I thank you for your letter on 21st ultimo. Your previous letter was read by Miraben, Mahadev and later by Andrews. All of them put, independently of me, the same construction that I had. Of course, I unreservedly accept your correction. I simply want to say that it was after carefully reading your letter more than three times that I sent you the reply I did. Andrews also read my reply to you, and he had nothing to suggest by way of alteration.
Of course, you knew the existence of the repressive laws. But you did not know, nor do you know now, what their continuance meant or means to us here. A strange confirmation of this comes from Dr Maude Royden who is reported to have said at Karachi that the people in England knew nothing, through the daily press or otherwise, of the amazing things which she heard during the two or three days she found herself amongst the very sober women of India. Andrews will be able to give you first-hand testimony of what he saw and learnt in Bengal.
You seem to regard the possibility of withdrawal of the forthcoming Bill as a calamity. In my opinion, if the withdrawal comes even at the last moment, it will be a blessing both for England and India, for the simple reason that persistence in the measure in the face of an almost unanimous Indian opposition to it would mean an unbending attitude on the part of the British Parliament and utter contempt for Indian public opinion. I hope you have seen the bitter comment made by Rt. Hon. Sastri, who was at one time a persona grata at the India office whose complete confidence he enjoyed, and the equally bitter comment of Hon. C. Y. Chintamani, who has been regarded as a moderate among moderates and who has, in season and out of season, condemned the Congress attitude in unmeasured language.
Now for the briefest summary of my own personal objections to the J.PG. Report. I read that Report and the White Paper as one document. Whatever new there is in the former is not regarded at this end as an improvement, but quite the contrary, and it is the last straw which has broken the back of the Liberals. They had cherished the fond hope that the Joint Memorandum signed under the leadership of the Aga Khan would receive the favourable consideration of the Joint Parliamentary Committee and that some, if not all, of its recommendations would be accepted by it. The contemptuous dismissal of that Memorandum, beyond a mere courteous reference to it, has extorted the following remark from Sastri: "No, Sir, it is impossible for the Liberal Party to give an atom of co-operation. Co-operation with friends that wish well of us will be worthwhile, but co-operation with those who have displayed the utmost distrust of us, who do not care for our views and demands, and who enact a constitution in utter disregard of our wishes, what is co-operation with them, I ask? I should call it a suicide."
- There is no suggestion in the J.PC. Report that there should be a clause in the constitution providing for automatic advance to complete independence or whatever the selected representatives of India may decide to have.
- The contemplated constitution saddles India with a greater financial burden than she is bearing today without any prospect of economic or political betterment.
- At the centre, 80 per cent of the revenue is reserved out of any popular control.
- There is no popular control over the military, whether as to policy or as to expenditure.
- There is no popular control over the currency or the exchange of the country.
- Even the control over the 20 per cent proposed to be left in the hands of the Finance Minister is subject to suspension by the Governor-General.
- The provincial autonomy adumbrated in the Report is purely nominal, as the Governors of the provinces have such wide powers that they can, whenever they choose, make an end of responsibility. It would be utterly wrong for any Britisher to infer from Colonial precedents that these powers will be rarely, if ever, exercised. Indian past experience is quite the contrary.
- Responsible Ministers have no right even to transfer any member, either of the All-India service or of the provincial service.
- The so-called autonomous legislatures will have no right to amend the Police Acts or even Police Regulations.
- British exploitation is made firmer than ever.
To clinch the whole of the objections it is well to remember that the constitution is sought to be imposed upon the people who are already groaning under repression, such as, perhaps, has not been equalled in British Indian history. I am making this statement with the full sense of my responsibility. I have a vivid memory of Jallianwala Bagh. I have read Kaye and Malleson's volumes on the Sepoy Revolt, as it has been called, of 1857. Both make gruesome reading. Then, it was the naked sword. The repression represents the gloved fist, but deadlier on that account.
You may make whatever private use you wish of this letter. Nobody else is responsible for the opinion I have expressed in this. It has been shown to no friend beyond Mahadev, Mira and the typist.
My writing may seem bitter; but I would like to warn you against putting any such interpretation upon it. The language represents the truth and nothing but the truth as I have seen and felt it. It does not represent the whole truth. If I had the time and the capacity to give you the whole truth, the version would be even worse than it is.
In spite, however, of the black picture that I see in it, I have no bitterness in me against a single Englishman. I believe that the English Ministers are pursuing what they believe to be an honest policy to be adopted in the interest of India. It is their honest belief that British rule in India has been, on the whole, for her good. They honestly believe that under it India has advanced in economic progress and in political capacity, and that if India received the constitution that the vast number of the intelligentsia wish for, it would be bad day for her. It is difficult to combat an honest belief, however erroneous it may be, as, in my opinion, it is in this case. But it would also be wrong to be angry over an honest belief of any person. Whilst, therefore, I hold the strong opinion that I have expressed in the foregoing summary I would ask you to believe me implicitly when I give you my assurance that, God helping, I shall take no step in haste or in anger.
I have retired from the Congress because, among other reasons, I want to impose silence upon myself, so far as it is humanly possible, about the political measures of the Government. I want, in my voluntary isolation, to explore the yet hidden possibilities of nonviolence. Every action I am taking, no matter in what department of life, is being taken with that end in view. The only axe that I have to grind on this earth is to try to understand the ultimate truth of things which, at present, I seem to see only dimly. And after a laborious search I have come to the conclusion that if I am to see it in any fulness I can only do so by non-violence in thought, word and deed. What this search will lead me to, I really do not know myself, nor have I the slightest desire to see it before its time. For me, therefore, it is an incessant waiting upon God to show me the next step, and I shall be grateful if any of you, friends, can, with your full hearts, help me in that search.
Yours sincerely,CARL HEATH, ESQ.,
M. K. GANDHI
M. K. GANDHI