested election. This enables him to choose a homogeneous cabinet and enforce his programme without let or hindrance. There is one thing common between majority and minority, viz., insistence on internal purity of the Congress organization. My writings in the Harijan have shown that the Congress is fast becoming a corrupt organization in the sense that its registers contain a very large number of bogus members. I have been suggesting for the past many months the overhauling of these registers. I have no doubt that many of the delegates who have been elected on the strength of these bogus voters would be unseated on scrutiny. But I suggest no such drastic step. It will be enough if the registers are purged of all bogus voters and are made fool-proof for the future. The minority has no cause for being disheartened. If they believe in the current programme of the Congress, they will find that it can be worked, whether they are in a minority or a majority and even whether they are in the Congress or outside it. The only thing that may possibly be affected by the changes is the parliamentary programme. The ministers have been chosen and the programme shaped by the erstwhile majority. But parliamentary work is but a minor item of the Congress programme. Congress ministers have after all to live from day to day. It matters little to them whether they are recalled on an issue in which they are in agreement with the Congress policy or whether they resign because they are in disagreement with the Congress. After all subhas Babu is not an enemy of his country. He has suffered for it. In his opinion his is the most forward and boldest policy and programme. The minority can only wish it all success. If they cannot keep pace with it, they must come out of the Congress. If they can, they will add strength to the majority. The minority may not obstruct on any account. They must abstain when they cannot co-operate. I must remind all Congressmen that those who, being Congress-minded, remain outside it by design represent it most. Those, therefore, who feel uncomfortable in being in the Congress, may come out, not in a spirit of ill will, but with the deliberate purpose of rendering more effective service. 26
I replied saying it might be embarrassing to you. Now comes a letter from Rajen Babu making the same suggestion supporting it by the argument that you would be helped if you had the resignations in your hands now so that you could choose a temporary cabinet to help you to frame your future programme. Rajen Babu’s argument commends itself to me. So far as I can judge the old colleagues whom you consider as rightists will not serve on your cabinet. You can have their resignations now, if that would be more convenient for you. Their presence would be unfair to you and to them. You should be left free to frame your own programme and expect the rightists to support where they can and abstain without obstructing where they cannot see eye to eye with you. I have just read your statement in answer to mine. Though it demands a reply, I must refrain. I do not want to enter into a public controversy with you so long as I can avoid it. 27 About Dr. Pattabhi, the whole of India knows that his candidature was thought of at the last moment when Maulana Saheb withdrew and as Dr. Pattabhi was the only candidate left besides Subhas Babu. His connection with the States People’s Conference has been a convenient fact for building up Mr. William’s case. As for the innuendos about Subhas Babu, he is well able to look after himself. But throughout one year’s intimate connection with him I never once heard him say of the States what Mr. Williams attributes to him. I am quite certain that if the States come to terms with the Congress about the treatment of the people in their jurisdiction, Subhas Babu will be quite as keen as any Congressman to close the bargain but not in anticipation of federation. I have come into the States agitation by accident. Responsible government in the States is a goal by itself and independent of federation which may never come. It won’t come till the Congress and Muslims are ready for it. But liberty of the States people has to come in any and every case. They cannot be in chains and what is called British India become free. 28 In accordance with your request, I am keeping absolutely silent, though pressure is being put upon me to give my opinion on the crisis. I saw the resolution for the first time in Allahabad. It seems to me to be quite clear. The initiative lies with you. I do not know how far you are fit to attend to national work. If you are not, I think you should adopt the only constitutional course open to you. 29
Since you think that Pandit Pant’s resolution was out of order and the clause relating to the Working Committee is clearly unconstitutional and ultra vires, your course is absolutely clear. Your choice of the Committee should be unfettered. Your several questions on this head, therefore, do not need any answering. Since we met in February, my opinion has becomes strengthened that where there are differences on fundamentals, as we agreed there were, a composite committee would be harmful. Assuming, therefore, that your policy had the backing of the majority of the A. I. C. C., you should have a Working Committee composed purely of those who believe in your policy. Yes, I adhere to the view expressed by me at Segaon at our February meeting that I would not be guilty of being party to any self-suppression by you, as distinguished from voluntary self-effacement. Any subordination of a view which you may strongly hold as in the best interests of the country would be self-suppression. Therefore, if you are to function as President, your hands must be unfettered. The situation before the country admits of no middle course. So far as the Gandhiites are concerned, they will not obstruct you. They will help you where they can, they will abstain where they cannot. There should be no difficulty whatsoever, if they are in a minority. They may not suppress themselves if they are clearly in a majority. What worries me, however, is the fact that the Congress electorate is bogus and that, therefore, majority and minority lose their full meaning. Nevertheless, till the Congress stable is cleansed, we have to manage with the instrument we have for the time being. The other thing worrying me is the terrible distrust among us. Joint work is impossibility where the workers distrust one another. 30
I think that each school of thought should be able to put forth its views before the country without any mixture. And if this is honestly done, I do not see why there should be any bitterness, ending in civil war. What are wrong is not the differences between us but loss of mutual respect and trust. This will be remedied by time, which is the best healer. If there is real non-violence in us, there can be no civil war, much less bitterness. Taking all things into consideration, I am of opinion that you should at once form your own Cabinet fully representing your views, formulate your programme definitely and put it before the forthcoming A. I. C. C. If the Committee accepts the programme, all will be plain-sailing and you should be enabled to prosecute it unhampered by the minority. If, on the other hand, your progamme is not accepted you should resign and let the Committee choose its President. And you will be free to educate the country along your own lines. I tender this advice irrespective of Pandit Pant’s resolution, now for your question. When Pandit Pant’s resolution was produced, I was on my bed. Mathuradas, who happened to be in Rajkot that day, one morning, brought me the message that there was to be a resolution expressing confidence in the old horses. I had not the text before me. I said it would be good so far as it went, for I had been told at Segaon that your election was not so much confidence in you as censure of the old horses, especially the Sardar. After this, I saw the actual text only in Allahabad when I went to see the Maulana Saheb. My prestige does not count. It has no independent value of its own. When my motive is suspected or my policy or programme rejected by the country, the prestige must go. India will rise or fall by the quality of the sum total of the acts of her many millions. Individuals, however high they may be, are of no account except in so far as they represent the many millions. Therefore, let us rule it out of consideration. I wholly dissent from your view that the country has been never so non-violent as now. I smell violence in the air I breathe. But the violence has put on a subtle form. Our mutual distrust is a bad form of violence. The widening gulf between Hindus and Mussalmans points to the same thing. I can give further illustrations. We seem to differ as to the amount of corruption in the Congress. My impression is that it is on the increase. I have been pleading for the past many months for a thorough scrutiny. In these circumstances, I see no atmosphere for non-violent mass action. An ultimatum without an effective sanction is worse than useless. But, as I have told you, I am an old man, perhaps growing timid and over-cautious, and you have youth before you and reckless optimism born of youth. I hope you are right and I am wrong. I have the firm belief that the Congress, as it is today, cannot deliver the goods, cannot offer civil disobedience worth the name. Therefore, if your prognosis is right, I am a back number and played out as the generalissimo of Satyagraha. I am glad you have mentioned the little Rajkot affair. It brings into prominent relief the different angles from which we look at things. I have nothing to repent of in the steps I have taken in connection with it. I feel that it has great national importance. I have not stopped civil disobedience in the other States for the sake of Rajkot. But Rajkot opened my eyes; it showed me the way. I am not in Delhi for my health. I am reluctantly in Delhi, awaiting the Chief Justice’s decision. I hold it to be my duty to be in Delhi till the steps to be taken, in due fulfillment of the Viceroy’s declaration in his last wire to me, were finally taken. I may not run any risk. If I invited the Paramount Power to do its duty, I was bound to be in Delhi to see that the duty was fully performed. I saw nothing wrong in the Chief Justice being appointed the interpreter of the document whose meaning was put in doubt by the Thakore Saheb. By the way, Sir Maurice examines the document not in his capacity as Chief Justice but as a trained jurist, trusted by the Viceroy. By accepting the Viceroy’s nominee a judge, I fancy I have shown both wisdom and grace and, what is more important, I have increased the viceregal responsibility in the matter. Though we have discussed sharp differences of opinion between us, I am quite sure that our private relations will not suffer in the least. If they are from the heart, as I believe they are, they will bear the strain of these differences. 31
I suggested a meeting of the foes to have it out among themselves without any reservation. But so much has happened since that I do not know if it is worthwhile. They will only swear at one another and bitterness will become bitterer. The gulf is too wide, suspicions too deep. I see no way of closing the ranks. The only way seems to me to recognize the differences and let each group work in its own manner. I feel myself utterly incompetent to bring the warring elements together for joint work. I should hope that they can work out their policies with becoming dignity. If they do so it will be well with the country. Pandit Pant’s resolution I cannot interpret. The more I study it the more I dislike it. The farmers meant well. But it does not answer the present difficulty. You should, therefore, give it your own interpretation and act accordingly, without the slightest hesitation. I will not, impose a Cabinet on you. You must not have one imposed on you, nor can I guarantee approval by A. I. C. C. of your Cabinet and policy. It would amount to suppression. Let the members exercise their own judgment. If you do not get the vote, lead the opposition till you have converted the majority. Do you know that I have stopped civil disobedience wherever I have influence? Travancore and Jaipur are glaring examples. Even Rajkot I had stopped before I came here. I repeat that I breathe violence in the air. I see no atmosphere for non-violent action. Is not the lesson of Ramdurg enough for you? In my opinion it has done immense injury to the cause. It was, so far as I can see, premeditated. Congressmen are responsible for it as they were in Rampur. Do you not see that we two honestly see the same thing differently and even draw opposite conclusions? How can we meet on the political platform? Let us agree to differ there and let us meet on the social, moral and municipal platform. I cannot add the economic, for we have discovered our differences on that platform also. My conviction is that working along our lines, in our own way, we shall serve the country better than by the different groups seeking to work a common policy and common programme forged out of irreconcilable elements. I sent you wires from Delhi about my utter inability to go to Dhanbad. Rajkot I dare not neglect. I am well. Ba is down with malignant malaria. This is the fifth day. I brought her with me when she had already commenced it. I wish you will conserve your health by taking decisive action, leaving the result to God. Your reference to your father is touching. I had the pleasure of meeting him. I forget one thing. Nobody put me up against you. What I told you in Segaon was based on my own personal observations. 32
You have asked me to give you in terms of Pant’s resolution the names for the Working Committee. As I have told you in my letters and my telegrams, I feel myself utterly incompetent to do so. Much has happened since Tripuri. Knowing your own view, knowing how you and most of the members differ on fundamentals, it seems to me that if I give you names, it would be an imposition on you. I have argued this position at length in my letters to you. Nothing that has happened during the three days of closest conversation between us has altered my view. Such being the case you are free to choose your own Committee. I have told you, too, that you could discuss with the ex-members the possibility of mutual approach and that nothing would please me better than to know that you were able to come together. Into what has happened since, I need not go. You and the ex-members present will make the position clear before the A. I. C. C. Only it has been matter of the greatest grief to me that a mutual settlement has not been possible. I hope, however, that whatever is done will be done with mutual Goodwill. 33 First of all, you are all aware that I was confined to bed at the time. It is not my way to interfere in something with which I am not concerned. That is why I remained indifferent to the developments at Tripuri. So much so that I even avoided reading the newspapers in those days. My mind was preoccupied with Rajkot. Someone reported to me that Pantji intended to move some such resolution. I understood at the time that the resolution would express confidence in the old Working Committee. I stated that while expression of confidence was all right I would have done something more if I was there. I had said even at Wardha that if they had the courage they should bring a motion of no-confidence against Subhas Babu. It would have been a straightforward thing to do. If the delegates to the Congress felt that they had made a mistake in electing Subhas Babu, this was the only civilized way open to them. But probably the atmosphere was not quite favourable then. I had a feeling that Subhas Babu would form his own Working Committee. But that did not happen. Then it was that the Pant resolution came up. All I heard was that the resolution expressed confidence in the people who had gone out. I said if that was all there was in the resolution it was all right. But I had nothing to do with it. I saw the resolution later, and then followed an exchange of letters with Subhas Babu. The letter to which Annada Babu has referred is not before you. When I read the Pant resolution, I found that it contained a suggestion that Subhas Babu should be guided by me. I thoroughly disapproved of the idea So much so that I refused to do anything of the kind. I stuck to my refusal to the end. It is possible that this may lead to some misunderstanding. I shall have to put up with it. How can I do a thing which I consider wrong? I told him that he should form a Working Committee of his choice, formulate a programme and implement it. I would clear the atmosphere if I could. If not, the work would go on and gradually we would be able to change the atmosphere. That is why when at Calcutta I was asked to name the Working Committee I found the idea repugnant. There I had some material, in view of which I felt it would be wrong to do so. Nobody had such material at Tripuri. Subsequent exchange of letters further confirmed me in my opinion. Later on I also came to know about the ill-feeling generated. How could I announce any names under those conditions? It would be subjecting Subhas Babu to coercion. Can the ship of the nation sail smoothly if I subject Subhas Babu to coercion? It would be like sinking it. I said I would not do it. I also said that if they wanted to have the old members of the Working Committee back, they should consult among themselves and if they were agreeable both sides could work together. But I would not be party to imposing any names on Subhas Babu. The more I think about that resolution, the more I dislike it. I cannot serve the nation according to the terms of that resolution. However much anyone may insist, I just cannot choose names for the Working Committee. My doing so would be coercion against Subhas Babu. And coercion is violence. How can I resort to it? I have told you of my feelings as to the Pant resolution. Even if people think that I have served the country well it surely does not give me the right to use coercion against anybody! What the question means is that through the Pant resolution Tripuri ordered me to do a certain thing and ordered Subhas Babu to do a certain thing. Subhas Babu was willing to do as ordered, then why did I defy it? Where was the question of coercion in giving the names for the Working Committee in pursuance of that order?
Seemingly the argument is attractive. But it is fallacious. Supposing somebody was to come to me tomorrow and say that I had been ordered to abuse him and hit him as I please? When there was such a gulf between me and Subhas Babu, would it have been civilized behaviour to inflict some names on him merely by virtue of that right? Having a right surely does not mean that I should exercise that right in utter disregard of my sense of proportion. If someone were to behave with me thus I would not like it. Supposing tomorrow I am given the right to abuse everybody, would it then become my duty to exercise that right? There is a distinction between right and duty. The exercise of right depends on one’s sense of duty. It is my duty to follow dharma. I do not think only of my own importance. It is of no consequence to me. I think in terms of the nation. I do what I consider my duty. Cannot your correspondence with Subhas Babu be published? If not, will you please explain why? At one stage it had been decided to publish the correspondence. Later on, after Jawaharlal’s arrival it was decided to withhold the publication. It was also decided that I should not issue any statement. It would not be in the interest of the nation. In this my attitude was that Subhas Babu should do only what suited him. This should be our only attitude if we are non-violent. It is none of our concern to publish any correspondence. We should withhold the publication as long as we can. It becomes our duty to publish the correspondence only when someone does something contrary to what he has written in a letter. There is no such question here. That is why I have left it to Subhas Babu. If any misunderstanding arises from the correspondence not being published, it will not bring any particular harm. The other person will publish it when he thinks it is necessary to do so. When it becomes ancient history, it will be abandoned. My differences with the socialists are of a different kind. Do not confuse the two. They differ with Subhas Babu on the question of giving an ultimatum to the Government. I do not know who exactly supports him on the point. That is why in spite of my having sharp and even fundamental differences with the socialists my attitude towards them is different. Moreover, we cannot put the socialists and Jawaharlal in the same category. Jawaharlal does not lend his name to any socialist group. He believes in socialism. He mixes with the socialists and consults them. But there is considerable difference between their methods of work. The differences between me and the socialists are widely known. I believe in change of heart and in working for it. They do not. They make fun of the spinning-wheel. But even so the socialists are coming nearer to me every day. Or, you may say that I am moving nearer to them. Or, that we are moving nearer to each other. I cannot say how long it will continue. It is quite likely that one day our ways will part. The same thing happened with Subhas Babu. The Jalpaiguri resolution brought our differences to the fore. There are certainly differences between Jawaharlal and me. But they are not significant. Without him I feel myself a cripple. He also feels more or less the same way. Our hearts are one. This intimate relationship between us has not started with politics. It is very much older and deeper. We shall leave it at that. 34
It is only a question of terminology. I won’t admit any difference between Subhas Babu and myself on this point though we may use different language. Supposing such free and equal partnership as I have postulated were feasible, Subhas Babu won’t say ‘No’ to it. But today if such a proposition were put to him, he will probably say, as he well may, it is ruled out for him. For he would say the British are not likely to yield so easily as some might think. If he talks to me like that, I won’t combat him but would say that I prefer to use the language that I use as being more suited to my temperament and my faith in the essential identity of human nature. That is the fundamental difference between Subhas Babu and me. Not that the ultimatum is in itself wrong, but it has to be backed by an effective sanction and there are today no non-violent sanctions. If all the parties come to an honourable understanding, an effective sanction could be easily forged. 35 The main problem appears to me as to whether both parties can forget the past and work together. That depends entirely on you. If you can command the confidence of both parties by taking up a truly non-partisan attitude, then you can save the Congress and restore national unity. I am temperamentally not a vindictive person and I do not nurse grievances. In a way, I have the mentality of a boxer, that is, to shake hands smilingly when the boxing-bout is over and take the result in a sporting spirit. Secondly, in spite of all the representations that I have been receiving, I take the Pant resolution as it has been passed by the Congress. We must give effect to it. I myself allowed the resolution to be moved and discussed, despite the ultra vires clause in it. How can I go back on it? Thirdly, there are two alternatives before you:
(1) Either to accommodate our views with regard to the composition of the new Working Committee, or
(2) to insist on your views in their entirety. In the case of the latter, we may come to the parting of the ways. Fourthly, I am prepared to do all that is humanly possible for me to expedite the formation of the new Working Committee and the summoning of the Working Committee and A. I. C. C. But I am so sorry that it is not possible for me to come to Delhi now.
Fifthly, I was surprised to learn from your letter that the A. I. C. C. office had not sent you a copy of Pant’s resolution. I was still more surprised that the resolution had not been brought to your notice till you came to Allahabad. At Tripuri, the air was thick with the rumour that the resolution had your fullest support. A statement to that effect also appeared in the daily Press while we were at Tripuri. Sixthly, I have not the slightest desire to stick to office, but I do not see any reason for resigning because I am ill. No President resigned when he was in prison for instance; I may tell you that great pressure is being brought to bear on me to resign. I am resisting because my resignation will mean a new phase in Congress politics which I want to avoid till the last. I have been attending to urgent A. I. C. C. work during the last few days. It is really unfortunate for me that I fell ill at such a critical time. But events have so moved in rapid succession that I have not had a chance of quick recovery. Besides, both before Tripuri and after, I have not been treated in certain influential quarters with the consideration that was due to me. But there is no reason for me to resign on account of my illness. As I stated in my letter of yesterday no President, to my knowledge, resigned when he was in prison, even for a long time. It may be that I shall have to resign after all, but if that takes place, it will be due to quite different reasons. I think I said in my second letter that though pressure was being brought to bear on me to resign, I was resisting. My resignation would mean the beginning of a new phase in Congress politics which I want to avoid till the last. If we come to the parting of the ways, a bitter civil war will commence and whatever be the upshot of it the Congress will be weakened for some time to come and the benefit will b e reaped by the British Government. It is in your hands to save the Congress and the country from the calamity. People, who are bitterly opposed for various reasons to Sardar Patel and his group, still have confidence in you and believe that you can take a dispassionate and non-partisan view of things. To them you are a national figure above parties and groups and you can, therefore, restore unity between the warring elements. If for any reason that confidence is shaken which God forbid and you are regarded as a partisan, then God help us and the Congress. There is no doubt that there is today a wide gulf between the two parties in the Congress, but the gulf can yet be bridged and that by you. I cannot say anything about the mentality of our political opponents. Tripuri has given us a very bad experience of them, but I can speak for our side. We are not vindictive and we do not nurse grievances. We are prepared to “forgive and forget” as they say and join hands once again for the sake of the common cause, viz., the political and economic emancipation of India. When I talk of ‘our side’, I exclude the official Congress Socialist Party. We discovered for the first time at Tripuri what a small following the official Congress Socialist Party had. The Congress Socialist Party has now split the rank and file and several provincial branches having revolted against the official leaders, because of what is called their vacillating policy. A large section of the Congress Socialist Party will move with us in future, in spite of what the top leadership may do. If you have any doubts on this score, you have only to wait and see. The letter of my brother Sarat to you shows that he is feeling very bitter. This I presume, is due largely to his experiences at Tripuri, because he had no such feeling when he left Calcutta for Tripuri. Naturally, he knows more about the happenings at Tripuri than I do, because he could move about freely, meet people and obtain information. But though I was confined to bed, I got enough information from several independent sources regarding the attitude of responsible circles politically opposed to us, to make me feel thoroughly sick of the whole affair. I may say further that when I left Tripuri, I felt such a loathing and disgust for Congress politics as I have not done for the last nineteen years. Thank God, I have got over that feeling now and have recovered my composure. Jawahar in one of his letters remarked that the A. I. C. C. office had deteriorated under my presidentship. I resent that remark as unfair and unjust. He did not perhaps realize that in trying to damn me, he has damned Kripalaniji’s and the entire staff. The office is in the hands of the Secretary and his staff and if it deteriorates, it is they who are responsible for it. I am writing to Jawahar at length on this point. I am mentioning this to you because you have said something about the interim administration in your letter to Sarat. The only way in which we can help the office is to appoint a permanent Secretary at once, even if there is delay in appointing the rest of the Working Committee. But if the Working Committee is going to be appointed soon, we need not appoint the General Secretary in advance. I shall be grateful if you could let me know your reaction to Pant's resolution. You are in this advantageous position, that you can take a dispassionate view of things provided, of course, you get to know the whole story of Tripuri. Judging from the papers, most of the people who have seen you so far seem to belong to one school namely, those who supported Pant's resolution. But that does not matter. You can easily assess things at their proper value, regardless of the persons who visit you. You can easily imagine my own view of Pant's resolution. But my personal feelings do not matter to public considerations. As I have said in a previous letter, whatever one may think of Pant's resolution from the purely constitutional point of view, since it has been passed by the Congress I feel bound by it.
Now, do you regard that resolution as one of no-confidence in me and do you feel that I should resign in consequence thereof? Your view in this matter will influence me considerably. Perhaps, you are aware that at Tripuri it was given out by those who were canvassing in support of Pant's resolution that telephonic conversation had taken place with Rajkot and that resolution had your full support. A report to that effect appeared in the daily Press also. It was further given out in private conversation that nothing short of that resolution in its entirety would satisfy either you or your orthodox followers. Personally, I did not and do not believe in such reports, but they undoubtedly had their vote-catching value. When Pant's resolution was shown to me for the first time by Sardar Patel, I suggested to him (Rajen Babu and Maulana Azad were also there at the time) that if certain changes were made, the resolution in the amended form would be passed by the Congress unanimously. The amended form of the resolution was also sent to Sardar Patel, but there was no response from his side. Their attitude seemed to be not a word, not a comma, should be changed. I suppose Rajkumari Amrit Kaur has handed over to you the amended form of the resolution. If the object of Pant's resolution was to reiterate faith in your principles and your leadership and guidance that was provided in the amended resolution but if the object was to avenge the result of the presidential election, then of course the amended resolution did not suffice. Personally, I do not see how Pant's resolution has enhanced your prestige, influence and authority. One hundred and thirty-five votes were cast against you in the Subjects Committee, and in the Open Session, whatever interested parties may say, my information from various independent sources is to the effect that, in spite of the neutrality of the Congress Socialist Party, at least 800 votes, if not more, out of about 2,300 were cast against you. And if the Congress Socialist Party had voted as they did in the Subjects Committee, then the resolution would have been defeated. In any case, the result of the voting would have been problematical. With slight changes in the resolution not one vote would have been cast against the resolution and your leadership would have had the unanimous support of all Congressmen. Your prestige before the British Government and before the whole world would have gone up like a shot. Instead, your name and prestige were exploited by those who wanted to wreak vengeance on us. Consequently, instead of enhancing your prestige and influence, they have dragged it down to an unimaginable depth—for the whole world now knows that though you or your followers managed to get a majority at Tripuri, there is in existence a powerful opposition. If matters are allowed to drift, this opposition is bound to gain in strength and in volume. What is the future of a party that is deprived of radical, youthful and progressive elements? The future is similar to that of the Liberal Party of Great Britain. I have said enough to acquaint you with my reaction to Pant's resolution.
I shall now be grateful if you kindly let me know what your reaction is. Do you approve of Pant's resolution, or should you rather have seen it passed unanimously in an amended form on the lines that we had suggested? There is one other matter to which I shall refer in this letter that is the question of our programme. I submitted my views to you on February 15, at Wardha. What has happened since then has served to confirm my views, to justify my prediction. For months I have been telling friends that there would be a crisis in Europe in spring which would continue till summer. The international situation as well as our own position at home convinced me, nearly eight months ago, that the time had come for us to force the issue of purna swaraj. Unfortunately for us and for the country, you do not share our optimism. You are obsessed with the idea of corruption within the Congress. Moreover, the bogey of violence alarms you. Though I am at one with you in your determination to root out corruption within the Congress, I do not think that, taking India as a whole, there is more corruption today than before and, so far as violence is concerned I feel sure there is far less of it today than before. Previously, Bengal, the Punjab and the United Provinces could have been regarded as the hope of organized revolutionary violence. Today there is much more of the spirit of non-violence there. And, speaking for Bengal, I can say with full authority that the province was never more non-violent during the last 30 years than today. For these and other reasons we should lose no time in placing our National Demand before the British Government in the form of an ultimatum. The idea of ultimatum does not appeal to you or to Pandit Jawaharlal. But in all your political life, you have given any number of ultimatums to the authorities and have advanced the public cause thereby. The other day at Rajkot you did the same thing. What objection can there be, therefore, to submitting our National Demand in the form of an ultimatum? If you do so and prepare for the coming struggle simultaneously, I am sure that we shall be able to win purna swaraj very soon. The British Government will either respond to our demand without a fight or, if the struggle does take place, in our present circumstances it cannot be a long-drawn one. I am so confident, and so optimistic on this point, that I feel that if we take courage in both hands and go ahead, we shall have swaraj inside of 18 months at the most. I feel so strongly on this point that I am prepared to make any sacrifice in this connection.
If you take up the struggle, I shall most gladly help you to the best of my ability. If you feel that the Congress would be able to fight better with another President, I shall gladly step aside. If you feel that the Congress will be able to fight more effectively with a Working Committee of your choice, I shall gladly fall in line with your wishes. All that I want is that you and the Congress should, in this critical hour, stand up and resume the struggle for swaraj. If self-effacement will further the national cause, I assure you most solemnly that I am prepared to efface myself completely. I think I love my country sufficiently to be able to do this. Pardon me for saying that the way you have been recently conducting the States’ people's struggle does not appeal to me. You risked your precious and valuable life for Rajkot and, while fighting for the Rajkot people, you suspended the struggle in all other States. Why should you do so? There are six hundred and odd States in India and, among them, Rajkot is a tiny one. It would not be an exaggeration to call the Rajkot struggle a flea-bite. Why should we not fight simultaneously all over the country and have a comprehensive plan for the purpose? This is what millions of your countrymen think, though out of personal reverence for you, they may not say so openly. In conclusion, I may say that many people like myself cannot enthuse over the terms of the Rajkot settlement. We, as well as the Nationalist Press, have called it a great victory but how much have we gained? Sir Maurice Gwyer is neither our man nor is he an independent agent. He is a Government man. What point is there in making him the umpire? We are hoping that his verdict will be in our favour. But supposing he declares against us, what will be our position? Moreover, Sir Maurice Gwyer is a part and parcel of the Federal Scheme we have resolved to reject. In the case of a conflict with the British Government, if we decide to have a High Court Judge or a Sessions Judge as umpire, we can always have a settlement with the British Government. But what shall we gain from such a settlement? Further there are many people who fail to understand why after the interview with the Viceroy, you should be waiting in Delhi. Perhaps, in view of your weak health a rest was necessary before undertaking another long journey. But to the British Government and its supporters it may appear as if you are attaching too much importance to the Federal Chief Justice and thereby enhancing his prestige. 36