I had expected someone on behalf of Dada Abdulla’s attorney to meet me at Pretoria station. I knew that no Indian would be there to receive me, since I had particularly promised not to put up at an Indian house. But the attorney had sent no one. I understood later that, as I had arrived on a Sunday, he could not have sent anyone without inconvenience. I was perplexed, and wondered where to go, as I feared that no hotel would accept me. Pretoria station in 1893 was quite different from what it was in 1914. The lights were burning dimly. The travelers were few. I let all the other passengers go and thought that, as soon as the ticket collector was fairly free, I would hand him my ticket and ask him if he could direct me to some small hotel or any other such place where I might go; otherwise I would spend the night at the station. I must confess I shrank from asking him even this, for I was afraid of being insulted. The station became clear of all passengers. I gave my ticket to the ticket collector and began my inquiries. He replied to me courteously, but I saw that he could not be of any considerable help. But an American Negro who was standing nearby broke into the conversation. ‘I see,’ said he, ‘that you are an utter stranger here, without any friends. If you will come with me, I will take you to a small hotel, of which the proprietor is an American who is very well known to me. I think he will accept you.’ I had my doubts about the offer, but I thanked him and accepted his suggestion. He took me to Johnson’s Family Hotel. He drew Mr. Johnson aside to speak to him, and the latter agreed to accommodate me for the night, on condition that I should have my dinner served in my room. ‘I assure you,’ said he, ‘that I have no color prejudice. But I have only European custom, and, if I allowed you to eat in the dining-room, my guests might be offended and even go away.’ ‘Thank you,’ said I, ‘even for accommodating me for the night. I am now more or less acquainted with the conditions here, and I understand your difficulty. I do not mind your serving the dinner in my room. I hope to be able to make some other arrangement tomorrow.’ I was shown into a room, where I now sat waiting for the dinner and musing, as I was quite alone. There were not many guests in the hotel, and I had expected the waiter to come very shortly with the dinner. Instead, Mr. Johnston appeared. He said: I was ashamed of having asked you to have your dinner here. So I spoke to the other guests about you and asked them if they would mind your having your dinner in the dining room. They said they had no objection, and that they did not mind your staying here as long as you like. Please, therefore, come to the dining-room, if you will, and stay here as long as you wish.’ I thanked him again, went to the dining room, and had a hearty dinner. The next morning I called on the attorney, Mr. A. W. Baker. Abdulla Sheth had given me some description of him, so his cordial reception did not surprise me. He received me very warmly and made kind inquiries. I explained all about myself. Thereupon he said: ‘We have no work for you here as a barrister, for we have engaged the best counsel. The case is a prolonged and complicated one, so I shall take your assistance only to the extent of getting the necessary information. And of course, you will make communication with my client easy for me, as I shall now ask for all the information I want from him through you. That is certainly an advantage, I have not yet found rooms for you. I thought I had better do so after having seen you. There is a fearful amount of color prejudice here, and therefore it is not easy to find lodgings for such as you. But I know a poor woman. She is the wife of a baker. I think she will take you and thus add to her income at the same time. Come, let us go to her place.’ So he took me to her house. He spoke with her privately about me, and she agreed to accept me as a boarder at 35 shillings a week. Mr. Baker, besides being an attorney, was a staunch lay preacher, He is still alive and now engaged purely in missionary work, having given up the legal profession. He is quite well-to-do. He still corresponds with me. In his letters, he always dwells on the same theme. He upholds the excellence of Christianity from various points of view and contends that it is impossible to find eternal peace unless one accepts Jesus as the only son of God and the Saviour of mankind. During the very first interview, Mr. Baker ascertained my religious views. I said to him: ‘I am a Hindu by birth. And yet I do not know much of Hinduism, and I know less of other religions. I do not know where I am, what am, and what should be my belief. I intend to make a careful study of my religion and, as far as I can, of other religions as well.’ Mr. Baker was glad to hear all this and said: ‘I am one of the Directors of the South Africa General Mission. I have built a church at my own expense, and deliver sermons in it regularly. I am free from color prejudice. I have some co-workers, and we meet at one o’clock every day for a few minutes and pray for peace and light. I shall be glad if you will join us there. I shall introduce you to my co-workers who will be happy to meet you, and I dare say you will also like their company. I shall give you, besides some religious books to read, though, of course, the book of books is the Holy Bible, which I would especially recommend to you.’ I thanked Mr. Baker and agreed to attend the one o’clock prayers as regularly as possible. ‘So I shall expect you here tomorrow at one o’clock, and we shall go together to pray,’ added Mr. Baker, and we said goodbye. I had little time for reflection just yet. I went to Mr. Johnston, paid the bill, and removed to the new lodgings, where I had my lunch. The landlady was a good woman. She had cooked a vegetarian meal for me. It was not long before I made myself quite at home with the family. I next went to see the friend to whom Dada Abdulla had given me a note. From him, I learned more about the hardships of Indians in South Africa. He insisted that I should stay with him. I thanked him and told him that I had already made arrangements. He urged me not to hesitate to ask for anything I needed. It was now dark. I returned home, had my dinner, went to my room, and lay there absorbed in deep thought. There was not any immediate work for me. I informed Abdulla Sheth of it. What, I thought, can be the meaning of Mr. Baker’s interest in me? What shall I gain from his religious co-workers? How far should I undertake the study of Christianity? How was I to obtain literature about Hinduism? And how was I to understand Christianity in its proper perspective without thoroughly knowing my religion? I could come to only one conclusion: I should make a dispassionate study of all that came to me, and deal with Mr. Baker’s group as God might guide me; I should not think of embracing another religion before I had fully understood my own. Thus musing I fell asleep. ~ FIRST DAY IN PRETORIA –
#AceNewsReport – Nov.16: Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who had unveiled the life-size bronze statue on Friday at the Australian Indian Community Centre in Rowville, said he was devastated to hear about the vandalism.
#AceDailyNews says according to an ABC News Report: Mahatma Gandhi statue vandalised a day after Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveils the bronze in Victoria
“Australia is the most successful multicultural and immigration nation in the world and attacks on cultural monuments will not be tolerated,” Mr Morrison said.
“It is disgraceful and extremely disappointing to see this level of disrespect.
“Whoever is responsible for this has shown great disrespect to the Australian Indian community and should be ashamed.”
The statue was gifted by the Indian government.
Jason Wood, the Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, who was also at the unveiling, said it was a “disgraceful act”.
“Australia celebrates everyone’s culture and traditions,” he said.
“There is no place for anyone trying to bully or intimidate our communities.”
Surya Prakash Soni, president of the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria, said the vandalism was a “low act”.
“The community is very shocked and sad,” he said.
“Mahatma Gandhi is a symbol of peace and non-violence. He is not only an Indian leader but a global leader.
“I don’t [understand] why anyone would do such a low act of vandalism.”
Mr Soni said the Rowville centre was the first Indian community centre in Victoria and had been established after 30 years of effort.
A Victoria Police spokesperson said the Knox Crime Investigation Unit detectives were investigating.
“An unknown number of offenders have used a power tool to damage the bronze statue on Kingsley Close sometime between 5:30pm on Friday, November 12 and 5:30pm on Saturday, November 13,” she said.
Police are calling for any witnesses, anyone with CCTV or dash cam or anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or email at http://www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.
The time has now come to bring these chapters to a close. My life from this point onward has been so public that there is hardly anything about it that people do not know. Moreover, since 1921 I have worked in such close association with the Congress leaders that I can hardly describe any episode in my life since then without referring to my relations with them. For though Shraddhanandji, the Deshabandhu, Hakim Saheb and Lalaji are no more with us today, we have the good luck to have a host of other veteran Congress leaders still living and working in our midst. The history of the Congress, since the great changes in it that I have described above, is still in the making. And my principal experiments during the past seven years have all been made through the Congress. A reference to my relations with the leaders would therefore be unavoidable, if I set about describing my experiments further. And this I may not do, at any rate for the present, if only from a sense of propriety. Lastly, my conclusions from my current experiments can hardly as yet be regarded as decisive. It therefore seems to me to be my plain duty to close this narrative here. In fact my pen instinctively refuses to proceed further. It is not without a wrench that I have to take leave of the reader. I set a high value on my experiments. I do not know whether I have been able to do justice to them. I can only say that I have spared no pains to give a faithful narrative. To describe truth, as it has appeared to me, and in the exact manner in which I have arrived at it, has been my ceaseless effort. The exercise has given me ineffable mental peace, because, it has been my fond hope that it might bring faith in Truth and Ahimsa to waverers. My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth. And if every page of these chapters does not proclaim to the reader that the only means for the realization of Truth is Ahimsa, I shall deem all my labour in writing these chapters to have been in vain. And, even though my efforts in this behalf may prove fruitless, let the readers know that the vehicle, not the great principle, is at fault. After all, however sincere my strivings after Ahimsa may have been, they have still been imperfect and inadequate. The little fleeting glimpses, therefore, that I have been able to have of Truth can hardly convey an idea of the indescribable lustre of Truth, a million times more intense than that of the sun we daily see with our eyes. In fact what I have caught is only the fainest glimmer of that mightly effulgence. But this much I can say with assurance, as a result of all my experiments, that a perfect vision of Truth can only follow a complete realization of Ahimsa. To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. That is why my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means. Identification with everything that lives is impossible without self- purification; without self-purification the observance of the law of Ahimsa must remain an empty dream; God can never be realized by one who is not pure of heart. Self-purification therefore must mean purification in all the walks of life. And purification being highly infectious, purification of oneself necessarily leads to the purification of one’s surroundings. But the path of self-purification is hard and steep. To attain to perfect purity one has to become absolutely passion-free in thought, speech and action; to rise above the opposing currents of love and hatred, attachment and repulsion. I know that I have not in me as yet that triple purity, in spite of constant ceaseless striving for it. That is why the world’s praise fails to move me, indeed it very often stings me. To conquer the subtle passions to me to be harder far than the physical conquest of the world by the force of arms. Ever since my return to India I have had experience of the dormant passions lying hidden with in me. The knowledge of them has made me feel humiliated though not defeated. The experiences and experiments have sustained me and given me great joy. But I know that I have still before me a difficult path to traverse. I must reduce muself to zero. So long as a man does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility. In bidding farewell to the reader, for the time being at any rate, I ask him to join with me in prayer to the God of Truth that He may grant me the boon of Ahimsa in mind, word and deed. ~ FAREWELL
From its very inception the Khadi movement, Swadeshi movement as it was then called, evoked much criticism from the mill-owners. The late Umar Sobani, a capable mill-owner himself, not only gave me the benefit of his own knowledge and experience, but kept me in touch with the opinion of the other mill-owners as well. The argument advanced by one of these deeply impressed him. He pressed me to meet him. I agreed. Mr. Sobani arranged the interview. The mill-owner opened the conversation. ‘You know that there has been Swadeshi agitation before now ?’ ‘Yes, I do,’ I replied. ‘You are also aware that in the days of the Partition we, the mill- owners, fully exploited the Swadeshi movement. When it was at its height, we raised the prices of cloth, and did even worse things.’ ‘You, I have heard something about it, and it has grieved me.’ ‘I can understand your grief, but I can see no ground for it. We are not conducting our business out of philanthropy. We do it for profit, we have got to satisfy the shareholders. The price of an article is governed by the demand for it. Who can check the law of demand and supply ? The bengalis should have known that their agitation was bound to send up the price of Swadeshi cloth by stimulating the demand for it.’ I interrupted: ‘The Bengalis like me were trustful in their nature. They believed, in the fulness of their faith, that the mill-owners would not be so utterly selfish and unpatriotic as to betray their country in the hour of its need, and even to go the length, as they did, of fraudulently passing off foreign cloth as Swadeshi.’ ‘I knew your believing nature,’ he rejoined; ‘that is why I purt you to the trouble of coming to me, so that I might warn you against falling into the same error as these simple-hearted Bengalis.’ With these words the mill-owner beckoned to his clerk who wa standing by to produce samples of the stuff that was being manufactured in his mill. Pointing to it he said: ‘Look at this stuff. This is the latest variety turned out by our mill. It is meeting with a widespread demand. We manufacture it from the waste. Naturally, therefore, it is cheap. We send it as far North as the valleys of the Himalayas. We have agencies all over the country, even in places where your voice or your agents can never reach. You can thus see that we do not stand in need of more agents. Besides, you ought to know that India’s production of cloth falls far short of its requirements. The question of Swadeshi, therefore, largely resolves itself into one of production. The moment we can increase our production sufficiently, and improve its quality to the necessary extent, the import of foreign cloth will automatically cease. extent, the import of foreign cloth will automatically cease. My advice to you, therefore, is not to carry on your agitation on its present lines, but to turn your attention to the erection of fresh mills. What we need is not propaganda to inflate demand for our goods, but greater production.’ ‘Then, surely, you will bless my effort, if I am laready engaged in that very thing,’ I asked. ‘How can that be ?’ he exclaimed, a bit puzzled, ‘but may be, you are thinking of promoting the establishment of new mills, in which case you certainly deserve to be congratulated.’ ‘ I am not doing exactly that,’ I explained, ‘but I am engaged in the revival of the spinning wheel.’ ‘What is that ?’ he asked, feeling still more at sea. I told him all about the spinning wheel, and the story of my long quest after it, and added, ‘I am entirely of your opinion; it is no use my becoming virtually an agent for the mils. That would do more harm than good to the country. Our mills will not be in want of custom for a long time to come. My work should be, and therefore is, to organize the production of handspun cloth, and to find means for the disposal of the Khadi thus produced. I am, therefore, concentrating my attention on the production of Khadi. I swear by this form of Swadeshi, because through it I can provide work to the semi-starved, semi-employed women of India. My idea is to get these women to spin yarn, and to clothe the people of India with Khadi woven out of it. I do not know how far this movement is going to succeed, at present it is only in the incipient stage. But i have full faith in it. At any rate it can do no harm. On the contrary to the extent that it can add to the cloth production of the country, he it ever so small, it will represent so much solid gain. You will thus perceive that my movement is free from the evils mentioned by you.’ He replied, ‘If you have additional production in view in organizing your movement, I have nothing to say against it. Whether the spinning wheel can make headway in this age of power machinery is another question. But I for one wish you every success. ~ AN INSTRUCTIVE DIALOGUE –
I must not devote any more chapters here to a description of the further progress of Khadi. It would be outside the scope of these chapters to give a history of my various activities after they came before the public eye, and I must not attempt it, if only because to do so would require a treatise on the subject. My object in writing these chapters is simply to describe how certain things, as it were spontaneously, presented themselves to me in the course of my experiments with truth. To resume, then, the story of the non-co-operation movement. Whilst the powerful Khilafat agitation set up by the Ali Brothers was in full progress, I had long discussions on the subject with the late Maulana Abdul Bari and the other Ulema, especially, with regard to the extent to which a Musalman could observe the rule of non-violence. In the end they all agreed that Islam did not forbid its followers from following non-violence as a policy, and further, that, while they were pledged to that policy, they were bound faithfully to carry it out. At last the non-co-operation resolution was moved in the Khilafat conference, and carried after prolonged deliberations. I have a vivid recollection how once at Allahabad a committee sat all night deliberating upon the subject. In the beginning the late Hakim Saheb was secptical as to the practicability of non-violent non-co- operation. But after his scepticism was overcome he threw himself into it heart and soul, and his help proved invaluable to the movement. Next, the non-co-operation resolution was moved by me at the Gujarat political conference that was held shortly afterwards. The preliminary contention raised by the opposition was that it was not competent to a provincial conference to adopt a resolution in advance of the Congress. As against this, I suggested that the restriction could apply only to a backward movement; but as for going forward, the subordinate organizations were not only fully competent, but were in duty bound to do so, if they had in them the necessary girt and confidence. No permission, I argued was needed to try to enhance the prestige of the parent institution, provided one did it at one’s own risk. The proposition was then discussed on its merits, the debate being marked by its keenness no less than the atmosphere of ‘sweet reasonableness’ in which it was conducted. On the ballot being taken the resolution was declared carried by an overwhelming majority. The successful passage of the resolution was due not a little to the personality of Sjt. Vallabhbhai and Abbas Tyabji. The latter was the president, and his leanings were all in favour of the non-co-operation resolution. The All-India Congress Committss resolved to hold a special session of the Congress in September 1920 at Calcutta to deliberate on this question Preparations were made for it on a large scale. Lala Lajpat Rai was elected President . Congress and Khilafat specials were run to Calcutta from Bombay. At Calcutta there was a mammoth gathering of delegates anad visitors. At the request of Maulana Shaukat Ali I prepared a draft of the non- co-operation resolution in the train. Up to this time I had more or less avoided the use of the word non-vilent in my drafts. I invariably made use of this word in my speeches. My vocabulary on the subject was still in process of formation. I found that I could not bring home of the Samskrit equivalent for non-violent. I therefore asked Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad to give me some other equivalent for it. He suggested the word ba-aman; similarly for non-co-operation he suggested the phrase tark-i-mavalat. Thus, while I was still busy devising suitable Hindi, Gujarati and Urdu phraseology for non-co-operation, I was called upon to frame the non-co-operation resolution for that eventful Congress. In the original draft the word ‘non-violent’ had been left out by me. I had handed over the draft to Maulana Shaukat Ali who was travelling in the same compartment, without noticing the omission. During the night I discovered the error. In the morning I sent Mahadev with the message that the omission should be made good before the draft was sent to the press. But I have an impression that the draft was printed before the insertion could be made. The Subjects Committee was to have met the same evening. I had therefore to make the necessary correction in the printed copies of the draft. I afterwards saw that there would have been great difficulty, had I not been ready with my draft. None the less my plight was pitiable indeed. I was absolutely at sea as to who would support the resolution and who would oppose it. Nor had I any idea as to the attitude that Lalaji would adopt. I only saw an imposing phalanx of veteran warriors assembled for the fray at Calcutta, Dr. Besant, Pandit Malaviyaji, Sjt. Vijayaraghavachari, Pandit Motilalji and the Deshabandhu being some of them. In my resolution non-co-operation was postulated only with a view to obtaining redress of the Punjab and the Khilafat wrongs. That, however, did not appeal to Sjt. Vijayaraghavachari. ‘If non-co- operation was to be declared, why should it be with reference to particular wrongs ? The absence of Swaraj was the biggest wrong that the non-co-operation should be directed,’ he argued. Pandit Motilalji also wanted the demand for Swaraj to be included in the resolution. I readily accepted the suggestion and incorporated the demand for Swaraj in my resolution, which was passed after an exhaustive, serious and somewhat stromy discussion. Motilalji was the first to join the movement. I still remember the sweet discussion that I had with him on the resolution. He suggested some changes in its phraseology which I adopted. He undertook to win the Deshabandhu for the movement. The he felt sceptical as to the capacity of the people to carry out the programme. It was only at the Nagpur Congress that he and Lalaji accepted it whole heartedly. I felt the loss of the late Lokamanya very deeply at the special session. It has been my firm faith to this day that, had the Lokamanya been then alive, he would have given his benedictions to me on that occasion. But even if it had been otherwise, and he had opposed the movement, I should still have esteemed his opposition as a privilege and an education for myself. We had our differences of opinion always, but they never led to bitterness. He always allowed me to believe that the ties between us were of the closest. Even as I write these lines, the circumstances of his death stand forth vividly before my mind’s eye. It was about the hour of midnight, when Patwardhan, who was then working with me, conveyed over the telephone the news of his death. I was at that time surrounded by me companions. Spontaneously the exclamation escaped my lips, ‘My strongest bulwark is gone.’ The non- co-operation movement was then in full swing, and I was eagerly looking forward to encouragement and inspiration from him. What his attitude would have been with regard to the final phase of non-cooperation will always be a matter of speculation, and an idle one at that. But this much is certain that the deep void left by his death weighed heavily upon everybody present at Calcutta. Everyone felt the absence of his counsels in that hour of crisis in the nation’s history. ~ ITS RISING TIDE
I must regard my participation in Congress proceedings at Amritsar as my real entrance into the Congress politics. My attendance at the previous Congress was nothing more perhaps than an annual renewal of allegiance to the Congress. I never felt on these occasions that I had any other work cut out for me except that of a mere private, nor did I desire more. My experience of Amritsar had shown that there were one or two things for which perhaps I had some aptitude and which could be useful to the Congress. I could already see that the late Lokamanya, the Deshabandhu, Pandit Motilalji and other leaders were pleased with my work in connection with the Punjab inquiry. They used to invite me to their informal gatherings where, as I found resolutions for the Subjects Committee were conceived. At these gatherings only those persons were invited who enjoyed the special confidence of the leaders and whose services were needed by them. Interlopers also sometimes found their way to these meetings. There were, for the coming year, two things which interested me, as I had some aptitude for them. One of these was the memorial of the Jalianwala Bagh Massacre. The Congress had passed a resolution for it amid great enthusiasm. A fund of about five lakhs had to be collected for it. I was appointed one of the trustees. Pandit Malaviyaji enjoyed the reputation of being the prince among beggars for the public cause. But I knew that I was not far behind him in that respect. It was whilst I was in South Africa that I discovered my capacity in this direction. I had not the unrivalled magic of Malaviyaji for commanding princely donations from the potentates of India. But I knew that there was no question of approaching the Rajas and Maharajas for donations for the Jalianwala Bagh memorial. The main responsibility for the collection thus fell, as I had expected, on my shoulders. The generous citizens of Bombay subscribed most liberally, and the memorial trust has at present a handsome credit balance in the bank. But the problem that faces the country today is what kind of memorial to erect on the ground, to sanctify which, Hindus, Musalmans and Sikhs mingled their blood. The three communities, instead of being bound in a bond of amity and love, are, to all appearance, at war with one another, and the nation is at a loss as to how to utilize the memorial fund. My other aptitude which the Congress could utilize was as a draftsman. The Congress leaders had found that I had a faculty for condensed expression, which I had acquired by long practice. The then existing constitution of the Congress was Gokhale’s legacy. He had framed a few rules which served as a basis of running the Congress machinery. The interesting history of the framing of these rules I had learnt form Gokhale’s own lips. But everybody had now come to feel that these rules were no longer adequate for the ever increasing business of the Congress. The question had been coming up year after year. The Congress at that time had practically no machinery functioning during the interval between session and session, or for dealing of the year. The existing rules provided for three secretaries, but as a matter of fact only one of them was a functioning secretary, and even he was not a whole-timer. How was he, single-handed, to run the Congress office, to think of the future, or to discharge during the current year the obilgations contracted by the Congress in the past? During that year, therefore, everybody felt that this question would assume all the more importance. The Congress was too unwieldy a body for the discussion of public affairs. There was no limit set to the number of delegates in the Congress or to number of delegates that each province could return, Some improvement upon the existing chaotic condition was thus felt by everybody to be an imperative necessity. I undertook the responsibility of framing a constitution on one condition. I saw that there were two leaders,#viz#., the Lokamanya and the Deshabandhu who had the greatest hold on the public. I requested that they, as the representatives of the people, should be associated with me on the Committee for framing the constitution. But since it was obvious that they would not have the time personally t participate in the constitution-making work, I suggested that two persons enjoying their confidence should be a appointed along with me on the Constitution Committee, and that the number of its personnel should be limited to and the late Deshabandhu, who suggested the names of Sjts. Kelkar and I.B. Sen respectively as their proxies. The Constitution Committee could not even once come together, but we were able to consult with each other by correspondence, and in the end presented a unanimous report. I regard this constitution with a certain measure of pride. I hold that, if we could fully work out this constitution, the mere fact of working it out would bring us Swaraj. With the assumption of this responsibility I may be said to have made my real entrance into the Congress politics. ~ CONGRESS INITIATION –
I knew Maulana Mazharul Haq in London when he was studying for the bar, and when I met him at the Bombay Congress in 1915 the year in which he was President of the Muslim League he had renewed the acquaintance, and extended me an invitation to stay with him whenever I happened to go to Patna. I bethought myself of this invitation and sent him a note indicating the purpose of my visit. He immediately came in his car, and pressed me to accept his hospitality. I thanked him and requested him to guide me to my destination by the first available train, the railway guide being useless to an utter stranger like me. He had a talk with Rajkumar Shukla and suggested that I should first go to Muzaffarpur. There was a train for that place the same evening and he sent me off by it. Principal Kripalani was then in Muzaffarpur. I had known of him ever since my visit to Hyderabad. Dr. Choithram had told me of his great sacrifice, of his simple life, and of the Ashram that Dr. Choithram was running out of funds provided by Prof. Kripalani. He used to be a professor in the Government College, Muzaffarpur, and had just resigned the post when I went there. I had sent a telegram informing him of my arrival, and he met me at the station with a crowd of students, though the train reached there at midnight. He had no rooms of his own, and was staying with Professor Malkani who therefore virtually became my host. It was an extraordinary thing in those days for a Government professor to harbour a man like me. Professor Kripalani spoke to me about the desperate condition of Bihar, particularly of the Tirhut division and gave me an idea of the difficulty of my task. He had established very close contact with the Biharis, and had already spoken to them about the mission that took me to Bihar. In the morning a small group of vakils called on me. I still remember Ramnavmi Prasad among them, as his earnestness specially appealed to me. ‘It is not possible,’ he said, ‘for you to do the kind of work you have come for, if you stay here (meaning Prof. Malkani’s quarters). You must come and stay with one of us. Gaya Babu is a well-known vakil here. I have come on his behalf in invite you to stay with him. I confess we are all afraid of Government, but we shall render what help we can. Most of the things Rajkumar Shukla has told you are true. It is a pity our leaders are not here today. I have, however, wired to them both, Bapu Brajkishore Prasad and Babu Rajendra Prasad. I expect them to arrive shortly, and they are sure to be able to give you all the information you want and to help you considerably. Pray come over to Gaya Babu’s place.’ This was a request that I could not resist, though I hesitated for fear of embarrassing Gaya Babu. But he put me at ease, and so I went over to stay with him. He and his people showered all their affection on me. Brajkishorebabu now arrived from Darbhanga and Rajendra Babu from Puri. Brajkishorebabu was not the Babu Brajkishore prasad I had met in Lucknow. He impressed me this time with his humility, simplicity, goodness and extraordinary faith, so characteristic of the Biharis, and my heart was joyous over it. The Bihar vakils’ regard for him was an agreeable surprise to me. Soon I felt myself becoming bound to this circle of friends in lifelong friendship. Brajkishorebabu acquainted me with the facts of the case. He used to be in the habit of taking up the cases of the poor tenants. There were two such cases pending when I went there. When he won any such case, he consoled himself that he did not charge fees from these simple peasants. Lawyers labour under the belief that, if they do not charge fees, they will have no wherewithal to run their households, and will not be able to render effective help to the poor people. The figures of the fees they charged and the standard of a barrister’s fees in Bengal and Bihar staggered me. ‘We gave Rs. 10,000 to so and so for his opinion,’ I was told. Nothing less than four figures in any case. The friends listened to my kindly reproach and did not misunderstand me. ‘Having studied these cases,’ said I, ‘I have come to the conclusion that we should stop going to law courts. Taking such cases to the courts does little good. Where the ryots are so crushed and fear- stricken, law courts are useless. The real relief for them is to be free from fear. We cannot sit still until we have driven #tinkathia# out of Bihar. I had thought that I should be able to leave here in two days, but I now realize that the work might take even two years. I am prepared to give that time, if necessary. I am now feeling my ground, but I want your help.’ I found Brajkishorebabu exceptionally coolheaded. ‘We shall render all the help we can,’ he said quietly, ‘but pray tell us what kind of help you will need.’ And thus we sat talking until midnight. ‘I shall have little use for your legal knowledge,’ I said to them. ‘I want clerical assistance and help in interpretation. It may be necessary to face imprisonment, but, much so far as you feel yourselves capable of going. Even turning yourselves into clerks and giving up your profession for an indefinite period is no small thing. I find it difficult to understand the local dialect of Hindi, and I shall not be able to read papers written in Kaithi or Urdu. I shall want you to translate them for me. We cannot afford to pay for this work. It should all be done for love and out of a spirit of service.’ Brajkishorebabu understood this immediately, and he now cross-examined me and his companions by turns. He tried to ascertain the implications of all that I had said how long their service would be required, how many of them would be needed, whether they might serve by turns and so on. Then he asked the vakils the capacity of their sacrifice. Ultimately they gave me this assurance. ‘Such and such a number of us will do whatever you may ask. Some of us will be with you for so much time as you may require. The idea of accommodating oneself V Shared Via Constito imprisonment is a novel thing for us. We will try to assimilate it.’ ~ THE GENTLE BISH
Champaran is the land of King Janaka. Just as it abounds in mango groves, so used it to be full of indigo plantations until the year 1917. The Champaran tenant was bound by law to plant three out of every twenty parts of his land with indigo for his landlord. This system was known as the #tinkathis# system, as three #kathas# out of twenty (which make one acre) had to be planted with indigo. I must confess that I did not then know even the name, much less the geographical position, of Champaran, and I had hardly any notion of indigo plantations. I had seen packets of indigo, but little dreamed that it was grown and manufactured in Champaran at great hardship to thousands of agriculturists. Rajkumar Shukla was one of the agriculturists who had been under this harrow, and he was filled with a passion to wash away the stain of indigo for the thousands who were suffering as he had suffered. This man caught hold of me at Lucknow, where I had gone for the Congress of 1918. ‘Vakil Babu will tell you everything about our distress,’ he said, and urged me to go to Champaran. ‘Vakil Babu’ was none other than Babu Brajkishore Prasad, who became my esteemed co- worker in Champaran, and who is the soul of public work in Bihar. Rajkumar Shukla brought him to my tent. He was dressed in a black alpaca #achkan# and trousers. Brijkishore Babu failed then to make an impression on me. I took it that he must be some vakil exploiting the simple agriculturists. Having heard from him something of Champaran, I replied as was my wont: ‘I can give no opinion without seeing the condition with my own eyes. You will please move the resolution in the Congress, but leave me free for the present.’ Rajkumar Shukla of course wanted some help from the Congress. Babu Brajkishore Prasad moved the resolution, expressing sympathy for the people of Champaran, and it was unanimously passed. Rajkumar Shukla was glad, but far from satisfied. He wanted me personally to visit Champaran and witness the miseries of the ryots there. I told him that I would include Champaran in the tour which I had contemplated and give it a day or two. ‘One day will be enough,’ said he, ‘and you will see things with your own eyes.’ From Lucknow I went to Cawnpore Rajkumar Shukla followed me there. ‘Champaran is very near here. Please give a day,’ he insisted.’ Pray excuse me this time. But I promise that I will come,’ said I, further committing myself. I returned to the Ashram. The ubiquitous Rajkumar was there too. ‘Pray fix the day now,’ he said. ‘Well,’ said I, ‘I have to be in Calcutta on such and such a date, come and meet me then, and take me from there.’ I did not know where I was to go, what to do, what things to see. Before I reached Bhupen Babu’s place in Calcutta, Rajkumar Shukla had gone and established himself there. Thus this ignorant, unsophisticated but resolute agriculturist captured me. So early in 1917, we left Calcutta for Champaran, looking just like fellow rustics. I did not even know the train. He took me to it, and we travelled together, reaching Patna in the morning. This was my first visit to Patna. I had no friend or acquaintance with whom I could think of putting up. I had an idea that Rajkumar Shukla, simple agriculturist as he was, must have some influence in Patna. I had come to know him a little more on the journey, and on reaching Patna I had no illusions left concerning him. He was perfectly innocent of every thing. The vakils that he had taken to be his friends were really nothing of the sort. Poor Rajkumar was more or less as a menial to them. Between such agriculturist clients and their vakils there is a gulf as wide as the Ganges in flood. Rajkumar Shukla took me to Rajendra Babu’s place in Patna. Rajendra Babu had gone to Puri or some other place, I now forget which. There were one or two servants at the bungalow who paid us no attention. I had with me something to eat. I wanted dates which my companion procured for me from the bazaar. There was strict untouchability in Bihar. I might not draw water at the well whilst the servants were using it, lest drops of water from my bucket might pollute them, the servants not knowing to what caste I belonged. Rajkumar directed me to the indoor latrine, the servant promptly directed me to the outdoor one. All this was far from surprising or irritating to me, for I was inured to such things. The servants were doing the duty, which they thought Rajendra Babu would wish them to do. These entertaining experiences enhanced my regard for Rajkumar Shukla, if they also enabled me to know him better. I saw now that Rajkumar Shukla could not guide me, and that I must take the reins in my own hands. ~ THE STAIN OF INDIGO
Thus, whilst this movement for the preservation of non-violence was making steady though slow progress, on the one hand, the Government’s policy of lawless repression was in full career on the other, and was manifesting itself in kindnessaders were put under arrest, martial law, which in other words meant no law, was proclaimed, special tribunals were set up. These tribunals were not courts of justice but instruments for carrying out the arbitrary will of an autocrat. Sentences were passed unwarranted by evidence and in flagrant violation of justice. In Amritsar, innocent men and women were made to crawl like worms on their bellies. Before this outrage, the Jalianwala Bagh tragedy paled into insignificance in my eyes, though it was this massacre principally that attracted the attention of the people of India and the world. I was pressed to proceed immediately in disregard of the consequences. I wrote and also telegraphed to the Viceroy asking for permission to go there but in vain. If I proceeded without the necessary permission, I should not be allowed to cross the boundary of Punjab, but left to find what satisfaction I could from civil disobedience. I was thus confronted by a serious dilemma. As things stood, to break the order against my entry into Punjab could, it seemed to me, hardly be classed as civil disobedience, for I did not see around me the kind of peaceful atmosphere that I wanted, and the unbridled repression in Punjab had further served to aggravate and deepen the feelings of resentment. For me, therefore, to offer civil disobedience at such a time, even if it were possible, would have been like fanning the flame. I, therefore, decided not to proceed to Punjab despite the suggestion of friends. It was a bitter pill for me to swallow. Tales of rank injustice and oppression came pouring in daily from Punjab, but all I could do was to sit helplessly by and gnash my teeth. Just then Mr Horniman, in whose hands The Bombay Chronicle had become a formidable force, was suddenly spirited away by the authorities. This act of the Government seemed to me to be surrounded by a foulness that still stinks in my nostrils. I know that Mr Horniman never desired lawlessness. He had not liked my breaking the prohibitory order of the Punjab Government without the permission of the Satyagraha Committee, and had fully endorsed the decision to suspend civil disobedience. I had even announced my decision to that effect. Only owing to the distance between Bombay and Ahmedabad I got the letter after the announcement. His sudden deportation, therefore, caused me as much pain as a surprise. As a result of these developments, I was asked by the directors of The Bombay Chronicle to take up the responsibility of conducting that paper. Mr Brelvi was already there on the staff, so not much remained to be done by me, but as usual with my nature, the responsibility would have become an additional tax. But the Government came as it were to my rescue, for by its order the publication of The Chronicle had to be suspended. The friends who were directing the management of The Chronicle, Viz, Messrs. Umar Sobani and Shankarlal Banker, were at this also controlling Young India. They suggested that, given the suppression of The Chronicle, I should now take up the editorship of Young India, and that, to fill the gap left by the former, Young India should be converted from a weekly into a biweekly organ. This was what I felt also. I was anxious to expound the inner meaning of Satyagraha to the public, and also hoped that through this effort I should at least be able to do justice to the Punjab situation. For, behind all I wrote, there was potential Satyagraha, and the Government knew as much. I therefore readily accepted the suggestion made by these friends. But how could the general public be trained in Satyagraha through the medium of English? My principal field of work lay in Gujarat. Sjt. Indulal Yajnik was at that time associated with the group of Messrs. Sobani and Banker. He was conducting the Gujarati monthly Navajivan which had the financial backing of these friends. They placed the monthly at my disposal and further Sjt. Indulal offered to work on it. This monthly was converted into a weekly. In the meantime, The Chronicle was resuscitated. Young India was therefore restored to its original weekly form. To have published the two weeklies from two different places would have been very inconvenient to me and involved more expenditure. As Navajivan was already being published from Ahmedabad Young India was also removed there at my suggestion. There were other reasons besides this change. I had already learnt from my experience of Indian Opinion that such journals needed a press of their own. Moreover, the press laws in force in India at that time were such that, if I wanted to express my views untrammelled, the existing printing presses, which were naturally run for business, would have hesitated to publish them. The need for setting up a press of our own, therefore, became all the more imperative, and since this could be conveniently done only at Ahmedabad, Young India too had to be taken there. Through these journals, I now commenced to the best of my ability the work of educating the reading public in Satyagraha. Both of them had reached a very wide circulation, which at one time rose to the neighbourhood of forty thousand each. But while the circulation of Navajivan went up at a bound, that of Young India increased only by slow degrees. After my incarceration, the circulation of both these journals fell to a low ebb, and today stands below eight thousand. From the very start, I set my face against taking advertisements in these journals. I do not think that they have lost anything thereby. On the contrary, I believe that it was in no small measure that helped them to maintain their independence. Incidentally, these journals helped me also to some extent to remain at peace with myself for, whilst immediate resort to civil disobedience was out of the question, they enabled me freely to ventilate my views and to put heart into the people. Thus I feel that both the journals rendered good service to the people in this hour of trial, and did their humble bit towards lightening the tyranny of martial law. ~ ‘NAVAJIVAN’ AND ‘YOUNG INDIA’