April 29, 1930]
The revival in the form of an ordinance of the Press Act that was supposed to be dead was only to be expected, and I observe that in its new form the Act contains additional provisions making the whole piece more deadly than before. Whether we realize it or not, for some days past we have been living under a veiled form of martial law. After all, what is martial law if it is not the will of the commanding officer for the time being? The Viceroy is that officer, and wherever he considers it desirable he supersedes the whole of the law, both common and statute, and imposes ordinances on a people too submissive to resent or resist him. I hope, however, that the time for tame submission to the dictation from British rulers is gone forever. I hope that the people will not be frightened by this ordinance. The Press men, if they are worthy representatives of public opinion, will not be frightened by the ordinance. Let us realize the wise dictum of Thoreau that it is difficult under tyrannical rule for honest men to be wealthy. And if we have decided to hand over our bodies without a murmur to the authorities let us also be equally ready to hand over our property to them and not sell our souls. I would, therefore, urge Press men and publishers to refuse to furnish securities, and if they are called upon to do so, either to cease publication or to challenge the authorities to confiscate whatever they like. When freedom is actually knocking at our door and when for the sake of wooing it thousands have suffered tortures, let it not be said of the Press representatives that they were weighed and found wanting. They may confiscate type and machinery, they will not confiscate pen and still less speech, but I recognize that they can succeed in confiscating even these last two. But what they will never succeed in suppressing and what is after all the thing that matters is the thought of the nation and at the present moment there is hardly a man or woman breathing in India who with every breath does not breathe in disaffection, sedition, disloyalty and whatever other term one may use to describe the mentality of the nation which has set its mind on destroying the existing system of Government.