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113. A Woman's Dilemma
Q. What is a woman to do when attacked by mis­creants? To run away, or resist with violence? To have boats in readiness to fly or prepare to defend with weapons?
A. My answer to this question is very simple. For me there can be no preparation for violence. All preparation must be for non-violence if courage of the highest type is to be developed. Violence can only be tolerated as being preferable always to cowardice. Therefore I would have no boats ready for a flight in emergency. For a non-violent person there is no emergency, but quiet dignified preparation for death. Hence whether it is a man or a woman, he or she will defy death even when he or she is unassisted; for real assistance is from God. I can preach no other thing and I am here to practise what I preach. Whether such an opportunity will occur to me or be given to me I do not know. If there are women who when assailed by miscreants cannot resist themselves without arms, they do not need to be advised to carry arms. They will do so. There is something wrong in this constant enquiry as to whether to bear arms or not. People have to learn to be naturally independent. If they will remember the central teaching, namely, that the real effective resistance lies in non-violence, they will model their conduct accord­ingly. And that is what the world has been doing although unthinkingly. Since it is not the highest courage, namely, courage born of non-violence, it arms itself even unto the atom bomb. Those who do not see in it the futility of violence will naturally arm themselves to the best of their ability.
In India since my return from South Africa, there has been conscious and constant training in non-violence with the result we have seen.
Q. Can a woman be advised to take her own life rather than surrender?
A. This question requires a definite answer. I answered it in Delhi just before leaving for Noakhali. A woman would most certainly take her own life rather than surrender. In other words, surrender has no room in my plan of life. But I was asked in what way to take one's own life. I promptly said it was not for me to prescribe the means, and behind the approval of suicide under such circumstances was and is the belief that one whose mind is prepared for even suicide will have requisite courage for such mental resistance and such internal purity that her assailant will be disarmed. I could not carry the argument any further because it does not admit of further develop­ment. It requires positive proof which, I own, is lacking.
Q. If the choice is between taking one's own life or that of the assailant, which would you advise?
A. When it is a question of choice between killing oneself or the assailant, I have no doubt in my mind that the first should be the choice.
Palla, 27-1-'47
Harijan, 9-2-1947