On the night of 29th December 1945, Gandhiji met about 200 men and women of Mahishadal and the near about villages. They included local workers and victims of police and military atrocities during the 1942 upheaval. Gandhiji invited questions. The first question was whether they were expected to remain non-violent even in the face of their women being dishonoured. They believed in suffering for Swaraj. They believed that any departure from nonviolence would delay the coming of Swaraj. Then, what could they do in cases of molestation of their womenfolk?
Gandhiji replied that he had been asked the same question in 1920
and 1921 and he could only repeat the reply which he gave then. The
question betrayed ignorance of non-violence and also of Swaraj of
his conception. He did not want Swaraj at the cost of women's honour.
If what passed as non-violence did not enable them to protect the
honour of women or if it did not enable the women to protect their
own honour, it was not non-violence. "Believe, it is something quite
different," and he described what he had written in Hind Swaraj
in 1909. The reader should read the argument on pages 44 to 51* of
the Navajivan Press edition. Gandhiji observed that experience had
added force to the argument. "After all who protected Sita from
Ravan? The Poet tells us that her purity was such that Ravan dared
not compass his end without her consent."
He warned them in the end that if anybody came to him with the plea
that, they could not protect the honour of their womenfolk because
they had taken the vow of non-violence, he would give them no
quarter. Nonviolence should never be used as a shield for
cowardice. It was a weapon of the brave. He would rather they died
fighting violently than became helpless witnesses to such
atrocities. A truly non-violent man would never live to tell the
tale of such atrocities. He would have laid down his life on the
spot in non-violent resistance.
In this connection I am reminded of Gandhiji's Frontier tour where
the Khudai Khidmatgars had asked him the same question. "What if the
miscreant does not kill you but ties you up instead and gags you so
that you are forced to be a silent witness of his misdeed," they had
asked after hearing his reply which was practically the same as he
gave to the people at Mahishadal. "I will struggle," he had replied,
"so that I will either break the bonds or break myself in the
effort. In no case will I remain a helpless witness. When that
intensity of feeling is there, God will come to your aid and somehow
or other spare you the agony of being a living witness to such a