GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229

E-mail- dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net;

dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com

Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

 

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, I may say that it is difficult to approve of a method which involves the sudden imposition of an additional tax over a crore of rupees on Bombay alone in order to make good the loss of excise revenue. With millions of half-filled stomachs, with hundreds of thousands dying every year of preventable diseases and with 92 per cent of our people still unable to read or write, I consider it no part of statesmanship to raise additional money by heavy taxation, not one rupee of which would go towards the better fulfillment of stomachs or saving human lives or making our people more literate. I am, therefore, inclined to think that the introduction of prohibition by stages is the more appropriate and scientific method. This would not involve heavy taxation for financing prohibition, would save a portion of the taxable capacity of the people for future requirements and would not involve a sudden change in our national economy. Nobody who has eyes to see in Bombay can fail to be impressed with one important aspect of the Government policy. It unfortunately happens that one small community in Bombay which for many years past has been extensively engaged in the liquor trade is being directly affected by this policy. The Parsis are a small but influential community. Who does not know of the many beneficial institutions and activities which have been brought into existence and conducted by them? The overwhelming majority of the community has been opposing this policy and as a minority community the Parsis are entitled to be heard. I understand that the Parsis are apprehensive that the sudden launching of immediate and total prohibition in Bombay will throw into the streets a large number of families and would prejudicially affect the income of the charity trusts many of which are for the benefit not of Parsis alone but of the Indian community in general. Besides the Parsis, the Muslims of Bombay are also affected by the programme. While they are not opposed to prohibition on principle, they have objection to the 10 per cent property tax, which is required for financing prohibition. It is urged on their behalf that the 10 percent property tax subjects them to exorbitant taxation as compared with their population and they resent being taxed in order to force non- Muslims to abstain from drink. The effect of prohibition on our general economy is of greater consequence than even its effect on the Parsis or Muslim community. To give a small instance, a large number of hotels and restaurants will be badly hit and may have to close down. Not only will their owners suffer loss but the employees will also be thrown out of employment. It is not impossible that migration from the prohibited area to outside places may take place and the importance of the port of Bombay may also be affected. The fact is that while piecemeal introduction of partial prohibition is possible, piecemeal introduction of total prohibition is next to impossible. 42

As you know, I attend the Working Committee only when required and deal with only those matters that are referred to me. But having received a letter, I read it to them and told them that if they had no confidence in the present Bengal Provincial Congress Committee and had sufficient reason for it, I agreed with you that they should dissolve it. Any piecemeal measure would fail and only cause irritation. But I confess that your letter has appeared to me to be a challenge. You have evidently no confidence in the Working Committee. You regard its ban on you as a vendetta. As you know, I am party to the ban which was voted unanimously. Who is to decide between you and the Working Committee? You have never submitted to the ban. As to action by the Working Committee, I dissent from you. Your way is not mine. For the time being you are my lost sheep. Someday I shall find you returning to the fold, if I am right and my love is pure. 43 On the return journey to Wardha a young man at Nagpur station asked why the Working Committee had not taken any notice of Subhas Babu’s arrest. I was in silence and so gave no reply but took note of the reasonable question. I have no doubt that hundreds if not thousands must have asked themselves the question the young man put at Nagpur. It is true that Subhas Babu is an ex-Rashtrapati of the Congress twice elected in succession. He has a record of great sacrifice to his credit. He is a leader born. All these qualities alone will not warrant a protest against the arrest. The Working Committee would be bound to take notice of it if it could be condemned on merit. Subhas Babu did no defy the law with the permission of the Congress. He has frankly and courageously defied even the Working Committee. If he had asked for permission to raise any side issue for battle at the present juncture, the Committee would, I think, have refused it. Hundreds of issues of greater importance can be discovered. But the country’s attention is for the moment riveted upon one single issue. Preparations are being made to take up direct action at the proper time on that issue. Therefore, if the Working Committee had taken any action, it would have been one of disapprobation. That the Committee would not do. I might also have ignored the youth’s remark. But I felt that no harm cold occur by my putting this arrest in its proper setting. The arrest of a big man like subhas is no small matter. But Subhas Babu has laid out his plan of battle with deliberateness and boldness. He thinks that his way is the best. He honestly thinks that the Working Committee’s way is wrong, and that nothing good will come out of its “Procrastination”. He told me in the friendliest manner that he would do what the Working Committee had failed to do. He was impatient of delay. I told him that, if at the end of his plan there was swaraj during my lifetime, mine would be that first telegram of congratulation he would receive, if while he was conducting his campaign I became a convert, I should whole- heartedly acclaim him as my leader and enlist under his banner. But I warned him that his way was wrong. My opinion, however, matters little. As long as Subhas Babu considers a particular course of action to be correct, he has the right, and it is his duty, to pursue it whether the Congress likes it or not. I told him be would be more in the right if he resigned from the Congress altogether. My advice did not commend itself to him. Even so, if success attends his effort and India gains her freedom, it will justify his rebellion, and the Congress will not only not condemn his rebellion but welcome him as a saviour. In Satyagraha a courted imprisonment carries its won praise. There can be no protest against an imprisonment for a breach of the current law of the land. On the contrary, the practice has been to congratulate arrested civil resisters and invite Congressmen to imitate them. It is obvious that the Committee could not do so in Subhas Babu’s case. Let me remark in passing that the Committee has taken no notice of the numerous arrests and imprisonments that have taken place even of prominent Congressmen. It does not mean that the Committee does not feel anything about them. But in life’s battle there is such a thing as mute submission to many a wrong. If it is deliberate, it generates strength which, if the submission is well conceived, may well become irresistible. 44 

You are irrepressible whether ill or well. Do get well before going in for fireworks. I have not been in consultation with Maulana Saheb. But, when I read in the papers about the decision, I could not help approving of it. I am surprised that you won’t distinguish between discipline and indiscipline. But I quite agree with you that either of you is more than a match for the Maulana Saheb as far as popularity is concerned. But a man has to put conscience before popularity. I know that in Bengal it is difficult to function effectively without you two. I know, too, that you can carry on even without the Congress. But the Congress has to manage somehow under the severe handicap. Suresh wrote to me that Sarat was coming. I have been waiting. He can come any time he chooses, and so can you too. You know, you will be well looked after here. As for your Bloc joining civil disobedience, I think, with the fundamental differences between you and me, it is not possible. Till one of us is converted to the other’s view, we must sail in different boats, though their destination may appear, only appear, to be the same. 45 When Mahadevbhai saw me in the Presidency Jail, I took the opportunity of conveying a message to you. I requested him to tell you that, if you launched a movement, then our services would be entirely at your disposal, for what they were worth. I also wanted him to request you to take the initiative in settling the dispute in Bengal, so that the Province could throw its whole weight into the movement. Since you have been appointed Dictator, you could easily take up this matter on behalf of the Congress. So, I thought. At the time, my fond expectation was that you would launch a mass movement, as you had done in 1921, 1930 and 1932, though Mahadevbhai told me that you had been thinking of individual civil disobedience. Today it is clear that the movement launched by you is not on the issue of our national demand for independence. Nor is this movement a mass struggle. If the Government were to permit anti-war speeches, it appears to me, the movement would come to an end. Nevertheless we would like to co-operate with such a movement, despite its restricted scope and form, so far as it lies in our power consistently with our political stand. We would like to know if you would accept our co-operation for what it is worth—and if so, what you would like us to do in pursuance of this offer of co-operation. This proffered co-operation is unconditional in the sense that whatever grievances we may have against the Congress High Command will not stand in our way. If and when the High Command deals with us unfairly and unjustly, we shall have to react accordingly. We may have to fight the arbitrary and high-handed action of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad at the present time. But this can never blind us to the larger issues before the country, and there you can have our fullest co-operation, consistently with our political stand. I beg you to accept our offer of co-operation. Regarding the Bengal situation, I had told Mahadevbhai that if you desired unity, you could have it for the mere asking, and all that was necessary was a talk between you and my brother, Sarat Babu. Since then the situation has deteriorated. You have chosen to remain silent and indifferent. The Maulana has been rushing headlong along the mad path of what he calls disciplinary action. I am not bothered about it, because if he will sit and seeks it, we are ready to meet him on his own ground. He cannot affect our public position in the least, and he has only been making himself ridiculous before the public of this province and thereby dragging the name of the Congress to the dust. Since the Maulana’s action seems to have your tacit approval, I am not seeking your intervention in this matter. All that I desire is that, despite this unfortunate side-show which has been forced on us, we should co-operate where larger issues are concerned and so far as we are concerned, we are anxious to co-operate. In all sincerity, I am offering you our co-operation. 46 

Oh, no! We are driving the British. We do not invite the Japanese. No, I disagree with those who think them liberators. Chinese history points that out. In fact I advised Chiang Kai-shek when he came here to fight the Japs my way. In fact I believe that Subhas Bose will have to be resisted by us. I have no proof, but I have an idea that the Forward Bloc has a tremendous organization in India. Well, subhas has risked much for us; but if he means to set up a Government in India, under the Japanese, he will be resisted by us. And I fear the Forward Bloc people will try their utmost to do so and again, as I said, we launch our movement only against the British. The Japs can expect us to sign a neutrality pact with them and why not? Why should they invade us? But if they do we shall resist. 47 Surely there is as much difference between the South Pole and the North as there is between the imagined conditions. My demand deals with the possessor; Subhas Babu will bring German troops to oust the possessor. Germany is under no obligation to deliver India from bondage. Therefore Subhas Babu’s performance can only fling India from the frying pan into the fire. I hope the distinction is clear. 48 I do not feel flattered when Subhas Babu says I am right. I am not right in the sense he means. For there he is attributing pro-Japanese feeling to me. If I were to discover that by some strange miscalculation I had not realized the fact that I was helping the entry of the Japanese in this country, I should not hesitate to retrace my steps. As regards the Japanese, I am certain that we should lay down our lives in order to resist them as we would to resist the British. 49

Hatred is in the air, and impatient lovers of the country will gladly take advantage of it, if they can, through violence, to further the cause of independence. I suggest that it is wrong at any time and everywhere. But it is more wrong and unbecoming in a country where fighters for freedom have declared to the world that their policy is truth and non-violence. Hatred, they argue, cannot be turned into love. Those who believe in violence will naturally use it by saying, ‘Kill your enemy, injure him and his property wherever you can, whether openly or secretly as necessity requires.’ The result will be deeper hatred and counter hatred, and vengeance let loose on both sides. The recent war, whose members have yet hardly died, loudly proclaims the bankruptcy of this use of hatred. And it remains to be seen whether they so-called victors have really won or whether they have not depressed themselves in seeking and trying to depress their enemies. It is a bad game at its best. Some philosophers of action in this country improve upon the mode and say. ‘We shall never kill our enemy but we shall destroy his property’, Perhaps I do them an injustice, when I call it his property for the remarkable thing is that the so-called enemy has brought no property of his own and what little he has brought he makes us pay for. Therefore what we destroy is really our own. The bulk of it, whether in men or things, he produces here. So what he really has is the custody of it. For the destruction too we have to pay through the nose and it is the innocent who are made to pay. That is the implication of punitive tax and all it carries with it. Non-violence in the sense of mere non-killing does not appear to me, therefore, to be any improvement on the technique of violence. It means slow torture and when slowness becomes ineffective we shall immediately revert to killing and to atom bomb, which is the last word in violence today. Therefore I suggested in 1920 the use of non-violence and its inevitable twin companion truth for canalizing hatred into the proper channel. The hater hates not for the sake of hatred but because he wants to drive away from his country the hated being or beings. He will, therefore, as readily achieve his end by non-violent means. For the past twenty-five years, willingly or unwillingly, the Congress has spoken to the masses in favour of non-violence as against violence for regaining our lost liberty. We have also discovered through our progress that in the application of non-violence we have been able to reach the mass mind far more quickly and far more extensively than ever before. And yet, if truth is told as it must be, our non-violent action has been half-hearted. Many have preached non-violence through the lips while harbouring violence in the breast. But the unsophisticated mass mind has read the secret meaning hidden in our breasts, and the unconscious reaction has not been altogether as it might have been. Hypocrisy has acted as an ode to virtue, but it could never take its place and so I plead for non-violence and yet more non-violence. I do so not without knowledge but with sixty years experience behind me. This is the critical moment, for the dumb masses are today starving. There are many ways that will suggest themselves to the wise reader as to how to apply the canons of nonviolence to the present needs of the country. The hypnotism of the Indian National Army has cast its spell upon us. Netaji’s name is one to conjure with. His patriotism is second to none. His bravery shines through all his actions. He aimed high but failed. Who has not failed? Ours is to aim high and to aim well. It is given to everyone to command success. My praise and admiration can go no further. For I knew that his action was doomed to failure, and that I would have said so even if he had brought his I. N. A. victorious to India, because the masses would not have come into their own in this manner. The lesson that Netaji and his army brings to us is one of self-sacrifice, unity irrespective of class and community, and discipline. If our adoration will be wise and discriminating, we will rigidly copy this trinity of virtues, but we will as rigidly abjure violence. I would not have the I. N. A. man think, or say, that he and his can ever deliver the masses of India from bondage by force of arms. But, if he is true to Netaji and still more so to the country, he will spend himself in teaching the masses, men, women and children to be brave, self-sacrificing and united. Then we will be able to stand erect before the world. But if he will merely act the armed soldier, he will only lord it over the masses and the fact that he will be a volunteer will not count for much. I, therefore, welcome the declaration made by Capt. Shah Nawaz that, to be worthy of Netaji, on having come to Indian soil, he will act as a humble soldier of non-violence in Congress ranks. 50

The Azad Hind movement in East Asia solved many problems. And one of them was the major and intricate problem of communal unity. Although efforts towards this direction were made ever since the inception of the movement in 1942, it became a reality only after the arrival of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. There was another question and that was of untouchability, though on a minor scale. . . . Anyhow this ill too was remedied as a result of universal training of Indians in the I. N. A. camps and offices after Netaji’s arrival. Netaji had asked for ‘total mobilization’ for the coming armed struggle for India’s freedom. To this call all sections of the community offered their service as volunteers. Some of these volunteers were absorbed in the Azad Hind Sangh, the party behind the Azad Hind Fauj and the Azad Hind Government, Others a majority of the volunteers joined the ranks of the Fauj. The Sangh had a network of branches throughout East Asia. In every branch workers consisting of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians lived together ate, at the same table and worked together. Same was the case in the Indian National Army Note: Except for repetitions, the foregoing is published as it was received. The information is revealing. The natural question is: Now that these soldiers have returned, will the same comradeship persist? It ought to. 51 I know, there are a new ferment and a new awakening among all the army ranks today. Not a little of the credit for this happy change belongs to Netaji Bose. I disapprove of his method, but he had rendered a signal service to India by giving the Indian soldier a new vision and a new ideal. 52

Some years ago it was announced in the newspapers that Subhas Chandra Bose had died. I believed the report. Later the news was proved to have been incorrect. Since then I have had a feeling that Netaji could not leave us until his dream of swaraj had been fulfilled. To lend strength to this feeling was the knowledge of Netaji’s great ability to hoodwink his enemies and even the world for the sake of his cherished goal. These were the only reasons for my belief that he was alive. I have not the ability for foretelling the future. I have no strength except what comes from insistence on truth. Non-violence too springs from the same insistence. God alone knows absolute truth Therefore I have often said, Truth is God. It follows that man, a finite being, cannot know absolute truth. Therefore I had nothing but my instinct to tell me that Netaji was alive. No reliance can be placed on such unsupported feeling. On the other hand, there is strong evidence to counteract the feeling. The British Government is party to that evidence. Capt. Habibur Rahman has said, he was present at the time of Netaji’s death and has brought back his charred wrist watch. Another of his companions, Shri Iyer, met and told me that my instinct was wrong and I should abandon the feeling that Subhas Chandra was alive. In the face of these proofs I appeal to everyone to forget what I have said and, believing in the evidence before them, reconcile them to the fact that Netaji has left us. All man’s ingenuity is as nothing before the might of the One God. He alone is Truth and nothing else stands. 53 Let me share with you the thoughts that have been crowding in my mind since yesterday. India has accorded to the released I. N. A. men a right royal welcome. They have been acclaimed as national heroes. Everybody seems to have been swept off his feel before the rising tide of popular sentiment. I must, however, frankly confess to you that I do not share this indiscriminate hero worship. I admire the ability, sacrifice and patriotism of the I. N. A. and Netaji Bose. But I cannot subscribe to the method which they adopted and which is incompatible with the one followed by the Congress for the last twenty-five years for the attainment of independence. Yesterday I spoke to you of a sthitaprajna, i.e., “the man of steady wisdom”, i. e., a satyagrahi. If we accept that ideal, we would not regard anybody as our enemy; we must shed all enmity and ill will. That ideal is not meant for the select few the saint or the seer only it is meant for all. I have described myself as a scavenger, having become one, not only in name but in fact, while I was in Phoenix. It was there that I took up the bucket and the broom, impelled by the inner urge to identify myself with the lowest of the low. As a humble fellow-toiler then let me bear witness that anyone, even a simple-minded villager who wants to, and tries, can attain the state of mental equipoise described in the Gita verses which are recited at the prayer. We all lose our sanity at times, though we may not care to admit it, or be even aware of it. A man with a steady mind will never lose patience, even with a child, or indulge in anger or abuse. Religion as taught in the Gita is a thing to be practised in this life. It is not a means for attaining merit in the next, irrespective of what you may do here. That would be a negation of religion. For me the visit to the I. N. A. men in detention was a matter of pure duty. It gave me supreme satisfaction to be able to meet them, and they on their part received me with warmth of affection which I shall always treasure. I have interpreted their welcome as a token of their recognition in me of a devoted servant of the country. Netaji was like a son to me. I came to know him as a lieutenant full of promise under the late Deshbandhu Das. His last message to the I. N. A. was that whilst on foreign soil they had fought with arms; on their return to India, they would have to serve the country as soldiers of non-violence under the guidance and leadership of the Congress. 54

You who have served under Subhas Babu, as veteran fighters have proved your mettle on the battlefield. Success and failure are, however, not in our hands, but in God’s hands alone. Netaji told you when bidding good-bye to you that, on your return to India, you must put yourselves under the Congress discipline and act according to its policy. Your object, as I have been told, was only to free India, never to help the Japanese. You failed in your direct objective, i. e., to defeat the British. But you have the satisfaction that the whole country has been roused and even the regular forces have been stirred into a new political consciousness and have begun to think in terms of independence. You have achieved a complete unity among the Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Christians, Anglo-Indians and Sikhs in your ranks. That is no mean achievement. What, however, you realized under conditions of freedom outside India, you have now to sustain and keep alive under Indian conditions. That will be your real test. 55 My message to I. N. A. people is that they must serve the country and die, if necessary, in achieving their goal. If they do so sincerely, they will be doing real work of Netaji Subhas. 56 No doubt there was much else to be credited to Netaji. Thus he had sacrificed a brilliant career for the sake of the country’s service and enlisted himself under the late Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das. He suffered various imprisonments, twice became President of the Congress and at last by great strategy gave the slip to the guard put over him by the then Government of Bengal and by sheer courage and resourcefulness reached Kabul and passed through European countries and finally found himself in Japan, collected from scattered material an army of brilliant young men drawn from all communities and from all parts of India and dared to give battle to a mighty Government. A lesser man would have succumbed under the trials that Netaji went through; but he in his life verified the slaying of Tulsidas that “all becomes right for the brave”. 57

Should we not refer to the I. N. A. as non-violent I. N. A.? This is because you cannot expect to hear anything else from me. Subhas Babu was like my own son. Even though there were differences in our views, I admire his capacity for work and his patriotism. We shall be able to win freedom only through the principles the Congress has adopted for the past thirty years. We should not look upon anyone as our enemy. We must give up the feeling of animosity and vindictiveness and we shall have to become sthitaprajna. As I am saying this you may be thinking that you are not mahatmas after all. But this principle is not meant for mahatmas alone. Anyone who wishes to be happy has no alternative but to adopt this principle in his life. It is all very well that you fought with arms in foreign countries. But you saw the result. You have gained nothing thereby. Of course, you faced many hardships with courage. But Netaji himself has said that while in India you have got to work within the Congress. Just as you had tried to defend your army with force of arms in Burma and prepared for the attainment of freedom, you must now work to wipe out communal differences with the force of love and non-violence. You must eschew all differences of caste and creed and considering every woman your mother, sister or daughter you should accomplish the task which Netaji began. A remarkable spirit which Netaji has inculcated in the I. N. A. is that there are no distinctions among the soldiers. You must carry that spirit to every home. You must thoroughly convince yourselves that developing spiritual strength is a thousand times more difficult than developing the strength of the sword. As far as food, sleep and so on, are concerned, there is no difference between human beings and animals. Even so, today we have a choice only between human life and animal existence. We in India have wonderful religious treatises. But let me tell you that all that spiritual preaching has been of no avail. We are not able to translate anything from those scriptures into practice. 58 If India wants to survive in a world of atom bombs, she must be disciplined and united first and untouchability and caste distinctions should go. I have never heard or seen that an army helps in generating such a social and moral climate. The army formed under the leadership of Netaji was not formed to promote these virtues, and if it showed unity and discipline it was because it had no other alternative. We have so many of those soldiers in India. Why did not they show their worth? We would not have witnessed two world wars which we did if there were any truth in the claim people make about the virtues of military training. And nobody can tell when a third world war may flare up. Both violence and non-violence have equal need for discipline and unity. Let me tell you that a peaceful and nonviolent victory is far superior to a violent victory. There is not the least doubt about it.  What a wonderful example of this unity is set by Netaji, the founder of the Indian National Army; “Let every Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Parsi and others think that India is their country and work unitedly for it.” He has proved this unity before us all. 59

 

References:

  1. The Hindustan Times, 14-5-1939
  2. Harijan, 12-8-1939
  3. The Indian Annual Register, 1939
  4. Harijan, 26-8-1939
  5. Harijan, 9-9-1939
  6. The Bombay Chronicle, 11-7-1939
  7. Letter to Subhas Chandra Bose, November 23, 1939
  8. Harijan, 13-7-1940
  9. The Hindu, 24-2-1941
  10. The Hindu, 24-2-1941
  11. The Transfer of Power, 1942-7, Vol. II, pp. 128-32
  12. Harijan, 19-7-1942
  13. Harijan, 2-8-1942
  14. Harijan, 24-2-1946
  15. Harijan, 31-3-1946
  16. Harijan, 7-4-1946
  17. Harijan, 7-4-1946
  18. Harijan, 14-4-1946
  19. The Bombay Chronicle, 23-5-1946
  20. Amrita Bazar Patrika, 7-1-1947
  21. Harijan, 9-2-1947
  22. Biharni Komi Agman, pp. 267-8
  23. Bihar Pachhi Dilhi, p. 343 

 

 

 

 

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