whilst this movement for the preservation of non-violence was making
steady though slow progress on the one hand, Government's policy of
lawless repression was in full career on the other, and was
manifesting itself in the Punjab in all its nakedness. Leaders were
put under arrest, martial law, which in other words meant no law,
was proclaimed, special tribunals were set up. These tribunals were
not courts of justice but instruments for carrying out the arbitrary
will of an autocrat. Sentences were passed unwarranted by evidence
and in flagrant violation of justice. In Amritsar innocent men and
women were made to crawl like worms on their bellies. Before this
outrage the Jalianwala Bagh tragedy paled into insignificance in my
eyes, though it was this massacre principally that attracted the
attention of the people of India and of the world.
I was pressed to proceed to the Punjab immediately in disregard of
consequences. I wrote and also telegraphed to the Viceroy asking for
permission to go there, but in vain. If I proceeded without the
necessary permission, I should not be allowed to cross the boundary
of the Punjab, but left to find what satisfaction I could from civil
disobedience. I was thus confronted by a serious dilemma. As things
stood, to break the order against my entry into the Punjab could, it
seemed to me, hardly be classed as civil disobedience, for I did not
see around me the kind of peaceful atmosphere that I wanted, and the
unbridled repression in the Punjab had further served to aggravate
and deepen the feelings of resentment. For me, therefore, to offer
civil disobedience at such a time, even if it were possible, would
have been like fanning the flame. I therefore decided not to proceed
to the Punjab in spite of the suggestion of friends. It was a bitter
pill for me to swallow. Tales of rank injustice and oppression came
pouring in daily from the Punjab, but all I could do was to sit
helplessly by and gnash my teeth.
Just then Mr. Horniman, in whose hands The Bombay Chronicle had
became a formidable force, was suddenly spirited away by the
authorities. This act of the Government seemed to me to be
surrounded by a foulness which still stinks in my nostrils. I know
that Mr. Horniman never desired lawlessness. He had not liked my
breaking the prohibitory order of the Punjab Government without the
permission of the Satyagraha Committee, and had fully endorsed the
decision to suspend civil disobedience. I had even received from him
a letter advising suspension before I had announced my
decision to that effect. Only owing to the distance between Bombay
and Ahmedabad I got the letter after the announcement. His sudden
deportation therefore caused me as much pain as surprise.
As a result of these developments I was asked by the directors of
The Bombay Chronicle to take up the responsibility of conducting
that paper. Mr. Brelvi was already there on the staff, so not much
remained to be done by me, but as usual with my nature, the
responsibility would have become an additional tax.
But the Government came as it were to my rescue, for by its order
the publication of The Chronicle had to be suspended.
The friends who were directing the management of The Chronicle,
Messrs. Umar Sobani and Shankarlal Banker, were at this also
controlling Young India. They suggested that, in view of the
suppression of The Chronicle, I should now take up the editorship
of Young India, and that, in order to fill the gap left by the
former, Young India should be converted from a weekly into a
bi-weekly organ. This was what I felt also. I was anxious to expound
the inner meaning of Satyagraha to the public, and also hoped that
through this effort I should at least be able to do justice to the
Punjab situation. For, behind all I wrote, there was potential
Satyagraha, and the Government knew as much. I therefore readily
accepted the suggestion made by these friends.
But how could the
general public be trained in Satyagraha through the medium of
English? My principal field of work lay in Gujarat. Sjt. Indulal
Yajnik was at that time associated with the group of Messrs. Sobani
and Banker. He was conducting the Gujarati monthly Navajivan which
had the financial backing of these friends. They placed the monthly
at my disposal, and further Sjt. Indulal offered to work on it. This
monthly was converted into a weekly.
In the meantime The Chronicle was resuscitated. Young India was
therefore restored to its original weekly form. To have published
the two weeklies from two different places would have been very
inconvenient to me and involved more expenditure. As Navajivan was
already being published from Ahmedabad Young India was also removed
there at my suggestion.
There were other reasons besides for this change. I had already
learnt from my experience of Indian Opinion that such journals
needed a press of their own. Moreover the press laws in force in
India at that time were such that, if I wanted to express my views untrammelled, the existing printing presses, which were naturally
run for business, would have hesitated to publish them. The need for
setting up a press of our own, therefore, became all the more
imperative, and since this could be conveniently done only at
Ahmedabad, Young India too had to be taken there.
Through these journals I now commenced to the best of my ability the
work of educating the reading public in Satyagraha. Both of them had
reached a very wide circulation, which at one time rose to the neighbourhood of forty thousand each. But while the circulation of
Navajivan went up at a bound, that of Young India increased only by
slow degrees. After my incarceration the circulation of both these
journals fell to a low ebb, and today stands below eight thousand.
From the very start I set my face against taking advertisements in
these journals. I do not think that they have lost anything thereby.
On the contrary, it is my belief that it has in no small measure
helped them to maintain their independence.
Incidentally these journals helped me also to some extent to remain
at peace with myself, for whilst immediate resort to civil
disobedience was out of the question, they enabled me freely to
ventilate my views and to put heart into the people. Thus I feel
that both the journals rendered good service to the people in this
hour of trial, and did their humble bit towards lightening the
tyranny of the martial law.