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78. I. N. A. Men's Dilemma

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 by non-violence.

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 its justification.

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 victorious?

A. I would have asked him to make you put away your weapons and stack them before me.

Mussoorie, 30-5-'46

Harijan, 9-6-1946