Tuesday, June 3, 2008

(Revolutionary) At it Again

The revolutionary who was carrying on the dialogue with the Mahatma trying to impress that the revolutionary movement was better than the non violent movement came back again with some questions which the Mahatma has answered in this article.
Text in Italics - Questions
Normal Text - Answers



My revolutionary friend has returned to the charge, but I must tell him that he has not been as patient with his composition as before. He has introduced in his letter under discussion much irrelevant matter and has argued loosely. So far as I can see, he has exhausted all his argument and has nothing new to say. But should he write again, I advise him to write his letter more carefully and boil down his thoughts. I have been obliged to do that for him this time. But as he is seeking light, let him read carefully what I write, then think out his thoughts calmly and then write out clearly and briefly. If it is merely questions he has to ask, let him simply write them out without arguing to convince me. I do not pretend to know everything about the revolutionary movement, but as I have been obliged to think, observe and write a great deal, there is very little new that he can tell me. Whilst, therefore, I promise to keep an open mind, I ask him, please, to spare a busy servant of the nation and a true friend of the revolutionary the labour of reading much that he need not read. I am anxious to keep in touch with the revolutionary and I can only do so through these columns. I have a soft corner for him in my heart, for there is one thing in common between him and me—the ability to suffer. But as I humbly believe him to be mistaken and misguided, I desire to wean him from his error or in the process myself be weaned from mine.

My revolutionary friend's first question is :

“The revolutionaries have retarded the progress of the country.” Do you differ with your own view, when you wrote in connection with the Bengal Partition : ‘After the Partition people saw that petitions must be backed up by force, and that they must be capable of suffering. This spirit must be considered to be the chief result of the Partition . . . . That which the people said tremblingly and in secret began to be said and written openly. . . . People, young and old, used to run away at the sight of an English face; it no longer awed them. They did not fear even a row, or being imprisoned. Some of the ‘best sons of India’ are at present in banishment.”1 The movement which followed the Partition or more correctly which was the manifestation of the unrest of the people was the revolutionary movement, and the best sons of India you speak of are mostly revolutionaries or semi-revolutionaries. How is it that these so-called ignorant and misguided persons were able to reduce, if not remove, the cowardice of India? Would you be so intolerant as to call the revolutionaries ignorant, because they cannot understand your peculiar dogma of non-violence?

There is no difference between the view expressed in Indian Home Rule2 from which the writer has quoted and the views now expressed by me. Those who led the Partition movement, whatever and whoever they were, undoubtedly shed the fear of Englishmen. That was a distinct service to the country. But bravery and selfsacrifice need not kill. Let my friend remember that indian Home Rule, as the booklet itself states, was written in answer to the revolutionary's arguments and methods. It was an attempt to offer the revolutionary something infinitely superior to what he had, retaining the whole of the spirit of self-sacrifice and bravery that was to be found in the revolutionary. I do not call the revolutionary ignorant merely because he does not understand or appreciate my method, but because he does not even appear to me to understand the art of warfare. Every one of the warriors whom my friend quotes knew his art and had his men.

The second question is :

Was Terence MacSwiney a “spotless lamb” when he died of hungerstrike of 71 days? Please remember that he was to the last an advocate of conspiracy, bloodshed and terrorism, and maintained his ideas expressed in his famous book Principles of Freedom. If you can call MacSwiney a “spotless lamb”, will you not be ready to use the same term for Gopimohan Shaha3 ?

I am sorry to say I do not know enough of the life of MacSwiney to be able to give an opinion. But if he advocated ‘conspiracy, bloodshed and terrorism”, his method was open to the same objections that have been advanced in these pages. I never regarded him as a “spotless lamb”. I gave my humble opinion when his fast was declared, that from my standpoint it was an error. I do not justify every fast.

The third question is :

You believe in varnas. Therefore, it is self-evident that you hold the Kshatriyas to be of the same utility as any other varna. The revo- lutionaries profess to be Kshatriyas in this Nikshatriya epoch in India. Kshatat trayate iti Kshatriyah. I consider this state of India to be the greatest Kshata which India has ever met with, in other words this is the time when the need of Kshatriyas in India is the uttermost. Manu, the Prince of Hindu lawgivers prescribes four ways for the Kshatriya: “sama, dana, danda, bheda”. In this connection I reproduce a passage from Vivekananda, which I think will greatly help you to comprehend the matter full well.

“All great teachers have taught ‘Resist not evil”, have taught that the non-resisting is the highest moral ideal. We all know that if, in the present state of world, people try to carry out this doctrine, the whole social fabric would fall to pieces, society would be destroyed, the violent and the wicked will take possession of our property, and possibly take our lives also. Even one day of such non-resistance would lead to the utter dissolution of the country”. I know what you will do in this awkward position, you will try to interpret it differently, but you shall find that he left no room for such misinterpretation, because he instantly adds, “Some of you have read perhaps the Bhagavad Gita and many of you in Western countries may have felt astonished at the first chapter wherein our Shri Krishna calls Arjuna a hypocrite and coward, on account of his refusal to fight or offer resistance, because his adversaries were his friends and relatives—his refusal on the plea that non-resistance was the highest ideal of love. There is a great lesson for us all to learn, that in all things the two extremes are alike; the extreme positive and the extreme negative are always similar; when the vibrations of light are too slow we do not see them nor do we see them when they are too rapid; so also with sound, when very low in pitch we do not hear it, when very high we do not hear it either. Of like nature is the difference between resistance and non-resistance . . . We must first care to understand whether we have the power of resistance or not. Then having the power, if we renounce it and do not resist, we are doing a grand act of love; but if we cannot resist and yet at the same time make it appear and ourselves believe that we are actuated by motives of highest love, we shall be doing the exact opposite of what is morally good. Arjuna became coward at the sight of the mightly array against him, his 'love' made him forget his duty towards his country and King. That is why Shri Krishna told him that he was a hypocrite: ‘Thou talkest like a wise man, but thy actions betray thee to be a coward, therefore stand up and flight.” I want to add nothing more except a few questions. Do you think that your so-called heart-and-soul non-violent disciples can resist this alien bureaucrat government by physical force? If yes, on what ground; if not, how then does your non-violence remain the weapon of the strong? Please answer these questions in the most unmistakable terms, so that no one can make different interpretations.

Along with it I shall ask you the following questions, which directly arise from your statement. In your swaraj, is there any place for sol- diers? Will your swaraj government keep armies? If so, will they fight—I mean use physical force, when necessary, or will they offer satyagraha against their opponents?

I have room in my philosophy of life for Kshatriyas. But my definition of him I take from the Gita. He who does not run away from battle, i.e., danger, is a Kshatriya. As the world progresses, the same terms acquire new values. Manu and the other law-givers did not lay down eternal principles of conduct. They enunciated certain eternal maxims of life and laid down for their age rules of conduct more or less in accord with those maxims. I am unable to subscribe to the methods of bribery and deceit even for gaining entrance into heaven, much less for gaining India’s freedom, for heaven will not be heaven and freedom will not be freedom if either is gained through such methods.

I have not verified the quotation said to be from Vivekananda. It has neither the freshness nor the brevity that mark most of that great man’s writings. But whether it is from his writings or not, it does not satisfy me. If a large number of people carry out the doctrine of nonresistance, the present state of the world will not be what it is. Those individuals who have carried it out have not lost anything. They have not been butchered by the violent and the wicked. On the contrary, the latter have shed both their violence and wickedness in the presence of the non-violent and the good.

I have already stated my meaning of the Gita. It deals with the eternal duel between good and evil. And who does not, like Arjuna, often quail when the dividing line between good and evil is thin and when the right choice is so difficult?

I heartily endorse, however, the statement that he alone is truly non-violent who remains non-violent even though he has the ability to strike. I do, therefore, claim that my disciple (I have only one and that is myself) is quite capable of striking, very indifferently and perhaps ineffectively, I admit; but he has no desire to do so. I have had in my life many an opportunity of shooting my opponents and earning the crown of martyrdom, but I had not the heart to shoot any of them. For I did not want them to shoot me, however much they disliked my methods. I wanted them to convince me of my error as I was trying to convince them of theirs. “Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you.”

Alas! In my swaraj of today there is room for soldiers. Let the revolutionary friend know that I have described the disarmament and consequent emasculation of a whole people as the blackest crime of the British. I have not the capacity for preaching universal nonviolence to the country. I preach, therefore, non-violence restricted strictly to the purpose of winning our freedom and, therefore, perhaps for preaching the regulation of international relations by non-violent means. But my incapacity must not be mistaken for that of doctrine of the non-violence. I see it with my intellect in all its effulgence. My heart grasps it. But I have not yet the attainments for preaching universal non-violence with effect. I am not advanced enough for the great task. I have yet anger within me, I have yet the dwaita bhava— duality in me. I can regulate my passions. I keep them under subjection, but before I can preach universal non-violence with effect, I must be wholly free from passions. I must be wholly incapable of sin. Let the revolutionary pray with and for me that I may soon become that. But, meanwhile, let him take with me the one step to it which I see as clearly as day-light, i.e., to win India’s freedom with strictly non-violent means. And, then, under swaraj, you and I shall have a disciplined, intelligent, educated police force that would keep order within and fight raiders from without if, by that time, I or someone else does not show a better way of ealing with either.

Young India, 7-5-1925

1 Vide “Hind Swaraj - Chapter II : The Partition of Bengal”, 22-11-1909.
2 Vide “Hind Swaraj”, 22-11-1909.
3 Slip for Gopi Nath Saha; vide “Interview to The Times of India”, 5-6-1924.

------------------------CWMG Vol 31, Art. 169, Pg. 285-----------------------------------

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