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
Mail Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur-208020, U.P.
The Hindu and Mahatma Gandhi, Part-VI
Mahatma Gandhi gave interview, “[REPRESENTATIVE:] You look upon the propaganda of boycott of foreign cloth as the constructive side of non-co-operation though it involves the destruction of the existing stock of foreign cloth?
[GANDHIJI:] I look upon swadeshi as the constructive side of non-co-operation, as I expect it to lead to the manufacture of all the cloth needed by the nation by means of hand-spinning and hand weaving. Do you think, Mr. Gandhi, it is possible in view of the existing conditions of the country to produce sufficient to meet all the needs of the people? Certainly, even as it is possible for us to cook our daily supply of food, if the manufacture of cloth be our hands as it was only two or three hundred years ago. Have not the conditions altered materially with the introduction of machinery, apart from other causes? No disturbance has been really created by machinery, such as that it cannot be corrected. It is a mental state which has got to be put right. It is not as though hands, nor is it as if all the hours that the nation devoted to manufacturing cloth and spinning yarn, are now utilized to any other or better purpose. The hours are there unutilized and the hands as well. You believe that the concentration of manufacture under the factory system could equally and effectively be carried out for the purpose of meeting the needs of the nation by hand-spinning on an extensive scale in the homes and cottages of the people? Certainly In other words you think it is only a question of extensive manufacture through the agency of hand-spinning and hand-weaving in rural areas in the country rather than intensive manufacture under the factory system? Most certainly so. Do you think that all our modern requirements could be adequately and effectively answered without the use of machinery? Modern requirements as far as cloth is concerned, yes, they can be; but during the transition stage the nation will have to do with a limited supply till the beautiful fabric of India is revived. But how is it necessary, Mr. Gandhi, to destroy the existing stock in use of foreign cloth in this country to achieve this end? Because the nation has to realize the crime that it has committed in abandoning its home industries and taking to foreign cloth, it is a necessary penance in order to demonstrate a change of heart. Penance, Mr. Gandhi, presupposes a sincere feeling for the abandonment of the practice or ideal of the people? Certainly do you think that the people of this country have actively helped in the destruction of indigenous industries or do you not agree that in any system of competition between manual labour and machinery, indigenous industries are bound to go to the wall? Although under diabolical pressure, nevertheless people deliberately sacrificed their own national industries when there was no question of competition. I don’t quite follow you, Mr. Gandhi. It is historically true that when we gave up our home industries there was no competition between the handloom and the machinery. But I thought that people had not voluntarily given up their industries, but found themselves unable to cope with the competition of machine-made goods imported into this country? My point is that owing to the political advantages which the East India Company had obtained they were in a position to force upon the people machine-made goods. But were not these machine-made goods at the same time cheaper than indigenous products? Never. Over and over again the people of the country were terrorized into giving up their occupation of cloth manufacture. By such means as for instance the cutting of their own thumbs by the weavers themselves when their labour was impressed. But could it have gone on such a scale as to effectively kill indigenous industries? Certainly, the continuance of the process over a certain length of time was bound to have that effect unless people treated those home manufactures as a part of their religion. Do you consider the political conditions now favourable in your opinion for a revival Of indigenous industries, which you contend had been killed by the East India Company? I consider the conditions very favourable because people realize that if hand-spinning and hand-weaving are not revived now, there is nothing but deeper and deeper starvation day after day staring the nation in the face. It is part of your programme, then, to enforce this lesson on the masses? Yes. It is being done on a very vast scale. At the same time if the factory system and machine-made goods coming to India are continued, do you expect any very large success for the movement even though people, out of considerations of patriotism and economy, agree to devote their attention to hand-spinning ? Your question supplies the answer. If people resort to these things from patriotic and economic motives then it can be done. But does your study of our people and their present condition encourage you to think that patriotic considerations will prove such a powerful factor as to give a strong impetus to indigenous manufactures on a large scale, unaided by the State?. Yes, certainly. That is why I say that hand-spinning and hand weaving accepted by the people on a universal scale ought to lead automatically to swaraj. But internal disturbances of the kind in Malabar, you will agree, Mr. Gandhi, are a powerful set-back to the movement of non-violent non-co-operation? My answer is yes. Do you not also agree, Mr. Gandhi that your movement has a great deal to do with this outbreak in Malabar? All the information that I have collected, and which I have no reason to doubt, points to the fact that violence broke out in those parts which were least touched by the activities of non-co-operators and my information goes further that non-co-operators were deliberately prevented from entering those disturbed parts. Notwithstanding protests from respectable leaders not in your camp against the evil consequences of non co-operation on a large scale, you still think that it is the only means, if not the chief means for a people situated like India to attain swaraj? It is the only means; in no other way, can India attain swaraj for a century. So long as there are large masses of people who do not come under your influence directly but who read of non-co-operation in the Press and hear on platforms, do you not think that the movement is calculated to create ill-feeling against those in authority without giving them suggestions as regards ways and means to remedy the state of affairs which they are made to believe is attributable to the existing Government? That question assumes that nobody does really preach about non-violence. But I think you will agree, if I am not flattering you, that it wants Mr. Gandhi in every quarter where there is trouble of one kind or other believed to be consequent on the spread of the doctrine of non-co-operation? I cannot flatter myself that it required my personal presence everywhere to bring about a tranquil atmosphere because I know there are many who have been able to bring about and retain that atmosphere. I do believe that if the Government had allowed Mr. Yakub Hassan to go to Malabar what had happened there afterwards would have been prevented and I am positive that the Government, instead of giving a change of air to Mahomed Ali at Walt air, had invited him to Malabar, he would have brought about perfect peace and many lives would have been saved and many Hindu households would have been left undisturbed by the Moplahs fanatics. But what do you think will be the effect on your movement of the arrest of Mr. Mahomed Ali? Will it conduce to make the Mohammedan section among your followers violent? I hope not, and I believe that if India remains non-violent and yet firm, I know swaraj is within sight. Seeing that Government does not want to consult public opinion, the only alternative left open to Government is to kill out those who represent that opinion at least temporarily. Is that what you say they are doing? I have no doubt about it in my mind. But so long as there are these big “IFs” underlying your ideal you will not save people for fearing that, despite the best of goodwill in the world on your part, there may be occasions for violence, when they have not your philosophic temperament or strong will to keep them under control ? There always is the danger and no reformer has yet been able to carry out his reform without large risks. So long as there are such large risks, do you think Government is not justified in fearing such measures as ill their wisdom they think necessary? Government cannot possibly be justified seeing that the Government is opposing the just aspirations of the people. But is that not a matter on which there is large difference of opinion among Indians themselves? My answer is that there is no difference of opinion as to the demands of people about the Khilafat and the Punjab. I mention this because Government could not have imprisoned Maulana Mahomed Ali if the Government had any intention of satisfying Khilafat demands. Notwithstanding the Malabar outrages, you do not despair of Hindu-Muslim unity? I don’t despair for the simple reason that no sane Muslim approves of what a few Moplahs have done. It is too much to expect when you have to deal with masses of mankind that there will be no wrong done by any single individual. That is the very thing that is being urged against your non-co-operation? Yes, but has the Government erased the word “risks” out of their vocabulary?” 1
Mahatma Gandhi spoke at Madras, “A monster meeting was held last evening at 5.30 at the Beach, opposite the Presidency College to hear Mahatma Gandhi on “Swadeshi”. On the motion of Mr. S. Kasturiranga Aiyangar, Mr. Yakub Hassan was voted to the Chair. . Mahatma Gandhi, who on rising was received with an enthusiastic ovation, addressed the audience in clear and ringing tones for over an hour and was heard with great attention. The speech was in English and was translated sentence by sentence by Mr. A. Ramaswami Aiyangar first and then by Mr. S. Satyamurti. Mahatmaji said: As usual I have to offer my apologies to you for my physical inability to speak to you standing. I would like all the audience that is at the back to preserve complete silence if they want to follow my remarks. I would ask the whole of the audience also neither to give applause nor to cry out “shame”, “shame”. If you are in earnest about fulfilling the programme set before the country by the National Congress held in September at Nagpur, believe me, you will not be able to do so either by applause or by “shame”, “shame”. It is necessary for us to become far more serious and business-like than we have hitherto been. We have only a few months in order to fulfil our programme and to establish swaraj. We have far too little time, humanly speaking, in order to obtain redress of the Khilafat and the Punjab wrongs. Happily I see signs about me every day that God is with us. And I know —I have no doubt you also know—that God can make us succeed even if we may seem, humanly speaking again, to be the weakest. I verily believe that this arrest at Walt air of Maulana Mahomed Ali has come to us as godsend. God only knows how he tried, his brother tried and I tried to keep them out of jail by every honest, legitimate means worthy of non-co-operators. All that a brave man can do, Mahomed Ali did in order to keep himself on the straight and narrow path; and the burden rests upon the shoulders of the Viceroy to show what new situation has developed to justify the arrest of Maulana Mahomed Ali when he was on a mission of peace and goodwill. Ever since that celebrated and much discussed statement signed by the Brothers, Maulana Mahomed Ali has been more or less with me. I am here to testify to the whole of this audience and through this audience to the whole of India that I have not found Maulana Mahomed Ali to depart by a hair’s breadth from the promise that he made to India in the name of God that he will not incite to violence. I assure you that in private and in public, in season and out of season, Maulana Mahomed Ali has emphasized the necessity for observance of complete non-violence by the people of India. He has been telling everyone who has met him and he has been assuring all the audience, numerous as they were that the only condition indispensable condition—of success whether for swaraj or for the Khilafat wrong or for the Punjab wrong was the complete retention of non-violent spirit by the people of India. But the Ali Brothers arc no cowards. And if anybody dreamt or thought that the statement meant a change in their attitude or a change in their language, they were mistaken. I have not had the privilege of meeting two braver and truer souls. I assure you that both the Brothers are transparently sincere. But I admit they are capable of and are fond of using strong language and calling a spade a spade. They as brave men and as strong men have endeavoured and were able to pour a little bit of their own bravery and strength into their audience. But in their own incomparable manner they have also disciplined themselves to the best of their ability with the strength and bravery that they infected their followers with. It is my conviction that no two Mussulmans have tried more than they have to retain a non-violent atmosphere throughout the length and breadth of India; and the Government need not, therefore, be surprised if I charge them with having imprisoned or attempted to imprison the Khilafat with the imprisonment of Maulana Mahomed Ali. It was open to the Government, powerful as that Government is, to invite the Ali Brothers and me to enter the disturbed area and give us an opportunity to procure calmness and peace in that disturbed land. I am sure that much innocent blood would have been spared. I am sure that the desolation of many a Hindu household would have also been spared. But I must be forgiven if again I charge the Government with a desire to incite the populace to violence. They have no room in this system of government under which we are governed, for strong, brave and true men. The only place they have for such men is their prison. My heart goes out to those men who have been so much afflicted in Malabar. I am aware that our Moplahs brethren, undisciplined as they have been all these long long years, have gone mad. I am aware that they have committed a sin against the Khilafat and against their own country. The whole of India to-day is under an obligation to remain non-violent even under the gravest provocation. The desolation of the Hindu households shows clearly to me that the message, the healing message, of non-violent non-cooperation had not penetrated Moplahs households in that area. And I have evidence which I have no reason to doubt, that those parts in which our Moplahs countrymen went mad were not touched by the spirit of non-co-operation. I am aware that non-co-operators were deliberately prevented from going to those parts by the authorities. But I hope that my Hindu countrymen will keep their senses. Even assuming, as I am not prepared to assume, that all the stories that have come to us through Government circles of forced conversions are true, you, the Hindu part of this audience, will believe with me that that ought not to put such a strain upon our loyalty to the creed of Hindu Muslim unity as to break it. We must not expect all of a sudden every Hindu and every Mussulman to become absolutely faithful to this creed. It do not know a single sensible Mussulman who approves either secretly or openly of these forcible conversions, nor need we Hindus disturbed about the future of these brethren of ours. My reading of our shastras convinces me that a man who is forced to do anything against his will needs no prayaschittam. Our friend Mr. Yakub Hassan has told the Tamil land that these men who are supposed to have been forcibly converted are inadmissible in the faith of Islam. As a devout Hindu knowing what he is speaking, I assure you that not one of those Hindus has forfeited his right to remain in the Hindu fold. I understand that the Government is placing every obstacle in the way of the Congress and the Khilafat workers taking relief to those desolate homes and I am told that at the same time the Government itself is taking no pains to provide relief to these poor people who are supposed to be starving. Whether they give us permission or do not, I have no doubt that it is our clear duty to collect as much funds as we can for the relief of these sufferers and see to it that they get what they require. The Congress Committee has already voted a certain sum of money and I know that the Khilafat Committee also is endeavouring to vote a certain sum of money for the relief of these sufferers. But I suggest to the Mussulman countrymen in the Madras Presidency that it will be a graceful act on their part if they were to collect even pies from every home for the relief of their Hindu brethren. I know today that this Presidency is perhaps the most afflicted throughout India. We do not yet know fully what measures the Government are taking in order to repress the strong and the rising forces of the people in this land. I have no reason to disbelieve the testimony that has been given to me this morning that many young men quartered in Malabar have been insulted because they have had the audacity to wear khaddar caps and khaddar vests. I understand that these keepers of the peace in India have torn the pure vests of khaddar and burnt them to ashes. I understand the authorities in Malabar have invented new methods of humiliation, if they have not gone one better than the authorities in the Punjab. The “Reform” ministers have shown their teeth in the Andhra country. They have imposed upon an unwilling populace a municipality. In the teeth of universal opposition in another part of the Andhra country, they have been endeavouring forcibly to collect grazing tax. And I understand that under a fatwa from these ministers innocent cows have been torn from their calves and consigned to the pounds, where they have not even grass and water to eat and drink. What are we to do in the face of these repressive measures, not only at the hands of English administrators, but also at the hands of the so-called responsible ministers? Are we to answer to these repressions with violence? The result in that case, we know, is certain. We know that the result of any violence done by the people who are under an oath not to do violence, is certain destruction. If you want to secure the release of Maulana Mahomed Ali, if you want to secure the release of those innocent cows, if you want to avoid the repetition of the humiliations that are being imposed upon our countrymen in Malabar, in the name of law, order and peace, if you want to resist the pressure that is being put upon our gallant countrymen in Chirala and Perala, the only remedy before you is complete observance of nonviolence. The self-respect of the nation demands that the only way to secure the release of Maulana Mahomed Ali and all those who may be unlawfully imprisoned by this Government is to establish swaraj and for the first parliament of swaraj to pass the first measure of discharge of these innocent prisoners with becoming honours. We must ask for no quarter from this Government; and we must expect none. We must challenge the Government to do its worst and before it yields to the expressed will of a determined people, we must expect that Government to take up the challenge and answer it in the only manner in which a tyrannical and insolent Government can answer. But I want you to turn the searchlight inward. What shall we do then to attain swaraj during this very year? I can present my countrymen with no other programme but the well-tried programme of non-violence, Hindu-Muslim unity and swadeshi. Our non-violence and our attachment to Hindu-Muslim unity must be expressed through swadeshi. It grieves me to find, therefore, in this audience so very few people expressing the swadeshi spirit on their own persons; and when I see Begum Mahomed Ali Sahiba and when I see my sisters in front of me, my heart breaks. Begum Sahiba is as gently brought up as those sisters of mine. But she is not ashamed; on the contrary, she takes pride in wearing heavy khaddar. And if you, my dear sisters, have followed the trend of my remarks, I hope that you will change your heart tomorrow, and throw away your foreign silks and foreign fineries and dress yourselves in pure holy khaddar. When I think of Maulana Mahomed Ali and still more of his bigger and bulkier brother, Maulana Shaukat Ali, all dressed and drenched in their khaddar costumes, and when I cast my glance over this vast audience, my heart breaks again. You cannot get swaraj with a spirit such as is exhibited here. The country expects you to give up your foreign and fine clothing, your caps made of foreign cloth and your dhotis made out of the fine foreign yarn. The country expects every man, woman and child to spin away for all the time that he or she can find at his or her disposal. Not until the message, the peaceful and sacred message of the spinning-wheel has penetrated almost every home of India is swaraj attainable by non-violent methods. At this stage an interval of ten minutes was allowed for Mohammedans to offer their evening prayer. Meanwhile silence was strictly observed at the meeting. After the namaz Mahatmaji, continuing, said: The spinning-wheel to me is a sign of our reviving prosperity and a significance of self-confidence. The spinning-wheel is a sure test of our assimilation of the spirit of non-violence. The spinning wheel is the common bond that will tie not only Mussulmans and Hindus but all the other people professing other religions and who is domiciled in India. The spinning-wheel is the symbol of the chastity of the womanhood of India. In the absence of the spinning-wheel I give you my testimony that thousands of our poor sisters are giving themselves to a life of shame and degradation. The spinning-wheel is the widow’s companion. And it was the spinning-wheel which supplemented the slender resources of the millions of the peasantry of India. It is the spinning-wheel which has purified many a man before now; and the universal adoption of the spinning-wheel in our homes means to me a complete demonstration of the fact that we have ceased to consider that the head is the only thing we need care for. The spinning-wheel is therefore a demonstration to me that those who spin the wheel realize the supreme dignity of labour. The spinning-wheel is the solace of the untouchable whom we have hitherto so sinfully despised. The spinning-wheelie the honourable substitute that can be presented to our fallen sisters throughout the length and breadth of our land, and it is only when the spinning-wheel has found a sure and established footing in our homes that it is possible for India to embark upon mass civil disobedience. Not whilst our blood is hot with rage, not whilst we are in a state of excitement can disobedience be proclaimed in the land which can, by any stretch of imagination, be called civil. If we want to spread throughout the length and breadth of India the spirit of non-violence in order that we can work out our salvation during the year, there is no other weapon but the spinning-wheel which can purify us. It is neither the mills of Bombay nor the mills of Ahmadabad which should clothe you, but you should have ability and you should have self-respect enough to insist upon clothing yourselves by your own sacred hands. But I hope no one in this audience will use my remarks as a cover for his weakness and for his continuing in the foreign dress in which I see the audience. On the contrary, if you feel as I do that we are in honour bound to fulfil our sacred resolution come to during last December, you will see to it that you go about the streets of Madras with only a langoti on you until you have clothed yourselves by the sweat of your brow. The Ali Brothers want no hartal from you. They want no demonstrations by means of mass meetings from you. But they want from you an expression of your fixed determination of valour, of courage, of fearlessness, of truthfulness and of non-violence. They certainly expect the school boys who have flocked to their audience to respond, if they have any shred of feeling and regard for them, to cease to go to the schools of the Government whose system they are resolved upon destroying. They expect weak title-holders, weak councillors, weak lawyers who believe in the message of non-cooperation and yet have not the courage to give up what they have. They expect all these classes now to respond and respond in a brave manner. But whether these select classes recognize their duty or not or whether, recognizing their duty, they can rise to the occasion or not, there is no reason for anyone of us here to reject the message of swadeshi. We want swaraj not merely for classes but we want it for masses including the untouchables and the weakest men and women in the land. Ours, thank God, is an army in which men, women and children, the leper and the diseased, all have the same honourable place side by side with the privileged. For, do we not claim and do we not say from a thousand platforms that the present Government is a kingdom of Satan and do we not claim that we seek to substitute the kingdom of Satan by the kingdom of God? And has not the lowest of us an equal place with the highest in the kingdom of God? I have so often said on this sacred Beach, in the presence of the rolling waves and in the name of God, that I have an abiding belief in the religious instincts of the Tamilians and the Telugu people with whom I have had the privilege of eating, drinking, sleeping and suffering in South Africa. I am hoping and praying that the future historian will not have to testify that, whereas the people of Dravida land talked of the name of the kingdom of God with their lips, they were following the ways of the kingdom of Satan. Let us not justify the charge levelled against us by our opponents, that under cover of non-violence and truth we are violent and untruthful on many an occasion. Swaraj as Tilak Maharaj has said, is our sacred birthright, Khilafat is a sacred treasure with our Mussulman countrymen; redress of the Punjab wrongs is a sacred trust. Let us not betray our birthright, our religion and our trust by proving false to a creed to which we subscribed twice over last year. We have set before ourselves a standard and we must abide by that standard and prove true to it. Let us not, by proving untrue to our creed, deserve the curse of our future generation. The next few months must be to us times of turmoil, troubles, imprisonments and many other things. The entire world over darkness is the deepest before dawn and I want you with the eye of faith to see the rays of dawn coming out through this deep darkness that has overshadowed the land. And I ask the men and women of this great Presidency to discharge their trust in such an honourable manner that the future generations may be able to say that the Madras Presidency was in no way behind other presidencies in doing its duty. I pray to God that He may give all strength and courage and a fixed purpose to enable us to reach our goal. You will give Begum Sahiba, who will speak to you a few words, a most respectful and attentive hearing. She will be followed by Maulana Azad Sobhani, and he is a great Muslim divine. When non-co- operation was finally decided upon by the Central Khilafat Committee long before September last, he was the representative chosen by the Central Khilafat Committee to expound the doctrine of the Khilafat. I am therefore sure that you will give him the same patient hearing that you have been kind enough to give me. Finally, I would urge you to remain undemonstrative not only at this meeting but at all of our meetings. Non-violent discipline demands that we do not unnecessarily heat our blood by useless demonstration, noise or signs. I say this from my wide experience that it is not possible to observe always peace when all people are talking and making noises even though they may be of affection. In spite of our knowledge of what our opponents are doing, of what our countrymen who are opposing us are doing, I would urge you to observe a respectful and forbearing attitude even towards them. Gentleness and love, I assure you, will win us many an opponent who has hitherto given us battle. As we progress, we will have many an occasion to be incensed by writings, speeches and acts of our opponents. I would urge you not to return their evil, if we believe it to be evil, with our evil. They are bound by no creed of non-violence as you and I are and we need not be surprised nor angry for anything that they may do. Let us take care of ourselves and the future is assured. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the great attention that you have paid to the remarks that I have made before you.” 2
Mahatma Gandhi spoke at women’s meeting, “Under the auspices of the Sarvajanik Mitra Mandal, Mahatma Gandhi addressed a ladies meeting in Soundarya Mahal at 4.45 p.m. on Friday last.... Mahatmaji . . . addressed the meeting in Gujarati . . . and impressed upon the audience the desirability and necessity of using swadeshi clothes. He felt sorry to see that the ladies present were all dressed in foreign clothes. He said that if they were offered rotis prepared in Japan and England they will unhesitatingly refuse to consume them however delicious they may be. In the same way they must make it a religious point not to use foreign clothes and fineries at all because they are the source of the national degradation. He advised the ladies to burn their foreign clothes and to make resolute determination to use only the hand-woven swadeshi clothes which must be prepared by their own hands. He then dwelt upon the utility of the charkha and said that it is the life-support of a widow, a companion of any forlorn woman and now it must be a dear friend of every self-respecting Indian lady. Charkha is a mechanism which does not require any great strength or skill to use it. Even a poor weak boy can work at it. Introducing Mrs. Mahomed Ali, Gandhiji said, that the ladies should follow the example of Begum Sahiba. Her husband has been recently arrested by the Government but she did not show the least sign of fear or nervousness. She is dressed in khaddar although she has to wear heavier clothes than any of you will have to do. He said that the ladies have a fancy for fineries but they must always bear in mind that beauty does not lie in anything outward. If a woman is good and dutiful she is beautiful, otherwise she is ugly. Exhorting the audience Gandhiji said that if they have any sense of self-respect and if they want to keep honour of their children and the nation at large, then they must give up their liking for pomp and show and lead a simple, rigorous life. Sitaji, when she was a captive in the Ashokavatika was offered all sorts of fine things by Ravana but she indignantly refused to use any of them, she preferred to live on fruits and cover her body with the bark of the trees. So, as long as India is in the chains of slavery and dharma raj is not established, every man and woman of India must look down upon the foreign clothes as something really untouchable. In the end he advised the northern ladies to mix freely with their Madrasi sisters and said that they must bring up their children properly. They must infuse bravery, courage in them.” 3
Mahatma Gandhi spoke at piece-goods merchants’ meeting, “An important general body meeting of the Madras Piece-Goods merchants’ Association was held last evening in the Association premises to discuss the question of boycott of foreign cloth with Mahatma Gandhi. The meeting was largely attended by the members of the Association. Maulana Azad Sobhani, Messrs Yakub Hassan, C. Rajagopalachari and T. S. S. Rajan were also present at the meeting. The speeches were in English and were translated by Mr. C. Rajagopalachari. Mr. Ramjee Kalyanjee on behalf of the Association welcomed Mahatmaji. Mahatma Gandhi in reply said: GENTLEMEN, It gives me the greatest pleasure really to meet you here this afternoon. It has been my good fortune to enjoy the sweetest of relations with the piece-goods merchants. As you know I had several meetings with them in Bombay and in Calcutta, and throughout my travels in the different parts of India I have taken good care to see the merchant community. You will be glad to learn from me that in all these places they have been in full sympathy, as they ought to have been with this great swadeshi movement, and you will be glad to learn also that with the exception of Calcutta the merchants by a very large majority have agreed to stop importing any further foreign cloth. The Calcutta merchants, I know, have found some difficulties. They suggested that they would stop imports only up to 31st December and should reserve to themselves the liberty for exchanging and selling foreign yarns amongst them with their existing stocks. I was unable to accept that proposition, because I felt that was nothing but camouflage. And I would have been an unwilling instrument for entering into secret bargains. In a movement of this character which we claim to be pure and religious, there is really no room for secrecy or for under-hand dealings. It is much better that those who cannot see their way to stop importing foreign cloth should say so frankly and openly and continue their trade than that they should say one thing in the public and do quite the opposite in private. But of course I sympathize with our Calcutta merchant friends, in that they are the largest importers of foreign cloth throughout India. But you will be glad to hear that even they are now taking a more patriotic attitude than they have taken hitherto. Mr. Jamnalalji who specially remained in Calcutta in order to carry on negotiations with those big houses telegraphed to me today saying that several of them had now shown reasonableness and national interest in the subject. So you see that the whole of India really is rallying to the swadeshi flag. And therefore I was delighted to find assurances of your sympathy with this movement; and if you can only abide by the undertaking you have given in your statement, viz., that you will not import hereafter foreign cloth, it will largely answer the purpose which we want to fulfil. I know that we have throughout India today, probably 40 crores worth of piece-goods for sale. I do not see much difficulty in 40 crores worth of foreign cloth even disappearing in India amongst the multitude. But I must totally dissent from the view that the stock that you have at present is not capable of being sent out of India altogether. As you know there is a large quantity of piece-goods imported into India for re-export. I know that there are certain styles which are not salable with any degree of profit outside India. But surely there is still a large quantity of stock which is just as salable outside India as inside it. And I would ask you to tax yourselves and see whether you cannot get rid of some at least of your foreign stock outside India. I see, for instance, no difficulty whatsoever in sending out of India all the foreign yarn that you might have. But if you will take with me a broad and national view of our own position I have still one more suggestion to make. But I know that before you can realize the suggestion by execution you must also have the same faith that I have. If all the merchants throughout India were to be true to the country and were to give their best energies and their splendid ability to the attainment of swaraj . . . if you share the belief with me that swaraj is attainable during the very year, and if you intend upon working it up then, like sensible men that you are, you may even hold your stock in reserve to be disposed of by the State through its first parliament; any such decision on your part cannot but redound to your credit and cannot but be a credit to the country immensely. But I know that this is a counsel of perfection. At the same time other countries have in action transformed many more things. I know what happened in South Africa when the Great War with the English was going on. The South African Dutch are a brave and a god-fearing people; and having an immutable faith in the destiny of their own country, they counted no cost to be too heavy to pay in order to retain their country’s freedom. But as I say, if you cannot have patience and if you have not the faith that we can attain swaraj during this very year, then, as I say, you will cease to import any foreign cloth either directly or indirectly and cease to enter into bargains amongst yourselves. That would entirely satisfy the present requirements. I want to put before you a few mathematical problems. Today our importers are really nothing more than commission agents. You get perhaps Rs. 5 out of every hundred rupees worth of cloth. But Rs. 95 entirely goes out to your principals. Now, imagine that you are the manufacturers of the cloth that we need in India itself. Then the whole of the hundred rupees would remain in India; and see that we shall still want almost all the cloth that we have been hitherto importing from outside. Who is going to trade with 60 crores of rupees per year? I need not tell you that you are the people. You are strong. You know the value of figures. You know your own country’s need. Then is it any impossible proposition that I place before you when I suggest that you should take charge of the whole of the swadeshi movement? Does it require any very extraordinary bravery on your part to dot the country with your own agents or gamesters? You will simply spread charkhas and handlooms, taking and collecting yarn from all those thousands and thousands of India, stocking, selling and converting the yarn into cloth for India. It is really your privilege and your duty to organize hand-spinning and hand-weaving throughout the length and breadth of the land. I would therefore ask you, not to feel despondent altogether as to the future of the country, and what the future of the imports of India will be when foreign cloth is entirely boycotted. I assure you that the future of India under swaraj is the brightest possible. I have no shadow of doubt that in a very short time many people in India would be laughing at themselves that they did not see the beauty of such a simple thing and that it had not occurred long ago that they should be undertaking this business. I would like you to cross-examine me even as your friends in Bombay, Calcutta and elsewhere have done. Nothing tends to elucidate difficulties more than hearty discussions. I thank you for gathering here and inviting us to address you this afternoon. Afterwards a general discussion ensued . . . Mahatma Gandhi in replying to each of the merchants agreed that the initiative should come from the consumers and said that there was not the slightest suggestion in his remarks that they should repudiate the contracts made, and, as it was incumbent upon them in the cause of the motherland to co-operate with the whole of India in making the swadeshi programme a success, wished they should cease to give any further orders. If they were able to alter the taste of the people as he expected they would surely be, the people would certainly go to them; and nobody had got a greater opportunity of doing substantial propaganda work than they, the piece-goods merchants had. He deprecated the credit system obtaining among the merchants as fatal to their commerce and commercial morality, and it should therefore never be regarded an impassable barrier to undertaking to stop future orders. Swaraj was sure to come and with it new economic laws would come to prevail. With regard to the suggestion that boycott should be gradual, Mahatmaji said that they had sufficient notice of it as early as one year back and an honest merchant would never find cause to complain of financial difficulties, consequent on the giving up of the credit system. This, Mahatmaji illustrated by referring to the case of Mr. Mohamed Kachhalia in South Africa who originally carried on business on credit on a large scale and when his European customers out of political motives pressed him to clear off their dues, he boldly sold away all his property and paid his creditors to the last pie and then started business with no credit and rose to such a prosperous condition that those very European merchants were tempted to offer him their goods on credit again. That was an example which they would do well to follow and a braver merchant they could not find. Personal difficulties, no doubt he appreciated, but swaraj meant sacrifice, and even a merchant was called upon to take an unselfish view of his calling. Now that Deepavali was approaching they should not pin their faith to any combinations of colours and fancies in cloth and they would find that the people had altered their faith so that Deepavali would mean greater self-denial and greater sacrifice.” 4
Mahatma Gandhi spoke at laboures, “I was not able to be here punctually at 6.30. I have been talking to our merchant friends and they occupied me longer than I thought I would have to be. I well remember the scene that presented itself to me last time when I had the pleasure of meeting you. A fellow labourer myself, my heart has always gone out to the labourers of Madras in their sorrows and their troubles. I want to come to the subject of this evening without any further ceremony. I know that about ten thousands of you have struck work. It grieves me to find that you have trouble amongst yourselves. It grieves me to find that you are divided into two parties. It grieves me further to find that the two parties represent not two different views but two different castes. I understand that the Adi Dravidas, our Panchama friends, are ranged on one side and you, the others, on the opposite side. I understand further that these Panchama brethren have resumed work, whereas you, a large majority have not done so. And I understand further that there has been some pressure exerted by some of you on those brethren of ours, who have rejoined work. I understand further there are continuous quarrels and squabbles between these two parties. I am therefore here to warn the majority against using the slightest pressure against the minority. As one knowing the labourers for a period of 25 years, very nearly 30 years, as one experienced in handling large strikes even affecting more than 1 Literally, belonging to the fifth caste; an outcaste 50,000 people at a time, I know that nothing is so demoralizing to labourers than that they should use force against a single one of their brethren. The lowest one of us, the fewest of us must have the right of exercising his own free choice even though you may consider that he has erred. Therefore I would urge you to leave those 3,000 brethren of ours severely alone. I would urge you not to think low of them. I would urge you even to be kind to them. Certainly you will never swear at them. I would ask you not even to go to them to wean them from their service. Believe me when they find that you exercise no pressure against them, when they find that you have not a trace of ill will against them, they will of their own free choice and accord come to you. Nor will you consider that they are low caste and you are high caste. All those who are Hindus I warn them, beware of thinking that there is high caste and low caste in Hinduism. Caste there undoubtedly is in Hinduism, but caste has been created for giving us a sense of duty, not of privileges and rights. Each caste is born to serve mankind. The Brahmin serves with his knowledge; a Kshatriya serves with his power of protection, a Vaisya with his commerce, and a Sudra with his hands and feet. But believe me all are equal in the sight of God and he is the greatest who serves best. There is no such thing as a fifth caste in Hinduism. Untouchability is a sin against God and humanity. It is a blot on Hinduism. I urge you, fellow labourers, to dispense from your minds the idea that the Panchama brethren are untouchable or lower than anyone else. If we had not treated them with contempt, if we had not maltreated them even as we claim we were ill-treated in Jallianwala Bagh, there would have been no difficulty about the attainment of swaraj. Believe me that this unhappy land will never return to happiness, unless Hindus with a supreme effort have got rid of this curse of untouchability. Therefore considering the whole question from every point of view I advise you strongly not to interfere with our Panchama brethren in anything they may do. Your course in my opinion is absolutely clear and straight. It is your right and privilege to demand that if the company wishes to reemploy you, the company has to take all of you or none. It is your right to be advised by whomsoever you may choose and the company cannot dictate to you that you may not be advised by outsiders. You must insist upon your inherent right of selecting any Chairman or President you like of your Union whether out of your own ranks or anybody else. You have a right consistently with the condition of affairs in the country to determine for yourselves the terms on which you will rejoin service. You have a right to demand such wages as will enable you to sustain life, to educate your children and live as decent human beings. You are entitled to the same fresh water and fresh air as your employers. You are entitled to insist upon having leisure and recreation from day to day. But you have also corresponding duties to perform. You must render diligent and faithful service to your employers. You have to look after the property of your employers as if it was your own. You must not seduce a single one of the employees from service. You may not absent yourselves without permission. These simple rights and duties once being understood must always be insisted upon and fulfilled as the case may be. The next question therefore that arises is what are you to do if the employers will not employ you on your own terms after having respectfully tendered your submission to your employers you should no more think about that submission. But you must set about working for your own livelihood. I have therefore suggested to the mill-hands of Ahmadabad and the railway employees on the Assam-Bengal Railway and the employees of the River Steam Navigation Company that they should always have a supplementary occupation to fall back upon, and the only occupation that thousands upon thousands of our countrymen can usefully occupy themselves in is hand-spinning, carding and weaving. All these three things are as easy as they are universal. I assure you and I ask you to accept the assurance of an experienced spinner and weaver. If you will diligently work at this occupation for not less than 8 hours a day; you will, each one of you, earn as much as Re. 1 per day. As a spinner you will earn perhaps Re. 3 per day but as an accomplished weaver you can command a wage of Re. 1 per day. Your wives, your sisters, your mothers, your little children of 7 of 8 years can all lend a helping hand to you in earning your livelihood in this fashion. The more there are of you, the more you earn. The question therefore for those who have got large families is solved automatically and when you have learnt the dignity of your state and when you have also understood you have an occupation to fall back upon, you will not be violent either against your employers or against those who choose to seek employment under them. If you will but follow my advice you will find that you will not only become self-reliant, but the relation between yourselves and your employers will be of the healthiest character. When every labourer, man or woman, in the land thinks of swaraj and self-purification, let me assure you that if you accept my advice you will accelerate the day of swaraj. If you are Mussulmans you will soon find that you are not only supporting yourselves honorably, but you are discharging your obligations to Islam in the most faithful manner. I know that in the beginning stages even if you accept my advice you will require a little capital to start with, but I have not a shadow of doubt that everyone of you who is an honest worker will have no difficulty in getting a handloom, a spinning-wheel or a carding bow. Whether you accept this or not, please remember that any violence, any disturbance, committed by you will recoil with redoubled force upon your own heads. You will forefeit all public sympathy and every man’s hand will be against you. Therefore you will make up your minds not to go near the mills, not to seek collision with your Panchama brethren; but you will be engaged in quietly organizing yourselves for work. Labour has no occasion to go begging. One word more and I have finished. I would like you all, you and your wives and your children, to take your share in the great national movement that is sweeping across the length and breadth of the land. The things that the country demands of us are capable of being done by every one of us. I would like you to swear before God that we shall not resort to violence for the freedom of our country or for settling quarrels between Hindus and Mussulmans, to resolve that God is our witness, that in spite of the madness shown by some of our Moplahs countrymen we Hindus and Mussulmans shall remain united for ever, and to take a solemn vow that henceforth we shall never wear foreign cloth or use it for any domestic purpose and that we shall wear only such cloth as is made out of hand-spun yarn and hand-woven. Saying that we claim to fight the battle of religion we will not defile our bodies by touching wine or women. We shall not gamble, we shall not steal, nor shall we deceive any people. I make bold to say that if you, the ten thousand labourers of the Madras mills, will make this solemn resolution and abide by it, you will find at the end of the chapter that you will have contributed not a little to the attainment of swaraj and to the solution of the Khilafat and the Punjab problems. May God bless you with the wisdom and courage that are required today of every Indian. You heard yesterday from my lips, if you were at all present on the Beach, that Maulana Mahomed Ali was arrested at Walt air. He was arrested and will be imprisoned for your sake and my sake. You and I know him to be an honest Mussulman and a brave Indian. You and I know him to be lover of his religion and his country. He and his brother have suffered already for their country and for their religion; and our honour and our affection for these brothers demand from us not violence, not anger but a fixed determination to catty our programme to success. They want no hartal, nor madness from us. But they expect us to remain united and to carry out boycott of foreign cloth even though every one of us may have to be satisfied with a loin-cloth. They expect us by fearlessly turning our faces Godward to establish swaraj within this very year and release them under the first resolution of the swaraj parliament. I thank you for the exemplary patience with which you have listened to me. Maulana Azad Sobhani Saheb, who, as some of you at least know, is a great Mussulman divine, will now say a few words to you to which I am sure you will give respectful attention. . . . At the close of the meeting a big bonfire was made of foreign clothes of all kinds.” 5