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
"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
"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."
Q. "How will you run your administration non-
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
"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?
"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
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
"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