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4. The Frontier Friends
If we had charge of the Frontier, I know what we would have done. We would certainly have died in the attempt to defend the unarmed population of the district. We would have, if necessary, armed the population for self-defence. But what is more, we would have won over the tribesmen and turned them from marauding bands into trustworthy neighbours.
I know that the process of reforming the tribesmen is slow and tedious. It provides poor comfort to those that are robbed of their possessions or their dear ones.
I cannot imagine greater humiliation for a self-respecting man to be dependent, for the safety of himself or his family, on those who he thinks prey upon him. I would prefer total destruction of myself and my all to purchasing safety at the cost of my manhood. This feeling of helplessness in us has really arisen from our deliberate dismissal of God from our common affairs. We have become atheists for all practical purposes. And therefore we believe that in the long run we must rely upon physical force for our protection. In the face of physical danger we cast all our philosophy to the winds. Our daily life is a negation of God. If then we would but have a little trust in God, i. e. ourselves, we shall find no difficulty with the tribesmen. Only in that case we will have to be prepared at times to surrender our possessions and under certain circumstances our lives rather than our honour. We must refuse to believe that our neighbours are savages, incapable of responding to the finer in man.
Thus consistently with our self-respect there are but two courses open to us, to prepare, in so far as we wish to defend ourselves however weakly, against robbery and plunder, or to believe in the capacity of our neighbours to respond to the nobler instinct in man and to endeavour to reform the tribesmen. I apprehend that the two processes will go hand in hand. We must avoid the third at any cost, i. e. reliance in the British bullet to protect us from harm. It is the surest way to national suicide.
Young India, 25-5-1921