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From the Archives: ‘Improper to question efficacy of non-violence’, says Gandhi

Sep 30, 2023 04:15 PM IST

“Today, irreligion is stalking the country in the name of religion”, Mahatma Gandhi said.

In the name of non-violence, people observed the outward peace of the impotent: they had never attempted to drive violence from their hearts," writes Mahatma Gandhi under the caption "Where Ahimsa, Where Khadi" in yesterday's Harijan.

Scenes during Mahatma Gandhi’s famous Salt March. This march on foot to the sea coast at Dandi, on the eve of the Salt Satyagraha, 1930.(HT File Photo) PREMIUM
Scenes during Mahatma Gandhi’s famous Salt March. This march on foot to the sea coast at Dandi, on the eve of the Salt Satyagraha, 1930.(HT File Photo)

Gandhiji writes: A correspondent from Kathiawar writes, "As in many districts or provinces, in Kathiawar (also) people are fast withdrawing their faith in khadi and ahimsa. Many Congressmen and Gandhites seem to doubt if non-violence can work in matters political."

The writer of the letter enters into a number of arguments giving illustrations. I have, however, contented myself with reproducing the leading sentences in the letter. In them are embedded three errors.

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True Faith Locking

I have been explaining, of late, that neither in Kathiawar nor in parts of India had people real faith in non-violence or khadi. It is true that I deceived myself into the belief that people were being wedded to non-violence with khadi as its symbol.

As a matter of fact, in the name of non-violence, people observed the outward peace of the impotent. They had never even attempted to drive violence from their hearts. It had become patent to everyone, when I went to Rajkot in connection the Rajkot imbroglio, that there was no Rama in Rajkot, and therefore, Kathiawar. Hence it is hardly apt to say that their faith is on the wane nowadays.

It is equally improper to question now the efficacy of non-violence in matters political. What was the people's fight against the foreign power if it was not a political matter? Indeed, the disgraceful fight between brother and brother that we are witnessing today is much less political. Today, irreligion is stalking the country in the name of religion. Even the outward peace that we were able to observe in the fight against the foreign power is conspicuous in its absence today.

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Congressmen Or Gandhites

The third error is the distinction the correspondent makes between Congressmen and Gandhites. It has no foundation in fact. If there is one Gandhite, it must be me. I hope, however, that I am humble enough not to arrogate any such claim. Gandhite means worship of Gandhi. There must be a God to worship. But I have never arrogated to myself any such claim. Hence, there can be no devotee of mine.

Moreover, how can it be said that those who call themselves Gandhites are not also Congressmen? There are innumerable servants of the Congress although they are not four-anna members with their names registered in a Congress register. The reader should know I myself belong to that category. Hence it is contended that the distinction made by my correspondent is meaningless.

I have repeatedly said that I have neither part nor say in many things that are going on in the country today. It is no secret that the Congress willingly said good-bye to non- violence when it accepted power.

Again, I firmly believe that the method of rationing of food and clothing is highly injurious to the country. If I had my way I would not buy a grain of foodstock from outside India. It is my firm belief that even today there is enough foodstuff in the country. Only the villagers have felt compelled to conceal the cereals and pulses under the insufferable control.

Again, if people follow me, there would be no deadly quarrel between the Hindus, the Sikhs and the Muslims. The plain fact of the matter is that I am not the current coin I had fancied. Mine is a voice in the wilderness.

A hallucination

As for khadi, it has a kind of a place if we tear it from its root which is ahimsa. It no longer occupies the proud place of being the symbol par excellence of ahimsa. Those who, being in the political field, support khadi, do so because it has attained that vogue.

Today, three cheers belong not to khadi but to mill cloth, for we labour under the delusion that but for the manufactures from our mills, millions would have to be naked. Can there be a greater hallucination than this?

We grow enough cotton in the country. We have any number of handlooms and spinning wheels. India is not unused to the art of hand spinning and hand-weaving. Yet somehow or the other, the fear has (gripped) us that the millions will not (take) to hand-spinning and weaving hand-spun yarn for their own needs.

A haunted man will detect fear even when there is no cause for it. And do we not know that many more die of fright than of the axtual disease the very name of which has given them the fright?

Unveiling 'Elections 2024: The Big Picture', a fresh segment in HT's talk show 'The Interview with Kumkum Chadha', where leaders across the political spectrum discuss the upcoming general elections. Watch Now!

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