As I am supposed to be the spirit behind the much discussed and equally
well abused resolution of the Working Committee of the Indian National
Congress on Independence, it has become necessary for me to explain
my position. For I am not unknown to you. I have in America perhaps
the largest number of friends in the West—not even excepting
Great Britain. British friends knowing me personally are more discerning
than the American. In America I suffer from the well-known malady
called hero worship. Good Dr Holmes, until recently of the Unity Church
of New York, without knowing me personally became my advertising agent.
Some of the nice things he said about me I never knew myself. So I
receive often embarrassing letters from America expecting me to perform
miracles. Dr Holmes was followed much later by the late Bishop Fisher
who knew me personally in India. He very nearly dragged me to America
but fate had ordained otherwise and I could not visit your vast and
great country with its wonderful people.
Moreover, you have given me a teacher in Thoreau, who furnished me
through his essay on the "Duty of Civil Disobedience" scientific
confirmation of what I was doing in South Africa. Great Britain gave
me Ruskin, whose Unto This Last transformed me overnight from a lawyer
and city-dweller into a rustic living away from Durban on a farm,
three miles from the nearest railway station; and Russia gave me in
Tolstoy a teacher who furnished a reasoned basis for my non-violence.
He blessed my movement in South Africa when it was still in its infancy
and of whose wonderful possibilities I had yet to learn. It was he
who had prophesied in his letter to me that I was leading a movement
which was destined to bring a message of hope to the down-trodden
people of the earth. So you will see that I have not approached the
present task in any spirit of enmity to Great Britain and the West.
After having imbibed and assimilated the message of Unto This Last,
I could not be guilty of approving of Fascism or Nazism, whose cult
is suppression of the individual and his liberty.
I invite you to read my formula of withdrawal or as it has been popularly
called 'Quit India' with this background. You may not read into it
more than the context warrants.
I claim to be a votary of truth from my childhood. It was the most
natural thing to me. My prayerful search gave me the revealing maxim
'Truth is God' instead of the usual one 'God is Truth'. That maxim
enables me to see God face to face as it were. I feel Him pervade
every fibre of my being. With this Truth as witness between you and
me, I assert that I would not have asked my country to invite Great
Britain to withdraw her rule over India, irrespective of any demand
to the contrary, if I had not seen at once that, for the sake of Great
Britain and the Allied cause, it was necessary for Britain boldly
to perform the duty of freeing India from bondage. Without this essential
act of tardy justice, Britain could not justify her position before
the unmurmuring World Conscience, which is their nevertheless. Singapore,
Malaya and Burma taught me that the disaster must not be repeated
in India. I make bold to say that it cannot be averted unless Britain
trusts the people of India to use their liberty in favour of the Allied
cause. By that supreme act of justice Britain would have taken away
all cause for the seething discontent of India. She will turn the
growing ill-will into active goodwill. I submit that it is worth all
the battleships and airships that your wonder¬working engineers
and financial resources can produce.
I know that interested propaganda has filled your ears and eyes with
distorted versions of the Congress position. I have been painted as
a hypocrite and enemy of Britain under disguise. My demonstrable spirit
of accommodation has been described as my inconsistency, proving me
to be an utterly unreliable man. I am not going to burden this letter
with proof in support of my assertions. If the credit I have enjoyed
in America will not stand me in good stead, nothing I may argue in
self-defence will carry conviction against the formidable but false
propaganda that has poisoned American ears.
You have made common cause with Great Britain. You cannot therefore
disown responsibility for anything that her representatives do in
India. You will do a grievous wrong to the Allied cause, if you do
not sift the truth from the chaff whilst there is yet time. Just think
of it. Is there anything wrong in the Congress demand¬ing unconditional
recognition of India's independence? It is being said, 'But this is
not the time.' We say, 'This is the psychological moment for that
recognition.' For them and then only can there be irresistible opposition
to Japanese aggression. It is of immense value to the Allied cause
if it is also of equal value to India. The Congress has anticipated
and provided for every possible difficulty in the way of recognition.
I want you to look upon the immediate recognition of India's independence
as a war measure of first class magnitude.