SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI >  VOL. IV - SELECTED LETTERS > SECTION ONE : SELECTED LETTERS > Appendix II : A Psychological Explanation
Appendix II : A Psychological Explanation
The following is from Mr. Richard B. Gregg, whom many readers of the Harijan know as an American friend who used to live in Shanti niketan as also with me in Sabarmati years ago:
"Though because of my ignorance I am hesitant, yet I venture to send you an idea that seems to me not only to explain with perhaps less moral blame a part of the recent communal violence in India but also to offer hope for the future.
"It seems to me probable that much of this violence is an expression not so much of inter-communal suspicion and hatred, but rather, and more deeply and originally, of the long pent-up resentments of the masses because of their oppression. The oppression was not only by foreign political rule but by foreign modern, social, economic and financial ways which are contrary to the ancient habits of dharma which were a very part of the nature of the masses. By foreign ways I mean such things as the English land-holding system, usurious money lending, heavy taxes payable not in kind but in money, and other interferences with long established village life common to all Indian communities.
"Psychological studies have shown clearly that severe frustrations suffered during the childhood of an individual generate resentments which are suppressed, and remain suppressed long after the person who caused the original frustration has died, but later some occasion pulls a trigger, as it were, and releases the pent-up energy of the old resentment which then pours forth in violence upon some perfectly innocent person. This explains many crimes of violence, and perhaps some of the cruelties against the Jews in Europe. In India the establishment of religious electorates created a channel into which it was easy for this energy to flow, but I believe the fearful energy of the explosion of wrath comes from the older cause I have mentioned. Such an idea as this would help explain why in all countries all through history a major change of political power results in more or less violence and disorder. The masses always suffer some oppression and, therefore, have resentments which flare up upon a shift of control or may be exploited by selfish leaders.
"If this surmise is true, it suggests that the suspicion and hatred of one community towards another is not so deep as now appears. It also means that as soon as the masses can be guided back into their ancient ways of life with the chief emphasis on religion and small organizations village panchayats and communal family systems the energy of the people will be turned from violence into creative channels. I would expect that Khadi work among the refugees might help start such a diversion of energy into sound channels. In such a development I see hope.
"Forgive me if this seems to be presumptuous. I write it only in the hope that an humble outsider, just because he is outside, may see a gleam of encouragement that is not so easy to see in the dust and distraction of the struggle. Anyhow, I love you and India."
Though many psychologists have recommended a study of psychology, I am sorry, I have not been able, for want of time, to study the subject. Mr Gregg's letter does not mend matters for me. It does not fill me with any impelling enthusiasm for undertaking the study. Mr Gregg gives an explanation which mystifies the mind instead of clearing it. "Hope for the future" I have never lost and never will, because it is embedded in my undying faith in non-violence. What has, however, clearly happened in my case is the discovery that in all probability there is a vital defect in my technique of the working of non-violence. There was no real appreciation of non-violence in the thirty years' struggle against British Raj. Therefore, the peace, the masses maintained during that struggle of a generation with exemplary patience, had not come from within. The pent-up fury found an outlet when British Raj was gone. It naturally vented itself in communal violence which was never fully absent and which was kept under suppression by the British bayonet. This explanation seems to me to be all-sufficing and convincing. In it there is no room for failure of any hope. Failure of my technique of non-violence causes no loss of faith in non-violence itself. On the contrary, that faith is, if possible, strengthened by the discovery of a possible flaw in the technique.
Hanjan, 23-11-'47