After a short tour in South India I reached Bombay, I think on the 4th April, having received a wire from Sjt. Shankarlal Banker asking me to be present there for the 6th of April celebrations.
But in the meanwhile Delhi had already observed the hartal
on the 30th March. The word of the late Swami Shraddhanandji and
Hakim Ajmal Khan Saheb was law there. The wire about the
postponement of the hartal till the 6th of April had reached there too late. Delhi had never
witnessed a hartal like that before. Hindus and Musalmans seemed united like one man.
Swami Shraddhanandji was invited to deliver a speech in the Jumma
Masjid, which he did. All this was more than the authorities could
bear. The police checked the hartal procession as it was proceeding towards the railway station, and
opened fire, causing a number of casualties, and the reign of
repression commenced in Delhi. Shraddhanandji urgently summoned me
to Delhi. I wired back, saying I would start for Delhi immediately
after the 6th of April celebrations were over in Bombay.
The story of happenings in Delhi was repeated with variations in
Lahore and Amritsar. From Amritsar Drs. Satyapal and Kitchlu had
sent me a pressing invitation to go there. I was altogether
unacquainted with them at at that time, but I communicated to them
my intention to visit Amritsar after Delhi.
On the morning of the 6th the citizens of Bombay flocked to the Chowpati for a bath in the sea, after which they
moved on in a procession to Thakurdvar. The procession included a
fair sprinkling of women and children, while the Musalmans joined it
in large numbers. From Thakurdvar some of us who were in the
procession were taken by the Musalman friends to a mosque near by,
where Mrs. Naidu and myself were persuaded to deliver speeches. Sjt.
Vithaldas Jerajani proposed that we should then and there administer
the Swadeshi and Hindu-Muslim unity pledges to the people, but I
resisted the proposal on the ground that pledges should not be
administered or taken in precipitate hurry, and that we should be
satisfied with what was already being done by the people. A pledge
once taken, I argued, must not be broken afterwards; therefore it
was necessary that the implications of the Swadeshi pledge should be
clearly understood, and the grave responsibility entailed by the
pledge regarding Hindu-Muslim unity fully realized by all concerned.
In the end I suggested that those who wanted to take the pledges
should again assemble on the following morning for the purpose.
Needless to say the hartal in Bombay was a complete success. Full preparation had been made for
starting civil disobedience. Two or three things had been discussed
in this connection. It was decided that civil disobedience might be
offered in respect of such laws only as easily lent themselves to
being disobeyed by the masses. The salt tax was extremely unpopular
and a powerful movement had been for some time past going on to
secure its repeal. I therefore suggested that the people might
prepare salt from sea-water in their own houses in disregard of the
salt laws. My other suggestion was about the sale of proscribed
literature. Two of my books, viz., Hind Swaraj
and Sarvodaya (Gujarati adaptation of Ruskin's Unto This Last),
which had been already proscribed, came handy for this purpose. To
print and sell them openly seemed to be the easiest way of offering
civil disobedience. A sufficient number of copies of the books was
therefore printed, and it was arranged to sell them at the end of
the monster meeting that was to be held that evening after the
breaking of the fast.
On the evening of the 6th an army of volunteers issued forth
accordingly with this prohibited literature to sell it among the
people. Both Shrimati Sarojini Devi and I went out in cars. All the
copies were soon sold out. The proceeds of the sale were to be utilized
for furthering the civil disobedience campaign. Both these books
were priced at four annas per copy, but I hardly remember anybody
having purchased them from me at their face value merely. Quite a
large number of people simply poured out all the cash that was in
their pockets to purchase their copy. Five and ten rupee notes just
flew out to cover the price of a single copy, while in one case I
remember having sold a copy for fifty rupees! It was duly explained
to the people that they were liable to be arrested and imprisoned
for purchasing the proscribed literature. But for the moment they
had shed all fear of jail-going.
It was subsequently learnt that the Government had conveniently
taken the view that the books that had been proscribed by it had not
in fact been sold, and that what we had sold was not held as coming
under the definition of proscribed literature. The reprint was held
by the Government to be a new edition of the books that had been
proscribed, and to sell them did not constitute an offence under the
law. This news caused general disappointment.
The next morning another meeting was held for the administration of
the pledges with regard to Swadeshi and Hindu-Muslim unity.
Vithaldas Jerajani for the first time realized that all is not gold
that glitters. Only a handful of persons came. I distinctly remember
some of the sisters who were present on that occasion. The men who
attended were also very few. I had already drafted the pledge and
brought it with me. I thoroughly explained its meaning to those
present before I administered it to them. The paucity of the
attendance neither pained nor surprised me, for I have noticed this
characteristic difference in the popular attitude – partiality for
exciting work, dislike for quiet constructive effort. The difference
has persisted to this day.
But I shall have to devote to this subject a chapter by itself. To
return to the story. On the night of the 7th I started for Delhi and
Amritsar. On reaching Mathura on the 8th I first heard rumours about
my probable arrest. At the next stoppage after Mathura, Acharya
Gidvani came to meet me, and gave me definite news that I was to be
arrested, and offered his services to me if I should need them. I
thanked him for the offer, assuring him that I would not fail to
avail myself of it, if and when I felt it necessary.
Before the train had reached Palwal railway station, I was served
with a written order to the effect that I was prohibited from
entering the boundary of the Punjab, as my presence there was likely
to result in a disturbance of the peace. I was asked by the police
to get down from the train. I refused to do so saying, 'I want to go
to the Punjab in response to a pressing invitation, not to foment
unrest, but to allay it. I am therefore sorry that it is not
possible for me to comply with this order.'
At last the train reached Palwal. Mahadev was with me. I asked him
to proceed to Delhi to convey to Swami Shraddhanandji the news about
what had happened and to ask the people to remain clam. He was to
explain why I had decided to disobey the order served upon me and
suffer the penalty for disobeying it, and also why it would spell
victory for our side if we could maintain perfect peace in spite of
any punishment that might be inflicted upon me.
At Palwal railway station I was taken out of the train and put under
police custody. A train from Delhi came in a short time. I was made
to enter a third class carriage, the police party accompanying. On
reaching Mathura, I was taken to the police barracks, but no police
official could tell me as to what they proposed to do with me or
where I was to be taken next. Early at 4 o'clock the next morning I
was awoken and put in a goods train that was going towards Bombay.
At noon I was again made to get down at Sawai Madhopur. Mr. Bowring,
Inspector of Police, who arrived by the mail train from Lahore, now
took charge of me. I was put in a first class compartment with him.
And from an ordinary prisoner I became a 'gentleman' prisoner. The
officer commenced a long panegyric of Sir Michael O'Dwyer. Sir
Michael had nothing against me personally, he went on, only he
apprehended a disturbance of the peace if I entered the Punjab and
so on. In the end he requested me to return to Bombay of my own
accord and agree not to cross the frontier of the Punjab. I replied
that I could not possibly comply with the order, and that I was not
prepared of my own accord to go back. Whereupon the officer, seeing
no other course, told me that he would have to enforce law against
me. 'But what do you want to do with me?' I asked him. He replied
that he himself did not know, but was awaiting further orders. 'For
the present,' he said, I am taking you to Bombay.'
We reached Surat. Here I was made over to the charge of another
police officer. 'You are now free,' the officer told me when we had
reached Bombay. 'It would however be better,' he added, 'if you get
down near the Marine Lines where I shall get the train stopped for
you. At Colaba there is likely to be a big crowd.' I told him that I
would be glad to follow his wish. He was pleased and thanked me for
it. Accordingly I alighted at the Marine Lines. The carriage of a
friend just happened to be passing by. It took me and left me at
Revashankar Jhaveri's place. The friend told me that the news of my
arrest had incensed the people and roused them to a pitch of mad
frenzy. 'An outbreak is apprehended every minute near Pydhuni, the
Magistrate and the police have already arrived there,' he added.
Scarcely had I reached my destination, when Umar Sobani and
Anasuyabehn arrived and asked me to motor to Pydhuni at once. 'The
people have become impatient, and are very much excited,' they said,
'we cannot pacify them. Your presence alone can do it.'
I got into the car. Near Pydhuni I saw that a huge crowd had gathered.
On seeing me the people went mad with joy. A procession was
immediately formed, and the sky was rent with the shouts of Vande mataram
and Allaho akbar.
At Pydhuni we sighted a body of mounted police. Brickbats were
raining down from above. I besought the crowd to be calm, but it
seemed as if we should not be able to escape the shower of
brickbats. As the procession issued out of Abdur Rahman Street and
was about to proceed towards the Crawford Market, it suddenly found
itself confronted by a body of the mounted police, who had arrived
there to prevent it from proceeding further in the direction of the
Fort. The crowd was densely packed. It had almost broken through the
police cordon. There was hardly any chance of my voice being heard
in that vast concourse. Just then the officer in charge of the
mounted police gave the order to disperse the crowd, and at once the
mounted party charged upon the crowd brandishing their lances as
they went. For a moment I felt that I would be hurt. But my
apprehension was groundless, the lances just grazed the car as the
lancers swiftly passed by. The ranks of the people were soon broken,
and they were thrown into utter confusion, which was soon converted
into a rout. Some got trampled under foot, others were badly mauled
and crushed. In that seething mass of humanity there was hardly any
room for the horses to pass, nor was there an exit by which the
people could disperse. So the lancers blindly cut their way through
the crowd. I hardly imagine they could see what they were doing. The
whole thing presented a most dreadful spectacle. The horsemen and
the people were mixed together in mad confusion.
Thus the crowd was dispersed and its progress checked. Our motor was
allowed to proceed. I had it stopped before the Commissioner's
office, and got down to complain to him about the conduct of the