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PEACE, NON-VIOLENCE & CONFLICT RESOLUTION > MY NON-VIOLENCEAn Interesting Discourse - I

 

55. An Interesting Discourse - I

The Scope of Ahimsa

The first question was about the limits and implications of Ahimsa and the extent of its applications. Should one stop with the human species or extend it to all creation?

Gandhiji said: "I was not prepared for this question. For the Congress Ahimsa is naturally confined to the political field and therefore only to the human species. Hence out-and-out non-violence means for our purpose every variety of non-violence on the political field. In concrete terms it covers family relations, relations with constituted authority, internal disorders and external aggression. Put in another way it covers all human relations."

"Then what about meat-eating and egg-eating? Do they consist with non-violence?"

"They do. Otherwise we should have to exclude Musalmans and Christians and a vast number of Hindus as possible co-workers in Ahimsa. I have known many meat-eaters to be far more non-violent than vegetarians."

"But what if we had to give them up for the sake of a principle?"

"Oh, yes, we would, if we had to compromise our principle. Our principle is defined as I have shown already."


A Wrong Analogy

"If, as you have said, Polish resistance to the German invasion was almost non-violent, and you would thus seem to reconcile yourself with it, why do you object to the Wardha resolution of the Working Committee?" "Surely," said Gandhiji, "there is no analogy between the two cases. Ii" a man fights with his sword single-handed against a horde of dacoits armed to the teeth, I should say he is fighting almost non-violently. Haven't I said to our women that, if in defence of their honour they used their nails and teeth and even a dagger, 1 should regard their conduct non-violent? She does not know the distinction between Himsa and Ahimsa. She acts spontaneously. Supposing a mouse in fighting a cat tried to resist the cat with his sharp beak, would you call that mouse violent? In the same way, for the Poles to stand valiantly against the German hordes vastly superior in numbers, military equipment and strength, was almost non-violence. I should not mind repeating that statement over and over again. You must give its full value to the word 'almost'. But we are 400 millions here. If we were to organize a big army and prepare ourselves to fight foreign aggression, how could we by any stretch of imagination call ourselves almost non-violent, let alone non-violent? The Poles were unpre­pared for the way in which the enemy swooped down upon them. When we talk of armed preparation, we con­template preparation to meet any violent combination with our superior violence. If India ever prepared herself that way, she would constitute the greatest menace to world peace. For, if we take that path, we will also have to choose the path of exploitation like the European na­tions. That is why I still regret the moment when my words lacked the power of convincing the Sardar and Rajaji. By having passed that resolution we proclaimed to the world that the Ahimsa we had subscribed to all these years was not really Ahimsa but a form of Himsa."


Administering Non-violently

Q, "How will you run your administration non- violently?"

A. "If you assume that we would have won indepen­dence by non-violent means, it means that the bulk of the country had been organized non-violently. Without the vast majority of people having become non-violent, we could not attain non-violent Swaraj. If, therefore, we attain Swaraj by purely non-violent means, it should not be difficult for us to carry on the administration without the military. The goondas too will then have come under our control. If, for instance, in Sevagram we have five or seven goondas in a population of seven hundred who are non-violently organized, the five or seven will either live under the dis­cipline of the rest or leave the village.

"But you will see that I am answering the question with the utmost caution, and my truth makes me admit that we might have to maintain a police force. But the police will be after our pattern, and not the British pattern. As we shall have adult suffrage, the voice of even the youngest of us will count. That is why I have said that the ideally non-violent State will be an ordered anarchy. That State will be the best governed which is governed the least. The pity is that no one trusts me with the reins of government! Otherwise I would show how to govern non-violently. If I maintain a police force, it will be a body of reformers."

"But," someone retorted, "You had the power in the Congress?"

"That was a paper-boat," said Gandhiji. "And then you must not forget that I never spared the Congress mini­stries. Munshi and Pantji came in for a lot of strictures from me. As I have said in another connection even the dirty water from the gutter, when it mixes with the water of the Ganges, becomes as pure as the Ganges water; even so I had expected even the goondas would work under Congress discipline. But evidently our ministers had not attained the purifying potency of the fabled Ganges."

"But," said Shri Kher, intervening at this stage, "the Congress ministers had no non-violent power with them. Even if 500 goondas had run amok and had been allowed to go unchecked, they would have dealt untold havoc. I do not know how even you would have dealt with them."

"Surely, surely," said Gandhiji, "I had rehearsed such situations. The ministers could on such occasions have gone out and allowed themselves to be done to death by the goondas. But let us face the fact that we had not the requisite Ahimsa. We went in with our half-baked Ahimsa. I do not mind it, inasmuch as we gave up power the moment we felt we should give it up. I am sure that, if we had adhered to strictest non-violence during these two or three years, the Congress would have made a tremendous advance in the direction of Ahimsa and also independence."

"But," said Balasaheb, "four or five years ago when there was a riot, and I appealed to the leaders to go and throw themselves into the conflagration, no one was ready."

"So you are supporting my argument. You agree that our loyalty to Ahimsa was lip-loyalty and not heart- loyalty. And if even the half-baked Ahimsa carried us a long way, does it not follow that thorough Ahimsa would have carried us very far indeed, even if it had not already brought us to the goal?


Non-violent Army

"But we cannot visualize how you will stand non-violently against a foreign invasion."

"I cannot draw the whole picture to you because we have no past experience to fall back upon and there is no reality facing us today. We have got the government army manned by the Sikhs, Pathans and Gurkhas. What I can conceive is this that with my non-violent army of, say, two thousand people I should put myself between the two contending armies. But this, I know, is no answer. I can only say that we shall be able to reduce the invader's violence to a minimum. The general of a non-violent army has got to have greater presence of mind than that of a violent army, and God would bless him with the necessary resourcefulness to meet situations as they arise."

Shri Kher now raised a philosophical question. "The world," he said, "is made up of pairs of opposites. Where there is fear, there is courage too. When we walk on the edge of a precipice we walk warily, for we have fear. Fear is not a thing to despise. Will your non-violent army is above these pairs of opposites?"

"No," said Gandhiji, replying in the same philosophi­cal terminology. "No, for the simple reason that my army will represent one of the pair — Ahimsa — out of the pair of Himsa and Ahimsa. Neither I nor my army is above the pair of opposites. The state of gunatita, in the language of the Gita, rises above Himsa and Ahimsa both. Fear has its use, but cowardice has none. I may not put my finger into the jaws of a snake, but the very sight of the snake need not strike terror into me. The trouble is that we often die many times before death overtakes us.

"But let me explain what my army will be like. They need not and will not have the resourcefulness or under­standing of the general, but they will have a perfect sense of discipline to carry out faithfully his orders. The general should have the quality which commands the unquestioning- obedience of his army, and he will expect of them nothing more than this obedience. The Dandi March was entirely my conception. Pandit Motilalji first laughed at it; he thought it to be a quixotic adventure, and Jamnalalji sug­gested instead a march on the Viceroy's House! But I could not think of anything but the salt march as I had to think in terms of millions of our countrymen. It was a conception that God gave me. Pandit Motilalji argued for some time, and then he said he must not argue, as after all I was the general and he must have faith in me. Later when he saw me in Jarnbusar he was completely con­verted, for he saw with his own eyes the awakening that had come over the masses. And it was an almost magical awakening. Where in history shall we find parallels of the cool courage that our women displayed in such large numbers?

"And yet none of the thousands who took part in the movement were above the average. They were erring, sinning mortals. God has a way of making use of the most fragile instruments and remaining Himself untouched by everything. Only He is gunatita.


The Real Equipment

"And then what after all is the army that wins? You know Rama's reply to Vibhishana when the latter wondered how Rama would be able to conquer a foe like Ravana, when he had no chariot, no armour, nor any shoes to his feet? Rama says:

"The chariot, my dear Vibhishana, that wins the victory for Rama is of a different sort from the usual one. Manliness and courage are its wheels; unflinching truth and character its banners and standards; strength, discrimination, self-restraint and benevolence its horses, with forgiveness, mercy, equanimity their reins; prayer to God is that conqueror's unerring charioteer, dispassion his shield, contentment his sword, charity his axe, intellect his spear, arid perfect science his stout bow. His pure and unwavering mind stands for a quiver, his mental quietude and his practice of yama and niyama stand for the sheaf of arrows, and the homage he pays to Brahmanas and his guru is his impenetrable armour. There is no other equipment for victory comparable to this; and, my dear friend, there is no enemy who can conquer the man who takes his stand on the chariot of Dharma. He who has a powerful chariot like this is a warrior who can conquer even that great and invincible enemy — the world. Hearken unto me and fear not."

"That is the equipment," added Gandhiji, "that can lead us to victory. I have not retired from the world, nor do I mean to. I am no recluse. I am content to do what little work I can in Sevagram and give what guidance I can to those that come to me. What we need is faith. And what is there to be lost in following the right path? The worst that can happen to us is that we shall be crushed. Better to be crushed than to be vanquished.

"But if we had to equip ourselves violently, I should be at my wit's end. I cannot even think out an armament plan, much less work it. On the other hand my non-violent plan is incredibly simpler and easier, and with God as our Commander and Infallible Guide where is there cause for any fear?"

Sevagram, 21 -8-'40

M. D.

Harijan, 25-8-1940