Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Conflicts in India and Mahatma Gandhi, Part-III


Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338




Conflicts in India and Mahatma Gandhi, Part-III


Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Who am I to prevent them? If I had power and could legislate, I should certainly stop all proselytizing. It is the cause of much avoidable conflict between classes and unnecessary heart-burning among missionaries. But I should welcome people of any nationality if they came to serve here for the sake of service. In Hindu households the advent of a missionary has meant the disruption of the family coming in the wake of change of dress, manners, language, food and drink.”125 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “He thought that I had accepted your one-sided complaints. I told him my wire was independent of what you had said and that I had prejudged nothing. In any case you and I have to take things calmly. Thakkar Bapa means nothing even when he says a lot. It is the vent he needs for bottled up rage over things real or imaginary. My advice is: Think nothing of what he says! And do as he wishes even when there is conflict of opinion. We must not let him be soured.”126

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “An eternal conflict goes on in our hearts between the divine and the demoniac, truth and untruth, knowledge and ignorance, light and darkness. We should put up a struggle to our utmost but not beyond our strength. Arjuna was overreaching himself when God dissuaded him. To take an example, ahimsa is good but what should I do if I cannot rid myself of the fear of snakes? When I have already killed it in my mind, but only shrink from putting the thought into action, dharma indicates that I kill it in accordance with my nature. The resolve not to kill it serves no purpose. The same holds true in the instance of brahmacharya and the householder’s estate. Observance of lifelong continence is undoubtedly worthy but those unable to control their passion should enter the holy state of matrimony as brahmacharya in such instances would be a mere mockery of it. There is no contradiction here, only a matter of two distinct dharmas.”127 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “There is no difference whatsoever between the two villages, as far as the village industries programme is concerned. In no case should a worker come in conflict with the authorities.”128

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The correspondent is wrong in suggesting that I do not believe in the existence of class struggle. What I do not believe in is the necessity of fomenting and keeping it up. I entertain a growing belief that it is perfectly possible to avoid it. There is no virtue in fomenting it, as there is in preventing it. The conflict between moneyed classes and labourers merely seems. When labour is intelligent enough to organize itself and learns to act as one man, it will have the same weight as money if not much greater. The conflict is really between intelligence and unintelligence. Surely it will be folly to keep up such a conflict. Unintelligence must be removed.”129 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Nothing in the Shastras which is capable of being reasoned can stand if it is in conflict with reason.”130

 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “But the conflict arises when we believe that our wives and children have a different dharma to follow. We must go as far along this path as possible. If, out of an impulse, we have gone too far, there should be no hesitation in retracing our steps. The Sangh should carry on with whatever means it may be having. Let us keep an eye on our resources and fix the maximum limit. But, in doing this, we shall have to look to the country as well. We are bound to be affected by whatever may be happening in the country. And it is our goal to take the country along with us. We must always try to pursue our activities taking the country with us. I cannot lay down any rule in such matters. These are matters concerning the individual and they depend on his sincerity. The highest limit of Rs. 75 has been set. Whether or not that amount should be drawn is a matter for individual decision.”131

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I would love to kill the New Constitution today if I can. There is hardly anything in it I like. But Jawaharlal’s way is not my way. I accept his ideal about land, etc. But I do not accept practically any of his methods. I would strain every nerve to prevent a class war. So would he, I expect. But he does not believe it to be possible to avoid it. I believe it to be perfectly possible especially if my method is accepted. But though Jawaharlal is extreme in his presentation of his methods, he is sober in action. So far as I know him, he will not precipitate a conflict nor will he shirk it if it is forced on him. But there perhaps the whole Congress is not of one mind. A difference there certainly is. My method is designed to avoid conflict. His is not so designed. My own feeling is that Jawaharlal will accept the decisions of the majority of his colleagues. For a man of his temperament, this is most difficult. He is finding it so already. Whatever he does he will do it nobly. Though the gulf between us as to the outlook upon life has undoubtedly widened, we have never been so near each other in hearts as we perhaps are today.”132 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “If you do not strain the meaning of whatever I said, your interesting research does not affect my general position. But if there is in your opinion a real conflict between my remark and your discovery, I have no hesitation in saying that your discovery should be preferred to my remark.” 133

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Of course, I do wish you to see me at Kashi, but the wish ought not to conflict with dharma. If you cannot be freed, or if you can be freed but Jayaprakash does not want it, then it would be improper for you to come and my desire that you should would be against dharma. I should be glad if, subject to these two conditions, you could come. I might even wish that you could be by my side at present! However, the wish would go contrary to dharma as your dharma at present is to do whatever service you can by remaining there. Both Mirabehn and Nanavati are laid up here. Both are very ill. You could be very helpful to me on the present occasion; but how can I entertain such a wish? That way, even Mahadev would prove helpful here. But wishing his presence here is against dharma.”134 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Yes, we seem to differ in our ideas of village uplift and reconstruction. The difference is of emphasis. He does not mind the village uplifts movement. He believes in industrialization; I have grave doubts about its usefulness for India. He believes in the ultimate inevitability of class conflict, though he would avoid it if he could. I expect to convert the zemindars and other capitalists by the nonviolent method, and therefore there is for me nothing like an inevitability of class conflict. For it is an essential part of non-violence to go along the line of least resistance. The moment the cultivators of the soil realize their power, the zamindari evil will be sterilized. What can the poor zamindar do when they say that they will simply not work the land unless they are paid enough to feed and clothe and educate themselves and their children in a decent manner? In reality the toiler is the owner of what he produces. If the toilers intelligently combine, they will become an irresistible power. That is how I do not see the necessity of class conflict. If I thought it inevitable I should not hesitate to preach it and teach it.”135

Mahatma Gandhi wrote,  “It is sad to think that the Smritis contain texts which can command no respect from men who cherish the liberty of woman as their own and who regard her as the mother of the race; sadder still to think that a newspaper published on behalf of orthodoxy should publish such texts as if they were part of religion. Of course there are in the Smritis texts which give woman her due place and regard her with deep veneration. The question arises as to what to do with the Smritis that contain texts that are in conflict with other texts in the same Smritis and that are repugnant to the moral sense. I have already suggested often enough in these columns that all that is printed in the name of scriptures need not be taken as the word of God or the inspired word. But everyone can’t decide what is good and authentic and what is bad and interpolated. There should therefore be some authoritative body that would revise all that passes under the name of scriptures, expurgate all the texts that have no moral value or are contrary to the fundamentals of religion and morality, and present such an edition for the guidance of Hindus. The certainty that the whole mass of Hindus and the persons accepted as religious leaders will not accept the validity of such authority need not interfere with the sacred enterprise. Work done sincerely and in the spirit of service will have its effect on all in the long run and will most assuredly help those who are badly in need of such assistance.”136

Mahatma Gandhi wrote,  If Sikhism is a part of Hindu culture, as I believe it is, what is the meaning of change of faith and name? If Sikhism is not part and product of Hinduism you are simply creating a conflict among the Harijans without achieving any noble purpose.137 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Who can deny the reasonableness of the statement (Maxim c) those workmen should be regarded as equal owners with the shareholders? If conflict between capital and labour is to be avoided, as I believe it can and must be, labour should have the same status and dignity as capital. Why should a million rupees put together be more than a million men or women put together? Are they not infinitely more than metal, white or yellow? Or should holders of metal always assume that labour cannot be organized and put together as metal can? For the past eighteen years, consciously or unconsciously, capital and labour have acted in Ahmadabad on the assumption that there is no inherent conflict between the two. It is true that peace between the two has been precarious. But it has been so because the parties have not recognized the full validity of the maxims as the conditions of an abiding peace.”138

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have no difficulty in hitting upon the truth, because I go by certain fundamental maxims. Truth is superior to everything and I reject what conflicts with it. Similarly that which is in conflict with non-violence should be rejected. And on matters which can be reasoned out, that which conflicts with Reason must also be rejected.”139 Mahatma Gandhi wrote,  “It is not as if I did not understand what you said. I have only given you the natural solutions. If marrying and money-making seem more painful and you are not indulging in self-delusion, you have to bear the mental conflict. Lasting peace can be attained only by satsang. You should not live as a recluse. There are two kinds of satsang: one the company of good men and second the reading and study of good books and conducting oneself on the pattern enjoined therein.”140

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Obviously Rajendra Babu, Vallabhbhai, Rajaji and others are inclined in one way, Jawaharlal in another. Nevertheless we are all working together. It is certainly a matter of wonder. But it is a necessity. After all we have to live in the world. We have to work with patriots holding views different from our own. Therefore we have to work in a spirit of co-operation and compromise. For this we shall have to take the initiative. There is no doubt that Jawaharlal is inclined to be rash. He says harsh things. Sometimes he calls people names. But he knows the worth of his colleagues. He understands discipline and restraint. Jawaharlal works with his colleagues in the belief that one day he will convert them to his view and he hopes that his contact with them will one day change their opinions. Three ideologies have thus been in conflict in the Congress. Even when I was in the Working Committee there was this conflict between two or three ideologies. I purposely made Vithalbhai’s the secretary. Even so the drafting of the resolutions always had to be done by me. They always admitted of two interpretations. I saw no objection to this because I have to carry the others with me. Truth and non-violence are the creed of the Congress. Still no one has accepted them as their creed. Those who have accepted them as a creed belong to this Sangh. Having admitted that we have so far pursued truth and non-violence, Kishorelal asks, supposing we adopt policies in future which would mean giving up of truth and non-violence in practice, then? I say to him, In that case you’re leaving the Sangh will not help. In that case you will have to wind up the Sangh; you will have to bury it. You must then say that neither you nor anyone else can run the Sangh.”141

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have not shown your letter to Mahadev. I have understood your point. So far, I should say, I have not made any changes yet. The conflict is still going on. I like Mirabehn’s conclusion better than that of all of you. That is exactly what Sushila’s great anguish suggests. I attributed guilt where there was none. Does this not point to my own morbid state of mind? Mirabehn is not even aware of that incident. Yet she has warned me as gently as she could. The direct implication of Sushila’s anguish is this: “What sort of a father are you that you saw guilt in an innocent girl?” Even by deserting me she gives me the same warning. She is of course taking the whole responsibility on herself. But if I let her do it, would it not be the limit of my wickedness? If this conclusion is correct, would I not be doing penance by not taking service from any woman? This question is before me in spite of myself. I am perplexed. I cannot see my way. I cannot make up my mind. Who can help me in this matter? Hence I am praying to God that He may either guide me or take me away.”142

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “We have left out the teaching of religions from the Wardha Scheme of Education, because we are afraid that religions as they are taught and practiced today lead to conflict rather than unity. But on the other hand, I hold that the truths that are common to all religions can and should be taught to all children. These truths cannot be taught through words or through books. The children can learn these truths only through the daily life of the teacher. If the teacher himself lives up to the tenets of truth and justice, then alone can the children learn that truth and justice are the basis of all religions?”143 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “This in essence is the principle of non-violent non-co-operation. It follows, therefore, that it must have its roots in love. Its object should not be to punish the opponent or to inflict injury upon him. Even while non-co-operating with him, we must make him feel that in us he has a friend and we should try to reach his heart by rendering him humanitarian service whenever possible. In fact it is the acid test of non-violence that in a non-violent conflict there is no rancour left behind, and in the end the enemies are converted into friends. That was my experience in South Africa with General Smuts. He started by being my bitterest opponent and critic. Today he is my warmest friend. For eight years we were ranged on opposite sides. But during the Second Round Table Conference it was he who stood by me and, in public as well as in private, gave me his full support. This is only one instance out of many that I can quote.”144

 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “There is one other matter which demands the urgent attention of the States and their advisers. They fight shy of the very name Congress. They regard Congressmen as outsiders, foreigners and what not. They may be all that in law. But man-made law, if it is in conflict with the natural law, becomes a dead letter when the latter operates in full force. The people of the States look up to the Congress in all matters affecting their interest. Many of them are members of the Congress. Some like Shri Jamnalalji hold high offices in the Congress organization. In the eyes of the Congress there is no distinction between members from the States and from India called British. It is surely detrimental to the interests of the States to ignore the Congress or Congressmen, especially when it or they seek to render friendly assistance. They must recognize the fact that the people in the States are in many cases guided by the Congress. They know that I am responsible for the policy of non-interference hitherto followed by the Congress. But with the growing influence of the Congress it is impossible for me to defend it in the face of injustice perpetrated in the States. If the Congress feels that it has the power to offer effective interference, it will be bound to do so when the call comes. And if the Princes believe that the good of the people is also their good, they would gratefully seek and accept the Congress assistance. It is surely in their interest to cultivate friendly relations with an organization which bids fair in the future, not very distant, to replace the Paramount Power, and let me hope, by friendly arrangement. Will they not read the handwriting on the wall?”145

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “An armed conflict may bring disaster to German arms; it cannot change the German heart even as the last defeat did not. It produced a Hitler vowed to wreak vengeance on the victors. And what a vengeance it is! My answer, therefore, must be the answer that Stephenson gave to his fellow-workers who had despaired of ever filling the deep pit that made the first railway possible. He asked his co-workers of little faith to have more faith and go on filling the pit. It was not bottomless, it must be filled. Even so I do not despair because Herr Hitler’s or the German heart has not yet melted. On the contrary I plead for more suffering and still more till the melting has become visible to the naked eye. And even as the Pastor has covered himself with glory, a single Jew bravely standing up and refusing to bow to Hitler’s decrees will cover him with glory and lead the way to the deliverance of the fellow Jews.”146

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “That should present no problem. If they want to proceed in the orthodox style and fill up their time with speechifying and so on and so forth, you need not imitate them, or waste your time like them; you may just put in your appearance at these meetings, but need not waste your time by taking part in idle controversy. Instead, you should occupy all your time with useful service of the ratepayers, by yourself wielding the bucket and the broom, by working with the spade and the basket, by nursing and rendering medical aid to the sick and ailing, and by teaching the ratepayers who are illiterate, and their children, to read and write. As a result, two things may happen. Either your opponents will be infected by your example and will align themselves with you or there will be an end to all controversy. Or the ratepayers will learn to know the sheep from the goats, and at the next election all the seventeen seats will be filled by Congressmen. That is the non-violent way of liquidating opposition. It eliminates all conflict and clash and makes our way clear irrespective of what the other party may or may not do.”147

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Whoever has more of the earthly or spiritual goods has to perform more service to the community, has to be more humble. The moment untouchability and the sense of high and low crept in, Hinduism began to decline. Hinduism is based on the firm foundation of truth and non-violence and, therefore, there is no room in it for conflict with other religions.”148 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I cannot, while there is this conflict between the head and the heart within me, offer to take you along with me or be of much use to you as a ‘guide’. I have no set theory to go by. I have not worked out the science of Satyagraha in its entirety. I am still groping. You can join me in my quest if it appeals to you and you feel the call.”149 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The All-India Congress Committee views with grave concern the measures proposed by the Ceylon Government with reference to their Indian employees and hopes that it may be possible to find a way to avoid the most undesirable and grave conflict that, as a result of these measures, is threatened between such near and ancient neighbours as India and Ceylon.” 150

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The Committee cannot contemplate without much concern a quarrel between the two countries which are separated only by a strip of water but which have a common culture and which have been intimately connected from times immemorial. The Committee desires to explore every means of avoiding conflict and, therefore, appoints Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to go to Ceylon and confer with the authorities and representative associations and individuals on behalf of the Working Committee and do all that may be possible to effect a just and honourable settlement.”151 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Take the peasant action suggested by Dr. Lohia as a possible new programme. I regret to have to say that in most cases the peasants are not being educated for non-violent action. They are being kept in a state of perpetual excitement and made to entertain hopes which can never be fulfilled without a violent conflict. The same may safely be said about labour. My own experience tells me that both the peasantry and labour can be organized for effective non-violent action, if Congressmen honestly work for it. But they cannot, if they have no faith in the ultimate success of non-violent action. All that is required is the proper education of the peasantry and labour. They to be informed that if they are properly organized they have more wealth and resources through their labour than the capitalists through their money. Only capitalists have control over the money market, labour has not over its labour market, although if labour had been well served by its chosen leaders it would have become conscious of the irresistible power that comes from proper instruction in nonviolence. Instead, labour in many cases is being taught to rely on coercive methods to compel compliance with its demands. The kind of training that labour generally receives today leaves it in ignorance, and relies upon violence as the ultimate sanction. Thus it is not possible for me to regard the present peasant or labour activity as a new programme for the preparation of Satyagraha.”152

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It is surprising how the minorities are being played against the Congress. Surely the Congress has no quarrel with any of them. The Congress will safeguard the rights of every minority so long as they do not advance claims inconsistent with India’s independence. The Muslims, the Scheduled Classes and every other class will be fully represented in the constituent assembly and they will have to decide their own special rights. Even the Princes and the zemindars have nothing to fear if they become, and appear, as representatives of the ryots. Independent India will not tolerate any interests in conflict with the true interests of the masses, whether the latter are known as Muslims, Scheduled Classes, and Christians, Parsis, Jews, Sikhs, Brahmins and non-Brahmins, or any other.” 153 Mahatma Gandhi wrote,  “I have been thinking hard over the proposal. I feel that it is wholly unnecessary to provide any protection so far as I am concerned. My co-operation in such protection will conflict with my own response to any attack on my own life. If therefore the authorities must take any precautions, they should be taken outside the Ashram limits. If the authorities will consult my wishes, they should drop all measures for protecting me. They can use this writing for absolving them from all responsibility about me.”154

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The principal hindrance is undoubtedly the British Government. If they can summon a Round Table Conference as they propose to do after the war, they can surely summon a Constituent Assembly subject to safeguards to the satisfaction of minorities. The expression ‘satisfaction of minorities’ may be regarded as vague. It can be defined beforehand by agreement. The question thus resolves itself into whether the British Government desire to part with power and open a new chapter in their own history. I have already shown that the question of the Princes is a red herring across the path. European interests are absolutely safe so long as they are not in conflict with ‘the interests of India’. I think this expression finds place in the Irwin-Gandhi Pact.”155 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The Working Committee appreciates and expresses their pleasure at the readiness exhibited by Congressmen for launching civil disobedience, should this become necessary. But civil disobedience requires the same strict discipline as an army organized for an armed conflict. The army is helpless unless it possesses its weapons of destruction and knows how to use them; so also an army of non-violent soldiers is ineffective unless it understands and possesses the essentials of nonviolence.”156

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I see that there isn’t complete accord between you two even now. Differences of opinion seem to persist. That being so, it seems best that you should not be associated with each other in the same work. Such things often happen. Wasn’t this true of Kakasaheb and Maganlal1 also? I took care not to let them come into conflict with each other, but whenever there was a conflict it always led to bitterness.”157 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “But it must be realized that the reform cannot be rushed. If it is to be brought about by non-violent means, it can only be done by education both of the haves and the have-nots. The former should be assured that there never will be force used against them. The have-nots must be educated to know that no one can really compel them to do anything against their will, and that they can secure their freedom by learning the art of non-violence, i.e., self-suffering. If the end in view is to be achieved, the education I have adumbrated has to be commenced now. An atmosphere of mutual respect and trust has to be established as the preliminary step. There can then be no violent conflict between the classes and the masses.”158

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have no hesitation in whole-heartedly endorsing the suggestion made by Shri Shantikumar. I would go a step further. In order that the peons who have willy-nilly to wear uniforms provided for them may not feel any inferiority, the big office staff should set the example by themselves voluntarily using khadi for their garments. Khadi is one of the greatest levelers. The peons should be able to take pride in their uniforms. This they will only do when they know that their employers use the same material as that of which their uniforms are made. The greater the approach on the part of employers to their employees, the greater the possibility of a peaceful solution of the difficult problem of class conflict.”159 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “So far as the British are concerned I have already said that I will do nothing to embarrass them. I strain every nerve to avoid a conflict. But they may make it inevitable. Even so, I am praying for a mode of application which will be effective and still not embarrassing in the sense of violent outbreaks throughout the country.”160 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “You write that you neither have altercations with anyone there nor have any cause to feel unhappy. I think the reason for this is that while here you were not in your own milieu, there you are. You are in a place which you desired and which you have found with your own enterprise. Here you were brought only by circumstances. Therefore, you are in your natural situation there. The situation being unnatural for you here, there was constant friction, or so you thought. This is true not of you alone but of everyone. As I think on it, I see that those who have not absorbed the atmosphere here are constantly in conflict. The atmosphere here cannot be said to be natural for anyone. It is what it is. Hence, only he who has learnt to master the atmosphere or wants to do so can live here comfortably and grow. There is no particular purpose in my writing this. As a doctor, you must be concerned with such matters and so I have placed before you my view for your consideration.”161

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “But those who have no doubt about their course, those who have assimilated ahimsa, those for whom ahimsa is the only way out of all difficulties, should quietly retire from the Congress and bury themselves in various non-violent activities. If they are truly non-violent, they will prevent a split in the Congress. Their retirement makes any split out of the question. But even after retiring they will not come in conflict with the Congress. They will give the Sardar any help that he summons for non-violent activities, and they will try to lay down their lives wherever there is an occasion to do so in the event of internal disturbances.”162 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Conflicts do not arise overnight. Nothing would have happened if you had not regarded it as conflict. You made a mountain out of a molehill without seeing or listening and without paying attention to my letters.”163  Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I know that the imaginary descriptions of such visits and the eagerness with which the public devour them show their desire for communal unity and a solution of the political deadlock. But mere desire will take us no nearer its fulfillment. For fulfillment can only come through common action on the part of those who share the desire. All are searching for common action. Speculation interferes with the search. So far as the Congress is concerned, its policy and action based thereon are well known. It is gross misrepresentation to suggest that the Congress is out for securing terms for itself. Freedom of speech is for all even as independence will be for all. The contents of the latter will be decided not by the Congress but by the vote of all. And if it is to be achieved non-violently it follows that the mere vote of the majority will have little play. The charter of independence must be the product of the willing consent of the minorities and other relevant interests which are not in conflict with the interests of the vast mass of Indian humanity.”164 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have been watching the conflict among the students with pain and detachment. I can thus neither send a message nor depute a leader. And it is in this that the good of the student community lies. You must resolve the quarrel amongst yourselves. How this is to be done I have explained in my exposition of Satyagraha. Nothing should be done out of cowardice, nothing at all from malice and nothing to gain power. You should also keep away from active politics. If even a handful of students remember this and work accordingly, others will in time begin to follow them.”165 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I told him that there came a time in every Congressman’s life when being a Congressman dragged him down; that was when there was conflict between thought and action. For the spring of non-violent action was non-violent thought. If the latter was absent, the former had subjectively little or no value. Therefore it was good for him, the Congress and the country that he should resign and mould his action from moment to moment as he thought proper. And by his action he would open the door for those Congressmen to resign whose practice could not accord with their thought. The Congress was conceived to be a non-violent and truthful organization in which there should be no place for those who could not honestly conform to these two conditions. Strange as it might appear, the practice of non-violence seemed more difficult than of truth. For the fruits of untruth were more in detectable than those of violence.”166

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Even in armed conflict armies are powerfully helped by the civil population. Imagine the fate of the British forces, if their effort was not co-ordinate with that of the civilians. I was therefore delighted that there was a wide response from the prisoners and the other Congressmen this time in the matter of spinning during the spinning carnival1. I dare to believe that if Congressmen were enthusiastic believers in communal unity and removal of untouchability and the like, there would be no communal discord and there would be no antagonism such as it is from Harijans. We are the makers of our own destiny. It has been somewhat justly said that if I am a good General, I must not grumble about my men. For I must choose them from the material at my disposal. I plead guilty. But I have qualified my admission by the adverb ‘somewhat’, for I laid down the conditions from the very inception of the programme of non-violence. My terms were accepted. If from experience it is found that the terms cannot be worked, I must either be dismissed or I must retire. I retired but to no purpose. The bond between Congressmen and me seems to be unbreakable. They may quarrel with my conditions but they will not leave me or let me go. They know that however unskilled a servant I may be, I will neither desert them nor fail them in the hour of need. And so they try, though often grumblingly, to fulfil my conditions. I must then on the one hand adhere to my conditions so long as I have a living faith in them and, on the other, take what I can get from Congressmen, expecting that if I am true, they will someday fulfil all my conditions and find themselves in the enjoyment of full independence such as has never before been seen on earth.”167

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Having said this, I must warn satyagrahis against hunger-strikes or the like. It is their duty to conform to the jail regulations in so far as they do not come in conflict with known rules of honour, not self-made ones by hyper-sensitive temperaments. These ought not to court imprisonment. I suggest that it is a satyagrahis first code of honour that he will conscientiously carry out jail discipline with the reservation just mentioned. Satyagraha is a process of silent conversion. Indiscipline and nagging are wholly inconsistent with the ambition of conversion. I am repeating these views of mine not without fear and trembling. For I know that jail officials have often quoted them on wrong occasions against satyagrahi prisoners. Of course in all I have said there is nothing against carrying out constitutional agitation for jail reforms even as to the so-called criminals. A satyagrahi is a universal reformer. For him there is no distinction between criminals and non-criminals. He is out to render service to the whole of humanity to the extent of his ability and opportunity.”168 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “This last is the master-key to non-violent independence. Working for economic equality means abolishing the eternal conflict between capital and labour. It means the leveling down of the few rich in whose hands is concentrated the bulk of the nation’s wealth on the one hand, and the leveling up of the semi-starved naked millions on the other. A non-violent system of government is clearly impossibility so long as the wide gulf between the rich and the hungry millions persists. The contrast between the palaces of New Delhi and the miserable hovels of the poor labouring class nearby cannot last one day in a free India in which the poor will enjoy the same power as the richest in the land. A violent and bloody revolution is a certainty one day unless there is a voluntary abdication of riches and the power that riches give and sharing them for the common good.”169 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Will not the working of the constructive programme bring Congressmen into conflict with the Government? This was one of the many questions asked at the meeting of the principal members of the A. I. C. C. I addressed in Wardha on the 17th. My answer was that the whole programme was so conceived as to avoid conflict. Of course the most innocent activity may be so manipulated as to provoke conflict. I expect every Congress worker to do his best to avoid it. But there is no help for it, if the Government prohibits such activities because they are undertaken by Congressmen who believe that the working of the constructive programme will bring swaraj. That is the only non-violent way to achieve the end. Swaraj by non-violent means must come from the creative effort of those who desire it. The Government should welcome every such effort, unless they want to prevent even cent per cent non-violent movement. In that case conflict will become unavoidable. But I am of opinion that no conflict is possible, at any rate while the war lasts, unless the Congress workers want or provoke it. They have to work, work and work. They will make no speeches or demonstrations in doing their constructive work. As I have already said, today most of the items of constructive work happen to be like feeding and clothing common cause between the Government and the people.” 170

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Freedom will not come through parliamentary effort. Therefore communal pacts, whilst they are good if they can be had, are valueless unless they are backed by the union of hearts. Without it there can be no peace in the land. Even Pakistan can bring no peace, if there is no union of hearts. This union can come only by mutual service and cooperative work. Separate electorates have resulted in the separation of hearts. They presupposed mutual distrust and conflict of interests. They have tended to perpetuate differences and deepen the distrust. How to get out of the tangle is the question. I want just now to confine myself to the four Muslim majority provinces. In them there is natural Pakistan in the sense that the permanent majority can rule the minority. I hold it to be utterly wrong thus to divide man from man by reason of religion which is liable to change. What conflict of interest can there be between Hindus and Muslims in the matter of revenue, sanitation, police, justice, or the use of public conveniences? The difference can only be in religious usage and observances with which a secular State has no concern. Congressmen, if they are not to merge in the Hindus as Hindus, must rigidly abstain from the legislatures and local bodies governed by separate electorates. In these provinces the separate electorates must be taken to have come from the Hindu demand and in the supposed Hindu interest. But a Congress Hindu has no interest apart from his Muslim brother. Therefore he must not enter the electoral bodies where Hindu and Muslim interests are falsely regarded as separate and even antagonistic. If he enters these bodies, he can do so only to divide the majority members, i.e., to take sides with one Muslim party or another. If I could make all Hindus Congress minded, I would withdraw every Hindu member from these bodies and put the Muslim members on their honour. I would seek to influence them from outside these bodies by being friends with them and rendering disinterested service. I would be indifferent to their manning all the services. At the most an infinitesimal percentage can have a share in them. And it is a superstition to suppose that these services can oppress a people who have become conscious of human dignity and human rights and know how to enforce them. Since the vast majority of Congressmen are Hindus in at least three Muslim majority provinces, they have a rare opportunity of showing their non-violent strength, their disinterestedness, their utter freedom from the communal taint, and their ability to submit to the rule of their Muslim fellow-countrymen. They will do this not in a huff but as true nationalists and friends of the Muslims. Remaining outside they will probably better protect the just interests of Hindus as citizens. For a Congress Hindu is not any the less a Hindu because he claims to represent equally, as he must, all the other faiths in himself. For as I have said, so far as the State is concerned, its capacity for service stops short of the service of the different faiths, and the services it can render apply to all irrespective of their faiths. Therefore Congressmen have a rare opportunity of showing undefiled nationalism in these provinces. They will incidentally show the other minorities that they have nothing to fear from the majorities if they know the true way. We must get out of the miasma of religious majorities and minorities. Why a Parsi’s interest is different from a Hindu’s or Muslim’s so far as the State is concerned? Did not Dadabhai and Pherozeshah rule the Congress while they lived, not by Congress grace or patronage, but by right of service and merit? Did their rule injure any Hindu or Muslim interest? Were these interests ever in conflict on the Congress platform? And is not the Congress a voluntary State?”171

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Legally and constitutionally the President is the sole authority. If there is a conflict of opinion between the majority of the Working Committee and the President, as was once the case in the early stages, the majority view would supersede the President’s. But on critical occasions legal opinion is not of much value. People have their favourite heroes, and they will follow the heroes even blindly. My advice, therefore, is that in the ticklish question of ahimsa each one should be his own authority not on the law but on interpretation. If all the four distinguished leaders whom you have mentioned were to sit together, they would probably give the same interpretation, but in the course of their speeches each would put his special emphasis on one aspect or another of the same matter.”172 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “There is force in your argument. But I would like you to delve a little deeper into the question. I admit that in asking people to learn the Persian script I have at the back of my mind a contribution to Hindu-Muslim unity. There has been a long-standing conflict between the Hindi and Urdu tongues as between the two scripts. Today it has assumed a virulent form. In 1935 in Indore the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, while defining Hindi, gave a definite place to the Persian script. In 1925 the Congress gave the national language the name of Hindustani. Both scripts were made permissible. Thus Hindi plus Urdu was recognized as the national language. The question of Hindu-Muslim unity was definitely in the forefront in all these decisions. I have not raised this issue today. I have only given it a concrete form. It is a logical outcome of events. If we want to develop the national language to the fullest extent, it behoves us to give the two scripts an equal status. In the end whichever is appreciated more by the people will be the more widespread.”173

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I could not have expected more generosity than this. I was and still am of opinion that there could have been no question of conflict if the office-bearers could be the same. There is a possibility of conflict in the present arrangement but if both the parties behave with gentlemanliness this can be avoided. If the Hindustani Prachar Sabha succeeds, national language will no longer remain a political issue. In fact it should never have been associated with politics.”174 “The A.I.C.C. is of opinion that Britain is incapable of defending India. It is natural that whatever she does is for her own defence. There is an eternal conflict between Indian and British interests. It follows that their notions of defence would also differ. The British Government has no trust in India’s political parties. The Indian army has been maintained up till now mainly to hold India in subjugation. It has been completely segregated from the general population who can in no sense regard it as their own. This policy of mistrust still continues and is the reason why national defence is not entrusted to India’s elected representatives.”175 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I combat the statement altogether. Nobody has yet told me that non-violent non-co-operation, unadulterated, has not succeeded. It has not been offered, it is true. Therefore, you can say that what has not been offered hitherto is not likely to be offered suddenly when India faces the Japanese arms. I can only hope that, in the face of danger, India would be readier to offer non-violent non-co-operation. Perhaps India is accustomed to British rule for so many years that the Indian mind or India’s masses do not feel the pinch so much as the advent of a new power would be felt. But your question is well put. It is possible that India may not be able to offer non-violent non-co-operation. But a similar question may be put regarding armed resistance. Several attempts have been made and they have not succeeded. Therefore, it will not succeed against the Japanese. That leads us to the absurd conclusion that India will never be ready for gaining independence, and seeing that I cannot subscribe to any such proposition, I must try again and again till India is ready to respond to the call of non-violent non-co-operation. But if India does not respond to that call, then India must respond to the call of some leader or some organization wedded to violence. For instance, the Hindu Mahasabha is trying to rouse the Hindu mind for an armed conflict. It remains to be seen whether that attempt succeeds. I for one do not believe it will succeed.”176

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “There seems to be between Khan Bahadur Kateli and me a conflict in the understanding of Government instructions about interviews. From the correspondence and instructions you were good enough to read to me, I had gathered that those who were permitted to visit me were not restricted as to the nature of discussion or its duration, a Government representative, if necessary, being present.”177 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I give below extracts from my speeches and writings to show how eager and earnest I was to avoid conflict and achieve the purpose by negotiation and to show that the Congress aim never was to thwart the Allies in any way.”178  Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It is an old argument. One used to hear it in old days in defence of terrorism. Sabotage is a form of violence. People have realized the futility of physical violence, but some people apparently think that it may be successfully practiced in its modified form as sabotage. It lacked the quality of non-violence and could not take the place of full-fledged armed conflict. . . . We have to deal with a power which takes pride in not recognizing defeat. In the early part of the British rule there were powerful risings. In several places the British were actually beaten. But they won in the end. A British statesman used to say, I do not believe in wooden guns. National struggles could not be won by wooden guns”.179 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Secrecy, in my opinion, is a sin and symptom of violence, therefore, to be definitely avoided, especially if the freedom of the dumb millions is the goal. Hence all underground activity, in my opinion, is taboo. What I, however, say is that even the content of violence and non-violence, whether as policy, or creed, should be judged by every individual worker according to the dictates of his head and heart. And when there is a conflict between the head and the heart, the heart wins.”180 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “But the Working Committee would not sit still while people are suffering. It is my conviction that we cannot meet fully the situation and alleviate the sufferings of the people, unless power and responsibility are transferred from British into Indian hands. Without such transfer, the attempts of Congressmen and others to alleviate the people’s sufferings are most likely to lead to conflict with the Government.”181

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have told you my head is on your lap. I do not remember the talks I had with you. Remember I am not like you. I am in the evening of life. If you see [any] conflict between the Rajaji formula and our talk tell me and I shall know. I have gone on [the] feeling that there was no conflict. Anyway the Rajaji formula is my last word unless you differ and convince me to the contrary. Am I clear? Let not your effort be interrupted.”182 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The Quit India resolution I hold to be absolutely innocuous. The Gelder interview notes now published are in no way in conflict with the “Quit India” resolution as I have interpreted it and, as the joint author of it, I have every right to interpret it.”183 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Some critics have suggested that by my present attitude I am lending moral weight to the Allied cause. They forget that my offer, such as it is, is conditioned upon the Allies, in this case the British Government, recognizing full independence, qualified during the pendency of the war. I see, therefore, no conflict between the principles enunciated in August resolution and what I have now suggested. May I suggest to critics that they should wait till the British Government has spoken? The statements made by me were meant in the first instance for the Government. Mr. Gelder sprang a surprise.”184 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “If I have any say in post-war policy, the free national government of India will promote a Commonwealth of all world States naturally including British Commonwealth and America and also, if possible, belligerent States so as to reduce to the minimum the possibility of armed conflict between different States.”185 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “In Gujarat many workers who are at present engaged in Hindi and Hindustani Prachar work are my colleagues. Some of them have sought my guidance. This statement is my guidance to them. If those who are working for the Wardha Samiti of the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan agree with my views on Hindustani Prachar, they should take up this work as well. They can certainly teach and coach for the Sammelan examinations those students who desire to learn only the Hindi style and the Devanagari script. But they themselves should popularize both the styles and the scripts and should also try to persuade as many persons as they can to do the same. So far as language is connected with the welfare of the nation, I regard Hindustani Prachar work to be most essential. There should never develop any conflict between the two activities of Hindi and Hindustani.”186 

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “If one’s mind wanders during prayer and does not lose itself in meditation, it is clear that one does not fully participate in prayer notwithstanding the physical presence. There is in that case a conflict between the body and the mind in which the mind is the winner. What I mean to say is that if we consider this to be a sacred day then we must with all our heart do all we can in the name of an old woman who, though unlettered, was an embodiment of purity. Let all our actions be sincere.”187 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “War to the knife is a simple English idiom. I have never known it used in the literal sense. It simply means a determined quarrel between parties. I hold that if there is nothing in common between the two or nothing which does not come in conflict with each others’ culture there can be no friendly mutual agreement.”188




  1. Harijan, 11-5-1935
  2.   LETTER TO N. R. MALKANI, June 6, 1935
  4.   Harijan, 24-8-1935
  5.   Harijan, 19-10-1935
  6. Harijan, 16-11-1935
  7. Gandhi Seva Sangh ke Dwitiya Adhiveshan (Savli) ka Vivaran, pp. 35
  8.   LETTER TO AGATHA HARRISON, April 30, 1936
  9.   LETTER TO G.V. KETKAR, June 26, 1936
  10. LETTER TO PRABHAVATI, October 10, 1936
  11. Harijan, 5-12-1936
  12.   Harijan, 28-11-1936
  13.   The Bombay Chronicle, 12-1-1937
  14.   Harijan, 13-2-1937
  15.   Harijan, 6-3-1937
  17. Gandhi Seva Sanghke Tritiya Varshik Adhiveshan (Hudli, Karnatak) ka Vivaran, pp. 59
  18.   LETTER TO PYARELAL, May 29, 1938
  19.   The Bombay Chronicle, 7-7-1938
  20. VOL. 74: 9 SEPTEMBER, 1938 - 29 JANUARY, 1939 131
  21. Harijan, 3-12-1938
  22. Harijan, 7-1-1939
  23. Harijan, 18-2-1939
  24.   Harijan, 25-3-1939
  25. Harijan, 27-5-1939
  26. VOL. 76: 31 MAY, 1939 - 15 OCTOBER, 1939 55
  27. Harijan, 1-7-1939
  28. Harijan, 29-7-1939
  29.   VOL. 77: 16 OCTOBER, 1939 - 22 FEBRUARY, 1940 25
  31. Harijan, 25-11-1939
  32. VOL. 77 : 16 OCTOBER, 1939 - 22 FEBRUARY, 1940 123
  33. LETTER TO CHHAGANLAL JOSHI, January 27, 1940
  34.   Harijan, 20-4-1940
  35. Harijan, 27-4-1940
  36. Harijan, 18-5-1940
  37.   LETTER TO SUSHILA NAYYAR, July 27, 1940
  38. Harijan, 4-8-1940
  39. LETTER TO SUSHILA NAYYAR, August 8, 1940
  40. VOL. 80 : 28 DECEMBER, 1940 - 17 AUGUST, 1941 95
  41. LETTER TO YUDHVIR S1NGH, June 9, 1941
  42. The Bombay Chronicle, 27-6-1941
  43. Congress Bulletin, No. 6, 1942, File No. 3/42/41-Pol.
  44. VOL. 81: 18 AUGUST, 1941 - 8 FEBRUARY, 1942 249
  45. VOL. 81 : 18 AUGUST, 1941 - 8 FEBRUARY, 1942 366
  46. Harijan, 25-1-1942
  47. Harijan, 25-1-1942
  48.   Harijan, 5-4-1942
  49. VOL. 82: 9 FEBRUARY, 1942 - 6 JUNE, 1942 213
  50. Harijan Sevak, 26-4-1942
  51.   VOL. 82: 9 FEBRUARY, 1942 - 6 JUNE, 1942 231
  52. VOL. 82: 9 FEBRUARY, 1942 - 6 JUNE, 1942 287
  53.   LETTER TO M. G. BHANDARI, February 24, 1943
  54. VOL. 83 : 7 JUNE, 1942 - 26 JANUARY, 1944 358
  55. VOL. 84 : 27 JANUARY, 1944 - 1 OCTOBER, 1944 49
  57. VOL. 84 : 27 JANUARY, 1944 - 1 OCTOBER, 1944 149
  58.   LETTER TO SHUAIB QURESHI, July 13, 1944
  59. VOL. 84 : 27 JANUARY, 1944 - 1 OCTOBER, 1944 181
  60. The Hindu, 16-7-1944
  61. The Bombay Chronicle, 22-7-1944
  62. The Hindu, 15-1-1945
  63. Bapuki Chhayamen, pp. 362
  64. The Hindu, 10-4-1945  






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