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106. Heal Thyself
A correspondent has written to me about the butchery that is going on in Ahmedabad. I give below the relevant portions from his letter.
"I wish to write to you about the means to be employed for putting down riots. About two months ago you wrote an article on Ahimsak Seva Dalónon-violent volunteer corps. But looking at the situation in the country, the suggestion will not do. Just as you have taught us how to fight against the British Govern≠ment non-violently, you should go to some place of riot and show us the way of quelling riots in a non-violent manner by personal example. Supposing you were in Ahmedabad today and went out to quell the riots, any number of volunteers will join you. Two of our Congress workers Shri Vasantrao and Shri Rajabali went out in such a quest and fell a prey to the goonda's knife. They laid down their lives in the pursuit of an ideal and they deserve all praise. But no one else had the courage to follow in their footsteps. They have not the same self-confidence. If they had it, there would be no riots and, even if riots broke out, they would never assume the proportion and the form that the present day riots do. But the fact remains that such a state is merely an imagi≠nary thing today.
"Your guidance and example can inspire many like me with courage and self-confidence. Once you have shown the way, the local workers will be able to follow it whenever occasion demands it. I feel that unless you set an example in action, your writings and utterances will not be of any use to the ordinary people, and even Congressmen, in organizing non-violent protection of society."
I like the suggestion mentioned above. People followed my advice and took to non-violent resistance against the British Government, because they wanted to offer some sort of resistance. But their non-violence, I must confess, was born of their helplessness. Therefore, it was the weapon of the weak. That is why, today we worship Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his Azad Hind Fauj (I.N.A.). We forget the Netaji himself had told his soldiers that on going to India, they must follow the way of non-violence. This I have from the leaders of the I.N.A. But we have lost all sense of discrimination. To restore it, the I.N.A. men will have to live up to the ideal placed before them by Netaji. The work of those who believe in non-violence is very difficult in this atmosphere which is full of violence. But the path of true non-violence requires much more courage than violence. We have not been able to give proof of such non-violence. We might look upon the action of Shri Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, Shri Vasantrao and Shri Rajabali as examples of the non-violence of the brave. But when communal feelings run high, we are unable to demonstrate any effect of the sacrifices mentioned above. For that, many like Shri Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi will have to lay down their lives. The fact that no one else in Ahmedabad has followed the example set by Shri Vasantrao and Shri Rajabali shows that we have not yet developed the spirit of sacrifice to the extent of laying down our lives in non-violent action. The correspondent has rightly said that under these circumstances, I should act myself whether others join me or not. It will be disgraceful on my part to sit at home and tell others to go and lay down their lives. Such a thing cannot be an indication of non-violence. I have never had the chance to test my non-violence in the face of communal riots. It might be argued that it was my cowardice which prevented me from seeking such a chance. Be that as it may, God willing, the chance will still come to me, and by throwing me in the fire, He will purify me and make the path of non-violence clear. No one should take it to mean that sacrifice of my life will arrest all violence. Several lives like mine, will have to be given if the terrible violence that has spread all over, is to stop and non-violence reign supreme in its place. The poet has sung: "The path of Truth is for the brave, never for the coward." The path of Truth is the path of non-violence.
Panchgani, 26-6-'46
Harijan, 4-8-1946