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80. Statement on General Avari's Fast
Letters and wires continue to come to me seeking my aid in saving General Avari's life which seems now to be sinking. I know Gen. Avari. He is a lovable worker. But I know too that he is often improperly obstinate. The present occasion is a case in point. If a man however popular and great he may be, takes up an improper cause and fasts in defence of the impropriety, it is the duty of his friends (among whom I count myself), fellow workers and relatives to let him die rather than that an improper cause should triumph so that he may live. Fairest means cease to be fair when the end sought is unfair. Let me say once more where Gen. Avari's end is improper and unfair. He may be wholly right in his statement that a great wrong has been perpetrated by the Central Parliamentary Board of the Congress. But who can right the wrong? Not Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as Gen. Avari tells me he can. He is but an individual, Sardar though he is. He has pronounced the decision of the Board. A judge cannot review his own judgment. The Sardar is out of the picture. The Central Board cannot, must not, review its own judgment. It has no authority. No institution can act capriciously in a well managed democracy. Gen. Avari and his friends have the right of appeal or review by the Working Committee, then the A. I. C. C., finally the Congress. This procedure may appear to him too long. It is not, unless he is fighting for an individual or individuals and not for a principle as he assures me he is doing. Time always runs in favour of the defence of a principle. If the general session of the Congress which is the highest tribunal for vindicating justice decides against Gen. Avari, he has to submit to its verdict. The Congress is the Panchayat. Like the king it can do no wrong. This is merely a necessary and legitimate conception for guidance in the observance of an infallible duty. In truth, however, decisions of human organizations in all climes have been sometimes found to be wrong. So it may be in the case under discussion. Then, but not till then, will Gen. Avari have in theory the right, if he chooses to exercise it, to stir public conscience into action by a fast to the finish. In practice, it will be ludicrous. For the principle behind such action can only euphemistically be so called. In democracy even pure men may unconsciously give wrong decisions. The remedy is more and purer education, greater awakening of the public and in such quickened atmosphere the rise of a number of public workers whose sole duty will be to speak, write and act so as to serve as bright examples for the public.
Now I hope the friends of Gen. Avari will understand me when I say that those who wrongly support him and his fast and thus encourage him will hasten Gen. Avari's death, not those who will not swerve from well-recognized canons of justice even for the sake of saving the life of an erring friend. Let justice triumph though the heavens weep.
Poona, 7-3-'46
Harijan, 17-3-1946