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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?
Have not your eyes yet been opened to the robbery that is being committed by the Government?
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.
Sardar neither made speeches nor came here to foment trouble. Neither the Magistrate nor you had expected any sort of trouble. The task for which Sardar had approached you was not a secret to anyone. A satyagrahi has no secrets. Even a child can see how a satyagrahi stands, sits, eats and drinks. It can also examine the latter's accounts. What secret can a satyagrahi like Sardar have? He had come here to clear the way for me. He had not come here to convey the message regarding salt. We had both so planned that it would be through me and those whom I took along with me that the salt law would be violated. You do not know many of the persons who are accompanying me. They are all public workers devoted to Sardar. I have not been able to understand the nature of Sardar's offence. Even the Magistrate did not know it. That Sardar should be awarded a sentence of three months jail is a matter of shame both to Sardar and to the Government. A person like him should be sentenced to a term of seven years imprisonment or be exiled. It would not befit the Government to sentence me to three months imprisonment. Exile for life or hanging would be a punishment fit for a person like me. I am guilty of sedition. It is my dharma to commit sedition against the Government. I am teaching this dharma to the people. A regime under which tyranny is being perpetrated, under which the rich and the poor are made to pay the same amount of tax on an item like salt, under which exorbitant sums are being spent on watchmen, the police and the army, under which the highest executive receives a salary which is five thousand times the income of the cultivator, under which an annual revenue of 25 crores of rupees is derived from narcotics and liquor, under which foreign cloth of the value of Rs.60 crores is imported every year, and under which crores of persons continue to remain unemployed, it is one's dharma to rise against and destroy such a regime, to pray that fire may consume its policies.
For such a treasonable offence, I was once sentenced to six years imprisonment but, unfortunately for the Government and myself, I fell ill and I was released as it was felt that I should no longer be held in prison. Now again a cloud, if you choose to call it so, or a procession with a fanfare if you wish so to describe it, is approaching me. It will be good if I am arrested. The magistrate will be put to shame if he sentences me to three months imprisonment. One guilty of sedition should be banished to the Andamans, sentenced to a life-term of exile, or the hanging. What other punishment can be meted out to anyone like me who regards sedition his duty?
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!
The money that you have given me today has no value for me. When I collected crores of rupees, it did have value for me. Those crores of rupees have rendered service many times their value. Today, however, I do not need money but your services. All the men and women present here should get themselves enrolled. Say that you are prepared, when your turn comes, to violate the salt law. Even women can participate in this righteous struggle and many have already enrolled themselves.
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.
Navajivan, 23-3-1930