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38. A Poser
A Britisher has written to Deenabandhu Andrews a letter on the war expounding his own views. He is an ardent pacifist. Deenabandhu has shared the letter with me. In it occur the following paragraphs:
"For India too I think that this is a very critical time. The danger I see is that Britain may promise full Dominion Status or something of the kind, and as a result India will raise an army and become one more military-minded nation. Her witness for the way of non-violence and soul-force would then be largely discounted.
"How can Gandhiji as a believer in non-violence ask for clarification of war aims with a view to getting India's support for Britain in this way of war? The only thing that he can do and that we should all be doing is to build up an army of men and women who are committed to the way of love and forgiveness and to receive, but never to return, violence. We have to work this out to see how it will alter our daily life as well as all our thinking and acting towards other communities and nations. We have to be disciplined in this and also to learn to act together as one man. Along this line I see tremendous possibilities.
"Of course, we should also use all the influence we can to urge Britain to acknowledge and put into practice full democracy in India, as it is a high principle quite apart from whether India helps Britain in the war or not."
The danger that the writer senses is real. I dealt with it last week. The writer cavils at my sympathy with the Allies. I have shown it as an out-and-out believer in non-violence, even because of my belief. Whilst all violence is bad and must be condemned in the abstract, it is permis-sible for, it is even the duty of, a believer in Ahimsa to distinguish between the aggressor and the defender. Having done so, he will side with the defender in a non-violent man-ner, i. e. give his life in saving him. His intervention is likely to bring a speedier end to the duel, and may even result in bringing about peace between the combatants. Applying the argument to the present war, if the Congress actively sides with the Allies in a non-violent way, the Congress assistance will lift the Allied cause to a high moral plane, and the Congress influence will be effectively used in the cause of peace. What is more it will be the special business of the Congress to see that, if the war is fought to a finish, no humiliation is heaped upon the vanquished. That is the role I have conceived for the Congress. The declaration of independence has become a necessity. The question having been raised, the Congress cannot help Britain, if Britain is secretly fighting for imperialism while it declares to the world that the fight is for saving democracies. For Britain to be in the right, a clear declaration of her war aim is a necessity, irrespective of the Congress policy.
Sevagram, 16-10-'39
Harijan, 21-10-1939