Reader : I now understand why the English hold India. I should like to know your views about the condition of our country.
Editor : It is a sad condition. In thinking of it my eyes water and my
throat gets parched. I have grave doubts whether I shall be able
sufficiently to explain what is in my heart. It is my deliberate opinion
that India is being ground down, not under the English heel, but under
that of modern civilization. It is groaning under the monster's terrible
weight. There is yet time to escape it, but every day makes it more and
more difficult. Religion is dear to me and my first complaint is that
India is becoming irreligious. Here I am not thinking of the Hindu or
the Mahomedan or the Zoroastrian religion but of that religion which
underlies all religions. We are turning away from God.
Reader : How so ?
Editor : There is a charge laid against us that we are a lazy people and
that Europeans are industrious and enterprizing. We have accepted the
charge and we therefore wish to change our condition. Hinduism, Islam,
Zoroastrianism, Christianity and all other religions teach that we
should remain passive about worldly pursuits and active about godly
pursuits, that we should set a limit to our worldly ambition and that
our religious ambition should be illimitable. Our activity should be
directed into the latter channel.
Reader : You seem "to be encouraging religious charlatanism. Many a
cheat has, by talking in a similar strain, led the people astray.
Editor : You are bringing an unlawful charge against religion. Humbug
there undoubtedly is about all religions. Where there is light, there is
also shadow. I am prepared to maintain that humbugs in worldly matters
are far worse than the humbugs in religion. The humbug of civilization
that I am endeavouring to show to you is not to be found in religion.
Reader : How can you say that? In the name of religion Hindus and
Mahomedans fought against one another. For the same cause Christians
fought Christians. Thousands of innocent men have been murdered,
thousands have been burned and tortured in its name. Surely, this is
much worse than any civilization.
Editor : I certainly submit that the above hardships are far more
bearable than those of civilization. Everybody understands that the
cruelties you have named are not part of religion although they have
been practised in its name; therefore there is no aftermath to these
cruelties. They will always happen so long as there are to be found
ignorant and credulous people. But there is no end to the victims
destroyed in the fire of civilization. Its deadly effect is that people
come under its scorching flames believing it to be all good. They become
utterly irreligious and, in reality, derive little advantage from the
world. Civilization is like a mouse gnawing while it is soothing us.
When its full effect is realized, we shall see that religious
superstition is harmless compared to that of modern civilization. I am
not pleading for a continuance of religious superstitions. We shall
certainly fight them tooth and nail, but we can never do so by
disregarding religion. We can only do so by appreciating and conserving
Reader : Then you will contend that the Pax Britannica is a useless
Editor : You may see peace if you like; I see none.
Reader : You make light of the terror that the Thugs, the Pindaris and
the Bhils were to the country.
Editor : If you give the matter some thought, you will see that the
terror was by no means such a mighty thing. If it had been a very
substantial thing, the other people would have died away before the
English advent. Moreover, the present peace is only nominal, for by it
we have become emasculated and cowardly. We are not to assume that the
English have changed the nature of the Pindaris and the Bhils. It is,
therefore, better to suffer the Pindari peril than that someone else
should protect us from it and thus render us effeminate. I should prefer
to be killed by the arrow of a Bhil than to seek unmanly protection.
India without such protection was an India full of valour. Macaulay
betrayed gross ignorance when he libelled Indians as being practically
cowards. They never merited the charge. Cowards living in a country
inhabited by hardy mountaineers and infested by wolves and tigers must
surely find an early grave. Have you ever visited our fields ? I assure
you that our agriculturists sleep fearlessly on their farms even today;
but the English and you and I would hesitate to sleep where they sleep.
Strength lies in absence of fear, not in the quantity of flesh and
muscle we may have on our bodies. Moreover, I must remind you who desire
Home Rule that, after all, the Bhils, the Pindaris, and the Thugs are
our own countrymen. To conquer them is your and my work. So long as we
fear our own brethren, we are unfit to reach the goal.