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107. Congress Ministers and Non-violence
Shri Shankarrao Dev writes:
"Many people do not understand why those who call themselves Satyagrahis, resort to the use of the military and the police, the moment they become ministers of Governments. The people feel that this is a breach of both the creed and the policy of Ahimsa. This popular belief seems to be consistent with reason. The inconsistency between belief and action of the Congress ministers and the exploitation of the same by their opponents, both Congress and non-Congress, makes it hard for our workers to stand up to the criticism.
"Generally speaking, Congress Ahimsa has been the Ahimsa of the weak. It was bound to be sc in the present development of the country and this fact is well known to you. You claim that there is a special fire in the Ahimsa of the strong. At the same time you accepted leadership of the weak, in order to make them strong through the use of Ahimsa. And, in spite of their weakness, governmental power has today come into their hands. It is impossible for them today to put down disturbances without the use of the police and the military, and if they tried to do so, they would not only not succeed, but they would not get the co-operation of the people either.
"I did once ask you, whether a Satyagrahi should take high office if it came his way and if he did, how should he promote non-violence? I hold that the person who has made non-violence his creed, should not take office and he will never be happy there. But there can be no such difficulty for those who have accepted Ahimsa only as a policy. Many Congressmen have accepted office and you have permitted them to do so. The question arises as to whether you can expect those who believe in Ahimsa, to act up to it, at least in their personal capacity, during disturbances. Further, having acquired strength through non-violence, how should it be used, in order to bring in a State, where there is need for the least government? If you cannot lighten our path towards the desired goal, Satyagraha will not be considered a full-fledged weapon."
From my point of view the answer is easy. I have been saying for some time, that the words "truth and non-violence" should be removed from the Congress constitution. But whether they are actually removed or not, let us assume that they are and then we shall be able to come to an independent judgment on the Tightness or wrongness of any action. I am convinced that so long as we have to rely on the use of the military and even the police for preserving internal order, we shall continue to remain the slaves of either Britain or some- other foreign power. It matters little then, whether the Government is in the hands of Congress or non-Congressmen. Let us assume that Congress ministers are not pledged to non-violence. Let us further assume that Hindus, Mussalmans and others want military and police protection. If they do, they will continue to receive it. Those ministers, who are wedded to non­violence, must resign, since they would object to the use of the military and the police. The significance of it all is that so long as our people have not the wisdom to come to a mutual understanding, so long will goondaism continue and we shall not be able to generate the true strength of Ahimsa within us.
Now as to how this non-violent strength can be created. I gave the answer to this question in the Harijan of August 4th, in replying to a letter from Ahmedabad. So long as we have not cultivated the strength to die with courage and love in our hearts, we cannot hope to develop the Ahimsa of the strong.
There remains the question as to whether in an ideal society, there should be any or no government. I do not think, we need worry ourselves about this at the moment. If we continue to work for such a society, it will slowly come into being to an extent, such that the people can benefit by it. Euclid's line is one without breadth but no one has so far been able to draw it and never will. All the same it is only by keeping the ideal line in mind that we have made progress in geometry. What is true here is true of every ideal.
It must be remembered that nowhere in the world, does a State without government exist. If at all it could ever come into being, it would be in India; for, ours is the only country where the attempt has, at any rate, been made. We have not yet been able to show that bravery to the degree which is necessary and for the attainment of which there is only one way. Those who have faith in the latter, have to demonstrate it. In order to do so, the fear of death has to be completely shed, just as we have shed the fear of prisons.
New Delhi, 6-9-'46
Harijan, 15-9-1946