SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI >  VOL. IV - SELECTED LETTERS > SECTION ONE : SELECTED LETTERS > To Lord Linlithgow
89. To Lord Linlithgow1
Detention Camp,
7-2-1943
DEAR LORD LINLITHGOW,
I have to thank you for your long reply dated 5th instant to my letter of 29th January last. I would take your last point first, namely, the contemplated fast which begins on 9th instant. Your letter, from a Satyagrahi's standpoint, is an invitation to fast. No doubt the responsibility for the step and its conse-quences will be solely mine. You have allowed an expres¬sion to slip from your pen for which I was unprepared. In the concluding sentence of the second paragraph you described the step as an attempt "to find an easy way out". That you, as a friend, can impute such a base and cowardly motive to me passes comprehension. You have also described it as "a form of political blackmail", and you quote my previous writings on the subject against me. I abide by my writings. I hold that there is nothing inconsistent in them with the contemplated step. I wonder whether you have yourself read those writings.
I do claim that I approached you with an open mind when I asked you to convince me of my error. A "profound distrust" of the published reports is in no way inconsistent with my having an open mind.
You say that there is evidence that I (I leave my friends out for the moment) "expected this policy to lead to violence", that I was "prepared to condone it", and that "the violence that ensued formed part of a con¬certed plan conceived long before the arrest of Congress leaders". I have seen no evidence in support of such a serious charge. You admit that part of the evidence has yet to be published. The speech of the Home Member, of which you have favoured me with a copy, may be taken as the opening speech of the prosecution counsel and nothing more. It contains unsupported imputations against Congressmen. Of course he has described the violent outburst in graphic language. But he has not said why it took place when it did. I have suggested why it did. You have condemned men and women before trying them and hearing their defence. Surely, there was nothing wrong in my asking you to show me the evidence on which you hold them guilty. What you say in your letter carries no conviction. Proof should corre¬spond to the canons of English Jurisprudence.
If the wife of a member of the Working Committee is actively engaged in "planning the bomb outrages and other acts of terrorism" she should be tried before a court of law and punished if found guilty. The lady you refer to could only have done the things attributed to her after the wholesale arrests of 9th August last, which I have dared to describe as leonine violence.
You say that the time is not yet ripe to publish the charge against the Congress. Have you ever thought of the possibility of their being found baseless when they are put before an impartial tribunal, or that some of the condemned persons might have died in the meanwhile, or that some of the evidence that the living can produce might become unavailable?
I reiterate the statement that the principle of civil disobedience is implicitly conceded in the settlement of 5th March 1931, arrived at between the then Viceroy on behalf of the Government of India and myself on behalf of the Congress. I hope you know that the principal Congressmen were discharged before that settlement was even thought of. Certain reparations were made to Congressmen under that settlement. Civil disobedience was discontinued only on conditions being fulfilled by the Government. That by itself was, in my opinion, an acknowledgement of its legitimacy, of course under given circumstances. It therefore seems somewhat strange to find you maintain that civil disobedience "cannot be recognized as being in any circumstances legitimate by your Government". You ignore the practice of the Brit¬ish Government which has recognised its legitimacy under the name of "passive resistance".
Lastly you read into my letters a meaning which is wholly inconsistent with my declaration, in one of them, of adherence to unadulterated non-violence. For, you say in your letter under reply, that "acceptance of my point of view would be to concede that the authorized Gov¬ernment of the country on which lies the responsibility for maintaining peace and good order, should allow movements to take place, that would admit preparations for violence, interruptions of communications, for at¬tacks on innocent persons, for murders of police officers and others, to proceed unchecked". I must be a strange friend of yours whom you believe to be capable of asking for recognition of such things as lawful.
I have not attempted an exhaustive reply to the views and statements attributed to me. This is not the place nor the time for such reply. I have only picked out those things which in my opinion demanded an imme¬diate answer. You have left me no loophole for escaping the ordeal I have set before for myself. I begin it on the 9th instant with the clearest possible conscience. Despite your description of it as "a form of political blackmail", it is on my part meant to be an appeal to the Highest Tribunal for justice which I have failed to secure from you. If I do not survive the ordeal I shall go to the Judgment Seat with the fullest faith in my innocence. Posterity will judge between you as representative of an all-powerful Government and me as a humble man who has tried to serve his country and humanity through it.
My last letter was written against time, and there¬fore a material paragraph2 went in as postscript. I now send herewith a fair copy typed by Pyarelal who has taken Mahadev Desai's place. You will find the post¬script paragraph restored to the place where it should have been.
I am,
Your sincere friend,
M. K. GANDHI

Gandhiji's Correspondence with the Government—1942-'44, pp. 30-32

1. The reply from the Viceroy to Gandhiji's intimation on fast was not only not responsive but also threatening. He went to the length of describing Gandhiji's decision to fast as political blackmail. Gandhiji addressed the above last letter to the then Viceroy'.
2 This has been restored to its proper place as paragraph 3 in letter 88.