77. The Message for the I. N. A.

The other day I was talking to the I.N.A. men in the Red Fort. We were discussing as to what they should do on their release. They assumed me that they would on their release serve India as true soldiers of non-violence under the Congress flag. I told them that today a true soldier of India is he who spins to clothe the naked and tills the soil to grow more food to meet the threatening food crisis. The Congress has declared that it would carry on the struggle for India's independence through the method of non-violence. But it has not yet decided whether it would adhere to that method for the protection of that freedom against possible foreign aggression. To me it is a self-evident truth that if freedom is to be shared equally by all - even physically the weakest, the lame and the halt - they must be able to contribute an equal share in its defence. How that can be possible when reliance is placed on armaments, my plebeian mind fails to understand. I therefore, swear and shall continue to swear by non-violence, i.e. by Satyagraha or soul force. In it physical incapacity is no handicap and even a frail woman or a child can pit herself or himself on equal terms against a giant, armed with the most powerful weapons.

The eighteen-fold constructive programme with the spinning wheel as its centre is the concrete expression of that spirit in organized society. Let us realize that spirit by devoting ourselves prayerfully to the carrying out of the constructive programme during the National Week.

For the I.N.A. men there were two alternatives. They could serve free India as soldiers-in-arms or they could convert themselves into soldiers of non-violence if they were convinced that non-violence was the higher and the more efficacious way. They should make use of their training and discipline to introduce non-violent organization among the masses, learn spinning and become veteran constructive workers. If they did that they would set a glorious example to the whole world.

"The I.N.A. men," observed Gandhiji, "have shown great strength, heroism and resourcefulness. But I must confess that their achievements have not dazzled my eyes. To die without killing requires more heroism. There is nothing very wonderful in killing and being killed in the process. But the man who offers his neck to the enemy for execution but refuses to bend to his will shows courage of a far higher type.

"Troublous times lie ahead of us. Our non-violence has brought us to the gate of independence. Shall we renounce it after we have entered that gate? I for one am firmly convinced that non-violence of the brave, such as I have envisaged, provides the surest and most efficacious means to face foreign aggression and internal disorder just as it has done for winning independence." The British were going to quit. What place would India have in the comity of nations? Would she be satisfied with being a fifth-rate power like China? China was independent only in name. India would have long to wait before she could become a first-class military power. "And for that she would have to go under the tutelage of some Western power. A truly non-violent India will have nothing to fear from any foreign power nor will she look to British navy and air force for her defence. I know that we have not as yet the non-violence of the brave."

New Delhi, 16-4-'46

Harijan, 21-4-1946