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48. Unrepentant
"Two English friends, who admire you, say your appeal to every Briton cannot have any effect just now. It is impossible to expect the man in the street to do a complete vole face with any degree of understanding — indeed it is impossible for the under-standing to do, as you say, without a heart-belief in non-violence. The time to mould a new world on your lines will be after the war. They realize your way is the right one, but they say it needs endless preparation and instruction and big leadership — none of which they possess. Regarding India they say the attitude of the present authority is deplorable. Long ago India should have been declared as independent as Canada, and her people should be allowed to work out their own constitution. But what they are extremely perplexed about now is that you want absolute indepen-dence straightaway, and the next step you will take is 'no further help to Britain in the prosecution of war, surrender to Germany, and opposition to her by non-violent means'. You must explain what you mean in more detail so as to remove this misunder-standing. This is an honest reaction."
The appeal was intended, to produce the effect now. It could not come out of a mathematical calculation. If the conviction could have come, action was an easy matter. The mass mind responds under pressure. That the appeal has not produced the intended result shows that either my word has no power or that God has a purpose of which we have no knowledge. The appeal has come from an anguished heart. I could not suppress it. It was not written for the moment. I am quite sure that it enunciates a truth of eternal value.
If the ground is not prepared from now, there may be no time left after a dismal termination of the war for evolving a new order. Whatever the order, it will be in response to a conscious or unconscious effort from now. Indeed the effort began before my appeal. I hope that it has stimulated it, perhaps given it a definite direction. I suggest to the non-official leaders and moulders of British opinion, if they are convinced of the truth of my position, to work for its adoption. Compared to the big issue raised in my appeal, the question of Indian independence pales into insignificance. But I hold with the two Englishmen that the British government's attitude is deplorable. The two friends are wholly wrong in the deduction they have drawn from the assumed recognition of India's independence. They forget that I am out of the picture. Those who are responsible for the Working Committee's last resolu-tion have meant free India's co-operation with Britain. With them, there is no question of surrender to Germany or non-violent opposition.
But I must not here tarry on Indian independence and its implications, tempting though the subject is.
The cuttings and correspondence before me say that the Congress rejection of my advice to abstain from prepa-ration for military defence of India precludes me from mak-ing the appeal to Britain or from expecting a favourable response. The argument is plausible, but only plausible. The critics say that, if I have failed with my people, I have no right to expect Britain whilst she is in the midst of a life and death struggle to listen to me. I am a man with a mission. India's millions have never tasted the bitters of war as the British have. Britain, if she is to fulfill her declared purpose, needs a radical change in her policy. I feel that I know the change that is needed. My inability to persuade the Working Committee is irrelevant to the theme under discussion. There is no analogy between India's case and Britain's. I am, therefore, wholly unrepen-tant. I maintain that in issuing my appeal I have acted wholly as a lifelong friend of Britain.
A writer, however, retorts: "Address your appeal to Hitler." In the first place, I did write to Herr Hitler. My letter was published in the press some time after I addressed it. In the second place, there can be no mean-ing in my appeal to Herr Hitler to adopt non-violence. He is marching from victory to victory. I can only appeal to him to desist. That I have done. But to Britain, which is just now on the defensive, I can present the really effective weapon of non-violent non-co-operation. Let my method be rejected on merits, not by bringing inapt analogies or untenable argument. The issue raised by me, I venture to think, is of universal importance. The usefulness of the non-violent method seems to be granted by all the critics. They gratuitously assume the impossibility of human nature, as it is constituted, responding to the strain involved in non-violent preparation. But that is begging the que-stion. I say, “You have never tried the method on any scale. In so far as it has been tried, it has shown promis-ing results."
Sevagram, 17-7-'40
Harijan, 21-7-1940