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
"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
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