GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338

E-mail- dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com;dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net

Mail Address-   C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur-208020, U.P.

 

 

The Hindu and Mahatma Gandhi, Part-II

 

 

 

The Hindu collected maximum important speech, article and letters. Some are here. Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Indian Opinion, “When I left South Africa, I had fully intended to write to my Indian and English friends there from time to time, but I found my lot in India to be quite different from what I had expected it to be. I had hoped to be able to have comparative peace and leisure but I have been irresistibly drawn into many activities. I hardly cope with them and local daily correspondence. Half of my time is passed in the Indian trains. My South African friends will, I hope, forgive me for my apparent neglect of them. Let me assure them that not a day has passed when I have not thought of them and their kindness. South African associations can never be effaced from my memory. You will not now be surprised when I tell you that it was only today that I learnt from Indian Opinion to hand, about the disastrous floods. During my travels I rarely read newspapers and I have time merely to glance at them whilst I am not travelling. I write this to tender my sympathy to the sufferers. My imagination enables me to draw a true picture of their sufferings. They make one think of God and His might and the utter evanescence of this life. They ought to teach us ever to seek His protection and never to fail in the daily duty before us. In the divine account books only our actions are noted, not what we have spoken. These and similar reflections fill my soul for the moment and I wish to share them with the sufferers. The deep poverty that I experience in this country deters me even from thinking of financial assistance to be sent for those who have been rendered homeless. Even one pie in this country counts. I am, at this very moment, living in the midst of thousands who have nothing but roasted pulse or grain-flour mixed with water and salt. We, therefore, can only send the sufferers an assurance of our heartfelt grief. I hope that a determined movement will be set on foot to render residence on flats exposed to visitations of death-dealing floods illegal. The poor will, if they can, inhabit even such sites regardless of consequences. It is for the enlightened persons to make it impossible for them to do so. The issues of Indian Opinion that acquainted me with the destruction caused by the floods gave me also the sad news of Mr. Abdul Gani’s death. Please convey my respectful condolences to the members of our friend’s family. Mr. Abdul Gani’s services to the community can never be forgotten. His sobriety of judgment and never-failing courtesy would have done credit to anybody. His wise handling of public questions was a demonstration of the fact that services to one’s country could be effectively rendered without a knowledge of English or modern training. I note, too, that our people in South Africa are not yet free from difficulties about trade licenses and leaving certificates. My Indian experience has confirmed the opinion that there is no remedy like passive resistance against such evils. The community has to exhaust milder remedies, but I hope that it will not allow the sword of passive resistance to get rusty. It is our duty, whilst the terrible war lasts, to be satisfied with petitions, etc., for the desired relief, but I think the Government should know that the community will not rest until the questions above mentioned are satisfactorily solved. It is but right that I should also warn the community against dangers from within. I hear from those who return from South Africa that we are by no means free of those who are engaged in illicit traffic. We, who seek justice, must be above suspicion, and I hope that our leaders will not rest till they have purged the community of internal defects.” 1

Mahatma Gandhi spoke at Bhagini Samaj, “I am thankful to you for asking me to preside over this annual function of the Samaj. Your president, I really feel, should be a woman, though you may seek men’s help or advice in your work. The Samaj is dedicated to the noble aim of women’s regeneration and, in the same way that another’s tapascharya does not help one to ascend to heaven, men cannot bring about the regeneration of women. I don’t mean to suggest that men do not desire it, or that women would not want to have it through men’s help; I merely wish to place before you the principle that it is only through self-help that an individual or a race can raise. This is not a new principle, but we often forget to act upon it. The Samaj is at present kept going by the enthusiasm of Bhai Karsandas Chitalia. I am looking forward to a time when one of you will take his place and release him from this Samaj for other work. Having dedicated his life wholly to the service of women, he will find out some work in the same field. The Samaj will come into its own when it elects its office-bearers from among its women members and gives a better account of itself than it does today. I have close associations, as you know, with both men and women, but I find that I can do nothing in the way of service to women without help from women workers. That is why I take every occasion to protest in no uncertain terms that, so long as women in India remain ever so little suppressed or do not have the same rights [as men], India will not make real progress. Hence it will be all to India’s honour if this Samaj succeeds completely in its aims. It is necessary to understand what we mean when we talk of the regeneration of women. It presupposes degeneration and, if that is so, we should further consider what led to it and how. It is our primary duty to have some very hard thinking on these points. In travelling all over India, I have come to realize that all the existing agitation is confined to an infinitesimal section of our people who are really a mere speck in the vast firmament. Crores of people of both the sexes live in absolute ignorance of this agitation. Full eighty-five per cent of the people of this country pass their innocent days in a state of total detachment from what is going on around them. These men and women, ignorant as they are, do their bit in life well and properly. Both have the same education or, rather, the absence of education, both are helping each other as they ought to do. If their lives are in any sense incomplete, the cause can be traced to the incompleteness of the lives of the remaining fifteen per cent. If my sisters of the Bhagini Samaj will make a close study of the lives of these 85 per cent of our people, it will provide them ample material for an excellent programme of work for the Samaj. In the observations that I am going to make, I will confine myself to the 15 percent above mentioned and, even then, it would be out of place to discuss the disabilities that are common both to men and women. The point for us to consider is the degeneration of our women relatively to our men. Legislation has been mostly the handiwork of men; and man has not always been fair and discriminates in performing that self-appointed task. What the authors of the various Smritis have said about women can in no wise be defended. Child-marriage, the restrictions on widows and such other evils owe their origin to the injunctions in the Smritis. Women’s are placed on a level with Sudras has done unimaginable harm to Hindu society. These statements of mine may have verbal similarity with the occasional attacks of Christians, but, apart from this similarity, there is no other common ground between us. The Christians, in their attacks, seek to strike at the roots of Hinduism. I look upon myself as an orthodox Hindu and my attack proceeds from the desire to rid Hinduism of its defects and restore it to its pristine glory. The Christian critic, by demonstrating the imperfection of the Smritis, tries to show that they are just ordinary books. My attempt is to show that the imperfection of the Smritis comes from interpolated passages, that is to say, verses inserted by persons accepted as smritikaras in the period of our degeneration. It is easy to demonstrate the grandeur of the Smritis minus these verses. I do not have the slightest desire to put up a weak defence of Hinduism, believing out of false pride or in ignorance, and wanting others to believe that there is no error in the Smritis or in the other accepted books of the Hindu religion. I am convinced that such an effort will not raise the Hindu religion but will degrade it rather. A religion which gives the foremost place to truth can afford no admixture of untruth. The largest part of our effort in promoting the regeneration of women should be directed towards removing those blemishes which are represented in our shastras as the necessary and ingrained characteristics of women. Who will attempt this and how? In my humble opinion, in order to make the attempt we will have to produce women, pure, firm and self-controlled as Sita, Damayanti and Draupadi. If we do produce them, such modern sisters will receive the same homage from Hindu society as is being paid to their prototypes of yore. Their words will have the same authority as the shastras. We will feel ashamed of the stray reflections on them in our Smritis and will soon forget them. Such revolutions have occurred in Hinduism in the past and will still take place in the future, leading to the stability of our faith. I pray to God that this Samaj might soon produce such women as I have described above. We have now discussed the root cause of the degeneration of our women and have considered the ideals by the realization of which the present condition of our women can be improved. The number of women who can realize those ideals will be necessarily very few and, therefore, we will now consider what ordinary women can accomplish if they will try. Their first attempt should be directed towards awakening in the minds of as many women as possible a proper sense of their present condition. I am not among those who believe that such an effort can be made through literary education only. To work on that basis would be to postpone indefinitely the accomplishment of our aims; I have experienced at every step that it is not at all necessary to wait so long. We can bring home to our women the sad realities of their present condition without, in the first instance, giving them any literary education. I am just returning from a district of Bihar. I once met there a large group of women from respectable families of the place. They all observed purdah. In my presence, they removed the purdah as they would in the presence of a brother. These women had had no education. Just before I went to meet them, an English woman had been to see me. She had called on me where I sat surrounded by a number of men. To meet the Hindu women, on the other hand, I had to go into a room specially set apart. Half seriously, I suggested that we could go to the room where the men were sitting. All enthusiasm, they said that they would be only too happy to do so, but that the custom being what it was, they would need the men’s permission. They did not like the purdah at all [they said] and wanted me to see that the custom was ended. While there is tragedy in these words, they also bear out what I have said above. These women had realized their condition without having had any literary education. They were right in asking my help, but I wanted them to have the strength themselves to win their freedom and they admitted, too, that they had such strength. I have come away full of hope that we shall soon hear that these women have flung away the purdah. Women who would ordinarily be considered uneducated are doing excellent work in Champaran. They are waking up their extremely backward sisters to the freedom which they themselves enjoy.* Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacities. She has the right to participate in the very minutest detail in the activities of man and she has an equal right of freedom and liberty with him. She is entitled to a supreme place in her own sphere of activity as man is in his. This ought to be the natural condition of things and not as a result only of learning to read and write. By sheer force of a vicious custom, even the most ignorant and worthless men have been enjoying a superiority over women which they do not deserve and ought not to have. Many of our movements stop half-way because of the condition of our women. Much of our work does not yield appropriate results; our lot is like that of the penny-wise and pound-foolish trader who does not employ enough capital in his business. If I am right, a good many from among you, members of this Samaj, should go out to educate your ignorant sisters about their real condition. In practical terms, this means that you should spare as much time as you can to visit the most backward localities in Bombay and give the women there what you have yourselves received. If you have joined men in their religious, political and social activities, acquaint them with these. If you have gained any special knowledge about the bringing up of children, impart it to them. If you have studied and realized in your own experience the benefits of clean air, clean water, clean and simple food, and exercise, tell these women about them too. In this way, you will raise yourselves and them. But although much good and useful work can be done without knowledge of reading and writing, yet it is my firm belief that you cannot always do without knowledge thereof. It develops and sharpens one’s intellect and it stimulates our power of doing well. I have never placed an unnecessarily high value on the knowledge of reading and writing. I am only attempting to assign its proper place to it. I have pointed out from time to time [that] there is no justification for men to deprive women or to deny to them equal rights on the grounds of their illiteracy; but education is essential for enabling women to uphold these natural rights, to improve them and to spread them; again, the true knowledge of self is unattainable by the millions who are without such education. Many a book is full of innocent pleasure and this will be denied to us without education. It is no exaggeration to say that a human being without education is not far removed from an animal. Education, therefore, is necessary for women as it is for men. Not that the methods of education should be identical in both cases. In the first place, our State system of education is full of error and productive of harm in many respects. It should be eschewed by men and women alike. Even if it were free from its present blemishes, I would not regard it as proper for women from all points of view. Man and woman are of equal rank, but they are not identical. They are a peerless pair, being supplementary to one another; each helps the other so that without the one the existence of the other cannot be conceived, and, therefore, it follows as a necessary corollary from these facts that anything that will impair the status of either of them will involve the equal ruin of them both. In framing any scheme of women’s education, this cardinal truth must be constantly kept in mind. Man is supreme in the outward activities of a married pair and, therefore, it is in the fitness of things that he should have a greater knowledge thereof. On the other hand, home life is entirely the sphere of woman and, therefore, in domestic affairs, in the upbringing and education of children, women ought to have more knowledge. Not that knowledge should be divided into watertight compartments or that some branches of knowledge should be closed to any one; but unless courses of instruction are based on a discriminating appreciation of these basic principles, the fullest life of man and woman cannot be developed. I should say a word or two as to whether English education is or is not necessary for our women. I have come to the conclusion that, in the ordinary course of our lives, neither our men nor our women need necessarily have any knowledge of English. True, English is necessary for making a living and for active association in our political movements. I do not believe in women working for a living or undertaking commercial enterprise. The few women who may require or desire to have English education can very easily have their way by joining the schools for men. Introduction of English education in schools meant for women could only lead to a prolongation of our helplessness. I have often read and heard people saying that the rich treasures of English literature should be opened alike to men and women. I submit in all humility that there is some misapprehension in assuming such an attitude. No one intends to close these treasures against women while keeping them open for men. There is none on earth able to prevent you from studying the literature of the whole world if you are fond of literary tastes. But when courses of education have been framed with the needs of a particular society in view, you cannot supply the requirements of the few who have cultivated a literary taste. Their needs can be met, after we are fully developed, by separate institutions as in Europe. When, through a well-planned scheme, large numbers of men and women begin to receive education and those who remain without it are looked upon as exceptions, we shall have plenty of writers in our languages to bring to us the pleasures of other literatures. If we seek the pleasure of literature always in English our languages will remain poor, which means that we shall remain a poor people. The habit of deriving enjoyment only from a foreign literature is, I must say, if you will pardon me the simile, like the thief’s habit of deriving pleasure from stolen goods. The pleasure which Pope found in the Iliad he placed before the people in English of superb beauty. The pleasure which Fitzgerald derived from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam made him render it in English of such power that millions of Englishmen keep his poem with them as they do the Bible. The Bhagavad Gita filled Edwin Arnold with transports of joy ; he did not ask the people to learn Sanskrit in order that they may have the same joy, but put the work into English which would stand beside Sanskrit or Pali, pouring his very soul into the language, and thus shared his joy with his people. Our being so very backward is a reason why such work should be undertaken among us on a much larger scale. This will be possible only when a scheme such as I have suggested has been formulated and is firmly adhered to. If only we can give up our infatuation with English and our lack of confidence in ourselves or in the capacity of our languages, the task is not difficult. In asking our men and women to spend less time in the study of English than they are doing now, my object is not to deprive them of the pleasure which they are likely to derive from it, but I hold that the same pleasure can be obtained at less cost and trouble if we follow a more natural method. The world is full of many a gem of priceless beauty; but then those gems are not all of English setting. Other languages can well boast of productions of similar excellence; all these should be made available to our common people and that can only be done if our own learned men will undertake to translate them for us in our own languages. Merely to have outlined a scheme of education as above is not to have removed the bane of child-marriage from our society or to have conferred on our women an equality of rights. Let us now consider the case of our girls who disappear, so to say, from view after marriage. They are not likely to return to our schools. Conscious of the unspeakable and unthinkable sin of the child-marriage of their daughters, their mothers cannot think of educating them or of otherwise making their dry life a cheerful one. The man who marries a young girl does not do so out of any altruistic motives, but through sheer lust. Who is to rescue these girls? A proper answer to this question will also be a solution of the woman’s problem. The answer is albeit difficult, but it is the only one. There is, of course, none to champion her cause but her husband. It is useless to expect a child wife to be able to bring round the man who has married her. The difficult work must, therefore, for the present at least, be left to man. If I could, I would take a census of child-wives and would find the friends of their husbands and through such friends, as well as through moral and polite exhortations, I will attempt to bring home to them the enormity of their crimes in linking their fortunes with child-wives and will warn them that there is no expiation for that sin unless and until they have by education made their wives fit not only to bear children but also to bring them up properly, and unless, in the meantime, they live a life of absolute celibacy. Thus there are many fruitful fields of activity before the members of the Bhagini Samaj for devoting their energies to. The field for work is so vast that, if resolute application is brought to bear thereon, the wider movements for reform may, for the present, well be left to themselves and great service can be done to the cause of Home Rule without so much as even a verbal reference to it. When printing presses were non-existent and scope for speech-making very limited, when one could hardly travel twenty-four miles in the course of a day instead of a thousand miles as now, we had only one agency for propagating our ideals and that was our ‘acts’; and acts had immense potency. We are now rushing to and fro with the velocity of air, delivering speeches, writing newspaper articles, and yet we fall short of our accomplishments and the cry of despair fills the air. I for one am of opinion that, as in old days, our acts will have a more powerful influence on the public than any number of speeches and writings. It is my earnest prayer to your Association that its members should give prominence to quiet and unobtrusive work in whatever it does.” 2

Mahatma Gandhi gave a statement to the press on Kheda situation, “In the district of Kheda, the crops for the year 1917-18 have, by common admission, proved a partial failure. Under the Revenue rules if the crops are under four annas, the cultivators are entitled to full suspension of the Revenue assessment for the year; if the crops are under six annas, half the amount of assessment is suspended. So far as I am aware, the Government has been pleased to grant full suspension with regard to one village out of every 600, and half suspension in the case of over 103 villages. It is claimed on behalf of the ryots that the suspension is not at all adequate to the actuality. The government contended that in the vast majority of villages, crops have been over six annas. The only question before at issue is, whether the crops have been under four annas or six annas, as the case may be, or over the latter figure. Government valuation is in the first instance made by the Talati assisted by the chief men of the villages concerned. As a rule, no check on their figures is considered necessary, for it is only during partial failure that Government valuation of crops may have been challenged. The Talati are as a class obsequious, unscrupulous and tyrannical. The chief men are especially selected for their docility. The Talati’ one aim is naturally to collect full assessment as promptly as possible. We sometimes read accounts of assiduous Talati having been awarded pugree for making full collection. In applying to the Talati the adjectives I have given, I wish to cast no reflections on them as men. I merely state the fact. The Talati are not born; they are made; and rent-collectors the entire world over have to cultivate a callousness without which they could not do their work to the satisfaction of their masters. It is impossible for me to reproduce the graphic description given by the ryots of the rent collectors which the Talati chiefly are. My purpose in dealing with the Talati is to show that the Governments valuation of the crops is derived in the first instance from the tainted source and is presumably biased against the ryots. As against their valuation, we have the universal testimony of ryots, high and low, some of whom are men of position and considerable wealth, who have a reputation to lose and who have nothing to gain by exaggeration except the odium of Talati and possibly higher officials. I wish to state at once that behind this movement there is no desire to discredit the Government, or an individual official. The movement is intended to assert the right of the people to be effectively heard in matters concerning themselves. It is known to the public that the Hon’ble Mr. G. K. Parekh and Mr. V. J. Patel, invited and assisted by the Gujarat Sabha, carried on investigations as also Messrs Deodhar, Joshi and Thakkar of the Servants of India Society. Their investigation was necessary preliminary and brief and therefore confined to a few villages only. But the result of their inquiry went to show that the crops in the majority of cases were fewer than four annas. As their investigation, not being extensive enough was capable of being challenged, and it was challenged. I undertook a full inquiry with the assistance of over 20 capable, experienced and impartial men of influence and status. I personally visited over 50 villages and met as many men in the villages as I could, inspected in these villages most of the fields belonging to them and after a searching cross-examination of the villagers, came to the conclusion that their crops were under four annas. I found that among the men who surrounded me, there were present those who were ready to check exaggerations and wild statements. Men knew what was at stake if they departed from the truth. As to the Rabi crops and the still standing Kharif crops, I was able by the evidence of my own eyes to check the statements of the agriculturists. The method adopted by my co-workers was exactly the same. In this manner nearly 400 villages were examined and with but a few exceptions, crops were found to be under four annas, and only in three cases they were found to be over six annas. The method adopted by us was, so far as the Kharif crops were concerned, to ascertain the actual yield of the whole of the crops of individual villages and the possible yield of the same village in a normal year. Assuming the truth of the statements made by them, this is admittedly an absolute test, and any other method that would bring about the same result must be rejected as untrue and unscientific; and as I have already remarked, all probability of exaggeration was avoided in the above-named investigation. As to the standing Rabi crops, there was the eye estimate and it was tested by the method above mentioned. The Government method is an eye estimate and therefore a matter largely of guess-work. It is moreover open to fundamental objections which I have endeavoured to set forth in a letter to the Collector of the District. I request him to treat Vitthal--a well-known and ordinary well-to-do village of the district with the railway line passing by it and which is near a trade centre--as a test case and I suggest that if the crops were in that village proved to be under four annas, as I hold they were, it might be assumed that in other villages less fortunately situated, crops were not likely to be more than four annas. I have added to my request a suggestion that I should be permitted to be present at the inquiry. He made the inquiry but rejected my suggestion and therefore it proved to be one-sided. The Collector has made an elaborate report on the crops of that village which, in my opinion, I have successfully challenged. The original Government valuation, I understand, was twelve annas; the Collector’s minimum valuation is seven annas. If the probably wrong methods of valuation to which I have drawn attention and which have been adopted by the Collector are allowed for, the valuation according to his own reckoning would come under six annas and according to the agriculturists it would be under four annas. Both the report and my answer are too technical to be of value to the public. But I have suggested that, as both the Government and agriculturists hold themselves in the right, if the Government has any regard for popular opinion, they should appoint an impartial committee of inquiry with the cultivators’ representatives upon it, or gracefully accept the popular view. The Government has rejected both the suggestions and insists upon applying coercive measures for the collection of revenue. It may be mentioned that these measures have never been totally suspended and in many cases the ryots have paid simply under pressure. The Talati have taken away cattle and have returned them only after the payment of assessment. In one case, I witnessed a painful incident. A man having a milch buffalo taken away from him and it was only on my happening to go to the village that the buffalo was released; this buffalo was the most valuable property the man possessed and a source of daily bread for him. Scores of such cases have already happened and many more will no doubt happen hereafter if the public opinion is not ranged on the side of the people. Every means of seeking redress by prayers has been exhausted. Interviews with Collector, the Commissioner and His Excellency have taken place. The final suggestion that was made is this; although in the majority of cases, people are entitled to full suspension, half suspension should be granted throughout the district except for villages which show, by common consent, crops over six annas. Such a gracious concession may be accompanied by a declaration that the Government would expect those who have ready means voluntarily to pay the dues, we the workers on our part undertaking to persuade such people to pay up the Government dues. This will leave only the poorest people untouched. I venture to submit that acceptance of this suggestion can only bring credit and strength to the Government. Resistance of popular will can only produce discontent which, in the case of fear-stricken peasantry such as of Kaira, can only find an underground passage and thus demoralize them. The present movement is an attempt to get out of such a false position, humiliating alike for the Government and the people. And how do the Government propose to assert their position and so-called prestige? They have a Revenue Code giving them unlimited powers without a right of appeal to the ryots against the decisions of the Revenue Authorities. Exercise of these powers in a case like the one before us, in which the ryots are fighting for a principle and the authorities for prestige, would be a prostitution of justice, of a disavowal of all fair play. These powers are: (1) Right of summary execution. (2) Right of exacting a quarter of the assessment as punishment. (3) Right of confiscation of land, not merely rayatwari but even inami or sanadia, and the right of keeping a man under hajat. Those remedies may be applied singly or all together, and unbelievable though it may seem to the public, it may be mentioned that the notices of the application of all these remedies but the last have been issued. Thus a man owning two hundred acres of land in perpetuity and valued at thousands of rupees, paying a small assessment rate, may at will of the authority lose the whole of it, because for the sake of principal he respectfully refuses voluntarily to pay the assessment himself and is prepared meekly but under strong protest to penalties that may be inflicted by law. Surely vindictive confiscation of property ought not to be the reward for orderly disobedience which, properly handled, can only result in progress all round and in giving the Government a bold and frank peasantry with a will of its own. I venture to invite the Press and the public to assist these cultivators of Kaira who have dared to enter up a fight for what they consider is just and right. Let the public remember this also that unprecedentedly severe plague has decimated the population of Kaira. People are living outside their homes in specially prepared thatched cottages at considerable expense to themselves. In some villages mortality has been tremendous. Prices are ruling high of which, owing to the failure of crops, they can but take little advantage and have to suffer all the disadvantages thereof. It is not money they want as much as the voice of a strong unanimous and emphatic public opinion.” 3

Mahatma Gandhi spoke at Tramwayment’s meeting, “This morning at 8 a.m. about 150 strikers had assembled at No. 2, St. George’s Cathedral Road, to see Mahatma Gandhi and to take his advice. Mr. Gandhi spoke in English and his speech was translated to the strikers in Tamil by Mr. C. Rajagopalachariar. Mr. Gandhi first of all asked one of them whether he was not tired of the strike and how long he could prolong it. He replied that he was not and that he could stand for 10 or 15 days more. Questioned again as to what he would do if the strike be prolonged beyond that period, he replied that he would like to remain like that even for 10 days afterwards. Mr. Gandhi then spoke as follows: I have heard something about your strike. I know on the surface what your demands are. But I have not deeply gone into the whole matter. Nor do I know the Company’s side of the question. I therefore cannot say whether your demands are absolutely just or not. But, assuming that your demands are just, I am sure that you are quite justified in declaring a strike. Whenever a body of workmen takes their legitimate grievances before their employers and the employers do not listen to them, the only clean weapon in their hands is a strike. So, for a good and successful strike, the first thing essential is that the cause should be good and just. The second thing is that the strikers should never resort to violence. That is to say, you may not hurt your employers nor may you hurt those who do not join you in the strike. And you should always, no matter what difficulties you have to suffer, stick to truth. And in going through the strike, you must be prepared always to suffer whatever difficulties you may have to go through, even deprivations. That strike is a religious strike and is always bound to be successful. I hope that your strike is of that character. I am simply filled with delight that you are all acting in such perfect cooperation that not a single employee here is at present working. I am also delighted that you are conducting yourselves in a most orderly manner. And having gone so far, I hope you will continue your strike till your demands are granted. I would like you to bear this in mind that your demands should be reduced to writing, that every one of you should know what those demands are and when the time for a settlement comes, not to increase your demands. If you increase your demands from time to time or change them, you will place yourselves in the wrong. If an arbitration is suggested, through men in whom you can place perfect reliance, I would advise you to agree to the arbitration, because the arbitrators will be able to say to you, to the Company and to the world, whether your demands are just or not. Lastly, granting that your demands are just, that you are fulfilling the conditions that I have laid down, what are you to do when the strike is prolonged is a fair question. I know that all of you do not possess money enough to go out with an indefinitely prolonged strike. You are workers and able-bodied men and I would advise you not to rely for your bread and butter on public support. It is beneath the dignity of a man who has got strength of arms and legs to depend for his bread and butter upon public support. I would therefore advise you to seek some work which all of you can do of a temporary nature. No honest work is dishonorable for any man on this earth. If I were you, I would do spade work indefinitely. I have not got the time to tell you the history of a recent strike in Ahmadabad where the people continued their strike for 23 days. You will ask some friend what that strike was. But this I want to tell you about that strike, that the men earning Rs. 40 per month did not mind doing spade work, taking earth and carrying it on their heads in baskets from one place to another. So they were able to support themselves with four annas a day. The result was that 10,000 men who were engaged in it were entirely successful. I hope that your demands are just. I hope that you will behave in the manner that I have ventured to advise you. In that case, you may depend upon it you shall have success. I thank you very much for having come here all the way to see me. May God bless you?” 4

Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to the press on Satyagraha movement, “Satyagraha, as I have endeavoured to explain at several meetings, is essentially a religious movement. It is a process of purification and penance. It seeks to secure reforms or redress of grievances by self-suffering. I therefore venture to suggest that the second Sunday after the publication of the Viceregal assent to Bill No. 2 of 1919 (i.e., 6th April) may be observed as a day of humiliation and prayer. As there must be an effective public demonstration in keeping with the character of the observance, I beg to advise as follows: (i) A twenty-four hours’ fast counting from the last meal on the preceding night should be observed by all adults, unless prevented from so doing by consideration of religion or health. The fast is not to be regarded, in any shape or form, in the nature of a hunger-strike, or as designed to put any pressure upon the Government. It is to be regarded, for the satyagrahis, as the necessary discipline to fit them for civil disobedience, contemplated in their Pledge, and for all others, as some slight token of the intensity of their wounded feelings. (ii) All work, except such as may be necessary in the public interest, should be suspended for the day. Markets and other business places should be closed. Employees who are required to work even on Sundays may only suspend work after obtaining previous leave. I do not hesitate to recommend these two suggestions for adoption by public servants for though it is unquestionably the right thing for them not to take part in political discussions and gatherings, in my opinion they have an undoubted right to express upon vital matters their feelings in the very limited manner herein suggested. (iii) Public meetings should be held on that day in all parts of India, not excluding villages, at which resolutions praying for the withdrawal of the two measures should be passed. If my advice is deemed worthy of acceptance, the responsibility will lie, in the first instance, on the various Satyagraha Associations for undertaking the necessary work of organization, but all other associations will, I hope, join hands in making this demonstration a success.” 5  

Mahatma Gandhi spoke on Satyagraha movement, “The acceptance, by the country, of the new criminal laws was degradation, a humiliation. When a nation felt that any particular legislation was a national degradation, they had a clear duty to discharge. In the countries of the West, when the governors did a wrong, there ensued bloodshed. In India, on the other hand, the people instinctively abhorred the doctrine of violence. Therefore, they had to find out by what other means they could enforce their will upon the Government. They had found that speeches at public meetings and the resolutions of the Legislative Councils had been of no avail. The official majority had rejected the national will expressed through the elected members. In such circumstances, by what other means could they impose their will on the Government? He suggested that what Prahlad did towards his father, Hiranyakashyapu, should be done by them towards the Government. Hiranyakashyapu issued a command to his son which conflicted with his conscience. The voice of a disciplined conscience was the voice of the divine; and any man who refused to listen to that voice degraded human dignity. The conscience of the speaker told him that they should act even as Prahlad acted against his father’s order; and if their conscience also told the same thing, they should do the same. Prahlad disobeyed his father’s command without any irreverence or ill will or disaffection for him. He continued to love his father as he was still disobeying his order, and the very love he bore his father made him point out to him his wrong which he dutifully resisted under the dictates of his conscience. This was what was called civil disobedience or Satyagraha, which mean the force of truth, the force of soul. If they accepted Satyagraha, they rejected the doctrine of physical violence. He hoped that they who were the descendants of Prahlad would not send him away empty-handed. He had just then received a telegram that the Viceroy had given his consent to Bill No. 2. They could not better begin the use of soul-force than by adopting some rigorous measures of discipline. He had suggested in a letter to the Press that the second Sunday, after the Viceroy had given his consent to the Bills, which would be the 6th April, should be observed as a day of fast by all adults, men and women, who could fast. That was not to be mixed up with the hunger-strikes in England known in connection with the movement for suffrage for women. It was merely an expression of grief, an act of self-denial, a process of purification. It trained the satyagrahi to begin and carry on his civil disobedience. On that day, they should suspend all transaction of business. He had even ventured to suggest that public servants also could participate in the general fast. He entirely conceded the doctrine that Government servants should not take part in politics, but, it did not mean the suppression of their conscience and their freedom to share in national grief or national joy. In organizing public meetings or in making speeches thereat, they should employ the most respectful and dignified language in speaking of the Government and of their laws. In becoming language, they should appeal to the Viceroy and to the Secretary of State to withdraw the new laws in question. In taking the Pledge, they should understand that they were to do no harm to life or to property, but work in peace and goodwill to all. Satyagraha would do what this legislation could not do, namely, rid the country of violence. He hoped they would decide to accept it; and accepting it, never to retrace their steps from the vow after it had once been taken. They need not sign the Pledge at the meeting but might take time to consider the matter calmly, not once or twice but fifty times, whether, in view of what was expected of them, they possessed the capacity for it, for the discipline and the sacrifice that it required of them. They should remember that it was a sacred vow and that no Indian could break it with impunity. If they disapproved of it now, they would ere long find cause to regret that they did not join the movement. If, from weakness or from any other cause, they could not advance to the centre of the fight, they might, at least, remain at the circumference and along many of its lines help it in various ways. He hoped that God had given them sufficient strength and wisdom to take the vow and conscientiously discharge their duties at this critical moment in the fortunes of their country. The Chairman said that Satyagraha, practiced rigorously as taught by Gandhiji, was a straight road to swaraj. Mr. Gandhi’s speech was rendered into Tamil by Dr. T. S. S. Rajan of Trichinopoly who is accompanying him through his tour in South India. About fifty signed the Pledge at the meeting, the larger half of the signatories being some of the Mahomedans, merchants of Rajagiri, and it is confidently expected that the ranks of the Satyagraha army in the Tanojre district would swell to huge numbers.” 6

Mahatma Gandhi spoke on Satyagraha movement, “You will forgive me for not standing to speak to you. I am physically too weak to do so. You will also forgive me for speaking to you not in Tamil, but in English. It will give me some pleasure if I was to talk to you in Hindi, but it is a misfortune that you have not yet taken to the study of the national language. As you are aware, the opportunity is now offered to you of studying that language free of charge, and I hope that as many of you as you can will take advantage of the opportunity thus offered. However, I am on a different mission today. I was yesterday in Tanojre. I ventured to extend to the community of Tanojre an invitation which I wish to extend to you also; but before I do so, I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the beautiful address, the beautiful casket and the Tamil address that have been presented to me. As I do not accept any costly presents, the beautiful casket will go to the trust that has been formed which contains all the costly presents that I have ever received in my life, and there, converted into money; it will be used for some national purpose or other. You say in the English address that there was a demonstration in the Transvaal or South Africa of the triumph of the spirit over matter. Your own belief in the triumph of the spirit over matter will be shortly put to the test. My invitation to you will ensure that test. You know the Rowlett Bills perhaps as much as I do. I need not explain them. You all want them to be withdrawn. The Indian councilors in the Imperial Council tried their best to have this legislation withdrawn. They failed. The Bills are bad, but this flouting of the unanimous voice of the Indian members is worse and it is for you and for me, whose representatives those councilors are, to right this double wrong. How can it b righted? When the governors of a country do a great wrong to the people whom they govern, history teaches us that they have resorted to violence, sometimes with apparent success, often they have been defeated; but violence can only result in violence, as darkness added to darkness really deepens it. The doctrine of violence is of the earth, earthy, merely material, and can be no guide for a human being who at all believes in the existence of the soul. If, as I am sure you will reject the doctrine of violence, you have to consider other means for seeking redress, and that, as I would translate, would mean shatham prati satyam. You have an instance given of it in the name mentioned this evening, i.e., of Prahlad. But some of you may be inclined to think that after all Prahlad is not a historical personage. That story may be a mere fable. I therefore propose to give you this evening a living instance, living in the sense that it has happened within recent memory. The authoress is dead. The name of the heroine is Valliamma. She was born in South Africa of Indian parents. She in common with many of our countrywomen in South Africa joined the Satyagraha struggle that was raging there and that raged there for over eight years. She had a faith so absolute in the triumph of the spirit over matter that you and I are not privileged to possess. She knew nothing of the intricacies of the laws that we resisted in that country. It was enough for her that thousands of her countrymen and countrywomen were suffering for something she did not know, but she knew, she realized instinctively that out of the travail of the soul is a nation born and so she voluntarily suffered the hardships of a South African prisoner. She was 18 years old. In a weakly body she held a spirit that was indomitable. She got daily typhoid fever, whilst she was in jail. Her friends in the prison suggested that she should pay the fine to pay which she had the option, but she resolutely declined to pay the fine. She preferred to die in the prison, but she did not die. She was discharged in an ailing condition. She was discharged after she had completed the full term of her imprisonment. Then a few days after her discharge she died, mourned by the whole of the Indian community of South Africa as a heroine and martyr. Before she entered the prison gates, she was a poor girl unknown to fame. Today she has risen to [be] one of the very best of her nation. I have come here to invite you to follow the example of that beautiful girl, Valliamma, in order that you may successfully resist this Rowlett legislation, and I promise that, if you will approach the question with even a little of the faith of Valliamma, you will see that in a very short time these Bills are destroyed. The Bills have violated the national conscience, and resistance to those commands which are in violation of one’s conscience is a sacred privilege and a beauty, and it is not this law or this command of the governor that we resist, but it is our duty, it is open to us to resist all his commands which are not moral commands, and when we respectfully disobey wrongful things of these governors, we serve not only them but the whole nation. I have been asked wherever I have gone what law, what other laws, shall we disobey. The only answer I am able to give you today is that it is open to us to disobey all the laws which do not involve any moral sanction. That being so, it is totally unnecessary for you to know what laws we shall disobey. The aim of a satyagrahi is to invite upon his own devoted head all the suffering that he is capable of undertaking. Those of you, therefore, who disapprove of the Rowlett legislation and who have faith in the efficacy of satyagraha, I have come to invite in order that you might sign this Pledge, but I will ask you to consider a thousand times before signing the Pledge. It is no discredit to you that you do not sign the Pledge, either because you do not disapprove of the legislation or you have not got the strength and the will, and it is not open to any satyagrahi to resent your refraining from signing the Pledge. But if you once sign the Pledge, remember that even as that poor girl Valliamma in spite of her illness underwent the full term of her imprisonment, even so shall you never detract from the Pledge. You might have seen from today’s papers received here that I have addressed to the Press a letter embodying some suggestions. I will, however, repeat them this evening. My first suggestion is, that on Sunday week, i.e., 6th day of April, we shall all observe a 24 hours’ fast. It is a fitting preliminary for satyagrahis before they commence civil disobedience of the laws. For all others, it will be an expression of their deep grief over the wrong committed by the Government. I have regarded this movement as a purely religious movement and fast is an ancient institution amongst us. You will not mistake it for a hunger strike (Laughter.) nor will you consider it as designed for exerting any pressure upon the Government. It is a measure of self-discipline, it will be an expression of the anguish of the soul, and when the soul is anguished, nobody could resist. I hope that all adults will take up the task unless they are prevented from doing so by ill-health or religious conviction. I have also suggested that on that Sunday all work should be suspended, all markets and all business places should be closed. Apart from the spiritual value of these two acts, they will form an education of first-class value for the masses. I have ventured to include in my suggestions even public servants, because I think that we have to credit them with conscience as also their independence and ability and privilege to associate themselves with wrongs which the nation may want to resent. It is right that they should not take part in political meetings and political discussions, but their individual conscience must have full and free play. My third suggestion in which public servants may not take part is that on that day, we should visit every hamlet, if we can, and hold meetings and pass resolutions asking the Secretary of State for India to veto this legislation. I would not ask you to resort to these public meetings and resolutions, but for one reason, and the reason is that behind these meetings and resolutions lies the force of Satyagraha to enforce the national will. In these three suggestions, whether you are satyagrahis or not, so long as you disapprove of the Rowlett legislation, all can join and I hope that there will be such a response throughout the length and breadth of India as would convince the Government that we are alive to what is going on in our midst. I thank you for the very great patience with which you have given me this hearing. A thousand thanks are due to you for the various ways in which you are showering your affection upon me, but I ask you with all the emphasis at my command to translate this personal affection into real action, and I venture to promise to you that all who join this movement, I have not the slightest doubt, will come out of it all the purer for it. Finally, please remember that if those in this great audience who are satyagrahis wish to convert others to their creed, the best way of doing so is not to bear the slightest ill will against them, but to conquer them by their sweetness, gentleness and a spirit of love. I thank you once more.” 7

Mahatma Gandhi spoke on Satyagraha movement, “You will pardon me for not standing up whilst I speak to you, because I am too weak to do so. I owe you a thousand apologies also for my inability to speak to you in Tamil. But I cannot entirely acquit you of blame in that I have to speak to you in the English language. If those of you who have received a liberal education had recognized that Hindi and Hindi alone could become the national language of India, you would have learnt it at any cost before this. But it is never too late to mend our mistake. You have in your midst today—only in Madras and a few other places—an opportunity offered to you of learning Hindi. It is probably the easiest language to learn in the world. I know something of the Tamil language; it is most beautiful and musical; but its grammar is most difficult to master, whereas the grammar of Hindi is merely a child’s work. I hope, therefore, that you will all avail yourselves of the opportunity that is before you. But I cannot detain you on the topic of Hindi and I must hasten on to my subject. I have come here after visiting Tanojre and Trichinopoly, as you know, to extend to you an invitation which I have already extended in those two places. I have come to ask you to sign the Satyagraha Pledge. You know its contents; it is designed to offer resistance to the Rowlett legislation. It is not necessary for me to describe the effect of the legislation. The public Press and our orators have been before you and you have gathered from them the contents of that legislation and also its far-reaching effects. It is enough for me to say that the legislation is of such a character that no self-respecting nation can accept it. It is calculated to degrade the nation against whom it is brought into operation. It was carried in the teeth of unanimous opposition on our behalf. The Government has committed a double wrong and it is your duty, it is my duty and that of every man and woman in this country, to undo the wrong by every legitimate means in his or her power. We have exhausted all the orthodox measures in order to gain the end. We have passed resolutions; we have petitioned and our representatives in the Imperial Legislative Council have endeavoured their best to secure a withdrawal of this legislation and all our attempts have failed. And yet we must somehow or other undoes this wrong because it is like poison corroding the whole of the body politic. When the national conscience is hurt, people whose conscience is hurt either seek redress through methods of violence or through methods which I have described as Satyagraha. I consider that methods of violence prove in the end to be of absolute failure. They are moreover wholly unsuited to the genius of our people. Methods of violence are not consistent with human dignity. It is no answer to say that this day Europe is saturated with the belief in brute force. True purusha, true bravery consists in driving out the brute in us and then only can you give freest play to your conscience. The other force which I have in various places described as Satyagraha, soul-force or love-force, is best illustrated in the story of Prahlad. Prahlad, as you know, offered respectful disobedience to the laws and orders of his own father. He did not resort to violence; but he had unquenchable belief in what he was doing. He obeyed a higher call in disobeying the orders of his father. And in applying Satyagraha to this movement, we shall be only copying the brilliant and eternal insistence of Prahlad. But we are living today in a world of unbelief. We are skeptical about our past records and many of you may be inclined to consider the story of Prahlad to be a mere fable. I therefore propose to give to you these evening two instances that have happened practically before your eyes. The one instance I related last evening and that was of a beautiful Tamil girl called Valliamma, eighteen years old, who died as a satyagrahi. She had joined the Satyagraha movement in South Africa which lasted for eight years. She was arrested and imprisoned during the struggle. In her prison, she got typhoid fever and died of it. It was she and her fellow-satyagrahis who secured the relief that you all are aware of in South Africa. There was a lad of about the same age as Valliamma’s whose name was Nagappan and who suffered imprisonment in the same struggle. He did not reason why he should join the struggle. He had an instinctive faith in its righteousness. He instinctively believed that the remedy adopted was the only true and effective remedy. The climate of South Africa is not so beneficent as the climate of the Indian plains. The South African winter is inclement and it was winter time when Nagappan was imprisoned. He was exposed to the in clemencies of the weather because he was put under a tent life. As a prisoner, he was made to work with the spade. He had the option of paying fine at any time he might have chosen. He would not pay the fine. He believed that the gateway to liberty lay through the prison door and he died of cold and fever contracted during his prison life. Nagappan was an uneducated lad born of indentured parents. But he had a brave heart. And I have come this afternoon to ask everyone of you, man and woman, if you disapprove of the Rowlett legislation to copy the examples not of Prahlad but of Valliamma and Nagappan. There is, however, one other condition; it is not enough that you disapprove of the Rowlett legislation. You must have also faith in the efficacy of this remedy and ability to undergo the suffering that it may involve. But I am sure you will agree with me that no nation has as yet become great without having undergone suffering, whether it is through inflicting violence on others or whether it is by way of Satyagraha. Satyagraha is essentially a religious force. Unless we have faith in the inviolable and immutable force of the spirit, we shall not be able to carry the struggle to a successful end. The fault then would be not of the movement or the force I have ventured to describe; but it would lie in our own imperfection. I ask you all, therefore, to approach the question with a careful consideration. But after having once signed the Pledge, you will appreciate the great obligation that you will have taken on your shoulders and you will not flinch. It follows from the Satyagraha Pledge that those who take the Pledge will not treat with any disrespect those who will not be able to take the Pledge. They may refrain from signing the Pledge either because they do not disapprove of the Bills or they do not believe in the struggle or they are too weak As time passes, we hope even to win them over to the movement. You may have seen the letter I have addressed to the Press. In it I have suggested that we should observe Sunday week as a day of humiliation and prayer and I have made three suggestions. I have suggested fasting, total abstention of work including markets and business places and holding meetings all over India to pass resolutions. The proposed fast is not a hunger strike but it is an act of self-denial. In these suggestions all, whether satyagrahis or not, can participate. And I do hope that in this holy city of Madura the whole of the population will participate in this sacred observance. I have up to now simply described the nature of the movement of Satyagraha. I would draw your attention to one other effect that is likely to follow from this movement. The Government contend that this Rowlett legislation will rid the country finally of the anarchical movement. As I have said elsewhere, it will do nothing of the kind. But I venture to suggest to you that this movement of Satyagraha, offering as it does something to provide for the inexhaustible energy of the members of the school of anarchism, will alter their very nature and bring them to this cleaner method of obtaining redress of grievances. In these circumstances, I trust the movement should command the respect and support of all. I thank you all for the very great patience with which you have listened to my remarks. I hope you will ponder well over what is going on today in this country and do what you may conceive to be your duty. I pray to God that He may give you the wisdom to see your way. Once again I thank you.” 8

Mahatma Gandhi spoke on Satyagraha movement, “You will forgive me for not speaking to you standing, as I am too weak to do so. Forgive me also for not being able to speak to you in Tamil. When you have learnt the lingua franca, the national language of India, that is Hindi, I shall have much pleasure in addressing you in Hindi. And it is open to all of you to avail yourselves of the opportunity now offered in Madras and other places of learning Hindi. Until you do so, you really shut yourself out from the rest of India. I thank you very much for presenting this address to me. I have come to you this evening to extend to you an invitation. This is almost the southernmost part of India. And I have been forcibly struck throughout my progress from Madras down here by the religious sentiment and the religious element predominant in these parts. This southern part of India is filled with temples in a manner in which no other part of India is. Untold wealth has been spent upon these marvels of architecture. And they demonstrate to me as nothing else does that we are a people deeply religious and that the people of India will be best appealed to by religion. I have come to say to you a religious sentiment. Many of us think that in the political life, we need not bring the religious element at all. Some even go so far as to say that politics should have nothing to do with religion. Our past shows that we have rejected that doctrine, and we have always touched every form of activity with the religious spirit. You all know or ought to know what the Rowlett legislation is. I therefore do not propose to occupy your time by going into the history of that legislation. It is common cause throughout the length and breadth of India that that legislation, if it remains on the Statute-book will disgrace the whole nation. We have asked our rulers not to continue that legislation. But they have absolutely disregarded the petition. They have therefore inflicted a double wrong on the whole nation. We have seen that all our meetings, all our resolutions and all the speeches of our councilors in the Imperial Legislative Council have proved to be of practically no avail. In these circumstances, what should we do? As I have already said, we must somehow or other get this legislation removed. There are two ways and only two ways open to us. One is the modern or the Western method of violence upon the wrongdoers. I hold that India will reject that proposition. The vast masses of India have never been taught by our religious preceptors to resort to violence. The other method is the method known to us of old. And that is of not giving obedience to the wrongful things of the rulers but to suffer the consequences. The way of so suffering is Satyagraha. It is the wave of Prahlad. And it is, I respectfully venture to suggest to you, the only way open to us. In it there is no defeat; for, we continue the battle till we die or till we obtain victory. But today we are moved by the spirit of scepticism. And many of us may reject the story of Prahlad as a fable. I, therefore, propose to give you as briefly as I can the story of modern historical satyagrahis. I have only singled out the names of those who have died. Three of them were Tamilians and one a Mahomedan from the Bombay Presidency. One of the Tamilians was a beautiful girl called Valliamma, eighteen years old. She was born in South Africa, as were the other two lads whose names I shall presently mention to you. She was sent to jail, she caught typhoid fever and she declined to be released. It was through the typhoid fever that she died while she was in jail. The other two were aged 18 and 17 and they died after their discharge from their prisons. They were all born of indentured parents. They did not receive the liberal education that many of us have. They had only a hazy notion of the story of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.. There were in South Africa no religious teachers to instill into their minds the indomitable deeds of Prahlad. But today they find their names engraved among the heroes and heroines of South Africa. The name of the fourth was Ahmed Mahomed Kachhalia. He was the bravest among the brave. He was one of the truest men I have known. He was a merchant of very substantial means. When this Satyagraha battle was raging in South Africa, he was in the midst of the fight. He was the President of the British Indian Association in the Transvaal. He not only went to jail but he was reduced to the utmost poverty. He sacrificed every earthly possession for the sake of his own honour ever and that of his motherland. He knew the force of Satyagraha. He died only a few months ago mourned by the whole of South Africa. He, too, in the commonly accepted sense of the word, was an illiterate man but he had a fund of common sense which you would not see in ordinary people. And he saw with an unerring instinct that the way to liberty lay not through violence but through self-suffering. I have no doubt that what was possible for Valliamma, Nagappan, Narayansamy and Ahmed Mahomed is possible for every one of you today. I ask you in the name of these modern satyagrahis to follow in their foot-steps sign the Satyagraha Pledge and repeal the legislation. The taking of the Pledge is a sacred act undertaken in the name of the Almighty. Whilst therefore I invite every man and woman to sign the Pledge, I beseech them also to consider it deeply and a number of times before signing it. But if you do decide to sign the Pledge, you will see to it like Valliamma and Ahmed Mahomed to observe it at the sacrifice of your lives. The satyagrahi when he signs the Pledge changes his very nature. He relies solely upon the truth which is another word for love. Before he signs the Pledge, he might get irritated against those who differ from him but not so afterwards. After all, we expect everyone to come over to us as the struggle progresses. We shall succeed in doing so if we are not bitter against them but are perfectly loving and respectful. You will have seen in the papers that I have made three definite suggestions in order to start my campaign. The adoption of my suggestions will also mark the religious character of the movement. The first suggestion is that on the 6th of April, which is a Sunday, we should observe a fast. The second suggestion is that we should all suspend our ordinary business that day. Those who are employed, if they are called upon even to work on Sundays, should cease work after receiving due permission. The two suggestions are of universal application and take in also public servants. The third suggestion is to hold in every hamlet of India public meetings, protesting against the Rowlett legislation and asking the Secretary of State for India to repeal that legislation. All the suggestions are designed by way of self-denial, self-discipline and education. In the fast we expect our women, our servants and everyone to join us. If you accept my humble suggestions, I hope you will carry them out in the spirit in which I have made them. You have kindly refrained from applauding, whistling or making a noisy demonstration while I have been speaking, out of regard for my health. I ask you to transfer that regard to all satyagrahis. If you will not divert your attention by applauding or crying ‘‘Shame, shame!” or “Hear, hear!”, you will concentrate better on the topic before you. You will not also disturb the thought of the person speaking. I would even go so far as to suggest that in all our meetings, whether of satyagrahis or otherwise, there should not be this new-fangled demonstration. But whether you accept my advice as of universal application or no, I hope that you will accept it so far as Satyagraha meetings are concerned. The only weapon before us is to rely upon truth and self-sacrifice. I hope you will always rely upon that and that alone. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me such a patient hearing. And I pray to God that He will give you strength to carry on the mission that we have undertaken.” 9  

Mahatma Gandhi spoke on Capital and Labour and Rowlett Bills, “I must once more ask forgiveness that I cannot speak standing being too weak to do so. I am sorry also that I cannot address you in beautiful Tamil. I am sorry that the majority of you do not know Hindi, to enable me to speak in the national language. I thank you for the beautiful address presented to me this afternoon and my thanks would have been still warmer if your address had been written in Tamil. You may have given me an English or Hindi translation or I would certainly have had the address translated for me. I do hope that when the next occasion arises, no matter who the visitor may be, you will recognize the dignity of your own mother tongue.

 CAPITAL AND LABOUR

 I have come here principally on the invitation of the labourers’ Union. I understand, too, that the majority of this meeting is labourers. The others therefore will forgive me whilst I say a few words specially addressed to the labourers. Practically the whole of my life has been passed among labourers. I know something about labour problems. I hope I fully realize the dignity of labour. I hope, too, that those who are guiding the great labour movement in this important War will enable the labourers to appreciate the dignity of labour. Labourers are not the least important among the citizens of India. Indeed, if we include the peasantry, they form by far the vast majority. It is but a truism when I say that the future of India and for that matter of any country depends more upon the masses than upon the classes. It is therefore necessary that the labourers should recognize their own status in society. And it is necessary also that the classes who are instructors of the masses should recognize their obligations towards the masses. Also, in our own system we see many defects and it is my firm conviction that our system will not allow of the struggle for existence that is going on in the West between labour and capital. In the West, practically capital and labour are at opposite interest sic. Each distrusts the other. It was not so in ancient India and I am glad the leaders of the labour movement here had not introduced the Western form of agitation between capital and labour. They would teach the labourers that they are in no way slaves of capital and they should hold themselves erect. There is only one occasion to be given in asking the labourers sic to understand and recognize that they, after all, are the predominant power and the predominant partners and they should recognize their strength. They should know that labour without capital is entirely useless. They should also know that] large organizations in India would be utterly impossible without adequate capital. They should therefore recognize their obligations to capital. The labourers are going to play an important part in the future. Taking India, it is not enough that they regulate their own [Unions] in a satisfactory manner. They must therefore look beyond the concerns of their Unions. They should understand that they are after all part of the larger wholes. It adds to their dignity when they understand that they are members and citizens of the Empire and if they only do so they will also tend to understand the national activities.

 ROWLETT BILLS Of one such activity, I propose to give a brief description the afternoon. You may know that the Government has just now embarked upon a piece of legislation which I hold and the country holds to be most hurtful to the nation. It is the duty of every one of us whether we belong to the classes, whether we are men or women, to understand this legislation that may be passed by the rulers. I hope therefore that the leaders will go amongst the masses and inform them of what this legislation is. It is but natural and necessary that the hurtful legislation should be removed. We have therefore to so act as to enable us to secure the removal of this legislation. We have held meetings all over India, we have passed resolutions and have appealed to the Viceroy to remove this legislation; but all these appeals have fallen upon deaf ears. Our governors have therefore done a double wrong, in that they are making a piece of harmful legislation and they have flouted public opinion. When people are hurt and become angry and do not believe in God, they take up arms and fight with the wrongdoers. That is the doctrine of violence. As a whole, India has not adopted that doctrine. India has therefore believed in the absolute triumph of hope [sic]. India has believed in God and His righteousness and therefore in our hour of trial we have depended upon God. It is part of our duty to disobey the wrongdoer when he inflicts unjust things upon us, But we must resist them in the manner Prahlad resisted [by suffering] the penalty for disobedience. So should we do in the present instance, with measures contrary to the method of violence? This is called Satyagraha. It is the doctrine of self-suffering in which there is therefore no defeat. Our countrymen in South Africa, where they were labouring, copied these examples with the results you probably know. In that movement all joined hands but the majority was the common people. There were two beautiful boys and one beautiful girl in South Africa who lost their lives for the cause of national honour. You should know their sacred names, which will be remembered from day to day so long as this struggle lasts and even after. The girl’s name is Valliamma; the boys’ names are Nagappan and Narayansamy. They were all about 15 years old and they were drawn from the labouring classes. They did not receive liberal education nor had they read of the deeds of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata Indian blood flowed through their veins. The law of suffering was engraved upon their hearts and I ask everyone present here to copy the example of these two heroes and heroine. If you and I are in suffering, if our properties are taken away from us, no matter, for we preserve our dignity and national honour. You will learn more of this struggle from the leaders here. As this is purely a religious struggle we propose to make a beginning next Sunday week, the 6th day of April. I have suggested that all men, women, labourers and moneyed men and everyone who has Indian blood in him should fast for 24 hours from the last night’s meal. We begin our civil disobedience and it is a purely religious movement. This fast is not a show but a sincere prayer to the Almighty that we may receive proper strength and proper wisdom in going through these struggles. I have also suggested that we should stop all business and work for that day. I hope that our merchant friends will fall in with this plan. If there are any labourers who are called upon to work on Sundays, they will cease work only if they receive permission from their masters. It is not part of civil disobedience that we should disobey our employers’ just orders. We should hold meetings on that day and [reports of the] proceedings should be sent to the Viceroy and the Secretary of State to remove this objectionable legislation. It will not be an idle prayer but it is by the force of Satyagraha and I assure you that if many of us approach this struggle in a proper and becoming spirit, we can have the legislation destroyed in a short space of time.

CONCLUSION I thank you sincerely for inviting me to Nagapatam. I thank you also for giving me a patient hearing. I cannot find sufficient words to describe the great affection that has been showered upon me throughout the Madras Presidency. I learnt in South Africa to have boundless faith in the Indians. More than any other part of India, you have preserved the national traditions in a superior manner. You have preserved most decidedly the outward form. You have also great faith in divinity. When I look at you, my mind reminds me of our great rishis. I am sure they could not have lived simpler lives, but one thing is simple [sic]. You have to infuse into the form, that you have so beautifully preserved, the spirit of the rishis. Then you will be a power in the land and you will preserve the dignity of the nation and realize her future destiny. I hope that God will give you sufficient strength for this.” 10 

Mahatma Gandhi gave a message to countrymen, “It is a matter of the highest satisfaction to me, as I hope to you, that I have received an order from the Punjab Government not to enter that province and another from the Delhi Government not to enter Delhi, while an order of the Government of India, served on me immediately after, restricts me to Bombay. I had no hesitation in saying to the officer who served the order on me that I was bound in virtue of my Pledge to disregard it which I have done and I shall presently find myself a free man, my body being taken by them into their custody. It was galling to me to remain free whilst the Rowlett legislation disfigured the Statute-book. My arrest makes me free. It now remains for you to do your duty which is clearly stated in the Satyagraha Pledge. Follow it and you will find it will be your Kamadhenus. I hope there will be no resentment about my arrest. I have received what I was seeking, either withdrawal of the Rowlett legislation or imprisonment. The departure from truth by a hair’s breadth or violence committed against anybody, whether Englishman or Indian, will surely damn the great cause the satyagrahis are handling. I hope the Hindu-Muslim unity, which seems now to have taken a firm hold of the people, will become a reality and I feel convinced that it will only be a reality if the suggestions I have ventured to make in my communication to the Press are carried out. The responsibility of the Hindus in the matter is greater than that of the Mahomedans, they being in the minority, and I hope they will discharge their responsibility in a manner worthy of their country. I have also made certain suggestions regarding the proposed swadeshi vow. Now, I commend them to your serious attention and you will find that, as your ideas of Satyagraha become matured, Hindu-Muslim unity becomes part of Satyagraha. Finally, it is my firm belief that we shall obtain salvation only through suffering and not by reforms dropping on us from England, no matter how unstintingly they might be granted. The English are a great nation, but the weaker also go to the wall if they come in contact with them. When they are themselves courageous, they have borne untold sufferings, and they only respond to courage and suffering, and partnership with them is only possible after we have developed in-Council, is pleased hereby to direct that the said Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi shall forthwith return to Bombay and, until further orders, reside within the limits of the Bombay Presidency By order of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, Ashghar Ali, Additional Secretary” indomitable courage and a faculty for unlimited suffering. There is a fundamental difference between their civilization and ours. They believe in the doctrine of violence or brute force as the final arbiter. My reading of our civilization is that we are expected to believe in soul-force or moral force as the final arbiter and this is Satyagraha. We are groaning under the sufferings which we would avoid if we could, because we have swerved from the path laid down for us by our ancient civilization. I hope that Hindus, Mahomedans, Sikhs, Parsees, Christians, Jews and all who are born in India or who have made India their land of adoption will fully participate in these national observances and I hope, too, that women will take therein as full a share as men.” 11

Mahatma Gandhi gave a statement on suspension of civil disobedience, “It is not without sorrow that I feel compelled to advise the temporary suspension of civil disobedience. I give this advice not because I have less faith now in its efficacy, but because I have, if possible, greater faith than before. It is my perception of the law of Satyagraha which impels me to suggest the suspension. I am sorry, when I embarked upon a mass movement, I underrated the forces of evil and I must now pause and consider how best to meet the situation. But whilst doing so, I wish to say that from a careful examination of the tragedy at Ahmadabad and Viramgam, I am convinced that satyagraha had nothing to do with the violence of the mob and that many swarmed round the banner of mischief raised by the mob, largely because of their affection for Anasuyabai and myself. Had the Government in an unwise manner not prevented me from entering Delhi and so compelled me to disobey their order, I feel certain that Ahmadabad and Viramgam would have remained free from the horrors of the past week. In other words, Satyagraha has neither been the cause nor the occasion of the upheaval. If anything, the presence of Satyagraha has acted as a check even so slight upon the previously existing lawless elements. As regards events in the Punjab, it is admitted that they are unconnected with the Satyagraha movement.

SOUTH AFRICAN PARALLEL In the course of the Satyagraha struggle in South Africa, several thousands of indentured Indians had struck work. This was a Satyagraha strike and therefore entirely peaceful and voluntary. Whilst the strike was going on, a strike of European miners, railway employees, etc., was declared. Overtures were made to me to make common cause with the European strikers. As a satyagrahi, I did not require a moment’s consideration to decline to do so. I went further and for fear of our strike being classed with the strike of Europeans in which methods of violence and use of arms found a prominent place, ours was suspended and satyagraha from that moment came to be recognized by the Europeans of South Africa as an honourable and honest movement in the words of General Smuts, a constitutional movement. I can do no less at the present critical moment. I would be untrue to Satyagraha, if I allowed it by any action of mine to be used as an occasion for feeding violence for embittering relations between the English and the Indians. Our Satyagraha must therefore now consist in ceaselessly helping the authorities in all the ways available to us as satyagrahis to restore order and to curb lawlessness. We can turn the tragedies going on before us to good account if we could but succeed in gaining the adherence of the masses to the fundamental principles of Satyagraha. Satyagraha is like a banyan tree with innumerable branches. Civil disobedience is one such branch, satya (truth) and ahimsa (non-violence) together makes the parent trunk from which all innumerable branches shoot out. We have found by bitter experience that whilst in an atmosphere of lawlessness, civil disobedience found ready acceptance. Satya and ahimsa, from which alone civil disobedience can worthily spring, have commanded little or no respect. Ours then is a Herculean task, but we may not shirk it. We must fearlessly spread the doctrine of satya and ahimsa and then, and not till then, shall we be able to undertake mass Satyagraha.

ROWLETT LAWS My attitude towards the Rowlett legislation remains unchanged. Indeed, I do feel that the Rowlett legislation is one of the many causes of the present unrest. But in a surcharged atmosphere, I must refrain from examining these causes. The main and only purpose of this letter is to advise all satyagrahis to temporarily suspend civil disobedience, to give Government effective co-operation in restoring order and by preaching and practice to gain adherence to the fundamental principles mentioned above.” 12

 

Reference:

 

  1. The Hindu, 4-3-1918
  2. The Hindu, 26-2-1918
  3. The Hindu, 1-4-1918
  4. The Hindu, 21-3-1919  
  5. The Hindu, 24-3-1919
  6. The Hindu, 26-3-1919
  7. The Hindu, 27-3-1919
  8. The Hindu, 29-3-1919
  9. The Hindu, 2-4-1919
  10. The Hindu, 3-4-1919
  11. The Hindu, 10-4-1919
  12. The Hindu, 21-4-1919

 

 

 

 

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