Reader: I now understand why the
English hold India. I should like to know your views about the condition
of our country.
Editor: It is a sad condition. In thinking of it my eyes water and my throat
gets parched. I have grave doubts whether I shall be able sufficiently to
explain what is in my heart. It is my deliberate opinion that India is being
ground down, not under the English heel, but under that of modern civilization.
It is groaning under the monster's terrible weight. There is yet time to escape
it, but every day makes it more and more difficult. Religion is dear to me and
my first complaint is that India is becoming irreligious. Here I am not thinking
of the Hindu or the Mohammedan or the Zoroastrian religion but of that religion
which underlies all religions. We are turning away from God.
Reader: How so?
Editor: There is a charge laid against us that we are a lazy people and that
Europeans are industrious and enterprising. We have accepted the charge and we
therefore wish to change our condition. Hinduism, Islam, Zoroastrianism,
Christianity and all other religions teach that we should remain passive about
worldly pursuits and active about godly pursuits, that we should set a limit to
our worldly ambition and that our religious ambition should be illimitable. Our
activity should be directed into the latter channel.
Reader: You seem to be
encouraging religious charlatanism. Many a cheat has, by talking in a similar
strain, led the people astray.
Editor: You are bringing an unlawful charge
against religion. Humbug there undoubtedly is about all religions. Where
there is light, there is also shadow.
prepared to maintain that humbugs in worldly matters are far worse than the
humbugs in religion. The humbug of civilization that I am endeavoring to show
to you is not to be found in religion.
Reader: How can you say that? In the name of religion Hindus and
Mohammedans fought against one another. For the same
cause Christians fought Christians. Thousands of innocent men have been
murdered, thousands have been burned and tortured in its name. Surely, this is
much worse than any civilization.
Editor: I certainly submit that the above
hardships are far more bearable than those of civilization. Everybody understands that the cruelties you have named are not part of religion although they
have been practiced in its name; therefore there is no aftermath to these
cruelties. They will always happen so long as there are to be found ignorant and
credulous people. But there is no end to the victims destroy- ed in the fire of
civilization. Its deadly effect is that people come under its scorching flames
believing it to be all good. They become utterly irreligious and, in reality,
derive little advantage from the world. Civilization is like a mouse gnawing
while it is soothing us. When its full effect is realized, we shall see that
religious superstition is harmless compared to that of modern civilization. I am
not pleading for a continuance of religious superstitions. We shall certainly
fight them tooth and nail, but we can never do so by disregarding religion. We
can only do so by appreciating and conserving the latter.
Reader: Then you will
contend that the Pax Britannica is a useless encumbrance?
Editor: You may see
peace if you like; I see none.
Reader: You make light of the terror that the
Thugs, the Pindaris and the Shils were to the country.
Editor: If you give the
matter some thought, you will see that the terror was by no means such a mighty
thing. If it had been a very substantial thing, the other people would have died away before the English advent. Moreover, the
present peace is only nominal, for by it we have become emasculated and
cowardly. We are not to assume that the English have changed the nature of the
Pindaris and the Bhils. It is, therefore, better to suffer the Pindari peril
than that someone else should protect us from it and thus render us effeminate. I
should prefer to be killed by the arrow of a Bhil than to seek unmanly
protection. India without such protection was an India full of valor. Macaulay
betrayed gross ignorance when he labeled Indians as being practically cowards.
They never merited the charge. Cowards living in a country inhabited by hardy
mountaineers and infested by wolves and tigers must surely find an early grave.
Have you ever visited our fields? I assure you that our agriculturists sleep
fearlessly on their farms even today, but the English and you and I would
hesitate to sleep where they sleep. Strength lies in absence of fear, not in the
quantity of flesh and muscle we may have on our bodies. Moreover, I must remind
you who desire Home Rule that, after all, the Bhils, the Pindaris, and the Thugs
are our own countrymen. To conquer them is your and my work. So long as we fear
our own brethren, we are unfit to reach the goal.