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-II
I think it is a magnificent idea, and I am fully prepared to do my best in this matter, regardless of what has happened in the past. Will you kindly let me know if you would like me to do anything in this behalf and if so, what? Personally, I feel that your influence and personality could achieve much in this endeavour to bring about unity. Will you not make one last supreme effort to bring everybody together before we give up all hope of unity? I would beg of you once again to remember in what light the country still regards you. You are not a partisan and people, therefore, still look up to you to bring together all the warring elements. I have been pondering deeply over the advice you have given me regarding the formation of the Working Committee. I feel that your advice is a counsel of despair. It destroys all hope of unity. It will not save the Congress from a split on the contrary; it will make the path safe for such a contingency. To advise a homogeneous Cabinet in the present circumstances will mean advising the parties to Part Company now. Is that not a terrible responsibility? Do you feel quite sure that joint work is impossible? On our side we do not think so. We are prepared to do our best to "forgive and forget" and join hands for the sake of the common cause and we can look up to you to bring about an honourable compromise. I have already written and spoken to you that the composition of the Congress being what it is—and there being no possibility in the immediate future of any remarkable change—the best course would be to have a composite Cabinet in which all the groups would be represented, as far as possible. I understand that you are against this idea of a composite Cabinet. Is your opposition due to grounds of principle (viz., joint work is impossible in your view), or is it because you feel that the “Gandhiites” (I am using this expression in the absence of anything better, and you will please pardon me for doing so) should have a larger representation on the Cabinet? In the latter case, please let me know, so that I may have an opportunity of reconsidering the matter. In the former case, please reconsider the advice you have already tendered in the light of what I am submitting in this letter. At Haripura, when I suggested inviting the socialists to serve on the Cabinet, you told me distinctly that you were in favour of my doing so. Has the situation changed so materially since then as to induce you to insist on a homogeneous Cabinet? You have referred in your letters to the two parties being so “diametrically opposed”. You have not amplified the point and it is not clear if the position you refer to is based on programme or on personal relations. Personal relations are in my view a passing phenomenon. We may quarrel and fight, but we can also shake hands and make up our differences. Take, for instance, the Swarajists episode in recent Congress history.
As far as I am aware, after a period of opposition the relations between Deshbandhu and Pandit Motilalji with you became as sweet as humanly possible. In Great Britain, the major parties can always join hands and work on the same Cabinet when an emergency arises. In Continental countries like France every Cabinet is normally a composite Cabinet. Are we less patriotic than Britishers and Frenchmen? If we are not, then why cannot we have composite Cabinets functioning effectively? If you think that your opposition is based on programme, etc., rather than on personal considerations, I should like very much to have your view in this matter. Wherein do you think that our programmes differ, and that too so fundamentally, that joint action is not possible? I know that we have certain differences but, as I wrote to my ex-colleagues of the Working Committee in reply to their letter of resignation, our points of agreement are, in my view, more numerous than our points of difference. I still adhere to this view—Tripuri notwithstanding. You have said in one of your letters in connection with my idea of an ultimatum on the issue of swaraj that there is no atmosphere for non-violent mass action. But did you not have non-violent mass action in Rajkot? Are you not having it in some other States also? These States’ peoples are comparatively untrained in the practice of Satyagraha. We in British India can claim more experience and training comparatively speaking at least If the States’ peoples can be permitted to resort to Satyagraha in their struggle for civil liberty and responsible Government, why not we of British India? Now take the National Demand resolution passed at the Tripuri Congress with the support of the Gandhiites. Though it has beautifully vague phrases and several pious platitudes, it has, in a certain sense, much in common with my idea of an ultimatum and preparing for the coming struggle. Now, do you approve of this resolution? If you do, then why cannot you go a step further and accept my plan? I shall now come to Pandit Pant’s resolution. The important part of it (last portion, I mean) contains two points: Firstly, the Working Committee must command your confidence implicit confidence. Secondly, it must be formed in accordance with your wishes. If you advise a homogeneous Cabinet, and such a Cabinet is formed, one could perhaps say that it has been formed “in accordance with your wishes”. But could it be claimed that it commands your confidence? Will it be open to me to get up at the meeting of the A. I. C. C. and tell the members that you have advised the formation of a homogeneous Cabinet and that the new Cabinet commands your confidence? On the other hand, if you advised the formation of a Cabinet which does not command your confidence, will you be giving effect to the Pant resolution will you be doing the right thing, from your point of view?
I would beg of you to consider this aspect of the question. If you take cognizance of the Pant resolution, you will not only have to communicate your wishes regarding the new Working Committee, but you will, at the same time, have to advise the formation of such a Committee as will command your confidence. You have not yet said anything as to the merits of the Pant resolution. Do you approve of it? Or would you rather have had a unanimously passed resolution, more or less on the lines suggested by us which would reiterate faith in your principles and confidence in your guidance, without the controversial clauses? Then, again, what is the President's position regarding appointing the Working Committee after this resolution was passed? I am again asking this question because the present constitution is practically your handiwork and your opinion in the matter will carry great weight with me. There is another question, in this connection, which I have been asking you. Do you regard this resolution as one of no-confidence in me? If so, I shall resign at once and that too unconditionally. Some papers have criticized this question of mine in my Press statement on the ground that I should decide for myself what the significance of the resolution is. I have sense enough to give my own interpretation, but there are occasions when personal interpretations would not be one's sole guide. Speaking quite frankly, I feel that my stand has been justified by the result of the Presidential election. I have now no desire whatsoever to stick to office for one day, unless I can thereby advance the public cause, as I understand it. The hesitation or the delay that has arisen on my side is because it is not so easy to decide. Among my supporters there are two schools of thoughts: one holding that I should strive to the last to maintain unity: the other holding that I should break off negotiations at once, as being a hopeless effort, and tender my resignation. The latter have been bringing great pressure to bear on me, but I am resisting. I want to be clear before my own conscience that I have striven till the last to preserve unity within our ranks. Moreover, I know what my resignation will mean in the present circumstances and what its consequences will be. I should add here that the first school viz., those who want me to exhaust all possibility of a compromise believe that you will be able to take a thoroughly non-partisan view of things and thereby bring the two parties together. I must explain further why I say that I shall resign automatically if you feel that Pant's resolution signifies no-confidence. You know very well that I do not follow you blindly in all that you say or believe, as so many of my countrymen do. Why then should I resign if your opinion is that the resolution signifies no confidence? The reason is plain and simple. I feel it as galling to my conscience to hold on to office if the greatest personality in India today feels—though he may not say so openly—that the passing of the resolution should automatically have brought in my resignation. This attitude is perhaps dictated more by personal regard for you and your opinion in this matter. Perhaps, as some papers suggest, you have an idea that the Old Guard should be put back into office. In that event I would beg of you to come back to active politics, become a four-anna Congress member and assume direct charge of the Working Committee. Pardon me for saying so, and I say this without meaning offence to anybody there is a world of difference between yourself and your lieutenants, even your chosen lieutenants. There are people who will do anything for you but not for them.
Will you believe me when I say that at the Presidential election even some Gandhiites in several provinces voted for me against the direction of the Old Guard? If your personality is not dragged into the picture, I shall continue to have their support the Old Guard notwithstanding. At Tripuri, the Old Guard cleverly dropped out of the picture and more cleverly pitted me against you. (But there was no quarrel between you and myself.) Afterwards they said that Tripuri was a great victory for them and a defeat for me. The fact of the matter is that it was neither a victory for them nor a defeat for me. It was a victory for you (without any cause of a fight with you at all) but a Pyrrhic victory a victory purchased by a certain loss of prestige. But I am digressing. I wanted to appeal to you to come forward and directly and openly conduct the affairs of the Congress. This will simplify matters. Much of the opposition against the Old Guard and opposition there certainly is will automatically vanish. If you cannot do this, then I have an alternative suggestion to make. Please resume the national struggle for independence, as we have been demanding, and begin by delivering the ultimatum to the British Government. In that event, we shall all gladly retire from our official positions, if you so desire. We shall gladly hand over these positions to whomsoever you like or trust. But only on one condition the fight for independence must be resumed. People like me feel that today we have an opportunity which is rare in the lifetime of a nation. For that reason we are prepared to make any sacrifice that will help the resumption of the fight. If till the last you insist that a composite Cabinet is unworkable and a homogeneous Cabinet is the only alternative before us and if you want me to form a Cabinet of my choice, I would earnestly request you to give me your vote of confidence till the next Congress. If, in the mean time, we fail to justify ourselves by our service and suffering, we shall stand condemned before the Congress and we shall naturally and quite properly be kicked out of office. Your vote of confidence will mean the vote of confidence of the A. I. C. C. in the present circumstances. It you do not give us your vote of confidence but at the same time ask us to form a homogeneous Cabinet you will not be giving effect to pant’s resolution.
Once again I would beg of you to let me know if your opposition to a composite Cabinet is due to considerations of principle or to the fact that you should like the Old Guard to have a larger representation on the Cabinet than I suggested in my first letter to you, dated the 25th March. Before I close this letter, I shall refer to one or two personal things. You have remarked in one letter that you hope that, whatever happens, “our private relations will not suffer”. I cherish this hope with all my heart. May I say in this connection that if there is anything in life on which I pride myself, it is this that I am the son of a gentleman and as such am a gentleman? Deshbandhu Das often used to tell us, “Life is larger than Politics.” That lesson I have learnt from him. I shall not remain in the political field one single day if by doing so I shall fall from the standards of gentlemanliness, which are so deeply ingrained in my mind from infancy and which I feel are in my very blood. I have no means of knowing how you view me as a man in a way; you have seen so little of me. And my political opponents have carried so many tales against me to you. In recent months I have come to know that for the last few months I have been the victim of a subtle but sinister propaganda carried on against me from mouth to mouth. I would have brought this matter to your notice long ago, but I could not get sufficiently tangible evidence of what was being said and by whom. Latterly, I have come to know much as to what has been said, though I am still in the dark as to who exactly the propagandists are. Once again I have digressed. In a letter you expressed the hope that in whatever I did, I would “be guided by God”. Believe me, Mahatmaji, all these days I have been praying for only one thing, viz., for light as to the path which would be best for my country and my country’s freedom. I have asked for strength and inspiration to completely efface myself should the need and occasion arise. It is my firm conviction that a nation can live only if the individuals composing it be ready to die for its sake whenever it is necessary. 37
I congratulate Shri Subhas Babu on having succeeded in persuading the hunger-strikers to suspend their fast even for two months and on having undertaken to move the B. P. C. C. to take the necessary action for the release of the prisoners. I have also a wire from the prisoners in Alipore Jail informing me of the suspension and asking me to resume my effort. I need hardly assure them that what little I can do will be done to secure their release. I can say that the suspension gives me some hope that my effort will produce some effect. I hope too that the Bengal Government will use the occasion for a generous gesture and end the agony. 38 The Working Committee has given the most anxious consideration to the action of Shri Subhas Chandra Bose the erstwhile President of the National Congress, in connection with two resolutions of the last meeting of the A. I. C. C. known as “Satyagraha in Provinces” and “Congress Ministries and the P. C. C. s”. The Working Committee has also considered the long letter of Shri Subhas Babu, appended hereto. The Working Committee with great sorrow and reluctance has come to the conclusion that Subhas Babu has wholly missed the main point raised by the President of the Congress as clearly set forth in his declaration also appended hereto. As ex- President he should have also realized that after having received peremptory instructions from the President it was his clear duty as a servant of the nation to obey them implicitly even though he differed from the ruling of the President. It was open to him, if he felt aggrieved by the ruling, to appeal to the Working Committee or the A. I. C. C. But he was bound, so long as the President’s instructions stood, to carry them out faithfully. This is the first condition of the proper functioning of any organization, much more so of a vast organization like the National Congress which is engaged in a life and death struggle with the world. If, what seems to be Subhas Babu’s contention in his letter, that every member is free to interpret the Congress Constitution as he likes, prevails, there will be perfect anarchy in the Congress and it must break to pieces in no time. The Working Committee has come to the painful conclusion that it will fail in its duty if it condones the deliberate and flagrant breach of discipline by Subhas Babu. The Working Committee therefore resolves that for his grave act of indiscipline Shri Subhas Babu is declared disqualified as President of the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee for three years as from August 1939. The Working Committee trusts that Shri Subhas Babu will see the error of his ways and loyally submit to this disciplinary action. The Working Committee has taken note of the indiscipline of many other Congressmen including responsible officials. But it has refrained from taking any action as the members acted under the inspiration of Shri Subhas Babu. The Working Committee, however, leaves it open to Provincial Organizations to take action if they think it necessary for the proper observance of discipline and especially if the offending members do not express regret for their indiscipline. The Committee further empowers the President to take disciplinary action against such members who, instead of expressing regret by their speech or conduct for the indiscipline, persist in it. 39
I continue to receive letters, mostly abusive, about what may be called the Subhas Babu resolution of the Working Committee. I also saw a letter addressed to Rajendra Babu, which can hardly be surpassed in the use of filthy language. I have seen some criticisms about the war resolution. I owe it to the public to make my position clear about both these resolutions. I must confess that the Subhas Babu resolution was drafted by me. I can say that the members of the Working Committee would have shirked the duty of taking action if they could have. They knew that there would be a storm of opposition against their action. It was easier for them to have a colorless resolution than to have one which was no respecter of persons. Not to take some action would have amounted to abdication of their primary function of preserving discipline among Congressmen. Subhas Babu had invited action. He had gallantly suggested that if any action was to be taken it should be taken against him as the prime mover. In my opinion the action taken by the Working Committee was the mildest possible. There was no desire to be vindictive. Surely the word vindictiveness loses all force and meaning when the position of Subhas Babu is considered. He knew that he could not be hurt by the Working Committee. His popularity had put him above being affected by any action that the Working Committee might take. He had pitted himself against the Working Committee, if not the Congress organization. The members of the Working Committee, therefore, had to perform their duty and leave the Congressmen and the public to judge between themselves and Subhas Babu. It has been suggested that Subhas Babu has done what I would have done under similar circumstances. I cannot recall a single instance in my life of having done what Subhas Babu has done, i.e., defied an organization to which I owed allegiance. I could understand rebellion after secession from such an organization. That was the meaning and secret of the non-violent non-co-operation of 1920. But I am not penning these lines so much to justify the action of the Working Committee as to appeal to Subhas Babu and his supporters to take the decision of the Working Committee in the right spirit and submit to it while it lasts. He has every right to appeal to the A.I.C.C. against the decision. If he fails there, he can take the matter before the annual session of the Congress. All this can be done without bitterness and without imputing motives of the worst type to the members of the Working Committee. Why not be satisfied with the belief that the members have committed an error of judgement? I fancy that if a majority of the A.I.C.C. members signify in writing their disapproval of the action of the Working Committee, the latter will gladly resign. By imputing motives whenever there are differences of opinion, Congressmen pull down the structure that has been built up by the patient labour of half a century. Indeed, even if a bad motive is suspected, it is better to refrain from imputing it, unless it can be proved beyond doubt. It is necessary for the sake of healthy public education that leaders of public opinion should judge events and decisions on their merits. On the war resolution I had a conclusive defeat. I was invited to draft a resolution, and so was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. I was proud of my draft, but my pride went before destruction. I saw that I could not carry my resolution unless I argued and pressed for it. But I had no such desire. We then listened to Jawaharlal’s. And I at once admitted that it represented more truly than mine the country’s opinion and even the Working Committee’s as a whole. Mine was based upon out-and-out non-violence. If the Congress heartily believed in nonviolence in its fullness even as a policy, this was its testing time. But Congressmen, barring individual exceptions, do not believe in such non-violence.
Those who do, believe that it is the right thing only for a fight against the Government for wresting power. But the Congress has no non-violent message for the world. I would fain believe that the Congress had such a message. The conclusion to both the resolutions need not have been radically different. But the motive power being different the same conclusion would bear a different meaning in a different setting. In the face of the violence going on in India itself and in the face of the fact that Congress Governments have been obliged to fall back upon military and police assistance, a declaration to the world of non-violence would have seemed a mockery. It would have carried no weight in India or with the world. Yet, to be true to myself, I could not draft any other resolution than I did. The fate, to which I was party, of my resolution proved the wisdom of my withdrawal of official connection with the Congress. I attend the Working Committee meetings not to identify myself with its resolutions or even its general policy. I attend in the pursuit of my mission of non-violence. So long as they want my attendance I go there to emphasize non-violence in their acts and through them in those of Congressmen. We pursue the same goal. They all of them would go the whole length with me if they could, but they want to be true to themselves and to the country which they represent for the time being, even as I want to be true to myself. I know that the progress of non-violence is seemingly a terribly slow process. But experience has taught me that it is the surest way to the common goal. There is deliverance neither for India nor for the world through clash of arms. Violence, even for vindication of justice, is almost played out. With that belief I am content to plough a lonely furrow, if it is to be my lot that I have no co-sharer in the out-and-out belief in nonviolence. 40
The first I heard of the black-flag demonstration against Subhas Babu on his visit to Patna was through a courteous letter received from the Secretary of the Bengali Association of Bankipore. I then saw a notice of it in the Press. To make myself sure of what had happened I wired to Shri P. R. Das for an authentic and up-to-date account. He replied from Dhanbad saying he was away from the scene and knew nothing. The newspapers reported that there was stone-throwing and hurling of shoes resulting in injuries to Swami Sahajanand and others. Allowing for exaggeration, if any, there seems to be little doubt that there was a hostile demonstration of an unseemly nature which brought no credit to the Congress. I have read Rajendra Babu’s eloquent statement on the unhappy incident. It is so true and so heart-stirring that it admits of no addition or embellishment. I endorse every word of that noble pronouncement. It is reproduced below this article. The demonstrators showed an unworthy intolerance. Subhas Babu has a perfect right to agitate against the action of the Working Committee and canvass public opinion against it. The disciplinary action frees him from any liability for restraint save what every Congressman, pledged to the creedal article of the Constitution, is bound to put on himself. That action should save him from any further demonstration of public displeasure. And those who disapprove of the action of the Working Committee are certainly entitled to join any demonstration in favour of Subhas Babu. Unless this simple rule is observed we shall never evolve democracy. In my opinion the black-flag demonstrators have rendered a disservice to the cause of freedom. It is to be hoped that the Patna demonstration will prove to be the last of such acts by Congressmen. The question may be asked, ‘How are those who endorse the action of the Working Committee and disapprove of Subhas Babu’s propaganda to show their disapproval’ certainly not through black flags and disturbing of meetings in honour of Subhas Babu. They can express their disapproval by holding counter meetings, not at the same time as the others but either before or after them. These meetings, both for and against, should be regarded as a means of educating public opinion. Such education requires calm surroundings. Black flags, noisy slogans, and hurling of stones and shoes have no place in educative and instructive propaganda. Apropos of the ugly demonstration I must refer to a complaint I have received that some Congress Committees have threatened action against those Congressmen who may take part in receptions to Subhas Babu. I hope that the complaint has no foundation in fact. Such action will betray intolerance and may even be a sign of vindictiveness. Congressmen who dislike the Working Committee’s action are bound to take part in receptions to Subhas Babu. It is impossible to gag them by threats of disciplinary measures. Such action loses its value if it is resorted to on the slightest pretext. If it is true, as it is true, that no organization can do without such powers, it is equally true that no organization that makes free use of such powers has any right to exist. It cannot. It has then obviously lost the public backing. 41
Prohibition by stages is a feasible scheme. It will make both the public as well as the Excise Department experienced in the task of handling problems out of the enforcement of prohibition. Moreover, it will be financially a success and it will release for the nation-building activities that portion of the revenue derived from extra taxes like property tax, sales tax, etc. Speaking generally, I may say that the motives actuating the Bombay Government are quite laudable, but the methods they have been hitherto following or intend following in future in connection with the problems of the property tax and the sales tax are neither scientific nor conducive to the end they have in view. The defects in the Prohibition Scheme are more than one. Illicit distillation will increase and there will be a rush of men to the wet zone every evening and particularly during every week-end. Prohibition is a measure of social reform and no social reform can be successfully brought about without winning, the goodwill of the people. The fact that consistent opposition is being offered by some influential sections of the community shows that the Government have not yet been able to carry with them the approval and goodwill of the people in general. Mahatma Gandhi did the right thing when he opined that prohibition should not be forced on Europeans in India because they did not believe in it and it would amount to coercion to force it on them. The same principle of non-violence should be applied to Asiatics and Indian people as well both in theory and in practice. Why should we force prohibition on non-Indian Asiatics who do not believe in it, if we do not force it on Europeans? It would be wrong to make a distinction between Europeans and Asiatics in this respect either in law or in actual administration. Now turning to the economic side of the question,