Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist
Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229
Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India
Special Task before Women – Mahatma Gandhi
The conference of women on Sunday last at Dandi became a Congress as I had wanted it to be. Thanks to the Government prohibition against the Baroda territory cars plying between Navasari and Dandi, many had walked the full 12 miles to Dandi. The following resolutions were unanimously adopted:
I This conference of the women of Gujarat assembled at Dandi on 13th April, 1930 having heard Gandhiji, resolves that the women assembled will picket liquor and toddy shops of Gujarat and appeal to the shop-keepers and the shop-goers to desist from plying their trade or drinking intoxicating liquors as the case may be, and will similarly picket foreign-cloth shops and appeal to the dealers and the buyers to desist from the practice of dealing in or buying foreign cloth as the case may be.
II This conference is of opinion that boycott of foreign cloth is possible only through khadi and therefore the women assembled resolve henceforth to use khadi only and will so far as possible spin regularly and will learn all the previous processes and preach the message of khadi among their neighbours, teach them the processes up to spinning and encourage them to spin regularly.
III This conference appoints the following Executive Committee with power to draw up a constitution and to amend it from time to time and add to their number:
1. Mrs. Tyabji (President)
2. Shrimati Mithubehn Petit (Secretary)
3. Shrimati Manibehn Patel
4. Rohini Desai
This conference hopes that Gujarati women will welcome this activity and participate in it. This conference hopes that women all over Gujarat and the other provinces will take up the movement initiated at this conference. The same resolutions were passed also in Vijapur; only the first resolution was divided into sections. Two distinct sections dealt with prohibition and the boycott of foreign cloth through khadi, so that women who believed in only one of these causes could vote for that one alone. At the second conference three more names were added: Shrimati Shardabehn Sumant Mehta Shrimati Savitabehn Trivedi Shrimati Surajbehn Manilal This vote need not be considered as having much value. It is valuable to the extent that not a single resolution was opposed at the meeting, for it shows that even if the women present may not be prepared to put the resolution into practice, nevertheless they approved of its substance. At both these conferences women from villages were present in greater numbers. The struggle this time is of the villages especially.
The awakening in the villages is astonishing which a good sign is. Salt, the boycott of foreign cloth and prohibition—all these three are specially meant for villages and the women would benefit especially. Even if a few women are ready to lay down their lives for the sake of this resolution, they will come forward. If this does not happen the conference will not be deemed to have completed its work. If the number of women present at the conference is any indication, the women would seem to be prepared for work. The soul of any organization is its executive committee. Hence the success of the work depends upon the enthusiasm, the tapascharya and the skill of the ladies who have given their names for the committee. Mithubehn Petit has started the work with great alacrity. According to her accounts habitual drunkards are enthusiastically breaking earthen jars containing toddy. Thousands of persons in Surat, who are given to drinking, have started having resolutions passed by their castes prohibiting drinking. Once women become self-confident and gain faith, they will find from experience that the fear which they entertain has no basis. Rama and Ravana dwell in every human being. If women would act through the Rama who is in them, the Ravana who dwells in man would be powerless. Rama awakens less readily in men than in women. Who can harm one who is protected by Rama? Who can protect one with whom Rama is displeased? In the work of prohibition, once the initial fear is shed, things become easy. For all it involves is picketing. Those who drink are not wicked. They are simple folk. Their self-interest is not involved in drinking.
Once they are convinced, they will give up liquor. The liquor-booth owners do have their self-interest involved but they realize that this is an immoral trade. I regard this extension of the swaraj movement as of the highest importance. I need not reiterate the argument already advanced in these pages. Mithubehn has already commenced operations. She is not the woman to let the grass grow under her feet. The idea is for twenty to twenty-five women to go in one batch and plant themselves near each liquor shop and come in personal contact with every visitor to the liquor or toddy shops and wean him from the habit. They will also appeal to the shopkeepers to give up the immoral traffic and earn their livelihood through better means. Foreign-cloth shops are to be treated in the same way as liquor shops as soon as there are enough trained women volunteers. Though the same committee will carry on the two boycotts it will necessarily have two branches. It will not be open to any woman to offer her services for only one branch of work, nor is it necessary that every worker should belong to the Congress. Only this must be clearly understood, that the work is part of the Congress programme and has tremendous political results if it has also equally great moral and economic consequences. Those who will belong to the foreign-cloth boycott branch should realize that without the constructive work of khadi production the mere boycott will be a mischievous activity. It’s very success without the production of khadi will prove the ruin of the national movement of independence. For the millions will take it up in simple faith. But they will curse us if they discover that they have no cloth to wear or the cloth they can get is too dear for their purse.
The formula therefore is: discard foreign cloth and make your own khadi and wear it. Already there is a dearth of khadi. The boycott of foreign cloth is, however, a difficult matter. It has two aspects; boycott and khadi production. The boycott does not require much effort only a few women would suffice for the work. For the production of khadi thousands and even hundreds of thousands would have to be regularly active. Hence it would require organization and planning. However, it is a work needing patience, as it requires intelligence and faith. In the course of it you have to come in contact directly or indirectly with crores of women. It requires a pure co-ordination between towns and villages. And, through it all the khadi India needs can be produced in a short time. We have before us all the means to produce it. We have the necessary skill too. All that we lack is workers. It is the sisters who must create these workers. They can do so only when they themselves learn to card and spin and disseminate the art among others. Most of the khadi workers are in the salt campaign. Therefore the production has suffered a temporary check.
But there need never be any dearth of cloth the moment the country gets disabused of the superstition that it must buy cloth to cover its nakedness. It would be on a par with someone saying that we must starve if we cannot get Manchester or Delhi biscuits. Even as we cook our food and eat it so can we, if we but will it, make our own cloth and wear it. We did it only a hundred years ago and we can relearn the trick now. All the vital processes are almost too simple to learn. At this supreme crisis, this turning point in the nation’s history, we must not hesitate and nurse idleness. I do not need to restate the argument about our mills. Even if every mill were genuinely swadeshi and even if all became patriotic, they could not supply all our wants. Whichever way we look at it, whether we like it or not, we cannot escape khadi if we are to achieve independence through non-violent means and if we are to achieve the boycott of foreign cloth on which we began concentration in 1920. Of men’s part in the boycott I have said enough in my speech which I unexpectedly delivered to the men who had come to Dandi. Relevant parts of this speech are reproduced elsewhere. Suffice it here to say that men will damage the movement if they will meddle with women’s picketing wherever it is undertaken by them. By passing the above two resolutions Gujarati women have taken up the responsibility and Begum Amina Tyabji and their committee have shouldered the responsibility on their behalf.
Young India, 17-4-1930
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