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Full text of "India A Plea For Understanding"

INDIA: 

A Pie* for Understanding- 



By 
DOROTHY HOGG 

Author of "Challenge of the East," 
"The Moral Challenge of Gandhi" 
and "India on (he March." 



KITAB MAHAL 

ALLAHABAD 



FIRST INDIAN EDITION, 1946 



PRINTED BT J. K. SHARMA, AT THE ALLAHABAD LAW JOURNAL 

PRESS, ALIJ1HABAD AND PUBLISHED BT KITAB MAHAL, 

56-A, ZERO ROAD, ALLAHABAD (INDIA) 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

From the murmur and subtlety of suspicion 

With which we vex one another 

Give us rest. 

Make a new beginning 
And mingle again the kindred of the nations in 

The alchemy of love. 
And with some finer essence of forbearance 

Temper our minds. ARISTOPHANES. 

1943, and a world at war. Against this grim back- 
ground the twentieth century drama of the estrange- 
ment of Britain and India moves inexorably oik 
towards the close of the final act. 1922, 193 i, 1945, 
have followed in tragic sequence. Though for most 
of us today war fills the horizon, posterity will clearly 
trace those moral upheavals of which war was but 
the outward manifestation. Turning the searchlight 
of Truth on India, they will say, maybe, that it 
was here that the struggle of good and evil within 
and between nations was finally resolved. They 
will write of those Great Incompatibles, who after 
mych travail were rebotn~**w> purified nation* 



4 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

to lay in honourable partnership the unshakable 
foundations of a New Order. Or it may aot 
be so. 

Few people have watched the tragedy from 
its inception. Others have been detained by private 
or public affairs, and have but recently become 
aware of something tremendous happening. 
Inevitably they must now depend on the garbled 
synopses of the Interpreters. But for the early- 
comers who have sat through long hours of strain 
and tension it is not so. They have heard all the 
speeches for themselves, they have wondered at 
the missed cues, the lost opportunities, the ill- 
timed events, the harsh judgments all that sorry 
display of lack of sympathy and intuitive under- 
standing which had brought Acts One and Two 
to their unhappy end. 1931 had followed on 1922, 
with the same old arguments, the same old accusa- 
tions, the same old fears. Must it now happen 
all over again ? Need it ? Will no statesman arise 
with vision and courage to break the fetters of un- 
imaginative thinking and point a better way ? 

Not that the few dare claim to have the key to 
all mysteries. Nor are they insensitive to the 
difficulties. Often enough the mental approach 
of the East has been baffling to them, the language 
perplexing, the attitude irritating. But they have 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 5 

caught the look on the faces 6f the chief actors, and 
have been stirred by strong voices vibrant with 
a passionate sincerity. A sense of frustrated great* 
ness in the spiritual struggles they have witnessed 
has sent them behind scenes to hear from the lips 
of the actors themselves the true interpretation of 
difficult passages. In the subtlety of that harmony 
which only personal contact can give they have 
found rest from the "subtlety of suspicion with 
which we vex one another." 

But for the majority, the voice of the Inter- 
preter still drones on, crushing with sterile logi<T 
the irery soul of things. How cold, how calculat- 
ing those fine speeches are made to seem in this 
unsympathetic phraseology I Torn from their 
setting, twisted, distorted, they invite mockery 
even anger. *The pity of it I" Has the world no 
eyes to see with, no ears to hear with, no spirit 
with which to comprehend the meaning of this 
tale that is told ? 



Sevagram. Central Provinces, India. Seated 
crosslegged on the floor of the mud hut he calls 
home is a half-clothed Indian. He is spinning. 
*The chief villain," whispers an Interpreter, "Or 
hero, maybe," vouchsafes an unorthodox voice. 



6 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

There is a spreading hiss. Little doubt among 
the audience which he is. Booing begins. "Quiet 
there. Let the man speak." But Gandhi does not 
speak not yet. He looks sad, worried, almost 
dejected. A friend sits beside him."MahadeT, 
will you sing again that song of Gurudev ?" And 
Mahadev Desai sings : 

When the heart is hard and parched up, come 
upon me with a shower of mercy. 

When grace is lost from life, come with a 
burst of song. 

When tumultuous work raises its din on 
all sides shutting me out from beyond, come 
to me, my lord of silence, with thy peace and 
rest.* 

More than twenty years since Gandhi had felt 
the quickening pulse of India, and sensed danger 
ahead as he faced the reality of suppressed millions 
struggling to be free. Revolution ? It was in- 
evitable. But must India follow the usual path of 
violence and bloodshed ? Was there no better 
way ? Not unless he could fashion his people 
according to his own great ideal cause them by the 
untried power of soul-force and suffering to oppose 

*Gttrudev : Rabindranath Tagore. 



INDIA ! A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING f 

and bring to nought what he deemed the unworthy 
might of Empire. A colossal task for such a little 
man. Absurd, of course. Funny, too. And he 
chuckled at the thought of the gossamer threads of 
hfs non-violence spread in the path of advancing 
steam-rollers. Yet so long as there were still men 
in the machine of Empire, so long could his method 
have a chance to prevail. Meanwhile, how should 
he wean the indignant youth of Bengal from ter- 
rorist ways ? How should he cure the wounds of 
the Punjab? For by blunderbuss methods culminat- 
ing in the massacre of Amritsar, by the atrocities 
thattfollowed, and by the insufferable indignities 
heaped ilpon her, India had been hurt deep 
within her very soul. But that he must make the 
experiment he had no doubt for love of India and 
of Britain, too. If not, the seething discontent 
would spread over the land, and conflagration be 
inevitable. Revolution there must be, but let it 
be, then, of a new order open, and non-violent 
the power of the spirit pitted against brute force. 

In 1922, he had tried and failed, by the stan- 
dards of men. But what was it the British judge 
had said, when committing him to six years' im- 
prisonment ? 

Mr. Gandhi, you have made my task easy 

in one way, by pleading guilty to the charge. 



8 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

Nevertheless, what remains, namely, the deter- 
mination of a just sentence, is perhaps as diffi- 
cult a proposition as a judge in this country 
could have to face. The law is no respecter of 
persons. Nevertheless, it will be impossible 
to ignore the fact that you are in a different 
category from any person I have ever tried, or 
am likely to have to try. It would be impos- 
sible to ignore the fact that in the eyes of mil- 
lions of your countrymen you are a great pat- 
riot and a great leader. Even those who differ 
from you in politics look upon you as a man of 
high ideals, and of noble and even saintly life. 
I have to deal with you in one category only. 
It is not my duty, and I do not presume to 
judge or criticize you, in any other character. 
It is my duty to judge you as a man subject 

to the law 1 should like to say (in passing 

sentence) that if the course of events in India 
should make it possible for the Government 
to reduce the period and release you, no one 
will be better pleased than I. 
The Great Trial had brought Act One to a 
close. 

Ten more difficult years, in prison and out. 
Years of arduous constructive work, involving 
self-discipline and self-sacrifice for himself and for 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 9 

all whom he inspired to follow him breaking down 
Unfouchability ; living with the humblest of villagers 
to teach them by example elementary laws of sani- 
tation and hygiene ; reviving India's ancient crafts to 
ptovide creative work and a supplementary means 
of livelihood for men and women sunk in mental 
degradation through long years of debt, want and 
social ostracism; struggling for Hindu-Moslem 
unity, working for the rights of depressed humanity. 
By men and women of all classes and creeds he 
was much loved for his humility, selflessness and 
sincerity. Where he moved, the crowds moved 
with him. Many tried to understand his teaching 
and train themselves in his non-violent ways. But 
often enough they failed him being human. 

1931 had found him at the Round Table Con- 
ference. Nearly all the rest of the delegates, hand- 
picked by the Paramount Power, were men little 
known by the people of India. They spoke with 
discordant voices for the sectional interests they 
represented. Gandhi, as representative of the 
National Congress Party, stood for that under- 
lying unity which binds all classes and sections of 
India together, recognizing no barriers of caste, 
race or creed. He called himself the spokesman 
of the people. For always in the forefront of his 
tKinking is his moral responsibility for the welfare, 



IO INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

both material and spiritual, of the half-starved 
masses. The prayer of Rabindranath Tagore is 'his 
also : 

Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys 
and sorrows. 

Give me the strength to make my love fruit- 
ful in service. 

Give me the strength never to disown the 
poor or bend my knees before insolent 
might. 

The struggle at home had been getting harder, 
with millions straining at the leash to be free. He 
pleaded that his country might have control 
over her own purse and defence, knowing well 
that the upkeep of the existing imperial admin- 
istration and army was helping to crush the 
toiling masses into abject poverty. In speeches 
which most Englishmen have neither heard nor 
read, he humbly petitioned the ministers of the 
Crown to grant self-determination, long promised, 
to India, that she might set her own house in order. 
Then she would become no longer the subject but 
the willing partner of Great Britain, held, not by 
force, but "by the silken cords of love." But he 
pleaded in vain. The great Whale of the growing 
estrangement between the two countries was 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 1 1 

ignored, while men fastened attention on the Red 
Hefrings of Hindu-Moslem disunity, the Princes, 
the States, the Untouchables. Disappointed, 
Gandhi returned to India, saying, "True, I have 
came empty-handed, but I am thankful I have not 
compromised the honour of the country." In 
England he had hinted at the possibility of impend- 
ing "open, non-violent rebellion." "We do not, 
however, want the freedom of India to be bought 
at the sacrifice of the lives of others, to be achieved 
by spilling the blood of the rulers", he had insisted. 
"But if any sacrifice can be made by the nation, 
by qurselves, to win that freedom, then we will 
make it." Act Two had ended with the scenes 
of that sacrifice, with all its human failings that had 
caused it once more to be crushed beneath the heel 
of Empire. And once more Gandhi had failed 
by the standards of men. 

More than ten years ago. And now ? Still 
that elemental urge of masses struggling to be free 
this time in the midst of world upheaval of 
unprecedented magnitude. Sullen, discontented, 
frustrated India, growing as tired of the little old 
man's non-violent ways as of the rulers' unfulfilled 
promises. Through the eyes of Jawaharlal Nehru, 
her able roving ambassador, she had seen the present 
Gteat War coming. She had carefully watched the 



12 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

fate of China, of Abyssinia, of Spain, of Europe. 
Deploring an appeasement that seemed anxious 
only to preserve the status quo, she had Herself openly 
condemned Fascism of every sort and had sent 
what help she could to the countries in distre^. 

Meanwhile, year after year, at the annual 
sessions of the All-India National Congress, she 
had repeated in increasingly definite terms her desire 
for Independence, pledging herself openly to the 
struggle to achieve it, so that she might be free both 
to control her own destiny and to play a worthy 
part in international affairs. But the statesmanlike 
speeches of her leaders went unheeded, save by the 
very few and by a bureaucracy that either ignored 
them or registered them as offensive and even sedi- 
tious. 

Sad, disappointing years, but for a happy in- 
terlude when, though she had not been granted 
that control over purse and defence for which 
Gandhi had pleaded, India was allowed provincial 
autonomy. Finding itself in power in eight out 
of the eleven provinces, Congress had shown re- 
sourcefulness and imagination in grappling with 
internal problems. Though financially cramped 
they had embarked on the Wardha scheme of Edu- 
cation one of Gandhi's greatest constructive con- 
tributions to his country the beginnings of an 



INDIA: A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 13 

attempt to bring to the illiterate masses (90 per cent 
of the population of the country) not only a knowl- 
edge of how to read and write, but an educational 
training for world citizenship through the medium 
of a basic craft. By a method eminently suited to 
the genius and needs of the nation, the vast popu- 
lation was to be transformed from a liability to 
an asset not only to India but to the world. 
The opportunity to create had relieved to some 
extent the sense of frustration, and the relationship 
between British and Indians improved. Would 
nothing be done to use this opportune moment for 
a final settlement between the two countries, and 
the cementing of British-Indian friendship in an 
honourable partnership ? The few deeply con- 
cerned folk slipped once more behind the scenes, 
to talk this time with their own countrymen. 
Could they not feel the atmosphere of expectancy 
and hope ? Was not this the psychological moment 
for a new beginning, for a generous act of wise 
statesmanship that would stamp out all bitter 
memories from the minds of an over-sensitive 
people ? In the coming clash between nations 
India and Britain would have need of each other. 
Any further estrangement would be fatal to the inter- 
ests of both. What about those speeches in which 
leading Indians had said that if only Britain would 



14 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

admit that she had, in common with others, made 
mistakes in the past, if only she would drop m her 
autocratic ways, affectionate India would rush more 
than three-quarters of the way to meet her ? What 
about the references to prestige the cheap and 
shoddy prestige of outward show and power, com- 
pared with the real prestige which, in Eastern eyes, 
is the reward only of those who love and serve ? 

But the chance had been missed. Instead, 
there had been the dismal mistake of 1939 when 
subject India, which had begun to feel the glow of 
coming freedom, was reminded of her bondage by 
the Imperial decree cabled from Whitehall declar- 
ing that she was now at war with Germany. War, 
with all that it must mean to her suffering millions 
and her leaders not even consulted ! So the world 
had witnessed the sorry spectacle of a great nation 
rebelling at being dragged into a struggle that she 
would gladly have entered upon of her own free 
will, while the fact that Britain had a right to act 
thus merely reminded India of her subjection. 

Deeply wounded, the National Congress, 
largest and most representative political body of 
India, had sent a restrained and carefully worded 
document asking for a statement of Britain's 
war aims, so that India might know for what, as 
well as against what, she was asked to fight, ^as 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 1 5 

India to be free? But no statesmanlike response was 
evoked in this delicate situation. In an atmosphere 
of recrudescent mistrust and suspicion, strained 
relationship developed into deadlock, friendly over- 
tures crystallized into adamant demands. 

Nor was it easy for the most sympathetic 
British observers to follow the complicated pat- 
tern of Congress policy, directed now by Gan- 
dhi, now by Nehru, according to whether the 
attainment of Indian freedom by non- violent me- 
thods or the question of India's conditional col- 
laboration in the war effort came to the force. The 
two men followed different paths, though remain- 
ing loyal to each other. When Nehru was lead- 
ing, Gandhi stepped down from his position of 
authority and went back to his village to continue 
his constructive work. When sent for again to take 
the helm he reassumed responsibility, however dark 
the outlook. Then Nehru obediently accepted 
his decisions, even when his own intellect warred 
against them. An attitude that only those West- 
erners can understand who have carefully studied 
the nature of Gandhi's influence. To the sons 
and daughters' of India he is the beloved "guru" 
or teacher, living so closely in touch with the un- 
seen that he instinctively feels his way through 
situations. He can be trusted implicitly. Often 



1 6 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

enough experience has proved that it was not 
he, but the intellectually wise who were follow- 
ing a wrong path. Between Gandhi and Nehru 
is an unbreakable bond of friendship which can 
stand the strain of divergent thinking, and is im- 
measurably strengthened by the younger man's 
deep respect for a spiritual master. 

Time dragged on, with the situation in India 
steadily worsening. The war was not going well 
for the Allies. Singapore lost, Malaya, Burma, 
and the Japanese advance threatening India her- 
self. After the fall of Rangoon came Britain's 
supreme effort the Cripps Mission. But Sir 
Stafford had come, and gone. The tremendous 
crescendo of hope and expectation that heralded 
his arrival had ended in disillusionment more 
bitter than ever before. "Britain's fault," said 
India. "India's fault" said Britain. "Gandhi's fault," 
soon shouted the world at large. For was it not he 
who had first turned down those proposals ? 
Why had he ? But what was that to do with it ? 
That he had was sufficient. "Supposing there 
was something really wrong with the proposals, 
though?" suggested the unorthodox voices. "Some- 
thing may be that British people did not un- 
derstand ?" "Impossible ; they were magnanimous 
to a degree !" came the testy answer. "Why 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 1 7 

can't India stop being difficult, right in the middle 
of a* war ? What's the good of Britain making 
generous gestures when the other side hasn't the 
grace to accept what is offered? She'll get full 
freedom after the war. We've promised, and the 
British people mean business. That should be 
enough." 

But a few troubled thinkers, deeply concerned 
for the welfare of both Britain and India, and 
nothing that not only Gandhi and Congress, but 
all other parties in India had condemned the pro- 
posals, slipped behind scenes and sought an ex- 
planatipn. Abstruse and difficult clarifications, 
but one thing was certain, in India's eyes there 
was something definitely wrong. Gandhi himself 
had seen it from the beginning, had pointed it 
out to Sir Stafford, and then gone away, leav- 
ing the others to make up their own minds. Never 
once had he interfered with their deliberations, 
though it was true that the fact that he was known 
to have disapproved made them walk warily, of 
course. As Sir Stafford explained later to America, 
it was a question of the indirect interference of 
his great influence over men. Nevertheless, Nehru, 
Asad (Moslem President of Congress) and others 
who were anxious to bring India fully into the world 
struggle for freedom had tried hard to accept. 



1 8 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

But it was no good. Too clearly they saw, or 
thought they saw, that it would be fatal for "both 
Britain and India to try to cross the chasm in two 
leaps. The situation was too critical, the distrust 
of Britain whether justifiable or not too g$eat 
to be ignored. Only the granting of real power 
now, not in the misty future after the war, could 
satisfy India. There must be a National Govern- 
ment responsible to the people of India. An 
Indianized Council, chosen by the Viceroy, foreign 
representative of an alien Power, could be no sub- 
stitute for an Indian Cabinet, especially when it 
was made clear that the Viceroy would sjtill re- 
tain his power of vetoing his Council's decisions. 
Moreover, it was essential to have an Indian 
Defence Minister, they said. Jawaharlal Nehru, 
au fait from personal experience with conditions 
in China and Russia, and the nature of the strug- 
gle in those countries, was convinced that India's 
resistance to Japan must be a people's war such 
as no foreign leadership could inspire. Nor were 
the proposals for the permanent settlement of 
Indkn affairs after the war satisfactory. Since 
the eclict had gone forth from Whitehall that the 
proposals must be accepted or rejected in toto, 
Indian leaders felt that they had no option but 
to reject. 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 19 

It was easier to blame Gandhi than to try to 
understand. Passions are quickly roused in time 
of war, and clear thinking is difficult. A few subtle 
hints at "traitor," "saboteur," "rebel" and the 
wojld is ablaze. And the "villain," if villain he was ? 
Saddened, but unperturbed by all the misconcep- 
tion and misinterpretation, he plodded on. 
"I lay both praise and blame at the feet of the 
Almighty and go my way." Exasperating little 
old man. 

Since then he has done a truly terrible thing 
in the judgment of men. Away in the quiet of 
Sevagrjim, removed from the bustle and turmoil 
of war, he had been thinking deeply, trying to 
get things in perspective. Only the very few knew 
that he was wrestling in silence with hard, un- 
palatable facts, and with conflicting emotions. 
Truth, he believed, was being revealed to him ; 
and he did not want to face it. He knew that if 
he gave utterance to it he would forfeit the friend- 
ship and trust of many people both in India and 
abroad; they would doubt his wisdom, question 
his honesty. Wisdom he could afford to lose, but 
honesty was a precious treasure to him. Yet a 
force within him conscience, basic nature, what- 
ever "it" was, compelled him to speak. Now 
he w6uld have to face the world alone. But the 



20 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

inner voice spoke clearly to him, saying, "You 
are safe so long as you stare the world in th face, 
though the world may have bloodshot eyes. Do 
not fear that world, but go ahead, with the fear 
of God in you." Naive, perhaps, to tell the t<yen- 
tieth century of an inner voice urging him on. But 
history in the past has not lacked its men and 
women who, impelled by an unseen force which 
they themselves could not understand, have been 
driven to cry, "So help me God. I can do no 
other." 

Summoning all his courage, Gandhi made his 
startling announcement that the time had ccjme for 
the British to leave India. A drastic remedy 
to meet a drastic situation. But just as a faithful 
surgeon must risk everything, even the life of his 
patient, and sometimes against the advice of fellow 
surgeons, once the right step has been made clear 
to him, so Gandhi made his grave decision. Of 
course he himself might still be wrong, but un- 
less he could be convinced of error, he must go 
on. The slogan went out, "Quit India" but 
not in enmity. "It has cost me much", he said, 
"to come to the conclusion tjiat the British should 

withdraw from India It is like asking loved 

ones to part, but it has become a paramount duty .... 
They and we are both in the midst of fife. If 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 21 

they go, there is a likelihood of us both being safe. 
If thty do not, Heaven only knows what will 
happen." 

The world has not understood. Why should 
it ? Who in 1942 had time or patience to dis- 
entangle the enigmatic statements of a tiresome 
old visionary ? An avalanche of hatred and 
cruel misrepresentation soon descended on him. 
But was it fair ? Was it wise ? Did the world 
know the situation as he did ? Could the officials at 
Whitehall understand his people as he did ? Could 
even the rulers at Delhi ? Cut off from the masses 
of Indja by all the pomp of Empire, dependent 
on reports of minor officials and C.I.D. men against 
whom the hearts of the people are closed, could 
they gauge as accurately as the little old man of 
India the fast-gathering resentments fanned under 
Axis propaganda, hunger and penury ? How 
could the British people, thousands of miles away 
and overburdened by war, be expected to visualize 
the ugly sores of which official reports did not 
speak ? Were they haunted, as Gandhi and 
Nehru and others have always been, by the spec- 
tacle of skeleton-like peasants in the thousands of 
neglected villages ? How should they know of 
suffering humanity huddled together like ani- 
mals fn the overcrowded tenements of Bombay ? 



22 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

Who should blame them if they had failed to grasp 
the fact that in spite of her much-lauded cGntri- 
butions to India in history books, Britain was not 
Joved but deeply mistrusted in India ? How should 
they see the danger, so clear to Indian leaders, 
of a foreign power seeking to defend its posses- 
sions in an occupied country with the people of 
that country too disgruntled or apathetic to give 
their full support ? 

Gandhi might, of course, be wrong. Al- 
ways there is a tendency for the victims of a 
situation to exaggerate the evils, and lose sight of 
the good. Perhaps he had gone too faf with 
his drastic remedy. But maybe he had not meant 
exactly what men thought he meant. That was 
an irritating habit of his, blurting things out in 
a crude form, just as the idea took shape in his 
mind, and then moulding and softening it after- 
wards. Presently he would have more to say, 
that was certain. Better to suspend judgment for 
a while, and await the explanation. But how 
should an impatient world grown accustomed 
to shallow wartime thinking do that ? Condem- 
nation came swiftly. "Arch-saboteur." "Quis- 
ling." "Pro-Japanese." Even the sane voice 
of Field-Marshal Smuts was drowned, and only 
the very few listened to his warning words : 



: A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 23 

With regard to Mr. Gandhi, it is sheer non- 
sense to talk of him as a Fifth Columnist. He 
is a great man. He is one of the great men 
of the world and he is the last person to be 
placed in that category. He is dominated by 
high spiritual ideals. Whether those ideals 
are always practicable in our difficult world 
is another question. I have just told you of 
one great ideal which I have had which has 
not proved practical politics in this world. 
Mr. Gandhi may be making a similar mistake 
in regard to India, but that he is a great pat- 
riot, a great man, a great spiritual leader, who 
can doubt ?* 

But how should Smuts know ? Because for 
eight years he had fought Gandhi in South Af- 
rica, only to become his friend. In 1939, he had 
written of him : 

It was my fate to be the antagonist of a 
man for whom even then I had the highest 
respect. That clash on the small stage of 
South Africa brought out certain qualities 

*Extract from verbatjm report taken by Treasury Re- 
porter at the Press Conference held on Friday, November 
13, 1942, The Rt. Hon. Brendan Bracken, M. P., Minister 
of Information, in the chair, and the speaker Field-Marshal 
Srrjuts, Prime Minister of South Africa. 



24 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

of Gandhi's character which have since be- 
come more prominently displayed in his large- 
scale operations in India. And they show that 
he was prepared to go all out for the causes 
which he championed, he never forgot the 
human background of the situation, nevfcr 
lost his temper or succumbed to hate, and pre- 
served his gentle humour even in the most 
trying situation. His manner and spirit even 
then, as well as later, contrasted markedly 
with the ruthless and brutal forcefulness of 
our day. 

Many people, even some who sincerely 
admire him, will differ from some of his ideas 
and some of his ways of doing things. His 
style of doing things is individual, is his own, 
and, as in the case of other great men, does 
not conform to the usual standards. But how- 
ever often we may differ from him, we are 
conscious all the time of his sincerity, his unsel- 
fishness, and above all of his fundamental and 
universal humanity. He always acts as a great 
human with deep sympathy for men of all class- 
es and races and especially for the underdog. 
His outlook has nothing sectional about it, 
but is distinguished by that universal and 
eternal human which is the hall mark of true 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 25 

greatness of spirit Gandhi is moving im- 
mense masses of men along noble lines to 
a destiny which in essence is one with the high 
Christian ideal which the West has received 
but no longer seriously practises.* 

When a man of such high moral calibre throws 
out a great challenge in the middle of a war, 
may be he is not after all casting a spanner into 
delicate machinery, but releasing a hidden source 
of power as yet untapped. 

All through the present Act, there has been 
a player missing Charles Freer Andrews, that 
well-loved Englishman, known throughout India 
as Christ's Faithful Apostle, after his initials, 
C. F. A. Always he had been there explaining, 
appealing, advising, sometimes gently mocking 
or chiding, a trusted link between his own country, 
and those he had come to love and serve. At 
the time of his death, in 1941, Gandhi had said: 

At the present moment I do not wish to 
think of English misdeeds. They will be 
forgotten, but not one of the heroic deeds 
of Andrews will be forgotten so long as India 

*Extract from Mabatma Gandhi : ESSAYS AND REFLEC- 
TIONS, edited by Radhaknshnan. Published by George Allen 
& IJnwin, 1939. 



26 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

and England live IT is POSSIBLE, QUITE 

POSSIBLE, FOR THE BEST ENGLISHMEN AND 
THE BEST INDIANS' TO MEET TOGETHER AND 
NEVER TO SEPARATE TILL THEY HAVE EVOLVED 
A FORMULA ACCEPTABLE TO BOTH. THE LEGACY 
LEFT BY ANDREWS is WORTH THE EFFOBT. 

Now when tension was at its height after the 
failure of the Cripps Mission, an Englishman had 
cabled Gandhi, reminding him of Andrews' lega- 
cy. In reply, Gandhi had sent a long letter 
in which he revealed his agony of mind, and his 
conviction that it would be better for the Bri- 
tish to withdraw from India. This was thq first 
time that he had given expression to the 
idea. 

Sir Stafford has come and gone (he had 
written). I talked to him frankly, but as 
a friend, if for nothing else for Andrews' 
sake. I told him that I was speaking to him 
with Andrews' spirit as my witness. I made 
suggestions, but all to no avail. As usual, 
they were not practical. I had not wanted 

to go I went because he was anxious 

to see me I was not present throughout 

the negotiations with the Working Committee. 
I came away. You know the result. It 



INDIA C A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING ZJ 

inevitable. The whole thing has left a bad 
taste in the mouth. 

My firm opinion is that the British should 
leave India now in an orderly manner and not 
run the risk they did in Singapore, Malaya 
and Burma. That would mean courage of 
a high order, confession of human limitations, 
and right doing by India. 

But before the letter reached England the 
addressee had already set out himself for India, 
and had arrived at Sevagram soon after the request 
for withdrawal had been made public. 

"We were wondering," he said, smiling, as 
he greeted the Indian veteran, "whether it was 
auspicious for an English party to arrive in India 
when you were asking the British to withdraw ! 

Gandhi's eyes twinkled as he welcomed his 
friend. "My first writing," he confessed, "did 
give rise to that kind of fear. That was because 
I had not given expression to the whole idea in 
my mind. It is not my nature to work out and 
produce a finished thing all at once. The moment 
a question was asked me, I made it clear that no 
physical withdrawal of every Englishman was 
meant. I meant the withdrawal of the British 
domination. And so every Englishman in India 



28 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

can convert himself into a friend The condi- 
tion is that every Englishman has to dismount 
from the high horse he is riding and cease to be 
monarch of all he surveys, and identify himself 
with the humblest of us. The moment he doe^ 
it, he will be recognized as a member of the family. 
His role as a member of the ruling caste must 
end for ever. And so, when I said 'withdraw' 
I meant * withdraw as masters'. The demand 
for withdrawal has another implication. You 
have to withdraw irrespective of the wishes of 
anybody here. You must withdraw because 
it is your duty to do so, and not wait for the 
unanimous consent of all the sections or groups 
in India. 

"There is thus no question of the moment 
being inauspicious for you. On the contrary, 
if you can assimilate my proposal, it is the most 
auspicious moment for you to arrive in India. 
You will meet many Englishmen here. They may 
have entirely misunderstood what I have said, 
and you have to explain to them exactly what I 
want them to do. 

"You have this peculiar mission of interpre- 
tation and reconciliation. And it is well, perhaps, 
that your mission begins with me. Begin it with 
finding out what exactly is at the back of my mind 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 29 

by putting to me all the questions that may be 
agitating you." Referring to the letter, he con- 
tinfred, "You will see that I have used the words 
'orderly withdrawal'. I had, when I used the 
ghrase, Burma and Singapore in mind. It was 
a disorderly withdrawal from there. For they 
left Burma and Malaya neither to God nor to anar- 
chy, but to the Japanese. Here I say, 'Don't 
repeat that story here. Don't leave India to Japan, 
but leave India to Indians in an orderly manner/ 
So you have now to DO WHAT ANDREWS DID 
UNDERSTAND ME, PITILESSLY CROSS-EXAMINE ME, AND 
THEN, IF YOU ARE CONVINCED, BE MY MESSENGER." 

So are we all invited to become seekers after 
truth, to cross-examine, and try to understand, as we 
listen to what Gandhi really said instead of to what 
others say he said. We may still remain uncon- 
vinced, but listen we should. And why ? Because 
our country has still an important role to play in 
the shaping of things to come, and can do little 
of real worth until the Indian puzzle is solved. 
Also because we are at the crisis of world war, 
and, as a Chinese has pointed out, the deadlock 
in India is more serious than a major military de- 
feat. 

This man, Gandhi, is of a rather rare order. 
He has too much sense of humour to count him- 



30 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

self a saint, a Mahatma, a Great Soul, though 
millions call him so. He is a human being who 
makes mistakes in common with us all. More- 
over, when convinced of wrong doing, he has 
courage to confess those mistakes. A less common 
trait. But conviction must always precede con- 
fession. He is too honest ever to pretend that 
he was wrong when he doesn't believe it, to recant 
when he believes himself right. He sometimes 
changes his course, but moves always in the same 
direction. Superficially inconsistent, but funda- 
mentally consistent often irritatingly so. Obsti- 
nate some would say. 

Certain avenues of his Eastern thinking may 
be closed to our Western minds, but it would be 
foolish indeed to jib at details and miss the essen- 
tial message. So, while we reserve to ourselves 
the right of honest criticism, let us grant him 
the right of explanation. Britain is famed for that. 
Let us remind ourselves, too, that we are dealing 
with a Man of God who, while he walks this earth 
as a realist of realists, looks out on the world from 
a different angle of vision. "And with some 
finer essence of forbearance temper our minds" 
so that we do not mock at things we do not 
understand. And why ? Because otherwise 
posterity may mock at us, pointing a finger of 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 3 1 

scorn at the fusty sobersides who paced up and 
down their cage of restricted understanding heads 
aching, brows furrowed, deep in interminable 
fruitless arguments, when they might have step- 
pd out into regions "where the mind is without 
fear and the head is held high ; where knowledge 
is free/' Because otherwise some puckish sprite 
of days to come may laugh and shout, "Lord, 
what fools those British were ! Thinking to 
play Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark; 
India without Gandhi I" 

Sevagram. Central Provinces, India. Scene 
of many discussions and deliberations. Half- 
buried in labels with which an ignorant world 
has plastered him. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi 
holds the fort alone, tirelessly meeting the thrusts 
of his attackers; speaking his mind fearlessly, 
sometimes impatiently, but never in anger. 

"But why should Britain withdraw ?" thunders 
a critic. 

Let us listen-in to some of the old man's 
answers. Sheer foolishness they may seem to 
us ; but our minds are limited too. 

I remain the same friend today of the British 

I have no trace of hatred in me towards 

them. But I have never been blind to their 



32 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

limitations, as I have not been to their great 

virtues I do not deny the existence of 

hatred among the people at large, nor its 

increase with the march of events I see 

with the naked eye that the estrangement js 

growing there is no such thing as a common 

joint interest The introduction of foreign 

soldiers, the admitted inequalities of treatment 
of Indian and European evacuees, and the 
manifestly overbearing nature of the troops 
are adding to the distrust of British intentions 
and declarations. I feel that they cannot all 
of a sudden change their traditional nature. 
Racial superiority is treated not as a vice but 
as a virtue this is a drastic disease requir- 
ing a drastic remedy. I have pointed the 
remedy complete and immediate withdra- 
wal It will be the bravest and cleanest 

act of the British people. It will at once put 
the Allied Cause on a completely moral basis, 
and may even lead to a most honourable peace 
between the warring nations. And the clean 
end of Imperialism is likely to be the end of 
Fascism and Nazism which are an offshoot 
of Imperialism. . . The first condition of British 
success is the present undoing of the wrong. 
It should precede, not follow, victory. The 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 33 

presence of the British in India is an invitation 
t to Japan to invade India. Their withdrawal 
removes the bait. Assume, however, that 
it does not, Free India will be better able to 
cope with the invasion Harijan, May 10, 
1942. 

A week later, these ideas are further developed: 

If my appeal goes home, I am sure the cost of 

British interests in India would be nothing 

compared to the ever-growing cost of war 
to Britain. And when one puts morals in 
the scales, there is nothing but gain to Britain, 
India and the world. BRITAIN MAY BE SAID 

TO BE AT PERPETUAL WAR WITH INDIA which 

she holds by right of conquest and through 
an army of occupation 

The poor, he declares, are turned out of their 
homes for troops, British or Indian, before the 
Japanese menace arrives. Their "paltry vacating 
expense carries them nowhere/' They do not 
evacuate out of a spirit of patriotism. The people 
of Bengal, for instance, have been made to surrender 
their canoes in case the Japanese should come and 
make use of them. The Bengali may be said to 
be amphibious, and "for him to part with his 
canoe is like parting with his life." So, "those 
3 



34 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

who take away his canoe he regards as his enemy." 
Moreover : 

The falsity that envelops Indian life is 
suffocating. Almost every Indian you meet 
is discontented. But he will not own it 
publicly. The government employees, high 
and low, are no exception. I am not giving 
hearsay evidence. Many British officials 
know this. But they have evolved the art 
of taking work from such elements. This 
all-pervading distrust and falsity make life 
worthless, unless one resists it with one's 
whole soul. 

But here he seems to suspect the raised eye- 
brows and questioning glances, and knows that 
he probably will not be believed. So he runs to 
meet the criticism, 

You may refuse to believe all I say. OF- 

COURSE I SHALL BE CONTRADICTED. I SHALL SUR- 
VIVE THE CONTRADICTIONS. I HAVE STATED WHAT 
I BELIEVE TO BE THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH, 
AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH. Many people 

may or may not approve of this loud thinking. 

I have consulted nobody When slavery was 

abolished in America, many slaves protested, 
some even wept. But protests and tears not- 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 3 J 

withstanding, slavery was abolished in law 
But the abolition was the result of a bloody 
war between the South and the North, and 
so, though the negro's lot is considerably 
better than before, he still remains the outcast 
of high society. I ASK FOR A BLOODLESS END 

OF AN UNNATURAL DOMINATION, AND FOR A 

NEW ERA, even though there may be protests 
and wailings from some of us. 

A Lincoln might have understood this language. 
Thus for Gandhi, the withdrawal of British 
power in India is essentially a moral act, urgently 
needed to place the Allied Cause on a sound basis. 
Running all through the issues of Harijan at this 
time, and for months to follow, is the same.* 
refrain : 

One thing, and only one thing, for me isr 
solid and certain. THIS UNNATURAL PROSTRA- 
TION OF A GREAT NATION MUST CEASE, if the 

victory of the Allies is to be ensured. They 

lack the moral basis America and Britain* 

are very great nations, but their greatness 
will count as dust before the bar of dumb 

humanity, whether African or Asiatic 

They will have no right to talk of liberty and 
. all else, unless they have washed their hands 



36 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

clean of pollution. That necessary wash will 
be their surest insurance of success, for {hey 
will have the good wishes unexpressed, 
but no less certain of millions of dumb 
Asiatics and Africans. Then, but not till 
then, will they be fighting for a New Ordr. 
THIS is THE REALITY. (Harijan, June 14, 
I943-) 

Again : 

If British rule ends, that moral act will save 
America and Britain. If they choose to remain 
here, they should remain as friends, not as 
proprietors of India. The American and 

British soldiers may remain by virtue of 

a compact with free India. 

Gandhi is not the only man to be troubled 
by this weak spot in the Allied Cause. Lin Yutang, 
the distinguished Chinese author, deplores the 
fact that "both the United States and Great Britain 
have not changed in their attitude to Asia," and 
is concerned about the outcome of the peace. 
Dr. Spinks of America has stated that "racial 
equality today is pre-requisite to our conception 
of a New World Order." While Wendell Wilkie 
has reminded us that "the reservoir of human good- 
will is leaking" on the question of the colour i>ar 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 37 

and racial discrimination. Unbiased visitors to 



India are all too often distressed by the arrogance, 
sometimes conscious, sometimes unconscious, 
of the white, ruling race, and blush to see Indians 
often more educated and cultured than their over- 
lords being treated as inferiors. 

"Maybe," counter the critics. "But this is 
no time to settle the colour question, with Japan 
on the doorstep. We must be practical. Gandhi 
must be secretly pro- Japanese to talk as he does." 

Pro- Japanese !! By the very struggle in which 
we are engaged we proclaim our belief in freedom, 
including liberty of thought and expression, both 
for ourselves and other people. But that freedom 
should not include the right to defame the charac- 
ter of those with whom we find ourselves in 
disagreement. One of the cruelest libels of today, 
and one fast gaining ground, is the assertion that 
Gandhi is pro- Japanese. Those who have watched 
the whole play through know well the foolishness 
of such an insinuation. For when the Allies were 
yet silent, some of them openly favouring Japan, 
Gandhi and the Congress were condemning her 
actions in no uncertain terms. "Your country 
should be ashamed of what she is doing," he an- 
nounced to a Japanese visitor at his ashram. "She 
is taking bites out of the living body of China." He 



38 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

never minces matters. Though his method ii 
sometimes devastating, it is also refreshing aftei 
the humbug of diplomatic flattery which change! 
so quickly to venom when not successful. As soor 
as he received fully documented evidence of Jap&i'i 
insidious drug traffic in North China, he unhesi 
tatingly published the full facts in Harijan y believ- 
ing that the kindest thing he could do for frienc 
or foe was to speak the truth, however unpalat- 
able that truth might be. 

To the charge that he was willing to negotiate 
with Japan to allow her a large measure of civil 
control, military bases and right of passage, he 
replied without hesitation, "I maintain that 1 
could not be guilty of harbouring any such thoughts 
attributed to me." 

I do not want to help the Japanese not 
even for freeing India (he declares in Harijan, 
June 21, 1942). India, during the last fifty 
years or more of her struggle for freedom, 
has learnt the lesson of patriotism, and of not 

bowing to any foreign yoke Remember, 

I am more interested than the British in keep- 
ing the Japanese out. For Britain's defeat 
in Indian waters may mean only the loss of 
India, but, if Japan wins, India loses ^very- 
thing. 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 39 

And again : 

If the Japanese compel the Allies to retire 
from India to a safer base, I cannot say today 
that the whole of India will be up in arms 
against the Japanese. I have a fear that they 
may degrade themselves as some Burmans 
did. I WANT INDIA TO OPPOSE JAPAN TO A 
MAN. IF INDIA WERE FREE SHE WOULD DO 
IT, it would be a new experience to her, in 
twenty-four hours her mind would be changed. 
All parties would then act as one man. If 
this live independence is declared today, I have 

no doubt India becomes a powerful ally 

I say that if the war is to be decisively won, 
India must be freed to play her part today. 
I find no flaw in my position. I have arrived 
at it after considerable debating within myself ; 
I am doing nothing in anger or hurry. THERE 

IS NOT THE SLIGHTEST ROOM IN ME FOR ACCOM- 
MODATING THE JAPANESE I WOULD 

RATHER BE SHOT THAN SUBMIT TO JAPANESE 
OR ANY OTHER POWER. 

Following his usual method of direct approach, 
he writes an Open Letter to the Japanese : 

I must confess at the outset that though 
I have no ill-will against you, I intensely dis- 



40 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

like your attack upon China. 

he begins. Then, after referring to many pleasant 
recollections he has of Japanese people, he 
continues : 

I grieve deeply as I contemplate what appears 
to me to be your unprovoked attack against 
China, and, if reports are to be believed, your 
merciless devastation of that great and an- 
cient land. 

It was a worthy ambition of yours to take 
equal rank with the great Powers of the world. 
Your aggression against China and your alli- 
ance with the Axis Powers was surely an un- 
warranted excess of that ambition. 

I should have thought that you would be 
proud of the fact that that great and ancient 
people, whose old classical literature you have 
adopted as your own, are your neighbours. 
Your understanding of one another's history, 
tradition, literature, should bind you as 
friends rather than make you the enemies 
you are today. 

If I was a free man, and if you allowed me 
to come to your country, frail though I am, 
I would not mind risking my health, maybe 
my life, to come to your country to plead with 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 41 

you to desist from the wrong you are doing 
"to China and the world and therefore to your- 
self. 

But I enjoy no such freedom. And we 
are in the unique position of having to resist 
an imperialism that we detest no less than 
yours and Na2ism. OUR RESISTANCE TO 

IT DOES NOT MEAN HARM TO THE BRITISH PEO- 
PLE. WE SEEK TO CONVERT THEM. OURS 
IS AN UNARMED REVOLT AGAINST BRITISH 
RULE. AN IMPORTANT PARTY IN THE COUNTRY 
IS ENGAGED IN A DEADLY, BUT FRIENDLY, 
QUARREL WITH THE FOREIGN RULERS. 

BUT IN THIS THEY NEED NO AID FROM 

FOREIGN POWERS. You have been gravely mis- 
informed, as I know you are, that we have 
chosen this particular moment to embarrass the 
Allies when your attack against India is im- 
minent. IF WE WANTED TO TURN BRITAIN^ 
DIFFICULTY INTO OUR OPPORTUNITY WE SHOULD 
HAVE DONE IT AS SOON AS THE WAR BROKE OUT 
NEARLY THREE YEARS AGO. 

Our movement regarding the withdrawal 
of British power from India should in no way 
be misunderstood. In fact, if we are to 
believe your reported anxiety for the Independ- 
ence of India, a recognition of that Inde- 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

pendence by Britain should leave you no excuse 
for any attack on India. Moreover, the re- 
ported profession sorts ill with your ruthless 
aggression against China. 

I would ask you to make no mistake 
about the fact that you will be sadly 
disillusioned if you believe that you will 
receive a willing welcome from India. THE 

END AND AIM OF THE MOVEMENT FOR BRITISH 
WITHDRAWAL IS TO PREPARE INDIA, BY 
MAKING HER FREE, FOR RESISTING ALL MILI- 
TARIST AND IMPERIALIST AMBITION, whether 

it is called British Imperialism, German 
Nazism, or your pattern. If we do not, we shall 
have been ignoble spectators of the milita- 
rization of the world in spite of our belief 
that in non-violence we have the only solvent 
of the militarist spirit and ambition. Per- 
sonally I fear that without declaring the 
Independence of India the Allied Powers will 
not be able to beat the Axis combination 
which has raised violence to the dignity of 
a religion. The Allies cannot beat you and 
your partners unless they beat you in your 
ruthless and skilled warfare. If they copy 
it, their declaration that they will save the world 
for democracy and individual freedom must 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 43 

come to nought. I feel that they can only 
gain strength to avoid copying your ruth- 
lessness by declaring and recognizing twn> 
the freedom of India, and turning sullen In- 
dia's forced co-operation into freed India's 
voluntary co-operation. 

To Britain and the Allies, we have appealed 
in the name of justice, in proof of their pro- 
fessions, and in their own self-interest. To you 
I appeal in the name of humanity. It is a marvel 
to me that you do not see the ruthless warfare 
is nobody's monopoly. If not the Allies, some 
other Power will certainly improve upon your 
method and beat you with your own weapon. 
Even if you win, you will leave no legacy to 
your people of which they would feel proud. 
They cannot take pride in a recital of cruel 
deeds however skilfully achieved. 

Even if you win it will not prove that you 
were in the right, it will only prove that 
your power of destruction was greater. This 
applies obviously to the Allies, too, unless 
they perform now the just and righteous 
act of freeing India as an earnest and promise 
of similarly freeing all other subject peoples 
in Asia and Africa. 

Our appeal to Britain is coupled with the 



44 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

offer of Free India's willingness to let the Allies 
retain their troops in India. The offer is 
made in order to prove that we do not in 
any way mean harm to the Allied Cause, and 
in order to prevent you from being misled 
into feeling that you have but to step into the 
country that Britain has vacated. Needless 
to repeat that if you cherish any such idea 
and will carry it out, WE WILL NOT FAIL 

IN RESISTING YOU WITH ALL THE MIGHT THAT 

OUR COUNTRY CAN MUSTER. I address this 
appeal to you in the hope that our movement 
may even influence you and your partners 
in the right direction and deflect you and them 
from the course which is bound to end in 
your moral ruin and the reduction of human 
beings to robots. 

The hope of your response to my appeal is 
much fainter than that of response from Britain. 
I know that the British are not devoid of a 
sense of justice, and they know me. I do 
not know you enough to be able to judge. All 
I have read tells me that you listen to no appeal 
but to the sword. How I wish you are cruelly 
misrepresented, and that I shall have touched 
the right chord in your heart. Anyway, 
I have an undying faith in the responsiveness 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 45 

of human nature. On the strength of that 
/aith I have conceived the impending move- 
ment in India, and it is that faith which has 
prompted this appeal to you. (Harijan, 
July 1 8, 1942.) 

Naive, wishful thinking of a simple-minded 
old man ! Maybe, maybe not ! But surely only a 
mischievous, or fear-obsessed mind could read 
into such a letter the negotiations of a traitor. 

Then comes an accusation of harbouring ill- 
will against the British, and in trying to explain 
his position, Gandhi starts a hare: 

India has no quarrel with the British peo- 
ple. I have hundreds of British friends. 
Andrews' friendship was enough to tie me 
to the British people. Both he and I were 
fixed in our determination that British rule in 
India in any shape or form must go. Hitherto 
the rulers have answered, "We would gladly 
retire if we knew to whom to hand over the 
reins/' My answer is, "Leave India to God. 
If that is too much, then leave her to 
Anarchy I" 

If only Andrews had been there ! He might 
have been able to warn him in time against such 
a reckless use of words, and explain their probable 



46 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

effect on an English mind. Bad enough to talk 
to the twentieth century of leaving a country to 
God. But to Anarchy 1 ! ! How would the 
well-regulated British react to such a picture ? 
Would they not rush at the obvious popular mean- 
ing of the word ? Indeed, with politicians led- 
ing the way, the public was soon giving chase. 
They did not stay to enquire what was at the back 
of his mind, nor to listen to what else he had to 
say. Why should they ? The hare was off ! 

The few who remained behind to reason had 
a little light thrown on the subject, as Gandhi 
continued : 

That anarchy may lead to internecine war- 
fare for a time or to unrestrained dacoities. 

Most politicians, anxious to plead their cause, 
would have kept such a skeleton out of sight. 
But he never believes in secrecy or camouflage, 
and willingly displays all his wares, good, bad and 
indifferent. 

From these a true India will rise in place 
of the false one we see The present in- 
security is chronic, and therefore not so 
much felt. But a disease that is not felt is 
worse than one that is felt. (Harijan, May 
24, 1942.) 



ItfolA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 47 

He returns to the word, ANARCHY : 

I have mentioned anarchy. I am convin- 
ced that we are living in a state of ordered 
anarchy. It is a misnomer to call such rule 
as is established in India a rule which promotes 
the welfare of India. Therefore this ordered, 
disciplined anarchy should go, and if there 
is complete lawlessness in India as a result, 
I would risk it, though I believe, and should 
like to believe, that twenty-two years of con- 
tinuous effort at educating India along the 
lines of non-violence, will not have gone in 
vain, and people will evolve popular order 
out of chaos. (Harijan, May 24, 1942.) 

Two months later, he tries to clarify his 
meaning still further : 

I said, "Leave India to God or Anarchy." 
But in practice what will happen is this. IF 

WITHDRAWAL TAKES PLACE IN PERFECT GOOD- 
WILL, the change will be effected without the 

slightest disturbance Wise people from 

among the responsible sections will come 
together, and will evolve a provisional govern- 
ment. THERE WILL BE NO ANARCHY, NO 

INTERRUPTION, and A CROWNING GLORY. 

(Harijan, July 19, 1942.) 



48 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

The Dreamer ! Can't he hear the voice of 
Mr. Jinnah refusing to co-operate with Hindus ? 
Doesn't he know that he has the Moslem League 
against him ? Oh yes, he can hear ; and for years 
he has been watching the poison of communal 
dissension seeping through the political life of 
India. He has seen, too, the growing opposition 
to himself and his humanitarian philosophy of 
both the extreme Hindus of the Mahasabha, and 
the extreme Moslems of the Moslem League. But 
he knows, too and this the British people do not 
realize that Jinnah, in spite of his loud protest- 
ations, backed by reactionary forces in other 
countries, does not represent the whole Moslem 
community of India, though he has a considerable 
and important following. Twenty-five per cent, 
perhaps, a few years ago. More now, maybe, 
since he has been encouraged in his retrogressive 
policy of whipping up religious feeling in the coun- 
try. Nevertheless, in the background are millions 
of Moslem peasants and workers who disclaim his 
right to speak for them. There are great Moslem 
leaders, too, like Maulana Azad Moslem President 
of the Congress, and scholar of world-renown, 
the Khan brothers and others, both within and 
without the Congress fold, who deplore Jinnah's 
bitter attacks on their Hindu friends. Among 



A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 49 

ordinary Congress members are many Moslems. 
They are pledged to work always for Hindu-Moslem 
unity, to assess the worth of a man not by the reli- 
gious label he wears but by the service of his life. 
Of course, they do not always live up to their 
high ideal who does ? There are rivalries within 
Congress ranks, as elsewhere, but they are largely 
the rivalries of struggling politicians who, like 
politicians all over the world, sometimes sacrifice 
the best in themselves to secure plums of office. 
After many years of experience and careful 
watching, Gandhi has rightly or wrongly come 
to the conclusion that not until those outside 
influences are removed, which in turn flatter or 
condemn the various struggling factions, will 
men face each other, see reason, recognize their 
common responsibility, and go forward not as 
Moslems, Hindus, Parsees, etc., but as INDIANS. 
Hence the need for the withdrawal of the Para- 
mount Power which has extended or withheld 
its favours at will during all these long years of 
British-Indian relationship, creating, not always 
consciously, jealousies and rivalries between sec- 
tions that should be working as one. To the 
sceptical who contend that Hindus and Moslems 
could not possibly work peaceably together, 
Gandhi would doubtless reply that these are 
4 



50 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

the days of miracles Chiang Kai Shek with the 
Communists in China, Churchill with Soviet Russia ! 
He would point, also, to the record of the self- 
governing provinces from 1935 to 1937. Though 
it has become customary for Congress detractors to 
maintain, probably with a degree of truth, that Hin- 
du domination during that period antagonized the 
Moslems, it remains true also that the British Govern- 
ors who had been left as safeguards, and whose 
duty it was to interfere if the rights of religious 
minorities were not respected, found no just cause 
for intervention. Indeed the Viceroy paid tri- 
bute to the able administration. The man who 
openly found fault at the time was Gandhi himself. 
Unhesitatingly he condemned in the pages of his 
own paper every error, big or small, committed 
by his own people, refusing to connive at any re- 
ligious discrimination. But though admittedly 
mistakes were made, achievement outshone them, 
and by those very mistakes Hindus and Moslems 
alike should know how to act more wisely in future. 
Meanwhile no man has worked more honestly, 
more tirelessly, risking time and again his popu- 
larity by open criticism of his friends, weaknesses, 
than Mohandas Gandhi. No man has watched 
more carefully the signs and portents of his time. 
When he is driven sorrowfully to the conclusion 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 5 1 

that British Withdrawal must precede Hindu- 
Moslem Unity, his opinion is surely worthy of 
attention, though we may still remain unconvinced. 
But what about the Princes of Royal India ? 
Will they not be an obstacle ? Yes, indeed ! 
But Gandhi puts the solution in a nutshell. "They 
should cease to be Princes and become servants 
of the people." He amplifies his statement : 

They will have to descend from their ped- 
estal and seek the co-operation of their 

people They will have to be genuine 

servants of the people. When they do 
so, no one will think of eliminating them. 
If they do justice, I can hardly think 
of the people wanting to pay off old 
scores. Our people are not of a revenge- 
ful nature. Is the ruler of Aundh afraid of 
any rebellion in his State ? He is not, for 
whom will they rebel against when they know 
that he has divested himself of practically 
all power ? If they want to rebel, I think 
he is capable of saying to them,"Come and 
take charge of my palace, I shall be content 
to go and stay among the poorest of you." 
Appasaheb, the son of the Chief of Aundh, 
is slaving away for the people as no servant 
of the State does 



52 INDIA: A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

Let them do two things. One is that they 
have to purify their lives and reduce them- 
selves to utter simplicity. The fabulous 
amounts they spend on themselves are un- 
conscionable. 1 cannot understand how they 
can have the heart to squander the people's 
money in riotous living, when thousands of 
their people cannot get a square meal a day. Why 
should they not be content with two or three 
hundred rupees a month ? But my point is 
this. Let them take what the people will 
give them. Their privy purse must be votable. 
No reforms and no budget can have any value 
unless the people have the fullest right to 
say how much their ruler will take for himself. 
A new age has already begun, and no ruler 
can conceivably be tolerated whose life does 
not correspond largely with the life of his 
people and who does not identify himself 

with them As for the Congress, let them 

know that it is ever ready to come to an under- 
standing with them. The Congress is essen- 
tially a non-violent organization. Let the 
Princes voluntarily go under the authority 
of their people and the Congress will be- 
friend them The Congress, let me repeat, 

is not out to destroy the Princes, unltss it 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 5 J 

be that they do not mend their ways and des- 
troy themselves. Even if there is one Prince 
who will be content to be the servant of the 
people the Congress will stand by him. 
(Harijan, July 13, 1940.) 
Certainly there are difficulties ahead, but they 
are not insurmountable. In a world which 
moves towards freedom and democracy the 
days of the Princes as despotic rulers are neces- 
sarily numbered. They are already an anach- 
ronism. Numbers of them are Princes by rights 
conferred and not by royal birth, and those trea- 
ties with Britain which guarantee the maintenance 
of their present privileges call for revision, not 
perpetuation. Most of the Princes are reactionary, 
though a few, such as the ruler of Aundh, are out- 
standingly progressive. Once the support of 
the alien power is removed, they will know better 
how to come to terms with their own countrymen, 
and perhaps be ready to recognize the rights and 
aspirations of their downtrodden subjects. 

But then there are the Untouchables ! and 
their unyielding, adamant leaders, Dr. Ambedkar 
and Mr. Raja. A real problem here, but not in- 
soluble. These two political leaders seek to ensure 
the rights of the Untouchables by political measures ; 
GanHhi, by removing the curse of Untouch- 



54 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

ability altogether. It is well known in India, but 
less known in Britain, with what great success 
he has struck at the very root of the disease. 
Untouchability is doomed. It was always, accord- 
ing to advanced Hindu thinkers, a spurious 
growth, and excrescence on Hinduism. One 
finds excrescences though not so widely dis- 
cussed and universally condemned even on 
comparatively modern religions like Christianity 
which in Africa refuses the black brother a seat 
in the white man's church, in spite of the fact 
that Christ came himself from the East and declared 
that all men are equal in the sight of God. Hindu- 
ism is hoary with age and has gathered to itself 
many incongruous appendages, of which Untouch- 
ability is one. Ambedkar, himself born an Untouch- 
able fights honestly and courageously, by political 
methods, for the recognition of the rights of Un- 
touchables, and is an acknowledged leader. But 
vast masses of Untouchables are behind Gandhi. 
And why ? Because for years he has been out in the 
villages, in close contact with them, humbly serving 
them, proud to call himself an Untouchable, an 
Outcast (though born into a caste) until Untouch- 
ability is swept away. They know how often the old 
man has risked his very life for them, both when 
opposing what he deemed the unjust (thougK not 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING J 5 

necessarily wilfully unjust) legislation of the Para- 
mount Power, and when braving the staged opposi- 
tion of religious fanatics. To the Rulers, Un- 
touchables are the Depressed Classes, or Scheduled 
Classes. They make laws for them which for the 
most part they dare not enforce lest they create 
trouble by interfering with long-established social 
customs, or abuses. But to Gandhi, Untouchables 
are Harijans, Children of God, in whose cause he 
dares anything. It has been the privilege of only 
a very few British people to watch him at work 
among his untouchable brethren. Only the very 
few have personally witnessed their pathetic 
appeals to him to provide wells for them, schools 
and hospitals, and when he has performed the 
miracle seen them bringing to him their love- 
offerings of quaint toys in the shape of birds and 
animals that they have fashioned out of leaves, 
flowers and seeds. Only the very few have accom- 
panied him on his Anti-Untouchability Campaigns, 
heard him without any tricks of oratory but with 
a few challenging words stir the consciences of 
his hearers so that the rich deprived themselves 
of their bangles, and the poorest of peasants sear- 
ched in the corner of a sari for half a pice, in res- 
ponse to his appeal that they should blot out 
untouchability for ever from their hearts and do 



56 INDIA: A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

justice to those whom they have wronged for so 
long. Only the very few. But because of what 
they have seen, they know that no power on earth, 
whether political or religious, will be able to tear 
Gandhi out of the hearts of the common people 
of India. Opposition may be artificially whipped 
up for a time, and ignorant crowds swayed tem- 
porarily by a clever tongue. But they will return 
to their beloved leader, as did the paid demon- 
strators who waved black flags in his face but 
lowered them in shame when he walked fear- 
lessly through their midst. Up went the flags 
again, but the rude slogans they had learnt by heart 
for the occasion were lost in the old familiar cry, 
Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai ! (Welcome and Victory). 
So knowing his India, with all her faults and 
failings, reactions and resentments, sensing the 
underground currents with uncanny precision, 
Gandhi moves doggedly forward, free from all 
the alarms and excursions of the ignorant and un- 
sure. True the right way is costly. Who knows 
it better than he ? But it is sure. All other paths 
are not only costly, but unsure. 

Even at the risk of being called mad, I 
had to tell the truth if I was to be true to myself 
(he tells us). I regarded it as my solid contribu- 
tion to the war, and to India's deliverance 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 57 

from the peril that is and that is threatening. I 
am showing the futility of hatred. I am showing 
that hatred injures the hater, never the hated. 
An Imperial Power cannot do otherwise 
than it has been doing. . . .and I am therefore 
trying to wean the people from their hatred 
by asking them to develop the strength of 
mind to invite the British to withdraw, and 

at the same time to resist the Japanese With 

the British withdrawal the incentive to wel- 
come the Japanese goes, and the strength felt 
in securing British withdrawal will be used 

for stemming the Japanese inroad The 

British presence invites the Japanese It 

promotes communal disunion and other 
discords, and, what is perhaps the worst of 
all, deepens the hatred born of impotence. 
Orderly British withdrawal will turn the hatred 
into affection, and will automatically remove 
communal distemper. So far as I can see, 
the two communities are unable to think or see 
things in their proper perspective as long as 
they are under the influence of a third power. 
(Harijan, May 31, 1942.) 
But here is another very practical objection. 
What about China ? Isn't Gandhi supposed to 
be a friend of China, and isn't he now vitiating 



5 8 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

all claim to be so called ? The answer is swift 

and emphatic : 

No. I remain the passionate friend of 
China that I have always claimed to be. I 
know what loss of freedom means. There- 
fore I could not but be in sympathy with China, 
which is my next-door neighbour in distress. 
AND IF I BELIEVED IN VIOLENCE AND IF I 
COULD INFLUENCE INDIA, I WOULD PUT IN 
MOTION EVERY FORCE AT MY COMMAND ON 

BEHALF OF CHINA TO SAVE HER LIBERTY 

But because I have China in mind, I feel that 
the only effective way for India to help China 
is to persuade Great Britain to free India, and 

LET A FREE INDIA MAKE HER FULL CONTRI- 
BUTION TO THE WAR EFFORT. INSTEAD 
OF BEING SULLEN AND DISCONTENTED, INDIA 
FREE WILL BE A MIGHTY FORCE VoR THE GOOD 
OF MANKIND IN GENERAL. It is true that the 

solution I have suggested is a heroic solu- 
tion, beyond the ken of Englishmen. But, being 
a true friend of Britain, of Russia, of China, I 
must not suppress the solution which I believe 
to be eminently practical, and probably the 
only one in order to save the situation, and 

IN ORDER TO CONVERT THE WAR INTO A POWER 
FOR GOOD, INSTEAD OF BEING WHAT IT IS 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 59 

A PERIL TO HUMANITY. Pandit Nehru told 
me yesterday that he heard people saying in 
Lahore and Delhi that I have turned pro-Japa- 
nese. I could only laugh at the suggestion, 
for if I am sincere in my passion for freedom, 
I could not consciously or unconsciously take 
a step which will involve India in merely chang- 
ing masters. If, in spite of my resistance 
with my whole soul, the mishap occurs, of 
which I have never denied the possibility, then 
the blame would wholly rest upon British 
shoulders. I have no shadow of doubt about 
it. I have made no suggestion which, even 
from the military standpoint, is fraught with 
the slightest danger to British power or to Chi- 
nese. IT IS OBVIOUS THAT INDIA IS NOT ALLOW- 
ED TO PULL HER WEIGHT IN FAVOUR OF CHINA. 

If British power is withdrawn from India in an 
orderly manner, Britain will be relieved of the 
burden of keeping the peace in India, and at 
the same time gain in a free India an ally, 
not in the cause of Empire because she would 
have renounced in toto all her imperial de- 
signs but in a defence, not pretended, but 
wholly real, of human freedom. (Harijan, 
June 21, 1942.) 

Rabindranath Tagore, afire himself with the 



60 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

same zeal for true freedom having the same deep un- 
derstanding of the realities beneath all the shams, 
believing that the day would yet come when a mock- 
ing world would see the Truth, might well have 
written to him his song : 

They call you mad. Wait for to-morrow 

and keep silent. 
They throw dust upon your head. Wait for 

to-morrow. They will bring their wreath. 
They sit apart in their high seat. Wait 

for to-morrow. They will come down 

and bend their head.* 

But not yet. For, as in the days of Stephen, 
men "have sjtopped their ears" that they might 
have more power with which to stone him. 

To leading officials in Whitehall, Gandhi re- 
mains, by their own confession, an enigmatic person- 
ality. New Delhi, we are told, knows only his worst, 
not his best side. Enigmatic personalities must 
be either understood or condemned. To under- 
stand entails exhausting mental gymnastics which 
do not commend themselves to everyone. More- 
over, men in authority carry heavy burdens. It 
is quicker and simpler to condemn. So the mys- 

*Poems : Rabindranatb Tagore. VISVA BHARATI, 2, Cqlle- 
ge Square, Calcutta. First Published February, 1942. 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 6 1 

teries remain unsolved, and Gandhi-Government 
relationship continues in an atmosphere of sus- 
picion and mistrust. 

Gandhi's Non-violence, for instance, what 
a bogey it has been to the official and public mind ! 
Vet in essence it is a simple enough doctrine, if 
in detail mysterious. He begins with a fundamental 
fact, which is being increasingly recognized even 
by those to whom the word Non-violence is an- 
athema, that unless there are to be wars and worse 
wars until the human race finally exhausts itself 
and destroys itself mentally, morally and physically, 
a substitute for war must be found. Practical minded 
Gandhi has dared to begin to find it, and has had 
the effrontery to tell the world that he believes he 
is on the right track. For nearly half a century 
he has been making experiments. Time after 
time he has failed, but he goes ahead with the cour- 
age of the scientist who, ignoring the jibes and jeers 
of fellow men, works his way through to the dis- 
covery of steam power or electricity, and bequeaths 
upon the scoffers the benefits of all his absurdities. 
Gandhi's is an even more difficult task, for his 
experiments deal with the things of the spirit. 
Both for him, and for those who work with him, 
there must be severe training and discipline, and 
a readiness to make great sacrifices. This Non- 



62 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

violence, he says, is an active force of the highest 
order. It is dynamic, it acts positively. It is, 
he says, "Soul-force", and if wars are to cease we 
have to learn how to pit it against "Brute-force". 
This demands high courage, both physical and 
spiritual, for it involves a man in refusing to co- 
operate with evil in any shape or form, whether 
within himself, in the home, in the social sphere, 
politics, or international relationships. All tyranny 
must be resisted with the whole of himself mind, 
body and spirit, whether it be the open tyranny of 
a Hitler or the more subtle forms that lie behind 
the dissemblings of modern life. His aim is, 
not to annihilate evil-doers but the evil thing itself 
which produces evil-doers and will go on producing 
them until it is itself removed. Translated into 
particular and topical terms, India must seek to 
remove British rule, but without doing harm to 
British people. The doctrine has, however, also 
a universal application. For Gandhi it is not only 
a policy, but a creed by which he lives, a creed which 
controls the whole of his being. His whole life 
is a search for Truth, which for him is God, and 
the Way to Him, he says, is Non-violence. 

Foolish, complicated prattlings. Perhaps, per- 
haps not. It is certainly not surprising that non-sym- 
pathizers, caught up in world war, and needing* all 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 63 

their energies for the task in hand, turn impatiently 
away. Then a new thought comes to them. Is 
he going to try out these fancy notions if Japan 
attacks in India ? All very well using this non- 
violence rubbish against us, but what about foreign 
aggression ? They are suspicious, almost afraid. 
If only they would listen to what Gandhi 
himself has to say about it ! Then they would 
soon discover that although Gandhi may see further 
into the world's tomorrow than most of us, he 
also has his feet firmly placed on the ground of 
the world's today. Moreover, he is a true believer 
in freedom, other people's as well as his own, and 
knows that they do not, for the most part, think 
as he does. He is too much of a realist to imagine 
that many people are ready to experiment with his 
costly doctrine. Under his leadership, India is 
prepared to be non-violent in her struggle against 
British Power, but the majority believe in armed 
resistance to Japan. Since, therefore, he cannot 
guarantee foolproof non-violent action from India 
to keep the Japanese away, he personally would 
not ask the Allies to withdraw their troops. He 
would be asking them to do something that might 
result in the Japanese occupation of India, and 
China's sure fall : 

Neither Britain nor America share my faith 



64 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

in non-violence. I am unable to state that 
the non-violent effort will make India proof 
against Japanese or any other aggres'sion. 
I am not even able to claim that the whole 
of India is non-violent in the sense required. 
In the circumstances, it would be hypocri- 
tical on my part to insist on the immediate with- 
drawal of the Allied Powers in jeopardy. So long, 
therefore, as India lacks faith in the capacity 
of non-violence to protect her against aggres- 
sion from without, the demand for the with- 
drawal of the Allied Troops during the pend- 
ency of the war would itself be an act of violence, 
if the controllers of the troops felt it necessary 
for their defence to keep them in India for 
that purpose and that alone. (Harijan, June 
26, 1942.) 

Though he has obviously squarely faced the 
fact that his dream cannot yet be realized, he must 
at the same time remain true himself to the vision 
he has seen. His difficulty henceforth, when- 
ever the problem of the defence of India arises, 
is how to deal simultaneously with the question 
from his own viewpoint and that of the people 
who do not believe in his way. Hence his dual 
reasoning, and the continual, perplexing criss- 
cross of statements to which it gives rise. Hence 



INDIA": A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 65 

the criticism, often very honest criticism, of those 
who 'would gladly understand him if they could 
but are driven to say in despair that he believes 
in non-violence and violence at one and the same 
time, which is self-contradictory and proves him 
an impostor, or at the best a deluded fanatic. 
"Will Free India carry out total mobiliza- 
tion, and adopt methods of total war?" asks a 
journalist. And Gandhi replies : 

The question is legitimate but beyond me. 
I can only say Free India will make common 
cause with the Allies. I cannot say Free India 
will take part in militarism, or choose to go 
the non-violent way. (Hanjan, July 19, 
1942.) 

But here his dream imposes itself on his thinking. 
For a few moments the idealist in him holds sway, 
and he toys with the entrancing idea of a non- 
violent India. After all, has he not spent most 
of his life trying to lead his country along that 
path ? No man ever loved his cigar, fondled his 
racehorse or cherished his model yacht more than 
Gandhi has loved, fondled and cherished Non- 
violence : 

But I can say without hesitation that if 
I can turn India to non-violence I will cer- 



66 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

tainly do it If I succeed in converting 

forty crores of people to non-violence it 1 will 
be a tremendous thing, a wonderful trans- 
formation. (Harijan, July 19, 1942.) 

It is a leader of men speaking ; he feels himself 
there in the midst of his people leading them on 
in a great adventure such as the world has never 
yet seen. The same spirit though in so differ- 
ent a form that drives men "over the top" 
in the thrill of battle. 

But he is soon dragged back to realities. 
"You wouldn't oppose a militarist effort by civil 
disobedience ?" questions a reporter. 

"I have no such desire," he replies, with a 
certain weariness. Will men never understand 
what he is trying to tell them ? "I cannot oppose 
Free India with Civil Disobedience. It would 
be wrong." (Harijan, July 19, 1942.) 

In a further statement he is more explicit. 
Someone has asked to what extent he would carry 
out his non-violence policy after freedom was 
gained. 

The question hardly arises. I am using 
the first personal pronoun for brevity, but 1 
am trying to represent the spirit of India as 
I conceive it. What policy the national 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 67 

government will adopt I cannot say. I may 
ftot even survive it, much as I would love to. 
If I do, I would advise the adoption of non- 
violence to the utmost extent possible and 
, that will be India's great contribution to the 
peace of the world and the establishment of 
New World Order. I expect that with the 
existence of so many martial races in India, 
all of whom will have a voice in the govern- 
ment of the day, the national policy will 
incline towards militarism of modified cha- 
racter. I shall certainly hope that all the effort 
for the last twenty-two years to show the effi- 
cacy of non-violence as a political force will 
not have gone in vain and a strong party repre- 
senting true non-violence will exist in the 
country. (Harijan.) 

And again : 

If India were to listen to me she would 
give non-violent help to China. But I know 
that will not be so. Free India would want to 
be militarist. (Harijan, July 26, 1942.) 

Some mischief-maker alleges that an impor- 
tant Congress leader in personal contact with 
Gandhi, had reported that Gandhi expected 
Britain to lose the war. 



68 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

I wish (says Gandhi) that you could have 
given the name of the leader. I havd no 
hesitation in saying that it is not true. On 
the contrary I said that the British were hard 
to beat. The British reverses ought not. to 
create panic in the land. In all the wars 
that Britain has fought or in which she has 
been engaged, there have been reverses 
some of which may be considered disas- 
trous. But the British have a knack of sur- 
viving them and turning them into stones 
to success. Failures do not dismay or demoral- 
ize them. They take them with calmness 
and in a sportsmanlike spirit. .. .let us at 
least learn their calmness in the face of mis- 
fortunes. I have no decisive opinion about 
the result of the war. (tiarijcin^ June 7, 
1942.) 

And again, two months later : 

I have never, even in the most unguarded 
moment, expressed the opinion that Japan 
and Germany would win the war. Not 
only that, I have often expressed the opinion 
that they cannot win the war if only Britain 
Tvill once and for all shed her Imperialism. 
(Reuter y August 4, 1942.) 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 69 

July 14, 1942. Memorable date in the 
story of Britain and India. Gandhi's early draft 
of the Quit India resolution had been sent to the 
Congress Working Committee for what the 
author called the "dotting of many i's and cross* 
ing of many t's," and it gave rise to a great deal 
of controversy. The members of the Committee, 
trained by Gandhi always to be honest in the 
expression of opinion, found much to quarrel 
with in the Resolution, and commented freely 
on its ambiguous wording calculated to give rise 
to interpretations which they knew were not in 
Gandhi's mind. The assistant secretary took 
notes unofficially brief, disjointed notes, some- 
times only a few sentences torn from their context, 
and likely to give a wrong impression to anyone 
but the man who had jotted them down. It was 
this draft and these comments which the Govern- 
ment, seized when it raided Congress premises, 
and later made public, giving rise to much mis- 
understanding. The actual draft accepted by the 
Working Committee on July 14 was Nehru's 
improved version of the original Quit India de- 
mand. It was, in the eyes of India, a challenge to 
Britain to "act desperately in the moral field, as 
she never hesitates to act desperately in the phy- 
sical* field, and take grave risks." 



70 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

The Resolution is long, necessarily. Most 
citizens of our British democracy, though claim- 
ing the right to rule over India's three hundred 
and fifty million souls, hasve never read it through. 
It is with the last part only that they are familiar, 
with the threat of a mass movement open, non- 
violent rebellion to be launched if conditions are 
not met. "Threat," says Britain. "We will 
never negotiate with people who hold a pistol 
to our heads/' "Warning," says India. A re- 
versal of the position when a British politician, 
very early in the war, threatened, or warned, India 
that if Gandhi or Congress proved troublesome 
they would be checked by repressive measures. 
"Warning," said Britain. "Threat," said India, 
but went on negotiating. It is a question of words. 

Let us place on ourselves the discipline of 
listening to the Resolution. We may approve 
or disapprove ; hear it in anger or in shame. Or 
we may not know what to make of it at all. But 
without having read it we have no right to any 
opinion about it whatever. Let us see it in its 
true setting as an urgent appeal from a nation 
which for years has been struggling for freedom, 
and is still unfree, though ordered to join in the 
world war to preserve the freedom of others. 
Let us remember, too, the years of patient iiego- 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING Jl 

tiation, interspersed with incidents of non-violent 
action, since 1939. 

Events happening from day to day and the 
experience which 'the people of India are 
passing through, confirm the opinion of 
Congressmen that British rule in Tndia must 
end immediately, not merely because foreign 
domination, even at its best, is evil in itself 
and a continuing injury to the subject people, 
but because India in bondage can play no 
effective part in defending herself and in 
affecting the fortunes of war that are de- 
solating humanity. 

The freedom of India is thus necessary not 
only in the interests of India but also for the 
safety of the world and for ending Nazism, 
Fascism, Militarism and other forms of Impe- 
rialism, and the aggression of one nation over 
another. 

Ever since the outbreak of the world 
war, Congress has studiedly pursued a policy 
of non-embarrassment. Even at the risk of 
making its Satyagraha (Civil Disobedience) 
ineffective, it deliberately gave it a symbolic 
character in the hope that this policy of non- 
embarrassment, carried to its logical extreme, 



72 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

would be duly appreciated and that real power 
would be transferred to popular repres^nta- 
tives so as to enable the nation to make 
its fullest contribution towards the real- 
isation of human freedom throughout the 
world which is in danger of being crush'ed. 

It also hoped negatively that nothing would 
be done which was calculated to tighten 
Britain's hold on India. 

These hopes, however, were dashed to pieces ; 
the abortive Cripps proposals showed in the 
clearest possible manner that there was no 
change in the British Government's attitude to 
India and that British hold on India was in no 
way to be relaxed. 

In their negotiations with Sir Stafford Cripps, 
Congress representatives tried their utmost 
to achieve the minimum consistent with 
national demand, but it was of no avail. 

This frustration resulted in a rapid and 
widespread increase of ill-will against Britain 
and a growing satisfaction at the success of 
Japanese arms. 

The Working Committee view this develop- 
ment with grave apprehension, as this, unless 
checked, will inevitably lead to the passive 
acceptance of aggression. 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 73 

The Committee hold that all aggression 
must be resisted, for any submission to it 
must mean degradation of the Indian people 
and the continuation of their subjection. 

Congress is anxious to avoid the expe- 
rience of Malaya, Singapore and Burma, 
and desires to build up resistance to any 
aggression or invasion of India by the Japanese 
or any foreign power. 

Congress would change the present ill- 
will against Britain to good-will and make 
India a willing partner in the joint enterprise 
of securing freedom for the nations and the 
peoples of the world and in trials and tri- 
bulations which accompany it. 

This is only possible if India feels the glow 
of freedom. 

Congress representatives have tried their 
utmost to bring about a solution of the com- 
munal tangle. But this is made impossible 
by the presence of a foreign power and only 
after ending foreign domination and inter- 
vention can the present unreality give place 
to reality and the people of India, belonging 
to all groups and parties, face India's problems 
and solve them on a mutual agreed basis. 

The present political parties formed chief- 



74 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

ly with a view to attracting the attention of 
and influencing British power, will then .pro- 
bably cease to function. 

For the first time in India's history, the 
realization will come home that the Princes, 
Jagirdars, Zamindars and propertied Snd 
monied classes derive their wealth and property 
from workers in the fields, factories and 
elsewhere, to whom essentially power and 
authority must belong. 

On the withdrawal of British rule from India, 
responsible men and women of the country 
will come together to form a provisional 
government representative of all important 
sections of the people of India, which will 
later evolve a scheme whereby a Constituent 
Assembly can be convened in order to pre- 
pare a constitution for the Government of 
India acceptable to all sections of the people. 

The representatives of Free India and Great 
Britain will confer together for the adjust- 
ment of future relations and for the co-opera- 
tion of the two countries as allies for a common 
cause in meeting aggression. 

It is the earnest desire of Congress to enable 
India to resist aggression effectively with the 
People's united will and strength behind it. 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 75 

In making the proposal for the withdrawal 
of British rule from India, Congress has no 
desire whatever to embarrass Great Britain 
or the Allied powers in their prosecution of the 
war or in any way to encourage aggression 
on India or, of course, pressure on China by 
the Japanese or any other power associated 
with Axis group. 

Nor is it the Congress intention to jeopard- 
ize the defensive capacity of the Allied powers. 

Congress is therefore agreeable to the sta- 
tioning of the armed forces of the Allies in 
India should they so desire in order to ward off 
and resist Japanese or other aggression and 
to protect and help China. 

The proposal for the withdrawal of British 
power from India was never intended to 
mean the physical withdrawal of all Bri- 
tons from India and certainly not those who 
would make India their home and live there 
as citizens and as equals with others. 

If such a withdrawal takes place with good- 
will, it would result in establishing a stable 
provisional government in India and co- 
operation between this Government and the 
United Nations in resisting aggression and 
helping China. 



76 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

Congress realizes that there may be risks 
involved in such a course. Such risks, how- 
ever, have to be faced by any country in order 
to achieve freedom, 4 and more especially at 
the present critical juncture in order to save 
the country and the larger cause of freedom 
the world over from far greater risks and perils. 

While, therefore, Congress is impatient 
to achieve its national purpose, it wishes 
to take no hasty step and would like to avoid 
as far as possible any course of action that 
might embarrass the United Nations. 

Congress would plead with British power 
to accept the very reasonable and just proposals 
herein made not only in the interests of India, 
but also in those of freedom and of the cause 
of freedom to which the United Nations pro- 
claim their allegiance. 

Should, however, this appeal fail, Congress 
cannot view without the gravest apprehen- 
sion the continuation of the present state of 
affairs, involving progressive deterioration 
in the situation and the weakening of India's 
will and power to resist aggression. 

Congress will then reluctantly be compelled 
to utilize all the non-violent strength it has 
gathered since 1920 when it adopted non- 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING JJ 

violence as part of its policy for the vindica- 
tion of its political rights and liberties. 

Such a widespread struggle would inevit- 
ably be under the leadership of Mr. Gandhi. 
9 As the issues raised are of the most vital 
and far-reaching importance to the people 
of India as well as to the peoples of the United 
Nations, the Working Committee will refer 
them to the All-India Congress Committee for 
a final decision. 

One catches the echo of historic words, 
LET MY PEOPLE GO. 

Like Moses, Gandhi believes that he is acting 
under divine compulsion and he speaks with the 
voice and authority of a prophet. Moses was not 
prepared to stay and argue as to whether the 
moment was propitious, whether some of the people 
of Israel would rather remain in bondage, whether 
they would quarrel among themselves in the wilder- 
ness, whether the few who had enj oyedtj^e mlers* 
favour would be worse off in 
for the flesh-pots of Egypt. 

all the difficulties. Indeed, heyp^fo experience 
some of them, even to the 
the setting up of graven i 
ceived his message he must n 




78 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

results were in God's hands. Similarly Gandhi, 
God-inspired or suffering from delusions who 
can tell ? delivers his message, and waits. Pha- 
raoh hardened his heart, thereby bringing plagues 
upon his own country for which he blamed Moses, 
and the people took the freedom he would not 
give. What will Britain do ? 



Sevagram is soon buzzing with reporters. 

Once more Gandhi has placed all his cards 
on the table and men are at liberty to question him 
closely. In the quick give and take of conver- 
sation, he deals with matters of grave importance. 
The resolution has made it quite clear that he in- 
tends to go forward. Independence now, or 
the present Government must be brought to a 
stand-still, so that the Paramount Power and the 
world may know how serious is the situation. He 
has no desire to launch civil disobedience. He 
knows full well the suffering that it will bring to 
his people, and the risks that will have to be run. 
Only in the last resort, when he can see no other 
hope, will he attempt it. Even then it will be of 
a strictly non-violent character, and very carefully 
handled. 

It is not my intention to undertake -at 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 79 

once any overwhelming programme. I want 
to watch and see, because whatever may be 
said to the contrary, even in conducting the 
movement, I want tp guard against a sudden 
outburst of anarchy or a state of things which 
may be calculated to invite Japanese aggres- 
sion. I believe that India's demand is 
fundamental, it is indispensable for national 
existence as I conceive it to be. Therefore 
I shall take every precaution I can to handle 
the movement gently, but I would not hesi- 
tate to go to the extremest limit, if I find that 
no impression is produced on the British 
Government or the Allied Powers. I hold 
it to be legitimate to make the Allied Powers 
responsible for all that may happen in India, 
because it is open to them in the interests 
of the common cause to prevent the happening 
of anything that might disturb the even course 

of the war 1 am not ready with a planned 

programme as yet. (Harijan, July 26, 1942.) 
Assuming that the All-India Congress Commit- 
tee confirms the resolution, there will still be time 
given, he explains, before launching the campaign. 
Moreover, he would like to see the Viceroy again 
before entering on such a struggle. 
Why not call a truce ? 



80 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

This struggle has been conceived in order 
to avert a catastrophe. At the critical moiftent 
an unfree India is likely to become a hind- 
rance rather than a help. The Congress re- 
solution itself hints at the possibility o a 
large number of Indians going over to the 
Japanese side if they effected a landing on 
Indian shores as we now know happened 
in Burma, Malaya, and for aught I know, 
Singapore too. I am of the opinion that this 
might have been prevented at least so far as 
Burma is concerned, if she had been made 
independent. But it was not done. We know 
the result. We are determined so far as is 
humanly possible to secure our Independence, 
so that no Indian worth the name would 
then think of going over to the Japanese 
side. It would then become as much India's 
interest as the Allies' interest to resist Japanese 
aggression with all her might. (Harijan, July 
26, 1942.) 

But why couldn't he, through his own great 
influence, get the masses to listen to him and rally 
to Britain's cause ? 

Here he explains that not the combined in- 
fluence of the whole of the Working Committee 
(which would include Nehru, Azad and hims&f) 



INDIA: A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 8i' 

"could enthuse the masses for the Allied Cause 
which they do not, cannot understand." Refer- 
ring to his experiences in the last war, into which he 
had thrown himself heart t and soul he tells how, 
as a recruiting agent for the British, he had begun 
his agency in a district where he had just been 
leading, with fair success, a campaign for agri- 
cultural relief. He should have made headway 
there. But though he walked miles in the burning 
sun in order to impress the people with the urgency 
of the situation, he could not rouse them. Though 
successful in conducting campaigns for redress 
of popular grievances because people are ready 
and need a helper he has no influence, he declares, 
in directing people's energies into a channel in 
which they have no interest. 

But will not American opinion be antagonized ? 

Of course it may be. But I have never 
embarked on any campaign in the belief that 
I would have world sympathy at my back. 
On the contrary, the odds," almost in every 
case, have been against me. 

But many Americans will feel that a movement 

for freedom may be unwise at this moment, leading 

possibly to complications prejudicial to the war 

effort, is the next objection raised. It is the old 

6 



82 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

unanswerable criticism about the perils of changing 
pilots in midstream. Against which there is. little 
to say, save that when the pilot at the helm does 
not know the hidden reefs and is making for 
the most dangerous rocks in the creek, it may be 
better to risk the changeover, and there neecl be 
no disaster if sufficient precautions are taken on 
both sides. 

It would be, in my opinion (says Gandhi), 
the least risk the Allies could take on behalf 
of the war effort. I AM OPEN TO CONVICTION. 
If anybody could convince me that in the 
midst of war the British Government cannot 
declare India free without jeopardizing the 
war effort, I should like to hear the argument, 
I have not as yet heard any cogent one. 

"I am open to conviction/' Try to force 
Gandhi to recant, when he is not conscious of 
having erred and he will refuse, as would any 
self-respecting man, white or coloured, with suffi- 
cient courage. Convince him of his error, and his 
intransigence disappears. 

If you were convinced, would you call 
off the campaign ? 

Of course. My complaint is that all these 
good critics talk at me, swear at me, but never 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 85 

condescend to talk to me. (Harijan, July 
2t5, 1942.) 

What has happened to British statesmanship 
that no attempt is made 'to follow up this cue ? 
Why* does nobody take the initiative, and open 
up negotiations at once ? 

But, men will argue, what about Gandhi's 
other statement that there was no room left for 
negotiation ? How does one reconcile the two ? 
Perhaps by following his own advice to us not 
to strain at the meaning of every word, but try 
to catch the spirit of the utterance. It is to be 
hoped that even British statesmen do not always 
mean literally every syllable they say. 

Here is the offending statement : 

If the British see, however late, the wisdom 
of recognizing the Independence of India 
without reference to parties, all things are 
-possible. But the point I want to stress is 
this, that there is no room left for negotia- 
tions on the proposal for withdrawal. Either 
they recognize Independence or they don't. 
After that recognition many things can follow. 
For by that one single act, the British represen- 
tatives will have altered the face of the whole 
landscape, and revived the hope of the people 



84 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

which has been frustrated times without num- 
ber. Therefore, whenever that gredt act 
is performed on behalf of the British people, 
it will be a red letter day in the history of 
India and the world. And, as I have ^aid, 
it can materially affect the fortunes of war. 
(Harijan, July 19, 1942.) 

In a further conversation, the door opens 
a few inches wider. An American reporter asks : 

You have said there is no more room for 
negotiation. Does that mean that you would 
ignore any conciliatory gesture if it was made ? 

So far as we are concerned (answers Gandhi), 
we have closed our hearts. As we have said 
in our resolution, all hopes have been dashed 
to pieces. The burden is shifted. But it 
is open to America, to Britain, to China and 
even to Russia to plead for India which is 
pining for freedom. And if an acceptable 
proposal is made, it would certainly be open 
to Congress or any other party to entertain 
and accept it. It would be churlish on our 
part if we said, "We don't want to talk 
to anybody, and we will by our own strong 
hearts expel the British/' (Harijan y July 
26, 1942.) 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 85 

No response, except from those whose voices 
are irfeffective, and the disputants in the case remain 
on opposite sides of the door. There is an ever- 
increasing fear in the minds of would-be solu- 
tion-jfinders. Supposing Britain doesn't want a 
settlement ! 

Only last week Mr. Amery reminded us that 
nothing is going to be done (says a pessimist). 

I am very much afraid we shall have to listen 
to a repetition of that language in stronger 
terms if possible (replies Gandhi, thought- 
fully). But it can't change the will of a 
group of people who are detqjmined to go 
their way. (Harijan, July 19, 1942.) 

In that case, the movement will become ne- 
cessary. 

"If it is misunderstood by the British, and 
they take up the attitude that they would like to 
crush it." "Then," says Gandhi, "they would 
be responsible for the result, not I." 



On all sides there is criticism. Some of it 
is constructive and welcome. There are many 
genuine friends of India who find themselves 
unable to identify themselves with Congress policy, 



86 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

in spite of their sympathy with Congress aims. 
There are many genuine friends of Gandhi" who 
by no means always approve of him and his ways. 
They express their contrary opinions, never hesi- 
tating to point out the mistakes which they b^ieve 
both he and Congress have made. But much of 
the criticism takes the form of misrepresentation, 
or virulent attack. Some of it comes as the climax 
of the growing opposition of extreme Moslems. 
Gandhi had said of the situation in 1940 (Harijan, 
June 8) : 

The correspondence in my possession and 
the Urdu press cuttings and even some English 
cuttings from journals owned by Muslims go 
to show that I am believed to be the arch enemy 
of Islam and Indian Muslims. If I was at one 
acclaimed as their greatest friend and suffered 
the praise, I must suffer, too, to be described 
as an enemy. Truth is known only to God. 
I am confident that in nothing I am doing, 
saying, or thinking, I am their enemy. They 
are blood brothers and will remain so, though 

they may disown me Qaid-e-Azam ( Jinnah) 

himself was a great Congressman. It was 
only after non-co-operation that he, like many 
other Congressmen belonging to several 
communities, left it. Their defection' was 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 87 

purely political. They disliked direct action. 
: . . . Rightly or wrongly, the Congress does 
not believe in watertight compartments on 
a communal basis. , If religion is allowed 
to be, as it is, a personal concern and a matter 
between God and man, there are many domi- 
nating common factors between the two which 
will compel common life and common action. 
Religions are not for separating men from one 
another. They are meant to bind them. It 
is a misfortune that today they are so distorted 
that they have become a potent cause of strife 
and mutual slaughter. 

Now, in 1942, he gives a typical answer to 
Jinnah's venomous personal attacks : 

He seems now to be misguided. I pray 
long life for him and wish that he may survive 
me. A day will certainly dawn when he will 
realize that I have never wronged him or the 
Muslims, I have the fullest confidence in 

the sincerity of the Muslims They have 

every right to form any opinion of me but 
I still continue to be the same man of the old 
days. Muslims may in the heat of the moment 
forget themselves and abuse me. Islam does 
not teach to abuse. 
*He finds it necessary to issue a warning to 



*88 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

those who seek to distort truth at such a critical 
moment of India's and the world's history : 

The critics who impute motives to the 

: Working Committe^ or to me harm the cause 
they profess to serve. The members of^the 
Working Committee are all seasoned ser- 
vants of the nation with a full sense of res- 
ponsibility. It is no use damning me as 
a dictator like Herr Hitler. He does not argue 
with his co-workers, if he may be said to have 
any- He merely issues orders which can only be 
disobeyed on pain of death or worse. I argue 
with my friends for days. I argued at the last 
meeting for eight days. The members agreed 
when their reason was satisfied. My sanction 
with my friends as well as self-styled enemies 
has ever been reason and love. It is a travesty 
of truth therefore to compare me with Hitler 
or to call me a dictator in any current sense 
of the term. It is an equal travesty of truth 

'to abuse the Congress by calling it a Hindu 
or Communal organization. It is national 
in the fullest sense of the term. It is a purely 
political organization the sole represent- 
ative national organization in India with a 
mass following. Its gains belong not merely 

- to itself but to the whole nation, irrespective 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 89 

of caste or creed or race. It is mischievous 
and misleading to discredit this organiza- 
tion in America and Great Britain as a com- 
munal, pro- Axis or .purely Hindu organization.. 
It is not and never has been a secret or violent 
organization. If it had been either it would 

have been suppressed long ago (Harijan, 

July 26, 1942.) 

Gandhi a dictator ! There are certain words 
in modern usage which produce an immediate 
emotional reaction, whether friendly or hostile. 
"Freedom," "Quisling/* "vested interest/' 
"anarchy," "forced labour/' "democracy," and 
many more. They quickly arouse shallow en- 
thusiasms, or antagonisms, and are the stock- 
in-trade of propagandists. "Dictator" is the red 
rag of the democratic bull. So Gandhi is a dic- 
tator ! There's enough truth in it to make the 
suggestion worth while. But his is a curious sort 
of dictatorship which belongs to the spiritual 
realm. It is from his character that his authority 
derives. There is no outward show. Never 
does he need to have recourse to undignified 
theatricalities or tyrannical thunderings. Yet for 
millions of people his word is law. Outwardly 
he is weak and insignificant, this little half-clad 
figure who travels around India in uncomfortable 



90 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

third-class railway carriages, sharing the incon- 
veniences that fall to the lot of the ordinary pea- 
sant. Where is his special conveyance, special 
coach, special bodyguard ? In trains he sleeps 
curled up on a hard wooden bench, resting Ijis 
head on a pillow case full of official-looking 
documents. At home he lies on a primitive bed 
out under the stars or on the floor. He is acces- 
sible day and night to friends or enemies. How 
easy to slip in and assassinate him ! That he wears 
no bullet-proof jacket is obvious to the most scep- 
tical. 

Sometimes his followers allow themselves 
to be hypnotized into a state of perpetual obedience. 
In such cases he tries to break the spell by trans- 
ferring their attentions from himself to the many 
jobs of hard work awaiting them, and begging them 
to implement the ideals for which he works and 
not waste time in adulation. 

When his old and trusted colleague, Raja- 
gopalachariar, opposed the Quit India resolution, 
and even resigned from Congress on the issue, 
what did "dictator" Gandhi do ? He praised him 
for the sincerity of his independent thinking, 
and severely reprimanded some small-minded 
people who had made trouble for the "renegade" 
at a public meeting. "Has Rajaji lost every 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 9! 

title to respect," he writes, "because he has taken 
what seems to be an unpopular view ? Those who 
did not share his views might have abstained from 
attending the meeting, t but having gone there they 
sljould have given him a hearing. They might have 

cross-questioned him Those who threatened a 

disturbance have disgraced themselves. The calm- 
ness, good-humour, presence of mind and deter- 
mination that Rajaji showed that trying time 
were worthy of him. These must bring him many 

admirers, if not even followers People follow 

their heroes. And Rajaji has never lacked the 
qualities that go to make a hero." 

What is his attitude to those members of the 
All-India Congress Committee who oppose his 
resolutions ? 

Those who opposed it deserve my congra- 
tulations for their courage of conviction 

It is better to be in a minority provided we 
stick to truth and determination, I have learnt 
this lesson long ago. I 
a further lesson from the 

Between July 14, date 
resolution by the Congress 
and August 8 when it is su 
Ifidia Congress Committee, t 




92 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

drift towards disaster. The atmosphere grows 
stifling. Will nobody throw up a window, and let 
in some good fresh air ? What happens to our 
British sense of humour that it is never there to 
lighten Indian affairs ? Congress and Gandhi m^y 
be cutting a ridiculous figure in our eyes, but are we 
so near to the sublime ourselves as we strut around 
in all our demode imperialist trappings ? 

Pandit Nehru can contain himself no longer 
when the "no compromise," "hold India" speeches 
are relayed from Whitehall. "Then it's struggle 
eternal struggle," he cries. Declaring that India's 
national self-respect could not be a matter for bar- 
gaining, he is driven to add, "I am galled with 
sorrow and anger to note that I for years wanted 
some settlement because I felt Britain was in trouble. 
They had their suffering and sorrow. I wanted 
my country to move forward step in step with them 
as a free country, but what is one to make of such 
statements ?" 

Then a British voice that of the Bishop of 
Calcutta speaking carefully, sorrowfully, and 
out of deep experience : 

I read with profound regret the utterance 
of the Secretary of State regarding the political 
situation. I deplored the resolution of the 
Congress Working Committee because it de- 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 93 

parted from the principle of a conference to 
settle disputes and adopted the threat of coer- 
cive action to enforce its views. Is it the 
method of peace to answer threats of coercion 
with similar threats ? Among determined men 
that may lead to war, and the danger arises 
that two great nations will be engaged in 
a struggle exceeding in bitterness and agony 
anything that has gone before. 

Is it too late to avert a disaster the conse- 
quences of which on the wide conflict at pre- 
sent being waged cannot be but of the 
gravest character ? Is the meaning of the cross, 
which we as Christians claim to follow, 
to be lost upon us, and the way of redemption 
through sacrifice to be disregarded ? My 
appeal is to that great body of my fellow- 
countrymen who, heirs of national freedom 
themselves, believe that this is the rightful 
possession of every nation on reaching matu- 
rity. Britain through a century and more has 
been building up a great nation from the 
diverse elements of India's vast population. 

The time has come to place the coping stone 
upon this noble edifice and surely it should 
be laid in the cement of human goodwill and 
friendship. WHEN HONEST DISPUTES ARISE 



94 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

BETWEEN MEN OF GOODWILL, RECOURSE IS 

HAD TO ARBITRATION. An independent 
mind, free from inherited prejudices, is better 
able to see where a Just solution lies. Is 
such a course impossible for the present crisis ? 
We have sought and found trusted allies with 
whom to co-operate in the struggle for world 
freedom which, unaided, we could hardly 
hope to have achieved. Is it not the path 
of wisdom to seek similar assistance in a no 
less grave situation ? 

Sir Tej Sapru, leader of the Moderates, whose 
lawyer's mind had no doubt seen the opportunity 
offered by Gandhi's "CONVINCE ME" appeal, asks 
for a Round Table Conference, stressing that in 
his opinion it is no use saying that it will serve no 
useful purpose, or is not likely to lead to 
any satisfactory results. The critical situation 
in the country demands that every effort should be 
made. He would like to see Mr. Gandhi, as the 
leader of the biggest party in India, take the ini- 
tiative of calling the conference and give up the 
idea of civil disobedience until it has met. Or, 
if Indians do not respond, Sapru respectfully 
suggests that it will then be the obvious duty of 
the Viceroy or of the Indian members of the Exe- 
cutive Council to do so. He wishes that Mr. Amery 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 95 

had made the suggestion in the House of Commons 
speech when he held out certain threats to Congress. 

While Jayakar (Moderate) asserts that "The 
mistake of His Majesty 'p Government and the In- 
dian Government in wrongly gauging Indian 
sentiment with regard to the war, and not bestir- 
ring themselves in time to meet it has caused 
the deepest indignation and discontent in the 
country. 

But nothing is done. Does Britain not want 
a settlement ? Have these "agitators" become 
such a thorn in the flesh that it seems better to 
let them dig their own grave ? Are officials really 
happy to stand aside and watch some of the best 
men of India pursue a mistaken policy that must 
in the end lead to their repression without offering 
friendly advice and exploring opportunities of a 
settlement if not for their sakes, for the sake of 
the country ? 

Rajagopalachariar makes a last-minute appeal. 
He urges the establishment of a national govern- 
ment, an interim popular government. 

If Britain does not wish the Axis to make 
further progress in the East she should make 
up her mind and put India under a proper 
government. I am sure the statesmen of 



96 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

Britain have knowledge of the present feeling 
of the people of India and also of the peril 
inherent in the situation. They have imagin- 
ation and experience enough to see whom 
the people would trust and whom they would 
not. What we want is a government whfch 
will be acclaimed by the people of India as 
their own government. 

The British statesmen can do this only if 
they are resolved not to feel ashamed to do 
the right thing. I believe it is the only way to 
defend and save India from disaster. The 
war can be won and India saved from disas- 
ter not by argument and legalities or by self- 
deception, but only by timely recognition of 
the realities and swift action in accordance 
with that recognition. 

Rajagopalachariar is himself an able lawyer, 
and the ex-Prime Minister of Madras. 

Mr. Fazlul Huq, Moslem Premier of Bengal, 
in a statement on behalf of the Bengal Council 
of Ministers, says : 

The fact that Gandhi is to address an appeal 
to the Viceroy gives a ray of hope, the value 
of which I do not wish to minimize. 

Our duty should be to do everything thak is 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 97 

possible to avert a crisis and not hasten it. 

Let all parties meet together and decide 
on the terms of an interim settlement. 

He believes that an agreement is possible. 

But the drift continues. 

On August 8, the All-India Congress Com- 
mittee discusses, approves and endorses the Reso- 
lution of July 14, after giving to it most careful 
consideration, and is of the opinion that subse- 
quent events have given it further justification. In 
its own resolution, which incorporates in slightly 
different wording that of July 14, occur the follow- 
ing passages : 

India, classic land of modern Imperialism, 
has become the crux of the question, for 
by freedom in India will Britain and the Uni- 
ted Nations be judged and the peoples of Asia 
and Africa be filled with hope and enthusiasm. 

The ending of British rule in this country 
is thus a vital and immediate issue on which 
depend the future of the war and the success 
of freedom and democracy. 

A Free India will assure this success by 
throwing all her great resources into the strug- 
gle for Freedom against the Aggression of 
Nazism, Fascism, and Imperialism. 
7 



98 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

On the declaration of India's independence, 

a Provisional Government will be formed 

it will be a composite government represent- 
ative of all the important sections of people 
in India. Its primary functions must be to 
defend 'India and resist aggression with all 
the armed as well as the non-violent forces 
at its command, together with its allied Powers, 
and to promote the well-being and progress 
of workers in the fields and factories and else- 
where to whom essentially all power and 
authority must belong. 

Independent India wishes her freedom to be the 
symbol of and prelude to the freedom of all other 
Asiatic Nations under foreign domination, and 
would gladly join a Federation and co-operate 
freely on an equal basis with other countries in 
the solution of international problems. 

The earnest appeal by the Working Commit- 
tee to Great Britain and the United Nations 
has so far met with no response, and criticisms 
made in many foreign quarters show ignorance 
of India's and the world's needs, and sometimes 
even hostility to India's freedom which is 
significant of the mentality of domination and 
racial superiority which cannot be tolerated 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 99 

by a proud people conscious of their strength 
and of the justice of their cause. The All- 
India Congress Committee would yet again 
at this last moment renew this appeal to 
Britain and the 'United Nations. Bui the 
Committee feels that it is no longer justi- 
fied in holding the nation back from endea- 
vouring to assert its will against the Imperi- 
alist and Authoritarian government that domi- 
nates it, and prevents it from functioning in 
its own interests and in the interests of human- 
ity. 

The Committee therefore resolves to sanc- 
tion, for the vindication of India's inalien- 
able right to freedom and independence, 
the starting of a mass struggle on non-violent 
lines on the widest possible scale so that the 
country may utilize all the non-violent strength 
it has gathered during the last twenty-two 
years of peaceful struggle. 

Such a struggle must inevitably be under 
the leadership of Gandhi and the Committee 
requests him to take the lead and guide the 
nation in the steps to be taken. 

The Committee appeals to the people of In- 
dia to face the dangers and hardships that fall 
to their lot with courage and endurance, hold 



100 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

together under the leadership of Gandhi and 
carry out his instructions as disciplined sol- 
diers of Indian freedom. 

They must remember that non-violence is 
the basis- of the movement. The time may 
come when it may not be possible to issue 
instructions to reach our people, and when 
no Congress Committee can function. 

When this happens every man and woman 
who is participating in this movement must 
function for himself or herself within the four 
corners of the general instructions issued. 

Every Indian who desires freedom and strives 
for it must be his own guide in urging him on 
along the hard road where there is no resting 
place, and which ultimately leads to the in- 
dependence and deliverance of India. 

Lastly, while the All-India Congress Commit- 
tee has stated its own view of the future 
-governance under a free India, it wishes to 
make it quite clear to all concerned that by 
embarking on a mass struggle it has no inten- 
tion of gaining power for Congress. Power, 
when it comes, will belong to the whole 
people of India. 

Pandit Nehru, in moving the resolution, 
had said : 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING IOI 

It is not a narrow nationalist resolution^ 
I am proud of Indian nationalism because it 
is broad-based and has an international out- 
look 

If by demanding our freedom we are called 
blackmailers, then surely our understanding 
of the English language has been wrong. 

In accepting the responsibility of leadership 
in this struggle, Gandhi tells his people : 

I take up my task of leading you not as 
your commander, not as your controller, 
but as the humblest servant of you all ; and 
he who serves best becomes the chief among 
them. I am the chief servant of the nation : 
that is how I look at it. 

Then, referring to the deep friendship he 
had cherished for the late C. F. Andrews : 

At the present moment the spirit of And- 
rews is sweeping me, and Andrews seems to 
me to be the highest that I have known in 
the English. With Andrews I enjoyed a 
relationship closer than I have enjoyed with 
any Indian. There was no secret between us. 

The button is pressed, and the machinery of 
Government released, that machinery of which 



102 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

Tagore had said, "The mechanics who drive jt 
have a long training in power, but no tradition of 
human sympathy, which is superfluous in a work- 
shop. They are incapable 'of understanding the 
living India, owing to the natural mentalify 
of bureaucracy which simplifies its task and manages 
an alien race from a distance through various 
switches and handles and wheels, and hardly ever 
through human touch." At all cost law and order, 
too often a euphemism in India for the rule of force, 
must be preserved. Action is swift. Gandhi, 
Nehru, Azad, together with hundreds of others, 
are imprisoned under special ordinances, poli- 
tical prisoners detained without trial. For Nehru 
it is the ninth time. During the sixth he had 
written : 

The years I have spent in prison I Sitting 
alone, wrapped in my thoughts, how many 
seasons I have seen go by, following each other 
into oblivion. How many moons I have 
watched wax and wane, and the pageant of 
the stars moving along inexorably and majes- 
tically ! How many yesterdays of my youth 
lie buried there ; and sometimes I see the ghosts 
of these dead yesterdays rise up, bringing 
poignant memories, and whispering to mq : 
"Was it worth it ?" There is no hesitation 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 103 

about the answer. If I were given the chance 
to go through my life again, with my present 
knowledge and experience added, I would 
no doubt try to make many changes in my 
personal life. I would endeavour to improve 
in many ways on what I had previously done, 
but my major decisions in public affairs would 
remain untouched. Indeed, I could not 
vary them, for they were stronger than myself, 
and a force beyond my control drove me 

to them I have a feeling that a 

chapter of my life is over and another chapter 
will begin. What this is going to be I cannot 
clearly guess. The leaves of the book of 
life are closed.* 

That was nearly ten years ago. 

There is a swift warning from Rajagopala- 
chariar : 

A solution should not be given up as im- 
possible Gandhi believed there was 

ample opportunity for an exchange of ideas 
with the Viceroy before starting his campaign. 

But the Government's precipitate action 
prevented negotiation and adjustments and 

* Autobiography : Jawaharlal Nehru. 



104 INDIA ! A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

created a most unfortunate and dangerous 
situation. 

In spite of this I believe that a calm exami- 
nation by British statesmen of the Congress 
position would not be impossible or usefess. 

The situation calls for every human effort 
towards solution. 

But there is no response to his appeal. Mean- 
while India presents a sorry spectacle. Gandhi 
has not launched his civil disobedience movement, 
but the people take matters into their own hands. 
With the responsible leaders of Congress in jail, 
others, less responsible, take the reins, and the 
situation offers every opportunity to enemies of 
Congress to make trouble in their name. Many 
factors must have contributed to the violent dis- 
orders that break out all over the country. Accord- 
ing to an official statement, there are signs of 
a genuine non-violent movement in the back- 
ground a faithful attempt to be true to the 
imprisoned chief. But there are all too many scenes 
of violence. The reaction of angry mobs to the 
treatment meted out to the leaders they loved; 
the letting loose of the hatred and resentment 
which Gandhi's restraining influence had held in 
check; the effects of Japanese anti-British propa- 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 105 

ganda which had been inflaming sections of India 
for 'several years ; the broadcasts of Subhas Bose 
(Indian Cambridge graduate who had thrown up the 
opportunity of a lucrative job in the Indian Civil 
Service to join in the struggle for freedom ; one- 
time Congressman who could not tolerate either the 
non-violent discipline of Congress or the frustra- 
tion of life under the Paramount Power and had 
joined the Axis at Berlin); and maybe our own ins- 
tructions in sabotage broadcast to the occupied 
countries of Europe. Whatever the causes, the 
effects are all too definite. Every act of violence, 
gratuitous or provoked, is repaid many-fold by 
organized repression on a wide scale machine- 
gunning of crowds from the air, firing by troops 
and police on unarmed masses, whippings, lathi 
charges, collective fines, use of tear gas. Many 
of the demonstrators are young students, some girls, 
the counterpart of all those young students who 
have suffered similarly on previous occasions and 
have sometimes sought retaliation by terrorism. 
Soon "the situation is well in hand/' Peace is 
restored, but "an arid peace, the bitter fruit of 
repression that gives rest to neither conqueror 
nor conquered." The revolt is driven under- 
ground, and the months pass. 

Anxious months for both countries. Un- 



106 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

tiring attempts at reconciliation made by respon- 
sible Indians who, though not in sympathy with 
Congress methods, share, together with the rest 
of India, the desire for Freedom now. Ex- 
tremists continue to make use of the opportunity 
to libel their imprisoned enemies, and are given 
considerable publicity in Britain. All attempts 
at solution by progressive thinkers in both coun- 
tries are stonewalled, concrete proposals put for- 
ward are ignored, while a bewildered British public, 
fed with propaganda on both sides, is unable to 
grasp the truth of the situation. Lulled by reports 
of the situation being well in hand, and feeling 
that the main task is to get on with the war, or- 
dinary men and women delude themselves into 
believing that the deadlock in India is of little 
consequence. When Britain's allies show signs 
of uneasiness, they are warned that this is a domes- 
tic affair, and that in any case they don't under- 
stand. Which is probably partly true, and cri- 
ticism without knowledge may be very dangerous. 
But at least some of that criticism is well-informed 
and worthy of attention. 

Meanwhile, what is happening in the mind 
of the man who originally suggested that Bri- 
tish power should be withdrawn ? Gandhi, {he 
Hindu, has been detained in the palace of the Aga 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING IOJ 

Khan x head of the Indian Moslem world. It is 
a luxurious home, ill-suited to the ascetic tastes 
of the prisoner. But nobody knows what he is 
thinking, how he is reacting to the happenings out- 
side, t>r whether he knows anything about them. 
The first news of him shocks the world. He 
has decided to fast ! If Gandhi has been the des- 
pair of his foes, he has certainly been equally the 
despair of his friends. As if the situation was not 
complicated enough already ! This will further 
antagonize those who had grown tired of his enig- 
matic ways. Telephones ring. Angry voices 
offer a great deal of gratuitous misinformation, 
and demand an explanation of this last step. It 
is difficult to keep calm in this tornado. It is 
safe perhaps to counter the savage criticism with 
one quiet question, "Why is he fasting ?" "To 
get his own way, of course. He wants to be re- 
leased." "Are you sure ?" "Of course; it's 
in the paper !" A reliable criterion of judgment. 
"Anyhow, the Viceroy says it's 'political blackmail/ 
and he should know, for he is on the spot." A 
pathetic faith in the "man on the spot." How 
should he necessarily know the causes and motives 
of such an essentially Eastern, particularly Hindu, 
expedience as fasting ? All an overburdened 
Viceroy can be expected to do is to try to diagnose 



108 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

the situation, and if he projects on to the Eastern 
patient motives that might have been his own, as 
a Westerner, in a similar situation, he can hardly 
be blamed. But that does not make him right. 

When discussing Gandhi's fasts, Field-Marshal 
Smuts once said : 

The performer (if I may call him so) tries 
to rouse the community to face the situation 
by the thought and spectacle of his own 
suffering. The technique is based on the 
principle of suffering and the purifying effect 
of vicarious suffering on the emotions of 
others. It has the same purifying and ennob- 
ling effect which high tragedy has in accord- 
ance with the Aristotelean definition. 

We touch here not only the Greek notion 
of tragedy but the deepest springs of religion. 
In particular the motif of suffering is central 
to the Christian religion. The Cross remains 
the symbol of the most significant tragedy in 
all human history. The suffering servant of 
Isaiah and the Great Sufferer on the Cross, 
pouring out His soul for His brothers, stirs 
emotions whose dynamic is incomparably 
greater than that of all reason or rational 
persuasion. The argument from suffering 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

is, and remains the most effective in the world. 
In the welter of religions in the early Roman 
empire the Christian religion won through 
by suffering, by martyrdom, and not by the ar- 
guments of the Apologists ; nor was [is progress 
unpeded by the current philosophies of that 
enlightened age. And in the same way the 
large-scale sufferings which in our day a cruel 
and brutal inhumanity in Europe is inflicting 
on those who differ in race or religion or con- 
viction may yet become the dynamite to ex- 
plode the great systems now so proudly being 
reared.* 

It is hard for Westerners to understand, 
particularly if those Westerners are not spiritually 
sensitive in any case. Moreover, in the case of Gan- 
dhi fasts, there is always in addition to the deeper 
general significance of fasting, a particular signi- 
ficance which special circumstances have created. 
Each fast, in fact, must be considered separately, 
for each is an entity. Simpler to bundle them 
all together and label them as "a form of black- 
mail with the object of getting his own way." 
But it will not help the situation. 

Speaking about the fast to a gathering in Bir- 

*Mahatma Gandhi : Essays and Reflections. 



110 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

mingham Cathedral, the Bishop used these words : 
Unfortunately, as regards all but a few, it 
.remains true that "East is East and West is 
West and never the twain shall meet." For 
this reason there ha-s been profound misunder- 
standing of Mahatma Gandhi's fast? I 

myself cannot believe that the fast was of 
the nature of blackmail. It may seem so to 
many among us because they do not under- 
stand Mr. Gandhi's religious outlook. 
Though the doctrine of atonement lies deeply 
imbedded in Christianity, though we express 
belief in the efficacy of prayer and fasting and 
in the spiritual power of suffering, our trust 
in force is so complete and our outlook so 
materialistic, that Christian essentials, pro- 
foundly real to Mr. Gandhi, may mean little 
to some among us. A Christian theologian 
may stress " the redemptive power of innocent 
suffering," but, when our politicians see it used 
with simple trust, they cannot understand it ; 
they suspect madness or profound duplicity. 
We need to remember that Christianity came 
from the East, and that instinctively Mr. Gandhi 
appreciates certain of its fundamentals better 
than any European. Let us never forget that, 
while we can show to India the Nordic virtues 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING III 

inherent in Christianity, India can in return 
give to us a deeper understanding of the mys- 
' tical content of our faith. 

But of far greater importance to us than the 
rights and wrongs of the'fast should bp the reasons 
thaf gave rise to it. 

During the six months following the incar- 
ceration of Gandhi and the leaders, and thousands 
more, under special ordinances and without 
trial, many statements are made in justification of 
government action, but from the prisoners there 
is a necessary and ominous silence. Not until 
February, when the fast is about to be under- 
taken, is news released of the events leading up 
to it. This takes the form of letters written by Gan- 
dhi to the Viceroy and the Viceroy to Gandhi, and 
for those who have patience to make their way 
through the somewhat wordy and meandering 
prose the results are illuminating. The first letter 
is from Gandhi, dated August 14, six days after 
his imprisonment. The 
duced a resolution in which 
from all guilt concerning thjj 
turbances in India, and laid 
and the Congress. Gandhi 

The Government of 




112 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

precipitating the crisis. The Government reso- 
lution justifying this stdp is full of distortions 
and misrepresentations. That you have* the 
approval of your Indian "colleagues" can have 
no significance except this : that in India you 
can always command such services. 
He declared that the Government should have 
waited. He had publicly stated that he was sending 
a letter to the Viceroy, and this letter would have 
been an appeal for an impartial examination of 
the Congress case. The Government's precipitate 
action, he says, suggests that they were afraid of 
the extreme caution with which Congress was 
moving ; afraid that it might gain WORLD SYMPATHY. 
Whereas they should have taken advantage of 
the interval foreshadowed and explored every 
possibility of meeting the Congress demand. He 
adheres to the legitimacy of the demand. He re- 
fuses to accept the Government contention that the 
Congress had made preparation for unlawful and, 
in some cases, violent activities. This is, he says, 
"a gross distortion of the reality," for "violence 
was never contemplated at any stage." If the Gov- 
ernment really did hear of such preparations, they 
should have brought to book the parties concerned, 
whereas by their "unsupported allegations in the 
resolution they have laid themselves open to the 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 113 

charge of unfair dealing." (Gandhi, also, is a 
lawyer.) Replying to the statement that the Con- 
gress seeks to secure its own dominance, he says : 

The Government of India have not con- 
descended to consider the Congress offer that 
if simultaneously with the declaration of the 
Independence of India they could not trust 
the Congress to foim a stable provisional 
government they should ask the Muslim Lea- 
gue to do so, and that any national gov- 
ernment formed by the League would be 
loyally accepted by the Congress. Such an 
offer is hardly consistent with the charge of 
totalitarianism against the Congress. 

He adheres to his contention that there can be no 
real unity in India until British power is with- 
drawn, and contends that the "living burial" 
of the author of the demand Cc has not resolved the 
deadlock, it has aggravated it." Once more he 
pleads for the shedding of imperialism "as much 
for the sake of the British people and humanity 
as for India," and asserts that Congress has 
no interests of its own apart from that of the 
whole of India and the world. He tries to make 
clear that the Government of India and the Congress 
have* really a declared cause in common the pro- 
8 



114 INDIA: A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

tection of the freedom of China and Russia : 

r 

The Government of India think that the 
freedom of India is not necessary for winning 
the cause. I think exactly the opposite. 

Jawaharlal Nehru, he continues, feels deeply the 
misery of China and Russia, and dreads the success 
of Fascism and Nazism, so much so that he had 
been trying to forget his quarrel with Imperial- 
ism, and had fought against Gandhi's position 
"with a passion which I have no words to des- 
cribe." They had argued for days together until 
the logic of facts overwhelmed him and he % saw 
clearly that without the freedom of India that of 
the other two countries was in jeopardy. This 
example is cited presumably to indicate that even 
Gandhi and the Government might have come to 
an understanding by patient discussion of the 
whole situation, and leads to the remark : 

Surely you are wrong in having imprisoned 
a powerful friend and ally 

However much I dislike your action, I 
remain the same friend you have known me. 
I still plead for reconsideration of the Govern- 
ment of India's whole policy. Do not dis- 
regard the pleading of one who claims to 
be a sincere friend of the British people. Heav- 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 115 

en guide you ! 

The reply is a few lines of acknowledgment, 
and a refusal to accept the criticisms or the request 
that the policy be changed. 

A month later, Gandhi tries again, with a 
letter to the Indian Government. After stating 
that there need have been no calamity had the 
Viceroy awaited his letter, and claiming that Con- 
gress policy still remains unequivocally non-violent, 
he urges them to "release the leaders, withdraw 
all repressive measures, and explore ways and means 
of reconciliation." He explains that he feels it 
is his duty to let the Government know that this 
is his reaction to the sad happenings in the country. 
He receives a formal acknowledgment. 

On December 31, he once more takes the 
initiative, with a personal letter to the Viceroy. 
He begins by blaming himself for having allowed 
the sun to set so many times on the quarrel. He 
wishes to disburden himself of all that is rankling 
before a new year begins. He realizes now that 
Lord Linlithgow suspects his bona fides, and re- 
grets that before taking drastic action he did not 
send for him, tell him of his suspicions and verify 
the facts. He is troubled at being asked to 

condemn the so-called violence of some people 



1 1 6 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

reputed to be Congressmen, although I have 

no data for such condemnation save the heavily 

censored reports of newspapers. I must own 

that I thoroughly distrust those reports. 

Gandhi's sense of justice is very strong, and he 

has a trained lawyer's mind. 

He has been placed, he says, in a palace "where 
every reasonable creature comfort is assured." 
He has freely partaken of those comforts "as a 
duty," never as "a pleasure," IN THE HOPE THAT 

SOME DAY THOSE THAT HAVE THE POWER WILL 
REALIZE THAT THEY HAVE WRONGED INNOCENT MEN. 

He has conceived it to be his mission to try to 
spread truth and non-violence among mankind in 
the place of violence and falsehood. The law of 
Satyagraha (Non-violence) as he knows it, pro- 
vides a remedy in such moments of trial as he is 
passing through. It is "to crucify the flesh by 
fasting." "THAT SAME LAW FORBIDS ITS USE 

EXCEPT AS A LAST RESORT. I DO NOT WANT TO 
USE IT IF I CAN AVOID IT. THIS IS THE WAY TO 
AVOID IT, CONVINCE ME OF MY ERROR OR ERRORS 
AND I SHALL MAKE AMPLE AMENDS. You Can Send 

for me or send someone who knows your mind 
and can carry conviction. There are many other 
ways if you have the will. May I expect an early 
reply ? May the new year bring peace to us" all." 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING II J 

Two weeks later, the Viceroy writes appre- 
ciatively of the frankness of the letter, but, appa- 
rently misunderstanding the main gist of it, ima- 
gines that Gandhi is wishing to retrace his steps, 
dissociate himself from his former ^policy. He 
asks what positive suggestion he wishes to make. 
He also reaffirms the responsibility of Gandhi 
and Congress for the violence in India. 

Replying within twenty-four hours, Gandhi 
writes again : 

My letter of the 3ist was a growl against 
you. Yours is a counter-growl. It means 
that you maintain that you were right in arrest- 
ing me. 

The inference you draw from my letter 
is, I am afraid, not correct. I have re-read 
my letter in the light of your interpretation 
but have failed to find your meaning in it. 
I wanted to fast, and should still want to if 
nothing comes out of our correspondence and 
I have to be a helpless witness of what is going 
on in the country, including the privations 
of millions, owing to the universal scarcity 
stalking the land 

You want me to make a positive sugges- 
tion. This I might be able to do only if you 



Il8 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

PUT ME AMONG THE MEMBERS OF THE WORKING 
COMMITTEE OF THE CONGRESS. 

IF I COULD BE CONVINCED OF MY ERROR OR 

WORSE, of which you are evidently, I SHOULD 
NEED TO CONSULT NOBODY, so far as my own 
action is concerned, to MAKE A FULL AND OPEN 

CONFESSION AND MAKE AMPLE AMENDS. BUT 
I HAVE NOT ANY CONVICTION OF ERROR. 

While making it clear that he deplores the vio- 
lence, he again stresses that he is not able to ex- 
press an opinion on events which he cannot in- 
fluence and of which he has but a one-sided account : 

You are bound prima facie to accept the 
accuracy of reports that may be placed before 
you by your departmental heads. But you 
will not expect me to do so. Such reports have 

before now often proved fallible You 

will perhaps appreciate my fundamental 
difficulty in making the statement you have 
expected me to make. 

This however I can say from the housetop, 
that I am as confirmed a believer in non-violence 
as I have ever been. You may not know that 
any violence on the part of Congress workers 
I have condemned openly and unequivocally. I 
have even done public penance more than once. 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 119 

I must not weary you with examples. THE 

POINT I WISH TO MAKE IS THAT ON EVERT 



SUCH OCCASION I WAS A FREE MAN. 

Once more he expresses his regret that the Viceroy 
had^not granted him an interview before taking 
action, and points out there have been former 
occasions when the Government of India have 
owned their mistakes, and this in spite of great 
and previous mob violence. 

To sum up : (i) If you want me to act 
singly, convince me 
that I was wrong and 
I will , make ample 
amends. 

(2) If you want me to make any 
proposal on behalf of 
Congress you should 
put me among the 
Congress Working Com- 
mittee members. 

I DO PLEAD WITH YOU TO MAKE UP YOUR 
MIND TO END THE IMPASSE. 

In his reply, the Viceroy states that he is still 
rather in the dark, although he has read the last 
letter with care and attention. He still insists 



120 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

that Gandhi and Congress are responsible for a 
campaign of violence and crime, but produces no 
proof. He is glad to hear the unequivocal con- 
demnation of violence, but refuses to accept the 
Governments responsibility for it. Ignoring 
Gandhi's request to be put among his colleagues, 
or convinced of his own personal error, the Viceroy 
once more expresses his readiness to consider 
specific proposals if Gandhi will repudiate the Con- 
gress resolution and dissociate himself from it, 
and give appropriate assurances as regards the 
future. 

The correspondence drags on. Obviously the 
two men do not understand each other and at times 
they seem to be talking a different language. There is 
little likelihood of any satisfactory result unless they 
face each other and in conversation clarify issues 
as each agrues his case. Both are doubtless tired men, 
passing through a great ordeal. Both appear to 
be honest thinkers, but with such different types 
of mind that a point of contact is never established. 
If only there were a well-balanced "go-between" 
with an understanding of each, to explain each 
to the other. 

In a letter dated January 29, there is a fur- 
ther appeal from Gandhi to be convinced of the 
responsibility of Congress for the violence that 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 121 

broke out "after the wholesale arrest of the prin- 
cipal Congress workers" : 

Then take the unproved and in my opin- 
ion unprovable charges hurled against the 
Congress and me by so responsible a Minis- 
ter as the Secretary of State for India. 

Surely I can say with suavity that it is for 
the Government to justify their action by 
solid evidence, not by ipse dixit. 

But you throw in my face the fact of mur- 
ders by persons reputed to be Congressmen, 
I see the facts of murders as clearly as I hope 
you do. My answer is that the Government 
goaded people to the point of madness 

Add to this tale of woe the privations of 
the poor millions due to India-wide scarcity 
which I cannot help thinking might have been 
largely mitigated if not altogether prevented, 
had there been a bona fide national government 
responsible to a popularly elected Assembly. 

The situation demands that he should now un- 
dertake a fast according to capacity, to begin on 
February 9 and end on March 22. "My WISH 

IS NOT TO FAST UNTO DEATH, BUT TO SURVIVE THE 
ORDEAL OF THE FEAT IF GOD SO WILLS IT. THIS 
FAST CAN BE ENDED SOONER BY GOVERNMENT 



122 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 
GIVING THE NEEDED RELIEF." 

The Viceroy replies with a letter in which 
he once more reiterates the charges against Gandhi 
and Congress, produces no proof, but makes the 
grave statement that the Government has evidence 
that Gandhi* was prepared to condone violence, 
and that the violence that ensued was part of a 
concerted plan, conceived long before the arrest 
of the Congress leaders. "You may rest assured," 
the letter continues, "that the charges against 
Congress will have to be met sooner or later, and 
it will then be for you and your colleagues to clear 
yourselves before the world if you can." Then 
comes a warning : "If in the meantime you yourself, 
by any action such as you now appear to be contem- 
plating, attempt to find an easy way out, the judg- 
ment will go against you by default." Followed 
by the explanation that he regards "the use of a 
fast for political purposes as a form of political 
blackmail for which there can be no moral jus- 
tification," and had understood from Gandhi's 
own previous writings that this was also his view. 

With these remarks, the misunderstanding is 
well-nigh complete. In his next and last letter, 
Gandhi takes up the last point first : 

No doubt the responsibility for the step, 

and its consequence will be solely mine. 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 123 

You have allowed an expression to slip from 

your pen for which I was unprepared 

"to find an easy way out/* That you, as a 
friend, can impute such a base and cowardly 
motive to me pasees comprehension. You 
have also described it as a form of poli- 
tical blackmail. And you quote my previous 
writings on the subject against me. We 
might abide by my writings. I hold that 
there is nothing inconsistent in them with 
the contemplated step. I wonder whether you 

have yourself read those writings 

You say that there is evidence that I "ex- 
pected this policy to lead to violence," and 

that I was "prepared to condone it" 1 

have seen no evidence in support of such a 

serious charge The speech of the Home 

Member, of which you have favoured me with 
a copy, may be taken as the opening speech 
of prosecuting counsel and nothing more. It 
contains unsupported imputations against 
Congressmen. Of course he has described 
the violent outbursts in graphic language. 
But he has not said why it took place when it 

did. YOU HAVE CONDEMNED MEN AND WOMEN 
BEFORE TRYING THEM AND HEARING THEIR 

DEFENCE. Surely there is nothing wrong 



124 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

in my asking you to show me the evidence on 
which you hold them guilty. What you say 
in your letter carries no conviction. Proof 
should correspond to the canons of English 
jurispru4ence 

You say that the time is not yet ripe to pub- 
lish the charges against the Congress. Have 
you ever thought of the possibility of their 
being found guiltless when they are put before 
an impartial tribunal ? or some of the con- 
demned persons might have died in the mean- 
time or that some of the evidence the living 
can produce might become available ? 

You have left me no loophole for escape 
from the ordeal I have set before myself. 
I begin it on the 9th instant with the clearest 
possible conscience. Despite your descrip- 
tion of it as a "form of political blackmail" 
it is on my part meant to be AN APPEAL 

TO THE HIGHEST TRIBUNAL FOR THE 
JUSTICE WHICH I HAVE FAILED TO SECURE 

FROM YOU. If I do not survive the ordeal, 
I shall go to the judgment seat with the 
fullest faith in my innocence. Posterity will 
judge between you as the representative of 
an all powerful Government and me as a 
humble man who has tried to serve his countiy 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 125 

and humanity through it. 

* * * 

Three weary weeks of strain while Gandhi 
pleads with his life for the justice he had failed to 
secfirc, undergoing in his own befng not only 
physical suffering but a spiritual self-purification 
which he alone can understand. India waits and 
watches. Men of all classes, races and creeds in 
India and elsewhere are at prayer. The world at 
large cannot be expected to understand, and there 
are plenty of scoffers, plenty who wish him dead. 
But others realize what repercussions may follow 
the death of this man who means so much to so 
many, and wields such great influence in the 
affairs of men. 

Though he passes through a time of extreme 
weakness, Gandhi does not die. He had not 
expected that he would, but those who were an- 
xiously watching from so many corners of the 
world had almost lost faith that he could sur- 
vive. What has the fast achieved ? It is a question 
which no man is qualified to answer. 

* * * 

The following statement issued by Rajago- 
palachariar on March 8, 1943, is worthy of atten- 
tion : 



126 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

Ever since the Gandhi-Linlithgow corres- 
pondence was published on February 10, 
one outstanding fact that has transpired in 
that correspondence has given cause for much 
puzzlement. No explanation has yet been ten- 
dered by the official world. Gandhiji's dis- 
approval of the acts of sabotage and vio- 
lence that followed his arrest was explicitly ex- 
pressed in his letter to the Government of In- 
dia dated 2 3rd September, 1942. Had this letter 
or the substance of it been published at the time 
it would have effectively stopped the ex- 
ploitation of his name as well as of the Congress 
by those who carried on and encouraged these 
acts. The suppression of this letter gives 
rise to the feeling that once the situation was 
thought by the Government to be in hand, 
they preferred repression to being under any 
obligation to Gandhiji. The battle between 
sabotage and repression was permitted to go 
on, so to say in complete darkness as to 
Gandhiji's views. Those who felt that secret 
organization and destruction of public pro- 
perty could not possibly have been advised 
by Gandhiji and who deplored the progress 
of repression have a right to complain that 
Gandhiji's letter to the Government of India 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 1 27 

in September last should not have been 
suppressed. 

The Viceroy when he saw me in November, 
deplored the absence of any condemnation 
m of these happenings on Gandhiji's part though 
he has newspapers. On November 12, after 
my request was refused by the Viceroy, I said 
to the Press at New Delhi, "If I had thought 
that there was the slightest chance of the pre- 
sent disturbances being encouraged by the 
fact of my visit I would not have thought of 
asking for permission for the visit. My 
views are so clear and so well known that I 
hoped that even the fact of my visit would 
discourage the disturbances and automatically 
switch the mind of the people engaged in the 
disturbances to the results of my talks, and 
it is, therefore, in my opinion, most unfortunate 
that the Viceroy has decided to refuse the 
chance of a settlement." The next day, in 
another statement I said to the Press that 
"it was unfair to expect Gandhiji from inside 
prison to express an opinion on what is hap- 
pening without being asked by anyone, and 
that it was one of the things I had intended to 
elicit from Gandhiji if I had been permitted 
to see him." Little did I know when I made 



128 INDIA: A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

these statements on November 12 and 13 
that the Viceroy had this letter of September 
23 from Gandhiji in his hands all the time. 
Even if the Viceroy had grounds to be dis- 
satisfied ^with the lettdr on account of its other 
contents and deficiencies, if he had told me some- 
thing about the letter, many innocent people 
could have been saved from much suffering. 
When I saw Gandhiji during his fast on the 
26th February and following days, I had 
opportunities to discuss these questions of 
sabotage and violence with him. His dis- 
approval was complete and he said that no 
one was justified in conducting or encourag- 
ing such activities in his name or in the 
name of the Congress. He shared my grief 
that his letters to the Viceroy and the Gov- 
ernment of India on the subject had not 
been published at once and were suppressed 
for such a long time. 



The deadlock continues. Fair-minded people 
in both countries are troubled. The immediate 
problems of Indian Independence, National Govern- 
ment, relation to the war, and all other complica- 
tions are beginning to be clouded by a still bigger 



INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 1 29 

issue. Something seems to be happening to Bri- 
tish justice. It is not a pleasant experience in 
the midst of war to feel the foundations of one's 
own country rocking, to know that something 
is being tampered with for which our forefathers 
have* struggled and sacrificed and hn$e left to us 
as a precious heritage. Will Britain stand the test ? 
Will she discover in time that whatever case she 
may have had before, she has by recent actions put 
herself in the wrong ? 

WAIT says Whitehall. Wait for the WHITE 
PAPER. 

But this lamentable document when it comes 
proves nothing. It is merely the case for the pro- 
secution. Gandhi's writings, torn out of their 
context, and obviously misunderstood, are pro- 
duced as evidence of his evil designs. A genius 
for over-simplification has quickly obliterated the 
inner meaning of some of the most abstruse para- 
graphs which careful students of Gandhian thought 
and philosophy would not claim to understand. 
Documents of doubtful validity are cited in con- 
demnation of Congress activities. A public charge 
is made against men and women many of whom 
have proved themselves able administrators in 
the past and people of the highest moral calibre 
who are now in prison or detention camp. They 
9 



130 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

are denied any opportunity of defending them- 
selves. Public security in a war situation may have 
necessitated their incarceration pendente lite for 
India, too, has her i8B. But to make a public 
charge on unproved evidence, refuse to let the 
matter be blought before an independent tribunal, 
constitute oneself accuser, evidence-producer and 
judge all in one ! is this necessary, is it wise, 
is it just ? 

So the emphasis has shifted ; from the problem 
of India to the defence of British justice. No 
longer is the chief problem the assessment of guilt, 
but the method by which it is to be assessed. It 
is easy to make accusations on one side or the 
other, but must not the defence always be heard 
before the accusation can stand ? Why for ins- 
tance dare Britain assert with such assurance that 
the demand for Independence was timed to strike 
her when at her weakest ? Surely there had been 
weaker moments Dunkirk, for instance ! Where 
is the proof of the serious charge that Gandhi and 
Congress are pro-Japanese ? Moreover, how 
can Congress be dismissed as a "totalitarian party" 
without careful examination of its inner workings 
at least as democratic, in some people's opinion, 
as those of political parties in the so-called demo- 
cracies ; and without examination, also, of its real 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 151 

aims, as distinct from those attributed to it by its 
detractors ? Where is the authenticated, docu- 
mented evidence in support of the contention that 
Congress leaders initiated the conflict, and planned 
acts of sabotage so vehemently den/ed by Gandhi 
in his correspondence with the Viceroy ? Con- 
gress may or may not have done for either or 
both of the contentions may be right or wrong. 
But by British law men are innocent until 
their guilt is proved. When justice goes, what 
next ? 

"The charges against the Congress will have 
to be met sooner or later," the Viceroy had said. 
Yes, but by both sides. War blinds us, and we 
find no time to sit and think rationally about the 
situation. Supposing, as Gandhi has said, these 
condemned men and women are proved guilt- 
less when brought before an impartial tribunal ? 
Supposing some of them have died before then, 
undefended, but convicted ? They have already 
among them Mahadev Desai, Gandhi's Brahman 
secretary, right-hand man, and trusted friend. Men 
loved him for his gentle ways, his great-hearted- 
ness, his humble spirit and sensitive soul. They 
loved him for his intellect and his joy in poetry 
and the literature of many peoples ; and for that 
sense of fun which caused him, the humblest of 



132 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

men, to pull himself erect and announce to East 
End enquirers, "I am Mahadev. Maha (great) 
Dev (god). Yes, I am the great god I" Both 
Britain and India have lost a friend in him. 



All attempts to use the opportunity offered by 
Gandhi's request to be either convinced of per- 
sonal error or placed among the Working Committee 
with a view to putting forward a concrete pro- 
posal are frustrated. Even Roosevelt's personal 
envoy is denied permission to see him before leav- 
ing for America. Many resolutions are passed in 
India and Britain, while suggestions are made in 
both countries which, though doubtless imper- 
fect, might have opened the way to negotiation. 
But the door is bolted and barred. "No callers." 
India's children, 7 3 -year-old Gandhi among them, 
must be kept under strict parental foster-parental 
control. 

Like a bolt from the blue comes the pro- 
nouncement of Sir Maurice Gwyer, retiring Lord 
Chief Justice of India, that the ordinances under 
which Gandhi and the Congress leaders are im- 
prisoned are illegal. British people who have been 
growing concerned about the apparent crumbling 
away of British justice, rejoice that it is one of their 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 133 

own countrymen who has voiced this truth. 

What will Britain do now ? If she is truly 
seeking a way out of the deadlock, here is one at 
hand. By her own lajvs she is proved guilty of 
miscarriage of justice. A dignified apology for 
those nine months of illegal imprisonment could 
clear the atmosphere and open a new era. It is 
the moment for imaginative statesmanship. 

But by hasty legislation the ordinances are 
made valid. After all, it was only a small tech- 
nical error that had to be put right. A slight 
adjustment, and the wheels of the great adminis- 
trative machine begin to revolve again. 

The deadlock continues. India, says Sir Tej 
Sapru, "is a land of protests, processions and 
prayers." 

There is a sudden alarm. Gandhi again ! 
He has dared to accept a challenge from Mr. Jinnah 
that he should write a letter to him. What kind 
of letter has he written ? Apparently a completely 
innocuous one expressing his willingness to meet 
the Moslem leader, doubtless with a view to ex- 
ploring possibilities of reaching that Hindu-Moslem 
agreement which the Paramount Power finds 
requisite to the granting of Independence. But 
tfye machinery is ready. "Wisely and bravely" 
according to a report in an English provincial paper 



134 INDIA I A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

the Government of India refuses to let the letter 
through. One can almost catch the click of military 
heels and the flash of bayonets as Gandhi's skinny 
hand pushes the letter openly through the bars 
of his metaphorical cage, and the imperial past- 
man refuses delivery. Jinnah not unnaturally 
enjoys the snub administered to his old enemy, 
as well as his own filtrations with authority. As 
to the letter well, it wasn't the one he wanted 
anyhow, and Gandhi must have had evil designs 
in writing such an innocuous epistle. Our one- 
track policy brings us perilously near to Gilbert 
and Sullivan opera. Has war extinguished our 
sense of humour ? 

Meanwhile, British women are not silent. 
Undeterred by a pronouncement from Westmin- 
ster that their intuitive sympathy and understand- 
ing disqualify them from diplomatic service, some 
have tried to bring these very qualities to bear on 
the Indian problem to them essentially a psy- 
chological problem which will defy solution until 
the right atmosphere is created. Though knowl- 
edge, logic and common sense must play their part, 
there must be a judicious admixture of imagina- 
tion. Domination will not do as a substitute. 
Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence offers refreshing com- 
ments : 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 135 

India is not the enemy. On the contrary, 
she is potentially a very influential member of 
the Allied Nations. It should surely be the 
aim of statesmanship to make this potential 
^situation an actual one an ajm that can 
only be achieved on the basis of negotiation 
Between equals. 

I know that the Indian leaders, Mr. Gandhi 
in particular, have been reproached for being 
unduly influenced by the menace of Japan 
when they rejected the British offer of In- 
dependence after the war. But after all, 
France felt obliged to put the safety of her 
population before her commitment to the Allies 
and we have not withdrawn our sympathy 
from France on that account. The future 
of Asia depends on the whole-hearted partner- 
ship of India with the Allied Nations, in the 
preservation of the continent from the mili- 
tarism and aggression of Japan. States- 
manship could achieve it. The marvellous 
gifts of imagination and vision of our Prime 
Minister could achieve it. But the attitude 
of the bewildered old "Nannie" whose nur- 
sery discipline has been upset will achieve 
nothing. Nannie's day is over. (Manchester 
Guardian^ June 2, 1943.) 



136 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

Once more Sir Tej Sapru makes his appeal, 
urging the appointment of an impartial tribunal 
to investigate the charges made against Congress, 
or their release so as to enable the situation to be 
reviewed in % a fresh attempt to solve the cjpad- 
lock. Speaking on behalf of himself and some of 
his colleagues, he declares : 

We wish to state beyond all doubt that we 
seek no concessions for Gandhi and his chief 
associates. We are not petitioners on their 
behalf for clemency or tenderness. OUR 

DEMAND IS FOR JUSTICE AND NO MORE AND NO 

LESS. Grave charges have been made against 
Gandhi and his colleagues, and it has been 
suggested both in England and India that the 
Congress leaders are pro-Japanese. To the 
best of our knowledge and belief there is 
no truth in this allegation. Gandhi's paci- 
fism, known all over the world, should not 
in our opinion be interpreted as amounting to 
sympathy with Japan or any Axis powers. 
If the Government for any reason is not 
prepared to set up an impartial tribunal, then 
justice no less than expediency demands that 
Gandhi and his colleagues be set at liberty 
so that they may apply themselves as free men 
to review the situation and reach a solutio'n 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 137 

of the present deadlock in consultation and 
co-operation with other important parties. 
(Center y May 23, 1943.) 

"The Government qf India have no intention 
of sttiging a trial of Mr. Gandhi and *he Congress 
leaders," is the reply of the Secretary of State. 

The Prime Minister is the recipient of an Appeal 
signed by some seventy leading and representative 
women of Britain : 

We the undersigned believe we are ex- 
pressing the desire of many people in this 
country, in India, and other parts of the world 
in wanting to see the deadlock between Great 
Britain and India ended now. 

We are aware of the complexities of the 
problem, set as it is in the midst of a world 
war, of the many efforts that have been made 
on both sides to end the impasse. But we 
cannot believe that these difficulties are beyond 
the reach of human remedy. In all great 
struggles the method of consultation and 
negotiation finally has to take the place of 
strife. We want to see this method employed 
without further delay. 

We therefore urge His Majesty's Govern- 
ment not to allow the present position to 



138 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

continue. As a first step towards ending 
the deadlock we ask that facilities be granted 
to the moderate Indian leaders for the consul- 
tation they desire with interned leaders. 
(Manchester Guardian, June 4, 1943.) 

People are growing tired of the Indian dead- 
lock. Official speeches jangle the nerves with 
tunes as monotonous as the repertoire of a street 
barrel-organ. Will the eternal wrangle never 
cease ? Always the sins of the past clouding all 
vision for the future, and Britain herself losing 
her own moral freedom as she forges stronger and 
stronger fetters of sterile rationalization and harden- 
ing prejudice. The Prime Minister himself once 
said (though not on the subject of India), "If we 
wrangle about yesterday, we have lost to- 
morrow." Yet we wrangle on, demanding un- 
conditional surrender from those who have defied 
us, asking one of the greatest men of our age to 
recant, to confess sins he does not believe he has 
committed before we will even negotiate with 
him. Whither Britain ? 

It is not yet too late to strike out on a more 
glorious path. But it will be, soon. 
* * * 

Birmingham's blitzed Cathedral offers little 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 1 39 

inspiration today. Its beautiful Burne Jones 
windows have been removed to a safer place, and 
their warm colourings no longer throw harmo- 
nious patterns over its old stones. It is bleak and 
cheerkss. But on March 12, 1943,* the people 
gathered there felt the glow of new beginnings, 
fresh liopes, the "kindred of the nations ming- 
ling again in the alchemy of love/' Indian and 
British together, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and 
Moslems, stirred by one deep desire to find 
through all the difficulties and perplexities a new 
way of life for two nations who have been joined 
for so long in such strange partnership. 

We need to replace enmity by friendli- 
ness, unhappy memories by the spirit of co- 
operation, suspicion and jealousy by con- 
fidence and trust on both sides. 

The voice of the Bishop was clear and challeng- 
ing. 

The time seems to me to be ripe for a new 
attempt at mutual understanding. The whole 
world situation has changed since the black 
days of the Mutiny or of Amritsar. India now 
takes its place among the countries of the 
world as a group of peoples with a distinctive 
civilization spreading through a vast popu- 



140 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

c 

lation. By sheer weight of numbers com- 
bined with the intellectual ability of her 
leaders, India must inevitably in the future 
play an important part in shaping the des- 
tiny of the world. 

What many of us in England desire is to 
see India freely choosing to be a member of 
the British Commonwealth of Nations, 
forgetting in the exultation of freedom the 
present emotional antagonism. 

I personally am convinced that, as regards 
India, such a slogan as "what we have we 
hold" is out of date. The mental attitude 
which it suggests is that of our early nine- 
teenth century nabobs. To REGARD INDIANS 
AS SUBJECT RACES HELD DOWN BY FORCE OF 
ARMS IS WHOLLY INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE 
OUTLOOK OF A MODERN CHRISTIAN DEMOCRACY. 
WHEN INDIA AND ENGLAND MEET ON EQUAL 
TERMS, WITH FRIENDLY RESPECT ON BOTH SIDES, 
A NEW ERA CAN BEGIN. Let us pray that God 
will hasten the time of its beginning. Let 
us also remember that our Christian mission- 
aries have during the last two generations 
steadily worked for the new understanding, 
many of them showing a strong sympathy 
with Indian nationalism. In this movement 



INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 141 

an outstanding figure was Charles Andrews, a 
leader of men born in our City. Towards 
the end of his life he was spiritually as much 
an Indian as an Englishman ; in him the pro- 
found gulf between* the two peoples was 

bridged 

We pray, then, today for an enlarged sym- 
pathy, a new unity, a turning back from repeat- 
ed mistakes to a true fellowship in the future. 
We must link India to our Empire, not by 
might, nor by power, but by the spirit of 
Christ. 

* * * 

Outside the Cathedral a group gathered and 
an Indian voice broke the silence, 

This is the real Britain and this is real 
Christianity. In such an atmosphere the 
Indian problem can be solved. 

* * * 

So may both Britain and Indi 
together the song of Rabin 

Where the mind is wi 
head is held high; 
Where knowledge is 
Where the world has 




142 INDIA : A PLEA FOR UNDERSTANDING 

into fragments by narrow domestic walls ; 

Where words come out from the depth of 
truth; 

Where tireless striving stretches its arms 
towards perfection ; 

Where the clear stream of reason has not 
lost its way into the dreary desert land of 
dead habit ; 

Where the mind is led forward by Thee 
into ever-widening thought and action 

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, 
let my country awake. 

i^ 36. 



The Moral Challenge of Gandhi 

By 
DOROTHY HOGG 

To a po \ver-iriLOxicated ind lust-ridden world Gandhi 
is in\anably the bjggest moral challenge. Truth and 
Non-V*olencc are bis weapons. With these weapons of 
love he challenges tHe whole might of the Empire and the 
greater might of the dark forces of evil that proudly bestride 
the globe today. His is no coward's path whose ears are 
always attuned to the Infinite. "Defeat coulJ uever be his. 
Failure, perhaps, but the failure of the Crost,." 

It is this moral challenge >f Gandhi rh.it Dorothy Hogg, 
an English woman, emphasises in this neatly drawn pen- 
portrait of Gandhi during the heart-breaking years of the 
War. For her, Gandhi stands triumphant as tht Saviour 
of humanity. He alone abides, while others perish. 

Price 8 as. 



KITAB MAHAL : Publishers : ALLAHABAD 



GANDHI, World Citizen 

By 
MURIEL LESTER 

Miss Muriel Lester knows Gandhiji intimately. She 
was his hostess in London yhen he went for the Round 
Table Conference. She has been his guest severaf times 
during her visits to India. And she knows worlcj^opinion 
and the high place it gives C^andhiji as she is one of the 
outstanding members of the International Fellowship of 
Reconciliation. 

All through the book the reader will find very interesting 
stories about Gandhiji used as illustrations. In the first 
part of the book Miss Lester gives an illuminating study 
of Gandhiji which is both original and fresh. While in the 
second part she gives a biography sketch. 

Written with sincerity and a sense of proportion by a 
world-famous writer, this is a book that will rank with 
Romain Rolland's book on Gandhiji. It is illustrated witr 
nine full page rare pictures not yet imported into India. 

Full Cloth Bound : Peges 201 : Price Rs. 5/8 

KITAB MAHAL : Publishers : ALLAHARAD 



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