Q. We agree that intrinsically a movement for reducing the share of the owner from half to a third of the crop is justified. But could not the present Tebhaga Movement in Bengal be postponed until such time as when the affected persons can be smoothly absorbed in other occupations according to some long-term plan sponsored by the State?
We know you have said that the only way to effect such a radical
transformation in society is through non-violence. But interested
parties will sleep over that portion of your advice and parade your
moral support to their demand and carry on the Movement in their own
violent way. Hence is it not wrong for you to lend support to the
Movement under the present circumstances when there is every chance
of the entire middle class of Bengal being completely ruined as a
result? The common villager will also suffer no less because he will
also be deprived of the services now being rendered to the village
economy by them.
A. In reply, Gandhiji uttered the warning that he only dealt with
principles as he knew them. He had not studied the local question.
Therefore, the questioner ran the risk of his ignorance causing
He felt that the question betrayed exaggeration on the part of the
questioner. There was no ruin impending for the landlord. His land
was not being confiscated. His portion, which he could take even if
he was in Timbuctoo, was merely to be reduced from 50% to 33%. He
could see no ruin in the proposal. He was afraid they were too much
obsessed by the communal question. They should rise above it and
examine every problem strictly on merits. Then they would never go
wrong. Therefore they should accept the moral principle underlying
the demand for reduction of the owner's share and work for solid
amendments in which they were likely to succeed. Let them not face
confiscation rather than moderate reduction. Let them remember that
for years past India had lived through confiscation. Industry after
industry had been ruined and both the artisans as well as the
farmers of India had been progressively reduced to poverty.
If the desired change were brought about through non-violent means,
the world would not be deprived of the talents of the classes, but
then the latter would not exercise them at the expenses of the
labourers. In the non-violent order of the future, the land would
belong to the State, for had it not been said sab hi bhumi
Gopalakv ( सभी भूमि गोपाल की । ) ? Under such dispensation,
there would be no waste of talents and labour. This would be
impossible through violent means. It was therefore a truism to say
that the utter ruin of the land-owners brought about through
violence would also involve the ruin of the labourers in the end. If
the land-owners, therefore, acted wisely, no party would lose.
Some women workers who earn part of their living by weaving mats
were advised -by you the other day to work on co-operative
principles. Bengal's agriculture has been reduced to an uneconomic
proposition through extreme fragmentation of holdings. Would you
advise farmers also to adopt co-operative methods?
If so, how are they to effect this under the present system of
land-ownership ? Should the State make the necessary changes in the
law? If the State is not ready, but the people so desire, how are
they to work through their own organizations to this end?
A. Replying to the first part of the question, Gandhiji said that he
had no doubt that the system of cooperation was far more necessary
for the agriculturists than for the mat weavers. The land as he
maintained belonged to the State; therefore, it yielded the largest
return when it was worked co-operatively.
Let it be remembered that co-operation should be based on strict
non-violence. There was no such thing as success of violent
co-operation. Hitler was a forcible example of the latter. He also
talked vainly of co-operation which was forced upon the people and
everyone knew where German had been led as a result.
Gandhiji concluded by saying that it would be a sad thing if India
also tried to build up the new society based on co-operation by
means of violence. Good brought about through force destroyed
individuality. Only when the change was effected through the
persuasive power of non-violent non-co-operation, i.e. love, could
the foundation of individuality be preserved and real, abiding
progress be assured for the world.