The whole world is on trial today. No one can escape from the war. Whilst the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are products of poets' imagination, their authors were not mere rhymesters. They were seers. What they depicted is happening before our very eyes today. Ravanas are warring with each other. They are showing matchless strength. They throw their deadly weapons from the air. No deed of bravery in the battlefield is beyond their capacity or imagination.
Man would not fight in this manner, certainly not the
gods. Only brutes can. Soldiers drunk with the pride of physical
strength loot shops and are not even ashamed to take liberties with
women. The administration is powerless in war time to prevent such
happenings. The army fulfils their primary need, and they wink the
eye at their misdeeds. Where a whole nation is militarized the way
of military life becomes part and parcel of its civilization.
Therefore a soldier's taking such liberties is not a matter for
condemnation. But it would take generations for India to become so.
Hence arise questions like the following which a
sister sends me:
1. "If a soldier commits an assault on a woman, can she be said to have lost her virtue?
2. Is such a woman to be condemned and ostracized by society?
3. What should women and the public do under such circumstances?"
Whilst the woman lias in point of fact lost her
virtue, the loss cannot in any way render her liable to be
condemned or treated as an outcast. She is entitled to our sympathy
for she has been cruelly injured, and we should tend her wounds as
we would those of any injured person.
A woman is worthy of condemnation only when she is a
willing party to her dishonour. In no case are adultery and criminal
assault synonymous terms. If we were to view the matter in this
light, we would not hide such instances as has thus far been our
wont. Public opinion against such conduct on the part of men towards
women would then be created and freely exercised.
If the press carried on a sustained agitation,
soldiers white or brown would probably cease to behave in this
manner. Their officers would be compelled to prevent such
My advice to women is that they should leave the
cities and migrate to the villages where a wide field of service
awaits them. There is comparatively little risk of their being
assaulted in villages. They must, however, live simple lives and
make themselves one with the poor. If they will display their wealth
by dressing in silks and satins and wearing jewellery, they will, in
running away from one danger, expose themselves to a double.
Naturally the advice cannot refer to those whom duty compels to live
The main thing, however, is for women to know how to
be fearless. It is my firm conviction that a fearless woman who
knows that her purity is her best shield can never be dishonoured.
However beastly the man, he will bow in shame before the flame of
her dazzling purity. There are examples even in modern times of
women who have thus defended themselves. I can, as I write, recall
two such instances. I therefore recommend women who read this
article to try to cultivate this courage. They will become wholly
fearless, if they can and cease to tremble as they do today at the
mere thought of assaults. It is not, however, necessary for a woman
to go through a bitter experience for the sake of passing of test of
courage. These experiences mercifully do not come in the way of
lakhs or even thousands. Every soldier is not a beast. It is a
minority that loses all sense of decency. Only twenty per cent of
snakes are poisonous, and out of these a few only bite. They do not
attack unless trodden on. But this knowledge does not help those who
are full of fear and tremble at the sight of a snake. Parents and
husbands should, therefore, instruct women in the art of becoming
fearless. It can best be learnt from a living faith in God. Though
He is invisible, He is one's unfailing protector. He who has this
faith is the most fearless of all.
But such faith or courage cannot be acquired in a
day. Meantime we must try to explore other means. When a woman is
assaulted she may not stop to think in terms of Himsa or Ahimsa. Her
primary duty is self-protection. She is at liberty to employ every
method or means that come to her mind in order to defend her honour.
God has given her nails and teeth. She must use them with all her
strength and, if need be, die in the effort. The man or woman who
has shed all fear of death will be able not only to protect himself
or herself but others also through laying down his life. In truth we
fear death most, and hence we ultimately submit to superior physical
force. Some will bend the knee to the invader, some will resort to
bribery, some will crawl on their bellies or submit to other forms
of humiliation, and some women will even give their bodies rather
than die. I have not written this in a carping spirit. I am only
illustrating human nature. Whether we crawl on our bellies or
whether a woman yields to the lust of man is symbolic of that same
love of life which makes us stoop to anything. Therefore only he who
loses his life shall save it; तेन त्यक्तेन भुंजीथाः। Every reader
should commit this matchless shloka to memory. But mere lip
loyalty to it will be of no avail. It must penetrate deep down to
the innermost recesses of his heart. To enjoy life one should give
up the lure of life. That should be part of our nature.
So much for what a woman should do. But what about a
man who is witness to such crimes? The answer is implied in the
foregoing. He must not be a passive onlooker. He must protect the
woman. He must not run for police help; he must not rest satisfied
by pulling the alarm chain in the train. If he is able to practise
non-violence, he will die in doing so and thus save the woman in
jeopardy. If he does not believe in non-violence or cannot practise
it, he must try to save her by using all the force he may have. In
either way there must be readiness on his part to lay down his life.
If old, decrepit and toothless, as I am, I were to
plead non-violence and be a helpless witness of assault on the
honour of a sister, my so-called Mahatmaship would be ridiculed,
dishonoured and lost. If I or those like me were to intervene and
lay down our lives whether violently or non-violently, we would
surely save the prey and at any rate we would not remain living
witnesses to her dishonour.
So much about the witnesses. But if the courageous
spirit pervades the entire atmosphere of our country and it is known
that no Indian will stand women being assaulted, I venture to say
that no soldier will dare to touch them. That such a spirit does not
exist is a matter of shame for us. But it will be something, if
persons ready to wipe out this blot are forthcoming.
Those who have influence with the Government will try
to get the authorities to take the necessary action. But self-help
is best help. In the present circumstances we may rely only on our
strength and God's help.
On the train to Wardha, 19-2-'42