Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Conflicts in India and Mahatma Gandhi, Part-I

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09415777229




Conflicts in India and Mahatma Gandhi, Part-I



Mahatma Gandhi was returned to India in 1915. His political Guru Gopal Krishna Gokhale suggested to him to see country first. During his travel he saw conflict in society. You can see it in his letters, articles and speeches. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I made my view known to fellow-Indians and many of them declared their readiness for Satyagraha. In the first conflict, people took part under the impression that our aim would be gained after only a few days of suffering. In the second conflict, there were only a very few people to begin with but later many more came along. Afterwards when, on the visit of Mr. Gokhale, the Government of South Africa pledged itself to a settlement, the fight ceased. Later, the Government treacherously refused to honour its pledge; on which a third Satyagraha battle became necessary. Gokhale at that time asked me how many people I thought would take part in the Satyagraha. I wrote saying they would be between 30 and 60. But I could not find even that number. Only 16 of us took up the challenge. We were firmly decided that so long as the Government did not repeal its atrocious laws or make some settlement, we would accept every penalty but would not submit. We had never hoped that we should find many fellow-fighters. But the readiness of one person without self-interest to offer himself for the cause of truth and country always has its effect. Soon there were twenty thousand people in the movement.”1

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Perhaps it is but fair to the planters to say that Mr. Still has of his own motion invited me to visit his dehat and remain there as long as I like and that Mr. Cox has written to me saying that he is arranging a meeting with some leading planters, and concludes “you may be sure that we wish to assist you in your enquiry”. This perhaps is in conflict with your statement, “By the planters he (I) is regarded with great suspicion as their natural enemy.”  With reference to the legal aspect and the decisions of courts, they have not escaped attention. But I venture to submit that legal decisions or legal technicalities cannot for a moment be allowed to perpetuate wrongs suffered by vast masses of people. With much respect, but every confidence, I submit that the situation presented by me raises grave moral issues which in order that justice may be done might necessitate disregard of legal technicalities and legal decisions where they are in conflict with real justice. The vast inequality between landlords and rayats renders it well-nigh impossible for courts of law or even Settlement Officers to arrive at the truth in cases brought before them. I see illustrations of the proposition just submitted multiplying before me every day. Instances are not wanting of wrongs having been rectified in spite of their having been countenanced by courts of justice. In a nation fired with the zeal for swaraj, we should observe an awakening in all departments of life. The first step to swaraj lies in the individual. The great truth, “As with the individual, so with the Universe,” is applicable here as elsewhere. If we are ever torn by conflict from within, if we are ever going astray, and if instead of ruling our passions we allow them to rule us, swaraj can have no meaning for us. Government of self, then, is the first step.  There is no conflict of opinion as to the preventive methods. We simply do not apply them. We have made up our minds that the masses will not adopt them. There could be no greater calumny uttered against them. If we would but stoop to conquer, they can be easily conquered. The truth is that we expect the Government to do the work. In my opinion, in this matter, the Government cannot lead; they can follow and help if we could lead. Here, then, there is work enough for our doctors and an army of workers to help them. I note that you in Bengal are working somewhat in this direction. I may state that a small but earnest band of volunteers is at the present moment engaged in doing such work in Champaran. They are posted in different villages. There they teach the village children, they give medical aid to the sick and they give practical lessons in hygiene to the village folk by cleaning their wells and roads and showing them how to treat human excreta. Nothing can yet be predicted as to results as the experiment is in its infancy. This Conference may usefully appoint a community of doctors who would study rural conditions on the spot and draw up a course of instructions for the guidance of workers and of the people at large.  But though the official attitude is thus unsatisfactory, our prayer has been granted and it is our duty to accept the concession with thankfulness. Now, there is only 8 per cent of the assessment remaining unpaid. It was a point of honour with us till now to refuse payment. Conditions having materially altered it are a point of honour for a satyagrahi to pay up the assessment. Those who can afford should pay without causing the Government the slightest trouble and thus show that where there is no conflict between the dictates of conscience and those of man-made law, they are second to none in obeying the law of the land.

A satyagrahi sometimes appears momentarily to disobey laws and the constituted authority, only to prove in the end his regard for both.  If we were to cast a retrospective glance over our past life, we would find that out of a thousand of our acts affecting our families, in nine hundred and ninety-nine we were dominated by truth, that in our deeds, it is not right to say we generally resort to untruth or ill will. It is only where a conflict of interests arises, then arise the progeny of untruth, viz., anger, ill will, etc., and then we see nothing but poison in our midst. A little hard thinking will show us that the standard that we apply to the regulation of domestic relations is the standard that should be applied to regulate the relations between rulers and the ruled, and between man and man. Those men and women who do not recognize the domestic tie are considered to be very like brutes or barbarous, even though they in form have the human body. They have never known the law of Satyagraha. Those who recognize the domestic tie and its obligations have to a certain extent gone beyond that brute stage. But if challenged, they would say “what do we care though the whole universe may perish so long as we guard the family interest?” The measure of their Satyagraha, therefore, is less than that of a drop in the ocean.”2

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “For me there is no conflict between the two texts quoted by the Lokamanya. The Buddhist text lays down an eternal principle. The text from the Bhagavad Gita shows to me how the principle of conquering hate by love, untruth by truth, can and must be applied. If it be true that God metes out the same measure to us that we mete out to others, it follows that if we would escape condign punishment, we may not return anger but gentleness even against anger. And this is the law not for the unworldly but essentially for the worldly. With deference to the Lokamanya, I venture to say that it betrays mental laziness to think that the world is not for sadhus. The epitome of all religions is to promote purushartha, and purushartha is nothing but a desperate attempt to become sadhu, i.e., to become a gentleman in every sense of the term.”3 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “In the West an eternal conflict has set up between capital and labour. Each party considers the other as its natural enemy. That spirit seems to have entered India also, and if it finds a permanent lodgment, it would be the end of our industry and of our peace. If both the parties were to realize that each is dependent upon the other, there will be little cause for quarrel.”4 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “There are problems of which a genuine solution is rendered more difficult by public discussion. Even so, when a situation has become the subject of talk among people, it is the duty of the journalist to put the matter before the public in its true perspective. This is so in regard to the conflict between the mill-owners and workers.”5

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I feel equally certain that the Hindus will not assist Mohammedans in promoting or bringing about an armed conflict between the British Government and their allies, and Afghanistan. British forces are too well organized to admit of any successful invasion of the Indian frontier. The only way, therefore, the Mohammedans can carry on an effective struggle on behalf of the honour of Islam is to take up non-co-operation in real earnest. It will not only be completely effective if it is adopted by the people on an extensive scale, but it will also provide full scope for individual conscience.”6 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Whilst I am considering the Hindu connection with the Khilafat movement, even at the risk of repetition I would like to clear up my own position. As I consider the Muslim claim to be intrinsically just, I propose to go with them to the extent of fullest non-co-operation. And I consider it to be perfectly con-sis tent with my loyalty to the British connection. But I would not go with the Mussulmans in any campaign of violence. I could not help them in promoting, for instance, an invasion of India through Afghanistan or otherwise for the purpose of forcing better peace terms. It is, I hold, the duty of every Hindu to resist any inroad on India even for the purpose specified as it is his duty to help his Mussulman brethren to satisfy their just demands by means of non-co-operation or other form of suffering, no matter how great, so long as it does not involve loss of India’s liberty or inflicting of violence on any person. And I have thrown myself whole-heartedly into the non-co-operation movement, if only because I want to prevent any such armed conflict.  I gladly respond to Mr. Andrews’ invitation. I should clear the ground by stating that I reject any religious doctrine that does not appeal to reason and is in conflict with morality. I tolerate unreasonable religious sentiment when it is not immoral. I hold the khilafat claim to be both just and reasonable and therefore it derives greater force because it has behind it the religious sentiment of the Mussulman world.”7 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Boycott of foreign goods finds a place in my resolution. I am sorry for it. I may not state how it came to find a place there. But as it did not conflict with my conscience, and in order to show my reasonableness, I undertook to move a resolution whose musical harmony was marred by a false note. Boycott of foreign cloth is included in swadeshi. Boycott of all other foreign goods is a senseless proposition if only because it is a virtual impossibility. But if the introduction of the addendum stimulates us to sacrifice our luxuries and superfluities, it would have served a good purpose. It is certainly our right and duty to discard everything foreign that is superfluous and evens everything foreign that is necessary if we can produce or manufacture it in our country.  As a boy, I loved my parents as Shravana loved his. I believe in God, too. Would I, then, ask anyone to do something in disregard of his parents’ wishes? However, one’s parents, too, were created by God and I have been arguing that, when parents’ wishes conflict with God’s command, one should obey the latter.  Lala Lajpat Rai has addressed you with reference to the police. I accept every word of what he has said in interpretation of that part of the Resolution. I think it is right that we should know that we are not tampering with the obligations of service imposed upon employees of Government, whether civil, military or police. But we are asking them not to kill their conscience, and I want to make that point a little clear. I would have held it a sin if I had been one of those soldiers to receive the command of General Dyer to shoot those innocent men in Jallianwala Bagh. I would have considered it my duty to disregard that command and preferred being shot on the spot. I know the discipline of a soldier. I say that if a soldier receives a command from his officer which he considers to be in conflict with his religion or in conflict with his duties to his country, he may certainly disregard it at the peril of his life. He may not come to you afterwards to lodge a complaint. He has made his choice. Military duty requires that a man who does not obey the command on such a critical occasion shall be shot, and if he chooses to be shot he can certainly disregard the command. But there can be no conflict between service of the family and service of society. First service of self, then of the family, then of the village and finally of the country I believe in this order. But no service should be in disregard of human welfare. At this time of want in the country, we may not spend Rs. 20,000 on the marriage of a sister.  Nobody, so far as I am aware, wants to end it for the sake of ending it. There must be complete independence if England’s policy is in conflict with the Muslim sentiment on the Khilafat question or with the Indian sentiment in the Punjab. In any case it must be a partnership at will, based upon mutual love and esteem.  But I am free to confess that in the present state of feeling, an Englishman may easily misinterpret the motive of the letter. For me patriotism is the same as humanity. I am patriotic because I am human and humane. It is not exclusive. I will not hurt England or Germany to serve India. Imperialism has no place in my scheme of life. The law of a patriot is not different from that of the patriarch. And a patriot is so much the less a patriot if he is a lukewarm humanitarian. There is no conflict between private and political law. A non-co-operator, for instance, would act exactly in the same manner towards his father or brother as he is today acting towards the Government.”8 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “All need food and clothing and that is the reason why the spinning-wheel can be adopted as a universal employment. Our national education should be planned on the lines above suggested, right from today. Otherwise this will be the cause of the very first conflict among us under swaraj. It may be argued by some that there should be no teaching of crafts as part of education. Let us make the learning of a craft a part of education right from now on in order that public opinion is sufficiently moulded to leave no room for argument at a later stage.”9 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Iran is an oriental country. A conflict is going on at present between the East and the West. A whirlwind from the West has overwhelmed us. Either we shall be swept away in it or we may resist it firmly and turn it back. The name of that whirlwind is “materialism” or the “ism” which looks upon money as its God. If we do not resist it but are lured into aping its ways, we shall become materialists, shall look upon money as our God and so perish.  It is possible that I may not understand the Khilafat issue, though I have certainly studied it to the best of my ability. I do not believe that there is an irreconcilable conflict between Islam and Hinduism. If there is, it means that Hindus and Muslims must remain enemies forever. I do not believe that it is right for any two groups of human beings to remain mutually hostile forever. I do not know of any rule to the effect that the Khalifa should wage war for the sake of religion at least once in ten years. I do not know that any religious was has taken place after the Crusades.”10

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Unlike Mr. Jethamal, I do believe in the distinctive character of the different scriptures. I cannot be party to putting a strain upon the scriptural loyalty of the Mussulmans, where it is not in conflict with reason and justice.”11 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “There is no doubt that the next few months will witness either a transformation in the sys-tem of Government so that the meanest will count as much as the loftiest or a conflict with it such as the world has never seen before. The refusal to take the rice offered in name of the Government was a refusal to live by the hand that humbled. And when that spirit of quiet courage and resignation pervades India, the fate of the Government is sealed. We need to learn, not the art of doing violence but that of suffering violence, of dying. Success by methods of violence will replace one monster of Government by another, and the poor and the innocent will certainly continue to be ground down just as they are today.”12 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “In the matter of education, it is a conflict of ideals, and non-co-operation is for this generation a new ideal. A young lad considers it a virtue to go to a Government college; a drinker knows drinking to be an evil habit. The educated youth read newspapers, know all the arguments for and against. Visitors to liquor shops read nothing, and not being in the habit of attending meetings, hear nothing. Picketing, therefore, in the case of colleges and schools was not only superfluous, but in the manner it was carried out, constituted a sort of violence utterly unjustified in any event, and for a non-cooperator a breach of his pledge. I am glad, therefore, that the picketing stopped, if it did, as a result of my severe criticism.”13 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have no manner of doubt that the Prince’s visit is being exploited for advertising the “benign” British rule in India. It is a crime against us if His Royal Highness is being brought for personal pleasure and sport when India is seething with discontent when the masses are saturated with disaffection towards the system under which they are governed, when famine is raging in Khulna and the Ceded Districts and when an armed conflict is raging in Malabar; it is a crime against India to spend millions of rupees on a mere show when millions of men are living in a state of chronic starvation. Eight lakhs of rupees have been voted away by the Bombay Council alone for the pageant.”14 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “If the people are behind the sufferers, the Government must yield or be overthrown. If the people are not with them they have at least the satisfaction of not having sold their freedom. In an armed conflict, the more violent is generally the victor. The way of peace and suffering is the quickest method of cultivating public opinion, and, therefore, when victory is attained, it is for what the world regards as Truth. Bred in the atmosphere of law-courts, Lord Reading finds it difficult to appreciate the peaceful resistance to authority. His Excellency will learn by the time the conflict is over that there is a higher court than courts of justice, and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.  If the people are behind the sufferers, the Government must yield or be overthrown. If the people are not with them they have at least the satisfaction of not having sold their freedom. In an armed conflict, the more violent is generally the victor. The way of peace and suffering is the quickest method of cultivating public opinion, and, therefore, when victory is attained, it is for what the world regards as Truth. Bred in the atmosphere of law-courts, Lord Reading finds it difficult to appreciate the peaceful resistance to authority. His Excellency will learn by the time the conflict is over that there is a higher court than courts of justice, and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.”15

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The threats used by His Excellency are unbecoming. This is a fight to the finish. It is a conflict between the reign of violence and of public opinion. Those who are fighting for the latter are determined to submit to any violence rather than surrender their opinion.”16 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Govind tried his very best to carry out what he knew to be his father’s wish up to the last moment. He prayed for light. He was torn by conflict of duties. The arrests of the Nehrus proved too strong for the young man. And invoking the blessings of his great and great-hearted father, he decided to throw himself into the struggle, and the jails of India probably hold no more joyous heart than Govind Malaviya’s. I make bold to say that he has by his act of civil disobedience proved as dutiful to his father as he has been dutiful to his country. Govind’s act is a pattern for our time in dutiful civil disobedience of children. There is, I am sure, no gulf between father and son. Probably Malaviyaji is prouder of his son Govind now than he was before the latter’s decision to seek imprisonment. It is truthful acts like these which prove to me the religious nature of the struggle. I cannot resist the temptation of quoting Govind’s courageous statement before the court.”17

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “What is impossible about the Punjab demand? Why do they talk about the legalities of the case? If they will take care of the moralities, legalities will take care of themselves. As a boy, I learnt a legal maxim that where there is a conflict between Law and Equity, the latter should prevail. It is not with me a copy-book maxim. But I am told it is immoral to ask for the deprivation of a pension, which is but deferred pay.”18 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It is a rule of civilized fighting that a warrior, having mobilized all his strength, acts with the utmost modesty. From then onwards, he never forsakes courtesy. At the commencement of every battle, he gives due Warning to the opponent, cautions him and requires him to rectify his mistake and remove the cause of the conflict.”19

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I do not believe that India cannot be taught to see the very simple truth that for her to think of attaining swaraj by an armed conflict is an impossible dream for several generations. There is no country on the face of the earth so ill fitted for an armed conflict as India. It may be that the forces of violence may not be sufficiently controlled in order to conduct a campaign of non-violent mass civil disobedience. If that is the conclusion at which all the leaders arrive it does not mean that India cannot attain her freedom by non-violent means. There are many forms of civil disobedience open to a satyagrahi; but I confess that mass civil disobedience is the shortest cut. If it proves to be impossible I have no doubt that a milder programme of civil disobedience can be conceived so as to give the people training in self-sacrifice. From this the masses will learn the law of suffering, in its application to the nation, as they today practice it for domestic affairs. There is certainly no swaraj without going through the fire and suffering and it gladdens my heart to read reports that I daily receive of people undergoing incredible suffering without retaliation for the sake of the nation.”20

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I came reluctantly to the conclusion that the British connection had made India more helpless than she ever was before, politically and economically. A disarmed India has no power of resistance against any aggressor if she wanted to engage in an armed conflict with him. So much is this the case that some of our best men consider that India must take generations before she can achieve the Dominion status. She has become so poor that she has little power of resisting famines. Before the British advent, India spun and wove in her millions of cottages just the supplement she needed for adding to her meagre agricultural resources. This cottage industry, so vital for India’s existence, has been ruined by incredibly heartless and inhuman processes as described by English witnesses. Little do town-dwellers know how the semi-starved masses of India are slowly sinking to lifelessness?”21 Mahatma Gandhi wrote,  “If, therefore, the Committee accept all the implication of nonviolence, I am firmly of opinion, instructions already given as to the action to be taken by the Jatha when it comes in conflict with authority should be revised in terms of what I have sketched above. In that event, only one or the other thing can happen, either the 500 will be deported or imprisoned. But, in both the cases, the act will have been performed with complete meekness on our side. I know the difficulties of following the procedure. The authorities may endlessly continue the seesaw business in order to tire us out. But this difficulty vanishes if we, as a body, claim to be incapable of being tired out. Non-violence, depending as it does on an unquenchable faith in God and in the persistence only of that which is good, does not know what it is to be defeated or to be tired out.”22

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The English interest in India is selfish and in conflict with the national interest. It is anti-national, because of the illegitimate cotton interest. To boycott, therefore, foreign cloth is to sterilize the English and all other foreign interests. Boycott merely of British cloth may harm the British, but can lead to no construction in India. Boycott of British cloth will be a jump out of frying pan into fire. Not before the foreign piece-goods trade is entirely replaced by homespun will the bleeding process cease. Boycott of foreign cloth, therefore, is the centre of our boycott programme. The central boycott cannot succeed until we universalize khaddar. In order to achieve the desirable end, we will need to employ all our resources to the fullest extent. We shall need men, money and machinery, i.e., organization. We cannot universalize khaddar without Hindu-Muslim unity, without removing untouchability. To make khaddar successful is to demonstrate our capacity for self-government. Khaddar is a people’s programme, for success in which all, high and low, rich and poor, Hindu and non-Hindu must take part.”23

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have never been a frugal eater in this sense, and am not that even today. I have not learnt to be unconcerned about leanness of the body. I wish to maintain my constitution and also reflect and ponder. I am torn by this conflict. My experiments go on, but so far I have not discovered the measure of how little I should eat. This cannot be done by magic. Only changes brought about in a natural way can be kept up. Even for a frugal eater it is necessary to strive to be indifferent to pleasure in food. I have been trying hard to keep the vow of restraining the palate, but I am still very far from the goal. I have taken only goat’s milk for sustenance, but I have caught myself enjoying even that. As long as there is this pleasure in food, so long will there be danger of illness. Failure in conquering the palate is the offence against God.”24

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “When our wants considerably multiply, we shall be England’s biggest customers and, consequently, its willing retailers, that is, agents. That England and Germany fought with each other is also a result of that same culture brought about in a different way. Both wanted to exploit weak nations and both wanted the largest share; hence the conflict. But there is a big difference between that fight and our fight. Theirs was a confrontation of equals, so there was no question of self-respect. We, of course, are conscious of our self-respect every moment. Once we adopt the culture of Europe, there will be no possibility of a conflict between Englishmen and us as long as we remain the customers of England. Englishmen repeatedly tell us that we are not yet fit to manage our own affairs; this is far from being absolute hypocrisy. Many believe and say that as long as our culture remains distinct, we shall not be qualified to carry on Government in accordance with the European system.”25 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “In the first place, it is one’s duty to say only that which, after a pains-taking inquiry, one has come to regard as the truth, even if the world considers it to be an error. In no other way can one become fearless. I cannot consider anything dearer to me than moksha4. Yet even that moksha I would renounce if it were to conflict with truth and non-violence. In all these three things I only followed truth. When I said that, I had in mind what you had told me at Juhu. In the absence of any definite proof, it becomes my duty to treat the Swaraj Party as free from the guilt imputed to it. If there is any evidence that you can furnish I shall certainly examine it. I shall even make it public if you will allow me to do so; if not I shall know and keep it to myself and remain silent.”26 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Hindus and Muslims have both lost faith in God today, have lost self-confidence and are aspiring to become brave with the help of gangsters. This will protect neither Hinduism nor Islam. Only austerity and poverty can save them. Throw off your cowardice. Jamnalalji’s hand was injured. It made me happy. If he had been killed while stopping the conflict, even then I would have been happy; because it should have been the true saving of the Hindu religion. He was suddenly hit by a stone. But one who goes and stands in the midst of a shower of stones may be not only hit but killed. If Jamnalalji had died, both the feuding groups would have felt ashamed and would have wept for him. You should win the hearts of Muslims by such display of courage. I am not opposed to akhadas gymnasiums. You must have akhadas if your muscles are weak and you want to develop them; but not for resolving Hindu-Muslim conflicts. This solution must come through truth and penance. The author of the Mahabharata has a very significant sentence, namely, “place a thousand sacrifices in one scale of a balance and Truth in the other; the latter will weigh more.” After a long experience of forty years I affirm that this is very true. When you win with the weapon of Truth, the Hindu-Muslim conflict will cease.”27 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The expected has come to pass. The English Press had foreshadowed for us the viceregal bomb. It is the Hindu New Year’s gift to Bengal and through Bengal to India. The step need not surprise us nor terrify us. The Rowlett Act is dead but the spirit that prompted it is like an evergreen. So long as the interest of Englishmen is antagonistic to that of Indians, so long must there be anarchical crime or the dread of it and an edition of the Rowlett Act in answer. Non-violent non-co-operation was the way out. But we had not the patience to try it long enough and far enough. Let us see how the English interest is antagonistic to the Indian. Lancashire mills are the greatest drag on India’s economic progress. It is obviously India’s interest not to have a yard of Lancashire or other foreign calico or yarn. But the Lancashire mill-owners will not readily and without a struggle give up the immoral traffic. I call it immoral because it has ruined India’s peasantry and brought it to the verge of starvation. India supports (for her) a heavily paid English civil service. It is obviously to her interest that this service, no matter how efficient it may be, is replaced by an indigenous service, no matter how inefficient it may be. Man cannot breathe with borrowed lungs. India supplies the training ground for English soldiers and is therefore taxed to the bleeding point in order to finance a military budget that absorbs more than half her total revenue. It is again clearly India’s interest that she should learn to defend herself even though it may be indifferently for the time being. For her to be dependent for her defence, external or internal, upon outsiders, however capable or well meaning they may be, is to lose three quarters of her manliness. For doing the right thing the English are at an advantage. For they belong to the governing race. Those who are not in the civil service the large body of lay Englishmen and English women ought to perceive the disastrous results of the British domination. The so-called Pax Britannica is no compensation for the deprivation of liberty and the ever-growing pauperism. In spite of the elaborate Viceregal reasoning, I venture to submit that no case has been made out for the arbitrary measures adopted by His Excellency. Let violence be punished by all means. I am no defender of anarchy. I know that it can do no good to the country. But it is one thing to punish crime actually attempted or committed. It is totally another thing to give arbitrary powers to the authority to arrest persons without warrant and that too on mere suspicion. What is happening now is to terrorize suspects. Past experience shows that more innocent people are punished than the guilty, whenever the Government has yielded to panic. Everyone knows that by far the largest number of persons punished in the Punjab in 1919 were totally innocent of the crimes imputed to them. Whenever a government resorts to arbitrary powers, it really means that it has not popular opinion behind it. Deshbandhu Das, by his work in the Bengal Council, has shown that the Bengal Government has not the popular opinion behind it. The theory that he has set up a system of terrorism must be rejected. There is no evidence to support the charge. You cannot win popular elections by terrorism nor can you hold a large party together by it. There is something inherently commendable to the people to make the Deshbandhu the undisputed master of his large party in Bengal. The reason is on the surface. He wants power for the people. He does not bend the knee to the rulers. He is impatient to release Bengal and India from the triple burden. Let him sing another tune, let him say he does not want freedom for the people, and he will lose his influence in spite of the terrorism imputed to him. I have my differences with the Deshbandhu, but they cannot blind me to his burning patriotism or his great sacrifice. He loves the country just as much as the best of us. His right-hand men have been torn away from him. They are all men of status. They enjoy the confidence of the people. Why should they not have an open, fair and ordinary trial? The summary arrest of such men under extraordinary powers is the surest condemnation of the existing system of Government. It is wrong; it is uncivilized for a microscopic minority of men to live in the midst of millions under the protection of the bayonet, gunpowder and arbitrary powers. It is no doubt a demonstration of their ability to impose their authority upon a people more numerous than they, but it is also a demonstration of barbarism that lies beneath a thin coating of civilization. To the Bengalis who are on their trial, I respectfully say: If you are innocent, as I believe most of you are, your incarceration can only do good to the country and yourselves, if you will take it in the right spirit. We will not win freedom without suffering. To those who may be real anarchists and believers in violence I urge: Your love of the country commands my admiration, but you will permit me to say that your love is blind. In my opinion India’s freedom will not be won by violence but only by the purest suffering without retaliation. It is the surest and the most expeditious method. But if you persist in your faith in the method of violence, I ask you to make a bold confession of your faith and dare to suffer even though it be unto death. Thereby you will prove your courage and honesty and save many innocent persons from involuntary suffering.”28 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have never yet heard of any conflict being resolved by this third party. The truth is that the tragedy at Kohat would not have occurred and Hindus would not have run away if the Government had done its duty. The officers there either became cowards or acted contrary to their duty. The bandits on the frontier rob anyone and everyone; hence it is difficult to assert that this entire storm was raised for looting the Hindus only. I would, however, affirm that the looting and arson was perpetrated not by the people but by the officials of the frontier. I wish that this Government should forever neglect its duty as it has done on this occasion at Kohat. I would not be sorry if this Government collapses and then Hindus and Muslims fight a civil war and loot each other to their heart’s content. As long as there are rancour, weakness and fear in the hearts of both the communities, they will fight each other and cause rivers of blood to flow.”29

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “If I was not to divide the Congress on the issue of its status, I was bound to agree to its conditions so long as they were not in conflict with my conscience. They are not in my opinion un-reasonable. The Swarajists want to use the name of the Congress for their policy. A formula had to be found for their doing so without their pledging or binding the No-changers to their policy. One of the ways of doing it was to give it the authority and the responsibility both financial and executive with regard to the framing and the prosecution of their policy. The Congress as a whole could not guide that policy without sharing the responsibility. And as I could not take the responsibility, and as I apprehended no No-changer can, I could not be party to shaping the policy, nor could I shape it without my heart in it. And heart can only go where belief is. I know that the sole authority to the Swaraj Party to use the name of the Congress in regard to the Council programme makes somewhat awkward the position of the other parties wishing to join the Congress. But I fear it is inevitable. The Swaraj Party cannot be expected to surrender the advantage it possesses. After all it wants the advantage not for itself but for the service of the country. All parties have or can have that ambition or no other. I hope therefore that the others will join the Congress and work from within to affect the course of the country’s politics. Dr. Besant has led the way in that direction. I know that she would have many things done otherwise, but she is content to come in hoping to bring round the electorate to her view by working within the Congress. The No-changers can, in my humble opinion, vote for the agreement with a clear conscience. The only national programme jointly to be worked by all the parties is khaddar, Hindu-Muslim unity and, for the Hindus, removal of untouchability. Is not this after all what they want?”30 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “When swaraj is attained, what will things be like? There will be a relation of mutual aid and co-operation and destructive conflict will be a thing of the past. British India under swaraj will not wish for the destruction of the Indian States, but will be helpful to them. And the Indian States will adopt a corresponding attitude towards British India.”31 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Not only is there no conflict possible between a Prince and his subjects in this khadi work but on the other hand their relations might be expected to become cordial. The fulfillment of this expectation is conditional on the workers, humility. I am therefore neither ashamed nor do I hesitate in asking this Political Conference to give prominence to the spinning-wheel.”32 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “In this age of reason, in this age of universal knowledge, in this age of education and comparative theology, any religion which entrenches it behind Shastric injunctions and authority is, in my own humble opinion, bound to fail. In my opinion, untouchability is a blot upon humanity and therefore upon Hinduism. It cannot stand the test of reason. It is in conflict with the fundamental precepts of Hinduism. The first among the three principles I am about to enunciate of Hinduism is Satyannasti paro dharmah, i.e., there is no religion other than or higher than truth. The second is Ahimsa paramo dharmah and if ahimsa, meaning love, non-violence, is the law of life, is the greatest religion, is the only religion, then I suggest to you that untouchability is in direct conflict with that truth. The third is that God alone is Truth and everything else is transitory and illusory. If it is so, I suggest to you that it is impossible for us to reconcile untouchability and inapproachability with the grand doctrine. I have come, therefore, to reason with my orthodox friends. I have come to plead with them, and by their courtesy and goodwill.”33

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “If true, this report is saddening. Why should there be fighting for the positions of president and secretary? Why should there be differences of Surati, Agri, Damani, etc.? When I attended a meeting of the Lad Yuvak Mandal I came away with a very good impression. Presidentship offers an opportunity for service; it cannot be used for acquiring honour. A secretary is the servant of the society. Even if there is a contest for that office, it should be a friendly one. I hope that the two parties will come together and end the conflict described above. Why should not all Vaniks4 combine and form one single caste? Nowhere have I seen it lay down as dharma that members of Vaisya communities may not marry among themselves. I respect to some extent the division into sub-castes as a matter of social convenience. But when I come across instances like the one described above, I feel that we should actively shake ourselves free of these bonds and persuade others to do so.”34

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I am today talking to you with the same emotion with which I talked to my friend then, because I want to touch your hearts just as I wanted to touch his. Why do you want merely to count heads, why do you not go on with silent service? Will you please tell me why you wish to convert people? Should it not be enough if, by coming into contact with you, people learn to live pure and noble lives, and they give up the way of untruth and darkness and take to the path of truth and light? What more do you want than that you take up a helpless child and help it to earn the means wherewith to feed and clothe itself? Is not this sufficient reward for your work? Or is it that you wish to make the person whom you serve say without conviction, “I have become a Christian”? Today we see competition and conflict among different religions for counting the number of their followers. I feel deeply ashamed of this and, when I hear of people’s achievement in converting such and such a number to a particular faith, I feel that that is no achievement at all, that on the contrary it is a blasphemy against God and the self.”35

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I was faced with a conflict of duties this morning as soon as the sad news was broken to me. It was my duty to leave for Calcutta by the first train available. It was also my duty to go through the programme you had fixed up for me. The spirit of service in me prompted me to finish the work here, but whilst I have preferred to stop here, to meet those who have come from distant places, I shall, instead of my usual speech on Congress work, devote it to the memory of the departed Deshbandhu. I am sure that my staying here to go through the programme in preference to running up to Calcutta will please his soul.”36 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I see no conflict between the Sanskrit text and Garrison’s motto quoted by the correspondent. In my opinion, the Sanskrit text means that one should speak the truth in gentle language. One had better not speak it if one cannot do so in a gentle way, meaning thereby that there is not truth in a man who cannot control his tongue. In other words, truth without non-violence is not truth but untruth. Garrison’s motto requires to be interpreted in terms of his own life. He was one of the gentlest of men of his time. Mark his language. He will be as harsh as truth, but since truth to be truth is never harsh but always gentle and beneficial, the motto can only mean that Garrison would be as gentle as truth but no more. Both the texts have relation to the inner state of the speaker or writer, not to the effect that will be produced upon those to whom the speech or the writing is addressed. The Indian Social Reformer is rarely, if ever, harsh. It tries to be fair though it often jumps to conclusions in a hurry and is obliged later to revise its estimate of men and things. In these days of surrounding bitterness one cannot be too cautious. After all who knows the absolute truth? It is in ordinary affairs of life only a relative term. What is truth to me is not necessarily truth to the rest of my companions. We are all like the blind men who, on examining an elephant, gave different descriptions of the same animal according to the touch they were able to have of him. And they were all, according to their own lights, in the right. But we know also that they were all in the wrong. Every one of them fell far short of the truth. One cannot be too insistent therefore upon the necessity of guarding oneself against bitterness. Bitterness blurs the vision and to that extent disables one from seeing even the limited truth that the physically blind men in the fable were able to do.”37

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I could see the coming conflict between the missionaries and the Hindu workers. The latter have no difficulty in making their service commendable to the Hos, the Mundas and the others. How very nice it would be if the missionaries rendered humanitarian service without the ulterior aim of conversion! But I must not reiterate the remarks I made before the Missionary Conference and other Christian bodies in Calcutta. I know that such a revolutionary change in Christian endeavour as I am advocating cannot come through any advice, especially from an outsider, however well-meant it may be; it can only come either out of a definite individual conviction or out of some great mass movement among Christians themselves. Among these tribes there is quite a colony of them called bhaktas, literally meaning devotees. They are believers in khaddar. Men as well as women ply the charkha regularly. They wear khaddar woven by them. Many of them had walked miles with their charkhas on their shoulders. I saw nearly four hundred of them all plying their charkhas most assiduously at the meeting I had the privilege of addressing. They have their own bhajans which they sing in chorus.”38

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The question is extremely badly put. No one is ever driven out of the Congress. People may and do retire from it when they find the action of the majority to be in conflict with their conscience. The majority cannot be blamed for not suiting itself to the conscience of a minority. And if there are non-co-operators who consider it to be repugnant to their conscience to remain in the Congress while it countenances Council-entry, they may certainly retire. I would even go further and suggest that they should retire, if by remaining in the Congress they wish to hamper Council work. In my opinion the Congress machinery needs to be worked without any friction from within. I have already shown that there is room for non-co-operators in the Spinners’ Association as there is also for co-operators. If in spite of it there are non-co-operators who consider it their duty to form an all-India association of their own, it is certainly possible for them to do so, but I would consider it to be thoroughly inadvisable. It is enough if the non-co-operators will, for the time being; carry on their non-co-operation in their own persons.”39 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Personally, I believe that Duryodhana and his supporters stand for the satanic impulses in us, and Arjuna and others stand for Godward impulses. The battle-field is our body. The poet-seer, who knows from experience the problems of life, has given a faithful account of the conflict which is eternally going on within us. Shri Krishna is the Lord dwelling in everyone’s heart who is ever murmuring His promptings in a pure chitta like a clock ticking in a room. If the clock of the chitta is not wound up with the key of self-purification, the in-dwelling Lord no doubt remains where he is, but the ticking is heard no more.”40 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Lord Lansdowne, in justification of the war, said that it made his blood boil when he thought of the disabilities of Indians in the Transvaal. He held that one of the potent causes of the Boer War was the disabilities of Indians in South Africa, or more accurately Indians of the Transvaal. Where are those declarations today? Why does not the British Government go to war against the Union Government when the life, honour and livelihood of one hundred and fifty thousand Indians are at stake? Nobody questions the description I have given to you of the effects of this legislation. Nobody questions the ever-growing grievances of the British Indians in South Africa. If you have seen a beautiful little pamphlet published by Bishop Fisher who went only a few months ago to South Africa, you will find that there he gives a summary of the wrongs that are being heaped upon the South African Indians. The Bishop has come to the impartial conclusion that for these wrongs the Indians are not to blame. It is the jealousy and the insolence of the European trader that is responsible for these wrongs. He gives his testimony that Indians have deserved better at the hands of Europeans of South Africa. If justice counts, if Right rules this world, it should be impossible to bring this Bill and unnecessary for me to waste your precious time and for the deputation to waste their money. But evidently Right does not count. Might is Right. The Europeans of South Africa have chosen to heap this wrong upon. It is not my expression. It is that of General Smuts. He cannot put up with it. Europeans of South Africa consider that they will be overwhelmed by the East if they allow hordes to pour down into South Africa from India. But how could we corrupt their civilization? Is it because we live as thrifty men and women? The South African farms are not two or three bighas, but hundreds of acres belonging to one man who is the sole undisputed owner of them. You understand what great service the Indian hawkers are rendering to these South African, European or Boer farmers. That is the conflict.”41

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “But even if we get instances of an opposite kind, we should certainly disregard them if they conflict with moral principles. Just because we find mention of beef in the Ramayana or of animal sacrifice in the Vedas, we will not start eating beef or slaughtering animals. Principles remain the same in all ages, but the practices based on them vary with times and circumstances.”42 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “When this cry of anguish reached England, the English people were deeply pained. They were full of admiration for the bravery of the Boers. The fact that such a small nationality should sustain a conflict with their world-wide empire was rankling in their minds. But when the cry of agony raised by the women in the concentration camps reached England not through them, not through their men, they were fighting valiantly on the battlefield, but through a few high souled Englishmen and women who were then in South Africa, the English people began to relent. The late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman read the mind of the English nation and raised his voice against the war. The late Mr. Stead publicly prayed and invited others to pray that God might decree the English a defeat in the war. This was a wonderful sight. Real suffering bravely borne melts even a heart of stone. Such is the potency of suffering or tapas. And there lies the key to Satyagraha.”43

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It is further to show that the saving of an enormous number of cattle is more a problem of economics than religion; or rather to show that there is no conflict between religion and economics. Indeed, I have myself gone further and stated that a religion which is in conflict with fundamental economics is bad, and that, in the reverse way; economics that are in conflict with fundamental religion are also equally bad.”44 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “We cannot cultivate that taste by being in Berlin. It is in India that all our experiments must be made. Till at least we arrive at a complete and effective substitute, the first step, it is quite plain, must be the giving up of Government institutions. Those students therefore who took that step did well if they understood what they were doing. And only the sacrifice of such students will be of increasing benefit to the country as time passes. But those who are repenting or dissatisfied with their own lot should certainly have no hesitation in going back to Government institutions. After all it is a conflict of ideal and if the ideal that non-co-operation stands for is good and is congenial to the Indian soil, it will triumph over every conceivable obstacle.”45

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “An armed conflict between nations horrifies us. But the economic war is no better than an armed conflict. This is like a surgical operation. An economic war is prolonged torture. And its ravages are no less terrible than those depicted in the literature on war properly so called. We think nothing of the other because we are used to its deadly effects.”46 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “That life only is worth living in which there is a harmonious correlation, no antagonism, among the several sacrifices. The spinning subscription is a national sacrifice of the lightest measure, not in conflict with the requirements of humanity, and certainly not in conflict with those of the village, family or the individual.”47

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “These instances can be multiplied. The principle that applies in the instances cited applies in the matter of killing rabid dogs. To destroy a rabid dog is to commit the minimum amount of violence. A recluse, who is living in a forest and is compassion incarnate, may not destroy a rabid dog. For in his compassion he has the virtue of making it whole. But a city-dweller who is responsible for the protection of lives under his care and who does not possess the virtues of the recluse, but is capable of destroying a rabid dog, is faced with a conflict of duties. If he kills the dog, he commits a sin. If he does not kill it, he commits a graver sin. So he prefers to commit the lesser one and save himself from the graver.”48 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I am surprised that the correspondent does not see the distinction between the two statements. One refers to a Hindu in a concrete manner. Denial of the existence of God is not a characteristic of Hinduism. Millions of Hindus do believe in God. Therefore one may say ‘there are Hindus who believe in God, etc.’ but ‘a man may not believe in God and still call himself a Hindu’. In the second case I have attempted an exhaustive definition. In the first case, I have given a fairly general illustration. I, therefore, see no conflict between the two positions.”49




  1. VOL. 15: 21 MAY, 1915 - 31 AUGUST, 1917 241
  2. LETTER TO W. H. LEWIS, April 28, 1917
  3. VOL. 19: 29 SEPTEMBER, 1919 - 24 MARCH, 1920 331
  4. VOL. 20: 25 MARCH, 1920 - JUNE, 1920 219
  5. VOL. 20: 25 MARCH, 1920 - JUNE, 1920 323
  6. VOL. 20: 25 MARCH, 1920 - JUNE, 1920 393
  7. Young India, 23-6-1920
  8. Young India, 15-9-1920
  9. Navajivan, 27-3-1921
  10. VOL. 23: 6 APRIL, 1921 - 21 JULY, 1921 75
  11. VOL. 23 : 6 APRIL, 1921 - 21 JULY, 1921 185
  12. Young India, 15-6-1921
  13. Young India, 15-9-1921
  14. VOL. 25 : 27 OCTOBER, 1921 - 22 JANUARY, 1922 10
  15. Young India, 15-12-192l
  16. Young India, 15-12-192l
  17. VOL. 25 : 27 OCTOBER, 1921 - 22 JANUARY, 1922 414
  18. VOL. 26: 24 JANUARY, 1922 - 12 NOVEMBER, 1923 19
  19. VOL. 26 : 24 JANUARY, 1922 - 12 NOVEMBER, 1923 88
  20. VOL. 26 : 24 JANUARY, 1922 - 12 NOVEMBER, 1923 169
  21. VOL. 26 : 24 JANUARY, 1922 - 12 NOVEMBER, 1923 383
  22. VOL. 27 : 12 JANUARY, 1924 - 21 MAY, 1924 44
  23. VOL. 27 : 12 JANUARY, 1924 - 21 MAY, 1924 369
  24. VOL.28: 22 MAY, 1924 - 15 AUGUST, 1924 237
  25. VOL.28: 22 MAY, 1924 - 15 AUGUST, 1924 327
  26. VOL. 29: 16 AUGUST, 1924 - 26 DECEMBER, 1924 29
  27. Navajivan, 14-9-1924
  28. Young India, 31-10-1924  
  29. VOL. 29 : 16 AUGUST, 1924 - 26 DECEMBER, 1924 432
  30. VOL. 29 : 16 AUGUST, 1924 - 26 DECEMBER, 1924 500
  31. VOL. 30: 27 DECEMBER, 1924 - 21 MARCH, 1925 55
  32. VOL. 30: 27 DECEMBER, 1924 - 21 MARCH, 1925 66
  33. VOL. 30 : 27 DECEMBER, 1924 - 21 MARCH, 1925 376
  34. VOL.31: 22 MARCH, 1925 -15 JUNE, 1925 255
  35. Navajivan, 21-6-1925
  36. VOL.32: 17 JUNE, 1925 - 24 SEPTEMBER, 1925 6
  37. VOL.32: 17 JUNE, 1925 - 24 SEPTEMBER, 1925 408
  38. VOL. 33: 25 SEPTEMBER, 1925 - 10 FEBRUARY, 1926 64
  39. Young India, 8-10-1925
  40. Navajivan, 11-10-1925
  41. VOL. 33: 25 SEPTEMBER, 1925 - 10 FEBRUARY, 1926 351
  42. VOL. 33: 25 SEPTEMBER, 1925 - 10 FEBRUARY, 1926 357
  43. VOL. 34: 11 FEBRUARY, 1926 - 1 APRIL, 1926 18
  44. Young India, 17-6-1926
  45. Young India, 15-7-1926
  46. VOL. 36: 8 JULY, 1926 - 10 NOVEMBER, 1926 45
  47. Young India, 26-8-1926
  48. VOL. 36: 8 JULY, 1926 - 10 NOVEMBER, 1926 391
  49. Young India, 28-10-1926





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