Fair Use Version ©Navajivan Trust, Ahmedabad, 1971Selected excerpts regarding Gandhi's stay in London at Kingsley Hall and his activities in England
Gandhiji arrived in London from Folkstone on September 12th, 1931, at 4:10 in the afternoon and though it was raining, the rush of people was so great that police precautions became necessary. He was driven straight to Friends' House at Euston Road.
1. The Congress goal is complete independence.
2. This means control over the army, external affairs, finance, and economic policy.
3. Scrutiny by an impartial tribunal of the financial transactions of the British Government.
Mr Gandhi said that he would never despair of arriving at a workable solution of the Hindu-Muslim question. He was always optimistic. He was prepared to go the "whole hog" with the Muslims without the slightest reservation. He would sign a blank paper and leave the Muslims to write in what they considered the truth, and he would then fight for it.
The people living near Kingsley Hall are looking forward to meeting Mr. Gandhi, and he says that he certainly hopes to meet them. He said: "Otherwise, why should I be here? I hope they will come here, and I will go to visit some of them in their homes if Miss Lester can arrange for me to go without being seen.
In my opinion, the Indian Conference bears in its consequences not only upon India but upon the whole world. India is by itself almost a continent. It contains one-fifth of the human race. It represents one of the most ancient civilizations. It has traditions handed down from tens of thousands of years, some of which, to the astonishment of the world, remain intact. If India is to perpetuate the glory of her ancient past, it can do so only when it attains freedom. The reason for the struggle having drawn the attention of the worl, I know does not lie in the fact that we Indians are fighting for our liberty, but in the fact that the means adopted by us for attaining that liberty are unique and, as far as history shows us, have not been adopted by any other people of whom we have any record. The means adopted are not violence, not bloodshed, not diplomacy as one understands it nowadays, but they are purely and simply truth and non-violence. No wonder that the attention of the world is directed towards this attempt to lead a successful, bloodless revolution.
[Before beginning his unprepared address, Gandhiji said: "Do I have to speak into that?" After the address was over, he remarked: "Well that's over." These words also were heard by the listeners.]
If we believed in God it followed that we must pray to Him. Though prayer, it was said, was to the soul what food was tot he body, yet prayer was far more important for the soul than food was for the body, because we could at times go without food and the body would feel the better for the fast, but there was no such thing as prayer-fast.
...there are fundamental differences of opinion between the Government and the Congress, and it is possible that there are vital differences between my colleagues and myself. there is also a limitation under which I shall be working. I am but a poor humble agent acting on behalf of the Indian National Congress. And it might be as well to remind ourselves of what the Congress stands for and what it is. You will then extend your sympathy to me, because I know that the burden that rests upon my shoulders is really very great. The Congress is, If I am not mistaken, the oldest political organization we have in India. It has had nearly 50 years of life, during which period it has, without any interruption, held its annual sessions. It is what it means - national. It represents no particular community, no particular class, no particular interest. It claims to represent all Indian interests and all classes.
...The Congress has, from its very commencement, taken up the cause of the so-called untouchables. There was a time when the congress had at every annual session as its adjunct the Social Conference, to which the late Ranade dedicated his energies, among his many other activities. Headed by him you will find, in the programme of the Social Conference, reform in connection with the untouchables taking a prominent place. But in 1920, the Congress took a large step and brought in the question of the removal of untouchability as a plank on the political platform, making it an important item of the political programme. Just as the Congress considered Hindu-Muslim unity - thereby meaning unity amongst all the classes - to be indispensable for the attainment of swaraj, so also did the Congress consider the removal of the curse of untouchability as an indispensable condition for the attainment of full freedom. The position the Congress took up in 1920 remains the same today; and so you will see the Congress has attempted from its very beginning to be what it described itself to be, namely, national in every sense of the term.
Above all, the Congress represents, in its essence, the dumb, semi-starved millions scattered over the length and breadth of the land in its 700,000 villages...Every interest which, in the opinion of the Congress, is worthy of protection, has to subserve the interests of these dumb millions... You will perhaps be astonished to find that today the Congress, through its organization, the All-India Spinners' Association, is finding work for nearly 50,000 women in nearly 2,000 villages, and these women are possible 50 per cent Mussalman women. Thousands of them belong to the so-called untouchable class. We have thus, in this constructive manner, penetrated these villages, and effort is being made to cover every one of the 700,000 villages.
That being the representative character of the Congress, you will not be astonished when I read to you the Congress mandate. I hope that it may not jar upon you. You may consider that the Congress is making a claim which is wholly untenable. Such as it is, I am here to put forth that claim on behalf of the Congress in the gentlest manner possible, but also in the firmest manner possible. ...This was a resolution passed at the Karachi Congress:
This Congress, having considered the Provisional Settlement between the Working Committee and the Government of India, endorses it, and desires to make it clear that the Congress goal of purna swaraj, meaning complete independence, remains intact. In the event of a way remaining otherwise open to the Congress to be represented at any Conference with the representatives of the British Government, the Congress Delegation will work for this goal; and in particular, so as to give the nation control over the army, external affairs, finance, fiscal and economic policy, and to have scrutiny by an impartial tribunal of the financial transactions of the British Government in India, and to examine and assess the obligations to by undertaken by India or England and the right to either party to end the partnership at will: provided, however, that the Congress Delegation will be free to accept such adjustments as may be demonstrably necessary in the interests of India.
I love the East End, particularly the little urchins in the streets. They give me such friendly greetings. I have seen a tremendous change in social conditions since I was in London forty years ago. The poverty in London is nothing to what it is in India. I go down the streets here and I see outside each house a bottle of milk, and inside the door there is a strip of carpet, perhaps a piano in the sitting room.. In India several millions wear only a loin-cloth. That is why I wear a loin-cloth myself. They call me half-naked. I do it deliberately in order to identify myself with the poorest of the poor in India. What impresses me about London is that there is not the same glaring difference between rich and poor. As I drive down in my car to Bow every night, I have been noticing how gradual is the change from the riches of the West End to the poverty of the East End.
I am disturbed about the position [at the Round Table Conference]. We are making such very slow progress. We have been here five days, and so far what we have accomplished might have been done in four or five hours. The Government is like a Sphinx. It is so cautious in its utterances that it is impossible to know where it stands. We cannot get on until it states its views. We must know how far it is prepared to go. I have spoken gently this week, but I do not know how long I shall be able to bear this hopeless uncertainty, for which I see no just reason. The Government cannot for ever sit on the fence.
I have watched with the greatest attention the discussions that have taken place in this Committee. I have endeavoured to study, as I have not done before, the list of the Delegates; and the first feeling of oppression that has been coming upon me is that we are not the chosen ones of the nation which we should be representing, but we are the chosen ones of the [British] Government. I see, as I study the list and as I know the different parties and groups in India from experience, some very noticeable gaps also; and so I am oppressed with a sense of unreality in connection with our composition. My second reason for feeling a sense of unreality is that these proceedings seem to me to be interminable and to be leading us practically nowhere.
Seated on the floor in the center of the hall at Kingsley Settlement in the afternoon, Mr Gandhi gave a special and strictly private reception to a group of youngsters, none of whom was over twelve, from among the children of Bow. Grown-ups were strictly excluded with the exception of one or two of Miss Lester's helpers...
Questions about the weather in India, about the games the Indian children played, and so on, led to one child asking about the language I spoke. This gave me just the opportunity I wanted, and I began talking about the common source of many of our words. I took "pater", "father", and the Hindu "pita"; and "mater", "mother", and our own "mata". When I asked what that showed, they called out, "It shows we are all of the same breed."
Then we are all one family and ought to be friends, I said, and they agreed. I then asked if any of the boys hit back, and ten or twelve brave boys put their hands up. So this gave me a chance for a little lesson in the principle of non-violence, and I asked what they really should have done instead. "Make friends", they replied, and I told them to remember this.
I do like the London children so much and it has been so delightful to meet them both here and in some of their homes which I visited this morning.
I have come to England to represent the starving millions of my country and I am so glad to be in the midst of the people of the East End. I shall always be enriched by the affection with which I have been received.
I have your letter. I am writing this while attending the Conference. Mahadev, Pyarelal, Devdas and Mirabehn are with me. The cold is still bearable. But the work has turned out to heavier than I had thought. I cannot say what the outcome will be. I shall be here for at least a month longer.
Gandhiji had not heard of him, but he had evidently heard of Gandhiji's spinning wheel
CHAPLIN: Naturally I am in sympathy with India's aspirations and struggle for freedom. Nonetheless, I am somewhat confused by your abhorrence of machinery.
GADNHIJI: I understand. But before India can achieve those aims, she must first rid herself of English rule. Machinery in the past has made us dependent on England, and the only way we can rid ourselves of the dependence is to boycott all goods made by machinery. That is why we have made it the patriotic duty of every Indian to spin his own cotton and weave his own cloth.
This is our form of attacking a very powerful nation like England - and of course, there are other reasons. India has a different climate from England; and her habits and wants are different. In England the cold weather necessitates arduous industry and an involved economy. You need the industry of eating utensils; we use our fingers. And so it translates into manifold differences.
Pray tell me what I am to do with a fifth of the human race living on the verge of starvation and devoid of all sense of self-respect. It should occupy the attention even of unemployed Lancashire. You have told us of the help Lancashire gave us during the famine of 1899-1900.
What return can we render but the blessings of the poor? I have come to give you fair trade. But if I go without giving it, it will not be through any fault of mine. There is no bitterness in me. ...You will find me an easy proposition, but if you will repel my advances I shall go away, not in bitterness, but with a sense that I was not pure enough to find a lodgement in your hearts.
There is no boycott of British cloth as distinguished from other foreign cloth, since the 5th March when the Truce was signed. As a nation we are pledged to boycott all foreign cloth, but in case of an honourable settlement between England and India i.e., in case of a permanent peace, I should not hesitate to give preference to Lancashire cloth to all other foreign cloth, to the extent that we may need to supplement our cloth and on agreed terms. But how much relief that can give you, I do not know. You must recognize that all the markets of the world are now not open to you. What you have done, all other nations are doing today. Even Indian mills would be producing more and more cloth every day. You, surely, will not want me to restrict Indian enterprise for the sake of Lancashire.
Gandhi showed no sign of any intention to break up the Conference. What he complained of was that the Conference was futile because the other delegates were only the nominees of Government and he was the sole genuine representative of the people. He thought that he could represent the Muslims and the Depressed Classes better than those who purported to do so. He and the British Government could settle the whole question if he was treated as representing everybody. The Prime Minister said that the Conference had at any rate been successful in so far as it had got Gandhi to come to London and brought him into touch with the Government; and he countered by telling Gandhi that the civil disobedience movement was a mistake and only hindered the British Government from carrying out their intentions towards India.
Mr Gandhi: Prime Minister, after consultation with His Highness the Aga Khan and other Muslim friends last night, we came to the conclusion that the purpose for which we meet here would be better served if a week's adjournment was asked for.
Dr Ambedkar: I do not wish to create any difficulty in our making every possible attempt to arrive at some solution of the problem with which this Committee has to deal, and if a solution can be arrived at by the means suggested by Mahatma Gandhi, I, for one, will have no objection to that proposal. But there is just this one difficulty with which I, as representing the Depressed Classes, am faced. I do not know what sort of committee Mahatma Gandhi proposes to appoint to consider this question during the period of adjournment, but I suppose that the Depressed Classes will be represented on this Committee.
Mr Gandhi: Nobody would be hampered in pressing his own views on the members of this very informal conference or meeting. We need not call it a committee. I have no authority to convene any committee or to bring into being a committee. I can only act as a humble messenger of peace, try to get together representatives of different interests and groups, and see whether, by being closeted in one room and by heart-to-heart conversation, we may not be able to remove cobwebs of misunderstanding and see our way clear to the goal that lies so hazily before us today.
[All the speakers that followed generally supported the adjournment motion, but Dr Ambedkar, Sir Henry Gidney and Rao Bahadur Pannirselvam, though they did not oppose the adjournment, said that since Gandhiji recognized only two minority communities, namely, the Muslims and the Sikhs, they did not see how they could participate in the work of the committee which Gandhiji proposed to form for the purpose of unofficial consultations.]
Mr Gandhi on behalf of the Congress also opposed special representation to the Oppressed Classes. He said he would support special representation only for Muslims and Sikhs as a necessary evil. It appears that Mr Gandhi warned the Conference that, if special representation was conceded, it must be conceded to all minorities.
During discussion great importance was laid on settlement of the Hindu-Muslim question as the real crux of the minority problem. The impression was created that if the Hindu-Muslim question was settled the claims of other minorities would be automatically adjusted.
The stand against communal representation and separate representation is reported to have been made by Mr. Gandhi towards the close of today's sitting of the unofficial committee after representatives of various minorities had presented their claims for separate representation and the quantum of representation.
Mr. Gandhi is reported to have given expression to the sense of unreality if all claims were taken at their face value and said that he felt cramped and hemmed in amid a plethora of claims. Though he had not been idle he was hitherto unable to see daylight but if he saw light he would act.
...Urging the need for a spirit of conciliation, Mr. Gandhi is reported to have invited the Conference to take more time if necessary, but declared that he was unable to compromise on fundamentals and, desirous as they were to see India a great nation, the Congress would never agree to communal representation and would be unworthy of its name if it allowed separate representation.
PRIME MINISTER AND FRIENDS, It is with deep sorrow and deeper humiliation that I have to announce utter failure on my part to secure an agreed solution of the communal question through informal conversations among and with the representatives of different groups. I apologize to you, Mr. Prime Minister, and the other colleagues for the waste of a precious week. My only consolation lies in the fact that when I accepted the burden of carrying on these talks, I knew that there was not much hope of success, and still more in the fact that I am not aware of having spared any effort to reach a solution.
....Causes of failure were inherent in the composition of the Indian Delegation. We are almost all not elected representatives of the parties or groups whom we are presumed to represent; we are here by nomination of the Government. Nor are those whose presence was absolutely necessary for an agreed solution to be found here. Further, you will allow me to say that this was hardly the time to summon the Minorities Committee. It lacks the sense of reality in that we do not know what it is that we were going to get. If we knew in a definite manner that we were going to get the thing we want, we should hesitate fifty times before we throw it away in a sinful wrangle, as it would be if we are told that the getting of it would depend on the ability of the present Delegation to produce an agreed solution of the communal tangle. The solution can be the crown of the swaraj constitution, not its foundation, if only because our differences have hardened, if they have hardened, if they have not arisen, by reason of the foreign domination. I have not a shadow of a doubt that the iceberg of communal differences will melt under the warmth of the sun of freedom.
I, therefore, venture to suggest that the Minorities Committee be adjourned >sine die and that the fundamentals of the constitution be hammered into shape as quickly as may be. Meanwhile, the informal work of discovering a true solution of the communal problem will and must continue; only it must not baulk or be allowed to block the progress of constitution-building. Attention must be diverted from it and concentrated on the main part of the structure.
Lastly, inasmuch as the only reason for my appearance at these deliberations is that I represent the Indian National Congress, I must clearly set forth its position. The following Lahore resolution was the culminating point in its advance towards nationalism:
"The Congress believes that in an independent India communal questions can only be solved on strictly national lines; but as the Sikhs in particular, and the Muslims and the other minorities in general, have expressed dissatisfaction over the solution of communal questions, proposed in the Nehru Report, this Congress assures the Sikhs, the Muslims and other minorities that no solution thereof in any future constitution will be acceptable to the Congress that does not give full satisfaction to the parties concerned."
It seems to have been represented that I am opposed to any representation of the untouchables on the Legislature. This is a travesty of the truth. What I have said, and what I must repeat, is that I am opposed to their special representation. I am convinced that it can do them no good, and may do much harm; but the Congress is wedded to adult franchise. Therefore, millions of them can be placed on the Voters' Roll. It is impossible to conceive that, with untouchability fast disappearing, nominees of these voters can be boycotted by the other; but what these people need more than election to the Legislatures is protection from social and religious persecution. Custom, which is often more powerful than law, has brought them to a degradation of which every thinking Hindu has need to feel ashamed and to do penance. I should, therefore, have the most drastic legislation rendering criminal all the special persecution to which these fellow-country-men of mine are subjected by the so-called superior classes. Thank God, the conscience of Hindus has been stirred, and untouchability will soon be a relic of our sinful past.
Q. If we withdraw entirely the control of the British Army in India, would there not be internecine strife between Hindus and Muslims and would it not materialize into a serious and terrible condition?
A. My answer is that it is possible. It is likely that we the Hindus and Muslims may fight one another if the British Army is withdrawn. Well, if such is to be our lot, I do not mind it. It is quite likely. Only if we don't go through the ordeal now, it will simply be postponement of the agony and, therefore, I personally do not mind it a bit and the whole of the Congress which today sways the votes or the minds of millions of people has decided to run the risk of it. At the same time, my hope is that, if we are really fighting non-violently and truthfully, we shall be able to avoid the calamity. But what puzzles me is this: Why should British administrators or the British general public worry their heads about what is going to happen when the British Army is withdrawn? Why would they not recall their own history? Did the British people themselves not run the maddest risks imaginable in order to retain their liberty? Did they not have the terrible Wars of the Roses? Did they not fight, the English against the Scots? Was there not fighting even between Englishmen and Irishmen? If you keep a foreign rule imposed, you will find the rot of emasculation going deeper and deeper and you come to the impossible barrier that these people cannot defend themselves against each other and therefore we must remain there as eternal rulers. Therefore I would rather run any risk that may be in store and get freedom today.
Q If you were less religious, would you not have come to an agreement quicker?
A Oh, I understand your question You want to suggest that I should make a promise and break it. It is a very good definition of politicians. I can now tell you why I entered politics. I entered politics to free politics from the reproach. As a rule the politician is free from any law suit. But I thought that would not do. Politics like a snake's coil, surrounds, crushes you and seeing that I am in the midst of it, I realize my helpless plight, and I endeavour to control politics. I am supposed to be managing somehow or other the largest organization of the world-the Indian National congress. It represents today millions of human beings who respond to its call. If the Congress really and truly carries out the political work on non-violence and truth, politicians will come to the conclusion that it is not necessary to make false promises and the at politics becomes corrupted when you resort to any such means...
Mr Keir Hardie felt of out fatigue that the House of Commons was not a good place for a true Christian because the majority of the House were bad: but that is wrong. We must stand up for forlorn causes and we will be wholly justified in being in the House of Commons for fighting for them. It is not given to human beings to command success, but it is given to every one of us to command effort. At the same time do not forget it is arrogance to pretend to do everything by your own effort alone, because you cannot bend even a blade of grass. Before you do that, your hand may become paralysed as life is so uncertain. We are at the mercy of God. We should give up all ambition. Be truthful at any cost and make efforts, and leave the results to God.
Q Why are you not opposed to police, or State or army on the ground of non-violence?
A I admit the incostency. If I said that army was essential for a State, it would be inconsistent. Whilst I can invite all states to do without police or army, I have not yet been able to bring myself to believe that you can preserve a society without police. If we would suffer thieves or robbers to go about in society, I can conceive a society without police. Tolstoy has conceived of Dukhobors. There are people all over the world not needing police protection. But they should admit that they would not even lead tha tlife unless they were in ordered surroundings. This is not out of my scheme, but I am at present hooked on to my limited work. You can thus say that my toleration of police is a limitation of non-violence.
Q If the Communal problem should not predominate over all the rest, why should you yourself have said, at one stage, that you would not think of going to the Round Table Conference, unless the Communal question was settled?
A You are right. But you forget that I was borne down by the extreme pressure of English and other friends in India who said that it was imperative that I should go. ...Now, here I find myself face to face with men who are not nationalists, and who are selected only because they were communalists. Therefore, though I said that it was a matter of humiliation for us all not to have been able to come to a decision, the principal cause was the very composition of the committee itself. It is too unreal for words. There are men who claim to represent communities which, if they were in India, and if a referendum were to be taken, would disown them.
Q What about the untouchables? Dr.Ambedkar was very severe on you and said that the Congress had no right to claim to represent the untouchables.
A I am glad you have asked the question. I do not mind Dr. Ambedkar. He has a right even to spit upon me, as every untouchable has, and I would keep on smiling if they did so. But I may inform you that Dr. Ambedkar speaks for that particular part of the country where he comes from. He cannot speak for the rest of India and I have numerous telegrams from the so-called 'untouchables' in various parts of India assuring me that they have the fullest faith in the Congress and disowning Dr. Ambedkar. And this confidence has a reason. They know the work that the Congress is doing of them and they know that, if they cannot succeed in making their voice felt, I would be prepared to lead a campaign of civil resistance on their behalf and parlyse the Hindu orthodox opposition, if there were such an opposition against them. On the other hand, if they were to be given special electorates, as Dr. Ambedkar persists in demanding, it would do that very community immense harm. It would divide the Hindu community into armed camps and provoke needless opposition.
Q But you seem to ignore the fact that communities all the world over insist on being represented by their own people. The devoted Liberals of the north would truly represent the working men, but they would have their representatives from amongst themselves, and the great stubborn fact against you is that you are not an untouchable.
A I know it very well. But the fact that I claim to represent them does not mean that I should think of representing them on the legislatures. By no means. I should have their own representatives drawn from their own class on the legislatures, and if they are left out, I should provide for their statutory co-option by the elected members. But when I am talking of representing them, I am talking of the representation on the Round Table Conference and I can assure you that, if anyone in India challenged our claim, I should gladly face a referendum and successfully.
Q Do you feel, Gandhiji, that mass production will raise the standard of living of the people?
A I do not believe in it at all. There is a tremendous fallacy behind Mr Ford's reasoning? Without simultaneous distribution on an equally mass scale, the production can result only in a great world tragedy.
The American friend mentioned Mr Ford's favourite plan of decentralization of industry by the use of electric power conveyed on wires to the remotest corner, instead of coal and steam, as a possible remedy, and drew up the picture of hundreds and thousands of small, neat, smokeless villages, dotted with factories, run by village communites. "Assuming all that to be possible," he finally asked Gandhiji, "how far will it meet your objection?"
A My objection won't be met by that, because, while it is true that you will be producing things in innumerable areas, the power will come from on selected center. That, in the end, I think, would be found to be disastrous. It would place such a limitless power in one human agency that I dread to think of it. The consequence, for instance, of such a control of power would be that I would be dependent on that power for light, water, even air, and so on. That, I think, would be terrible.
Q What is your chief impression as regards the British understanding of the Indian problem today? Do you find that public opinion has changed much?
A I find a vast change in the attitude of the man in the street, and I have made a special point of talking with all sections of the British people. I am very happy in London and I have received wonderful signs of affection from your ordinary folk. In the East End I have been greatly touched by the friendliness displayed. People come out of their houses and shake hands with me and wish me well. I was much gratified by the reception I received in Lancashire, where the people seemed to me to understand my position; and despite the fact that my policy in India was reported to have affected Lancashire so grievously, no grudge was borne me and I found genuine friendship both from operatives and employers alike.
Q What about the untouchables? I know it is thought in some quarters that they ought to have separate electorates and that you are not qualified to speak for them.
A I do not hesitate to say that, if the untouchables in all parts of India would record their votes, I should be their representative. Dr Ambedkar is undoubtedly clever and enthusiastic. He has every reason to be bitter. I have spent the best part of my life in championing their cause, I have mixed with them east, west, north and south in India, I have many of them in my own Ashram, I adopted an untouchable girl. Many Congressmen think as I do and realize how serious is the untouchable problem.
In the interests of the untouchables themselves I think it would be fatal for them to have a special electorate, or to have reservation of seats. If this were attempted, it would create opposition to them. I think their interests would be best safeguarded by their coming "through the open door", to let them have the same voting rights as the ordinary Hindu. They will find that the leaders of Indian opinion are determined to improve their social status and give them the right to enter into temples and are ready to remove those other terrible disabilities under which they have suffered in the past.
Q To sum up, Mr Gandhi, if the Conference breaks down, do you think the people of India will be satisfied with partial Home Rule, with the possibility of a further conference in ten or twenty years when the British Parliament considers that India is in a position to control her own destiny?
A I am sure you know what my answer will be. I have tried while I have been in England not to say anything provocative, but those of us who are giving our lives to India will never be satisfied with half-measures. If the people of India after this Conference become convinced that Great Britain is not genuine in her desire to give them immediate self-government, all the forces at their disposal will be used.
The vast majority of the people now know what the Indian National Congress claims for the nation. You know what means we have adopted, perhaps, for the first time in history, to achieve our independence. And you also know how far the nation during the last year was able to live up to its creed. I would like to emphasize upon you the fact that, if the work that is now being done at the Round Table Conference is to bear fruit, it will do so only if the pressure of intelligent public opinion is brought to bear upon it. I have often remarked that my true work in England lies outside the Conference, not in the Conference. In my few public speeches I have not hesitated to throw out a hint that no work was being done in the Conference, that it was marking time and that the precious time of those who had come from India and those who were representing British interests in the Conference was being wasted. That being my opinion, I cannot be too insistent that responsible leaders of public opinion in the British Isles should inform themselves of the true nature of the struggle that Indians are carrying on against heavy odds. For, unless you understand the true nature and the inner meaning of this struggle, you will not be able to bring effective pressure to bear on those who are conducting the affairs of the State here...
My case is that alien rulers have ruled India on the principle of "Divide and Rule". No alien Imperial rule could go on in India unless the rulers now coquetted with one and then with the other party. We will continue to be divided so long as the wedge of foreign rule remains there, and sinks deeper and deeper. That is the way of the wedge. But take out the wedge and the split parts will instantly come together and unite. Again, the attainment of unity has been rendered a task of Herculean difficulty by the composition of the Conference itself, as all the Delegates here are nominated, none of them is duly elected. If, for instance, the Nationalist Muslims had been asked to elect their representative, it would have been Dr Ansari.
Q Don't you think there is fear of the different communities violently quarrelling among themselves when the British withdraw from India?
A I have compared the British rule to a wedge and no sooner the wedge is removed than the divided parts will unite. But even if we continue to fight, I should think it a godsend. A man who broods on evil is as bad as a man who does evil, if he is no worse, and so, if we are prevented from running at one another's throats simply because of the superimposed force of alien rule, the sooner that force is removed the better. We should fight harder for a time, but we should unite better ultimately.
Separate electorates to the untouchables will ensure them bondage in perpetuity. The Mussalmans will never cease to be Mussalmans by having separate electorates. Do you want the untouchables to remain untouchables for ever? Well, the separate electorates would perpetuate the stigma. What is needed is destruction of untouchability and when you have done it, the bar sinister which has been imposed by an insolent "superior" class upon an "inferior" class will be destroyed.... Have you got separate electorates for the working classes or women? With adult franchise you give the untouchables complete security. Even the orthodox Hindus would have to approach them for votes.
Congress foolishly lent itself to a communal settlement and it cannot be easily undone. How can I go out of an express train and jump into an aeroplane? I shall only be falling to my destruction... The Congress considers it bad for Mussalmans, Sikhs, Hindus and bad for the nation to give them separate electorates. But it is worst for untouchables. Untouchables are above this. For me who feels with them and knows their life, it is equal to killing them if separate electorates are given them. They are in the hands of superior classes. They can suppress them completely and wreak vengeance upon the untouchables who are at their mercy.
I may be opening out my shame to you. But, in the existing circumstances, how can I invite destruction for them? I would not be guilty of that crime. Dr Ambedkar, able as he is, has unhappily lost his head over this question. He sees blood wherever Hinduism is. If he was a real representative, I should have withdrawn. Today he cannot coherently think of the problem. I repudiate his claim to represent them. I am the representative of the depressed classes. Get a mandate and I may not be elected but Ambedkar cannot be returned. The Congress Scheme covers the interest of minorities completely.
My quarrel with you is this. I know that every honest Englishman wants to see India free, but is it not tragic for them to feel that the moment British arms are removed there would be invasions and internecine strife? Well, as against that, my contention is that it is the British presence that is the cause of internal chaos, because you have ruled India according to the principle of divide and rule. Because of your benevolent intentions you feel that the harrow does not hurt the toad. In the nature of things, it cannot but hurt. It is not that you are in India in response to our invitation. You must realize that there is sullen discontent everywhere and everyone says, "We do not want foreign rule." And why this over-anxiety about how we would fare without you? Go to the pre-British period. History does not record a larger number of Hindu-Muslim riots. In fact, the history of my own times shows a darker record. The fact is that the British arms are powerless to prevent riots, though they are powerful enough to punish the guilty and the innocent. We hear of no riots in the reign of even Aurangzeb. As for the invasions, the worst invasion left the villages untouched. There were periodic visitations of the plague. If to avoid that kind of plague, which after all may be a cleansing process, we should have to maintain an army of doctors and starve ourselves to pay for them, we would far rather have the cleansing process. Take the occasional inroads of tigers and lions. Would we submit to the erection of castles and fortresses at the expense of millions of rupees rather than fight the beasts straight and take the risks? Pardon me, we are not such a nation of absolute cowards who would always run away from risk. Better that we were wiped off the face of the earth than remain alive sustained by foreign bayonets. No, you must trust us to know how to patch up our quarrels and to deal with invasions. India, which has survived many invasions, and showed a culture and a civilization unsurpassed by any on earth, need not be pitied and kept in cotton-wool.
The Manchester Guardian: He said that if the children received the right kind of training and if the education was what it really should be - to bring out what was best in them - we could have great hopes of the future generation. The general situation at the present moment is so gloomy and the only ray of light in the gloom is through the children who, profiting from our mistakes and bitterness and jealousies, can leave the world a better place for their being in it. [This was at the annual meeting of the Children's House at Bow, run under the auspices of the Kingsley Hall Settlement. Gandhiji also attended a party held before the meeting.]
The Congress has purified politics. It has almost spiritualized it, though personally I do not like that word. We are out to win freedom with non-violence and truth, by removal of untouchability, and by recognition of every villager as a human being. Our non-co-operation fight signifies that no man can possibly tyrannize over another. Our whole movement is based on morality. We do not believe in the theory of the sweet will of our rulers. You know what we do in India. When authorities say do this, which we know is a wrong order, we say, thank you, we will not do it. We say we won't do anything which injures our self-respect, hurts our human dignity, and in such a struggle even millionaires have discarded their wealth and have ultimately become trustees of their wealth for the betterment of Indian villagers.
Asked what he considered were the chief agencies responsible for the non-success of the Conference, Mahatma Gandhi replied that he believed the fault to lie equally with the Indians for failing to reach a settlement over the communal question, and with the British Government for the wrong lead that it had given in the early stages of the Conference. By making the communal question the central issue in the whole scheme, the Government had laid the way open for Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims to pull their own ways. In reality, the communal question was only one of many issues, and the Conference was not necessarily the instrument to bring about a communal settlement. When the Government called together the Conference, it knew that the communal leaders had not come to an agreement, and by bringing the communal question to the fore immediately the Government prepared the way for disunion, and for perpetuating that disunion. Also one must remember that the Conference is a packed Conference of non-responsible members. What the British Government did not realize was that the Congress is the nation as far as swaraj is concerned. Had the Government recognized this instead of treating the Congress as just one among the other parties, all this time would not have been wasted.
I would like to repeat what I have said before, that while the Congress will always accept any solution that may be acceptable to the Hindus, the Mohammedans and the Sikhs, Congress will be no party to special reservation or special electorates for any other minorities. The Congress will always endorse clauses or reservations at to fundamental rights and civil liberty. It will be open to everybody to be palced on the voters; roll and to appeal to the common body of the electorates.
...I can understand the claims advanced by other minorities, but the claims advanced on behalf of the untouchables, that to me is the "unkindest cut of all". It means the perpetual bar-sinister. I would not sell the vital interests of the untouchables even for the sake of winning the freedom of India. I claim myself in my own person to represent the vast mass of the untouchables. Here I speak not merely on behalf of the Congress, but I speak on my own behalf, and I claim that I would get, if there was a referendum of the untouchables, their vote, and that I would top the poll. And I would work from one end of India to the other to tell the untouchables that separate electorates and separate reservation is not the way to remove this bar-sinister, which is the shame, not of them, but of orthodox Hinduism.
Let this Committee and let the whole world know that today there is a body of Hindu reformers who are pledged to remove this blot of untouchability. We do not want on our register and on our census untouchables classified as a separate class. Sikhs amy remain as such in perpetuity, so may Mohammedans, so may Europeans. Will untouchables remain untouchables in perpetuity? I would far rather that Hinduism died than that untouchability lived. Therefore, with all my regard for Dr. Ambedkar, and for his desire to see the untouchables uplifted, with all my regard for his ability, I must say in all humility that here the great wrong under which he has laboured and perhaps the bitter experiences that he has undergone have for the moment warped his judgement. It hurts me to have to say this, but I would be untrue to the cause of the untouchables, which is as dear to me as life itself, if I did not say it. I will not bargain away their rights for the kingdom of the whole world. I am speaking with a due sense of responsibility, and I say that it is not a proper claim which is registered by Dr. Ambedkar when he seeks to speak for the whole of the untouchables of India. It will create a division in Hinduism which I cannot possibly look forward to with any satisfaction whatsoever. I do not mind untouchables, if they so desire, being converted to Islam or Christianity. I should tolerate that, but I cannot possibly tolerate what is in store for Hinduism if there are two divisions set forth in the villages. Those who speak of the political rights of untouchables do not know their India, do not know how Indian society is today constructed, and therefore I want to say with all the emphasis that I can command that, if I was the only person to resist this thing, I would resist it with my life.
As you are all aware, the Congress case is that there should be complete responsibility transferred to India. That means, and it has been there stated, that there should be complete control over Defence and over External Affairs; but it also contemplates adjustments. I feel that we ought not to deceive ourselves, deceive the world, into thinking that we would be getting responsible government although we may not ask for responsibility in this vital matter. I think that a nation that has no control over her own defence forces and over her external policy is hardly a responsible nation. Defence, its Army, is to a nation the very essence of its existence, and if a nation's defence is controlled by an outside agency, no matter how friendly it is, then that nation is certainly not responsibly governed. This is what our English teachers have taught us times without number, and therefore some Englishmen twitted me also when they heard the talk that we would have responsible government, but we would not have or would not claim control over our own defence forces.
Hence I am here very respectfully to claim, on behalf of the Congress, complete control over the Army, over the Defence forces and over External Affairs.
What I am anxious to do is, having come all these miles with the greatest diffidence, having come here to tender my whole-hearted co-operation to the Government and to this Conference, without the slightest mental reservation, and having applied that spirit of cooperation in thought, word and deed, to leave nothing undone, I have not hesitated even to go into the danger zone, and hence I have dared to talk about and discuss Provincial autonomy. But I have come to the conclusion that you, or the British Ministers, do not contemplate giving that measure of Provincial autonomy which would satisfy a man of my mentality, which would satisfy the Congress, and which would reconcile the Congress to taking up Provincial autonomy although there may be delay in getting responsibility at the Centre.
...I want to take for my illustration Bengal, because it is one of the Provinces today in India which is deeply affected. I know that there is a terrorist school active in Bengal. Everybody ought to realize by this time that I can have no manner of sympathy with that terrorist school in any shape or form. I am as convinced as I have ever been that terrorism is the worst kind of action that any reformer can take up. Terrorism is the very worst thing for India in a special manner, because India is a foreign soil for terrorism to flourish in. I am convinced that those young Indians who are giving their lives for what they consider to be a good cause are simply throwing away their lives, and that they are not bringing the country by one inch nearer to the goal which is common, I hope, to us all.
I am convinced of all these things, but, having been convinced of them, supposing that Bengal had Provincial autonomy today, what would Bengal do? Bengal would set free every one of the detenus. Bengal would not hunt down the terrorists - an autonomous Bengal, I mean - but Bengal would try to reach these terrorists and convert these terrorists, and I should approach them with every confidence and wipe out terrorism from Bengal.
But let me go a little step further, in order to drive home the truth that is in me. If Bengal was autonomous, that autonomy itself would really remove terrorism from Bengal, because these terrorists foolishly consider that their action is the shortest cut to freedom; but, having attained that freedom, the terrorism would cease.
...So you see what is my conception of Provincial autonomy. ...I would not allow a single soldier to enter the Province of Bengal; I would not pay a single farthing for the upkeep of an army which I may not command.
PRIME MINISTER AND FRIENDS.
I wish that I could have done without having to speak to you, but I felt that I would not have been just to you or just to my principles if I did not put in what may be the last word on behalf of the Congress. I live under no illusion. I do not think that anything that I can say this evening can possibly influence the decision of the Cabinet. Probably the decision has been already taken. Matters of the liberty of practically a whole continent can hardly be decided by mere argumentation, even negotiation. Negotiation has its purpose and has its play, but only under certain conditions. Without those conditions negotiations are a fruitless task. But I do not want to go into all these matters. I want as far as possible to confine myself within the four corners of the conditions that you, Prime Minister, read to this Conference at its opening meeting. I would, therefore, first of all, say a few words in connection with the Reports that have been submitted to this Conference. You will find in these Reports that generally it has been stated that so and so is the opinion of a large majority, some, however, have expressed an opinion to the contrary, and so on. Parties who have dissented have not been stated. I had heard when I was in India, and I was told when I came here, that no decision or no decisions will be taken by the ordinary rule of majority, and I do not want to mention this fact here by way of complaint that the Reports have been so framed as if the proceedings were governed by the test of majority. But it was necessary for me to mention this fact, because to most of these Reports you will find that there is a dissenting opinion, and in most of the cases that dissent unfortunately happens to belong to me. It was not a matter of joy to have to dissent from fellow Delegates, but I felt that I could not truly represent the Congress unless I notified that dissent.
There is another thing which I want to bring to the notice of this Conference, namely: what is the meaning of the dissent of the Congress? I said at one of the preliminary meetings of the Federal Structure Committee that the Congress claimed to represent over 85 per cent of the population of India, that is to say, the dumb, toiling, semi-starved millions. But I went further: that the Congress claimed also by right of service to represent even the Princes, if they would pardon my putting forth that claim, and the landed gentry, the educated class. I wish to repeat that claim and I wish this evening to emphasize that claim.
All the other parties at this meeting represent sectional interests. Congress alone claims to represent the whole of India, all interests. It is no communal organization; it is a determined enemy of communalism in any shape or form. Congress knows no distinction of race, colour or creed; its platform is universal. It may not always have lived up to the creed. I do not know a single human organization that lives up to its creed. Congress has failed very often to my knowledge. It may have failed more often to the knowledge of its critics. But the worst critic will have to recognize, as it has been recognized, that the National Congress of India is a daily-growing organization, that its message penetrates the remotest village of India; that on given occasions the Congress has been able to demonstrate its influence over and among these masses who inhabit 700,000 villages.
And yet here I see that the Congress is treated as one of the Parties. I do not mind it; I do not regard it as a calamity for the Congress; but I do regard it as a calamity for the purpose of doing the work for which we have gathered together here. I wish I could convince all the British public men, the British Ministers, that the Congress is capable of delivering the goods. The Congress is the only all-India-wide national organization, bereft of any communal basis; that it does represent all the minorities which have lodged their Claims here and which, or the signatories on their behalf, claim I hold unjustifiably-to represent 46 per cent of the population of India. The Congress, I say, claims to represent all these minorities.
What a great difference it would be today if this claim on behalf of the Congress was recognized. I feel that I have to state this claim with some degree of emphasis on behalf of peace, for the sake of achieving the purpose which is common to all of us, to you Englishmen who sit at this table, and to us the Indian men and women who also sit at this table. I say so for this reason. Congress is a powerful organization; Congress is an organization which has been accused of running or desiring to run a parallel Government; and in a way I have endorsed the charge. If you could understand the working of the Congress, you would welcome an organization which could run a parallel Government and show that it is possible for an organization, voluntary, without any force at its command, to run the machinery of Government even under adverse circumstances. But no. Although you have invited the Congress, you distrust the Congress. Although you have invited the Congress, you reject its claim to represent the whole of India. Of course it is possible at this end of the world to dispute that claim, and it is not possible for me to prove this claim; but, all the same, if you find me asserting that claim, I do so because a tremendous responsibility rests upon my shoulders.
The Congress represents the spirit of rebellion. I know that the word 'rebellion' must not be whispered at a Conference which has been summoned in order to arrive at an agreed solution of India's troubles through negotiation. Speaker after speaker has got up and said that India should achieve her liberty through negotiation, by argument, and that it will be the greatest glory of Great Britain if Great Britain yields to India's demands by argument. But the Congress does not hold that view, quite. The Congress has an alternative which is unpleasant to you.
I heard several speakers-and let me say I have endeavoured not to miss a single sitting; I have tried to follow every speaker with the utmost attention and with all the respect that I could possibly give to these speakers-saying what a dire calamity it would be if India was fired with the spirit of lawlessness, rebellion, terrorism and so on. I do not pretend to have read history, but as a schoolboy I had to pass a paper in history also, and I read that the page of history is soiled red with the blood of those who have fought for freedom. I do not know an instance in which nations have attained to their own without having to go through an incredible measure of travail. The dagger of the assassin, the poison bowl, the bullet of the rifleman, the spear and all these weapons and methods of destruction have been up to now used by what I consider blind lovers of liberty and freedom, and the historian has not condemned him. I hold no brief for the terrorists. Mr. Ghuznavi brought in the terrorists and he brought in the Calcutta Corporation. I felt hurt when he mentioned an incident that took place at the Calcutta Corporation. He forgot to mention that the Mayor of that Corporation made handsome reparation for the error into which he himself was betrayed and the error into which the Calcutta Corporation was betrayed through the instrumentality of those members of the Corporation who were Congressmen. I hold no brief for Congressmen who directly or indirectly would encourage terrorism. As soon as this incident was brought to the notice of the Congress, the Congress set about putting it in order. It immediately called upon the Mayor of the Calcutta Corporation to give an account of what was done and the Mayor, the gentleman that he is, immediately admitted his mistake and made all the reparation that it was then legally possible to make. I must not detain this Assembly over this incident for any length of time. He mentioned also a verse which the children of the forty schools conducted by the Calcutta Corporation are supposed to have recited. There were many other misstatements in that speech which I could dwell upon, but I have no desire to do so. It is only out of regard for the great Calcutta Corporation and out of regard for truth and on behalf of those who are not here tonight to put in their defence that I mention these two glaring instances. I do not for one moment believe that this was taught in the Calcutta Corporation schools with the knowledge of the Calcutta Corporation. I do know that in those terrible days of last year, several things were done for which we have regret, for which we have made reparation. If our boys in Calcutta were taught these verses which Mr. Ghuznavi has recited, I am here to tender an apology on their behalf, but I should want it proved that the boys were taught by the schoolmasters of these schools with the knowledge and encouragement of the Corporation.
Charges of this nature have been brought against the Congress times without number, and times without number these charges have also been refuted, but I have mentioned these things at this juncture. It is again to show that for the sake of liberty people have fought, people have lost their lives, people have killed and have sought death at the hands of those whom they have sought to oust. The Congress then comes upon the scene and devises a new method not known to history, namely, that of civil disobedience, and the Congress has been following that method up. But again I am up against a stone wall and I am told that that is a method that no government in the world will tolerate. Well, of course, the Government may not tolerate, no government has tolerated open rebellion. No government may tolerate civil disobedience, but governments have to succumb even to these forces, as the British Government has done before now, even as the great Dutch Government after eight years of trial had to yield to the logic of facts. General Smuts is a brave General, a great statesman, and a very hard taskmaster also, but he himself recoiled with horror from even the contemplation of doing to death innocent men and women who were merely fighting for the preservation of their self-respect, and the things which he had vowed he would never yield in the year 1908, reinforced as he was by General Botha, he had to do in the year 1914, after having tried these civil resisters through and through. And in India Lord Chelmsford had to do the same thing; the Governor of Bombay had to do the same thing in Borsad and Bardoli. I suggest to you, Prime Minister, it is too late today to resist this, and it is this thing which weighs me down, this choice that lies before them, the parting of the ways probably. I shall hope against hope, I shall strain every nerve to achieve an honourable settlement for my country if I can do so without having to put the millions of my countrymen and countrywomen and even children through this ordeal of fire. It can be a matter of no joy and comfort to me to lead them on again to a fight of that character, but if a further ordeal of fire has to be our lot, I shall approach that with the greatest joy and with the greatest consolation that I was doing what I felt to be right, the country was doing what it felt to be right, and the country will have the additional satisfaction of knowing that it was not at least taking lives, it was giving lives; it was not making the British people directly suffer, it was suffering. Professor Gilbert Murray told me-I shall never forget that-I am paraphrasing his inimitable language. He said: You do not consider for one moment that the Englishmen do not suffer when thousands of your countrymen suffer, that we are so heartless? I do not think so. I do know that you will suffer; but I want you to suffer because I want to touch your hearts; and when your hearts have been touched will come the psychological moment for negotiation. Negotiation there always will be; and if this time I have travelled all these miles in order to enter upon negotiation, I thought that your countryman, Lord Irwin, had sufficiently tried us through his ordinances, that he had sufficient evidence that thousands of men and women of India and that thousands of children had suffered; and that, ordinance or no ordinance, lathis or no lathis, nothing would avail to stem the tide that was onrushing and to stem the passions that were rising in the breasts of the men and women of India who were thirsting for liberty.
Whilst there is yet a little sand left in the glass, I want you to understand what this Congress stands for. My life is at your disposal. The lives of all the members of the Working Committee, the All India Congress Committee, are at your disposal. But remember that you have at your disposal the lives of all these dumb millions. I do not want to sacrifice those lives if I can possibly help it. Therefore please remember that I will consult no sacrifice too great if by chance I can pull through an honourable settlement. You will find me always having the greatest spirit of compromise if I can but fire you with the spirit that is working in the Congress, namely, that India must have real liberty. Call it by any name you like; a rose will smell as sweet by any other name, but it must be the rose of liberty that I want and not the artificial product. If your mind and the Congress mind, the mind of this Conference and the mind of the British people, mean the same thing by the same word, then you will find the amplest room for compromise, and will find the Congress itself always in a compromising spirit. But so long as there is not that one mind, that one definition, not one implication for the same word that you and I and we may be using, so long there is no compromise possible. How can there be any compromise so long as we each one of us has a different definition for the same words that we may be using. It is impossible, Prime Minister, I want to suggest to you in all humility that it is utterly impossible then to find a meeting ground, to find a ground where you can apply the spirit of compromise. And I am very grieved to have to say that up to now I have not been able to discover a common definition for the terms that we have been exchanging during all these weary weeks.
I was shown last week the Statute of Westminster by a sceptic, and he said: "Have you seen the definition of 'Dominion'? " I read the definition of 'Dominion', and naturally I was not at all perplexed or shocked to see that the word 'Dominion' was exhaustively defined, and it has not a general definition but a particular definition. It simply said: the word 'Dominion' shall include Australia, South Africa, Canada and so on, ending with the Irish Free State. I do not think I noticed Egypt there. Then he said: "Do you see what your Dominion means ?" It did not make any impression upon me. I do not mind what my Dominion means or what Complete Independence means. In a way I was relieved. I said I am now relieved from having to quarrel about the word 'Dominion', because I am out of it. But I want Complete independence, and even so, so many Englishmen have said: "Yes, you can have Complete independence, but what is the meaning of 'complete independence' ?" And again we come to different definitions. Therefore, I say the Congress claim is registered as Complete Independence.
One of your great statesmen' -I do not think I should give his name-was debating with me, and he said: "Honestly, I did not know that you meant this by Complete independence." He ought to have known, but he did not know, and I shall tell you what he did not know. When I said to him, "I cannot be a partner in an Empire," he said, "of course, that is logical." I said, "But I want to become that. It is not as if I shall be if I am compelled to, but I want to become a partner with Great Britain. I want to become a partner with the English people; but I want to enjoy precisely the same liberty that your people enjoy, and I want to seek this partnership not merely for the benefit of India, and not merely for mutual benefits; I want to seek this partnership in order that the great weight that is crushing the world to atoms may be lifted from off its shoulders."
This took place ten or twelve days ago. Strange as it may appear, I got a note from another Englishman whom also you know and whom also you respect. Among many things he writes: "I believe profoundly that the peace and happiness of mankind depend on our friendship," and as if I would not understand that, he says, "your people and mine". I must read to you what he also says, "And of all Indians you are the one that the real Englishman likes and understands."
He does not waste any words on flattery, and I do not think he has intended this last expression to flatter me. It will not flatter me in the slightest degree. There are many things in this note which, if I could share them with you, would perhaps make you understand better the significance of this expression, but let me tell you that, when he writes this last sentence, he does not mean me personally. I personally signify nothing, and I know I would mean nothing to any single Englishman; but I mean something to some Englishmen because I represent a cause, because I seek to represent a nation, a great organization which has made itself felt. That is the reason why he says this.
But then, if I could possibly find that working basis, Prime Minister, there is ample room for compromise. It is friendship I crave. My business is not to throw overboard the slave-holder and tyrant. My philosophy forbids me to do so, and today the Congress has accepted that philosophy not as a creed, as it is to me, but as a policy, because the Congress believes that it is the right and best thing for India, a nation of three hundred and fifty millions, to do. A nation of 350 million people does not need the dagger of the assassin, it does not need the poison bowl, it does not need the sword, the spear or the bullet. It needs simply a will of its own, an ability to say "No", and that nation is today learning to say "No".
But what is it that that nation does? Summarily, or at all, dismiss Englishmen? No. Its mission is today to convert Englishmen. I do not want to break the bond between England and India, but I do want to transform that bond. I want to transform that slavery into complete freedom for my country. Call it 'complete independence' or whatever you like, I will not quarrel about that word, and even though my countrymen may dispute with me for having taken some other word, I shall be able to bear down that opposition so long as the content of the word that you may suggest to me bears the same meaning. Hence I have times without number to urge upon your attention that the safeguards that have been suggested are completely unsatisfactory. They are not in the interests of India.
Three experts from the Federation of Commerce and Industry have in their own manner, each in his different manner, told you out of their expert experience how utterly impossible it is for any body of responsible Ministers to tackle the problem of administration when 80 per cent of India's resources are mortgaged irretrievably. Better than I could have shown to you they have shown, out of the amplitude of their knowledge, what these financial safeguards mean for India. They mean the complete cramping of India. They have discussed at this table financial safeguards, but that includes necessarily the question of Defence and the question of the Army. Yet, while I say that the safeguards are unsatisfactory as they have been presented, I have not hesitated to say, and I do not hesitate to repeat, that the Congress is pledged to giving safeguards, endorsing safeguards which may be demonstrated to be in the interests of India.
At one of the sittings of the Federal Structure Committee, I had no hesitation in amplifying the admission and saying that these safeguards must be also of benefit to Great Britain. I do not want safeguards which are merely beneficial to India and prejudicial to the real interests of Great Britain The fancied interests of India will have to be sacrificed. The fancied interests of Great Britain will have to be sacrificed. The illegitimate interests of India will have to be sacrificed. The illegitimate interests of Great Britain will also have to be sacrificed. Therefore, again I repeat, if we have the same meaning for the same word, I will agree with Mr. Jayakar, with Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, and other distinguished speakers who have spoken at this Conference. I will agree with them all, that we have after all, after all these labours, reached a substantial measure of agreement, but my despair, my grief, is that I do not read the same words in the same light. The implications of the safeguards of Mr. Jayakar, I very much fear, are different from my implications, and the implications of Mr. Jayakar and myself are perhaps only different from the implications that Sir Samuel Hoare, for instance, has in mind; I do not know. We have never really come to grips. We have never come to brass tacks as you put it, and I am anxious-I have been pining to come to real grips and to brass tacks all these days and all these nights, and I have felt: 'Why are we not coming nearer and nearer together, and why are we wasting our time in eloquence, in oratory, in debating, and in scoring points?' Heaven knows I have no desire to hear my own voice. Heaven knows I have no desire to take part in any debating. I know that liberty is made of sterner stuff; and I know that the freedom of India is made of much sterner stuff. We have problems that would baffle any statesman, we have problems that other nations have not to tackle. But they do not baffle me; they cannot baffle those who have been brought up in the Indian climate. Those problems are there with us. Just as we have to tackle our bubonic plague, we have to tackle the problem of malaria. We have to tackle, as you have not, the problem of snakes and scorpions, monkeys, tigers and lions. We have to tackle these problems because we have been brought up under them. They do not baffle us. Somehow or other we have survived the ravages of these venomous reptiles and various creatures. So also shall we survive our problems and find a way out of these problems. But today you and we have come together at a Round Table and we want to find a common formula which will work. Please believe me that, whilst I abate not a tittle of the claim that I have registered on behalf of the Congress, which I do not propose to repeat here, while I withdraw not one word of the speeches that I had to make at the federal Structure Committee, I am here to compromise; I am here to consider every formula that British ingenuity can prepare, every formula that the ingenuity of such constitutionalists as Mr. Sastri, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Mr. Jayakar, Mr. Jinnah, Sir Muhammad Shafi, and a host of other constitutionalists can weave into being. I will not be baffled. I shall be here as long as I am required because I do not want to revive civil disobedience. I want to turn the truce that was arrived at, at Delhi, into a permanent settlement. But for heaven's sake give me, a frail man, 62 years gone, a little bit of a chance. Find a little corner for him and the organization that he represents. You distrust that organization though you may seemingly trust me. Do not for one moment differentiate me from the organization of which I am but a drop in the ocean. I am no greater than the organization to which I belong. I am infinitely smaller than that organization; and if you find me a place, if you trust me, I invite you to trust the Congress also. Your trust in me otherwise is a broken reed. I have no authority save what I derive from the Congress. If you will work the Congress for all it is worth, then you will say goodbye to terrorism; then you will not need terrorism. Today you have to fight the school of terrorists which is there with your disciplined and organized terrorism, because you will be blind to the facts or the writing on the wall. Will you not see the writing that these terrorists are writing with their blood? Will you not see that we do not want bread made of wheat, but we want bread of liberty; and without that liberty there are thousands today who are sworn not to give themselves peace or to give the country peace.
I urge you then to read that writing on the wall. I ask you not to try the patience of a people known to be proverbially patient. We speak of the mild Hindu, and the Mussalman also by contact, good or evil, with the Hindu, has himself become mild. And that mention of the Mussalman brings me to the baffling problem of minorities. Believe me, that problem exists here, and I repeat what I used to say in India-I have not forgotten those words-that without the problem of minorities being solved there is no swaraj for India, there is no freedom for India. I know that, I realize it; and yet I came here in the hope, perchance, that I might be able to pull through a solution here. But I do not despair of' some day or other finding a real and living solution in connection with the minorities problem. I repeat what I have said elsewhere, that so long as the wedge in the shape of foreign rule divides commmunity from community and Class from Class, there will be no real living solution, there will be no living friendship between these communities. It will be after all and at best a paper solution. But immediately you withdraw that wedge, the domestic ties, the domestic affections, the knowledge of common birth - do you suppose that all these will count for nothing?
Were Hindus and Mussalmans and Sikhs always at war with one another when there was no British rule, when there was no English face seen there? We have chapter and verse given to us by Hindu historians and by Mussalman historians to say that we were living in comparative peace even then. And Hindus and Mussalmans in the villages are not even today quarrelling. In those days they were not known to quarrel at all. The late Maulana Muhammad Ali often used to tell me, and he was himself a bit of an historian, he said, "If God"-'Allah', as he called God-"gives me life, I propose to write the history of Mussalman rule in India; and then I will show through documents that British people have erred, that Aurangzeb was not so vile as he has been painted by the British historian; that the Mogul rule was not so bad as it has been shown to us in British history," and so on. And so have Hindu historians written. This quarrel is not old; this quarrel is coeval with this acute shame, I dare to say it is coeval with the British advent, and immediately this relationship, the unfortunate, artificial, unnatural relationship, between Great Britain and India is transformed into a natural relationship, when it becomes, if it does become, a voluntary partnership to be given up, to be dissolved at the will of either party, when it becomes that you will find that Hindus, Mussalmans, Sikhs, Europeans, Anglo-Indians, Christians, untouchables, will all live together as one man.
I want to say one word about the Princes, and I shall have done. I have not said much about the Princes, nor do I intend to say much tonight about the Princes, but I should be wronging them, and I should be wronging the Congress if I did not register my claim, not with the Round Table Conference, but with the Princes. It is open to the Princes to give their terms on which they will join the Federation. I have appealed to them to make the path easy for those who inhabit the other part of India, and therefore I can only make these suggestions for their favourable consideration, for their earnest consideration. I think that if they accepted, no matter what they are, but some fundamental rights as the common property of all India, and if they accepted that position and allowed those rights to be tested by the Court, which will be again of their own creation, and if they introduced elements-only elements-of representation on behalf of their subjects, I think that they would have gone a long way to conciliate their subjects. They would have gone a long way to show to the world and to show to the whole of India that they are also fired with a democratic spirit, that they do not want to remain undiluted autocrats, but that they want to become constitutional monarchs even as King George of Great Britain is.
Sir, a note has been placed in my hands by my friend Sir Abdul Qaiyum, and he says, will not I say one word about the Frontier Province? I will, and it is this. Let India get what she is entitled to and what she can really take, but whatever she gets, whenever she gets it, let the Frontier Province get complete autonomy today. That Frontier will then be a standing demonstration to the whole of India, and therefore, the whole vote of the Congress will be given in favour of the Frontier Province getting Provincial autonomy tomorrow. Prime Minister, if you can possibly get your Cabinet to endorse the proposition that from tomorrow the Frontier Province becomes a full-fledged autonomous Province, I shall then have a proper footing amongst the Frontier tribes and convene them to my assistance when those over the border cast an evil eye on India.
Last of all, my last is a pleasant task for me. This is, perhaps, the last time that I shall be sitting with you at negotiations. It is not that I want that. I want to sit at the same table with you in your closets and to negotiate and to plead with you and to go down on bended knees before I take the final leap and final plunge. But whether I have the good fortune to continue to tender my co-operation or not does not depend upon me. It largely depends upon you. But it may not even depend upon you. It depends upon so many circumstances over which neither you nor we may have any control whatsoever. Then let me perform this pleasant task of giving my thanks to all-from Their Majesties down to the poorest men in the East End, where I have taken up my habitation.
In that settlement which represents the poor people of the East End of London I have become one of them. They have accepted me as a member, and as a favoured member of their family. It will be one of the richest treasures that I shall carry with me. Here, too, I have found nothing but courtesy and nothing but a genuine affection from all with whom I have come in touch. I have come in touch with so many Englishmen. It has been a priceless privilege to me. They have listened to what must have often appeared to them to be unpleasant, although it was true. Although I have often been obliged to say these things to them, they have never shown the slightest impatience or irritation. It is impossible for me to forget these things No matter what befalls me, no matter what the fortunes may be of this Round Table Conference, one thing I shall certainly carry with me-that is from high to low I have found nothing but the utmost courtesy and the utmost affection. I consider that it was well worth my paying this visit to England in order to find this human affection. It has enhanced, it has deepened my irrepressible faith in human nature that although Englishmen and Englishwomen have been fed upon lies so often that I see disfiguring your Press, that although in Lancashire the Lancashire people had perhaps some reason for becoming irritated against me, I found no irritation, no resentment even in the operatives. The operatives, men and women, hugged me. They treated me as one of their own. I shall never forget that.
I am carrying with me thousands upon thousands of English friendships. I do not know them, but I read that affection in their eyes as early in the morning I walk through your streets. All this hospitality, all this kindness will never be effaced from my memory no matter what befalls my unhappy land. I thank you for your forbearance.
Q You have often said that Western civilization is Satanic. What are its Satanic elements, and are none of these elements present in Indian civilization?
A Western civilization is material, frankly material. It measures progress by the progress of matter - railways, conquest of disease, conquest of the air. These are the triumphs of civilization according to Western measure. No one says, "Now the people are more truthful or more humble." I judge it by my own test and I use the word "Satanic" in describing it. You set such store by the temporal, external things. The essential of eastern civilization is that it is spiritual, immaterial. The fruits of Western civilization the East may approach with avidity but with a sense of guilt. Your idea is the more you want the better you are, and you don't fall far short in your belief. Your civilization has gone from one stage to another. There is no end to it. You are proud of your conquest over nature, but this makes no appeal to me. You might see me fly tomorrow, but I should be feeling guilty about it. Suppose all your London tubes and buses were taken away. I should say, "Thank God I shall be able to walk to my quarters at Bow, even if it takes me three hours.
The English people should believe me when I say that, if it falls to my lot to fight them, I will be engaged in the fight, never out of hatred but most surely out of love, even as I have fought some of my dearest relations. Hence I am determined to make every effort to continue co-operation as far as it is consistent with national self-respect.
I must, however, confess that the more I study the Bengal Ordinance the more I am filled with misgivings of the gravest character. Bad as is the section which makes possible the infliction of capital punishment for attempted murder, there are other sections which are infinitely worse.
We can afford to make a present of a few innocent heads, but it is impossible to contemplate with equanimity the unmanning of the whole people. I am hoping, therefore, that the British will study the Ordinance and insist on the withdrawal of what to me is inhuman exercise of political power.
My last words to England must be: Farewell and beware! I came a seeker after peace. I return fearful of war. I do not want war, but I fear that circumstances are driving me towards it. I should not be surprised to find myself in prison with a month of my return to India...
Never since taking up the editorship of Young India have I, though not being on a sickbed or ina prison, been unable to send something for Young India or Navajivan, as I was during my stay in London.
The uninterrupted series of engagements keeping me awake till over midnight made it physically impossible for me to write anything for these journals. Fortunately, Mahadev Deszi was with me and though he too was overworked, he was able to send a full weekly budget for Young India.
Nevertheless the reader will expect me to give my own impressions of the London visit.
Though I approached the visit in fear and trembling, I am not sorry for having gone there. It brought me touch with the responsible Englishment and women as also with the man in the street. This experience will be of inestimable value in future, whether we have to put up a fight again or not. It is no small matter to know with whom you are fighting or dealing.
It was a good thing that Muriel Lester, the soul of Kingsley Hall settlement, invited me to stay at her settlement and that I was able to accept the invitation. The choice lay between Kingsley Hall and Mr. Brils's Arya Bhavan. I had no difficulty in making my choice not had Mr. Birla. But great pressure was put upon me by Indian friends, and that naturally, to stay at Arya Bhavan. Experience showed that Kingsley Hall was an ideal choice. It is situated among the poor of London and id dedicated purely to their service. Several women and some men, under the inspiration of Muriel Lester, have dedicated themselves to such service. Not a corner of the big building is used for any other purpose. There is religious service, there are entertainments, there are lectures, billiards, reading-room, etc., for the use of the poor. The in-mates live a life of severe simplicity. There is no superfluous furniture to be found in all that settlement. The inmates occupy tiny rooms called cells. It was no joke to accommodate five of us in that settlement. But love makes room where there is none. Four settlers vacated to their cells which were placed at our disposal. Bedding, etc., had to be borrowed. Fortunately, we had all armed ourselves with sufficient blankets and, being used to squat on the floor, most of the articles borrowed could be returned. But, there was no doubt, my presence at the settlement put a severe tax on its time, space and other resources. But the good people would not hear of my leaving it. And to me it was a privilege to receive the loving, silent and unseen services of the members and a perennial joy to come in vital contact with the poor of the East End of London. Needless to say I was able to live exactly as in India, and early morning walks through the streets of East London are a memory that can never be effaced. During these walks I had most intimate talks with those members who joined me and others whom Muriel allowed. For she was a vigilant guardian of my time whilst I was in the settlement. And she would get easily angry if she heard that my time was being abused by people when she was not by me.
During my stay in East London, I saw the best side of human nature and was able to confirm my intuitive opinion that at bottom there was neither East nor West. And as I received the smiling greetings of the East Enders, I knew that they had no malice in them and they wanted India to regain her independence. This experience has brought me closer to England if such a thing was possible. For me the fight is never with individuals, it is ever with their manners and their measures. But this intimate contact with the simple poor people of the East End, including the little children, will put me still more on my guard against any hasty action.
I may not omit my all too brief experience of Lancashire and its operatives and employers whom, to my agreeable surprise, I found to be so free from prejudice and receptive of new facts and arguments drawn from the,. Here, of course, the ground was prepared for me by Charlie Andrews. I must mention too the never-to-be-forgotten visit to Mr. C. P. Scott of the Manchester Guardian, the most impartial and the most honest paper in Great Britain. A great British statesman told me the Guardian was the sanest and the most honest journal in the world. Nor can I easily forget the communions at Canterbury, Chichester, Oxford, Cambridge and Eton. They gave me an insight into the working of the British mind which I could have got through no other means. These contacts have brought about friendships which will endure for ever. I do not omit the two detectives and their companions and the many constables who were told off to look after me. To me Sergeants Evans and Rogers, the two detectives, were no mere police-officers. They became my trusty guides and friends looking after my comforts with the punctilious care of loving nurses. And it was a matter of great joy to me that they were permitted at my request to accompany me as far as Brindisi.