SATYAGRAHA / CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE > Speech at Ras
Speech At Ras
March 19, 1930
Today we have entered the taluka in which Sardar Vallabhbhai was arrested and sentenced to prison and in which he had carried on such a vigorous struggle in 1924 that the Government had finally to admit its error and mete out justice that should not have required a struggle. It is as if Sardar was sentenced to prison as a reward for having served you!
The question now is what you can do to serve the cause for which he has been sent to jail and what I should do.
Some of the Headmen and Matadars have handed in their resignations. I congratulate them. However, there are still many who cannot abandon the line. I have not come across a single person who has accepted the post of a Headman for the sake of the salary attached to it. Headmen have the privilege of perpetrating indignities on the people or it may be
said that they have that right to participate in the indignities perpetrated on the people. The improper reason for their clinging to their posts is that this privilege satisfies their base self-interest or assists them in their work. But how much longer will you keep on doing your part in squeezing these villages?
The Headman, the Talati and the Ravania are the representatives of the Government in the villages, and it is through these persons that the latter carries on its administration. A village which is afraid of a handful of men and continues to act in a manner contrary to is own wishes, neither enhances the prestige of the Headmen, the Taiati or the Ravania nor that of the villagers themselves. Sardar was making great efforts to end this indignity.
The Government must have believed that by sentencing Sardar to three months imprisonment, it will be able to scare the people and suppress them. However, the fact that you have turned out here in thousands appears to signify that you are looking forward to a celebration. You must regard it as something to celebrate if my colleagues and I are arrested. But will you sit quiet after regarding this as an occasion for celebration? Will the Headmen and the Matadars cling to their offices as flies cling to dirt? That would indeed be a matter of shame and grief.
Durbar has come and settled in this taluka for many years. Who is this Durbar? He has given up his kingdom—however tiny a village it may
be. He does not want any comforts; he only wants to serve. You should learn courage and sacrifice from him. What an adverse impression it will create if the Headmen of such a taluka do not give up their office!
This religious struggle does not involve hurting even a hair of anyone. We shall teach the Government a lesson by suffering hardships ourselves, and by doing so create world opinion in our favour. And, finally, we shall achieve a change of heart in our rulers. At present, however, the Government is inclined to indulge in oppression instead of meting out justice.
A person like Shri Sen Gupta, Mayor of Calcutta, whose name is familiar to everyone in Bengal, has been imprisoned in Burma. The Government has adopted the policy of arresting those who are not guilty of any offence. At a time when the nation cries out in despair and thousands are coming forward to express their grievances, the Government should abolish a thing like the salt tax and redress other grievances as well. But this Government cannot afford to do so. It cannot afford to see crores of rupees remaining with the people. It is behaving in such an outrageous manner in order that this sum is sent out to England. The first step towards freeing ourselves from such oppression is to seek the abolition of the salt tax. We shall violate the salt tax law to such an extent that we shall be prepared to suffer whatever the penalty we may have to face—be it imprisonment, flogging or any other.