There was a small gathering of local students the other day in Gandhiji's camp at Beliaghata. Gandhiji first asked them if any of them had taken part in the riots, to which they replied in the negative. Whatever they had done was in self-defence; hence it was no part of the riot.
This gave Gandhiji an opportunity of speaking on some of the vital
problems connected with non-violence. He said that mankind had all
along tried to justify violence and war in terms of unavoidable
self-defence. It was a simple rule that the violence of the
aggressor could only be defeated by superior violence of the
defender. All over the world, men had thus been caught in a mad race
for armaments, and no one yet knew at what point of time the world
would be really safe enough for turning the sword into the plough.
Mankind, he stated, had not yet mastered the true art of self-defence.
But great teachers, who had practised what they preached, had
successfully shown that true defence lay along the path of
non-retaliation. It might sound paradoxical; but this is what he
meant. Violence always thrived on counter-violence. The aggressor
had always a purpose behind his attack; he wanted something to be
done, some object to be surrendered by the defender. Now, if the
defender steeled his heart and was determined not to surrender even
one inch, and at the same time to resist the temptation of matching
the violence of the aggressor by violence, the latter could be made
to realize in -a short while that it would not be paying to punish
the other party and his will could not be imposed in that way. This
would involve suffering. It was this unalloyed self-suffering which
was the truest form of self-defence-which knew no surrender.
Someone might ask that if through such non-resistance the defender
was likely to lose his life, how could it be called self-defence?
Jesus lost his life on the Cross and the Roman Pilate won. Gandhiji
did not agree. Jesus had won, as the world's history had abundantly
shown. What did it matter if the body was dissolved in the process,
so long as by the Christ's act of non-resistance, the forces of good
were released in society?
This art of true self-defence by means of which man gained his life
by losing it, had been mastered and exemplified in the history of
individuals. The method had not been perfected for application by
large masses of mankind. India's Satyagraha was a very imperfect
experiment in that direction. Hence, during the Hindu-Muslim quarrel
it proved a failure on the whole.
Two or three days ago, before this meeting with the students,
Gandhiji unburdened his heart in this respect to Professor Stuart
Nelson, who had come to see him before he left for his college in
America. Professor Nelson asked him why it was that Indians, who had
more or less successfully gained independence through peaceful
means, were now unable to check the tide of civil war through the
same means? Gandhiji replied that it was indeed a searching question
which he must answer. He confessed that it had become clear to him
that what he had mistaken for Satyagraha was not Satyagraha but
passive resistance — a weapon of the weak. Indians harboured
ill-will and anger against their erstwhile rulers, while they
pretended to resist them non-violently. Their resistance was,
therefore, inspired by violence and not by regard for the man in the
British, whom they should convert through Satyagraha.
Now that the British were voluntarily quitting India, apparent
non-violence had gone to pieces in a moment. The attitude of
violence which we had secretly harboured, in spite of the restraint
imposed by the Indian National Congress, now recoiled upon us and
made us fly at each other's throats when the question of the
distribution of power came up. If India could now discover a way of
sublimating the force of violence which had taken a communal turn,
and turning it into constructive, peaceful ways, whereby differences
of interests could be liquidated, it would be a great day indeed.
Gandhiji then proceeded to say that it was indeed true that many
English friends had warned him that the so-called, non-violent
non-co-operation of India was not really non-violent. It was the
passivity of the weak and not the non-violence of the stout in heart
who would never surrender their sense of human unity and brotherhood
even in the midst of conflict of interests, who would ever try to
convert and not coerce their adversary.
Gandhiji proceeded to say that this was indeed true. He had all
along laboured under an illusion. But he was never sorry for it. He
realized that if his vision were not covered by that illusion, India
would never have reached the point which it had today.
India was now free, and the reality was now clearly revealed to him.
Now that the burden of subjection had been lifted, all the forces of
good had to be marshalled in one great effort to build a country
which forsook the accustomed method of violence in order to settle
human conflicts whether it was between two States or between two
sections of the same people. He had yet the faith that India would
rise to the occasion and prove to the world that the birth of two
new States would be, not a menace, but a blessing to the rest of
mankind. It was the duty of Free India to perfect the instrument of
non-violence for dissolving collective conflicts, if its freedom was
going to be really worthwhile.