Between 50 to 60 senior officers of the I.N.A. met Gandhiji in the Sweepers' Colony the other day during his stay in Delhi. They first sang in a chorus the I.N.A. Hindustani adaptation of Gurudev's song "Janaganamana adhinayaka jay a he Bharata bhagyavidhata" just as they had sung during Gandhiji's visit to them behind the barbed wire fence in the Kabul Lines when their fate still hung in the balance. Gandhiji then addressed them a few words in Hindustani.
"Other friends have placed before me," he began, "the dilemma which,
I am told, faces many of you too. The Congress creed is, of course,
that of winning Swaraj through non-violence and peaceful means but
there are many men outside, and even within the Congress, who have
begun to doubt whether that policy of the Congress has not exhausted
its purpose and now become effete for the task that lies ahead,
specially in view of the changed and changing times.
"You, who have served under Subhas Babu as veteran fighters, have
proved your mettle on the battlefield. Success and failure are,
however, not in our hands, but in God's hands alone. Netaji told you
when bidding good-bye to you that, on your return to India, you must
put yourselves under the Congress discipline and act according to
its policy. Your object, as I have been told, was only to free
India, never to help the Japanese. You failed in your direct
objective, i.e. to defeat the British. But you have the
satisfaction that the whole country has been roused and even the
regular forces have been stirred into a new political consciousness
and have begun to think in terms of independence. You have achieved
a complete unity among the Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Christians,
Anglo-Indians and Sikhs in your ranks. That is no mean achievement.
What, however, you realized under conditions of freedom outside
India, you have now to sustain and keep alive under Indian
conditions. That will be your real test.
"If you have imbibed the spirit of non-violence, you will remain
free men at heart even here. For instance, no government on earth
can make men, who have realized freedom in their hearts, salute
against their will. If they threaten to kill them they will offer
their necks to them, but refuse to submit. The odds are that a
soldier's spirit will revolt against such cold-blooded murder. Thus,
whether they live or die it will be as free men. They will never be
slaves. If you all become free men at heart, the whole of India will
be free. They might imprison you. You will welcome it or you can
tell them that you will be a corpse before they can put you into
prison. Both alternatives are open to a non-violent soldier and both
call for bravery of the highest order. Our task is no less than to
reinfuse life into the 400 millions of India. We have to dispel fear
from their hearts. On the day they shed all fear, India's fetters
shall fall and she will be free.
"Years ago I said at Nankanasahib: 'Sikhs have given proof of their
martial valour. But the consummation of Guru Govind Singh's ideal
will be reached only when they will substitute for their kirpans
the sword of the spirit of non-violence.' So long as one wants to
retain one's sword, one has not attained complete fearlessness. No
power on earth can subjugate you when you are armed with the sword
of Ahimsa. It ennobles both the victor and the vanquished. Netaji
has fired you with a new spirit. That spirit can now be kept alive
only through non-violence."
Having thus explained to them the significance of Ahimsa in terms
of martial courage, Gandhiji proceeded to place before them the
higher type of courage that is required of a Satyagrahi soldier to
become an ideal, self-respecting citizen. "Above all, you must never
beg or throw yourselves on anybody's charity. Because you have
risked your lives for India's sake and fought for her on the Imphal
plain, you must not expect to be pampered in return. If you do that,
you will lose all worth like the salt that has lost its savour. You
should prefer to earn your bread by the sweat of your brow, but
refuse to beg or accept charity. In short, you have to show the same
degree of bravery and courage of the non-violent type as you have
done in the use of arms hitherto.
"If you want land you will have it. You will clear it and turn it
into model farms. You have to overcome the inertia of ages which
weighs down our masses. That you will be able to do only by setting
an example of industry and hard work. You must be able to wield the
bucket and the broom with skill and diligence and not consider the
cleaning of latrines as dirty or beneath your dignity. Graduation
in this work is more heoric than winning the Victoria Cross."
Then followed questions and answers:
Q. How can one who has spent his whole life in fighting- take to
Ahimsa with success? Are not the two incompatible?
A. I do not agree. Badshah Khan is a Pathan. But today he has become a
soldier of non-violence. Tolstoy too served in the army. Yet he
became the high priest of non-violence in Europe. We have not yet
realized fully the power that is in non-violence. If the Government
had not arrested me in 1942, I would have shown how to fight Japan
Q. Surely, it is no breach of Ahimsa to use the sword in self-defence?
A. Even Wavell, Auchinleck or Hitler does not use the sword without
necessity. But that does not make it Ahimsa. It is Himsa, whatever
Q. You cannot take the world along with you if you adopt Ahimsa. You
have to choose the one or the other.
A. There again I disagree. A reformer has to sail not with the current,
very often he has to go against it, even though it may cost him his
life. You must not be carried off your feet by unthinking, popular
applause. The essential part of your message to the country is not
how to wield the sword but to cease to be afraid of it.
Q. What would you have done if Subhas Babu had returned to you
A. I would have asked him to make you put away your weapons and stack
them before me.