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PEACE, NON-VIOLENCE & CONFLICT RESOLUTION > MY NON-VIOLENCE > Do not eliminate Truth and Non-violence
108. Do not eliminate Truth and Non-violence
A correspondent who sends his name and describes himself as devoted to service writes:
"Recently in your reply to Shri Shankarrao Dev you have said : 'I have been saying for some time that the words "truth and non-violence" should be removed from the Congress constitution.'
"If this happens in the existing circumstances, people will lose their faith in Congress because they will feel that so long as it was not in power it was thought best to adhere to truth and non-violence, but now that power has come, it contemplates removing these words from the constitution. They might even infer that the removal is being resorted to in order to counter the Muslim League's threat of direct action.
"If these words are eliminated from the constitution, Congress will fall from the high pedestal which these means alone have secured for it. It will lose in prestige. You have always said that you yourself cannot go forward one step without truth and non-violence, and is it not their adherence to these that makes the public think of Congressmen as trustworthy, merciful, full of the spirit of service and bravery? The tree must perish if its roots are destroyed. You must see to it that the roots go deeper and deeper and are not eradicated.
"Therefore, I feel that you should compel every Congressman to follow these principles and if he refuses, he must leave the Congress.
How can I, the champion of Ahimsa, compel anyone to perform even a good act? Has not a well-known Englishman said that to make mistakes as a free man is better than being in bondage in order to avoid them? I believe in the truth of this. The reason is obvious. The mind of a man who remains good under compulsion cannot improve, in fact it worsens. And when compulsion is removed all the defects well up to the surface with even greater force.
Moreover, no one should be a dictator. Even the Congress cannot force its members to follow truth and nonviolence. These have to be accepted willingly from the heart.
I have been recommending the elimination of these words from the constitution for over a year, long before the Muslim League contemplated direct action which makes no bones about Himsa or Ahimsa. Thus my recommendation has no connection with the League's resolution. But I have no help for those who invariably attribute sinister motives to my words.
I have strong grounds for my recommendation. Congress may not cover untruth and violence under the guise of truth and non-violence. Is not this an all-sufficing reason ? If Congressmen were no hypocrites, nothing could be better than that Congress should adhere to these two pillars.
I could never wish the Congress, the moment it comes into power, to discard the very ladder by which it has climbed so high. I believe that if Congressmen, while in power, renounce truth and non-violence, the lustre surrounding the Congress will grow dim.
We must all guard against one mistake. There is no rule against following what is not in the constitution. Indeed my hope is that when these words are removed, all or a large majority of Congressmen will heartily follow truth and non-violence even to the point of death.
The writer has forgotten to mention one thing which I should like to clarify. The words in the constitution are 'peaceful and legitimate'. I have no right to interpret them as truthful and non-violent, if they don't bear that meaning. Congress has adopted them as a policy, not as a creed. The question of my right to retain or eliminate them does not arise. But whilst it lasts, policy is tantamount to creed and hence becomes obligatory. Of course, my recommendation has no meaning if 'peaceful' can be interpreted as violent and 'legitimate' as untruthful.
New Delhi, 21-9-'46