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SELECTED LETTERS > SELECTED LETTERS FROM SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI To Every Englishman in India
 

To Every Englishman In India

Dear Friend,

I wish that every Englishman will see this appeal and give thoughtful attention to it.

Let me introduce myself to you. In my humble opinion, no Indian has co-operated with the British government more than I have for an unbroken period of twenty nine years of public life in the face of circumstances that might well have turned any other man into a rebel. I ask you to believe me when I tell you that my co-operation was not based on the fear of punishments provided by your laws or any selfish motives. It was a free and voluntary co-operation based on the belief that the sum total of the activity of the British Government was for the benefit of India. I put my life in peril four times for the sake of the Empire,- at the time of the Boer War when I was in charge of the Ambulance corps whose work was mentioned in the General Buller's dispatches, at the time of the Zulu revolt in Natal when I was in charge of a similar corps, at the time of the commencement of the late War when I raised an Ambulance corps and as a result of strenuous training had a severe attack of pleurisy, and lastly, in fulfillment of my promise to Lord Chelmsford at the war conference in Delhi, I threw myself in such an active recruiting campaign in Kaira district involving long and trying marches, that I had an attack of dysentery, which proved almost fatal. I did all this in the full belief that acts such as mine must gain for my country an equal status in the Empire. So late as last December I pleaded hard for a trustful co-operation. I fully believed that Lloyd George would redeem his promise to the Mussalmans and that the revelations of the official atrocities in the Punjab would secure full reparation for the Punjabis. But the treachery of Mr. Lloyd George and its appreciation by you, and the condonation of the Punjab atrocities have completely shattered my faith in the good intentions of the Government and the nation which is supporting it.

But though my faith in your good intentions is gone, I recognize your bravery, and i know that what you will not yield to justice and reason, you will gladly yield to bravery.

See what this Empire means to India :

Exploitation of India's resources for the benefits of Great Britain, an ever increasing military expenditure, and a civil service the most expensive in the world, extravagant working of every department in utter disregard of India's poverty, disarmament and consequent emasculation of a whole nation lest an armed nation might imperil the lives of a handful of you in our midst, traffic in intoxicating liquors and drugs for the purpose of sustaining a top heavy administration, progressive repressive legislation in order to suppress an ever-growing agitation seeking to give expression to a nation's agony, degrading treatment of Indians residing in your dominions and you have shown total disregard of our feelings by glorifying the Punjab administration and flouting the Mussulman sentiment.

I know you would not mind if we could fight and wrest scepter form your hands. You know that we are powerless to do that, for you have ensured our incapacity to fight in open and honourable battle. Bravery on the battle field is impossible for us. Bravery of the soul still remains open to us. I know you will respond to that also. I am engaged in evoking that bravery. Non-co-operation means nothing less than training in self- sacrifice. Why should we co-operate with you when we know that by your administration of this great country we are being daily enslaved in an increasing degree? This response of the people to my appeal is not due to my personality. I would like you to dismiss me, and for the matter the Ali brothers too, from your consideration. My personality will fail to evoke any response to anti-Muslim cry if I were foolish enough to raise it, as the magic name of the Ali brothers would fail to inspire the Mussalmans with enthusiasm if they were madly to raise an anti- Hindu cry. People flock in their thousands to listen to us because we today represent the voice of a nation groaning under your iron heels. The Ali brothers were your friends as I was, and still am. My religion forbids me to bear any ill towards you. I would not raise my hand against you even if I had the power. I expect to conquer you only by my suffering. The Ali brothers will certainly draw swords, if they could in defense of their religion and their country. But they and I have made common cause with the people of India in their attempt to voice their feelings and to find a remedy for their distress.

You are in search of a remedy to suppress this rising ebullition of national feeling. I venture to suggest to you that the only way to suppress it is to remove the causes. You have yet the power. You can repent the wrongs done to Indians. You can compel the viceroy to retire favour of a better one, you can revise your ideas about Sir Michel O' Dwyer and General Dyer. You can compel the government to summon a conference of the recognized leaders of the people, duly elected by them and representing all shades of opinion so as to revise means for granting Swaraj is accordance with the wishes of the people of India.

But this you cannot do unless you consider every Indian to be in reality your equal and brother. I ask for no patronage, I merely point out to you, as a friend, an honourable solution, namely repression, is open to you. I prophesy that it will fail. It has begun already. The government has already imprisoned two brave men of Panipat for holding and expressing their opinions freely. Another is on his trial in Lahore for having expressed similar opinions. One in the Oudh District is already imprisoned. Another awaits judgment. You should know what is going on in your midst. Our propaganda is being carried on in anticipation of repression. I invite you respectfully to choose the better way and make common cause with the people of India whose salt you are eating. To seek to thwart their aspirations is disloyalty to the country.

I am,

Your faithful friend,

M. K. GANDHI