When I had just begun my public career in South Africa, I wrote "An Open Letter to Every Briton in South Africa". It had its effect. I feel that I should repeat the example at this critical juncture in the history of the world. This time my appeal must be to every Briton in the world. He may be nobody in the counsels of his nation. But in the empire of non-violence every true thought counts, every true voice has its full value. Vox populi vox dei is not a copy-book maxim. It is an expression of the solid experience of mankind. But it has one qualification. Its truth is confined to the field of non-violence. Violence can for the moment completely frustrate a people's voice. But since I work on the field of non-violence only, every true thought expressed or unexpressed counts for me.
I ask every Briton to support me in my appeal to the British at this
very hour to retire from every Asiatic and African possession and
at least from India. That step is essential for the safety of the
world and for the destruction of Nazism and Fascism. In this I include
Japan's 'ism' also. It is a good copy of the two. Acceptance of my
appeal will confound all the military plans of all the Axis Powers
and even of the military advisers of Great Britain.
If my appeal goes home, I am sure the cost of British interests in
India and Africa would be nothing compared to the present ever-growing
cost of the war to Britain. And when one puts morals in the scales,
there is nothing but gain to Britain, India and the world.
Though I ask for their withdrawal from Asia and Africa, let me confine
myself for the moment to India. British statesmen talk glibly of India's
participation in the war. Now India was never even formally consulted
on the declaration of war. Why should it be? India does not belong
to Indians. It belongs to the British. It has been even called a British
possession. The British prac¬tically do with it as they like.
They make me—an all- war resister—pay a war tax in a variety
of ways. Thus I pay two pice as war tax on every letter I post, one
pice on every postcard, and two annas on every wire I send. This is
the lightest side of the dismal picture. But it shows British ingenuity
If I was a student of economics, I could produce startling figures
as to what India has been made to pay towards the war apart from what
are miscalled voluntary contributions. No contribution made to a conqueror
can be truly described as voluntary. What a conqueror the Briton makes!
He is well saddled in his seat. I do not exaggerate when I say that
a whisper of his wish is promptly answered in India. Britain may,
therefore, be said to be at perpetual war with India which she holds
by right of conquest and through an army of occupation. How does India
profit by this enforced participation in Britain's war? The bravery
of Indian soldiers profits India nothing.
Before the Japanese menace overtakes India, India's homesteads are
being occupied by British troops—Indian and non-Indian. The
dwellers are summarily ejected and expected to shift for themselves.
They are paid a paltry vacating expense which carries them nowhere.
Their occupation is gone. They have to build their cottages and search
for their livelihood. These people do not vacate out of a spirit of
patriotism. When this incident was referred to me a few days ago,
I wrote in these columns that the dispossessed people should be asked
to bear their lot with resignation. But my co-workers protested and
invited me to go to the evacuees and console them myself or send someone
to perform the impossible task. They were right. These poor people
should never have been treated as they were. They should have been
lodged suitably at the same time that they were asked to vacate.
People in East Bengal may almost be regarded as amphibious. They live
partly on land and partly on the waters of the rivers. They have light
canoes which enable them to go from place to place. For fear of the
Japanese using the canoes the people have been called upon to surrender
them. For a Bengali to part with his canoe, is almost like parting
with his life. So those who take away his canoe he regards as his
Great Britain has to win the war. Need she do so at India's expense?
Should she do so?
But I have something more to add to this sad chapter. The falsity
that envelops Indian life is suffocat¬ing. Almost every Indian
you meet is discontented. But he will not" own it publicly. The
Government employees high and low are no exception. I am not giving
hearsay evidence. Many British officials know this. But they have
evolved the art of taking work from such elements. This all- pervading
distrust and falsity make life worth¬less unless one resists it
with one's whole soul.
You may refuse to believe all I say. Of course I shall be contradicted.
I shall survive the contradictions.
I have stated what I believe to be the truth, the whole truth and
nothing but the truth.
My people may or may not approve of this loud thinking. I have consulted
nobody. This appeal is being written during my silence day. I am just
now concerned with Britain's action. When slavery was abolished in
America many slaves protested, some even wept. But protests and tears
notwithstanding, slavery was abolished in law. But the abolition was
the result of a bloody war between the South and the North; and so
though the Negro's lot is considerably better than before, he still
remains the outcaste of high society. I am asking for something much
higher. I ask for a bloodless end of an unnatural domination and for
a new era, even though there may be protests and wailing from some