India and the Non-violent Way
WHILE I admit my impotency regarding the spread of the ahimsa of the brave and the strong, as distinguished from that of the weak, the admission is not meant to imply that I do not know how she inestimable virtue is to be cultivated....It is truer (if it is a fact) to say that India is not ready for the lesson of the ahimsa of the strong than that no programme has been devised for the teaching. It will be perfectly just to say that the programme....for the ahimsa of the strong is not as attractive as that devised for the non-violence of the weak has proved to be.
Mere Passive Resistance
Passive resistance, unlike non-violence, has no power to change men's hearts....What is to be done to convert the poison into nectar? Is the process possible? I know that it is, and I think I know the way too. But whereas the Indian mind is ready to respond to the effort at passive resistance, it is not receptive enough to imbibe the lesson of nonviolence which, and perhaps which alone, is capable of turning the poison into nectar.
Many admit that it is the way, but they have not the heart to adopt the golden path. I can proclaim from the house-top that nonviolence has not, has never failed. The people failed to rise to it.
I do not mind being told that I do not know the technique of propagating nonviolence. My critics even go so far as to suggest that I have no nonviolence in myself. God alone knows men's hearts.
Let me make one thing clear. I have frankly and fully admitted that what we practised during the past thirty years was not nonviolent resistance, but passive resistance which only the weak offer because they are unable, not unwilling, to offer armed resistance.
If we knew the use of nonviolent resistance which only those with hearts of oak can offer, we would present to the world a totally different picture of free India instead of an India cut in twain, one part highly suspicious of the other and the two too much engaged in mutual strife to be able to think cogently of the food and clothing of the hungry and naked millions, who know no religion but that of the one and only God who appears to them in the guise of the necessaries of life.
....It was the passivity of the weak and not the nonviolence of the stout in heart, who will never surrender their sense of human unity and brotherhood even in the midst of conflict of interests, who will ever try to convert and not coerce their adversary.
If India can discover a way of sublimating the force violence...and turning it into constructive, peaceful ways whereby differences of interests can be liquidated, it will be a great day indeed.
No one has a right to say that what could not be achieved during the struggle for independence is unachievable at all times. On the contrary, today there is a real opportunity to demonstrate the supremacy of ahimsa. True, our people have been sucked into the whirlpool of universal militarization. If even a few can keep out of it, it will be their privilege to set an example of ahimsa of the brave and be reckoned as the first servants of India. This cannot be demonstrated by intellect. Therefore, till it can be realized through experience, it must be accepted in faith.
Throughout my life it has been part of my creed not to avoid the police but to assist them in prying into all my work; for I have always abhorred of secrecy and it has made my life and work easy because of my indifference to this kind of surveillance. This indifference and invariable courtesy shown to the police result in the silent conversion of several amongst them.
My indifference, however, is one thing and personal to me. As a system the police surveillance cannot but be described as a despicable thing, unworthy of a good government. It is a useless burden upon an already over-burdened tax-payer. For, the whole of this extraordinary expenditure, it must be remembered, comes from the pockets of the toiling millions.
Even in a nonviolent State a police force may be necessary. This, I admit, is a sign of my imperfect ahimsa. I have not the courage to declare that we can carry on without a police force, as I have in respect of an army. Of course, I can and do envisage a State where the police will not be necessary; but whether we shall succeed in realizing it the future alone will show.
The police of my conception will, however, be of a wholly different pattern from the present-day force. Its ranks will composed of believers in nonviolence. They will be servants, not masters, of the people. The people will instinctively render them every help, and through mutual co-operation they will easily deal with the ever-decreasing disturbances.
The police force will have some kind of arms, but they will be rarely used, it at all. In fact the policemen will be reformers. Their police work will be confined primarily to robbers and dacoits.
Quarrels between labour and capital and strikes will be few and far between in a nonviolent State, because the influence of the nonviolent majority will be so great as to command the respect of the principal elements in society. Similarly there will be no room for communal disturbances.
Under Swaraj you and I shall have a disciplined, intelligent police force that would keep order within and fight raiders from without, if by that time I or someone else does not show a better way of dealing with either.
Crime and Punishment
In Independent India of the nonviolent type, there will be crime but no criminals. They will not be punished. Crime is a disease like any other malady and is a product of the prevalent social system. Therefore, all crime including murder will be treated as a disease. Whether such an India will ever come into being is another question.
What should our jails be like in free India? All criminals should be treated as patients and the jails should be hospitals admitting this class of patients for treatment and cure. No one commits crime for the fun of it. It is a sign of a diseased mind. The causes of a particular disease should be investigated and removed.
They need not have palatial buildings when their jails becomes hospitals. No country can afford that, much less can a poor country like India. But the outlook of the jail staff should be that of physicians and nurses in a hospital. The prisoners should feel that the officials are their friends. They are there to help them to regain their mental health and not to harass them in any way. The popular governments have to issue necessary orders, but meanwhile the jail staff can do not a little to humanize their administration.
What is the duty of the prisoners?....They should behave as ideal prisoners. They should avoid breach of jail discipline. They should put their heart and soul into whatever work is entrusted to them. For instance, the prisoners' food is cooked by themselves. They should clean the rice, dal or whatever cereal is used so that there are no stones and grit or weevils in them.
Whatever complaints the prisoners might have should be brought to the notice of the authorities in a becoming manner. They should so behave in their little community as to become better men when they leave the jail than when they entered it.
Source: The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi