DEAR MR. GANDHI,
Now that you have temporarily suspended Civil Disobedience, may I
venture to urge with all the earnestness at my command that you should
devote some of your attention and power towards strengthening the
efforts being made by so many of our most eminent leaders in London
to secure for India a substantial measure of political freedom?
I am well aware of the fact that the removal of the Rowlatt Act from
the Statute Book is your first duty. I entirely agree that continuous
agitation against it is of vital importance. I would add that of equally
vital importance is agitation against the Press Act. But now that
you have for the moment given up the Civil Disobedience method of
constitutional agitation, do you not think that we might all join
in one great common movement having as its objective :
- The improvement of the Indian Reform Bill.
- The abolition of the Rowlatt Act and the Press Act.
- The insistence on the safeguarding of the rights of the Indian
citizen as set forth in the Declaration of Rights originally propounded
at a Madras Provincial Conference, and adopted at the Bombay Special
Sessions of the Indian National Congress and of the All-India
Muslim League in August-September, 1918.
I do not suggest that the order in which I have placed the various aspects of this objective need necessarily be kept; but I would most earnestly urge that unity is India's need of needs, and that we are all bound to establish and maintain that unity by every means within our power.
At present, there are two roads of service-the road of Satyagrahis and the road of those who are concentrating their efforts on the Indian Reform Bill. Can we not join together for the time being, or at least for some common work?
I know well that some of your followers have no faith in any good coming out of the Indian Reform Bill. But is there not just a chance that it may be a useful stepping stone, and ought we not to support the many leaders in London who, representing India's National Assemblies and the movements, are striving hard to make the Bill worthy of the land it is intended to serve?
I am so eager in India's service, and so passionately anxious that even the smallest chance should not be overlooked, that I do not hesitate to place these considerations before you. How glorious a testimony of India's greatness were we able to make at this critical moment a united India working hard towards a common goal? I know it could be done with your help and guidance and inspiration. In a conversation the other day with Sir Sankaran Nair he told me of those essential improvements which would make the Indian Reform Bill really worth having, and which he thought could be gained. Mrs Besant, after a long interview with Mr. Montagu, wrote to me that the outlook was distinctly hopeful. Could we in India not give our strength in this direction also? Could we not join hands and work together? Could there not, at least for a few months, be one great movement, with yourself as one of its principal leaders?
As one of the rank and file, let me say that we look with sadness upon the fact that there is no little union among our leaders. We desire united action with all our hearts. Ought it not to be given to us for India's sake, and could it not come on the basis of a combined agitation in favour of the abolition of the two obnoxious Acts, of the modification of the Reform Bill, and of the Declaration of Rights? A noble and inspiring programme this, to which, I believe, there is not a single patriotic Indian who would not adhere. Your temporary suspension of Civil Disobedience should make it possible for us all to work together without the slightest reservation; and I beg you to consider whether we could not, at least for the time being, go forward together.
With all respect,