SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI >  VOL. IV - SELECTED LETTERS > SECTION ONE : SELECTED LETTERS > To W. B. Heycock
12. To W. B. Heycock
Bettiah,
May 20, 1917
DEAR MR. HEYCOCK,
I have hitherto refrained from bringing to your notice statements, which have continued to stream in, to the effect that the raiyats are being prevented from coming in to me and that those who have come in have been subjected to all kinds of pinpricks by the kothai amlas and in some cases by the managers themselves. I have discounted some of the statements. I have taken down a few. But if what I have heard about the doing of the Belwa and the Dhokraha concerns is true, it is calculated to end on one side at least, the friendly spirit in which the inquiry has hitherto been carried on. I am most anxious to continue and to increase the friendly spirit. I am straining every [nerve] so far as in me lies, to so conduct my mission that nothing but good-will should be left behind, when its labours are finished. I send you the statements taken regarding the Belwa and the Dhokraha concerns. If the statements are true, they do not reflect any credit upon the concerns in question. I enclose, too, my letter to Mr Holttum which was written before I heard of the fire and which was despatched before I took the statements of the Dhokraha men last evening after 6-30 p.m.
I can understand and even appreciate the feelings which are bound to fill those who are called upon to contemplate the prospect of having to forgo huge incomes which they have hitherto been in the habit for a long time of receiving from their raiyats. One cannot, therefore, mind any legitimate effort on their part to hold on to what they have considered as their rights. But what is reported to have happened at the Belwa and Dhokraha dehats does not in my opinion fall under such a category.
It is a known fact that the desire of the planters generally is, that my friends and I should not carry on our work. I can only say that nothing but physical force from the Government or an absolute guarantee that the admitted or provable wrongs of the raiyats are to stop for ever, can possibly remove us from the District. What I have seen of the conditions of the raiyats is sufficient to convince me that if we withdrew at this stage, we would stand condemned before man and God and, what is most important of all, we would never be able to forgive ourselves.
But the mission is totally of peace. I cannot too often give the assurance that I bear no ill-will against the planters. I have been told that this is true of myself but that my friends are fired with an anti-English feeling and that for them this is an anti-English movement. I can only say that I do not know a body of men who have less of that feeling than my friends. I was not prepared for this pleasant revelation. I was prepared for some degree of ill-will. I would have held it excusable. I do not know that I have not been guilty of it myself under circumstances which have appeared to me most provoking. But if I found that any of my associates were, in the conduct of this mission, actuated by any ill-will at all, I should disassociate myself entirely from them and insist upon their leaving the mission. At the same time, the determination to secure a freedom for the raiyats from the yoke that is wearing them down is inflexible.
Cannot the Government secure that freedom ? This is a natural exclamation. My answer is that they cannot, in cases like this, without such assistance as is afforded to them by my mission. The Government machinery is designedly slow. It moves, must move, along the line of least resistance. Reformers like myself, who have no other axe to grind but that of reform they are handling for the time being, specialize and create a force which the Government must reckon with. Reformers may go wrong by being over-zealous, indiscreet or indolent and ignorant. The Government may go wrong by being impatient of them or over-confident of their ability to do without them. I hope, in this case, neither catastrophe will take place and the grievances, which I have already submitted and which are mostly admitted, will be effectively redressed. Then the planters will have no cause to fear or suspect the mission of which I have the honour to be in-charge and they will gladly accept the assistance of volunteers who will carry on the work of education and sanitation among the villagers and act as links between them and the raiyats.
Pray, excuse the length of this letter as also its argumentative character. I could not avoid it, if I was to place my true position before you. In bringing the two matters which have necessitated this communication, I have no desire to seek legal relief. But I ask you to use such administrative influence as you can to preserve the friendly spirit which has hitherto prevailed between the kothis and my friends and myself.
I do not wish to suggest that the kothis in question are responsible for the fire. That is the suspicion of some of the raiyats. I have talked to hundreds of them about the two fires. They say that the raiyats are not responsible for them, that they have no connection with the mission. I readily accept this repudiation because we are incessantly telling the raiyats that this is not a mission of violence or reprisals and that any such thing on their part can only delay relief. But if the kothis may not be held responsible for them, they may not seek to establish a connection between them and the mission. Fires have taken before now, and, mission or no mission, they will take place for ever. Neither party may blame the other without the clearest possible proofs.
There is talk, too, about the lives of the planters being in danger. Surely this cannot be serious talk. Any waj', the mission cannot render them less safe than they are. The character of the mission is wholly against any such activity. It is designed to seek relief by self- suffering, never by doing violence to the supposed or real wrong-doer. And this lesson has been inculcated among the raiyats in season and out of season.
Lastly, there is, I fear, ample proof of intimidation such as is described in the statements thereto attached. Intimidation can only mean more trouble all-round without meaning the slightest relief, to the planters in the shape of retention of the present system.
I seek such help as you can vouchsafe in the circumstances I have ventured to place before you. I am sending a copy to Mr Lewis.
Yours truly,
M. K. GANDHI

Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. XIII, pp. 404-06