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PEACE, NON-VIOLENCE & CONFLICT RESOLUTION > MY NON-VIOLENCE Women's Ordeal

 

112. Women's Ordeal

"It is not death that matters but how you meet death," Gandhiji remarked on one occasion. To die at the hands of one's brother is a privilege, provided you die bravely. But what about women who were being abducted and forcibly converted? That no one could be 'converted' forcibly was here beside the point. "And why should Indian women feel so helpless? Is bravery the monopoly of men only? Women of course do not generally carry swords though the Rani of Jhansi did and outdid all her con­temporaries in the valour of the sword. Still all cannot become Ranis of Jhansi. But all women can emulate the example of Sita whom even the mighty Ravana dared not touch. Ranis of Jhansi could be subdued."

"Let no one dismiss the example of Sita as legendary," he proceeded and gave the example of Olive Doke who dared to go and live among the unclad primitive Negro tribes in the heart of Africa without fear of molestation. It was that higher type of valour which he wanted Indian womanhood to cultivate. The military and police might protect them from abduction but what about those who had already been abducted or who might be abducted in spite of the police and the military? They ought to learn to die before a hair of their head could be injured. He averred that it was possible for a woman to put an end to herself by choking or biting the tongue.


Death before Dishonour

The next evening he had to revise the technique sug­gested above. Dr. Sushila who had heard him the day before had told him — Dr. B. G. Roy who saw him the next morning confirmed her statement — that one could not end one's life by choking or biting one's tongue. The only way known to medicine for instant self-immolation was a strong, poisonous dose. If this was so, he, the speaker, would advise every one running the risk of dishonour to take poison before submission to dishonour. He had, however, heard from those given to yogic practices that it was possible by some yogic practice to end life. He would try to inquire. His was not an idle idea. He meant all he had said. The very fact of steeling oneself for death before dishonour braced one for the struggle. Woman in our country was brought up to think that she was well only with her husband or on the funeral pyre. He would far rather see India's women trained to wield arms, said the speaker, than that they should feel helpless. The vogue of carrying daggers and revolvers by women was on the increase. He knew, however, that arms were a poor weapon when it came to the matter of defending one's honour against odds. Arms were a symbol of one's helplessness, not strength. When one was deprived of them, generally there was nothing left but surrender.

New Delhi, 18-10-'46

Harijan, 27-10-1946