Reader : Just at present there is a Home Rule wave passing over India. All our countrymen appear to be pining for National Independence. A similar spirit pervades them even in South Africa. Indians seem to be eager to acquire rights. Will you explain your views in this matter?
Editor : You have put the question well, but the answer is not easy. One
of the objects of a newspaper is to understand popular feeling and to
give expression to it; another is to arouse among the people certain
desirable sentiments; and the third is fearlessly to expose popular
defects. The exercise of all these three functions is involved in
answering your question. To a certain extent the people's will has to be
expressed; certain sentiments will need to be fostered and defects will
have to be brought to light. But, as you have asked the question, it is
my duty to answer it.
Reader : Do you then consider that a desire for Home Rule has been
created among us?
Editor : That desire gave rise to the National Congress. The choice of
the word "National" implies it.
Reader : That surely, is not the case. Young India seems to ignore the
Congress. It is considered to be an instrument for perpetuating British
Editor : That opinion is not justified. Had not the Grand Old Man of
India prepared the soil, our young men could not have even spoken about
Home Rule. How can we forget what Mr. Hume has written, how he has
lashed us into action, and with what effort he has awakened us, in order
to achieve the objects of the Congress ? Sir William Wedderburn has
given his body, mind and money to the same cause. His writings are
worthy of perusal to this day. Professor Gokhale in order to prepare the
nation embraced poverty and gave twenty years of his life. Even now, he
is living in poverty. The late Justice Badruddin Tyebji was also one of
those who, through the Congress, sowed the seed of Home Rule. Similarly,
in Bengal, Madras, the Punjab and other places, there have been lovers
of India and members of the Congress, both Indian and English.
Reader : Stay, stay; you are going too far, you are straying away from
my question. I have asked you about Home- or Self- Rule; you are
discussing foreign rule. I do not desire to hear English names, and you
are giving me such names. In these circumstances, I do not think we can
ever meet. I shall be pleased if you will confine yourself to Home Rule.
All other talk will not satisfy me.
Editor : You are impatient. I cannot afford to be likewise. If you will
bear with me for a while, I think you will find that you will obtain
what you want. Remember the old proverb that the tree does not grow in
one day. The fact that you have checked me and that you do not want to
hear about the well-wishers of India shows that, for you at any rate,
Home Rule is yet far away. If we had many like you, we would never make
any advance. This thought is worthy of your attention.
Reader : It seems to me that you simply want to put me off by talking
round and round. Those whom you consider to be well-wishers of India are
not such in my estimation. Why, then, should I listen to your discourse
on such people? What has he whom you consider to be the Father of the
Nation done for it? He says that the English Governors will do justice
and that we should cooperate with them.
Editor : I must tell you, with all gentleness, that it must be a matter of shame
for us that you should speak about that great man in terms of
disrespect. Just look at his work. He has dedicated his life to the
service of India. We have learned what we know from him. It was the
respected Dadabhai who taught us that the English had sucked our
life-blood. What does it matter that, today, his trust is still in the
English nation? Is Dadabhai less to be honoured because, in the
exuberance of youth, we are prepared to go a step further? Are we, on
that account, wiser than he? It is a mark of wisdom not to kick away the
very step from which we have risen higher. The removal of a step from a
staircase brings down the whole of it. When, out of infancy, we grow
into youth, we do not depise infancy, but, on the contrary, we recall
with affection the days of our childhood. If, after many years of study,
a teacher were to teach me something, and if I were to build a little
more on the foundation laid by that teacher, I would not, on that
account, be considered wiser than the teacher. He would always command
my respect. Such is the case with the Grand Old Man of India. We must
admit that he is the author of nationalism.
Reader : You have spoken well. I can now understand that we must look
upon Mr. Dadabhai with respect. Without him and men like him, we should
probably not have the spirit that fires us. How can the same be said of
Professor Gokhale? He has constituted himself a great friend of the
English; he says that we have to learn a great deal from them, that we
have to learn their political wisdom, before we can talk of Home Rule. I
am tired of reading his speeches.
Editor : If you are tired, it only betrays your impatience. We believe
that those, who are discontented with the slowness of their parents and
are angry because the parents would not run with their children, are
considered disrespectful to their parents. Professor Gokhale occupies
the place of a parent. What does it matter if he cannot run with us? A
nation that is desirous of securing Home Rule cannot afford to despise
its ancestors. We shall become useless, if we lack respect for our
elders. Only men with mature thoughts are capable of ruling themselves
and not the hasty- tempered. Moreover, how many Indians were there like
Professor Gokhale, when he gave himself to Indian education? I verily
believe that whatever Professor Gokhale does, he does with pure motives
and with a view to serving India. His devotion to the Motherland is so
great that he would give his life for it, if necessary. Whatever he says
is said not to flatter anyone but because he believes it to be true. We
are bound, therefore, to entertain the highest regard for him.
Reader : Are we, then, to follow him in every respect ?
Editor : I never said any such thing. If we conscientiously
differed from him, the learned Professor himself would advise us to
follow the dictates of our conscience rather than him. Our chief purpose
is not to decry his work, but to believe that he is infinitely greater
than we are, and to feel assured that compared with his work for India,
ours is infinitesimal. Several newspapers write disrespectfully of him.
It is our duty to protest against such writings. We should consider men
like Professor Gokhale to be the pillars of Home Rule. It is bad habit
to say that another man's thoughts are bad and ours only are good and
that those holding different views from ours are the enemies of the
Reader : I now begin to understand somewhat your meaning. I shall
have to think the matter over. But what you say about Mr. Hume and Sir
William Wedderburn is beyond my comprehension.
Editor : The same rule holds good for the English as for the Indians. I
can never subscribe to the statement that all Englishmen are bad. Many
Englishmen desire Home Rule for India. That the English people are
somewhat more selfish than others is true, but that does not prove that
every Englishman is bad. We who seek justice will have to do justice to
others. Sir William does not wish ill to India, that should be enough
for us. As we proceed, you will see that, if we act justly, India will
be sooner free. You will see, too, that if we shun every Englishman as
an enemy, Home Rule will be delayed. But if we are just to them, we
shall receive their support in our progress towards the goal.
Reader : All this seems to me at present to be simply nonsensical.
English support and the obtaining of Home Rule are two contradictory
things. How can the English people tolerate Home Rule for us? But I do
not want you to decide this question for me just yet. To spend time over
it is useless. When you have shown how we can have Home Rule, perhaps I
shall understand your views. You have prejudiced me against you by
discoursing on English help. I would, therefore, beseech you not to
continue this subject.
Editor : I have no desire to do so. That you are prejudiced against me
is not a matter for much anxiety. It is well that I should say
unpleasant things at the commencement. It is my duty patiently to try to
remove your prejudice.
Reader : I like that last statement. It emboldens me to say what I like.
One thing still puzzles me. I do not understand how the Congress laid
the foundation of Home Rule.
Editor : Let us see. The Congress brought together Indians from
different parts of India, and enthused us with the idea of nationality.
The Government used to look upon it with disfavour. The Congress has
always insisted that the Nation should control revenue and expenditure.
It has always desired self-government after the Canadian model. Whether
we can get it or not, whether we desire it or not, and whether there is
not something more desirable, are different questions. All I have to
show is that the Congress gave us a foretaste of Home Rule. To deprive
it of the honour is not proper, and for us to do so would not only be
ungrateful, but retard the fulfillment of our object. To treat the
Congress as an institution inimical to our growth as a nation would
disable us from using that body.