the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action
Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist
Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229
Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India
Vengeance and Mahatma Gandhi
The man who follows the path of duragraha becomes impatient and wants to kill the so-called enemy. There can be but one result of this. Hatred increases. The defeated party vows vengeance and simply bides its time. The spirit of revenge thus descends from father to son. It is much to be wished that India never gives predominance to this spirit of duragraha. If the members of this assembly deliberately accept Satyagraha and chalk out its programme accordingly, they will reach their goal all the more easily for doing so. They may have to face disappointment in the initial stages. They may not see results for a time. But Satyagraha will triumph in the end. The duragrahi, like the oilman’s ox, moves in a circle. His movement is only motion but it is not progress. The satyagrahi is ever moving forward. 1 If you do not provide the rising generation with an effective remedy against the excesses of authority, you will let loose the powers of vengeance and the doctrines of the Little Bengal Cult of violence will spread with a rapidity which all will deplore. Repression answers only so long as you can overawe people. But even cowards have been known to exhibit extraordinary courage under equally extraordinary stress. In offering the remedy of self-suffering which is one meaning of Satyagraha, I follow the spirit of our civilization and present the young portion with a remedy of which he need never despair. 2
I hastened to Ahmadabad in company with Anasuya Behn in order that the people may be calmed and in all humility I may say that the effect of our arrival on the populace was electrical. I placed myself unreservedly at the service of the authorities. You will have observed that I spoke at the Monday meeting with the utmost caution. I would like you to go through my speech sent to you for publication. I deliberately refrained from narrating the acts done by the military under martial law. I doubt not that there was much avoidable loss of life. I have seen the wounded at the Civil Hospital. I spoke to every one of them. All of them gave me frank statements. Many admitted that they were part of large crowds, not crowds that had any evil designs, but crowds of men, who had hardly realized what the law was. They could not immediately upon its being proclaim have informed themselves of the conditions. I know that although eager crowds gathered round me to listen to my speech, and although I had printed 25 thousand copies, it has not reached all. How then could the martial law notices indifferently distributed amongst a sullen population inform vast bodies of men? These crowds, therefore, did gather. I understand that they were fired at after due notice being given to them, but you will agree with me when I say that they could not all understand the notice to disperse. In the hospital, I saw a few little children 10 or 11 years old. I asked them what they were doing, and they said they had gone out to play. A husband and wife were shot in their own house. The wife died of the wounds. The husband who described the affair does not say that they were deliberately aimed at, but that the bullets whizzed through the house and struck them. Some of them told me that they were alone.
The rule was that if ten people collected together, they could be fired at. In one case, I was told, a man, who wanted to be extra-cautious, first asked the permission to pass the pickets, he got it and he passed the pickets with his friends, and as soon as they had preceded a few paces, they received bullet wounds. The one who asked for permission dropped down dead, and the other is in danger of losing his life. The wound is so serious. The view I have taken of this is that the people of Ahmadabad have no right to complain of these sad occurrences, after the ruthlessness with which the mob destroyed the property, hacked to pieces Sergeant Fraser, and committed many other excesses. It is highly likely that the English lads—I call them lads, because they looked like lads—who were posted as pickets during martial law, had arrived on the scene with the knowledge that a wicked plot was hatched in order to kill the force that was sent from Bombay, of which these lads were members. I refer to the derailing near Nadiad, and in their fury to wreak vengeance upon the Ahmadabad people without any nice or exact discrimination; they may have been too free with their rifles. I describe this shooting in order to show that the people have been sufficiently punished, and there should be no further punitive measures taken and no prosecutions undertaken. 3
The whole of the speech is worth reading as an example of bad taste. It is speeches such as Sir Havelock Hudson are which create bad blood and give unbridled licence to the soldiery. I was totally unprepared for this defence from high quarters of acts of vengeance, unworthy of true soldiers. Surely there are nobler methods of ensuring protection for European women. Have their lives been in such danger in India as to require any special protection? Why should the life of a European woman be held more sacred than that of an Indian woman? Has she not the same sense of honour, the same feelings? What is the British flag worth if a British soldier, wearing the King’s uniform, rise from his seat in the Viceregal Council and insults the people of India by language such as Lieut.-General Sir Havelock Hudson has used? I still do not share the cry against the Indemnity Bill. I think with due deference to the great experienced leaders of opinion in India that, to put it at its worst, it was bad tactics to have opposed the Indemnity Bill, but the speech of General Hudson, if it reflects, as I fear it does, the sentiments of the English members of the Council, must cause the gravest misgivings as to the ultimate result of Lord Hunter’s Committee and its offshoot.
In view of the Royal Proclamation and the release of the majority of the prisoners convicted by the tribunals mentioned by us, it is unnecessary to go into the details of these trials. But it may be mentioned that cases involving transportation for life with forfeiture of property as the minimum penalty were based on such charges as organizing the hartal or making speeches on the Rowlatt Act. Leading men were charged with serious offences on no better evidence than that of an approver. We hope, however, to discuss the Martial Law Commission trials a little more fully in our discussion of the Lahore events. We shall close our examination of the Amritsar events with the remark that the authorities committed a criminal blunder in secretly deporting Doctors Kitchlew and Satyapal; that there was at least undue haste in firing; that, had they acted with tact and consideration, then, in spite of the deportation, the mob excesses would have been prevented; that the excesses were, in any event, deplorable and deserving of condemnation; that the massacre in the Jallianwala Bagh was an act of inhumanity and vengeance, unwarranted by anything that then existed or has since transpired; that, on General Dyer’s own showing, the introduction of Martial Law in Amritsar was not justified by any local causes and that its prolongation was a wanton abuse of authority, and its administration unworthy of a civilized government. 4
It was on Sunday the 6th April, 1919, that the first all-India hartal took place as a protest against the passing of the Rowlatt Act. It was on that day that thousands of men and women all over India kept a twenty-four-hour fast. It was on that sacred day that the nation recognized, with the strength it has never done before, the necessity of Hindu-Muslim unity and that Hindus, Mussalmans, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and others met in hearty co-operation, and it was on that day that an all-India swadeshi spirit, not in vengeance but as a vital necessity in the life of the nation, was born. It was on the 13th that the Jallianwala massacre took place. We have been observing both these days and the intervening day’s from year to year as special days for purification, searching of hearts, for cultivating better relations among all the different sections and for promoting swadeshi which has centered gradually round the spinning-wheel. I was grieved to learn from a friend that in Amritsar, the scene of the black tragedy, the Week was least observed last year. I wonder how Amritsar and the rest of India will have observed the Week this year. 5
That number may possibly be considered as small elsewhere. In an area were Muslims barely number 15,000, this is terrible. The Hindus there work up and the Muslims could not tolerate the awakening; those looking for a chance to wreak vengeance found it in the form of that booklet. If that was the only reason, the man concerned could have been arrested, he could have been crushed, and perhaps all those connected with the booklet could have been crushed. But here the whole community was persecuted. Its cause must be deep-seated. I found that cause quite by chance. The Muslims said many things frankly about proselytization. But that activity has hurt me very much. I would not mind it at all if 30 crores of Hindus became Muslims as a result of scriptural studies and rational arguments. Then I would be the single Hindu left and thereby I would add lustre to Hinduism. Or I would adduce proof of the immortality of Hinduism and say that the others became Muslims because they could not bear the brilliance of Hinduism. But if people turned Muslims out of greed or fear, as it happened there, I could not endure it.
I am talking about this matter because I am to make you strong of mind, in order that you may be more attached to dharma. Despite this, there will be no change in my non-violent behaviour, my attitude of love and in my behaviour towards Muslims. The more I see their weaknesses, the more shall I serve them? My love for them will certainly endure. But the language of love will change—it has become more firm and will become firmer s