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92 N396 
Mehru 



56-1WPL8 



Toward freedojj^ the autobiography of 
Jawaharlal Nehru ** 



92 M396 J>6-lUtl8 

Nehru 

Toward freedom^ the autobiography 

of Jawaharlal Nehru 




L> 



i 



JAN17 f 62 






TOWARD FREEDOM 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JAWAHARLAL NEHRU 



T 






THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF 



JAWAHARLAL 
NEHRU 



ILLUSTRATED 



THE JOHN DAY COMPANY 



NEW YORK 



rights 

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si* arty 



XJ**ITS STATES OF A Kl H ft I C: A 
COICNWAI-t, JPJtKSS, lM<3- COS<WA)Lt.^ K. y. 



* X 



TO 



KAM ALA 



WHO IS NO MORE 



PUBLISHER'S FOREWORD 

NEHRU is TODAY the great democrat of the world. Not Churchill, not 
Roosevelt, not Chiang Kai-shek, in a sense not even Gandhi, stands 
as firm as Nehru does for government by the consent of the people 
and for the integrity of the individual. He scorns and despises Nazism 
and fascism. He is not a communist "chiefly because I resist the com 
munist tendency to treat communism as holy doctrine. I feel also that 
too much violence is associated with communist methods." The goal 
of India, as he states it, is "a united, free, democratic country, closely 
associated in a world federation with other free nations." Yet Nehru 
is in a British jail. Why? 

In one of his last letters he did me the honor to suggest that I write 
a preface for this first American edition of his autobiography. This 
I am glad to do, not only to set his position clearly before Americans 
at the outset, but also to tell something of the long course by which 
his book has come to this country. 

The esteem in which Nehru and his program are held by liberal 
Englishmen is shown by the proposal soon after the war began in 
Europe, that he be made Premier of India "in fact if not in name," as 
it was put in the New Statesman of London, which added, *lf we dare 
give India liberty we shall win the leadership of all free peoples. If 
we must meet a rebel India with coercion, will anyone in Europe or 
America mistake us for the champions of democracy?" 

This comment suggests why India is now an American problem. 
We are staking the future of democracy on saving Britain. To under 
stand Britain we must understand the British Empire. To understand 
the Empire we must understand India, And to understand India we 
must understand Nehru and his attitude to the world. 

For Nehru thinks in world terms, He has been three times presi 
dent of the Indian National Congress, and declined a fourth term. 
Next only to Gandhi, he is the leader of the millions of India. He 
fights for the freedom of India, but that is only the issue of the mo 
ment. He stands for an Asiatic federation, but that is only the issue, 
let us say, of a generation. He looks beyond to the world order, he 
thinks of mankind as a whole, In an article in the Atlantic Monthly 
last April, he wrote; "India is far from America, but more and more 
our thoughts go to this great democratic country, which seems, al 
most alone, to keep the torch of democratic freedom alight in a 

vli 



world given over to imperialism and fascism, violence and aggression, 
and opportunism of the worst type." 

America, England, India, China . . . "Round the four seas, said 
Confucius, "all men are brothers"; and such is Nehru's concept, 

Just before this book went to press Dr. Anup Singh, the Indian 
who wrote the brief vivid biography entitled Nthru: Rising Sttxr of 
India, sat in my office. He has for several years given wise and selfless 
guidance in finding the way to bring this autobiography to Amer 
ican readers. Now, at the last, we asked him, "What is the one salient 
thing to say about Nehru?" This is what he said in reply: There has 
been too much talk of the traditional conflict of East and West, and 
belief that they can never meet, Nehru is proof that they have already 
met. He is the synthesis of East and West, In him the best of both cul 
tures are fused into the coming world type, the man of the future* 

The last sections of this book were written in August* 1940, not 
many weeks before Nehru's arrest. The greater part had been written 
between June, 1934, and February, 1935, in prison* 

When I went on a trip to India early in 1934, one of the men I was 
to see was Nehru. But eleven days before I landed in Calcutta, he had 
stood in a courtroom there, offering no defense, and had been sen 
tenced to his seventh term of imprisonment* It might be said, although 
it is not strictly true, that if it took a war to put Nehru in jail in 1940, 
it took an earthquake to do it the time before. In the province of 
Behar, on January 15, 1934, there was a great earthquake* Even in 
India people did not know for a long time how great a disaster it had 
been. Thousands of persons were killed and great areas kid waste* 
When Nehru learned of the seriousness of the earthquake* he went 
to the scene, and then issued an appeal for relief funds, and accused 
the Behar government of scamping relief and neglecting the debris, 
where living people lay buried for as long as twelve days. In one ruined 
city, to spur on the work, he dug at the debris with his own hands, 
and his party unearthed the body of a little girl. When he was con 
victed a few days later, the charges were based upon speeches he had 
made previously at Calcutta; but few in India doubted that it counted 
much against him that he had openly charged that after the earth 
quake the government had taken immediate steps to protect property 
but had not been so expeditious in trying to rescue people who lay 
buried. 

To the police officer who carne to arrest him he said wryly, *I hairc 

viii 



been waiting for you a long time*'* He had been out of jail for less 
than six months. When he was taken off to prison he telegraphed to 
his daughter, Indira, "Am going back to my other home for a while.** 

Friends in India, however^ arranged to send to America some of 
his writings, and we published in Asia Magazine a series of letters 
which he had written to Indira from his prison between 1930 and 
1933. These have become a part of his book, Glimpm of World H*V~ 
lory. Late in 2935 we learned that he had come out of prison bringing 
the complete manuscript of his autobiography* From what were 
then the last chapters of the autobiography we made the leading 
article in the June, 1936, issue of Asia. Published as a book in Eng 
land in that year, the autobiography was at once greeted by critics as a 
masterpiece and was widely read and had to be reprinted again and 
again. There have now been fourteen printings in England. Negotia 
tions with the London publishers for an American edition failed after 
dragging on until the book as first written had become out of date. 

When John Gunther was in India in 1938, everywhere he went the 
first political question asked him was "Have you seen Jawaharlal?" 
Gunther sent to Asm an article published under this title in February! 
1939- Of the autobiography he wrote in his book Inside Am, **Nehru*s 
autobiography is subtle, complex, discriminating, infinitely cultivated, 
steeped in doubt, suffused with intellectual passion. It is a kind of 
Indian Education of Henry Adams, written in superlative prose- 
hardly a dozen men alive write English as well as Nehru and it is 
not only an autobiography of the most searching kind, but the story 
of a whole society! the story of the life and development of a nation.** 

When Gunther got back to New York we had a talk in which he 
emphasized his enthusiasm for the autobiography and after consulting 
several Indians including Mrs, Bhicoo Batlivala and Dr, Anup Singh, 
we resolved to try again* this time dealing directly with Nehru. For 
it was plain that after three years the book, if Americans were to read 
it, would have to be revised, by the removal of large sections that were 
no longer in point or were of little interest in this country, and also by 
additions to bring it up to the moment* This Nehru was at first re 
luctant to do, but at last he consented* That was a little more than a 
year ago* 

At just about that time the European war began to make difficulties 
both of mail transport and of censorship. The deletions which we 
have made have not been seen by Nehru, although they have been 
approved by his representative in London, V, K Krishna KietKuou 

ix 



They are chiefly passages about the details of Indian politics, incidents 
now long in the past, or individuals and places important in Indian 
life but not to Americans. The additions are Nehru's own, thanks to 
the courtesy of the British censor. His last chapters reached us un- 
censored, and one of them in an envelope with his name on the out 
side and stamped "Not opened by censor." We have taken a pub- 
lisher's liberty in placing at the beginning two chapters which in the 
English edition come much later in the book, because they seem to 
introduce Nehru's personality most readily to American readers, who 
have not known him so well as the English have. These chapters also 
seem an appropriate beginning, because they tell of his life in prison, 
where he was when he wrote most of the book and where he now is 
again. Because of this confinement, he will not have had a chance to 
approve the proofs of his book. Knowing that such might be the case, 
he wrote late in September, "No further reference to me need be 
necessary at all It is unlikely that I shall be in a position to answer it 
after a short while." The responsibility for the final form of the book 
therefore is mine, and being sure that we have done no violence to 
Nehru's ideas or style, I am confident not only of his indulgence but 
also of the understanding of his readers. 

In India, it has been said, the unexpected always happens, hut the 
inevitable never occurs. Certainly it was unexpected that the British 
should so mistake the temper of India as to deny the last appeal for 
freedom and to put Nehru into jail yet again. Certainly it is not in* 
evitable that Indian freedom should be long denied* And certainly 
Nehru's record is clear. 

After his release from prison in 1935, he went to Europe, where his 
wife died early the next year. A little while before that he had been 
for the second time elected president of the Indian National Congress* 
Returning by plane by way of Rome, he had the greatest difficulty in 
avoiding the importunities of the Fascists, who tried for their own 
purposes to get him to meet Mussolini, which he knew he must not 
do because the occasion would be turned to the uses of fascist propa* 
ganda. 

After the betrayal at Munich, Nehru said without delay, **A1I our 
sympathies are with Czechoslovakia, India resents British foreign 
policy and will be no party to it" 

When the European war broke out, he was in the capita! of free 
China, where he received one of the greatest receptions ever given to 



a foreign visitor. He flew back to India> declaring that India's position 
was not one of refusing to fight on England's side. "But we want to 
be free to make our own choice*** he said* "Right now we are in a 
situation in which we would be asked to fight for democracy when we 
do not have democracy ourselves," Nehru worked in complete har 
mony with Gandhi* Neither of them put any obstacle in the way of 
Britain's war effort or the contribution of India to it* "The British are 
a brave and proud people/* said Gandhi, "The greatest gesture of the 
Congress is that it refrains from creating trouble in India*" And 
Nehru said that to launch civil disobedience merely because Britain 
was in peril would be "an act derogatory to India's honor," But both 
Gandhi and Nehru felt that the British rulers were forcing the issue 
upon India and inviting civil disobedience, "If die war is really a 
war for democracy and freedom/' said Nehru, "then imperialism 
must end and the independence and self-determination o India must 
be acknowledged"; with that done, he said, "India would throw her full 
weight into the struggle," 

Britain did not, as is often supposed, offer India freedom, but is 
sued on August 8, 1940, an offer so hedged about with ifs and buts 
that the Indian nationalists, in view of past experience* felt that they 
could not trust it* Gandhi finally announced on October 13 a cam 
paign of individual, not mass, civil disobedience, to take the form of 
public advocacy of pacifism. He said he believed that he might still 
play a part in reconciliation **not only between Britain and India, but 
also between the warring nations of the earth," Nehru is far from 
being a pacifist* He has said, "If Hitler or any other invader attacks 
us, we Indians wiU fight to the death*" But under Gandhi's orders he 
went out into the villages and spoke, explaining the Congress position 
against British war policy, until at last the British seized him. 

So it came, as he puts it, to the parting of the ways, **I am sorry," he 
writes, "for in spite of my hostility to British imperialism and all im 
perialisms, I have loved much that was England, and I should have 
liked to keep the silken bonds of the spirit between India and 
England*" 

RICHAJU> J* WALSH 
Not/ember 2 



AUTHOR'S PREFACE 
TO THE ORIGINAL EDITION 

THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN entirely in prison, except for the postscript and 
certain minor changes, from June, 1934, to February, 1935. The pri 
mary object in writing these pages was to occupy myself with a defi 
nite task, so necessary in the long solitudes of jail life, as well as to 
review past events in India with which I had been connected* to 
enable myself to think clearly about them. I began the task In a mood 
of self-questioning* and, to a large extent, this persisted throughout, I 
was not writing deliberately for an audience, but, if I thought of an 
audience, it was one of my own countrymen and countrywomen. For 
foreign readers I would probably have written differently, or with a 
different emphasis, stressing certain aspects which have been slurred 
over in the narrative and passing over lightly certain other aspects 
which I have treated at some length. Many of these latter aspects may 
not interest the non-Indian reader, and he may consider them unim 
portant or too obvious for discussion or debate; but I felt that in the 
India of today they had a certain importance, A number of references 
to our internal politics and personalities may also be of little interest 
to the outsider. 

The reader will, I hope, remember that the book was written during 
a particularly distressful period of my existence. It bears obvious traces 
of this. If the writing had been done under more normal conditions, 
it would have been different and perhaps occasionally more restrained. 
Yet I have decided to leave it as it is, for it may have some interest for 
others in so far as it represents what I felt at the time of writing. 

My attempt was to trace, as far as I could, my own mental develop 
ment, and not to write a survey of recent Indian history. The fact that 
this account resembles superficially such a survey is apt to mislead the 
reader and lead him to attach a wider importance to it than it deserves* 
I must warn him, therefore, that this account is wholly one-sided and, 
inevitably, egotistical; many important happenings have been com 
pletely ignored and many important persons, who shaped events, have 
hardly been mentioned, In a real survey of past events this would 
have been inexcusable, but a personal account can claim this indul 
gence. Those who want to make a proper study of our recent past will 
have to go to other sources. It may be, however, that this and other 

xiii 



personal narratives will help them to fill the gaps and to provide a 
background for the study of hard fact. 

I have discussed frankly some of my colleagues with whom I have 
been privileged to work for many years and for whom I have the 
greatest regard and affection; I have also criticized groups and indi 
viduals, sometimes perhaps rather severely. That criticism does not 
take away from my respect for many of them. But I have felt that 
those who meddle in public affairs must be frank with each other and 
with the public they claim to serve. A superficial courtesy and an 
avoidance of embarrassing and sometimes distressing questions do not 
help in bringing about a true understanding of each other or of the 
problems that face us. Real co-operation must be based on an apprecia 
tion of differences as well as common points, and a facing of facts, 
however inconvenient they might be. I trust, however, that nothing 
that I have written bears a trace of malice or ill will against any indi 
vidual. 

I have purposely avoided discussing the issues in India today, except 
vaguely and indirectly. I was not in a position to go into them with 
any thoroughness in prison, or even to decide in my own mind what 
should be done. Even after my release I did not think it worth while 
to add anything on this subject It did not seem to fit in with whit 1 
had already written. And so this "autobiographical narrative 1 * remaim 
a sketchy, personal, and incomplete account of the past, verging on the 
present, but cautiously avoiding contact with it* 

JAWAHARIAL NEHRU 
Badenweiler, 
January 2, 1936. 



xiv 



CONTENTS 



CHAFTU* 

i In Prison Again 3 

i! Animals in Prison 9 

ni Descent from Kashmir 16 

iv Childhood 20 

v Theosophy 26 

vi Harrow and Cambridge 30 

vii Back Home and Wartime Politics in India 39 

vm My Wedding and an Adventure in the Himalayas 45 

ix The Coming of Gandhi 47 

x I am Externedj and the Consequences 54 

xi Wanderings among the Ki$am 59 

xn Nonco-operation 65 

xni First Imprisonment 73 

xrv Nonviolence and the Doctrine of the Sword 80 

xv Lucknow District Jail 85 

xvi Out Again 9 a 

xvn An Interlude at Nabha 97 

xwi M. Mohamad A!i My Father, and Gandhi|i 104 

xix Communalism Rampant na 

xx Municipal Work **7 

xx! In Europe * 21 

xxn Experience of Lathee Charges 128 

xxm Thunder in the Air *3$ 

xxiv Independence and After *49 

xxv Civil Disobedience Begins *5$ 

xxvi In Naini Prison *^3 

XXVH The NoTa& Campaign in the United Provinces 17! 

xxvin Death of My Father *% 

xxix The Delhi Pact *86 

xxx A Southern Holiday *97 

xxxi Friction and the Round Table Conference aoi 

XXXH Arrests, Ordinances, Proscriptions 210 

XV 



CHAPTEE ***** 

xxxm Ballyhoo 2|8 

xxxiv In Bareilly and Dehra Dun Jails 223 

xxxv The Struggle Outside 227 

xxxvi What Is Religion? 236 

xxxvii The "Dual Policy" of the British Government 244 

xxxvin The End of a Long Term 250 

xxxix Dominion Status and Independence 260 

XL India Old and New 269 

XLI The Record of British Rule ^75 

XLII A Civil Marriage and a Question of Script 285 

XLIII Communalism and Reaction ^$7 

XLIV Impasse and Earthquake 293 

XLV Alipore Jail 3 01 

XLVI Desolation 309 

XLVII Paradoxes 3*^ 

XLVIII Dehra Jail Again 326 

XLIX Eleven Days 332 

L Back to Prison 336 

LI Reflections on Social Change 342 

ui A Conclusion 351 

LIII Five Years Later 355 

Epilogue: The Parting of the Ways 371 

APPENDIXES 

A Pledge taken on Independence Day, January 26, 1930 385 
B Presidential Address by Jawaharlal Nehru at 49th Ses 
sion of Indian National Congress, April 1936 386 
c Presidential Address by Jawaharlal Nehru at 50th Ses 
sion of Indian National Congress, December 1936 413 
D Statement by Congress Committee, September 15, 

1939 4*8 
E Excerpts from Article about Himself Written Anony 
mously by Jawaharlal Nehru 433 
GLOSSARY 435 
INDEX ^ 

xvi 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACING 



Jawaharlal Nehru in 1939 18 

A typical barge on the Jhelum River in Kashmir 19 

Jawaharlal Nehru's grandfather. Pandit Ganga Dhar Nehru 
(from an old painting) 34 

Jawaharlal Nehru's father, Pandit Motilal Nehru 35 

Jawaharlal Nehru's mother, Swarup Rani Nehru 42 

The older of Jawaharlal Nehru's two sisters* Mrs. Vijaya Lak- 
shmi Pandit 43 

Indian peasants marching to a session of the Indian National 
Congress carry a banner reading, "Away with serfdom" 158 

Jawaharlal Nehru's younger sister, Mrs, Krishna Huteesingh 
(left), and his wife, Kamala, in the male dress which they 
adopted as volunteers in the civil disobedience campaign of 
*93 *59 

Kamala, Nehru's wife 198 

Jawaharlal Nehru with his daughter, Indira 199 

(Above) Congress volunteers give the anti-fascist salute (Below) 
Part of the huge audience at a 1939 session of the Indian Na 
tional Congress 232 

Indian bodyguard before the British governor's palace in Bom 
bay 233 

Mohandas K. Gandhi 256 

Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore, the poet Tagore 
was born on the same day, month, and year as Nehru's father 257 

Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Madam Chiang, and Jawaharlal 
Nehru, during Nehru's visit to Chungking in 1939 358 

Jawaharlal Nehru in his study, 1940 359 



3CVH 



TOWARD FREEDOM 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JAWAHAJRJLAL, NEHRU 



X 

IN PRISON AGAIN 1 

Two OF us were transferred together from the BareiHy District Jail 
to the Dehra Dun Jail Govind Ballabh Pant and L To avoid the 
possibility of a demonstration, we were not put on the train at Bareilly, 
but at a wayside station fifty miles out* We were taken secretly by 
motorcar at night, and, after many months of seclusion, that drive 
through the cool night air was a rare delight. 

Before we left BareiHy Jail, a little incident took place which 
moved me then and is yet fresh in my memory. The superintendent 
of police of Bareilly, an Englishman, was present there, and, as I got 
into the car, he handed to me rather shyly a packet which he told me 
contained old German illustrated magazines. He said that he had 
heard that 1 was learning German and so he had brought these maga 
zines for me, I had never met him before, nor have I seen him since. 
I do not even know his name. This spontaneous act of courtesy and 
Ac kindly thought that prompted it touched me, and I felt very grate 
ful to him. 

During that long midnight drive I mused over the relations of 
Englishmen and Indians, of ruler and ruled, of official and nonofficial, 
of those in authority and those who have to obey. What a great gulf 
divided the two races, and how they distrusted and disliked each 
other! But more than the distrust and the dislike was the ignorance of 
each other, and, because of this, each side was a little afraid of the 
other and was constantly on its guard in the other's presence* To each, 
the other appeared as a sour-looking, unamiabk creature, and neither 
realized that there was decency and kindliness behind the mask* A& 
the rulers of the land, with enormous patronage at their command, the 
English had attracted to themselves crowds of cringing place hunters 
and opportunists, and they judged of India from these unsavory speci 
mens. The Indian saw the Englishman function only as an official 
with aU the inhumanity of the machine and with all the passion of a 
vested interest trying to preserve itself- How different was the behavior 
of a person acting as an individual and obeying his own impulses from 
his behavior as an official or a unit in an army! The soldier, stiffening 
to attention, drops his humanity and, acting as an automaton, shoots 

1 to the original edition of this book* dais chapter and the one iutcedi8# 
following the chapter, *la BtreUly tad 0ehra Dua Jaili/' Ed 



and kills inoffensive and harmless persons who have done him no ill. 
So also, I thought, the police officer who would hesitate to do an un* 
kindness to an individual would, the day after, direct a lathee charge on 
innocent people. He will not think of himself as an individual then, 
nor will he consider as individuals those crowds whom he beats down 
or shoots, 

As soon as one begins to think of the other side as a mass or a 
crowd, the human link seems to go, We forget that crowds also consist 
of individuals, of men and women and children, who lovt and hate 
and suffer. An average Englishman, if he were frank, would probably 
confess that he knows some quite decent Indians but they are excep 
tions and as a whole Indians are a detestable crowd. The average 
Indian would admit that some Englishmen whom he knows are 
admirable, but, apart from these few, the English are an overbearing, 
brutal, and thoroughly bad lot. Curious how each person judges of the 
other race, not from the individual with whom he has come in contact* 
but from others about whom he knows very little or nothing at all 

Personally, I have been very fortunate and, almost invariably, I have 
received courtesy from my own countrymen as well as from the Eng 
lish. Even my jailers and the policemen who have arrested nit or 
escorted me as a prisoner from place to place, have been kind to me* 
and much of the bitterness of conflict and the sting of jail life has born 
toned down because of this human touch. It was not surprising that 
my own countrymen should treat me so, for I had gained a measure 
of notoriety and popularity among them* Even for Englishmen I was 
an individual and not merely one of the mass, and, I imagine* the fact 
that I had received my education in England, and especially my having 
been to an English public school, brought me nearer to them* Because 
of this, they could not help considering me as more or less civilised 
after their own pattern, however perverted my public activities ap 
peared to be. Often I felt a little embarrassed and humiliated because 
of this special treatment when I compared my lot with that of mosi of 
my colleagues. 

Despite all these advantages that I had, jail was jail* and the oppres 
sive atmosphere of the place was sometimes almost unbearable. The 
very air of it was full of violence and meanness and graft and untruth; 
there was cither cringing or cursing, A person who was at alt searitbe 
was in a continuous state of tension. Trivial occurrences would upiet 
one. A piece of bad news in a letter, some item ia the newspaper^ 
would make one almost ill with anxiety or anger for a wWIe, Outside 



there was always relief In action, and various interests and activities 
produced an equilibrium of the mind and body* In prison there was no 
outlet, and one felt bottled up and repressed; inevitably* one took one 
sided and rather distorted views of happenings. Illness in jail was par 
ticularly distressing. 

And yet 1 managed to accustom myself to the jail routine and with 
physical exercise and fairly hard mental work kept fit. Whatever the 
value of work and exercise might be outside, they are essential in jail, 
for without them one is apt to go to pieces, I adhered to a strict time 
table, and, in order to keep up to the mark, I carried on with as many 
normal habits as I could, such as the daily shave (I was allowed a 
safety razor), I mention this minor matter because, as a rule, people 
gave it up and slacked in other ways. After a hard day's work, the 
evening found me pleasantly tired, and sleep was welcomed. 

And so the days passed, and the weeks and the months. But some 
times a month would stick terribly and would not end, or so it seemed* 
Sometimes I would feel bored and fed up and angry with almost 
everything and everybody with my companions in prison, with the 
jail staff, with people outside for something they had done or not done, 
with the British Empire (but this was a permanent feeling), and above 
all with myself. I would become a bundle of nerves, very susceptible 
to various moods caused by jail life. Fortunately I recovered soon from 
these. 

Interview days were the red-letter days in jail How one longed for 
them and waited for them and counted the days! And after the excite 
ment of the interview there was the inevitable reaction and a sense of 
emptiness and loneliness. If, as sometimes happened, the interview was 
not a success, because of some bad news which upset me, or some other 
reason, I would feel miserable afterward* There were jail officials pres* 
ent at the interviews, of course; but two or three times at Bareilly there 
was in addition a Criminal Investigation Department man present 
with paper and pencil, eagerly taking down almost every word of the 
conversation* I found this exceedingly irritating, and these Interviews 
were complete failures* 

And then I gave up these precious interviews because of the brutal 
treatment my mother and wife had received in the course of an inter 
view in the Allahabad Jail and afterward from the Government* For 
nearly seven months I had no interview* It was a dreary time for me, 
and, when at the end of that period I decided to resume interviews 
and my people came to sec me, I was almost intoxicated with the joy 

5 



of it. My sister's little children also came to see me, and, when a tiny 
one wanted to mount on my shoulder, as she used to do, it was more 
than my emotions could stand. That touch of home life, after the long 
yearning for human contacts, upset me. 

When interviews stopped, the fortnightly letters from home or from 
some other jail (for both my sisters were in prison) became all the 
more precious and eagerly expected. If the letter did not come on the 
appointed day, I was worried. And yet, when it did come, I almost 
hesitated to open it. I played about with it as one does with an assured 
pleasure, and at the back of my mind there was also a trace of fear 
lest the letter contain any news or reference which might annoy me. 
Letter writing and receiving in jail were always serious incursions on a 
peaceful and unruffled existence. They produced an emotional state 
which was disturbing; for a day or two afterward one's mind wan 
dered, and it was difficult to concentrate on the day's work, 

In Naini Prison and Bareilly Jail I had had several companions. 
In Dehra Dun there were three of us to begin with Govind Ballabh 
Pant, Kunwar Anand Singh of Kashipur, and Ibut Pantji was dis 
charged after a couple of months on the expiry of his six months* Two 
others joined us later. By the beginning of January 1933 all my com 
panions had left me, and I was alone* For nearly eight months* till my 
discharge at the end of August, I lived a solitary life in Dehra Dun 
Jail with hardly anyone to talk to, except some member of ihe jail 
staff for a few minutes daily* This was not technically solitary confine 
ment, but it was a near approach to it, and it was a dreary period for 
me. Fortunately I had resumed my interviews, and they brought some 
relief. As a special favor, I suppose, I was allowed to receive fresh 
flowers from outside and to keep a few photographs, and they cheered 
me greatly. Ordinarily, flowers and photographs are not permitted f and 
on several occasions I have not been allowed to receive the flowers 
that had been sent for me. Attempts to brighten up the cclk were not 
encouraged, and I remember a superintendent of a jail once objecting 
to the manner in which a companion of mine, whose cell wai am 10 
mine, had arranged his toilet articles. He was told that he must not 
make his cell look attractive and "luxurious,** The articles of luxury 
were: a toothbrush, tooth paste, fountain-pen ink, a bottle erf hair oil, 
a brush and comb, and perhaps one or two other litde thiap. 

One begins to appreciate the value of the litde things of life in 
prison. One's belongings are so few, and they cannot easily be added 
to or replaced; one clings to them and gathers up odd bits of dungs 

6 



which. In the world outside, would go to the wastepaper basket. The 
property sense does not leave one even when there is nothing worth 
while to own and keep. 

Sometimes a physical longing would come for the soft things of life 
bodily comfort^ pleasant surroundings, the company of friends, inter 
esting conversation, games with children, . , . A picture or a paragraph 
in a newspaper would bring the old days vividly before one, the care 
free days of youth, a nostalgia would seize one, and the day would be 
passed in restlessness. 

I used to spin a little daily, for I found some manual occupation 
soothing and a relief from too much intellectual work. My main occu 
pation, however, was reading and writing, I could not have all the 
books I wanted, as there were restrictions and a censorship, and the 
censors were not always very competent for the job. Spengler's Dcdint 
of the West was held up because the title looked dangerous and sedi 
tious. But I must not complain, for I had, on the whole, a goodly 
variety of books. Again I seem to have been a favored person, and 
many of my colleagues (A-Class prisoners) had the greatest difficulty 
in getting books on current topics, In Benares Jail, 1 was told, even 
the official White Paper, containing the British Government's consti 
tutional proposals, was not allowed in, as it dealt with political matters* 
The only books that British officials heartily recommended were re 
ligious books or novels. It is wonderful how dear to the heart of the 
British Government is the subject of religion and how impartially it 
encourages all brands of it. 

When the most ordinary civil liberties have been curtailed in India, 
it is hardly pertinent to talk of a prisoner's rights. And yet the subject 
is worthy of consideration. If a court of law sentences a person to im 
prisonment, does it follow that not only his body but also his mind 
should be incarcerated? Why should not the minds of prisoners be 
free even though their bodies are not? Those in charge of the prison 
administrations in India will no doubt be horrified at such a question* 
for their capacity for new ideas and sustained thought is usually lim* 
ited. Censorship is bad enough at any time and is partisan and stupid* 
In India it deprives us of a great deal of modern literature and ad 
vanced journals and newspapers. The list of proscribed books is 
extensive and is frequently added to. To add to all this, the prisoner 
has to suffer a second and separate censorship, and thus many books 
and newspapers that can be legally purchased and read outside the 
prison may not reach him. 



Some time ago this question arose in the United States* in the 
famous Sing Sing Prison of New York, where some communist news 
papers had been banned. The feeling against communists is very strong 
among the ruling classes in America, but in spite of this the prison 
authorities agreed that the inmates of the prison could receive any 
publication which they desired, including communist newspapers and 
magazines. The sole exception made by the warden was in the cise of 
cartoons which he regarded as inflammatory. 

It is a little absurd to discuss this question of freedom of mind in 
prison in India when, as it happens, the vast majority of the prisoners 
are not allowed any newspapers or writing materials. It is not a ques 
tion of censorship but of total denial Only A-CLiss prisoners are 
allowed writing materials as a matter of course, and not even all these 
are allowed daily newspapers. The daily newspaper allowed is of the 
Government's choice. For the rest, the 999 in every thousand, two or 
three books are permitted at a time, but conditions are such that they 
cannot always take advantage of this privilege. Writing or the taking 
of notes on books read are dangerous pastimes in which they must not 
indulge. This deliberate discouragement of intellectual development 
is curious and revealing. From the point of view of reclaiming a pris 
oner and of making him a fit citizen, his mind should be approached 
and diverted, and he should be made literate and taught some craft. 
But this point of view has perhaps not struck the prison authorities in 
India. Certainly it has been conspicuous by its absence in the United 
Provinces. Recently attempts have been made to teach reading and 
writing to the boys and young men in prison, but they arc wholly 
ineffective, and the men in charge of them have no competence, Some 
times it is said that convicts are averse to learning, My own experience 
has been the exact opposite, and I found many of them, who came to 
me for the purpose, to have a perfect passion for learning to read and 
write. We used to teach such convicts as came our way, and they 
worked hard; and sometimes, when I woke up in the middle of the 
night, I was surprised to find one or two of them sitting by a dim 
lantern inside their barrack, learning their lessons for the next day, 

So I occupied myself with my books, going from one type of reading 
to another, but usually sticking to "heavy" books, Novels made one 
feel mentally slack, and I did not read many of them, Sometimes I 
would weary of too much reading, and then I would take to writing. 
My historical series of letters to my daughter 2 kept me occupied right 

'Now published under the tide Glimpses of World 

8 



through my two-year term, and they helped rne very greatly to keep 
mentally fit. To some extent I lived through the past I was writing 
about and almost forgot about my jail surroundings. 

Travel books were always welcome records of old travelers, Hiucn 
Tsang, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, and others, or moderns like Sven Hedin, 
with his journeys across the deserts of Central Asia, and Roerich, 
finding strange adventures in Tibet Picture books also, especially of 
mountains and glaciers and deserts, for in prison one hungers for wide 
spaces and seas and mountains. ! had sonic beautiful picture books of 
Mont Blanc, the Alps, and the Himalayas, and I turned to them often 
to gaze at the glaciers when the temperature of my cell or barrack 
was 115 F. or even more. An atlas was an exciting affair* It brought 
aU manner of past memories and dreams of places we had visited and 
places we had wanted to go to. The longing to go again to those 
haunts of past days, to visit all the other inviting marks and dots that 
represented great cities, to cross the shaded regions that were moun 
tains and the blue patches that were seas, to see the beauties of the 
world, and to watch the struggles and conflicts of a changing humanity 
the longing to do all this would seize us and clutch us by the throat; 
we would hurriedly and sorrowfully put the atlas by and return to the 
well-known walls that surrounded us and the dull routine that was 
our daily lot. 



II 

ANIMALS IN PRISON 

FOR FOUIOTEN AHD a half months I lived in my little cell or room in 
the Dehra Dun Jail, and I began to feel as if I were almost a part of 
it I was familiar with every bit of it; I knew every mark and dent on 
the whitewashed walls and on the uneven floor and the ceiling with 
its moth-eaten rafters. In the little yard outside I greeted little tufts of 
grass and odd bits of stone as old friends. I was not alone in my cell, 
for several colonies of wasps and hornets lived there, and many lizards 
found a home behind the rafters, emerging in the evenings in search 
of prey. If thoughts and emotions leave their traces behind ia the 
physical surroundings, the very air of that cell must be thick with 
them, and they must cling to every object in that little space, 
I had had better cells in other prisons* but in Dehra Dun I had one 



privilege which was very precious to me. The jail proper was a very 
small one, and we were kept in an old lock-up outside the jail walls, 
but within the jail compound. This place was so small that there was 
no room to walk about in it, and so we were allowed, morning and 
evening, to go out and walk up and down in front of the gate, a dis 
tance o about a hundred yards. We remained in the jail compound, 
but this coining outside the walls gave us a view of the mountains and 
the fields and a public road at some distance. This was not a special 
privilege for me; it was common for all the A- and B*Class prisoners 
kept at Dehra Dun. Within the compound, but outside the jail walls, 
there was another small building called the European Lock-up. This 
had no enclosing wall, and a person inside the ceil could have a fine 
view of the mountains and the life outside. European convicts and 
others kept here were also allowed to walk in front of the jail gate 
every morning and evening. 

Only a prisoner who has been confined for long behind high walk 
can appreciate the extraordinary psychological value of these outside 
walks and open views. I loved these outings, and I did not give them 
up even during the monsoon, when the rain came down for days in 
torrents and I had to walk ankle-deep in water. I would have wel 
comed the outing in any place, but the sight of the towering Hima 
layas near by was an added joy which went a long way to removing 
the weariness of prison. It was my good fortune that during the long 
period when I had no interviews, and when for many months I was 
quite alone, I could gaze at these mountains that I loved. 1 could 0oc 
see the mountains from my cell, but my mind was full of them; I was 
ever conscious of their nearness, and a secret intimacy seemed to grow 
between us. 

Flocks of birds have -flown high and away; 
A solitary drift of cloud, too, has gone, wandering on* 
And 1 sit alone with Ching-ttng Pea\* towering beyond. 
We never grow tired of each other f the mountain and L 

I am afraid I cannot say with the poet, Li Tai Po, that I never grew 
weary, even of the mountain; but that was a rare experience, and, as a 
rule, I found great comfort in its proximity. Its solidity and imper 
turbability looked down upon me with the wisdom of a miUioo years 
and mocked at my varying humors and soothed my fevered mi0d 

Spring was very pleasant in Dehra, and it was a far longer one thtfua 
in the plains below. The winter had denuded almost all the trees of 



10 



their leaves, and they stood naked and bare. Even four magnificent 
pipal trees, which stood in front of the jail gate, much to my surprise, 
dropped nearly all their leaves. Gaunt and cheerless they stood there, 
til! the spring air warmed them up again and sent a message of life 
to their innermost cells. Suddenly there was a stir both in the pipals 
and the other trees, and an air of mystery surrounded them as of secret 
operations going on behind the scenes; and I would be startled to find 
little bits of green peeping out all over them. It was a gay and cheering 
sight. And then, very rapidly, the leaves would come out in their mil 
lions and glisten in the sunlight and play about in the breeze, How 
wonderful is the sudden change from bud to leaf! 

I had never noticed before that fresh mango leaves are reddish- 
brown, russet colored, remarkably like the autumn tints on the Kash 
mir hills. But they change color soon and become green. 

The monsoon rains were always welcome, for they ended the sum 
mer heat, But one could have too much of a good thing, and Dehra 
Dun is one of the favored haunts of the rain god, Within the first five 
or six weeks of the break of the monsoon we would have about fifty 
or sixty inches of rain* and it was not pleasant to sit cooped up in a 
little narrow place trying to avoid the water dripping from the ceiling 
or rushing in from the windows. 

Autumn again was pleasant, and so was the winter, except when it 
rained. With thunder and rain and piercing cold winds, one longed 
for a decent habitation and a little warmth and comfort Occasionally 
there would be a hailstorm, with hailstones bigger than marbles com 
ing down on the corrugated iron roofs and making a tremendous 
noise, something like an artillery bombardment. 

I remember one day particularly; it was the 24th of December, 1932. 
There was a thunderstorm and rain all day, and it was bitterly cold. 
Altogether it was one of the most miserable days, from the bodily 
point of view, that I have spent in jail. In the evening it cleared up 
suddenly, and all my misery departed when I saw all the neighboring 
mountains and hills covered with a thick mantle of snow. The next 
day Christmas Day was lovely and clear, and there was a beautiful 
view of snow-covered mountains. 

Prevented from indulging in normal activities, we became more 
observant of nature's ways. We watched also the various animals and 
insects that came our way. As I grew more observant, I noticed all 
manner of Insects living In my cell or in the little yard outside, I real 
ized that while I complained of loneliness that yard, which seemed 



empty and deserted, was teeming with life. All these creeping or 
crawling or flying insects lived their life without interfering with me 
in any way, and I saw no reason why I should interfere with them. 
But there was continuous war between me and bedbugs, mosquitoes, 
and, to some extent, flies. Wasps and hornets I tolerated, and there 
were hundreds of them in my cell. There had been a little tiff between 
us when, inadvertently I think, a wasp had stung me. In my anger I 
tried to exterminate the lot, but they put up a brave fight in defense 
of their temporary home, which probably contained their eggs, and I 
desisted and decided to leave them in peace if they did not interfere 
with me any more. For over a year after that I lived in that cell sur 
rounded by these wasps and hornets; they never attacked me, and we 
respected each other. 

Bats I did not like, but I had to endure them. They flew soundlessly 
in the evening dusk, and one could just see them against the darken 
ing sky. Eerie things; I had a horror of them. They seemed to pass 
within an inch of one's face, and I was always afraid that they might 
hit me. Higher up in the air passed the big bats, the flying foxes. 

I used to watch the ants and the white ants and other insects by the 
hour. And the lizards too as they crept about in the evenings and 
stalked their prey and chased each other, wagging their tails in a most 
comic fashion. Ordinarily they avoided wasps, but twice I saw them 
stalk them with enormous care and seize them from the front. I do 
not know if this avoidance of the sting was intentional or accidental. 

Then there were squirrels, crowds of them if trees were about. They 
would become very venturesome and come right near us. In Luck- 
now Jail I used to sit reading almost without moving for considerable 
periods, and a squirrel would climb up my leg and sit on my knee 
and have a look round. And then it would look into my eyes and 
realize that I was not a tree or whatever it had taken me for. Fear 
would disable it for a moment, and then it would scamper away. Little 
baby squirrels would sometimes fall down from the trees. The mother 
would come after them, roll them up into a little ball, and carry them 
off to safety. Occasionally the baby got lost. One of my companions 
picked up three of these lost baby squirrels and looked after them. 
They were so tiny that it was a problem how to feed them. The prob 
lem was, however, solved rather ingeniously. A fountain-pen filler, 
with a little cotton wool attached to it, made an efficient feeding bottle. 

Pigeons abounded in all the jails I went to, except in the mountain 
prison of Almora. There were thousands of them, and in the evenings 

12 



the sky would be thick with them. Sometimes the jail officials would 
shoot them down and feed on them. There were mainas, of course; 
they are to be found everywhere. A pair of them nested over my cell 
door in Dehra Dun, and I used to feed them. They grew quite tame, 
and, if there was any delay in their morning or evening meal, they 
would sit quite near me and loudly demand their food. It was amusing 
to watch their signs and listen to their impatient cries. 

In Naini there were thousands of parrots, and large numbers of 
them lived in the crevices of my barrack walls. Their courtship and 
love-making was always a fascinating sight, and sometimes there were 
fierce quarrels between two male parrots over a lady parrot, who sat 
calmly by waiting for the result of the encounter and ready to grant 
her favors to the winner. 

Dehra Dun had a variety of birds, and there was a regular jumble of 
singing and lively chattering and twittering,, and high above it all 
came the koePs plaintive call. During the monsoon and just before it 
the brain-fever bird visited us, and I realized soon why it was so 
named. It was amazing the persistence with which it went on repeat 
ing the same notes, in daytime and at night, in sunshine and in pouring 
rain. We could not see most of these birds; we could only hear them 
as a rule, as there were no trees in our little yard. But I used to watch 
the eagles and the kites gliding gracefully high up in the air, some 
times swooping down and then allowing themselves to be carried up 
by a current of air. Often a flight of wild duck would fly over our 
heads. 

There was a large colony of monkeys in Bareilly Jail, and their 
antics were always worth watching. One incident impressed me. A 
baby monkey managed to come down into our barrack enclosure, and 
he could not mount up the wall again. The warder and some convict 
overseers and other prisoners caught hold of him and tied a bit of 
string round his neck. The parents (presumably) of the little one saw 
all this from the top of the high wall, and their anger grew. Suddenly 
one of them, a huge monkey, jumped down and charged almost right 
into the crowd which surrounded the baby monkey. It was an extraor 
dinarily brave thing to do, for the warder and C.O.'s had sticks and 
lathees which they were brandishing about, and there were quite a 
crowd of them. Reckless courage triumphed, and the crowd o hu 
mans fled, terrified, leaving their sticks behind them ! The little monkey 
was rescued. 

We had often animal visitors that were not welcome. Scorpions 



were frequently found in our cells, especially after a thunderstorm. 
It was surprising that I was never stung by one, for I would come 
across them in the most unlikely places on my bed, or sitting on a 
book which I had just lifted up. I kept a particularly black and 
poisonous-looking brute in a bottle for some time, feeding him with 
flies, etc.; and then, when I tied him up on a wall with a string, he 
managed to escape. I had no desire to meet him loose again, and so I 
cleaned my cell out and hunted for him everywhere, but he had 
vanished. 

Three or four snakes were also found in my cells or near them. 
News of one of them got out, and there were headlines in the press. 
As a matter of fact I welcomed the diversion. Prison life is dull enough, 
and everything that breaks through the monotony is appreciated. Not 
that I appreciate or welcome snakes, but they do not fill me with 
terror as they do some people. I am afraid of their bite, of course, and 
would protect myself if I saw a snake. But there would be no feeling 
of repulsion or overwhelming fright. Centipedes horrify me much 
more; it is not so much fear as instinctive repulsion. In Alipore Jail in 
Calcutta I woke in the middle of the night and felt something crawl 
ing over my foot. I pressed a torch I had and I saw a centipede on the 
bed. Instinctively and with amazing rapidity I vaulted clear out of that 
bed and nearly hit the cell wall. I realized fully then what Pavlov's 
reflexes were. 

In Dehra Dun I saw a new animal, or rather an animal which was 
new to me. I was standing at the jail gate talking to the jailer when 
we noticed a man outside carrying a strange animal. The jailer sent 
for him, and I saw something between a lizard and a crocodile, about 
two feet long with claws and a scaly covering. This uncouth animal, 
which was very much alive, had been twisted round in a most peculiar 
way, forming a kind of knot, and its owner had passed a pole through 
this knot and was merrily carrying it in this fashion. He called it a Bo. 
When asked by the jailer what he proposed to do with it, he replied 
with a broad smile that he would make bhujjiz kind of curry out 
of it! He was a forest dweller. Subsequently I discovered from read 
ing F. W. Champion's book The Jungle in Sunlight and Shadow 
that this animal was the pangolin. 

Prisoners, especially long-term convicts, have to suffer most from 
emotional starvation. Often they seek some emotional satisfaction by 
keeping animal pets. The ordinary prisoner cannot keep them, but 
the convict overseers have a little more freedom and the jail 'staff 

M 



usually do not object. The commonest pets were squirrels and, 
strangely, mongooses. Dogs are not allowed in jails, but cats seem to be 
encouraged. A little kitten made friends with me once. It belonged 
to a jail official, and, when he was transferred, he took it away with 
him. I missed it. Although dogs are not allowed, I got tied up with 
some dogs accidentally in Dehra Dun. A jail official had brought a 
bitch, and then he was transferred, and he deserted her. The poor thing 
became a homeless wanderer, living under culverts, picking up scraps 
from the warders, usually starving. As I was being kept in the lock 
up, outside the jail proper, she used to come to me begging for food. 
I began to feed her regularly, and she gave birth to a litter of pups 
under a culvert. Many of these were taken away, but three remained, 
and I fed them. One of the puppies fell ill with a violent distemper 
and gave me a great deal of trouble. I nursed her with care, and some 
times I would get up a dozen times in the course of the night to look 
after her. She survived, and I was happy that my nursing had pulled 
her round. 

I came in contact with animals far more in prison than I had done 
outside. I had always been fond of dogs and had kept some, but I 
could never look after them properly as other matters claimed my 
attention. In prison I was grateful for their company. Indians do not, 
as a rule, approve of animals as household pets. It is remarkable that, 
in spite of their general philosophy of nonviolence to animals, they 
are often singularly careless and unkind to them. Even the cow, that 
favored animal, though looked up to and almost worshiped by many 
Hindus and often the cause of riots, is not treated kindly. Worship 
and kindliness do not always go together. 

Different countries have adopted different animals as symbols of 
their ambition or character the eagle of the United States of America 
and of Germany, the lion and bulldog of England, the fighting cock 
of France, the bear of old Russia. How far do these patron animals 
mold national character? Most of them are aggressive, fighting ani 
mals, beasts of prey. The people who grow up with these examples 
before them appear to mold themselves consciously after them, strike 
up aggressive attitudes, roar, and prey on others. The Hindu is mild 
and nonviolent, for his patron animal is the cow. 



Ill 
DESCENT FROM KASHMIR 

"It is a hard and nice subject for a man to write of himself: it grates his 
own heart to say anything of disparagement, and the reader s ears to hear 
anything of praise for him." ABRAHAM COWLEY. 

AN ONLY SON of prosperous parents is apt to be spoiled, especially so in 
India. And, when that son happens to have been an only child for 
the first eleven years of his existence, there is little hope for him to 
escape this spoiling. My two sisters are very much younger than I am, 
and between each pair of us there is a long stretch of years. And so 
I grew up and spent my early years as a somewhat lonely child with 
no companions of my age. I did not even have the companionship of 
children at school, for I was not sent to any kindergarten or primary 
school. Governesses or private tutors were supposed to be in charge 
of my education. 

Our house itself was far from being a lonely place, for it sheltered 
a large family of cousins and near relations, after the manner of Hindu 
families. But all my cousins were much older than I was and were 
students at the high school or the university and considered me far too 
young for their work or their play. And so in the midst of that big 
family I felt rather lonely and was left a great deal to my own fancies 
and solitary games. 

We were Kashmiris. Over two hundred years ago, early in the 
eighteenth century, our ancestor came down from that mountain valley 
to seek fame and fortune in the rich plains below. Those were the 
days of the decline of the Moghal Empire. Raj Kaul was the name of 
that ancestor of ours, and he had gained eminence as a Sanskrit and 
Persian scholar. He attracted the notice of the Emperor and, probably 
at his instance, the family migrated to Delhi, the imperial capital, about 
the year 1716. A jagir with a house situated on the banks of a canal had 
been granted to Raj Kaul, and, from the fact of this residence, "Nehru" 
(from nahar, a canal) came to be attached to his name. Kaul had been 
the family name; in later years, this dropped out and we became simply 
Nehrus. 

The family experienced many vicissitudes of fortune during the un 
settled times that followed, and the jagir dwindled and vanished away. 
My great-grandfather became the first vakil of the "Sarkar Company" 
at the shadow court of the Emperor of Delhi. My grandfather was 

16 



Kotwal of Delhi for some time before the great Revolt of 1857. He died 
at the early age of thirty-four in 1861. 

The Revolt of 1857 put an end to our family's connection with Delhi, 
and all our old family papers and documents were destroyed in the 
course of it. The family, having lost nearly all it possessed, joined the 
numerous fugitives who were leaving the old imperial city and went 
to Agra. My father was not born then, but my two uncles were already 
young men and possessed some knowledge of English. This knowledge 
saved the younger of the two uncles, as well as some other members 
of the family, from a sudden and ignominious end. He was journeying 
from Delhi with some members of the family, among whom was his 
young sister, a little girl who was very fair, as some Kashmiri chil 
dren are. Some English soldiers met them on the way, and they sus 
pected this little aunt of mine to be an English girl and accused my 
uncle of kidnaping her. From an accusation to summary justice and 
punishment was usually a matter of minutes in those days, and my 
uncle and others of the family might well have found themselves hang 
ing on the nearest tree. Fortunately for them, my uncle's knowledge 
of English delayed matters a little, and then someone who knew him 
passed that way and rescued him and the others. 

For some years the family lived in Agra, and it was in Agra on 
the sixth of May, 1861, that my father was born. 1 But he was a post 
humous child as my grandfather had died three months earlier. In a 
little painting that we have of my grandfather, he wears the Moghal 
court dress with a curved sword in his hand, and might well be taken 
for a Moghal nobleman, although his features are distinctly Kashmiri. 

The burden of the family then fell on my two uncles, who were very 
much older than my father. The elder uncle entered the judicial de 
partment of the British Government and, being appointed to various 
places, was partly cut off from the rest of the family. The younger 
uncle entered the service of an Indian State. Later he settled down as a 
practicing lawyer in Agra. My father lived with him and grew up 
under his sheltering care. The two were greatly attached to each 
other, and their relation was a strange mixture of the brotherly 
and the paternal and filial. My father, being the last comer, was of 
course my grandmother's favorite son, and she was an old lady with 
a tremendous will of her own who was not accustomed to be ignored. 
It is now nearly half a century since her death, but she is still remem- 

1 An interesting coincidence: The poet, Rabindranath Tagore, was also born on this 
very day, month, and year. 

17 



bered among old Kashmiri ladies as a most dominating old woman 
and quite a terror if her will was flouted. 

My uncle attached himself to the newly established High Court, and, 
when this court moved to Allahabad from Agra, the family moved 
with it. Since then Allahabad has been our home, and it was there, 
many years later, that I was born. My uncle gradually developed an 
extensive practice and became one of the leaders of the High Court 
Bar. Meanwhile my father was going through school and college in 
Cawnpore and Allahabad. His early education was confined entirely 
to Persian and Arabic, and he only began learning English in his early 
teens. But at that age he was considered to be a good Persian scholar, 
and knew some Arabic also, and because of this knowledge was treated 
with respect by much older people. But in spite of this early precocity 
his school and college career was chiefly notable for his numerous 
pranks and escapades. He was very far from being a model pupil and 
took more interest in games and novel adventures than in study. He 
was looked upon as one of the leaders of the rowdy element in the 
college. He was attracted to Western dress and other Western ways 
at a time when it was uncommon for Indians to take to them except 
in big cities like Calcutta and Bombay. Though he was a little wild in 
his behavior, his English professors were fond of him and often got 
him out of a scrape. They liked his spirit, and he was intelligent, and 
with an occasional spurt he managed to do fairly well even in class. 
He got through his various university examinations without any spe 
cial distinction, and then he appeared for his final, the B A. He had not 
taken the trouble to work much for it, and he was greatly dissatisfied 
with the way he had done the first paper. Not expecting to pass the 
examination, as he thought he had spoiled the first paper, he decided 
to boycott the rest of the examination, and he spent his time instead 
at the Taj Mahal. (The university examinations were held then at 
Agra.) Subsequently his professor sent for him and was very angry 
with him, for he said that he (my father) had done the first paper 
fairly well and he had been a fool for not appearing for the other 
papers. Anyhow this ended my father's university career. He was never 
graduated. 

He was keen on getting on in life and establishing himself in a pro 
fession. Naturally he looked to the law as that was the only profession 
then, in India, which offered any opening for talent and prizes for the 
successful. He also had his brother's example before him. He appeared 
for the High Court vakils' examination and not only passed it but 

18 



topped the list and got a gold medal for it. He had found the subject 
after his own heart, or, rather, he was intent on success in the profes 
sion of his choice. 

He started practice in the district courts of Cawnpore and, being 
eager to succeed, worked hard at it and soon got on well. But his love 
for games and other amusements and diversions continued and still 
took up part of his time. In particular, he was keen on wrestling. Cawn 
pore was famous for public wrestling matches in those days. 

After serving his apprenticeship for three years at Cawnpore, father 
moved to Allahabad to work in the High Court. Not long after this 
his brother, Pandit Nand Lai, suddenly died. That was a terrible blow 
for my father; it was a personal loss of a dearly loved brother who 
had almost been a father to him, and the removal of the head and 
principal earning member of the family. Henceforward the burden of 
carrying on a large family mainly fell on his young shoulders. 

He plunged into his work, bent on success, and for many months 
cut himself off from everything else. Nearly all of my uncle's briefs 
came to him, and, as he happened to do well in them, the professional 
success that he so ardently desired soon came his way and brought 
him both additional work and money. At an early age he had estab 
lished himself as a successful lawyer, and he paid the price for this by 
becoming more and more a slave to his jealous mistress the law. He 
had no time for any other activity, public or private, and even his 
vacations and holidays were devoted to his legal practice. The National 
Congress 2 was just then attracting the attention of the English- 
knowing middle classes, and he visited some of its early sessions and 
gave it a theoretical allegiance. But in those days he took no great 
interest in its work. He was too busy with his profession. Besides, he 
felt unsure of his ground in politics and public affairs; he had paid no 
great attention to these subjects till then and knew little about them. 
He had no wish to join any movement or organization where he would 
have to play second fiddle. The aggressive spirit of his childhood and 
early youth had been outwardly curbed, but it had taken a new form, 
a new will to power. Directed to his profession, it brought success and 
increased his pride and self-reliance. He loved a fight, a struggle against 
odds, and yet, curiously, in those days he avoided the political field. 
It is true that there was little of fight then in the politics of the Na- 

3 The Indian National Congress had been formed a few years before, in 1885, largely 
by Hindus of the student and professional classes, in protest against a number of dis 
criminatory measures adopted by the British Government. Ed. 



tional Congress. However, the ground was unfamiliar, and his mind 
was full of the hard work that his profession involved. He had taken 
firm grip of the ladder of success, and rung by rung he mounted 
higher, not by anyone's favor, as he felt, not by any service of another, 
but by his own will and intellect. 

He was, of course, a nationalist in a vague sense of the word, but 
he admired Englishmen and their ways. He had a feeling that his own 
countrymen had fallen low and almost deserved what they had got. 
And there was just a trace of contempt in his mind for the politicians 
who talked and talked without doing anything, though he had no 
idea at all as to what else they could do. Also there was the thought, 
born in the pride of his own success, that many certainly not all of 
those who took to politics had been failures in life. 

An ever-increasing income brought many changes in our ways o 
living, for an increasing income meant increasing expenditure. The 
idea of hoarding money seemed to my father a slight on his own ca 
pacity to earn whenever he liked and as much as he desired. Full of 
the spirit of play and fond of good living in every way, he found no 
difficulty in spending what he earned. And gradually our ways became 
more and more Westernized. 

Such was our home in the early days of my childhood. 3 



IV 

CHILDHOOD 

MY CHILDHOOD WAS thus a sheltered and uneventful one. I listened to 
the grown-up talk of my cousins without always understanding all of 
it. Often this talk related to the overbearing character and insulting 
manners of the English people, as well as Eurasians, toward Indians, 
and how it was the duty of every Indian to stand up to this and not 
to tolerate it. Instances of conflicts between the rulers and the ruled 
were common and were fully discussed. It was a notorious fact that 
whenever an Englishman killed an Indian he was acquitted by a jury 
of his own countrymen. In railway trains compartments were reserved 
for Europeans, and, however crowded the train might be and they 

I was born in Allahabad on November 14, 1889, or, according to the Samvat calen 
dar, Margshirsh Badi 7, 1946. 

20 



used to be terribly crowded no Indian was allowed to travel in them, 
even though they were empty. Even an unreserved compartment 
would be taken possession of by an Englishman, and he would not 
allow any Indian to enter it. Benches and chairs were also reserved 
for Europeans in public parks and other places. I was filled with re 
sentment against the alien rulers of my country who misbehaved in 
this manner; and, whenever an Indian hit back, I was glad. Not in 
frequently one of my cousins or one of their friends became personally 
involved in these individual encounters, and then of course we all got 
very excited over it. One of the cousins was the strong man of the 
family, and he loved to pick a quarrel with an Englishman, or more 
frequently with Eurasians, who, perhaps to show off their oneness with 
the ruling race, were often even more offensive than the English offi 
cial or merchant. Such quarrels took place especially during railway 
journeys. 

Much as I began to resent the presence and behavior of the alien 
rulers, I had no feeling whatever, so far as I can remember, against 
individual Englishmen. I had had English governesses, and occasion 
ally I saw English friends of my father's visiting him. In my heart I 
rather admired the English. 

In the evenings usually many friends came to visit father, and he 
would relax after the tension of the day, and the house would resound 
with his tremendous laughter. His laugh became famous in Allahabad. 
Sometimes I would peep at him and his friends from behind a curtain 
trying to make out what these great big people said to each other. If 
I was caught in the act, I would be dragged out and, rather frightened, 
made to sit for a while on father's knee. Once I saw him drinking claret 
or some other red wine. Whisky I knew. I had often seen him and his 
friends drink it. But the new red stuff filled me with horror, and I 
rushed to my mother to tell her that father was drinking blood. 

I admired father tremendously. He seemed to me the embodiment 
of strength and courage and cleverness, far above all the other men 
I saw, and I treasured the hope that when I grew up I would be rather 
like him. But much as I admired him and loved him I feared him 
also. I had seen him lose his temper at servants and others; he seemed 
to me terrible then, and I shivered with fright, mixed sometimes with 
resentment, at the treatment of a servant. His temper was indeed an 
awful thing, and even in after years I do not think I ever came across 
anything to match it in its own line. But, fortunately, he had a strong 
sense of humor also and an iron will, and he could control himself as 

21 



a rule. As he grew older this power of control grew, and it was very 
rare for him to indulge in anything like his old temper. 

One of my earliest recollections is of this temper, for I was the 
victim of it. I must have been about five or six then. I noticed one day 
two fountain pens on his office table, and I looked at them with greed. 
I argued with myself that father could not require both at the same 
time, and so I helped myself to one of them. Later I found that a 
mighty search was being made for the lost pen, and I grew frightened 
at what I had done, but I did not confess. The pen was discovered 
and my guilt proclaimed to the world. Father was very angry, and 
he gave me a tremendous thrashing. Almost blind with pain and mor 
tification at my disgrace, I rushed to mother, and for several days 
various creams and ointments were applied to my aching and quiver 
ing little body. 

I do not remember bearing any ill will toward my father because 
of this punishment. I think I must have felt that it was a just punish 
ment, though perhaps overdone. But, though my admiration and affec 
tion for him remained as strong as ever, fear formed a part of them. 
Not so with my mother. I had no fear of her, for I knew that she 
would condone everything I did, and, because of her excessive and 
indiscriminating love for me, I tried to dominate over her a little. I 
saw much more of her than I did of father, and she seemed nearer to 
me, so I would confide in her when I would not dream of doing so 
to father. She was petite and short of stature, and soon I was almost 
as tall as she was and felt more of an equal with her. I admired her 
beauty and loved her amazingly small and beautiful hands and feet. 
She belonged to a fresher stock from Kashmir, and her people had only 
left the homeland two generations back. 

Another of my early confidants was a munshi of my father's, Mun- 
shi Mubarak Ali. He came from a well-to-do family of Badaun. The 
Revolt of 1857 had ruined the family, and the English troops had 
partly exterminated it. This affliction had made him gentle and for 
bearing with everybody, especially with children, and for me he was 
a sure haven of refuge whenever I was unhappy or in trouble. With 
his fine gray beard he seemed to my young eyes very ancient and 
full of old-time lore, and I used to snuggle up to him and listen, wide- 
eyed, by the hour to his innumerable stories old tales from the Ara 
bian Nights or other sources, or accounts of the happenings in 1857 
and 1858. It was many years later, when I was grown up, that "Mun- 

22 



shiji" died, and the memory of him still remains with me as a dear 
and precious possession. 

There were other stones also that I listened to, stories from the old 
Hindu mythology, from the epics, the Ramayana and the Maha- 
bharata, that my mother and aunt used to tell us. My aunt, the widow 
of Pandit Nand Lai, was learned in the old Indian books and had 
an inexhaustible supply of these tales, and my knowledge of Indian 
mythology and folklore became quite considerable. 

Of religion I had very hazy notions. It seemed to be a woman's affair, 
Father and my older cousins treated the question humorously and 
refused to take it seriously. The women of the family indulged in 
various ceremonies and pujas from time to time, and I rather enjoyed 
them, though I tried to imitate to some extent the casual attitude of 
the grown-up men of the family. Sometimes I accompanied my mother 
or aunt to the Ganges for a dip, sometimes we visited temples in Al 
lahabad itself or in Benares or elsewhere, or went to see a sanyasi re 
puted to be very holy. But all this left little impression on my mind. 

Then there were the great festival days the Holi, when all over 
the city there was a spirit of revelry and we could squirt water at each 
other; the Divali, the festival of light, when all the houses were lit up 
with thousands of dim lights in earthen cups; the Janmashtami, to 
celebrate the birth in prison of Krishna at the midnight hour (but it 
was very difficult for us to keep awake till then); the Dasehra and 
Ram Lila, when tableaux and processions re-enacted the old story of 
Ramachandra and his conquest of Lanka, and vast crowds assembled 
to see them. All the children also went to see the Moharram proces 
sions with their silken alums and their sorrowful celebration of the 
tragic story of Hasan and Husain in distant Arabia, And on the two 
Id days Munshiji would dress up in his best attire and go to the big 
mosque for prayers, and I would go to his house and consume sweet 
vermicelli and other dainties. And then there were the smaller festi 
vals, of which there are many in the Hindu calendar. 

Among us and the other Kashmiris there were also some special 
celebrations which were not observed by most of the other Hindus. 
Chief of these was the Naoroz, the New Year's Day according to the 
Samvat calendar. This was always a special day for us when all of 
us wore new clothes, and the young people of the house got small 
sums of money as presents. 

But more than all these festivals I was interested in one annual 
event in which I played the central part the celebration of the anni- 

23 



versary of my birth. This was a day of great excitement for me. Early 
in the morning I was weighed in a huge balance against some bagfuls 
of wheat and other articles which were then distributed to the poor; 
and then I arrayed myself in new clothes and received presents, and 
later in the day there was a party. I felt the hero of the occasion. My 
chief grievance was that my birthday came so rarely. Indeed, I tried 
to start an agitation for more frequent birthdays. I did not realize 
then that a time would come when birthdays would become unpleasant 
reminders of advancing age. 

Sometimes the whole family journeyed to a distant town to attend 
a marriage, either of a cousin of mine or of some more distant rela 
tion or friend. Those were exciting journeys for us children, for all 
rules were relaxed during these marriage festivities, and we had the 
free run of the place. Numerous families usually lived crowded to 
gether in the shadi-J^hana, the marriage house, where the party stayed, 
and there were many boys and girls and children. On these occasions 
I could not complain of loneliness, and we had our heart's fill of play 
and mischief, with an occasional scolding from our elders. 

Indian marriages, both among the rich and the poor, have had their 
full share of condemnation as wasteful and extravagant display. They 
deserve all this. Even apart from the waste, it is most painful to see 
the vulgar display which has no artistic or aesthetic value of any kind. 
(Needless to say there are exceptions.) For all this the really guilty 
people are the middle classes. The poor are also extravagant, even at 
the cost of burdensome debts, but it is the height of absurdity to say, 
as some people do, that their poverty is due to their social customs. 
It is often forgotten that the life of the poor is terribly dull and mo 
notonous, and an occasional marriage celebration, bringing with it some 
feasting and singing, comes to them as an oasis in a desert of soulless 
toil, a refuge from domesticity and the prosaic business of life. Who 
would be cruel enough to deny this consolation to them, who have 
such few occasions for laughter? Stop waste by all means, lessen the 
extravagance (big and foolish words to use for the little show that the 
poor put up in their poverty!), but do not make their life more drab 
and cheerless than it is. 

So also for the middle' classes. Waste and extravagance apart, these 
marriages are big social reunions where distant relations and old 
friends meet after long intervals. India is a big country, and it is not 
easy for friends to meet, and for many to meet together at the same 
time is still more difficult. Hence the popularity of the marriage cele- 

24 



brations. The only rival to them, and it has already excelled them in 
many ways even as a social reunion, is the political gathering, the 
various conferences, or the Congress! 

Kashmiris have had one advantage over many others in India, espe 
cially in the north. They have never had any purdah, or seclusion of 
women, among themselves. Finding this custom prevailing in the 
Indian plains, when they came down, they adopted it, but only pardy 
and in so far as their relations with others and non-Kashmiris were 
concerned. That was considered then in northern India, where most 
of the Kashmiris stayed, an inevitable sign of social status. But among 
themselves they stuck to the free social life of men and women, and 
every Kashmiri had the free entree into any Kashmiri house. In Kash 
miri feasts and ceremonies men and women met together and sat to 
gether, though often the women would sit in one bunch. Boys and 
girls used to meet on a more or less equal footing. They did not, of 
course, have the freedom of the modern West. 

So passed my early years. Sometimes, as was inevitable in a large 
family, there were family squabbles. When these happened to assume 
unusual proportions, they reached my 'father's ears, and he was angry 
and seemed to think that all such happenings were due to the folly of 
women. I did not understand what exactly had happened, but I saw 
that something was very wrong as people seemed to speak in a pe 
culiarly disagreeable way or to avoid one another. I felt very unhappy. 
Father's intervention, when it took place, shook us all up. 

One little incident of those early days stands out in my memory. 
I must have been about seven or eight then. I used to go out every 
day for a ride accompanied by a sawar from a cavalry unit then sta 
tioned in Allahabad. One evening I had a fall and my pony a pretty 
animal, part Arab returned home without me. Father was giving 
a tennis party. There was great consternation, and all the members 
of the party, headed by father, formed a procession in all kinds of 
vehicles and set out in search of me. They met me on the way, and 
I was treated as if I had performed some heroic deed! 



V 

THEOSOPHY 

WHEN i WAS ten years old, we changed over to a new and much bigger 
house which my father named "Anand Bhawan." This house had a 
big garden and a swimming pool, and I was full of excitement at the 
fresh discoveries I was continually making. Additional buildings were 
put up, and there was a great deal of digging and construction, and I 
loved to watch the laborers at work. 

There was a large swimming pool in the house, and soon I learned 
to swim and felt completely at home in and under the water. During 
the long and hot summer days I would go for a dip at all odd hours, 
many times a day. In the evening many friends of my father's came 
to the pool. It was a novelty, and the electric light that had been in 
stalled there and in the house was an innovation for Allahabad in 
those days. I enjoyed myself hugely during these bathing parties, and 
an unfailing joy was to frighten, by pushing or pulling, those who did 
not know how to swim. I remember, particularly, Dr. Tej Bahadur 
Sapru, who was then a junior at the Allahabad Bar. He knew no swim 
ming and had no intention of learning it. He would sit on the first 
step in fifteen inches of water, refusing absolutely to go forward even 
to the second step, and shouting loudly if anyone tried to move him. 
My father himself was no swimmer, but he could just manage to go 
the length of the pool with set teeth and violent and exhausting effort. 

The Boer War was then going on; this interested me, and all my 
sympathies were with the Boers. I began to read the newspapers for 
news of the fighting. 

A domestic event, however, just then absorbed my attention. This 
was the birth of a little sister. I had long nourished a secret grievance 
at not having any brothers or sisters when everybody else seemed to 
have them, and the prospect of having at last a baby brother or sister 
all to myself was exhilarating. Father was then in Europe. I remember 
waiting anxiously in the veranda for the event. One of the doctors 
came and told me of it and added, presumably as a joke, that I must 
be glad that it was not a boy, who would have taken a share in my 
patrimony. I felt bitter and angry at the thought that anyone should 
imagine that I could harbor such a vile notion. 

Father's visit to Europe led to an internal storm in the Kashmiri 
Brahman community in India. He refused to perform any prayashchit 

26 



or purification ceremony on his return. Some years previously another 
Kashmiri Brahman had gone to England to be called to the Bar. 
On his return the orthodox members of the community had re 
fused to have anything to do with him, and he was outcast, although 
he performed the prayashchit ceremony. This had resulted in the split 
ting up of the community into two more or less equal halves. Many 
Kashmiri young men went subsequendy to Europe for their studies 
and on their return joined the reformist section, but only after a formal 
ceremony of purification. This ceremony itself was a bit of a farce, 
and there was little of religion in it. It merely signified an outward 
conformity and a submission to the group will. Having done so, each 
person indulged in all manner of heterodox activities and mixed and 
fed with non-Brahmans and non-Hindus. 

Father went a step further and refused to go through any ceremony 
or to submit in any way, even outwardly and formally, to a so-called 
purification. A great deal of heat was generated, chiefly because of 
father's aggressive and rather disdainful attitude, and ultimately a 
considerable number of Kashmiris joined father, thus forming a third 
group. Within a few years these groups gradually merged into one 
another as ideas changed and the old restrictions fell. Large numbers 
of Kashmiri young men and girls have visited Europe or America 
for their studies, and no question has arisen of their performing any 
ceremonies on their return. Food restrictions have almost entirely gone, 
except in the case of a handful of orthodox people, chiefly old ladies, 
and interdining with non-Kashmiris, Moslems, and non-Indians is com 
mon. Purdah has disappeared among Kashmiris even as regards other 
communities. The last push to this was given by the political upheaval 
of 1930. Intermarriage with other communities is still not popular, al 
though (increasingly) instances occur. Both my sisters have married 
non-Kashmiris, and a young member of our family has recently mar 
ried a Hungarian girl. The objection to intermarriage with others is 
not based on religion; it is largely racial. There is a desire among 
many Kashmiris to preserve our group identity and our distinctive 
Aryan features, and a fear that we shall lose these in the sea of Indian 
and non-Indian humanity. We are small in numbers in this vast 
country. 

When I was about eleven, a new resident tutor, Ferdinand T. 
Brooks, came and took charge of me. He was partly Irish (on his 
father's side), and his mother had been a Frenchwoman or a Belgian. 
He was a keen theosophist who had been recommended to my father 

2 7 



by Mrs. Annie Besant. For nearly three years he was with me, and 
in many ways he influenced me greatly. The only other tutor I had 
at the time was a dear old Pandit who was supposed to teach me 
Hindu and Sanskrit. After many years' effort the Pandit managed to 
teach me extraordinarily little, so little that I can only measure my 
pitiful knowledge of Sanskrit with the Latin I learned subsequently 
at Harrow. The fault no doubt was mine. I am not good at languages, 
and grammar has had no attraction for me whatever. 

F. T. Brooks developed in me a taste for reading, and I read a great 
many English books, though rather aimlessly. I was well up in chil 
dren's and boys' literature; the Lewis Carroll books were great fa 
vorites, and The Jungle Boo^s and Kim. I was fascinated by Gustave 
Dore's illustrations to Don Quixote, and Fridtjof Nansen's Farthest 
North opened out a new realm of adventure to me. I remember read 
ing many of the novels of Scott, Dickens, and Thackeray, H. G. 
Wells 's romances, Mark Twain, and the Sherlock Holmes stories. I 
was thrilled by the Prisoner of Zenda, and Jerome K. Jerome's Three 
Men in a Boat was for me the last word in humor. Another book 
stands out still in my memory; it was Du Maurier's Trilby; also Perer 
Ibbetson. I also developed a liking for poetry, a liking which has to 
some extent endured and survived the many other changes to which 
I have been subject. 

Brooks also initiated me into the mysteries of science. We rigged 
up a little laboratory, and there I used to spend long and interesting 
hours working out experiments in elementary physics and chemistry. 
Apart from my studies, F. T. Brooks brought a new influence to 
bear upon me which affected me powerfully for a while. This was 
theosophy. He used to have weekly meetings of theosophists in his 
rooms, and I attended them and gradually imbibed theosophical phrase 
ology and ideas. There were metaphysical arguments, and discussions 
about reincarnation and the astral and other supernatural bodies, and 
auras, and the doctrine of karma, and references not only to big books 
by Madame Blavatsky and other theosophists but to the Hindu scrip 
tures, the Buddhist Dhammapada, Pythagoras, Apollonius Tyanaeus, 
and various philosophers and mystics. I did not understand much 
that was said, but it all sounded very mysterious and fascinating, and 
I felt that here was the key to the secrets of the universe.- For the first 
time I began to think, consciously and deliberately, of religion and 
other worlds. The Hindu religion especially went up in my estimation; 
not the ritual or ceremonial part, but its great books, the Upanishads 

28 



and the Bhagavad Gita. I did not understand them, of course, but 
they seemed very wonderful. I dreamed of astral bodies and imagined 
myself flying vast distances. This dream of flying high up in the air 
(without any appliance) has indeed been a frequent one throughout 
my life; and sometimes it has been vivid and realistic and the country 
side seemed to lie underneath me in a vast panorama. I do not know 
how the modern interpreters of dreams, Freud and others, would in 
terpret this dream. 

Mrs. Annie Besant visited Allahabad in those days and delivered 
several addresses on theosophical subjects. I was deeply moved by 
her oratory and returned from her speeches dazed and as in a dream. 
I decided to join the Theosophical Society, although I was only thirteen 
then. When I went to ask father's permission, he laughingly gave it; 
he did not seem to attach importance to the subject either way. I was 
a little hurt by his lack of feeling. Great as he was in many ways in 
my eyes, I felt that he was lacking in spirituality. As a matter of fact 
he was an old theosophist, having joined the Society in its early days 
when Madame Blavatsky was in India. Curiosity probably led him to 
it more than religion, and he soon dropped out of it; but some of his 
friends, who had joined with him, persevered and rose high in the 
spiritual hierarchy of the Society. 

So I became a member of the Theosophical Society at thirteen, and 
Mrs. Besant herself performed the ceremony of initiation, which con 
sisted of good advice and instruction in some mysterious signs, prob 
ably a relic of freemasonry. I was thrilled. I attended the Theosophical 
Convention at Benares and saw old Colonel Olcott with his fine beard. 

Soon after F. T. Brooks left me I lost touch with theosophy, and in 
a remarkably short time (partly because I went to school in England) 
theosophy left my life completely. But I have no doubt that those 
years with F. T. Brooks left a deep impress upon me, and I feel that 
I owe a debt to him and to theosophy. But I am afraid that theoso- 
phists have since then gone down in my estimation. Instead of the 
chosen ones they seem to be very ordinary folk, liking security better 
than risk, a soft job more than the martyr's lot. But for Mrs. Besant 
I always had the warmest admiration. 

The next important event that I remember affecting me was the 
Russo-Japanese War. Japanese victories stirred up my enthusiasm, and 
I waited eagerly for the papers for fresh news daily. I invested in a 
large number of books on Japan and tried to read some of them. I felt 

29 



rather lost in Japanese history, but I liked the knightly tales of old 
Japan and the pleasant prose of Lafcadio Hearn. 

Nationalistic ideas filled my mind. I mused of Indian freedom and 
Asiatic freedom from the thralldom of Europe. I dreamed of brave 
deeds, of how, sword in hand, I would fight for India and help in 
freeing her. 

I was fourteen. Changes were taking place in our house. My older 
cousins, having become professional men, were leaving the common 
home and setting up their own households separately. Fresh thoughts 
and vague fancies were floating in my mind, and I began to take a 
little more interest in the opposite sex. I still preferred the company 
of boys and thought it a little beneath my dignity to mix with groups 
of girls. But sometimes at Kashmiri parties, where pretty girls were 
not lacking, or elsewhere, a glance or a touch would thrill me. 

In May 1905, when I was fifteen, we set sail for England. Father and 
mother, my baby sister and I, we all went together. 



VI 

HARROW AND CAMBRIDGE 

ON A MAY day, toward the end of the month, we reached London, 
reading in the train from Dover of the great Japanese sea victory at 
Tsushima. I was in high good humor. The very next day happened 
to be Derby Day, and we went to see the race. 

I was a little fortunate in finding a vacancy at Harrow, for I was 
slightly above the usual age for entry, being fifteen. My family went 
to the Continent, and after some months they returned to India. 

Never before had I been left among strangers all by myself, and I 
felt lonely and homesick, but not for long. I managed to fit in to 
some extent in the life at school, and work and play kept me busy. 
I was never an exact fit. Always I had a feeling that I was not one of 
them, and the others must have felt the same way about me. I was 
left a little to myself. But on the whole I took my full share in the 
games, without in any way shining at them, and it was, I believe, 
recognized that I was no shirker. 

I was put, to begin with, in a low form because of my small 
knowledge of Latin, but I was pushed higher up soon. In many sub- 

30 



jects probably, and especially in general knowledge, I was in advance 
of those of my age. My interests were certainly wider, and I read both 
books and newspapers more than most of my fellow students. I 
remember writing to my father how dull most of the English boys 
were as they could talk about nothing but their games. But there 
were exceptions, especially when I reached the upper forms. 

I was greatly interested in the General Election, which took place, 
as far as I remember, at the end of 1905 and which ended in a great 
Liberal victory. Early in 1906 our form master asked us about the 
new Government, and, much to his surprise, I was the only boy in 
his form who could give him much information on the subject. 

Apart from politics another subject that fascinated me was the early 
growth of aviation. Those were the days of the Wright Brothers and 
Santos-Dumont (to be followed soon by Farman, Latham, and Bleriot), 
and I wrote to father from Harrow, in my enthusiasm, that soon I 
might be able to pay him a week-end visit in India by air. 

There were four or five Indian boys at Harrow in my time. I seldom 
came across those at other houses, but in our own house the Head 
master's we had one of the sons of the Gaekwar of Baroda. He was 
much senior to me and was popular because of his cricket. He left 
soon after my arrival. Later came the eldest son of the Maharaja of 
Kapurthala, Paramjit Singh, now the Tikka Sahib. He was a complete 
misfit and was unhappy and could not mix at all with the other boys, 
who often made fun of him and his ways. This irritated him greatly, 
and sometimes he used to tell them what he would do to them if 
they came to Kapurthala. Needless to say, this did not improve matters 
for him. He had previously spent some time in France and could 
speak French fluently, but oddly enough, such were the methods of 
teaching foreign languages in English public schools, that this hardly 
helped him in the French classes. 

A curious incident took place once when, in the middle of the night, 
the housemaster suddenly visited our rooms and made a thorough 
search all over the house. We learned that Paramjit Singh had lost 
his beautiful gold-mounted cane. The search was not successful. Two 
or three days later the Eton and Harrow match took place at Lord's, 
and immediately afterward the cane was discovered in the owner's 
room. Evidently someone had used it at Lord's and then returned it. 

There were a few Jews in our house and in other houses. They 
got on fairly well but there was always a background of anti-Semitic 
feeling. They were the "damned Jews," and soon, almost unconsciously, 

3* 



I began to think that it was the proper thing to have this feeling. I 
never really felt anti-Semitic in the least, and, in later years, I had 
many good friends among the Jews. 

I got used to Harrow and liked the place, and yet somehow I began 
to feel that I was outgrowing it. The university attracted me. Right 
through the years of 1906 and 1907 news from India had been agitating 
me. I got meager enough accounts from the English papers; but even 
that little showed that big events were happening at home. There 
were deportations, and Bengal seemed to be in an uproar, and Tilak's * 
name was often flashed from Poona, and there was Swadeshi 2 and 
boycott. All this stirred me tremendously; but there was not a 
soul in Harrow to whom I could talk about it. During the holidays 
I met some of my cousins or other Indian friends and then had a 
chance of relieving my mind. 

A prize I got for good work at school was one of G. M. Trevelyan's 
Garibaldi books. This fascinated me, and soon I obtained the other 
two volumes of the series and studied the whole Garibaldi story in 
them carefully. Visions of similar deeds in India carne before me, of 
a gallant fight for freedom, and in my mind India and Italy got 
strangely mixed together. Harrow seemed a rather small and restricted 
place for these ideas, and I wanted to go to the wider sphere of the 
university. So I induced father to agree to this and left Harrow after 
only two years' stay, which was much less than the usual period. 

I was leaving Harrow because I wanted to do so myself, and yet, 
I well remember, that when the time came to part I felt unhappy 
and tears came to my eyes. I had grown rather fond of the place, and 
my departure for good put an end to one period in my life. And yet, 
I wonder, how far I was really sorry at leaving Harrow. Was it not 
partly a feeling that I ought to be unhappy because Harrow tradition 
and song demanded it? I was susceptible to these traditions, for I had 
deliberately not resisted them so as to be in harmony with the place. 
Cambridge, Trinity College, the beginning of October 1907, my 
age seventeen, or rather approaching eighteen. I felt elated at being 
an undergraduate with a great deal of freedom, compared to school, 
to do what I chose. I had got out of the shackles of boyhood and felt 
at last that I could claim to be a grown-up. With a self-conscious air 

1 One of the great early Nationalist leaders. Ed. 

fl Meaning literally, "of one's own country"; thus, the encouragement of Indian trade 
and industry, associated with the boycotting of British products. Ed. 

3 2 



I wandered about the big courts and narrow streets o Cambridge, 
delighted to meet a person I knew. 

Three years I was at Cambridge, three quiet years with little of 
disturbance in them, moving slowly on like the sluggish Cam. They 
were pleasant years, with many friends and some work and some play 
and a gradual widening of the intellectual horizon. I took the natural 
sciences tripos, my subjects being chemistry, geology, and botany, but 
my interests were not confined to these. Many of the people I met 
at Cambridge or during the vacations in London or elsewhere talked 
learnedly about books and literature and history and politics and 
economics. I felt a little at sea at first in this semihighbrow talk, but I 
read a few books and soon got the hang of it and could at least keep 
my end up and not betray too great an ignorance on any of the usual 
subjects. So we discussed Nietzsche (he was all the rage in Cambridge 
then) and Bernard Shaw's prefaces and the latest book by Lowes 
Dickinson. We considered ourselves very sophisticated and talked of 
sex and morality in a superior way, referring casually to Ivan Block, 
Havelock Ellis, Kraft Ebbing, or Otto Weininger. We felt that we 
knew about as much of the theory of the subject as anyone who was 
not a specialist need know. 

As a matter of fact, in spite of our brave talk, most of us were rather 
timid where sex was concerned. At any rate I was so, and my knowl 
edge for many years, till after I had left Cambridge, remained confined 
to theory. Why this was so it is a little difficult to say. Most of us 
were strongly attracted by sex, and I doubt if any of us attached any 
idea of sin to it. Certainly I did not; there was no religious inhibition. 
We talked of its being amoral, neither moral nor immoral. Yet in 
spite of all this a certain shyness kept me away, as well as a distaste 
for the usual methods adopted. For I was in those days definitely a 
shy lad, perhaps because of my lonely childhood. 

My general attitude to life at the time was a vague kind of Cyrenai- 
cism, partly natural to youth, partly the influence of Oscar Wilde and 
Walter Pater. It is easy and gratifying to give a long Greek name to 
the desire for a soft life and pleasant experiences. But there was some 
thing more in it than that, for I was not particularly attracted to a 
soft life. Not having the religious temper and disliking the repressions 
of religion, it was natural for me to seek some other standard. I was 
superficial and did not go deep down into anything. And so the 
aesthetic side of life appealed to me, and the idea of going through 
life worthily, not indulging it in the vulgar way, but still making the 

33 



most of it and living a full and many-sided life attracted me. I enjoyed 
life, and I refused to see why I should consider it a thing of sin. At 
the same time risk and adventure fascinated me; I was always, like 
my father, a bit of a gambler, at first with money and then for higher 
stakes, with the bigger issues of life. Indian politics in 1907 and 1908 
were in a state of upheaval, and I wanted to play a brave part in them, 
and this was not likely to lead to a soft life. All these mixed and 
sometimes conflicting desires led to a medley in my mind. Vague and 
confused it was, but I did not worry, for the time for any decision 
was yet far distant. Meanwhile, life was pleasant, both physically and 
intellectually, fresh horizons were ever coming into sight, there was so 
much to be done, so much to be seen, so many fresh avenues to explore. 
And we would sit by the fireside in the long winter evenings and talk 
and discuss unhurriedly deep into the night till the dying fire drove 
us shivering to our beds. And sometimes, during our discussions, our 
voices would lose their even tenor and would grow loud and excited 
in heated argument. But it was all make-believe. We played with the 
problems of human life in a mock-serious way, for they had not become 
real problems for us yet, and we had not been caught in the coils of 
the world's affairs. It was the prewar world of the early twentieth 
century. Soon this world was to die, yielding place to another, full of 
death and destruction and anguish and heart-sickness for the world's 
youth. But the veil of the future hid this, and we saw around us an 
assured and advancing order of things, and this was pleasant for those 
who could afford it. 

I write of Cyrenaicism and the like and of various ideas that influ 
enced me then. But it would be wrong to imagine that I thought 
clearly on these subjects then or even that I thought it necessary to 
try to be clear and definite about them. They were just vague fancies 
that floated in my mind and in this process left their impress in a 
greater or less degree. I did not worry myself at all about these specula 
tions. Work and games and amusements filled my life, and the only 
thing that disturbed me sometimes was the political struggle in India. 
Among the books that influenced me politically at Cambridge was 
Meredith Townsend's Asia and Europe. 

From 1907 onward for several years India was seething with unrest 
and trouble. For the first time since the Revolt of 1857, India was 
showing fight and not submitting tamely to foreign rule. News of 
Tilak's activities and his conviction, of Aravindo Ghose and the way 
the masses of Bengal were taking the Swadeshi and boycott pledge 

34 




Jawaharlal Nehru's grandfather, Pandit Ganga Dhar Nehru 
(from an old fainting) 




Jawaharlal Nehru's father, Pandit Motilal Nehru 



stirred all of us Indians in England. Almost without an exception we 
were Tilakites or Extremists, as the new party was called in India. 

The Indians in Cambridge had a society called the "Majlis." We 
discussed political problems there often but In somewhat unreal debates. 
More effort was spent in copying parliamentary and the University 
Union style and mannerisms than in grappling with the subject. Fre 
quently I went to the Majlis, but during my three years I hardly spoke 
there. I could not get over my shyness and diffidence. This same 
difficulty pursued me in my college debating society, "The Magpie 
and Stump," where there was a rule that a member not speaking for 
a whole term had to pay a fine. Often I paid the fine. 

I remember Edwin Montagu, who later became Secretary of State 
for India, often visiting "The Magpie and Stump." He was an old 
Trinity man and was then Member of Parliament for Cambridge. It 
was from him that I first heard the modern definition of faith: to 
believe in something which your reason tells you cannot be true, for, 
if your reason approved of it, there could be no question of blind faith. 
I was influenced by my scientific studies in the university and had 
some of the assurance which science then possessed. For the science 
of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, unlike that of 
today, was very sure of itself and the world. 

In the Majlis and in private talks Indian students often used the 
most extreme language when discussing Indian politics. They even 
talked in terms of admiration of the acts of violence that were then 
beginning in Bengal. Later I was to find that these very persons were 
to become members of the Indian Civil Service, High Court judges, 
very staid and sober lawyers, and the like. Few of these parlor fire 
brands took any effective part in Indian political movements subse 
quently. 

In London there was the student center opened by the India Office. 
This was universally regarded by Indians, with a great deal of justifi 
cation, as a device to spy on Indian students. Many Indians, however, 
had to put up with it, whether they wanted to or not, as it became 
almost impossible to enter a university without its recommendation. 

The political situation in India 3 had drawn my father into more 

3 India is divided into two great parts: British India, where the British Government, 
through its viceroy, or governor general, exercises virtually supreme authority; and the 
Indian States and Agencies, which are governed by Indian rulers owing a limited re 
sponsibility to the viceroy. British India consists of a number of provinces: Ajmer-Mer- 
wara, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Assam, Baluchistan, Bengal, Behar, Bombay, 
Central Provinces and Bcrar, Coorg, Delhi, Madras, Laccadive Islands, Northwest Fron 
tier Province, Orissa, Punjab, Sind, and United Provinces of Agra and Oudh. The largest 

35 



active politics, and I was pleased at this although I did not agree with 
his politics. He had, naturally enough, joined the Moderates, whom 
he knew and many of whom were his colleagues in his profession. He 
presided over a provincial conference in his province and took up a 
strong line against the Extremists of Bengal and Maharashtra. He 
also became president of the United Provinces Provincial Congress 
Committee. He was present at Surat in 1907 when the Congress broke 
up in disorder and later emerged. as a purely moderate group. 

Soon after Surat, H. W. Nevinson stopped with him at Allahabad as 
his guest for a while and, in his book on India, he referred to father 
as being "moderate in everything except his generosity." This was a 
very wrong estimate, for father was never moderate in anything except 
his politics, and step by step his nature drove him from even that 
remnant of moderation. A man of strong feelings, strong passions, 
tremendous pride, and great strength of will, he was very far from 
the moderate type. And yet in 1907 and 1908 and for some years after 
ward, he was undoubtedly a moderate of Moderates, and he was bitter 
against the Extremists, though I believe he admired Tilak. 

Why was this so? It was natural for him with his grounding in law 
and constitutionalism to take a lawyer's and a constitutional view of 
politics. His clear thinking led him to see that hard and extreme words 
lead nowhere unless they are followed by action appropriate to the 
language. He saw no effective action in prospect. The Swadeshi and 
boycott movements did not seem to him to carry matters far. And 
then the background of these movements was a religious nationalism 
which was alien to his nature. He did not look back to a revival in 
India of ancient times. He had no sympathy or understanding of them 
and utterly disliked many old social customs, caste and the like, which 
he considered reactionary. He looked to the West and felt greatly 
attracted by Western progress, and thought that this could come 
through an association with England. 

Socially, the Indian national revival in 1907 was definitely reactionary. 
Inevitably, a new nationalism in India, as elsewhere in the East, was 
a religious nationalism. The Moderates thus represented a more ad 
vanced social outlook, but they were a mere handful on the top out 
of toudl with the Basses. They did not think much in terms of eco- 

36 



nomics, except in terms of the new upper middle class which they 
partly represented and which wanted room for expansion. They advo 
cated also petty social reforms to weaken caste and do away with old 
social customs which hindered growth. 

Having cast his lot with the Moderates, father took an aggressive line* 
Most of the Extremists, apart from a few leaders in Bengal and Poona, 
were young men, and it irritated him to find that these youngsters 
dared to go their own way. Impatient and intolerant of opposition, 
and not suffering people whom he considered fools, he gladly pitched 
into them and hit out whenever he could. I remember, I think it was 
after I left Cambridge, reading an article of his which annoyed me 
greatly. I wrote him rather an impertinent letter in which I suggested 
that no doubt the British Government was greatly pleased with his 
political activities. This was just the kind of suggestion which would 
make him wild, and he was very angry. He almost thought of asking 
me to return from England immediately. 

During my stay at Cambridge the question had arisen as to what 
career I should take up. For a little while the Indian Civil Service 
was contemplated; there was a glamour about it still in those days. 
But this idea was dropped as neither my father nor I was keen on it. 
The principal reason, I think, was that I was still under age for it 
and if I was to appear for it I would have to stay three to four years 
more after taking my degree. I was twenty when I took my degree 
at Cambridge, and the age limit for the Indian Civil Service in those 
days was twenty-two to twenty-four. A successful candidate had to 
spend an extra year in England. My people were a little tired of my 
long stay in England and wanted me back soon. Another reason which 
weighed with father was that in case I was appointed to the Indian 
Civil Service I would be posted in various distant places far from home. 
Both father and mother wanted me near them after my long absence. 
So the die was cast in favor of the paternal profession, the Bar, and I 
joined the Inner Temple. 

It is curious that, in spite of my growing extremism in politics, I did 
not then view with any strong disfavor the idea of joining the Indian 
Civil Service and thus becoming a cog in the British Government's 
administrative machine in India. Such an idea in later years would 
have been repellent to me. 

I left Cambridge after taking my degree in 1910. I was only moder 
ately successful in my science tripos examination, obtaining second 
class honors. For the next two years I hovered about London. My law 

37 



studies did not take up much time, and 1 got through the Bar examina 
tions, one after the other, with neither glory nor ignominy. For the 
rest I simply drifted, doing some general reading, vaguely attracted 
to the Fabians and socialistic ideas, and interested in the political 
movements of the day. Ireland and the woman suffrage movement 
interested me especially. I remember also how, during a visit to Ireland 
in the summer of 1910, the early beginnings of Sinn Fein had attracted 
me. 

I came across some old Harrow friends and developed expensive 
habits in their company. Often I exceeded the handsome allowance 
that father made me, and he was greatly worried on my account, fear 
ing that I was rapidly going to the devil. But as a matter of fact I was 
not doing anything so notable. I was merely trying to ape to some extent 
the prosperous but somewhat empty-headed Englishman who is called 
a "man about town." This soft and pointless existence, needless to say, 
did not improve me in any way. My early enthusiasms began to tone 
down, and the only thing that seemed to go up was my conceit. 

During my vacations I had sometimes traveled on the Continent. 
In the summer of 1909 my father and I happened to be in Berlin when 
Count Zeppelin arrived flying in his new airship from Friedrichshafen 
on Lake Constance. I believe that was his first long flight, and the 
occasion was celebrated by a huge demonstration and a formal welcome 
by the Kaiser. A vast multitude, estimated at between one and two 
millions, gathered in the Tempelhof Field in Berlin, and the Zeppelin 
arrived on time and circled gracefully above us. The Hotel Adlon 
presented all its residents that day with a fine picture of Count 
Zeppelin, and I have still got that picture. 

About two months later we saw in Paris the first airplane to fly 
all over the city and to circle round the Eiffel Tower. The aviator's 
name was, I think, Comte de Lambert. Eighteen years later I was again 
in Paris when Lindbergh came like a shining arrow from across the 
Atlantic. 

I had a narrow escape once in Norway, where I had gone on a 
pleasure cruise soon after taking my degree at Cambridge in 1910. 
We were tramping across the mountainous country. Hot and weary, 
we reached our destination, a little hotel, and demanded baths. Such 
a thing had not been heard of there, and there was no provision for 
it in the building. We were told, however, that we could wash ourselves 
in a neighboring stream. So, armed with table napkins or perhaps 
small face towels, which the hotel generously gave, two of us, a young 

38 



Englishman and I, went to this roaring torrent which was coming 
from a glacier near by. I entered the water; it was not deep, but it 
was freezing, and the bottom was terribly slippery. I slipped and fell, 
and the ice-cold water numbed me and made me lose all sensation 
or power of controlling my limbs. I could not regain my foothold 
and was swept rapidly along by the torrent. My companion, the Eng 
lishman, however, managed to get out, and he ran along the side and 
ultimately, succeeding in catching my leg, dragged me out. Later we 
realized the danger we were in, for about two or three hundred yards 
ahead of us this mountain torrent tumbled over an enormous precipice, 
forming a waterfall which was one of the sights of the place. 

In the summer of 1912 I was called to the Bar, and in the autumn 
of that year I returned to India finally after a stay of over seven years 
in England. Twice, in between, I had gone home during my holidays. 
But now I returned for good, and I am afraid, as I landed at Bombay, 
I was a bit of a prig with little to commend me. 



VII 

BACK HOME AND WARTIME POLITICS IN INDIA 

TOWARD THE END of 1912 India was, politically, very dull. Tilak was in 
jail, the Extremists had been sat upon and were lying low without any 
effective leadership, Bengal was quiet after the unsettling of the parti 
tion of the province, and the Moderates had been effectively "rallied" 
to the Minto-Morley scheme of councils. 1 There was some interest in 
Indians overseas, especially in the condition of Indians in South Africa. 
The Congress was a moderate group, meeting annually, passing some 
feeble resolutions, and attracting little attention. 

I attended the Bankipore Congress as a delegate during Christmas, 
1912. It was very much an English-knowing upper-class affair where 
morning coats and well-pressed trousers were greatly in evidence. 
Essentially it was a social gathering with no political excitement or 
tension. Gokhale, fresh from South Africa, attended it and was the 
outstanding person of the session. High-strung, full of earnestness and 
a nervous energy, he seemed to be one of the few persons present who 

1 A "reform" put into effect in 1907-1909, increasing Indian representation in various 
advisory organs of government. Ed. 

39 



took politics and public affairs seriously and felt deeply about them. 
I was impressed by him. 

I took to the law and joined the High Court. The work interested 
me to a certain extent. The early months after my return from Europe 
were pleasant. I was glad to be back home and to pick up old threads. 
But gradually the life I led, in common with most others of my kind, 
began to lose all its freshness, and I felt that I was being engulfed in a 
dull routine of a pointless and futile existence. I suppose my mongrel, 
or at least mixed, education was responsible for this feeling of dissatis 
faction with my surroundings. The habits and the ideas that had 
grown in me during my seven years in England did not fit in with 
things as I found them. Fortunately my home atmosphere was fairly 
congenial, and that was some help, but it was not enough. For the rest 
there was the Bar Library and the club, and the same people were to be 
found in both, discussing the same old topics, usually connected with 
the legal profession, over and over again. Decidedly the atmosphere 
was not intellectually stimulating, and a sense of the utter insipidity of 
life grew upon me. There were not ever worth-while amusements or 
diversions. 

The official and Service atmosphere invaded and set the tone for 
almost all Indian middle-class life, especially the English-knowing 
intelligentsia, except to some extent in cities like Calcutta and Bombay. 
Professional men, lawyers, doctors, and others succumbed to it, and 
even the academic halls of the semiofficial universities were full of it. 
All these people lived in a world apart, cut off from the masses and 
even the lower middle class. Politics was confined to this upper 
stratum. The nationalist movement in Bengal from 1906 onward had 
for the first time shaken this up and infused a new life in the Bengal 
lower middle class and to a small extent even the masses. This process 
was to grow rapidly in later years under Gandhiji's 2 leadership, but a 

2 1 have referred to Mr. Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi as "Gandhiji" throughout these 
pages as he himself prefers this to the addition of "Mahatma" to his name. But I have 
seen some extraordinary explanations of this "ji" in books and articles by English 
writers. Some have imagined that it is a term of endearment Gandhiji meaning 
"dear little Gandhi"! This is perfectly absurd and shows colossal ignorance of Indian 
life. "Ji" is one of the commonest additions to a name in India, being applied indis- 
criminatingly to all kinds of people and to men, women, boys, girls, and children. It 
conveys an idea of respect, something equivalent to Mr., Mrs., or Miss. Hindustani is 
rich in courtly phrases and prefixes and suffixes to names and honorific titles. "Ji" i s 
the simplest of these and the least formal of them, though perfectly correct. I learn 
from my brother-in-law, Ranjit S. Pandit, that this "ji" has a long and honorable 
ancestry. It is derived from the Sanskrit Arya, meaning a gentleman or noble-born (not 
the Nazi meaning of Aryan!). This arya became in Prakit ajja, and this led to the 
simple "ji."* 

4 o 



nationalist struggle though life-giving is a narrow creed and absorbs 
too much energy and attention to allow of other activities. 

I felt, therefore, dissatisfied with life in those early years after my 
return from England. My profession did not fill me with a whole 
hearted enthusiasm. Politics, which to me meant aggressive nationalist 
activity against foreign rule, offered no scope for this. I joined the 
Congress and took part in its occasional meetings. When a special 
occasion arose, like the agitation against the Fiji indenture system for 
Indian workers, or the South African Indian question, I threw myself 
into it with energy and worked hard. But these were only temporary 
occupations. 

I indulged in some diversions like shikar, but I had no special apti 
tude or inclination for it. I liked the outings and the jungle and cared 
little for the killing. Indeed my reputation was a singularly bloodless 
one, although I once succeeded, more or less by a fluke, in killing a 
bear in Kashmir. An incident with a little antelope damped even the 
little ardor that I possessed for shikar. This harmless little animal fell 
down at my feet, wounded to death, and looked up at me with its 
great big eyes full of tears. Those eyes have often haunted me since. 

I was attracted in those early years to Mr. Gokhale's Servants of 
India Society. I never thought of joining it, partly because its politics 
were too moderate for me, and partly because I had no intention then 
of giving up my profession. But I had a great admiration for the 
members of the society, who had devoted themselves for a bare pit 
tance to the country's service. Here at least, I thought, was straight and 
single-minded and continuous work even though this might not be on 
wholly right lines. 

The World War absorbed our attention. It was far off and did not at 
first affect our lives much, and India never felt the full horror of it. 
Politics petered out and sank into insignificance. The Defense of 
India Act (the equivalent of the British Defense of the Realm Act) 
held the country in its grip. From the second year onward news of 
conspiracies and shootings came to us, and of press-gang methods to 
enroll recruits in the Punjab. 

There was little sympathy with the British in spite of loud profes 
sions of loyalty. Moderate and Extremists alike learned with satisfac 
tion of German victories. There was no love for Germany, of course, 
only the desire to see our own rulers humbled. It was the weak and 
helpless man's idea of vicarious revenge. I suppose most of us viewed 



the struggle with mixed feelings. Of all the nations involved my 
sympathies were probably most with France. The ceaseless and 
unabashed propaganda on behalf of the Allies had some effect, 
although we tried to discount it greatly. 

Gradually political life grew again. Lokamanya Tilak came out of 
prison, and home rule leagues were started by him and Mrs. Besant. 
I joined both, but I worked especially for Mrs. Besant's league. Mrs. 
Besant began to play an ever-increasing part in Indian politics. The 
annual sessions of the Congress became a little more exciting and the 
Moslem League began to march with the Congress. The atmosphere 
became electric, and most of us young men felt exhilarated and 
expected big things in the near future. Mrs. Besant's internment added 
greatly to the excitement of the intelligentsia and vitalized the home 
rule movement all over the country. It stirred even the older genera 
tion, including many of the Moderate leaders. The home rule leagues 
were attracting not only all the old Extremists who had been kept out 
of the Congress since 1907 but large numbers of newcomers from the 
middle classes. They did not touch the masses. 

Mrs. Besant's internment also resulted in my father and other Mod 
erate leaders joining the Home Rule League. Some months later most 
of these Moderate members resigned from the league. My father re 
mained in it and became the president of the Allahabad branch. 

Gradually my father had been drifting away from the orthodox 
Moderate position. His nature rebelled against too much submission 
and appeal to an authority which ignored us and treated us disdain 
fully. But the old Extremist leaders did not attract him; their language 
and methods jarred upon him. The episode of Mrs. Besant's intern 
ment and subsequent events influenced him considerably, but still he 
hesitated before definitely committing himself to a forward line. Often 
he used to say in those days that moderate tactics were no good, but 
nothing effective could be done till some solution for the Hindu- 
Moslem question was found. If this was found, then he promised to go 
ahead with the youngest of us. The adoption by the Congress at 
Lucknow in 1916 of the Joint Congress-League Scheme, which had 
been drawn up at a meeting of the All-India Congress Committee in 
our house, pleased him greatly as it opened the way to a joint effort, 
and he was prepared to go ahead then even at the cost of breaking with 
his old colleagues of the Moderate group. 

My own political and public activities in the early war years were 
modest, and I kept away from addressing public gatherings. I was still 

42 




Jawaharlal Nehru's mother, Swarup Rani Nehru 




The older of Jawaharlal Nehru's two sisters, Mrs. 

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit. She was formerly a minister 

in the United Provinces government, the only 

woman ever to hold such a position 



diffident and terrified of public speaking. Partly also I felt that public 
speeches should not be in English, and I doubted my capacity to speak 
at any length in Hindustani. I remember a little incident when I was 
induced to deliver my first public speech in Allahabad. Probably it 
was in 1915, but I am not clear about dates and am rather mixed up 
about the order of events. The occasion was a protest meeting against 
a new act muzzling the press. I spoke briefly and in English. As soon 
as the meeting was over. Dr. Tej Bahadur Sapru, to my great embar 
rassment, embraced and kissed me in public on the dais. This was not 
because of what I had said or how I had said it. His effusive joy was 
caused by the mere fact that I had spoken in public and thus a new 
recruit had been obtained for public work, for this work consisted in 
those days practically of speaking only. 

At home, in those early years, political questions were not peaceful 
subjects for discussion, and references to them, which were frequent, 
immediately produced a tense atmosphere. Father had been closely 
watching my growing drift toward Extremism, my continual criticism 
of the politics of talk, and my insistent demand for action. What action 
it should be was not clear, and sometimes father imagined that I was 
heading straight for the violent courses adopted by some of the young 
men of Bengal. This worried him very much. As a matter of fact I 
was not attracted that way, but the idea that we must not tamely sub 
mit to existing conditions and that something must be done began to 
obsess me more and more. Successful action, from the national point 
of view, did not seem to be at all easy, but I felt that both individual 
and national honor demanded a more aggressive and fighting attitude 
to foreign rule. Father himself was dissatisfied with the Moderate 
philosophy, and a mental conflict was going on inside him. He was too 
obstinate to change from one position to another until he was abso 
lutely convinced that there was no other way. Each step forward meant 
for him a hard and bitter tussle in his mind, and, when the step was 
taken after that struggle with part of himself, there was no going back. 
He had not taken it in a fit of enthusiasm but as a result of intellectual 
conviction, and when he had done so, all his pride prevented him from 
looking back. 

The outward change in his politics came about the time of Mrs. 
Besant's internment, and from that time onward step by step he went 
ahead, leaving his old Moderate colleagues far behind, till the tragic 
happenings in the Punjab in 1919 finally led him to cut adrift from his 

43 



old life and his profession and throw in his lot with the new move 
ment started by Gandhiji. 

But that was still to be, and from 1915 to 1917 he was still unsure of 
what to do, and the doubts in him, added to his worries about me, did 
not make him a peaceful talker on the public issues of the day. Often 
enough our talks ended abruptly by his losing his temper. 

My first meeting with Gandhiji was about the time of the Lucknow 
Congress during Christmas, 1916. All of us admired him for his heroic 
fight in South Africa, but he seemed very distant and different and 
unpolitical to many of us young men. He refused to take part in Con 
gress or national politics then and confined himself to the South 
African Indian question. Soon afterward his adventures and victory in 
Champaran, on behalf of the tenants of the planters, filled us with 
enthusiasm. We saw that he was prepared to apply his methods in 
India also, and they promised success. 

I remember being moved also, in those days after the Lucknow 
Congress, by a number of eloquent speeches delivered by Sarojini 
Naidu in Allahabad. It was all nationalism and patriotism, and I was 
a pure nationalist, my vague socialist ideas of college days having sunk 
into the background. Roger Casement's wonderful speech at his trial 
in 1916 seemed to point out exacdy how a member of a subject nation 
should feel. The Easter Week rising in Ireland by its very failure 
attracted, for was that not true courage which mocked at almost cer 
tain failure and proclaimed to the world that no physical might could 
crush the invincible spirit of a nation? 

Such were my thoughts then, and yet fresh reading was again stir 
ring the embers of socialistic ideas in my head. They were vague ideas, 
more humanitarian and Utopian than scientific. A favorite writer of 
mine during the war years and after was Bertrand Russell. 

These thoughts and desires produced a growing conflict within me 
and a dissatisfaction with my profession of the law. I carried on with 
it because there was nothing else to be done, but I felt more and more 
that it was not possible to reconcile public work, especially of the 
aggressive type which appealed to me, with the lawyer's job. It was 
not a question of principle but of time and energy. Sir Rash Behary 
Ghosh, the eminent Calcutta lawyer, who for some unknown reason 
took a fancy to me, gave me a lot of good advice as to how to get on in 
the profession. He especially advised me to write a book on a legal 
subject of my choice, as he said that this was the best way for a junior 
to train himself. He offered to help me with ideas in the writing of it 

44 



and to revise it. But all his well-meant interest in my legal career was 
in vain, and few things could be more distasteful to me than to spend 
my time and energy in writing legal books. 



VIII 

MY WEDDING AND AN ADVENTURE 
IN THE HIMALAYAS 

MY MARRIAGE TOOK place in 1916 in the city of Delhi. It was on the 
Vasanta Panchami day which heralds the coming of spring in India. 
That summer we spent some months in Kashmir. I left my family in 
the valley and, together with a cousin of mine, wandered for several 
weeks in the mountains and went up the Ladakh road. 

This was my first experience of the narrow and lonely valleys, high 
up in the world, which lead to the Tibetan plateau. From the top of 
the Zoji-la Pass we saw the rich verdant mountain sides below us on 
one side and the bare bleak rock on the other. We went up and up the 
narrow valley bottom flanked on each side by mountains, with the 
snow-covered tops gleaming on one side and little glaciers creeping 
down to meet us. The wind was cold and bitter, but the sun was warm 
in the daytime, and the air was so clear that often we were misled 
about the distance of objects, thinking them much nearer than they 
actually were. The loneliness grew; there were not even trees or vege 
tation to keep us company only the bare rock and the snow and ice 
and, sometimes, very welcome flowers. Yet I found a strange satisfac 
tion in these wild and desolate haunts of nature; I was full of energy 
and a feeling of exaltation. 

I had an exciting experience during this visit. At one place on our 
march beyond the Zoji-la Pass I think it was called Matayan we 
were told that the cave of Amaranath was only eight miles away. It 
was true that an enormous mountain all covered with ice and snow lay 
in between and had to be crossed, but what did that matter? Eight 
miles seemed so little. In our enthusiasm and inexperience we decided 
to make the attempt. So we left our camp (which was situated at 
about 11,500 feet altitude) and with a small party went up the moun 
tain. We had a local shepherd for a guide. 

We crossed and climbed several glaciers, roping ourselves up, and 

45 



our troubles increased, and breathing became a little difficult. Some of 
our porters, lightly laden as they were, began to bring up blood. It 
began to snow, and the glaciers became terribly slippery; we were 
fagged out, and every step meant a special effort. But still we persisted 
in our foolhardy attempt. We had left our camp at four in the morning, 
and after twelve hours' almost continuous climbing we were rewarded 
by the sight of a huge ice field. This was a magnificent sight, sur 
rounded as it was by snow peaks, like a diadem or an amphitheater of 
the gods. But fresh snow and mists soon hid the sight from us. I do 
not know what our altitude was, but I think it must have been about 
15,000 to 16,000 feet, as we were considerably higher than the cave of 
Amaranath. We had now to cross this ice field, a distance probably of 
half a mile, and then go down on the other side to the cave. We 
thought that as the climbing was over, our principal difficulties had 
also been surmounted, and so, very tired but in good humor, we began 
this stage of the journey. It was a tricky business as there were many 
crevasses and the fresh snow often covered a dangerous spot. It was this 
fresh snow that almost proved to be my undoing, for, as I stepped 
upon it, it gave way, and down I went into a huge and yawning cre 
vasse. It was a tremendous fissure, and anything that went right down 
it could be assured of safe keeping and preservation for some geological 
ages. But the rope held, and I clung to the side of the crevasse and 
was pulled out. We were shaken up by this, but still we persisted 
in going on. The crevasses, however, increased in number and width, 
and we had no equipment or means of crossing some of them. 
And so at last we turned back, weary and disappointed, and the cave 
of Amaranath remained unvisited. 

The higher valleys and mountains of Kashmir fascinated me so 
much that I resolved to come back again soon. I made many a plan 
and worked out many a tour, and one, the very thought of which 
filled me with delight, was a visit to Manasarovar, the wonder lake of 
Tibet, and snow-covered Kailas near by. That was eighteen years ago, 
and I am still as far as ever from Kailas and Manasarovar. I have not 
even been to visit Kashmir again, much as I have longed to, and ever 
more and more I have got entangled in the coils of politics and public 
affairs. Instead of going up mountains or crossing the seas, I have to 
satisfy my wanderlust by coming to prison. But still I plan, for that is 
a joy that no one can deny even in prison, and besides, what else can 
one do in prison? And I dream of the day when I shall wander about 
the Himalayas and cross them to reach that lake and mountain of my 

46 



desire. But meanwhile the sands of life run on, and youth passes into 
middle age, and that will give place to something worse, and some 
times I think that I may grow too old to reach Kailas and Manasaro- 
var. But the journey is always worth the making even though the end 
may not be in sight. 



IX 

THE COMING OF GANDHI 

THE END OF the World War found India in a state of suppressed 
excitement. Industrialization had spread, and the capitalist class had 
grown in wealth and power. This handful at the top had prospered 
and were greedy for more power and opportunity to invest their sav 
ings and add to their wealth. The great majority, however, were not 
so fortunate and looked forward to a lightening of the burdens that 
crushed them. Among the middle classes there was everywhere an 
expectation of great constitutional changes which would bring a large 
measure of self-rule and thus better their lot by opening out many 
fresh avenues of growth to them. Political agitation, peaceful and 
wholly constitutional as it was, seemed to be working itself to a head, 
and people talked with assurance of self-determination and self-govern 
ment. Some of this unrest was visible also among the masses, especially 
the peasantry. In the rural areas of the Punjab the forcible methods of 
recruitment were still bitterly remembered, and the fierce suppression 
of the "Komagata Maru" people and others by conspiracy trials added 
to the widespread resentment. The soldiers back from active service on 
distant fronts were no longer the subservient robots that they used to 
be. They had grown mentally, and there was much discontent among 
them. 

Among the Moslems there was anger over the treatment of Turkey 
and the JChilafat question, and an agitation was growing. The treaty 
with Turkey had not been signed yet, but the whole situation was 
ominous. So, while they agitated, they waited. 

The dominant note all over India was one of waiting and expecta 
tion, full of hope and yet tinged with fear and anxiety. Then came the 
Rowlatt Bills with their drastic provisions for arrest and trial without 
any of the checks and formalities which the law is supposed to provide. 
A wave of anger greeted them all over India, and even the Moderates 

47 



joined in this and opposed the measures with all their might. Indeed 
there was universal opposition on the part of Indians of all shades of 
opinion. Still the Bills were pushed through by the officials and became 
law, the principal concession made being to limit them to three years. 

Gandhiji had passed through a serious illness early in 1919. Almost 
from his sick bed he begged the Viceroy not to give his consent to the 
Rowlatt Bills. That appeal was ignored as others had been, and then, 
almost against his will, Gandhiji took the leadership in his first all- 
India agitation. He started the Satyagraha Sabha, the members of 
which were pledged to disobey the Rowlatt Act, if it was applied to 
them, as well as other objectionable laws to be specified from time to 
time. In other words, they were to court jail openly and deliberately. 

When I first read about this proposal in the newspapers, my reaction 
was one of tremendous relief. Here at last was a way out of the tangle, 
a method of action which was straight and open and possibly effective. 
I was afire with enthusiasm and wanted to join the Satyagraha Sabha 
immediately. I hardly thought of the consequences law-breaking, jail- 
going, etc. and if I thought of them I did not care. But suddenly my 
ardor was damped, and I realized that all was not plain sailing. My 
father was dead against this new idea. He was not in the habit of 
being swept away by new proposals; he thought carefully of the con 
sequences before he took any fresh step. And the more he thought of 
the Satyagraha Sabha and its program, the less he liked it. What good 
would the jail-going of a number of individuals do, what pressure 
could it bring on the Government? Apart from these general con 
siderations, what really moved him was the personal issue. It seemed 
to him preposterous that I should go to prison. The trek to prison had 
not then begun, and the idea was most repulsive. Father was intensely 
attached to his children. He was not showy in his affection, but behind 
his restraint there was a great love. 

For many days there was this mental conflict, and because both of 
us felt that big issues were at stake involving a complete upsetting of 
our lives, we tried hard to be as considerate to each other as possible. I 
wanted to lessen his obvious suffering if I could, but I had no doubt in 
my mind that I had to go the way of Satyagraha. Both of us had a dis 
tressing time, and night after night I wandered about alone, tortured 
in mind and trying to grope rny way out. Father I discovered later 
actually tried sleeping on the floor to find out what it was like, as he 
thought that this would be my lot in prison. 

Gandhiji came to Allahabad at father's request, and they had long 

48 



talks at which I was not present. As a result Gandhiji advised me not 
to precipitate matters or to do anything which might upset father. I 
was not happy at this, but other events took place in India which 
changed the whole situation, and the Satyagraha Sabha stopped its 
activities. 

Satyagraha Day all-India hartals and complete suspension of busi 
ness firing by the police and military at Delhi and Amritsar, and the 
killing of many people mob violence in Amritsar and Ahmedabad 
the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh the long horror and terrible indig 
nity of martial law in the Punjab. The Punjab was isolated, cut off 
from the rest of India; a thick veil seemed to cover it and hide it from 
outside eyes. There was hardly any news, and people could not go 
there or come out from there. 

Odd individuals, who managed to escape from that inferno, were so 
terror-struck that they could give no clear account. Helplessly and 
impotently, we who were outside waited for scraps of news, and bit 
terness filled our hearts. Some of us wanted to go openly to the affected 
parts of the Punjab and defy the martial law regulations. But we were 
kept back, and meanwhile a big organization for relief and inquiry 
was set up on behalf of the Congress. 

As soon as martial law was withdrawn from the principal areas and 
outsiders were allowed to come in, prominent Congressmen and others 
poured into the Punjab offering their services for relief or inquiry 
work. Deshbandhu Das especially took the Amritsar area under his 
charge, and I was deputed to accompany him there and assist him in 
any way he desired. That was the first occasion I had of working with 
him and under him, and I valued that experience very much and my 
admiration for him grew. Most of the evidence relating to Jallianwala 
Bagh and that terrible lane where human beings were made to crawl 
on their bellies, that subsequently appeared in the Congress Inquiry 
Report, was taken down in our presence. We paid numerous visits to 
the so-called Bagh itself and examined every bit of it carefully. 

A suggestion has been made, I think by Mr. Edward Thompson, 
that General Dyer was under the impression that there were other 
exits from the Bagh and it was because of this that he continued his 
firing for so long. Even if that was Dyer's impression, and there were 
in fact some exits, that would hardly lessen his responsibility. But it 
seems very strange that he should have such an impression. Any per 
son, standing on the raised ground where he stood, could have a good 
view of the entire space and could see how shut in it was on all sides 

49 



by houses several stories high. Only on one side, for a hundred feet or 
so, there was no house, but a low wall about five feet high. With a 
murderous fire mowing them down and unable to find a way out, 
thousands of people rushed to this wall and tried to climb over it. The 
fire was then directed, it appears (both from our evidence and the 
innumerable bullet marks on the wall itself), toward this wall to pre 
vent people from escaping over it. And when all was over, some of the 
biggest heaps of dead and wounded lay on either side of this wall. 

Toward the end of that year (1919) I traveled from Amritsar to 
Delhi by the night train. The compartment I entered was almost full, 
and all the berths, except one upper one, were occupied by sleeping 
passengers. I took the vacant upper berth. In the morning I discovered 
that all my fellow passengers were military officers. They conversed 
with each other in loud voices which I could not help overhearing. 
One of them was holding forth in an aggressive and triumphant tone, 
and soon I discovered that he was Dyer, the hero of Jallianwala Bagh, 
who was describing his Amritsar experiences. He pointed out how he 
had the whole town at his mercy and he had felt like reducing the 
rebellious city to a heap of ashes, but he took pity on it and refrained. 
He was evidently coming back from Lahore after giving his evidence 
before the Hunter Committee of Inquiry. I was gready shocked to 
hear his conversation and to observe his callous manner. He descended 
at Delhi station in pyjamas with bright pink stripes, and a dressing 
gown. 

During the Punjab inquiry I saw a great deal of Gandhiji. Very 
often his proposals seemed novel to our committee, and it did not 
approve of them. But almost always he argued his way to their accept 
ance, and subsequent events showed the wisdom of his advice. Faith in 
his political insight grew in me. 

The Punjab happenings and the inquiry into them had a profound 
effect on father. His whole legal and constitutional foundations were 
shaken by them, and his mind was gradually prepared for that change 
which was to come a year later. He had already moved far from his old 
moderate position. Dissatisfied with the leading Moderate newspaper, 
the Leader of Allahabad, he had started another daily, the Independent, 
from Allahabad early in 1919. This paper met with great success, but 
from the very beginning it was handicapped by quite an amazing 
degree of incompetence in the running of it. Almost everybody con* 
nected with it directors, editors, managerial staffhad their share of 
responsibility for this. I was one of the directors, without the least 

50 



experience of the job, and the troubles and the squabbles of the paper 
became quite a nightmare to me. Both my father and I were, however, 
soon dragged away to the Punjab, and during our long absence the 
paper deteriorated greatly and became involved in financial difficulties. 
It never recovered from them, and, although it had bright patches in 
1920 and 1921, it began to go to pieces as soon as we went to jail. It 
expired finally early in 1923. This experience of newspaper proprietor 
ship gave me a fright, and ever since I have refused to assume respon 
sibility as a director of any newspaper. Indeed I could not do so because 
of my preoccupations in prison and outside. 

Father presided over the Amritsar Congress during Christmas, 1919. 
He issued a moving appeal to the Moderate leaders or the Liberals, as 
they were now calling themselves, to join this session because of the 
new situation created by the horrors of martial law. "The lacerated 
heart of the Punjab" called to them, he wrote. Would they not answer 
that call? But they did not answer it in the way he wanted, and refused 
to join. Their eyes were on the new reforms that were coming as a 
result of the Montagu-Chelmsford recommendations. This refusal hurt 
father and widened the gulf between him and the Liberals. 

The Amritsar Congress was the first Gandhi Congress. Lokamanya 
Tilak was also present and took a prominent part in the deliberations, 
but there could be no doubt about it that the majority of the delegates, 
and even more so the great crowds outside, looked to Gandhi for lead 
ership. The slogan Mahatma Gandhi \i jai began to dominate the 
Indian political horizon. The Ali brothers, recently discharged from 
internment, immediately joined the Congress, and the national move 
ment began to take a new shape and develop a new orientation. 

M. Mohamad Ali went off soon on a Khilafat deputation to Europe. 
In India the Khilafat Committee came more and more under Gand- 
hiji's influence and began to flirt with his ideas of nonviolent nonco- 
operation. I remember one of the earliest meetings of the Khilafat 
leaders and Moulvies and Ulemas in Delhi in January 1920. A Khilafat 
deputation was going to wait on the Viceroy, and Gandhiji was to join 
it. Before he reached Delhi, however, a draft of the proposed address 
was, according to custom, sent to the Viceroy. When Gandhiji arrived 
and read this draft, he strongly disapproved of it and even said that he 
could not be a party to the deputation if this draft was not materially 
altered. His objection was that the draft was vague and wordy, and 
there was no clear indication in it of the absolute minimum demands 
which the Moslems must have. He said that this was not fair to the 



Viceroy and the British Government, or to the people, or to themselves. 
They must not make exaggerated demands which they were not going 
to press, but should state the minimum clearly and without possibility 
of doubt, and stand by it to the death. If they were serious, this was 
the only right and honorable course to adopt. 

This argument was a novel one in political or other circles in India. 
We were used to vague exaggerations and flowery language, and 
always there was an idea of a bargain in our minds. Gandhiji, how 
ever, carried his point; and he wrote to the private secretary of the 
Viceroy, pointing out the defects and vagueness of the draft address 
sent, and forwarding a few additional paragraphs to be added to it. 
These paragraphs gave the minimum demands. The Viceroy's reply 
was interesting. He refused to accept the new paragraphs and said that 
the previous draft was, in his opinion, quite proper. Gandhiji felt that 
this correspondence had made his own position and that of the Khila- 
fat Committee clear, and so he joined the deputation after all. 

It was obvious that the Government were not going to accept the 
demands of the Khilafat Committee, and a struggle was therefore 
bound to come. There were long talks with the Moulvies and the 
Ulemas, and nonviolence and nonco-operation were discussed, especi 
ally nonviolence. Gandhiji told them that he was theirs to command, 
but on the definite understanding that they accepted nonviolence with 
all its implications. There was to be no weakening on that, no tem 
porizing, no mental reservations. It was not easy for the Moulvies to 
grasp this idea, but they agreed, making it clear that they did so as a 
policy only and not as a creed, for their religion did not prohibit the 
use of violence in a righteous cause. 

The political and the Khilafat movements developed side by side 
during 1920, both going in the same direction and eventually joining 
hands with the adoption by the Congress of Gandhiji's nonviolent non- 
co-operation. The Khilafat Committee adopted this program first, and 
August i was fixed for the commencement of the campaign. 

Earlier in the year a Moslem meeting (I think it was the Council of 
the Moslem League) was held in Allahabad to consider this program. 
The meeting took place in Syed Raza Ali's house. M. Mohamad Ali 
was still in Europe, but M. Shaukat Ali was present. I remember that 
meeting because it thoroughly disappointed me. Shaukat Ali was, of 
course, full of enthusiasm; but almost all the others looked thoroughly 
unhappy and uncomfortable. They did not have the courage to dis 
agree, and yet they obviously had no intention of doing anything rash. 

52 



Were these the people to lead a revolutionary movement, I thought, 
and to challenge the British Empire? Gandhiji addressed them, and 
after hearing him they looked even more frightened than before. He 
spoke well in his best dictatorial vein. He was humble but also clear- 
cut and hard as a diamond, pleasant and soft-spoken but inflexible 
and terribly earnest. His eyes were mild and deep, yet out of them 
blazed a fierce energy and determination. This is going to be a great 
struggle, he said, with a very powerful adversary. If you want to take 
it up, you must be prepared to lose everything, and you must subject 
yourself to the strictest nonviolence and discipline. When war is 
declared, martial law prevails, and in our nonviolent struggle there 
will also have to be dictatorship and martial law on our side if we are 
to win. You have every right to kick me out, to demand my head, or 
to punish me whenever and howsoever you choose. But, so long as you 
choose to keep me as your leader, you must accept my conditions, you 
must accept dictatorship and the discipline of martial law. But that 
dictatorship will always be subject to your good will and to your 
acceptance and to your co-operation. The moment you have had 
enough of me, throw me out, trample upon me, and I shall not 
complain. 

Something to this effect he said, and these military analogies and the 
unyielding earnestness of the man made the flesh of most of his 
hearers creep. But Shaukat Ali was there to keep the waverers up to 
the mark; and, when the time for voting came, the great majority of 
them quietly and shamefacedly voted for the proposition for war! 

As we were coming home from the meeting, I asked Gandhiji if 
this was the way to start a great struggle. I had expected enthusiasm, 
spirited language, and a flashing of eyes; instead we saw a very tame 
gathering of timid, middle-aged folk. And yet these people, such was 
the pressure of mass opinion, voted for the struggle. Of course, very 
few of these members of the Moslem League joined the struggle later. 
Many of them found a safe sanctuary in Government jobs. The Mos 
lem League did not represent, then or later, any considerable section of 
Moslem opinion. It was the Khilafat Committee of 1920 that was a 
powerful and far more representative body, and it was this Committee 
that entered upon the struggle with enthusiasm. 



53 



X 

I AM EXTERNED, AND THE CONSEQUENCES 

My POLITICS HAD been those of my class, the bourgeoisie. Indeed all 
vocal politics then (and to a great extent even now) were those of the 
middle classes, and Moderate and Extremist alike represented them 
and, in different keys, sought their betterment. The Moderate repre 
sented especially the handful of the upper middle class who had on the 
whole prospered under British rule and wanted no sudden changes 
which might endanger their present position and interests. They had 
close relations with the British Government and the big landlord class. 
The Extremist represented also the lower ranks of the middle class. 
The industrial workers, their number swollen up by the war, were only 
locally organized in some places and had little influence. The peasantry 
were a blind, poverty-stricken, suffering mass, resigned to their miser 
able fate and sat upon and exploited by all who came in contact with 
them the Government, landlords, moneylenders, petty officials, police, 
lawyers, priests. 

In 1920 I was totally ignorant of labor conditions in factories or 
fields, and my political outlook was entirely bourgeois. I knew, of 
course, that there was terrible poverty and misery, and I felt that the 
first aim of a politically free India must be to tackle this problem of 
poverty. But political freedom, with the inevitable dominance of the 
middle class, seemed to me the obvious next step. I was paying a little 
more attention to the peasant problem since Gandhiji's agrarian move 
ments. But my mind was full of political developments and of nonco- 
operation, which was looming on the horizon. 

Just then a new interest developed in my life which was to play an 
important part in later years. I was thrown, almost without any will of 
my own, into contact with the peasantry. This came about in a curious 
way. 

My mother and Kamala (my wife) were both unwell, and early in 
May 1920 I took them up to Mussoorie. Peace negotiations were pro 
ceeding between the Afghan and British envoys (this was after the 
brief Afghan War in 1919 when Amanullah came to the throne) at 
Mussoorie, and the Afghan delegation were stopping at the same 
hotel. They kept to themselves, however, fed separately, and did not 
appear in the common rooms. I was not particularly interested in them, 
and for a whole month I did not see a single member of their delega- 

54 



tion, or if I saw them I did not recognize them. Suddenly one eve 
ning I had a visit from the superintendent of police, who showed me a 
letter from the local government asking him to get an undertaking 
from me that I would not have any dealings or contacts with the 
Afghan delegation. This struck me as extraordinary since I had not 
even seen them during a month's stay and there was little chance of 
my doing so. The superintendent knew this, as he was closely watch 
ing the delegation, and there were literally crowds of secret service 
men about. But to give any undertaking went against the grain, and I 
told him so. He asked me to see the district magistrate, the superin 
tendent of the Dun, and I did so. As I persisted in my refusal to give 
an undertaking, an order of externment was served on me, calling 
upon me to leave the district of Dehra Dun within twenty-four hours, 
which really meant within a few hours from Mussoorie. I did not like 
the idea of leaving my mother and wife, both of whom were ailing; 
and yet I did not think it right to break the order. There was no civil 
disobedience then. So I left Mussoorie. 

My father had known Sir Harcourt Butler, who was then Governor 
of the United Provinces, fairly well, and he wrote to him a friendly 
letter saying that he was sure that he (Sir Harcourt) could not have 
issued such a stupid order; it must be some bright person in Simla who 
was responsible for it. Sir Harcourt replied that the order was quite a 
harmless one and Jawaharlal could easily have complied with it with 
out any injury to his dignity. Father, in reply, disagreed with this and 
added that, although there was no intention of deliberately breaking 
the order, if my mother's or wife's health demanded it I would cer 
tainly return to Mussoorie, order or no order. As it happened, my 
mother's condition took a turn for the worse, and both father and I 
immediately started for Mussoorie. Just before starting, we received a 
telegram rescinding the order. 

When we reached Mussoorie the next morning, the first person I 
noticed in the courtyard of the hotel was an Afghan who had my baby 
daughter in his arms! I learned that he was a minister and a member 
of the Afghan delegation. It transpired that immediately after my 
externment the Afghans had read about it in the newspapers, and they 
were so much interested that the head of the delegation took to sending 
my mother a basket of fruit and flowers every day. 

As a result of the externment order from Mussoorie I spent about 
two weeks in Allahabad, and it was during this period that I got 
entangled in the tysan (peasant) movement. That entanglement grew 

55 



in later years and influenced my mental outlook greatly. I have some 
times wondered what would have happened if I had not been externed 
and had not been in Allahabad just then with no other engagements. 
Very probably I would have been drawn to the Jysans anyhow, sooner 
or later, but the manner of my going to them would have been differ 
ent, and the effect on me might also have been different. 

Early in June 1920 (so far as I can remember), about two hundred 
\isans marched fifty miles from the interior of Partabgarh district to 
Allahabad city with the intention of drawing the attention of the 
prominent politicians there to their woebegone condition. They were 
led by a man named Ramachandra, who himself was not a local peas 
ant. I learned that these \isans were squatting on the river bank, on one 
of the Jumna ghats, and, accompanied by some friends, went to see 
them. They told us of the crushing exactions of the talukdars, of 
inhuman treatment, and that their condition had become wholly intol 
erable. They begged us to accompany them back to make inquiries as 
well as to protect them from the vengeance of the talukdars, who were 
angry at their having come to Allahabad on this mission. They would 
accept no denial and literally clung onto us. At last I promised to visit 
them two days or so later. 

I went there with some colleagues, and we spent three days in the 
villages far from the railway and even the pucca road. That visit was a 
revelation to me. We found the whole countryside afire with enthu 
siasm and full of a strange excitement. Enormous gatherings would 
take place at the briefest notice by word of mouth. One village would 
communicate with another, and the second with the third, and so on; 
and presently whole villages would empty out, and all over the fields 
there would be men and women and children on the march to the 
meeting place. Or, more swiftly still, the cry of Sita-RamSita-Ra- 
a-a-a-m would fill the air, and travel far in all directions and be 
echoed back from other villages, and then people would come stream 
ing out or even running as fast as they could. They were in miserable 
rags, men and women, but their faces were full of excitement and 
their eyes glistened and seemed to expect strange happenings which 
would, as if by a miracle, put an end to their long misery. 

They showered their affection on us and looked on us with loving 
and hopeful eyes, as if we were the bearers of good tidings, the guides 
who were to lead them to the promised land. Looking at them and 
their misery and overflowing gratitude, I was filled with shame and 
sorrow shame at my own easygoing and comfortable life and our 

56 



petty politics of the city which ignored this vast multitude of semi- 
naked sons and daughters of India, sorrow at the degradation and 
overwhelming poverty of India. A new picture of India seemed to rise 
before me, naked, starving, crushed, and utterly miserable. And their 
faith in us, casual visitors from the distant city, embarrassed me and 
filled me with a new responsibility that frightened me. 

I listened to their innumerable tales of sorrow, their crushing and 
ever-growing burden of rent, illegal exactions, ejectments from land 
and mud hut, beatings; surrounded on all sides by vultures who preyed 
on them zamindar's agents, moneylenders, police; toiling all day to 
find what they produced was not theirs and their reward was kicks and 
curses and a hungry stomach. Many of those who were present were 
landless people who had been ejected by the landlords and had no land 
or hut to fall back upon. The land was rich, but the burden on it was 
very heavy, the holdings were small, and there were too many people 
after them. Taking advantage of this land hunger, the landlords, 
unable under the law to enhance their rents beyond a certain percent 
age, charged huge illegal premiums. The tenant, knowing of no other 
alternative, borrowed money from the moneylender and paid the pre 
mium, and then, unable to pay his debt or even the rent, was ejected 
and lost all he had. 

This process was an old one, and the progressive pauperization of 
the peasantry had been going on for a long time. What had happened 
to bring matters to a head and rouse up the countryside? Economic 
conditions, of course, but these conditions were similar all over Oudh, 
while the agrarian upheaval of 1920 and 1921 was largely confined to 
three districts. This was partly due to the leadership of a remarkable 
person, Ramachandra. 

Ramachandra was a man from Maharashtra in western India, and he 
had been to Fiji as an indentured laborer. On his return he had gradu 
ally drifted to these districts of Oudh and wandered about reciting 
Tulsidas's Ramayana and listening to tenants' grievances. He had little 
education, and to some extent he exploited the tenantry for his own 
benefit, but he showed remarkable powers of organization. He taught 
the peasants to meet frequently in sabhas (meetings) to discuss their 
own troubles and thus gave them a feeling of solidarity. Occasionally 
huge mass meetings were held, and this produced a sense of power. 
Sita-Ram was an old and common cry, but he gave it an almost war 
like significance and made it a signal for emergencies as well as a bond 
between different villages. 

57 



Oudh was a particularly good area for an agrarian agitation. It was, 
and is, the land o the talukdars the "Barons of Oudh" they call them 
selves and the zamindari system at its worst flourished there. The 
exactions of the landlords were becoming unbearable, and the number 
of landless laborers was growing. There was on the whole only one 
class of tenant, and this helped united action. 

India may be roughly divided into two parts the zamindari area 
with its big landlords, and the area containing peasant proprietors, but 
there is a measure of overlapping. The three provinces of Bengal, 
Behar, and the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, form the zamin 
dari area. The peasant proprietors are comparatively better off, al 
though even their condition is often pitiable. The mass of the peas 
antry in the Punjab or Gujrat (where there are peasant proprietors) is 
far better off than the tenants of the zamindari areas. In the greater 
part of these zamindari areas there are many kinds of tenancies 
occupancy tenants, nonoccupancy tenants, subtenancies, etc. The inter 
ests of various tenants often conflict with one another, and this mili 
tates against joint action. In Oudh, however, there were no occupancy 
tenants or even life tenants in 1920. There were only short-term ten 
ants who were continually being ejected in favor of someone who was 
willing to pay a higher premium. Because there was principally one 
class of tenant, it was easier to organize them for joint action. 

In practice there was no guarantee in Oudh for even the short term 
of the contract. A landlord hardly ever gave a receipt for rent received, 
and he could always say that the rent had not been paid and eject the 
tenant, for whom it was impossible to prove the contrary. Besides the 
rent there were an extraordinary number of illegal exactions. In one 
taluk I was told that there had been as many as fifty different kinds of 
such exactions. Probably this number was exaggerated, but it is noto 
rious how talukdars often make their tenants pay for every special 
expenditure a marriage in the family, cost of the son's education in 
foreign countries, a party to the Governor or other high official, a pur 
chase of a car or an elephant. Indeed these exactions have got special 
names motrauna (tax for purchase of motor), hathauna (tax for pur 
chase of elephant), etc. 

It was not surprising, therefore, that a big agrarian agitation should 
develop in Oudh. The agrarian movement was entirely separate from 
the Congress, and it had nothing to do with the nonco-operation that 
was taking shape. Perhaps it is more correct to say that both these 

58 



widespread and powerful movements were due to the same funda 
mental causes. 

What amazed me still more was our total ignorance in the cities of 
this great agrarian movement. No newspaper had contained a line 
about it; they were not interested in rural areas. I realized more than 
ever how cut off we were from our people and how we lived and 
worked and agitated in a little world apart from them. 



XI 

WANDERINGS AMONG THE KISANS 

I SPENT THREE days in the villages, came back to Allahabad, and then 
went again. During these brief visits we wandered about a great deal 
from village to village, eating with the peasants, living with them 
in their mud huts, talking to them for long hours, and often addressing 
meetings, big and small. We had originally gone in a light car, arid the 
peasants were so keen that hundreds of them, working overnight, 
built temporary roads across the fields so that our car could go right 
into the interior. Often the car got stuck and was bodily lifted out by 
scores of willing hands. But we had to leave the car eventually and to 
do most of our journeying by foot. Everywhere we went we were 
accompanied by policemen, Criminal Investigation Department men, 
and a deputy collector from Lucknow. I am afraid we gave them a 
bad time with our continuous marching across fields, and they were 
quite tired out and fed up with us and the {zsans. The deputy collector 
was a somewhat effeminate youth from Lucknow, and he had turned 
up in patent leather pumps! He begged us sometimes to restrain our 
ardor, and I think he ultimately dropped out, being unable to keep up 
with us. 

It was the hottest time of the year, June, just before the monsoon. 
The sun scorched and blinded. I was quite unused to going out in the 
sun, and ever since my return from England I had gone to the hills 
for part of every summer. And now I was wandering about all day 
in the open sun with not even a sun hat, my head being wrapped in a 
small towel. So full was I of other matters that I quite forgot about 
the heat, and it was only on my return to Allahabad, when I noticed 
the rich tan I had developed, that I remembered what I had gone 

59 



through. I was pleased with myself, for I realized that I could stand 
the heat with the best of them and my fear of it was wholly unjustified. 
I have found that I can bear both extreme heat and great cold without 
much discomfort, and this has stood me in good stead in my work as 
well as in my periods in prison. This was no doubt due to my general 
physical fitness and my habit of taking exercise, a lesson I learned 
from my father, who was a bit of an athlete and, almost to the end 
of his days, continued his daily exercise. His head became covered with 
silvery hair, his face was deeply furrowed and looked old and weary 
with thought, but the rest of his body, to within a year or two of his 
death, seemed to be twenty years younger. 

Even before my visit to Partabgarh in June 1920, I had often passed 
through villages, stopped there and talked to the peasants. I had seen 
them in their scores of thousands on the banks of the Ganges during 
the big melasj and we had taken our home rule propaganda to them. 
But somehow I had not fully realized what they were and what they 
meant to India. Like most of us, I took them for granted. This realiza 
tion came to me during these Partabgarh visits, and ever since then my 
mental picture of India always contains this naked, hungry mass. 

These peasants took away the shyness from me and taught me to 
speak in public. Till then I had hardly spoken at a public gathering; 
I was frightened at the prospect, especially if the speaking was to 
be done in Hindustani, as it almost always was. But I could not 
possibly avoid addressing these peasant gatherings, and how could 
I be shy of these poor unsophisticated people? I did not know the 
arts of oratory, and so I spoke to them, man to man, and told them 
what I had in my mind and in my heart. Whether the gathering 
consisted of a few persons or of ten thousand or more, I stuck to my 
conversational and rather personal method of speaking, and I found 
that, whatever might be lacking in it, I could at least go on. I was 
fluent enough. Perhaps many of them could not understand a great 
deal of what I said. My language or my thought was not simple 
enough for them. Many did not hear me when the gathering was very 
large, for my voice did not carry far. But all this did not matter much 
to them when once they had given their confidence and faith to a 
person. 

I went back to Mussoorie to my mother and wife, but my mind 
was full of the fysans, and I was eager to be back. As soon as I returned, 
I resumed my visits to the villages and watched the agrarian movement 
grow in strength. The downtrodden %isan began to gain a new confi- 

60 



dence in himself and walked straighter with head up. His fear of the 
landlords' agents and the police lessened, and, when there was an 
ejectment from a holding, no other tysan would make an offer for 
that land. Physical violence on the part of the zamindars' servants and 
illegal exactions became infrequent, and, whenever an instance oc 
curred, it was immediately reported and an attempt at an inquiry 
was made. This checked trie zamindars' agents as well as the police. 

The talukdars and the big zamindars, the lords of the land, the 
"natural leaders of the people," as they are proud of calling themselves, 
are the spoiled children of the British Government; but that Govern 
ment had succeeded, by the special education and upbringing it 
provided or failed to provide for them, in reducing them, as a class, 
to a state of complete intellectual impotence. They do nothing at all 
for their tenantry, and are complete parasites on the land and the 
people. Their chief activity lies in endeavoring to placate the local 
officials, without whose favor they could not exist for long, and 
demanding ceaselessly a protection of their special interests and privi 
leges. 

Right through the year 1921 I continued my visits to the rural areas, 
but my field of activity grew till it comprised the whole of the United 
Provinces. Nonco-operation had begun in earnest, and its message 
had reached the remotest village. A host of Congress workers in each 
district went about the rural areas with the new message, to which 
they often added, rather vaguely, a removal of J(isan grievances. Swaraj 
was an all-embracing word to cover everything. Yet the two movements 
nonco-operation and the agrarian were quite separate, though they 
overlapped and influenced each other greatly in our province. As 
a result of Congress preaching, litigation went down with a rush and 
villages established their panchayats to deal with their disputes. Espe 
cially powerful was the influence of the Congress in favor of peace, 
for the new creed of nonviolence was stressed wherever the Congress 
worker went. This may not have been fully appreciated or understood, 
but it did prevent the peasantry from taking to violence. 

This was no small result. Agrarian upheavals are notoriously violent, 
leading to jacqueries, and the peasants of part of Oudh in those days 
were desperate and at white heat. A spark would have .lighted a flame. 
Yet they remained amazingly peaceful. The only instance of physical 
violence on a talukdar that I remember was when a peasant went up 
to him as he was sitting in his own house, surrounded by his friends, 

61 



and slapped him on the face on the ground that he was immoral 
and inconsiderate to his own wife! 

There was violence of another kind later which led to conflicts with 
the Government. But this conflict was bound to come, for the Govern 
ment could not tolerate this growing power of a united peasantry. 
The fyisans took to traveling in railway trains in large numbers with 
out tickets, especially when they had to attend their periodical big 
mass meetings which sometimes consisted of sixty or seventy thousand 
persons. It was difficult to move them, and, unheard-of thing, they 
openly defied the railway authorities, telling them that the old days 
were gone. At whose instigation they took to the free mass traveling 
I do not know. Stricter railway control prevented this later. 

In the autumn of 1920 a few Jysan leaders were arrested for 
some petty offense. They were to be tried in Partabgarh town, but 
on the day of the trial a huge concourse of peasants filled the court 
compound and lined the route to the jail where the accused leaders 
were kept. The magistrate's nerve gave way, and he postponed the 
trial to the next day. But the crowd grew and almost surrounded the 
jail. The Tysons can easily carry on for a few days on a handful of 
parched grain. Ultimately the tysan^ leaders were discharged, perhaps 
after a formal trial inside the jail. I forget how this came about, but 
for the tysans this was a great triumph, and they began to think that 
they could always have their way by weight of numbers alone. To the 
Government this position was intolerable, and soon after a similar 
occasion arose; this time it ended differently. 

At the beginning of January 1921 I received a telegram from 
Rae Bareli asking me to go there immediately as trouble was expected. 
I left the next day. I discovered that some leading \isans had been ar 
rested some days back and had been lodged in the local jail. Remember 
ing their success at Partabgarh and the tactics they had then adopted, 
the peasants marched to Rae Bareli town for a mass demonstration. But 
this time the Government was not going to permit it, and additional po 
lice and military had been collected to stop the \isans. Just outside the 
town on the other side of a little river the main body of the \isans was 
stopped. Many of them, however, streamed in from other directions. 
On arrival at the station I learned of this situation, and immediately I 
proceeded straight to the river where the military were said to face 
the peasants. On the way I received a hurriedly written note from 
the district magistrate asking me to go back. I wrote my reply on the 
back of it inquiring under what law and what section he was asking 

62 



me to go back and saying that till I heard from him I proposed to go 
on. As I reached the river, sounds of firing could be heard from the 
other side. I was stopped at the bridge by the military, and, as I 
waited there, I was suddenly surrounded by large numbers of frightened 
fysans who had been hiding in the fields on this side of the river. So 
I held a meeting of about a couple of thousand peasants on the spot 
and tried to remove their fear and lessen their excitement. It was 
rather an unusual situation with firing going on against their brethren 
within a stone's throw across a little stream and the military in evidence 
everywhere. But the meeting was quite successful and took away the 
edge from the tysans' fear. The district magistrate then returned from 
the firing line, and, at his request, I accompanied him to his house. 
There he kept me, under some pretext or other, for over two hours, 
evidently wanting to keep me away from the fyisans and my colleagues 
in the city. 

We found later that many men had been killed in the firing. The 
tysans had refused to disperse or to go back, but otherwise they had 
been perfectly peaceful. I am quite sure that if I or someone else they 
trusted had been there and had asked them to do so they would have 
dispersed. They refused to take their orders from men they did not 
trust. Someone actually suggested to the magistrate to wait for me 
a little, but he refused. He could not permit an agitator to succeed 
where he had failed. That is not the way of foreign governments 
depending on prestige. 

Firing on fysans took place on two occasions in Rae Bareli district 
about that time, and then began, what was much worse, a reign of 
terror for every prominent tysan worker or member of a fane hay at. 
Government had decided to crush the movement. 

A little later in the year 1921, Fyzabad district had its dose of wide 
spread repression. The trouble started there in a peculiar way. The 
peasants of some villages went and looted the property of a talukdar. 
It transpired subsequently that they had been incited to do so by the 
servants of another zamindar who had some kind of feud with the 
talukdar. The poor ignorant peasants were actually told that it was the 
wish of Mahatma Gandhi that they should loot, and they willingly 
agreed to carry out this behest, shouting "Mahatma Gandhi ty jai" 
in the process. 

I was very angry when I heard of this, and within a day or two of 
the occurrence I was on the spot, somewhere near Akbarpur in Fyza 
bad district. On arrival I called a meeting for the same day, and within 



a few hours five or six thousand persons had collected from numerous 
villages within a radius of ten miles. I spoke harshly to them for the 
shame they had brought on themselves and our cause and said that 
the guilty persons must confess publicly. (I was full in those days of 
what I conceived to be the spirit of Gandhiji's Satyagraha.} I called 
upon those who had participated in the looting to raise their hands, 
and, strange to say, there in the presence of numerous police officials 
about two dozen hands went up. That meant certain trouble for them. 

When I spoke to many of them privately later and heard their 
artless story of how they had been misled, I felt very sorry for them, 
and I began to regret having exposed these simple folk to long terms 
of imprisonment. But the people who suffered were not just two or 
three dozen. The chance was too good to be lost, and full advantage 
was taken of the occasion to crush the agrarian movement in that 
district. Over a thousand arrests were made, the district jail was over 
crowded, and the trial went on for the best part of a year. Many died 
in prison during the trial. Many others received long sentences, and 
in later years, when I went to prison, I came across some of them, boys 
and young men, spending their youth in prison. 

The Indian fysans have little staying power, little energy to resist 
for long. Famines and epidemics come and slay them in their millions. 
It was surprising that they had shown for a whole year great powers 
of resistance against the combined pressure of government and land 
lord. But they began to weary a little, and the determined attack of 
the Government on their movement ultimately broke its' spirit for the 
time being. But it continued still in a lower key. There were not such 
vast demonstrations as before, but most villages contained old workers 
who had not been terrorized and who carried on the work in a small 
way. 

Frightened by the agrarian movement, the Government hurried 
its tenancy legislation. This promised some improvement in the lot 
of the fysan, but the measure was toned down when it was found 
that the movement was already under control. The principal change 
it affected was to give a life tenancy to the tysan in Oudh. This sounded 
attractive to him but, as he has found out subsequently, his lot is in 
no way better. 

Agrarian troubles continued to crop up in Oudh but on a smaller 
scale. The world depression which began in 1929, however, again 
created a great crisis owing to the fall in prices. 



XII 

NONCO-OPERATION 

I HAVE DEALT with the Oudh agrarian upheaval in some little detail 
because it lifted the veil and disclosed to me a fundamental aspect 
of the Indian problem to which nationalists had paid hardly any 
attention. Agrarian troubles are frequently taking place in various 
parts of India, symptoms of a deep-seated unrest, and the f^isan agita 
tion in certain parts of Oudh in 1920 and 1921 was but one of them, 
though it was, in its own way, a remarkable and revealing one. In its 
origin it was entirely unconnected with politics or politicians, and 
right through its course the influence of outsiders and politicians was 
of the slightest. From an all-India point of view, however, it was a 
local affair, and very little attention was paid to it. Even the news 
papers of the United Provinces largely ignored it. For their editors and 
the majority of their town-dwelling readers, the doings of mobs of 
seminaked peasants had no real political or other significance. 

The Punjab and the Khilafat wrongs were the topics of the day, 
and nonco-operation, which was to attempt to bring about a righting 
of these wrongs, was the all-absorbing subject. The larger issue of 
national freedom, or Swaraj was for the moment not stressed. Gandhi ji 
disliked vague and big objectives; he always preferred concentrating 
on something specific and definite. Nevertheless, Swaraj was very much 
in the air and in people's thoughts, and frequent reference was made to 
it in innumerable gatherings and conferences. 

In the autumn of 1920 a special session of the Congress met at 
Calcutta to consider what steps should be taken and, in particular, 
to decide about nonco-operation. 

Of the prominent leaders of the older generation my father was 
the only one to take his stand by Gandhiji at that time. It was no 
easy matter for him to do so. He sensed and was much influenced by 
the objections that had led most of his old colleagues to oppose. He 
hesitated, as they did, to take a novel step toward an unknown region, 
where it was hardly possible to keep one's old bearings. Yet he was 
inevitably drawn to some form of effective action, and the proposal 
did embody definite action, though not exactly on the lines of his 
thought. It took him a long time to make up his mind. 

I saw very little of father in those days before the Calcutta Special 
Congress. But, whenever I met him, I noticed how he was continually 



grappling with this problem. Quite apart from the national aspect o 
the question there was the personal aspect. Nonco-operation meant 
his withdrawing from his legal practice; it meant a total break with 
his past life and a new fashioning of it not an easy matter when 
one is on the eve of one's sixtieth birthday. It was a break from old 
political colleagues, from his profession., from the social life to which 
he had grown accustomed, and a giving up of many an expensive 
habit. For the financial aspect of the question was not an unimportant 
one, and it was obvious that he would have to reduce his standard 
of living if his income from his profession vanished. 

But his reason, his strong sense of self-respect, and his pride, all led 
him step by step to throw in his lot wholeheartedly with the new 
movement. The accumulated anger with which a series of events, cul 
minating in the Punjab tragedy and its aftermath, filled him; the sense 
of utter wrong-doing and injustice; the bitterness of national humilia 
tion these had to find some way out. But he was not to be swept 
away by a wave of enthusiasm. It was only when his reason, backed 
by the trained mind of a lawyer, had weighed all the pros and cons 
that he took the final decision and joined Gandhiji in his campaign. 

He was attracted by Gandhiji as a man, and that no doubt was a 
factor which influenced him. Nothing could have made him a close 
associate of a person he disliked, for he was always strong in his likes 
and dislikes. But it was a strange combination the saint, the stoic, 
the man of religion, one who went through life rejecting what it offers 
in the way of sensation and physical pleasure, and one who had been 
a bit of an epicure, who accepted life and welcomed and enjoyed its 
many sensations, caring litde for what might come in the hereafter. 
In the language of psychoanalysis it was a meeting of an introvert with 
an extrovert. Yet there were common bonds, common interests, which 
drew the two together and kept up, even when, in later years, their 
politics diverged, a close friendship between them. 

This special session at Calcutta began the Gandhi era in Congress 
politics which has lasted since then, except for a period in the twenties 
when he kept in the background and allowed the Swaraj party, under 
the leadership of Deshbandhu C. R. Das and my father, to fill the 
picture. The whole look of the Congress changed; European clothes 
vanished, and soon only \hadi was to be seen; a new class of delegate, 
chiefly drawn from the lower middle classes, became the type of Con 
gressman; the language used became increasingly Hindustani, or some 
times the language of the province where the session was held, as many 

66 



of the delegates did not understand English, and there was also a grow 
ing prejudice against using a foreign language in our national work; 
and a new life and enthusiasm and earnestness became evident in Con 
gress gatherings. 

On our way back from the Calcutta Special Congress I accompanied 
Gandhi ji to Santiniketan on a visit to Rabindranath Tagore and his 
most lovable elder brother, "Boro Dada." We spent some days there, 
and I remember C F. Andrews' giving me some books which inter 
ested and influenced me greatly. They dealt with the economic aspects 
of imperialism in Africa. One of these books Morell's Elac\ Mans 
Burden moved me greatly. 

About this time or a little later, C. F. Andrews wrote a pamphlet 
advocating independence for India. I think it was called Independence 
the Immediate Need. This was a brilliant essay based on some of 
Seeley's writings on India, and it seemed to me not only to make out 
an unanswerable case for independence but also to mirror the inmost 
recesses of our hearts. The deep urge that moved us and our half- 
formed desires seemed to take clear shape in his simple and earnest 
language. There was no economic background or socialism in what 
he had written; it was nationalism pure and simple, the feeling of the 
humiliation of India and a fierce desire to be rid of it and to put an 
end to our continuing degradation. It was wonderful that C. F. An 
drews, a foreigner and one belonging to the dominant race in India, 
should echo that cry of our inmost being. Nonco-operation was essen 
tially, as Seeley had said long ago, "the notion that it was shameful 
to assist the foreigner in maintaining his domination." And Andrews 
had written that "the only way of self-recovery was through some vital 
upheaval from within. The explosive force needed for such an upheaval 
must be generated within the soul of India itself. It could not come 
through loans and gifts and grants and concessions and proclamations 
from without. It must come from within. . . . Therefore, it was with 
the intense joy of mental and spiritual deliverance from an intolerable 
burden that I watched the actual outbreak of such an inner explosive 
force, as that which actually occurred when Mahatma Gandhi spoke 
to the heart of India the mantram 'Be free! Be slaves no more!' and 
the heart of India responded. In a sudden movement her fetters began 
to be loosened, and the pathway of freedom was opened." 

The next three months witnessed the advancing tide of nonco- 
operation all over the country. The appeal for a boycott of the elec 
tions to the new legislatures was remarkably successful. It did not and 

67 



could not prevent everybody from going to these councils and thus 
keep the seats vacant. Even a handful of voters could elect, or there 
might be an unopposed election. But the great majority of voters ab 
stained from voting, and all who cared for the vehemently expressed 
sense of the country refrained from standing as candidates. 

A few old leaders, however, dropped out of the Congress after Cal 
cutta, and among these a popular and well-known figure was that of 
Mr. M. A. Jinnah. Sarojini Naidu had called him the "Ambassador of 
Hindu-Moslem unity," and he had been largely responsible in the past 
for bringing the Moslem League nearer to the Congress. But the new 
developments in the Congress nonco-operation and the new consti 
tution, which made it more of a popular and mass organization were 
thoroughly disapproved of by him. He disagreed on political grounds, 
but it was not politics in the main that kept him away. There were 
still many people in the Congress who were politically even less ad 
vanced than he was. But temperamentally he did not fit in at all with 
the new Congress. He felt completely out of his element in the \hadi- 
clad crowd demanding speeches in Hindustani. The enthusiasm of 
the people outside struck him as mob hysteria. There was as much 
difference between him and the Indian masses as between Savile Row 
and Bond Street and the Indian village with its mud huts. He sug 
gested once privately that only matriculates should be taken into the 
Congress. I do not know if he was serious in making this remarkable 
suggestion, but it was in harmony with his general outlook. So he 
drifted away from the Congress and became a rather solitary figure 
in Indian politics. Later, unhappily, the old Ambassador of Unity asso 
ciated himself with the most reactionary elements in Moslem com- 
munalism. 

The Moderates or Liberals had, of course, nothing to do with the 
Congress. They not only kept away from it; they merged themselves 
in the Government, became ministers and high officials under the new 
scheme, and helped in fighting nonco-operation and the Congress. 

And yet the Liberals were far from happy. It is not a pleasant ex 
perience to be cut off from one's own people, to sense hostility even 
though one may not see it or hear it. A mass upheaval is not kind to 
the nonconformists, though Gandhiji's repeated warnings made nonco- 
operation far milder and gentler to its opponents than it otherwise 
would have been. But even so, the very atmosphere stifled those who 
opposed the movement, just as it invigorated and filled with life and 
energy those who supported it. Mass upheavals and real revolutionary 

68 



movements always have this double effect: they encourage and bring 
out the personality of those who constitute the masses or side with 
them, and at the same time they suppress psychologically and stifle 
those who differ from them. 

This was the reason why some people complained that nonco-opera- 
tion was intolerant and tended to introduce a dead uniformity of 
opinion and action. There was truth in this complaint, but the truth 
lay in this, that nonco-operation was a mass movement, and it was led 
by a man of commanding personality who inspired devotion in India's 
millions. A more vital truth, however, lay in its effect on the masses. 
There was a tremendous feeling of release there, a throwing-off of a 
great burden, a new sense of freedom. The fear that had crushed them 
retired into the background, and they straightened their backs and 
raised their heads. 

Many of us who worked for the Congress program lived in a kind 
of intoxication during the year 1921. We were full of excitement and 
optimism and a buoyant enthusiasm. We sensed the happiness of a 
person crusading for a cause. We were not troubled with doubts or 
hesitation; our path seemed to lie clear in front of us, and we marched 
ahead, lifted up by the enthusiasm of others, and helping to push on 
others. We worked hard, harder than we had ever done before, for we 
knew that the conflict with the Government would come soon, and we 
wanted to do as much as possible before we were removed. 

Above all, we had a sense of freedom and a pride in that freedom. 
The old feeling of oppression and frustration was completely gone. 
There was no more whispering, no round-about legal phraseology to 
avoid getting into trouble with the authorities. We said what we felt 
and shouted it out from the housetops. What did we care for the con 
sequences? Prison? We looked forward to it; that would help our 
cause still further. The innumerable spies and secret-service men who 
used to surround us and follow us about became rather pitiable indi 
viduals as there was nothing secret for them to discover. All our cards 
were always on the table. 

We had not only a feeling of satisfaction at doing effective political 
work which was changing the face of India before our eyes and, as we 
believed, bringing Indian freedom very near, but also an agreeable 
sense of moral superiority over our opponents, in regard to both our 
goal and our methods. We were proud of our leader and of the unique 
method he had evolved, and often we indulged in fits of self-righteous- 

69 



ness. In the midst of strife, and while we ourselves encouraged that 
strife, we had a sense of inner peace. 

As our morale grew, that of the Government went down. They did 
not understand what was happening; it seemed that the old world 
they knew in India was toppling down. There was a new aggressive 
spirit abroad and self-reliance and fearlessness, and the great prop of 
British rule in India prestige was visibly wilting. Repression in a 
small way only strengthened the movement, and the Government hesi 
tated for long before it would take action against the big leaders. It 
did not know what the consequences might be. Was the Indian Army 
reliable? Would the police carry out orders? As Lord Reading, the 
Viceroy, said in December 1921, they were "puzzled and perplexed." 

The nerves of many a British official began to give way. The strain 
was great. There was this ever-growing opposition and spirit of de 
fiance which overshadowed official India like a vast monsoon cloud, 
and yet because of its peaceful methods it offered no handle, no grip, 
no opportunity for forcible suppression. The average Englishman did 
not believe in the bona fides of nonviolence; he thought that all this 
was camouflage, a cloak to cover some vast secret design which would 
burst out in violent upheaval one day. Nurtured from childhood in the 
widespread belief that the East is a mysterious place, and in its bazaars 
and narrow lanes secret conspiracies are being continually hatched, the 
Englishman can seldom think straight on matters relating to these 
lands of supposed mystery. He never makes an attempt to understand 
that somewhat obvious and very unmysterious person, the Easterner. 
He keeps well away from him, gets his ideas about him from tales 
abounding in spies and secret societies, and then allows his imagina 
tion to run riot. So it was in the Punjab early in April 1919, when a 
sudden fear overwhelmed the authorities and the English people gen 
erally, made them see danger everywhere, a widespread rising, a second 
mutiny with its frightful massacres, and, in a blind, instinctive attempt 
at self-preservation at any cost, led them to that frightfulness of which 
Jallianwala and the Crawling Lane of Amritsar have become symbols 
and bywords. 

The year 1921 was a year of great tension, and there was much to 
irritate and annoy and unnerve the official. What was actually hap 
pening was bad enough, but what was imagined was far worse. I re 
member an instance which illustrates this riot of the imagination. My 
sister Swarup's wedding, which was taking place at Allahabad, was 
fixed for May 10, 1921, the actual date having been calculated, as usual 

70 



on such occasions, by a reference to the Samvat calendar, and an auspi 
cious day chosen. Gandhiji and a number of leading Congressmen, in 
cluding the AH brothers, had been invited, and, to suit their conveni 
ence, a meeting of the Congress Working Committee was fixed at 
Allahabad about that time. The local Congressmen wanted to profit 
by the presence of famous leaders from outside, and so they organized 
a district conference on a big scale, expecting a large number of peas 
ants from the surrounding rural areas. 

There was a great deal of bustle and excitement in Allahabad on 
account of these political gatherings. This had a remarkable effect on 
the nerves of some people. I learned one day through a barrister friend 
that many English people were thoroughly upset and expected some 
sudden upheaval in the city. They distrusted their Indian servants, and 
carried about revolvers in their pockets. It was even said privately that 
the Allahabad Fort was kept in readiness for the English colony to 
retire there in case of need. I was much surprised and could not make 
out why anyone should contemplate the possibility of a rising in the 
sleepy and peaceful city of Allahabad just when the very apostle of 
nonviolence was going to visit us. Oh, it was said, May 10 (the day 
accidentally fixed for my sister's marriage) was the anniversary of the 
outbreak of the Mutiny at Meerut in 1857, and this was going to be 
celebrated! 

Gandhiji was continually laying stress on the religious and spiritual 
side of the movement. His religion was not dogmatic, but it did mean 
a definitely religious outlook on life, and the whole movement was 
strongly influenced by this and took on a revivalist character so far as 
the masses were concerned. The great majority of Congress workers 
naturally tried to model themselves after their leader and even repeated 
his language. And yet Gandhiji's leading colleagues in the Working 
Committee my father, Deshbandhu Das, Lala Lajpat Rai, and others 
were not men of religion in the ordinary sense of the word, and 
they considered political problems on the political plane only. In their 
public utterances they did not bring in religion. But whatever they said 
had far less influence than the force of their personal example had 
they not given up a great deal that the world values and taken to 
simpler ways of living? This in itself was taken as a sign of religion 
and helped in spreading the atmosphere of revivalism. 

I used to be troubled sometimes at the growth of this religious ele 
ment in our politics, both on the Hindu and the Moslem side. I did not 
like it at all. Much that Moulvies and Maulanas and Swamis and the 



like said in their public addresses seemed to me most unfortunate. 
Their history and sociology and economics appeared to me all wrong, 
and the religious twist that was given to everything prevented all clear 
thinking. Even some o Gandhiji's phrases sometimes jarred upon 
me thus his frequent reference to Rama Raj as a golden age which 
was to return. But I was powerless to intervene, and I consoled myself 
with the thought that Gandhi] i used the words because they were well 
known and understood by the masses. He had an amazing knack of 
reaching the heart of the people. 

But I did not worry myself much over these matters. I was too full 
of my work and the progress of our movement to care for such trifles, 
as I thought at the time they were. A vast movement had all sorts and 
kinds of people in it, and, so long as our main direction was correct, a 
few eddies and -backwaters did not matter. As for Gandhiji himself, he 
was a very difficult person to understand; sometimes his language was 
almost incomprehensible to an average modern. But we felt that we 
knew him quite well enough to realize that he was a great and unique 
man and a glorious leader, and, having put our faith in him, we gave 
him an almost blank check, for the time being at least. Often we 
discussed his fads and peculiarities among ourselves and said, half- 
humorously, that when Su/araj came these fads must not be encouraged. 

Many of us, however, were too much under his influence in political 
and other matters to remain wholly immune even in the sphere of 
religion. Where a direct attack might not have succeeded, many an 
indirect approach went a long way to undermine the defenses. The 
outward ways of religion did not appeal to me, and above all I disliked 
the exploitation of the people by the so-called men of religion, but still 
I toned down toward it. I came nearer to a religious frame of mind in 
1921 than at any other time since my early boyhood. Even so I did not 
come very near. 

What I admired was the moral and ethical side of our movement 
and of Satyagraha. I did not give an absolute allegiance to the doctrine 
of nonviolence or accept it forever, but it attracted me more and more, 
and the belief grew upon me that, situated as we were in India and 
with our background and traditions, it was the right policy for us. 
The spiritualization of politics, using the word not in its narrow reli 
gious sense, seemed to me a fine idea. A worthy end should have 
worthy means leading up to it. That seemed not only a good ethical 
doctrine but sound, practical politics, for the means that are not good 
often defeat the end in view and raise new problems and difficulties. 



And then it seemed so unbecoming, so degrading to the self-respect 
of an individual or a nation to submit to such means, to go through 
the mire. How can one escape being sullied by it? How can we march 
ahead swiftly and with dignity if we stoop or crawl? 

Such were my thoughts then. And the nonco-operation movement 
offered me what I wanted the goal of national freedom and (as I 
thought) the ending of the exploitation of the underdog, and the means 
which satisfied my moral sense and gave me a sense of personal free 
dom. So great was this personal satisfaction that even a possibility of 
failure did not count for much, for such failure could only be tem 
porary. I did not understand or feel drawn to the metaphysical part 
of the Bhagavad Gita, but I liked to read the verses recited every eve 
ning in Gandhij i's ashrama prayers which say what a man should be 
like: Calm of purpose, serene and unmoved, doing his job and not 
caring overmuch for the result of his action. Not being very calm or 
detached myself, I suppose, this ideal appealed to me all the more. 



XIII 

FIRST IMPRISONMENT 

NINETEEN TWENTY-ONE was an extraordinary year for us. There was a 
strange mixture of nationalism and politics and religion and mysti 
cism and fanaticism. Behind all this was agrarian trouble and, in the 
big cities, a rising working-class movement. Nationalism and a vague 
but intense countrywide idealism sought to bring together all these 
various, and sometimes mutually contradictory, discontents, and suc 
ceeded to a remarkable degree. And yet this nationalism itself was a 
composite force, and behind it could be distinguished a Hindu nation 
alism, a Moslem nationalism partly looking beyond the frontiers of 
India, and, what was more in consonance with the spirit of the times, 
an Indian nationalism. For the time being they overlapped and all 
pulled together. It was Hindu-Muslaman fy jai everywhere. It was 
remarkable how Gandhiji seemed to cast a spell on all classes and 
groups of people and drew them into one motley crowd struggling 
in one direction. He became, indeed (to use a phrase which has been 
applied to another leader), "a symbolic expression of the confused 
desires of the people." 

73 



Even more remarkable was the fact that these desires and passions 
were relatively free from hatred of the alien rulers against whom they 
were directed. Nationalism is essentially an anti-feeling, and it feeds 
and fattens on hatred and anger against other national groups, and 
especially against the foreign rulers of a subject country. There was 
certainly this hatred and anger in India in 1921 against the British, but, 
in comparison with other countries similarly situated, it was extraor 
dinarily little. Undoubtedly this was due to Gandhiji's insistence on 
the implications of nonviolence. It was also due to the feeling of re 
lease and power that came to the whole country with the inaugura 
tion of the movement and the widespread belief in success in the near 
future. Why be angry and full of hate when we were doing so well 
and were likely to win through soon ? We felt that we could afford to 
be generous. 

We were not so generous in our hearts, though our actions were 
circumspect and proper, toward the handful of our own countrymen 
who took sides against us and opposed the national movement. It was 
not a question of hatred or anger, for they carried no weight whatever 
and we could ignore them. But deep within us was contempt for their 
weakness and opportunism and betrayal of national honor and self- 
respect. 

So we went on, vaguely but intensely, the exhilaration of action hold 
ing us in its grip. But about our goal there was an entire absence of 
clear thinking. It seems surprising now, how completely we ignored 
the theoretical aspects, the philosophy of our movement as well as the 
definite objective that we should have. Of course we all grew eloquent 
about Swaraj, but each one of us probably interpreted the word in his 
or her own way. To most of the younger men it meant political inde 
pendence, or something like it, and a democratic form of government, 
and we said so in our public utterances. Many of us also thought that 
inevitably this would result in a lessening of the burdens that crushed 
the workers and the peasantry. But it was obvious that to most of our 
leaders Swaraj meant something much less than independence. Gand- 
hiji was delightfully vague on the subject, and he did not encourage 
clear thinking about it either. But he always spoke, vaguely but defi 
nitely, in terms of the underdog, and this brought great comfort to 
many of us, although, at the same time, he was full of assurances to 
the top dog also. Gandhiji's stress was never on the intellectual ap 
proach to a problem but on character and piety. He did succeed amaz 
ingly in giving backbone and character to the Indian people, 

74 



It was this extraordinary stiFening-up of the masses that filled us 
with confidence. A demoralized, backward, and broken-up people 
suddenly straightened their backs and lifted their heads and took part 
in disciplined, joint action on a countrywide scale. This action itself, 
we felt, would give irresistible power to the masses. We ignored the 
necessity of thought behind the action; we forgot that without a con 
scious ideology and objective the energy and enthusiasm of the masses 
must end largely in smoke. To some extent the revivalist element in 
our movement carried us on; a feeling that nonviolence as conceived 
for political or economic movements or for righting wrongs was a new 
message which our people were destined to give to the world. We be 
came victims to the curious illusion of all peoples and all nations that 
in some way they are a chosen race. Nonviolence was the moral equiv 
alent of war and of all violent struggle. It was not merely an ethical 
alternative, but it was effective also. Few of us, I think, accepted Gand- 
hiji's old ideas about machinery and modern civilization. We thought 
that even he looked upon them as Utopian and as largely inapplicable 
to modern conditions. Certainly most of us were not prepared to reject 
the achievements of modern civilization, although we may have felt 
that some variation to suit Indian conditions was possible. Personally, 
I have always felt attracted toward big machinery and fast traveling. 
Still, there can be no doubt that Gandhi ji's ideology influenced many 
people and made them critical of the machine and all its consequences. 
So, while some looked to the future, others looked back to the past. 
And, curiously, both felt that the joint action they were indulging in 
was worth while, and this made it easy to bear sacrifice and face self- 
denial. 

I became wholly absorbed and wrapped in the movement, and large 
numbers of other people did likewise. I gave up all my other associa 
tions and contacts, old friends, books, even newspapers, except in so far 
as they dealt with the work in hand. I had kept up till then some read 
ing of current books and had tried to follow the developments of 
world affairs. But there was no time for this now. In spite of the 
strength of my family bonds, I almost forgot my family, my wife, my 
daughter. It was only long afterward that I realized what a burden 
and a trial I must have been to them in those days, and what amazing 
patience and tolerance my wife had shown toward me. I lived in offices 
and committee meetings and crowds. "Go to the villages" was the 
slogan, and we trudged many a mile across fields and visited distant 
villages and addressed peasant meetings. I experienced the thrill of 

75 



mass feeling, the power o influencing the mass. I began to understand 
a little the psychology of the crowd, the difference between the city 
masses and the peasantry, and I felt at home in the dust and discom 
fort, the pushing and jostling of large gatherings, though their want 
of discipline often irritated me. Since those days I have sometimes had 
to face hostile and angry crowds, worked up to a state when a spark 
would light a flame, and I found that that early experience and the 
confidence it begot in me stood me in good stead. Always I went 
straight to the crowd and trusted it, and so far I have always had 
courtesy and appreciation from it, even though there was no agree 
ment. But crowds are fickle, and the future may have different experi 
ences in store for me. 

I took to the crowd, and the crowd took to me, and yet I never lost 
myself in it; always I felt apart from it. From my separate mental 
perch I looked at it critically, and I never ceased to wonder how I, who 
was so different in every way from those thousands who surrounded 
me, different in habits, in desires, in mental and spiritual outlook, 
had managed to gain good will and a measure of confidence from 
these people. Was it because they took me for something other than I 
was? Would they bear with me when they knew me better? Was I 
gaining their good will under false pretenses ? I tried to be frank and 
straightforward to them; I even spoke harshly to them sometimes and 
criticized many of their pet beliefs and customs, but still they put up 
with me. And yet I could not get rid of the idea that their affection 
was meant not for me as I was, but for some fanciful image of me that 
they had formed. How long could that false image endure? And why 
should it be allowed to endure? And, when it fell down and they saw 
the reality, what then? 

I am vain enough in many ways, but there could be no question of 
vanity with these crowds of simple folk. There was no posing about 
them, no vulgarity, as in the case of many of us of the middle classes 
who consider ourselves their betters. They were dull certainly, unin 
teresting individually; but in the mass they produced a feeling of over 
whelming pity and a sense of ever-impending tragedy. 

Very different were our conferences where our chosen workers, in 
cluding myself, performed on the platform. There was sufficient posing 
there and no lack of vulgarity in our flamboyant addresses. All of us 
must have been to some extent guilty of this, but some of the minor 
Khilafat leaders probably led the rest. It is not easy to behave naturally 
on a platform before a large audience, and few of us had previous 



experience of such publicity. So we tried to look as we imagined 
leaders should look, thoughtful and serious, with no trace of levity or 
frivolity. When we walked or talked or smiled, we were conscious 
of thousands of eyes staring at us and we reacted accordingly. Our 
speeches were often very eloquent but, equally often, singularly point 
less. It is difficult to see oneself as others see one. And so, unable to 
criticize myself, I took to watching carefully the ways of others, and I 
found considerable amusement in this occupation. And then the ter 
rible thought would strike me that I might perhaps appear equally 
ludicrous to others. 

Right through the year 1921 individual Congress workers were 
being arrested and sentenced, but there were no mass arrests. The All 
brothers had received long sentences for inciting the Indian Army to 
disaffection. Their words, for which they had been sentenced, were 
repeated at hundreds of platforms by thousands of persons. I was 
threatened in the summer with proceedings for sedition because of 
some speeches I had delivered. No such step, however, was taken then. 
The end of the year brought matters to a head. The Prince of Wales 
was coming to India, and the Congress had proclaimed a boycott of all 
the functions in connection with his visit. Toward the end of Novem 
ber the Congress volunteers in Bengal' were declared illegal, and this 
was followed by a similar declaration for the United Provinces. Desh- 
bandhu Das gave a stirring message to Bengal: "I feel the handcuffs on 
my wrists and the weight of iron chains on my body. It is the agony 
of bondage. The whole of India is a vast prison. The work of the Con 
gress must be carried on. What matters it whether I am taken or left? 
What matters it whether I am dead or alive?" In the United Provinces 
we took up the challenge and not only announced that our volunteer 
organization would continue to function, but published lists of names 
of volunteers in the daily newspapers. The first list was headed by my 
father's name. He was not a volunteer but, simply for the purpose of 
defying the Government order, he joined and gave his name. Early in 
December, a few days before the Prince came to our province, mass 
arrests began. 

We knew that matters had at last come to a head; the inevitable 
conflict between the Congress and the Government was about to break 
out. Prison was still an unknown place, the idea of going there still a 
novelty. I was sitting rather late one day in the Congress office at Alla 
habad trying to clear up arrears of work. An excited clerk told me that 
the police had come with a search warrant and were surrounding the 

77 



office building. I was, of course, a little excited also, for it was my first 
experience of the kind, but the desire to show off was strong, the wish 
to appear perfectly cool and collected, unaffected by the comings and 
goings of the police. So I asked a clerk to accompany the police officer 
in his search round the office rooms and insisted on the rest of the 
staff carrying on their usual work and ignoring the police. A little later 
a friend and a colleague, who had been arrested just outside the office, 
came to me, accompanied by a policeman, to bid me good-by. I was so 
full of the conceit that I must treat these novel occurrences as every 
day happenings that I treated my colleague in a most unfeeling man 
ner. Casually I asked him and the policeman to wait till I had finished 
the letter I was writing. Soon news came of other arrests in the city. 
I decided at last to go home and see what was happening there. I 
found the inevitable police searching part of the large house and 
learned that they had come to arrest both father and me. 

Nothing that we could have done would have fitted in so well with 
our program of boycotting the Prince's visit. Wherever he was taken 
he was met with hartals and deserted streets. Allahabad, when he 
came, seemed to be a city of the dead; Calcutta, a few days later, sud 
denly put a temporary stop to all the activities of a great city. It was 
hard on the Prince of Wales; he was not to blame, and there was no 
feeling against him whatever. But the Government of India had tried 
to exploit his personality to prop up their decaying prestige. 

There was an orgy of arrests and convictions, especially in the 
United Provinces and in Bengal. All the prominent Congress leaders 
and workers in these provinces were arrested, and ordinary volunteers 
by the thousand went to prison. They were, at first, largely city men 
and there seemed to be an inexhaustible supply of volunteers for prison. 
The Provincial Congress Committee was arrested en bloc (55 mem 
bers) as they were actually holding a committee meeting. Many people, 
who had so far taken no part in any Congress or political activity, 
were carried away by the wave of enthusiasm and insisted on being 
arrested. There were cases of Government clerks, returning from their 
offices in the evening, being swept away by this current and landing 
in jail instead of their homes. Young men and boys would crowd in 
side the police trucks and refuse to come out. Every evening we could 
hear from inside the jail, truck after truck arriving outside heralded 
by our slogans and shouts. The jails were crowded and the jail officials 
were at their wits' ends at this extraordinary phenomenon. It happened 
sometimes that a police truck would bring, according to the warrant 



accompanying it, a certain number of prisoners no names were or 
could be mentioned. Actually, a larger number than that mentioned 
would emerge from the truck, and the jail officials did not know how 
to meet this novel situation. There was nothing in the Jail Manual 
about it. 

Gradually the Government gave up the policy of indiscriminate ar 
rests; only noted workers were picked out. Gradually also the first flush 
of enthusiasm of the people cooled down, and, owing to the absence in 
prison of all the trusted workers, a feeling of indecision and helpless 
ness spread. But the change was superficial only; there was still 
thunder in the air, and the atmosphere was tense and pregnant with 
revolutionary possibilities. During the months of December 1921 and 
January 1922 it is estimated that about thirty thousand persons were 
sentenced to imprisonment in connection with the nonco-operation 
movement. But, though most of the prominent men and workers were 
in prison, the leader of the whole struggle, Mahatma Gandhi, was still 
out, issuing from day to day messages and directions which inspired 
the people, as well as checking many an undesirable activity. The Gov 
ernment had not touched him so far, for they feared the consequences, 
the reactions on the Indian Army and the police. 

Suddenly, early in February 1922, the whole scene shifted, and we in 
prison learned, to our amazement and consternation, that Gandhiji 
had stopped the aggressive aspects of our struggle, that he had sus 
pended civil resistance. We read that this was because of what had 
happened near the village of Chauri Chaura, where a mob of villagers 
had retaliated on some policemen by setting fire to the police station 
and burning half a dozen or so policemen in it. 

We were angry when we learned of this stoppage of our struggle 
at a time when we seemed to be consolidating our position and ad 
vancing on all fronts. But our disappointment and anger in prison 
could do little good to anyone; civil resistance stopped, and nonco- 
operation wilted away. After many months of strain and anxiety the 
Government breathed again, and for the first time had the opportunity 
of taking the initiative. A few weeks later they arrested Gandhiji and 
sentenced him for a long term of imprisonment. 



79 



XIV 

NONVIOLENCE AND THE DOCTRINE 
OF THE SWORD 

THE SUDDEN SUSPENSION of our movement after the Chauri Chaura 
incident was resented, I think, by almost all the prominent Congress 
leaders other than Gandhiji, of course. My father (who was in jail at 
the time) was much upset by it. The younger people were naturally 
even more agitated. Our mounting hopes tumbled to the ground, and 
this mental reaction was to be expected. What troubled us even more 
were the reasons given for this suspension and the consequences that 
seemed to flow from them. Chauri Chaura may have been and was a 
deplorable occurrence and wholly opposed to the spirit of the non 
violent movement; but were a remote village and a mob of excited 
peasants in an out-of-the-way place going to put an end, for some time 
at least, to our national struggle for freedom ? If this was the inevitable 
consequence of a sporadic act of violence, then surely there was some 
thing lacking in the philosophy and technique of a nonviolent struggle. 
For it seemed to us to be impossible to guarantee against the occur 
rence of some such untoward incident. Must we train the three hun 
dred and odd millions of India in the theory and practice of nonvio 
lent action before we could go forward ? And, even so, how many of 
us could say that under extreme provocation from the police we would 
be able to remain perfectly peaceful? But even if we succeeded, what 
of the numerous agents provocateurs, stool pigeons, and the like who 
crept into our movement and indulged in violence themselves or in 
duced others to do so? If this was the sole condition of its function, 
then the nonviolent method of resistance would always fail. 

We had accepted that method, the Congress had made that method 
its "own, because of a belief in its effectiveness. Gandhiji had placed it 
before the country not only as the right method but as the most effec 
tive one for our purpose. In spite of its negative name it was a dynamic 
method, the very opposite of a meek submission to a tyrant's will. It 
was not a coward's refuge from action, but the brave man's defiance of 
evil and national subjection. But what was the use of the bravest and 
the strongest if a few odd persons maybe even our opponents in the 
guise of friends had the power to upset or end our movement by 
their rash behavior? 

Gandhiji had pleaded for the adoption of the way of nonviolence, of 

80 



peaceful nonce-operation, with all the eloquence and persuasive power 
which he so abundantly possessed. His language had been simple and 
unadorned, his voice and appearance cool and clear and devoid of all 
emotion, but behind that outward covering of ice there was the heat of 
a blazing fire and concentrated passion, and the words he uttered 
winged their way to the innermost recesses of our minds and hearts, 
and created a strange ferment there. The way he pointed out was hard 
and difficult, but it was a brave path, and it seemed to lead to the 
promised land of freedom. Because of that promise we pledged our 
faith and marched ahead. In a famous article "The Doctrine of the 
Sword" he had written in 1920: 

"I do believe that when there is only a choice between cowardice and 
violence, I would advise violence. ... I would rather have India resort 
to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should in a cow 
ardly manner become or remain a helpless victim to her own dishonor. 
But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgive 
ness is more manly than punishment. 

"Forgiveness adorns a soldier. But abstinence is forgiveness only 
when there is power to punish; it is meaningless when it pretends to 
proceed from a helpless creature. A mouse hardly forgives a cat when 
it allows itself to be torn to pieces by her. . . . But I do not believe 
India to be helpless, I do not believe myself to be a helpless crea 
ture. . . . 

"Let me not be misunderstood. Strength does not come from physi 
cal capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. . . . 

"I am not a visionary. I claim to be a practical idealist. The religion 
of nonviolence is not meant merely for the Rishis and saints. It is 
meant for the common people as well. Nonviolence is the law of our 
species as violence is the law of the brute. The spirit lies dormant in 
the brute, and he knows no law but that of physical might. The dig 
nity of man requires obedience to a higher law to the strength of the 
spirit. 

"I have therefore ventured to place before India the ancient law of 
self-sacrifice. For Satyagraha and its off-shoots, nonco-operation and 
civil resistance, are nothing but new names for the law of suffering. 
The Rishis who discovered the law of nonviolence in the midst of 
violence, were greater geniuses than Newton. They were themselves 
greater warriors than Wellington. Having themselves known the use 
of arms, they realized their uselessness and taught a weary world that 
its salvation lay not through violence but through nonviolence. 

81 



, "Nonviolence in its dynamic condition means conscious suffering. It 
does not mean meek submission to the will of the evildoer, but it 
means the putting of one's whole soul against the will of the tyrant. 
Working under this law of our being, it is possible for a single individ 
ual to defy the whole might of an unjust empire to save his honor, 
his religion, his soul, and lay the foundation for that empire's fall or 
regeneration. 

"And so I am not pleading for India to practice nonviolence because 
it is weak. I want her to practice nonviolence being conscious of her 
strength and power. ... I want India to recognize that she has a soul 
that cannot perish, and that can rise triumphant above any physical 
weakness and defy the physical combination of a whole world. . . . 

"I isolate this nonco-operation from Sinn Feinism, for it is so con 
ceived as to be incapable of being offered side by side with violence. 
But I invite even the school of violence to give this peaceful nonco- 
operation a trial. It will not fail through its inherent weakness. It may 
fail because of poverty of response. Then will be the time for real dan 
ger. The high-souled men, who are unable to suffer national humilia 
tion any longer, will want to vent their wrath. They will take to 
violence. So far as I know, they must perish without delivering them 
selves or their country from the wrong. If India takes up the doctrine 
of the sword, she may gain momentary victory. Then India will cease 
to be the pride of my heart. I am wedded to India because I owe my 
all to her. I believe absolutely that she has a mission for the world." 

We were moved by these arguments, but for us and for the National 
Congress as a whole the nonviolent method was not, and could not be, 
a religion or an unchallengeable creed or dogma. It could only be a 
policy and a method promising certain results, and by those results it 
would have to be finally judged. Individuals might make of it a re 
ligion or incontrovertible creed. But no political organization, so long 
as it remained political, could do so. 

Chauri Chaura and its consequences made us examine these impli 
cations of nonviolence as a method, and we felt that, if Gandhiji's 
argument for the suspension of civil resistance was correct, our op 
ponents would always have the power to create circumstances which 
would necessarily result in our abandoning the struggle. Was this the 
fault of the nonviolent method itself or of Gandhiji's interpretation of 
it? After all, he was the author and originator of it, and who could be 
a better judge of what it was and what it was not? And without him 
where was our movement? 

82 



Many years later, just before the 1930 civil disobedience movement 
began, Gandhiji, much to our satisfaction, made this point clear. He 
stated that the movement should not be abandoned because of the 
occurrence of sporadic acts of violence. If the nonviolent method of 
struggle could not function because of such almost inevitable happen 
ings, then it was obvious that it was not an ideal method for all occa 
sions, and this he was not prepared to admit. For him the method, 
being the right method, should suit all circumstances and should be 
able to function, at any rate in a restricted way, even in a hostile atmos 
phere. Whether this interpretation, which widened the scope of non 
violent action, represented an evolution in his own mind or not I do 
not know. 

It may be that the decision to suspend civil resistance in 1922 was a 
right one, though the manner of doing it left much to be desired and 
brought about a certain demoralization. 

It is possible, however, that this sudden bottling up of a great move 
ment contributed to a tragic development in the country. The drift to 
sporadic and futile violence in the political struggle was stopped, but 
the suppressed violence had to find a way out, and in the following 
years this perhaps aggravated the communal trouble. The communa- 
lists of various denominations, mostly political reactionaries, had been 
forced to lie low because of the overwhelming mass support for the 
nonco-operation and civil disobedience movement. They emerged now 
from their retirement. Many others, secret-service agents and people 
who sought to please the authorities by creating communal friction, 
also worked on the same theme. The Moplah rising and its extraordi 
narily cruel suppression what a horrible thing was the baking to 
death of the Moplah prisoners in the closed railway vans! had already 
given a handle to those who stirred the waters of communal discord. 
It is just possible that if civil resistance had not been stopped and the 
movement had been crushed by Government, there would have been 
less communal bitterness and less superfluous energy left for the sub 
sequent communal riots. 

Both my father and I had been sentenced to six months* imprison 
ment on different charges and by different courts. The trials were 
farcical, and, as was our custom, we took no part in them. It was easy 
enough, of course, to find enough material in our speeches or other 
activities for a conviction. But the actual choice was amusing. Father 
was tried as a member of an illegal organization, the Congress volun 
teers, and to prove this a form with his signature in Hindu was pro- 

83 



duced. The signature was certainly his, but, as it happened, he had 
hardly ever signed in Hindu before, and very few persons could 
recognize his Hindu signature. A tattered gentleman was then pro 
duced who swore to the signature. The man was quite illiterate, and 
he held the signature upside down when he examined it. My daughter, 
aged four at the time, had her first experience of the dock during 
father's trial, as he held her in his arms throughout. 

My offense was distributing notices for a hartal. This was no offense 
under the law then, though I believe it is one now, for we are rapidly 
advancing toward Dominion status. However, I was sentenced. Three 
months later I was informed in the prison, where I was with my father 
and others, that some revising authority had come to the conclusion 
that I was wrongly sentenced and I was to be discharged. I was sur 
prised, as no one had taken any step on my behalf. The suspension of 
civil resistance had apparently galvanized the revising judges into 
activity. I was sorry to go out, leaving my father behind. 

I decided to go almost immediately to Gandhiji in Ahmedabad. Be 
fore I arrived there, he had been arrested, and my interview with him 
took place in Sabarmati Prison. I was present at his trial. It was a 
memorable occasion, and those of us who were present are not likely 
ever to forget it. The judge, an Englishman, behaved with dignity and 
feeling. Gandhi ji's statement to the court was a most moving one, and 
we came away, emotionally stirred, and with the impress of his vivid 
phrases and striking images in our mind. 

I came back to Allahabad. I felt unhappy and lonely outside the 
prison when so many of my friends and colleagues were behind prison 
bars. I found that the Congress organization was not functioning well, 
and I tried to put it straight. In particular I interested myself in the 
boycott of foreign cloth. This item of our program still continued in 
spite of the withdrawal of civil resistance. Nearly all the cloth mer 
chants in Allahabad had pledged themselves not to import or purchase 
foreign cloth, and had formed an association for the purpose. The rules 
of this association laid down that any infringement would be punished 
by a fine. I found that several of the big dealers had broken their 
pledges and were importing foreign cloth. This was very unfair to 
those who stuck to their pledges. We remonstrated with little result, 
and the cloth dealers' association seemed to be powerless to take action. 
So we decided to picket the shops of the erring merchants. Even a hint 
of picketing was enough for our purpose. Fines were paid, pledges 



were taken afresh. The money from the fines went to the cloth mer 
chants' association. 

Two or three days later I was arrested, together with a number of 
colleagues who had taken part in the negotiations with the merchants. 
We were charged with criminal intimidation and extortion! I was 
further charged with some other offenses, including sedition. I did not 
defend myself, but I made a long statement in court. I was sentenced 
on at least three counts, including intimidation and extortion, but the 
sedition charge was not proceeded with, as it was probably considered 
that I had already got as much as I deserved. As far as I remember 
there were three sentences, two of which were for eighteen months 
and were concurrent. In all, I think, I was sentenced to a year and nine 
months. That was my second sentence. I went back to prison after 
about six weeks spent outside it. 



XV 
LUCKNOW DISTRICT JAIL 

IMPRISONMENT FOR POLITICAL offenses was not a new thing in the India 
of 1921. From the time of the Bengal partition agitation especially, 
there had always been a continuous stream of men going to prison, 
sentenced often to very long terms. There had been internments with 
out trial also. The greatest Indian leader of the day, Lokamanya 
Tilak, was sentenced in his declining years to six years' imprisonment. 
The Great War speeded up this process of internment and imprison 
ment, and conspiracy cases became frequent, usually resulting in death 
sentences or life terms. The Ali brothers and M. Abul Kalam Azad 
were among the wartime internees. Soon after the war, martial law 
in the Punjab took a heavy toll, and large numbers were sentenced in 
conspiracy cases or summary trials. So political imprisonment had be 
come a frequent enough occurrence in India, but so far it had not been 
deliberately courted. It had come in the course of a person's activities, 
or perhaps because the secret police did not fancy him, and every effort 
was made to avoid it by means of a defense in the law court. 

But still in 1921 prison was an almost unknown place, and very few 
knew what happened behind the grim gates that swallowed the new 
convict. Vaguely we imagined that its inhabitants were desperate peo- 

85 



pie and dangerous criminals. In our minds the place was associated 
with isolation, humiliation, and suffering, and, above all, the fear of 
the unknown. Frequent references to jail-going from 1920 onward, 
and the march of many of our comrades to prison, gradually accus 
tomed us to the idea and took away the edge from that almost involun 
tary feeling of repugnance and reluctance. But no amount of previous 
mental preparation could prevent the tension and nervous excitement 
that filled us when we first entered the iron gates. Since those days, 
thirteen years ago, I imagine that at least three hundred thousand men 
and women of India have entered those gates for political offenses, 
although often enough the actual charge has been under some other 
section of the criminal code. Thousands of these have gone in and out 
many a time; they have got to know well what to expect inside; they 
have tried to adapt themselves to the strange life there, as far as one 
can adapt oneself to an existence full of abnormality and a dull suffer 
ing and a dreadful monotony. We grow accustomed to it, as one grows 
accustomed to almost anything; and yet, every time that we enter those 
gates again, there is a bit of the old excitement, a feeling of tension, a 
quickening of the pulse. And the eyes turn back involuntarily to take 
a last good look outside at the greenery and wide spaces, at people and 
conveyances moving about, at familiar faces that they may not see 
again for a long time. 

My first term in jail, which ended rather suddenly after three 
months, was a hectic period both for us and the jail staff. The jail 
officials were half paralyzed by the influx of the new type of convict. 
The number itself of these newcomers, added to from day to day, was 
extraordinary and created an impression of a flood which might sweep 
away the old traditional landmarks. More upsetting still was the type 
of the newcomer. It belonged to all classes, but had a high proportion 
of the middle class. All these classes, however, had this in common: 
they differed entirely from the ordinary convict, and it was not easy 
to treat them in the old way. This was recognized by the authorities, 
but there was nothing to take the place of the existing rules; there 
were no precedents and no experience. The average Congress prisoner 
was not very meek and mild, and even inside the jail walls numbers 
gave him a feeling of strength. The agitation outside, and the new 
interest of the public in what transpired inside the prisons, added to 
this. In spite of this somewhat aggressive attitude, our general policy 
was one of co-operation with the jail authorities. But for our help, the 
troubles of the officials would have been far greater. The jailer would 

86 



come to us frequently and ask us to visit some o the barracks con 
taining our volunteers in order to soothe them or get them to agree 
to something. 

We had come to prison of our own accord, many of the volunteers 
indeed having pushed their way in almost uninvited. There was thus 
hardly any question of any one of them trying to escape. If he had 
any desire to go out, he could do so easily by expressing regret for his 
action or giving an undertaking that he would refrain from such 
activity in future. An attempt to escape would only bring a measure of 
ignominy, and in itself was tantamount to a withdrawal from political 
activity of the civil resistance variety. The superintendent of our prison 
in Lucknow fully appreciated this and used to tell the jailer (who was 
a Khan Sahib) that if he could succeed in allowing some of the Con 
gress prisoners to escape he, the superintendent, would recommend 
him to Government for the title of Khan Bahadur. 

Most of our fellow prisoners were kept in huge barracks in the inner 
circle of the prison. About eighteen of us, selected I suppose for better 
treatment, were kept in an old weaving shed with a large open space 
attached. My father, two of my cousins, and I had a small shed to our 
selves, about 20 feet by 16. We had considerable freedom in moving 
about from one barrack to another. Frequent interviews with relatives 
outside were allowed. Newspapers came, and the daily news of fresh 
arrests and the developments of our struggle kept up an atmosphere 
of excitement. Mutual discussions and talks took up a lot of time, and 
I could do little reading or other solid work. I spent the mornings in a 
thorough cleaning and washing of our shed, in washing father's and 
my own clothes, and in spinning. It was winter, the best time of year 
in North India. For the first few weeks we were allowed to open 
classes for our volunteers, or such of them as were illiterate, to teach 
them Hindu and Urdu and other elementary subjects. In the after 
noons we played volleyball. 1 

Gradually restrictions grew. We were stopped from going outside 
our enclosure and visiting the part of the jail where most of our 
volunteers were kept. The classes naturally stopped. I was discharged 
about that time. 

a A ridiculous story has appeared in the press, and, though contradicted, continues to 
appear from time to time. According to this, Sir Harcourt Butler, the then Governor of 
the United Provinces, sent champagne to my father in prison. Sir Harcourt sent my 
father nothing at all in prison; nobody sent him champagne or any other alcoholic 
drink; and indeed he had given up alcohol in 1920 after the Congress took to nonco- 
operation, and was not taking any such drinks at that time. 

8 7 



I went out early in March, and six or seven weeks later, in April, I 
returned. I found that the conditions had greatly changed. Father had 
been transferred to the Naini Tal Jail, and, soon after his departure, 
new rules were enforced. All the prisoners in the big weaving shed, 
where I had been kept previously, were transferred to the inner jail 
and kept in the barracks (single halls) there. Each barrack was prac 
tically a jail within a jail, and no communications were allowed be 
tween different barracks. Interviews and letters were now restricted to 
one a month. The food was much simpler, though we were allowed 
to supplement it from outside. 

In the barracks in which I was kept there must have been about fifty 
persons. We were all crowded together, our beds being about three or 
four feet from each other. Fortunately almost everybody in that bar 
rack was known to me, and there were many friends. But the utter 
want of privacy, all day and night, became more and more difficult to 
endure. Always the same crowd looking on, the same petty annoyances 
and irritations, and no escape from them to a quiet nook. We bathed 
in public and washed our clothes in public, and ran round and round 
the barrack for exercise, and talked and argued till we had largely 
exhausted one another's capacity for intelligent conversation. It was the 
dull side of family life, magnified a hundredfold, with few of its graces 
and compensations, and all this among people of all kinds and tastes. 
It was a great nervous strain for all of us, and often I yearned for soli 
tude. In later years I was to have enough of this solitude and privacy 
in prison, when for months I would see no one except an occasional 
jail official. Again I lived in a state of nervous tension, but this time I 
longed for suitable company. I thought then sometimes, almost with 
envy, of my crowded existence in the Lucknow District Jail in 1922, 
and yet I knew well enough that of the two I preferred the solitude, 
provided at least that I could read and write. 

And yet I must say that the company was unusually decent and 
pleasant, and we got on well together. But all of us, I suppose, got a 
little bored with the others occasionally and wanted to be away from 
them and have a little privacy. The nearest approach to privacy that 
I could get was by leaving my barrack and sitting in the open part of 
the enclosure. It was the monsoon season, and it was usually possible 
to do so because of the clouds. I braved the heat and an occasional 
drizzle even, and spent as much time as possible outside the barrack. 

Lying there in the open, I watched the skies and the clouds and I 



realized, better than I had ever done before, how amazingly beautiful 
were their changing hues. 

To watch the changing clouds, li\e clime in clime; 
Oh! sweet to lie and bless the luxury of time. 

Time was not a luxury for us, it was more of a burden. But the 
time I spent in watching those ever-shifting monsoon clouds was filled 
with delight and a sense of relief. I had the joy of having made almost 
a discovery, and a feeling of escape from confinement. I do not know 
why that particular monsoon had that great effect on me; no previous 
or subsequent one has moved me in that way. I had seen and admired 
many a fine sunrise and sunset in the mountains and over the sea, and 
bathed in its glory, and felt stirred for the time being by its magnifi 
cence. Having seen it, I had almost taken it for granted and passed on 
to other things. But in jail there were no sunrises or sunsets to be seen, 
the horizon was hidden from us, and late in the morning the hot-rayed 
sun emerged over our guardian walls. There were no colors anywhere, 
and our eyes hardened and grew dull at seeing always that same drab 
view of mud-colored wall and barrack. They must have hungered for 
some light and shade and coloring, and, when the monsoon clouds 
sailed gaily by, assuming fantastic shapes and playing in a riot of color, 
I gasped in surprised delight and watched them almost as if I were in 
a trance. Sometimes the clouds would break, and one saw through an 
opening in them that wonderful monsoon phenomenon, a dark blue 
of an amazing depth, which seemed to be a portion of infinity. 

The restrictions on us gradually grew in number, and stricter rules 
were enforced. The Government, having got the measure of our move 
ment, wanted us to experience the full extent of its displeasure with 
our temerity in having dared to challenge it. The introduction of new 
rules or the manner of their enforcement led to friction between the 
jail authorities and the political prisoners. For several months nearly 
all of us we were some hundreds at the time in that particular jail 
gave up our interviews as a protest. Evidently it was thought that some 
of us were the troublemakers, and so seven of us were transferred to 
a distant part of the jail, quite cut of? from the main barracks. 

We were sent to a smaller enclosure, and there were some disadvan 
tages in living there. But on the whole I was glad of the change. There 
was no crowding here; we could live in greater quiet and with more 
privacy. There was more time to read or do other work. We were cut 
off completely from our colleagues in other parts of the jail as well as 



from the outside world, for newspapers were now stopped for all po 
litical prisoners. 

Newspapers did not come to us, but some news from outside trickled 
through, as it always manages to trickle through in prison. Our 
monthly interviews and letters also brought us odd bits o information. 
We saw that our movement was at a low ebb outside. The magic 
moment had passed, and success seemed to retire into the dim future. 
Outside, the Congress was split into two factions the pro-changers 
and no-changers. The former, under the leadership of Deshbandhu 
Das and my father, wanted the Congress to take part in the new 
elections to the central and provincial councils and, if possible, to cap 
ture these legislatures; the latter, led by C. Rajagopalachari, opposed 
any change of the old program of nonco-operation. Gandhiji was, of 
course, in prison at the time. The fine ideals of the movement which 
had carried us forward, as on the crest of an advancing tide, were 
being swamped by petty squabbles and intrigues for power. We real 
ized how much easier it was to do great and venturesome deeds in mo 
ments of enthusiasm and excitement than to carry on from day to day 
when the glow was past. Our spirits were damped by the news from 
outside, and this, added to the various humors that prison produces, 
increased the strain of life there. But still there remained within us an 
inner feeling of satisfaction, that we had preserved our self-respect and 
dignity, that we had acted rightly whatever the consequences. The 
future was dim, but, whatever shape it might take, it seemed that it 
would be the lot of many of us to spend a great part of our lives in 
prison. 

We settled down to a routine of work and exercise. For exercise we 
used to run round and round the little enclosure, or two of us would 
draw water, like two bullocks yoked together, pulling a huge leather 
bucket from a well in our yard. In this way we watered a small vege 
table garden in our enclosure. Most of us used to spin a little daily. 
But reading was my principal occupation during those winter days and 
long evenings. Almost always, whenever the superintendent visited us, 
he found me reading. This devotion to reading seemed to get on his 
nerves a little, and he remarked on it once, adding that, so far as he 
was concerned, he had practically finished his general reading at the 
age of twelve! No doubt this abstention on his part had been of use 
to that gallant English colonel in avoiding troublesome thoughts, and 
perhaps it helped him subsequently in rising to the position of In 
spector-General of Prisons in the United Provinces. 

90 



The long winter evenings and the clear Indian sky attracted us to 
the stars, and, with the help of some charts, we spotted many o them. 
Nightly we would await their appearance and greet them with the 
satisfaction of seeing old acquaintances. 

So we passed our time, and the days lengthened themselves into 
weeks, and the weeks became months. We grew accustomed to our 
routine existence. But in the world outside the real burden fell on our 
womenfolk, our mothers and wives and sisters. They wearied with 
the long waiting, and their very freedom seemed a reproach to them 
when their loved ones were behind prison bars. 

Soon after our first arrest in December 1921 the police started paying 
frequent visits to Anand Bhawan, our house in Allahabad. They came 
to realize the fines which had been imposed on father and me. It was 
the Congress policy not to pay fines. So the police came day after day 
and attached and carried away bits of furniture. Indira, my four-year- 
old daughter, was greatly annoyed at this continuous process of de 
spoliation and protested to the police and expressed her strong dis 
pleasure. I am afraid those early impressions are likely to color her 
future views about the police force generally. 

In the jail every effort was made to keep us apart from the ordinary 
nonpolitical convicts, special jails being as a rule reserved for politicals. 
But complete segregation was impossible, and we often came into 
touch with those prisoners and learned from them, as well as directly, 
the realities of prison life in those days. It was a story of violence and 
widespread graft and corruption. The food was quite amazingly bad; 
I tried it repeatedly and found it quite uneatable. The staff was usually 
wholly incompetent and was paid very low salaries, but it had every 
opportunity to add to its income by extorting money on every con 
ceivable occasion from the prisoners or their relatives. The duties and 
responsibilities of the jailer, and his assistants, and the warders, as laid 
down by the Jail Manual, were so many and so various that it was 
quite impossible for any person to discharge them conscientiously or 
competently. The general policy of the prison administration in the 
United Provinces (and probably in other provinces) had absolutely 
nothing to do with the reform of the prisoner or of teaching him 
good habits and useful trades. The object of prison labor was to harass 
the convict. He was to be frightened and broken into blind submis 
sion; the idea was that he should carry away from prison a fear and a 
horror of it, so that he might avoid crime and a return to prison in the 
future. 

9 1 



There have been some changes in recent years for the better. Food 
has improved a little, so also clothing and other matters. This was 
largely due to the agitation carried on outside by political prisoners 
after their discharge. Nonco-operation also resulted in a substantial 
increase in the warders' salaries to give them an additional inducement 
to remain loyal to the sartor. A feeble effort is also made now to teach 
reading and writing to the boys and younger prisoners. But all these 
changes, welcome as they are, barely scratch the problem, and the old 
spirit remains much the same. 

The great majority of the political prisoners had to put up with this 
regular treatment for ordinary prisoners. They had no special privileges 
or other treatment, but, being more aggressive and intelligent than the 
others, they could not easily be exploited, nor could money be made 
out of them. Because of this they were naturally not popular with the 
staff, and, when occasion offered itself, a breach of jail discipline by 
any of them was punished severely. For such a breach a young boy of 
fifteen or sixteen, who called himself Azad, was ordered to be flogged. 
He was stripped and tied to the whipping triangle, and as each stripe 
fell on him and cut into his flesh, he shouted, "Mahatma Gandhi %i 
jai" Every stripe brought forth the slogan till the boy fainted. Later, 
that boy was to become one of the leaders of the group of terrorists in 
North India. 



XVI 

OUT AGAIN 

ONE MISSES MANY things in prison, but perhaps most of all one misses 
the sound of women's voices and children's laughter. The sounds one 
usually hears are not of the pleasantest. The voices are harsh and mina 
tory, and the language brutal and largely consisting of swear words. 
Once I remember being struck by a new want. I was in the Lucknow 
District Jail, and I realized suddenly that I had not heard a dog bark 
for seven or eight months. 

On the last day of January 1923 all of us politicals in the Lucknow 
Jail were discharged. There is always a feeling of relief and a sense of 
glad excitement in coming out of the prison gate. The fresh air and 
open expanses, the moving street scene, and the meeting with old 
friends, all go to the head and slightly intoxicate. Almost, there is a 

92 



touch of hysteria in one's first reactions to the outer world. We felt 
exhilarated, but this was a passing sensation, for the state of Congress 
politics was discouraging enough. In the place of ideals there were 
intrigues, and various cliques were trying to capture the Congress 
machinery by the usual methods which have made politics a hateful 
word to those who are at all sensitive. 

On my return home from jail the first letter that met my eyes was 
one from Sir Grimwood Mears, the then Chief Justice of the Allaha 
bad High Court. The letter had been written before my discharge, but 
evidently in the knowledge that it was coming. I was a little surprised 
at the cordiality of his language and his invitation to me to visit him 
frequently. I hardly knew him. He had just come to Allahabad in 
1919 when I was drifting away from legal practice. I think I argued 
only one case before him, and that was my last one in the High Court. 
For some reason or other he developed a partiality for me without 
knowing much about me. He had an idea he told me so later that 
I would go far, and he wanted to be a wholesome influence on me to 
make me appreciate the British viewpoint. His method was subtle. 
He was of opinion, and there are many Englishmen who still think so, 
that the average "extremist" politician in India had become anti-British 
because in the social sphere he had been treated badly by Englishmen. 
This had led to resentment and bitterness and extremism. There is a 
story, which has been repeated by responsible persons, to the effect that 
my father was refused election to an English club and this made him 
anti-British and extremist. The story is wholly without foundation and 
is a distortion of an entirely different incident. But to many an English 
man such instances, whether true or not, afford a simple and sufficient 
explanation of the origins of the nationalist movement. As a matter of 
fact neither my father nor I had any particular grievance on this score. 
As individuals we had usually met with courtesy from the English 
man, and we got on well with him, though, like all Indians, we were 
no doubt racially conscious of subjection, and resented it bitterly. I 
must confess that even today I get on very well with an Englishman, 
unless he happens to be an official and wants to patronize me, and 
even then there is no lack of humor in our contacts. Probably I have 
more in common with him than the Liberals or others who co-operate 
with him politically in India. 

Sir Grimwood's idea was to root out this original cause of bitterness 
by friendly intercourse and frank and courteous treatment. I saw him 
several times. On the pretext of objecting to some municipal tax he 

93 



would come to see me and discuss other matters. On one occasion he 
made quite an onslaught on the Indian Liberals timid, weak-kneed 
opportunists with no character or backbone, he called them, and his 
language was stronger and full of contempt. "Do you think we have 
any respect for them?" he said. I wondered why he spoke to me in this 
way; probably because he thought that this kind of talk might please 
me. And then he led up the conversation to the new councils and their 
ministers and the opportunities these ministers had for serving their 
country. Education was one of the most vital problems before the coun 
try. Would not an Education Minister, with freedom to act as he chose, 
have a worthy opportunity to mold the destinies of millions, the 
chance of a lifetime? Suppose, he went on, a man like you, with intelli 
gence, character, ideals, and the energy to push them through, was in 
charge of education for the province, could you not perform wonders? 
And he assured me, adding that he had seen the Governor recently, 
that I would be given perfect freedom to work out my policy. Then, 
realizing, perhaps, that he had gone too far, he said that he could not, 
of course, commit anybody officially, and the suggestion he had made 
was a personal one. 

I was diverted by Sir Grimwood's diplomatic and roundabout ap 
proach to the proposal he had made. The idea of my associating myself 
with the Government as a Minister was unthinkable for me; indeed, 
it was hateful to me. But I have often yearned, then as well as in later 
years, for a chance to do some solid, positive, constructive work. De 
struction and agitation and nonco-operation are hardly normal activi 
ties for human beings. And yet, such is our fate, that we can only reach 
the land where we can build after passing through the deserts of 
conflict and destruction. And it may be that most of us will spend our 
energies and our lives in struggling and panting through those shifting 
sands, and the building will have to be done by our children or our 
children's children. 

I occupied myself with many activities and sought thereby to keep 
away from the problems that troubled me. But there was no escape 
from them, no getting away from the questions that were always being 
formed in my mind and to which I could find no satisfactory answer. 
Action now was partly an attempt to run away from myself; no longer 
was it a wholehearted expression of the self as it had been in 1920 and 
1921. I came out of the shell that had protected me then and looked 
round at the Indian scene as well as at the world outside. I found many 
changes that I had not so far noticed, new ideas, new conflicts, and 

94 



instead of light I saw a growing confusion. My faith in Gandhiji's 
leadership remained, but I began to examine some parts of his program 
more critically. But he was in prison and beyond our reach, and his 
advice could not be taken. 

From 1923 onward I found a great deal of solace and happiness in 
family life, though I gave little time to it. I have been fortunate in my 
family relationships, and in times of strain and difficulty they have 
soothed me and sheltered me. I realized, with some shame at my own 
unworthiness in this respect, how much I owed to my wife for her 
splendid behavior since 1920. Proud and sensitive as she was, she had 
not only put up with my vagaries but brought me comfort and solace 
when I needed them most. 

Our style of living had undergone some change since 1920. It was 
much simpler, and the number of servants had been greatly reduced. 
Even so, it was not lacking in any essential comfort. Partly to get rid 
of superfluities and partly to raise money for current expenditures, 
many things had been sold off horses and carriages, and household 
articles which did not fit in i with our new style of living. Part of our 
furniture had been seized and sold by the police. For lack of furniture 
and gardeners, our house lost its prim and clean appearance, and the 
garden went wild. For nearly three years little attention had been paid 
to house or garden. Having become accustomed to a lavish scale of 
expenditure, father disliked many economies. He decided therefore to 
go in for chamber practice in his spare time and thus earn some 
money. He had very little spare time, but, even so, he managed to 
earn a fair amount. 

I felt uncomfortable and a little unhappy at having to depend finan 
cially on father. Ever since I had given up my legal practice, I had 
practically no income of my own, except a trifle from some dividends 
on shares. My wife and I did not spend much. Indeed, I was quite 
surprised to find how little we spent. This was one of the discoveries 
made by me in 1921 which brought me great satisfaction. Khadi clothes 
and third-class railway traveling demand little money. I did not fully 
realize then, living as we did with father, that there are innumerable 
other household expenses which mount up to a considerable figure. 
Anyhow, the fear of not having money has never troubled me; I sup 
pose I could earn enough in case of necessity, and we can do with 
relatively little. 

We were not much of a burden on father, and even a hint of this 
kind would have pained him greatly. Yet I disliked my position, and 

95 



for the next three years I thought over the problem without finding a 
solution. There was no great difficulty in my finding paying work, 
but the acceptance of any such work necessitated my giving up or, at 
any rate, my curtailing the public work I was doing. So far I had given 
all my working time to Congress work and municipal work. I did not 
like to withdraw from them for the sake of making money. So I 
refused offers, financially very advantageous, from big industrial firms. 
Probably they were willing to pay heavily, not so much for my com 
petence as for the opportunity to exploit my name. I did not like the 
idea of being associated with big industry in this way. To go back to 
the profession of law was also out of the question for me. My dislike 
for it had grown and kept on growing. 

A suggestion was made in the 1924 Congress that the general secre 
taries should be paid. I happened to be one of the secretaries then, and 
I welcomed the proposal. It seemed to me quite wrong to expect whole- 
time work from anyone without paying him a maintenance allowance 
at least. Otherwise some person with private means has to be chosen, 
and such gentlemen of leisure are not perhaps always politically desir 
able, nor can they be held responsible for the work. The Congress 
would not have paid much; our rates of payment were low enough. 
But there is in India an extraordinary and thoroughly unjustified prej 
udice against receiving salaries from public funds (though not from 
the State), and my father strongly objected to my doing so. My co- 
secretary, who was himself in great need of money, also considered it 
below his dignity to accept it from the Congress. And so I, who had 
no dignity in the matter and was perfectly prepared to accept a salary, 
had to do without it. 

Once only I spoke to father on the subject and told him how I dis 
liked the idea of my financial dependence. I put it to him as gently 
and indirectly as possible so as not to hurt him. He pointed out to me 
how foolish it would be of me to spend my time, or most of it, in 
earning a little money, instead of doing public work. It was far easier 
for him to earn with a few days' work all that my wife and I would 
require for a year. The argument was weighty, but it left me unsatis 
fied. However, I continued to act in consonance with it. 



XVII 

AN INTERLUDE AT NABHA 

IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE Congress at Delhi in the autumn of 1923 I had 
a strange and unexpected adventure. 

The Sikhs, and especially the Akalis among them, had been coming 
into repeated conflict with the Government in the Punjab. The inci 
dent to which I am going to refer had little to do with this general 
Sikh movement, but there is no doubt that it occurred because of the 
Sikh upheaval. The rulers of two Sikh states in the Punjab, Patiala and 
Nabha, had a bitter, personal quarrel which resulted ultimately in the 
deposition of the Maharaja of Nabha by the Government of India. A 
British Administrator was appointed to rule the Nabha State. This 
deposition was resented by the Sikhs, and they agitated against it both 
in Nabha and outside. In the course of this agitation, a religious cere 
mony, at a place called Jaito in Nabha State, was stopped by the new 
Administrator. To protest against this, and with the declared object 
of continuing the interrupted ceremony, the Sikhs began sending 
jathas (batches of men) to Jaito. These jathas were stopped, beaten by 
the police, arrested, and usually carried to an out-of-the-way place in 
the jungle and left there. I had been reading accounts of these beatings 
from time to time, and, when I learned at Delhi, immediately after the 
Special Congress, that another jatha was going and I was invited to 
come and see what happened, I gladly accepted the invitation. It 
meant the loss of only a day to me, as Jaito was near Delhi. Two of 
my Congress colleagues A. T. Gidwani and K. Santanum of Madras 
accompanied me. The jatha marched most of the way. It was ar 
ranged that we should go to the nearest railway station and then try 
to reach by road the Nabha boundary near Jaito just when the jatha 
was due to arrive there. We arrived in time, having come in a country 
cart, and followed the jatha, keeping apart from it. On arrival at Jaito 
the jatha was stopped by the police, and immediately an order was 
served on me, signed by the English Administrator, calling upon me 
not to enter Nabha territory and, if I had entered it, to leave it imme 
diately. A similar order was served on Gidwani and Santanum, but 
without their names being mentioned, as the Nabha authorities did 
not know them. My colleagues and I told the police officer that we 
were there not as part of the jatha but as spectators, and it was not our 
intention to break any of the Nabha laws. Besides, when we were 

97 



already in the Nabha territories, there could be no question of our not 
entering them, and obviously we could not vanish suddenly into thin 
air. Probably the next train from Jaito went many hours later. So for 
the present, we told him, we proposed to remain there. We were im 
mediately arrested and taken to the lock-up. After our removal the 
jatha was dealt with in the usual manner. 

We were kept the whole day in the lock-up, and in the evening we 
were marched to the station. Santanum and I were handcuffed to 
gether, his left wrist to my right one, and a chain attached to the 
handcuff was held by the policeman leading us. Gidwani, also hand 
cuffed and chained, brought up the rear. This march of ours down 
the streets of Jaito town reminded me forcibly of a dog being led on 
by a chain. We felt somewhat irritated to begin with, but the humor 
of the situation dawned upon us, and on the whole we enjoyed the 
experience. We did not enjoy the night that followed. This was partly 
spent in crowded third-class compartments in slow-moving trains, 
with, I think, a change at midnight, and partly in a lock-up at Nabha. 
All this time, till the forenoon of next day, when we were finally 
delivered up at the Nabha Jail, the joint handcuff and the heavy 
chain kept us company. Neither of us could move at all without the 
other's co-operation. To be handcuffed to another person for a whole 
night and part of a day is not an experience I should like to repeat. 

In Nabha Jail we were all three kept in a most unwholesome and 
insanitary cell. It was small and damp, with a low ceiling which we 
could almost touch. At night we slept on the floor, and I would wake 
up with a start, full of horror, to find that a rat or a mouse had just 
passed over my face. 

Two or three days later we were taken to court for our case, and 
the most extraordinary and Gilbertian proceedings went on there from 
day to day. The magistrate or judge seemed to be wholly uneducated. 
He knew no English, of course, but I doubt if he knew how to write 
the court language, Urdu. We watched him for over a week, and dur 
ing all this time he never wrote a line. If he wanted to write anything, 
he made the court reader do it. We put in a number of small applica 
tions. He did not pass any orders on them at the time. He kept them 
and produced them the next day with a note written by somebody 
else on them. We did not formally defend ourselves. We had got so 
used to not defending cases in court during the nonco-operation move 
ment that the idea of defense, even when it was manifestly permissible, 
seemed almost indecent. But I gave the court a long statement contain- 



ing the facts, as well as my own opinion about Nabha ways, especially 
under British administration. 

Our case was dragging on from day to day although it was a simple 
enough affair. Suddenly there was a diversion. One afternoon after the 
court had risen for the day we were kept waiting in the building; and 
late in the evening, at about 7 P.M., we were taken to another room 
where a person was sitting by a table and there were some other 
people about. One man, our old friend, the police officer who had 
arrested us at Jaito, was there, and he got up and began making a 
statement. I inquired where we were and what was happening. I was 
informed that it was a courtroom and we were being tried for con 
spiracy. This was an entirely different proceeding from the one we had 
so far attended, which was for breach of the order not to enter Nabha 
territory. It was evidently thought that the maximum sentence for 
this breach, being only six months, was not enough punishment for us 
and a more serious charge was necessary. Apparently three were not 
enough for conspiracy, and so a fourth man, who had absolutely noth 
ing to do with us, was arrested and put on his trial with us. This 
unhappy man, a Sikh, was not known to us, but we had just seen him 
in the fields on our way to Jaito. 

The lawyer in me was rather taken aback by the casualness with 
which a conspiracy trial had been started. The case was a totally false 
one, but decency required that some formalities should be observed^ I 
pointed out to the judge that we had had no notice whatever and that 
we might have wanted to make arrangements for our defense. This 
did not worry him at all. It was the Nabha way. If we wanted to 
engage a lawyer for our defense we could chose someone in Nabha. 
When I suggested that I might want some lawyer from outside, I was 
told that this was not permitted under the Nabha rules. We were 
further enlightened about the peculiarities of Nabha procedure. In 
some disgust we told the judge to do what he liked, but so far as we 
were concerned we would take no part in the proceedings. I could not 
wholly adhere to this resolve. It was difficult to listen to the most 
astounding lies about us and remain silent, and so occasionally we 
expressed our opinion, briefly but pointedly, about the witnesses. We 
also gave the court a statement in writing about the facts. This second 
judge, who tried the conspiracy case, was more educated and intelli 
gent than the other one. 

Both these cases went on and we looked forward to our daily visits 
to the two courtrooms, for that meant a temporary escape from the 

99 



foul cell in jail. Meanwhile, we were approached, on behalf of the 
Administrator, by the superintendent of the jail and told that if we 
would express our regret and give an undertaking to go away from 
Nabha, the proceedings against us would be dropped. We replied that 
there was nothing to express regret about, so far as we were con 
cerned; it was for the administration to apologize to us. We were also 
not prepared to give any undertaking. 

About a fortnight after our arrest the two trials at last ended. All 
this time had been taken up by the prosecution, for we were not de 
fending. Much of it had been wasted in long waits, for every little 
difficulty that arose necessitated an adjournment or a reference to some 
authority behind the scenes probably the English Administrator. 
On the last day, when the prosecution case was closed, we handed in 
our written statements. The first court adjourned and, to our surprise, 
returned a little later with a bulky judgment written out in Urdu. 
Obviously this huge judgment could not have been written during the 
interval. It had been prepared before our statements had been handed 
in. The judgment was not read out; we were merely told that we had 
been awarded the maximum sentence of six months for breach of the 
order to leave Nabha territory. 

In the conspiracy case we were sentenced the same day to either 
eighteen months or two years, I forget which. This was to be in addi 
tion to the sentence for six months. Thus we were given in all either 
two years or two and a half years. 

Right through our trial there had been any number of remarkable 
incidents which gave us some insight into the realities of Indian state 
administration, or rather the British administration of an Indian state. 
The whole procedure was farcical. Because of this I suppose no news 
paperman or outsider was allowed in court. The police did what they 
pleased, and often ignored the judge or magistrate and actually dis 
obeyed his directions. The poor magistrate meekly put up with this, 
but we saw no reason why we should do so. On several occasions I 
had to stand up and insist on the police behaving and obeying the 
magistrate. Sometimes there was an unseemly snatching of papers by 
the police, and, the magistrate being incapable of action or of intro 
ducing order in his own court, we had partly to do his job! The poor 
magistrate was in an unhappy position. He was afraid of the police, 
and he seemed to be a little frightened of us, too, for our arrest had 
been noised in the press. If this was the state of affairs when more or 

100 



less prominent politicians like us were concerned, what, I wonder, 
would be the fate of others less known? 

My father knew something of Indian states, and so he was greatly 
upset at my unexpected arrest in Nabha. Only the fact of arrest was 
known; little else in the way of news could leak out. In his distress he 
even telegraphed to the Viceroy for news of me. Difficulties were put 
in the way of his visiting me in Nabha, but he was allowed at last to 
interview me in prison. He could not be of any help to me, as I was 
not defending myself, and I begged him to go back to Allahabad and 
not to worry. He returned, but he left a young lawyer colleague of 
ours, Kapil Dev Malaviya, in Nabha to watch the proceedings. Kapil 
Dev's knowledge of law and procedure must have been considerably 
augmented by his brief experience of the Nabha courts. The police 
tried to deprive him forcibly in open court of some papers that he had. 

Most of the Indian states are well known for their backwardness 
and their semifeudal conditions. They are personal autocracies, devoid 
even of competence or benevolence. Many a strange thing occurs there 
which never receives publicity. And yet their very inefficiency lessens 
the evil in some ways and lightens the burden on their unhappy 
people. For this is reflected in a weak executive, and it results in mak 
ing even tyranny and injustice inefficient. That does not make tyranny 
more bearable, but it does make it less far-reaching and widespread. 
The assumption of direct British control over an Indian state has a 
curious result in changing this equilibrium. The semifeudal conditions 
are retained, autocracy is kept, the old laws and procedure are still 
supposed to function, all the restrictions on personal liberty and asso 
ciation and expression of opinion (and these are all-embracing) con 
tinue, but one change is made which alters the whole background. 
The executive becomes stronger, while a measure of efficiency is intro 
duced, and this leads to a tightening-up of all the feudal and autocratic 
bonds. In course of time the British administration would no doubt 
change some of the archaic customs and methods, for they come in 
the way of efficient government as well as commercial penetration. But 
to begin with they take full advantage of them to tighten their hold 
on the people, who have now to put up not only with feudalism and 
autocracy, but with an efficient enforcement of them by a strong 
executive. 

I saw something of this in Nabha. The state was under a British 
Administrator, a member of the Indian Civil Service, and he had the 
full powers of an autocrat, subject only to the Government of India. 

101 



And yet at every turn we were referred to Nabha laws and procedure 
to justify the denial of the most ordinary rights. We had to face a 
combination of feudalism and the modern bureaucratic machine with 
the disadvantages of both and the advantages of neither. 

So our trial was over and we had been sentenced. We did not know 
what the judgments contained, but the solid fact of a long sentence 
had a sobering effect. We asked for copies of the judgments, and were 
told to apply formally for them. 

That evening in jail the superintendent sent for us and showed us 
an order of the Administrator under the Criminal Procedure Code 
suspending our sentences. There was no condition attached, and the 
legal result of that order was that the sentences ended so far as we 
were concerned. The superintendent then produced a separate order 
called an executive order, also issued by the Administrator, asking us 
to leave Nabha and not to return to the state without special permis 
sion. I asked for the copies of the two orders, but they were refused. 
We were then escorted to the railway station and released there. We 
did not know a soul in Nabha, and even the city gates had been 
closed for the night. We found that a train was leaving soon for Am- 
bala, and we took this. From Ambala I went on to Delhi and Alla 
habad. 

From Allahabad I wrote to the Administrator requesting him to 
send me copies of his two orders, so that I might know exactly what 
they were, also copies of the two judgments. He refused to supply 
any of these copies. I pointed out that I might decide to file an appeal, 
but he persisted in his refusal. In spite of repeated efforts I have never 
had the opportunity to read these judgments, which sentenced me and 
my two colleagues to two years or two and half years. For aught I 
know, these sentences may still be hanging over me, and may take 
effect whenever the Nabha authorities or the British Government so 
choose. 

The three of us were discharged in this "suspended" way, but I 
could never find out what had happened to the fourth member of the 
alleged conspiracy, the Sikh who had been tacked on to us for the 
second trial. Very likely he was not discharged. He had no powerful 
friends or public interest to help him, and, like many another person, 
he sank into the oblivion of a state prison. He was not forgotten by us. 
We did what we could, and this was very little, and, I believe, the 
Gurdwara Committee interested itself in his case also. 

All three of us Gidwani, Santanum, and I brought an unpleasant 

102 



companion with us from our cell in Nabha Jail. This was the typhus 
bacillus, and each one of us had an attack of typhoid. Mine was severe, 
and for a while dangerous enough, but it was the lightest of the three, 
and I was only bedridden for about three or four weeks, but the other 
two were very seriously ill for long periods. 

There was yet another sequel to this Nabha episode. Probably six 
months or more later, Gidwani was acting as the Congress representa 
tive in Amritsar, keeping in touch with the Sikh Gurdwara Commit 
tee. The Committee sent a special jatha of five hundred persons to 
Jaito, and Gidwani decided to accompany it as an observer to the 
Nabha border. He had no intention of entering Nabha territory. The 
jatha was fired on by the police near the border, and many persons 
were, I believe, killed and wounded. Gidwani went to the help of 
the wounded when he was pounced upon by the police and taken 
away. No proceedings in court were taken against him. He was simply 
kept in prison for the best part of a year when, utterly broken in health, 
he was discharged. 

Gidwani's arrest and confinement seemed to me to be a monstrous 
abuse of executive authority. I wrote to the Administrator (who was 
still the same English member of the Indian Civil Service) and asked 
him why Gidwani had been treated in this way. He replied that 
Gidwani had been imprisoned because he had broken the order not 
to enter Nabha territory without permission. I challenged the legality 
of this as well as, of course, the propriety of arresting a man who was 
giving succor to the wounded, and I asked the Administrator to send 
me or publish a copy of the order in question. He refused to do so. I 
felt inclined to go to Nabha myself and allow the Administrator to 
treat me as he had treated Gidwani. Loyalty to a colleague seemed to 
demand it. But many friends thought otherwise and dissuaded me. 
I took shelter behind the advice of friends, and made of it a pretext 
to cover my own weakness. For, after all, it was my weakness and dis 
inclination to go to Nabha Jail again that kept me away, and I have 
always felt a little ashamed of thus deserting a colleague. As often with 
us all, discretion was preferred to valor. 



103 



XVIII 

M. MOHAMAD ALI, MY FATHER, AND GANDHIJI 

IN DECEMBER 1923 the annual session of the Congress was held at Co- 
conada in the south, Maulana Mohamad Ali was the president, and, as 
was his wont, he delivered an enormously long presidential address. 
But it was an interesting one. He traced the growth of political and com 
munal feeling among the Moslems and showed how the famous 
Moslem deputation to the Viceroy in 1908, under the leadership of the 
Aga Khan, which led to the first official declaration in favor of separate 
electorates, was a command performance and had been engineered by 
the Government itself. 

Mohamad Ali induced me, much against my will, to accept the 
All-India Congress secretaryship for his year of presidency. I had no 
desire to accept executive responsibility, when I was not clear about 
future policy. But I could not resist Mohamad Ali, and both of us felt 
that some other secretary might not be able to work as harmoniously 
with the new president as I could. He had strong likes and dislikes, 
and I was fortunate enough to be included in his "likes." A bond of 
affection and mutual appreciation tied us to each other. He was deeply 
and, as I considered, most irrationally religious, and I was not, but I 
was attracted by his earnestness, his overflowing energy, and keen in 
telligence. He had a nimble wit, but sometimes his devastating sarcasm 
hurt, and he lost many a friend thereby. It was quite impossible for 
him to keep a clever remark to himself, whatever the consequences 
might be. 

We got on well together during his year of office, though we had 
many little points of difference. I introduced in the office of the All- 
India Congress Committee a practice of addressing all our members 
by their names only, without any prefixes or suffixes, honorific titles 
and the like. There are so many of these in India Mahatma, Maulana, 
Pandit, Shaikh, Syed, Munshi, Moulvi, and latterly Sriyt and Shri, and, 
of course, Mr. and Esquire and they are so abundantly and often un 
necessarily used that I wanted to set a good example. But I was not to 
have my way. Mohamad Ali sent me a frantic telegram directing me 
"as president" to revert to our old practice and, in particular, always to 
address Gandhiji as Mahatma. 

Another frequent subject for argument between us was the Al 
mighty. Mohamad Ali had an extraordinary way of bringing in some 

104 



reference to God even in Congress resolutions, either by way of ex 
pressing gratitude or some kind of prayer. I used to protest, and then 
he would shout at me for my irreligion. And yet, curiously enough, he 
would tell me later that he was quite sure that I was fundamentally 
religious, in spite of my superficial behavior or my declarations to the 
contrary. I have often wondered how much truth there was in his state 
ment. Perhaps it depends on what is meant by religion and religious. 

I avoided discussing this subject of religion with him, because I knew 
we would only irritate each other, and I might hurt him. It is always 
a difficult subject to discuss with convinced believers of any creed. With 
most Moslems it is probably an even harder matter for discussion, since 
no latitude of thought is officially permitted to them. Ideologically, 
theirs is a straight and narrow path, and the believer must not swerve 
to the right or the left. Hindus are somewhat different, though not al 
ways so. In practice they may be very orthodox; they may, and do, in 
dulge in the most out-of-date, reactionary, and even pernicious customs, 
and yet they will usually be prepared to discuss the most radical ideas 
about religion. I imagine the modern Arya Samajists have not, as a 
rule, this wide intellectual approach. Like the Moslems, they follow 
their own straight and narrow path. There is a certain philosophical 
tradition among the intelligent Hindus, which, though it does not 
affect practice, does make a difference to the ideological approach to a 
religious question. Partly, I suppose, this is due to the wide and often 
conflicting variety of opinions and customs that are included in the 
Hindu fold. It has, indeed, often been remarked that Hinduism is 
hardly a religion in the usual sense of the word. And yet, what amaz 
ing tenacity it has got, what tremendous power of survival! One may 
even be a professing atheist as the old Hindu philosopher, Charvaka, 
wasand yet no one dares say that he has ceased to be a Hindu. Hin 
duism clings on to its children, almost despite them. A Brahman I was 
born, and a Brahman I seem to remain whatever I might say or do in 
regard to religion or social custom. To the Indian world I am "Pandit" 
so and so, in spite of my desire not to have this or any other honorific 
title attached to my name. I remember meeting a Turkish scholar once 
in Switzerland, to whom I had sent previously a letter of introduction 
in which I had been referred to as "Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru." He was 
surprised and a little disappointed to see me, for, as he told me, the 
"Pandit" had led him to expect a reverend and scholarly gentleman of 
advanced years. 
I met Mohamad Ali for the last time on the occasion of the Lahore 



105 



Congress in December 1929. He was not pleased with some parts of 
my presidential address, and he criticized it vigorously. He saw that 
the Congress was going ahead, and becoming politically more ag 
gressive. He was aggressive enough himself, and, being so, he disliked 
taking a back seat and allowing others to be in the front. He gave me 
solemn warning: "I warn you, Jawahar, that your present colleagues 
will desert you. They will leave you in the lurch in a crisis. Your own 
Congressmen will send you to the gallows." A dismal prophecy! 

Soon after my return from Coconada, in January 1924, 1 had a new 
kind of experience in Allahabad. I write from memory, and I am likely 
to get mixed up about dates. But I think that was the year of the 
Kumbh, or the Ardh-Kumbh, the great bathing mela held on the 
banks of the Ganges at Allahabad. Vast numbers of pilgrims usually 
turn up, and most of them bathe at the confluence of the Ganges and 
the Jumna the Triveni, it is called, as the mythical Saraswati is also 
supposed to join the other two. The Ganges river bed is about a mile 
wide, but in winter the river shrinks and leaves a wide expanse of sand 
exposed, which is very useful for the camps of the pilgrims. Within 
this river bed, the Ganges frequently changes its course. In 1924 the 
current of the Ganges was such that it was undoubtedly dangerous for 
crowds to bathe at the Triveni. With certain precautions, and the con 
trol of the numbers bathing at a time, the danger could be greatly 
lessened. 

I was not at all interested in this question, as I did not propose to 
acquire merit by bathing in the river on the auspicious days. But I 
noticed in the press that a controversy was going on between Pandit 
Madan Mohan Malaviya and the Provincial Government, the latter (or 
the local authorities) having issued orders prohibiting all bathing at 
the junction of the rivers. This was objected to by Malaviyaji, as, from 
the religious point of view, the whole point was to bathe at that con 
fluence. The Government was perfectly justified in taking precautions 
to prevent accidents and possible serious loss of life, but, as usual, it 
set about its work in the most wooden and irritating way possible. 

On the big day of the Kumbh, I went down to the river early in the 
morning to see the mela, with no intention of bathing. On arrival at 
the river bank, I learned that Malaviyaji had sent some kind of polite 
ultimatum to the district magistrate, asking him for permission to 
bathe at the Triveni. Malaviyaji was agitated, and the atmosphere was 
tense. The magistrate refused permission. Thereupon Malaviyaji de 
cided to offer Satyagraha, and, accompanied by about two hundred 

106 



others, he marched toward the junction of the rivers. I was interested 
in these developments and, on the spur of the moment, joined the 
Satyagraha band. A tremendous barrier had been erected right across 
the open space, to keep away people from the confluence. When we 
reached this high palisade, we were stopped by the police, and a ladder 
we had was taken away from us. Being nonviolent Satyagrahis, we sat 
down peacefully on the sands near the palisade. And there we sat for 
the whole morning and part of the afternoon. Hour after hour went 
by, the sun became stronger, the sand hotter, and all of us hungrier. 
Foot and mounted police stood by on both sides of us. I think the 
regular cavalry was also there. Most of us grew impatient and said that 
something should be done. I believe the authorities also grew impa 
tient, and decided to force the pace. Some order was given to the 
cavalry, who mounted their horses. It struck me (I do not know if I 
was right) that they were going to charge us and drive us away in this 
fashion. I did not fancy the idea of being chased by mounted troopers, 
and, anyhow, I was fed up with sitting there. So I suggested to those 
sitting near me that we might as well cross over the palisade, and I 
mounted it. Immediately scores of others did likewise, and some even 
pulled out a few stakes, thus making a passageway. Somebody gave me 
a national flag, and I stuck it on top of the palisade, where I continued 
to sit. I grew rather excited and thoroughly enjoyed myself, watching 
the people clambering up or going through and the mounted troopers 
trying to push them away. I must say that the cavalry did their work 
as harmlessly as possible. They waved about their wooden staffs and 
pushed people with them but refrained from causing much injury. 
Faint memories of revolutionary barricades came to me. 

At last I got down on the other side and, feeling very hot after my 
exertions, decided to have a dip in the Ganges. On coming back, I was 
amazed to find that Malaviyaji and many others were still sitting on 
the other side of the palisade as before. But the mounted troopers and 
the foot police now stood shoulder to shoulder between the Satya- 
grahis and the palisade. So I went (having got out by a roundabout 
way) and sat down again near Malaviyaji. For some time we sat on, 
and I noticed that Malaviyaji was greatly agitated; he seemed to be 
trying to control some strong emotion. Suddenly, without a hint to 
anyone, he dived in the most extraordinary way through the policemen 
and the horses. For anyone that would have been a surprising dive, 
but for an old and physically weak person like Malaviyaji, it was 
astounding. Anyhow, we all followed him; we all dived. After some 

107 



effort to keep us back, the cavalry and the police did not interfere. A 
little later they were withdrawn. 

We half expected some proceedings to be taken against us by the 
Government, but nothing of the kind happened. Government probably 
did not wish to take any steps against Malaviyaji, and so the smaller 
fry got off too. 

Early in 1924 there came suddenly the news of the serious illness of 
Gandhiji in prison, followed by his removal to a hospital and an opera 
tion. India was numbed with anxiety; we held our breaths almost 
and waited, full of fear. The crisis passed, and a stream of people be 
gan to reach Poona from all parts of the country to see him. He was 
still in hospital, a prisoner under guard, but he was permitted to see a 
limited number of friends. Father and I visited him in the hospital. 

He was not taken back from the hospital to the prison. As he was 
convalescing, Government remitted the rest of his sentence and dis 
charged him. He had then served about two years out of the six years 
to which he had been sentenced. He went to Juhu, by the seaside near 
Bombay, to recuperate. 

Our family also trekked to Juhu, and established itself in a tiny 
little cottage by the sea. We spent some weeks there, and I had, after 
a long gap, a holiday after my heart, for I could indulge in swimming 
and running and riding on the beach. The main purpose of our stay, 
however, was not holiday-making, but discussions with Gandhiji. 
Father wanted to explain to him the Swarajist position, and to gain his 
passive co-operation at least, if not his active sympathy. I was also 
anxious to have some light thrown on the problems that were troubling 
me. I wanted to know what his future program of action was going 
to be. 

The Juhu talks, so far as the Swarajists were concerned, did not suc 
ceed in winning Gandhiji, or even in influencing him to any extent. 
Behind all the friendly talk and the courteous gestures, the fact re 
mained that there was no compromise. They agreed to differ, and state 
ments to this effect were issued to the press. 

I also returned from Juhu a little disappointed, for Gandhiji did not 
resolve a single one of my doubts. As is usual with him, he refused to 
look into the future, or lay down any long-distance program. 

Ever since Gandhiji appeared on the Indian political scene, there 
has been no going back in popularity for him, so far as the masses are 
concerned. There has been a progressive increase in his popularity, 
and this process still continues. They may not carry out his wishes, 

108 



for human nature is often weak, but their hearts are full o good will 
for him. When objective conditions help, they rise in huge mass move 
ments; otherwise they lie low. A leader does not create a mass move 
ment out of nothing, as if by a stroke of the magician's wand. He can 
take advantage of the conditions themselves when they arise; he can 
prepare for them, but not create them. 

There is a waning and a waxing of Gandhiji's popularity among 
the intelligentsia. In moments of forward-going enthusiasm they 
follow him; when the inevitable reaction comes, they grow critical. 
But even so the great majority of them bow down to him. Partly this 
has been due to the absence of any other effective program. The 
Liberals and various groups resembling them do not count; those who 
believe in terroristic violence are completely out of court in the modern 
world and are considered ineffective and out of date. The socialist 
program is still little known, and it frightens the upper-class members 
of the Congress. 

After a brief political estrangement in the middle of 1924, the old 
relations between my father and Gandhiji were resumed and they 
grew even more cordial. However much they differed from one 
another, each had the warmest regard and respect for the other. What 
was it that they so respected? Father has given us a glimpse into his 
mind in a brief foreword he contributed to a booklet called Thought 
Currents, containing selections from Gandhiji's writings : 

"I have heard," he writes, "of saints and supermen, but have never 
had the pleasure of meeting them, and must confess to a feeling of 
skepticism about their real existence. I believe in men and things manly. 
The 'Thought Currents' preserved in this volume have emanated 
from a man and are things manly. They are illustrative of two great 
attributes of human nature Faith and Strength. . . . 

" 'What is all this going to lead to?' asks the man with neither faith 
nor strength in him. The answer 'to victory or death' does not appeal 
to him. . . . Meanwhile the humble and lowly figure standing erect 
... on the firm footholds of faith unshakable and strength unconquer 
able, continues to send out to his countrymen his message of sacrifice 
and suffering for the motherland. That message finds echo in millions 
of hearts. . . ." 

And he finishes up by quoting Swinburne's lines : 

Have we not men with us royal, 
Men the masters of things? . . . 

109 



Evidently he wanted to stress the fact that he did not admire Gand- 
hiji as a saint or a Mahatma, but as a man. Strong and unbending 
himself, he admired strength of spirit in him. For it was clear that 
this little man of poor physique had something of steel in him, some 
thing rocklike which did not yield to physical powers, however great 
they might be. And in spite of his unimpressive features, his loincloth 
and bare body, there was a royalty and a kingliness in him which 
compelled a willing obeisance from others. Consciously and deliber 
ately meek and humble, yet he was full of power and authority, and 
he knew it, and at times he was imperious enough, issuing commands 
which had to be obeyed. His calm, deep eyes would hold one and 
gently probe into the depths; his voice, clear and limpid, would purr 
its way into the heart and evoke an emotional response. Whether 
his audience consisted of one person or a thousand, the charm and 
magnetism of the man passed on to it, and each one had a feeling 
of communion with the speaker. This feeling had little to do with 
the mind, though the appeal to the mind was not wholly ignored. 
But mind and reason definitely had second place. This process of 
"spell-binding" was not brought about by oratory or the hypnotism 
of silken phrases. The language was always simple and to the point, 
and seldom was an unnecessary word used. It was the utter sincerity 
of the man and his personality that gripped; he gave the impression 
of tremendous inner reserves of power. Perhaps also it was a tradition 
that had grown up about him which helped in creating a suitable 
atmosphere. A stranger, ignorant of this tradition and not in harmony 
with the surroundings, would probably not have been touched by 
that spell, or, at any rate, not to the same extent. And yet one of the 
most remarkable things about Gandhiji was, and is, his capacity to 
win over, or at least to disarm, his opponents. 

Gandhiji had little sense of beauty or artistry in man-made objects, 
though he admired natural beauty. The Taj Mahal was for him an 
embodiment of forced labor and little more. His sense of smell was 
feeble. And yet in his own way he had discovered the art of living and 
had made of his life an artistic whole. Every gesture had meaning 
and grace, without a false touch. There were no rough edges or sharp 
corners about him, no trace of vulgarity or commonness, in which, 
unhappily, our middle classes excel. Having found an inner peace, he 
radiated it to others and marched through life's tortuous ways with firm 
and undaunted step. 

How different was my father from him! But in him too there was 

no 



strength of personality and a measure of kingliness, and the lines of 
Swinburne he had quoted would apply to him also. In any gathering 
in which he was present he would inevitably be the center and the 
hub. Whatever the place where he sat at table, it would become, as an 
eminent English judge said later, the head of the table. He was neither 
meek nor mild, and, again unlike Gandhiji, he seldom spared those 
who differed from him. Consciously imperious, he evoked great loyalty 
as well as bitter opposition. It was difficult to feel neutral about him; 
one had to like him or dislike him. With a broad forehead, tight lips, 
and a determined chin, he had a marked resemblance to the busts of 
the Roman emperors in the museums in Italy. Many friends in Italy 
who saw his photograph with us remarked on this resemblance. In 
later years especially, when his head was covered with silver hair 
unlike me, he kept his hair to the end there was a magnificence 
about him and a grand manner, which is sadly to seek in this world 
of today, I suppose I am partial to him, but I miss his noble presence 
in a world full of pettiness and weakness. I look round in vain for 
that grand manner and splendid strength that was his. 

I remember showing Gandhiji a photograph of father sometime 
in 1924, when he was having a tug-of-war with the Swaraj party. In 
this photograph father had no mustache, and, till then, Gandhiji had 
always seen him with a fine mustache. He started almost on seeing 
this photograph and gazed long at it, for the absence of the mustache 
brought out the hardness of the mouth and the chin; and he said, with 
a somewhat dry smile, that now he realized what he had to contend 
against. The face was softened, however, by the eyes and by the lines 
that frequent laughter had made. But sometimes the eyes glittered. 

In December 1924 the Congress session was held at Belgaum, and 
Gandhiji was president. For him to become the Congress president 
was something in the nature of an anticlimax, for he had long been 
the permanent superpresident. I did not like his presidential address. 
It struck me as being very uninspiring. At the end of the session I 
was again elected, at Gandhi ji's instance, the working secretary of the 
All-India Congress Committee for the next year. In spite of my own 
wishes in the matter, I was gradually becoming a semipermanent 
secretary of the Congress. 



in 



XIX 

COMMUNALISM RAMPANT 

MY ILLNESS IN the autumn o 1923, after my return from Nabha Prison, 
when I had a bout with the typhus germ, was a novel experience for 
me. I was unused to illness or lying in bed with fever or physical 
weakness. I was a little proud of my health, and I objected to the 
general valetudinarian attitude that was fairly common in India. My 
youth and good constitution pulled me through, but, after the crisis 
was over, I lay long in bed in an enfeebled condition, slowly working 
my way to health. And during this period I felt a strange detachment 
from my surroundings and my day-to-day work, and I viewed all this 
from a distance, apart. I felt as if I had extricated myself from the 
trees and could see the wood as a whole; my mind seemed clearer and 
more peaceful than it had previously been. I suppose this experience, 
or something like it, is common enough to those who have passed 
through severe illness. But for me it was in the nature of a spiritual 
experience I use the word not in a narrow religious sense and it 
influenced me considerably. I felt lifted out of the emotional atmos 
phere of our politics and could view the objectives and the springs 
that had moved me to action more clearly. With this clarification 
came further questioning for which I had no satisfactory answer. But 
more and more I moved away from the religious outlook on life and 
politics. I cannot write much about that experience of mine; it was 
a feeling I cannot easily express. It was eleven years ago, and only a 
faded impression of it remains in the mind now. But I remember well 
that it had a lasting effect on me and on my way of thinking, and for 
the next two years or more I went about my work with something 
of that air of detachment. 

Partly, no doubt, this was due to developments which were wholly 
outside my control and with which I did not fit in. I have referred 
already to some of the political changes. Far more important was the 
progressive deterioration of Hindu-Moslem relations, in North India 
especially. In the bigger cities a number of riots took place, brutal 
and callous in the extreme. The atmosphere of distrust and anger bred 
new causes of dispute which most of us had never heard of before. 
Previously a fruitful source of discord had been the question of cow 
sacrifice, especially on the Ba\r-id day. There was also tension when 
Hindu and Moslem festivals clashed. 

112 



But now a fresh cause of friction arose, something that was ever 
present, ever recurring. This was the question of music before mosques. 
Objection was taken by the Moslems to music or any noise which 
interfered with their prayers in their mosques. In every city there are 
many mosques, and five times every day they have prayers, and there 
is no lack of noises and processions (including marriage and funeral 
processions). So the chances of friction were always present. In par 
ticular, objection was taken to processions and noises at the time of 
the sunset prayer in the mosques. As it happens, this is just the time 
when evening worship takes place in the Hindu temples, and gongs 
are sounded and the temple bells ring. Arti, this is called, and arti- 
namaz disputes now assumed major proportions. 

It seems amazing that a question which could be settled with mutual 
consideration for each other's feelings and a little adjustment should 
give rise to great bitterness and rioting. But religious passions have 
little to do with reason or consideration or adjustments, and they are 
easy to fan when a third party in control can play off one group 
against another. 

One is apt to exaggerate the significance of these riots in a few 
northern cities. Most of the towns and cities and the whole of rural 
India carried on peacefully, little affected by these happenings, but 
the newspapers naturally gave great prominence to every petty com 
munal disturbance. 1 It is perfectly true, however, that communal 
tension and bitterness increased in the city masses. This was pushed 
on by the communal leaders at the top, and it was reflected in the 
stiff ening-up of the political communal demands. Because of the com 
munal tension, Moslem political reactionaries, who had taken a back 
seat during all these years of nonco-operation, emerged into promi 
nence, helped in the process by the British Government. From day to 
day new and more far-reaching communal demands appeared on their 
behalf, striking at the very root of national unity and Indian freedom. 
On the Hindu side also political reactionaries were among the principal 
communal leaders, and, in the name of guarding Hindu interests, they 
played definitely into the hands of the Government. They did not 
succeed, and indeed they could not, however much they tried by their 
methods, in gaining any of the points on which they laid stress; they 
succeeded only in raising the communal temper of the country. 

The Congress was in a quandary. Sensitive to and representative 

^The term "communalism" in Indian usage connotes the opposition of religious 
groups within the state on political and other matters. Ed. 

"3 



of national feeling as it was, these communal passions were bound 
to affect it. Many a Congressman was a commtmalist under his national 
cloak. But the Congress leadership stood firm and, on the whole, 
refused to side with either communal party, or rather with any com 
munal group, for now the Sikhs and other smaller minorities were 
also loudly voicing their particular demands. Inevitably this led to 
denunciation from both the extremes. 

Long ago, right at the commencement of nonco-operation or even 
earlier, Gandhiji had laid down his formula for solving the communal 
problem. According to him, it could only be solved by good will and 
the generosity of the majority group, and so he was prepared to agree 
to everything that the Moslems might demand. He wanted to win 
them over, not to bargain with them. With foresight and a true sense 
of values he grasped at the reality that was worth while; but others, 
who thought they knew the market price of everything and were 
ignorant of the true value of anything, stuck to the methods of the 
market place. They saw the cost of purchase with painful clearness, 
but they had no appreciation of the worth of the article they might 
have bought. 

It is easy to criticize and blame others, and the temptation is almost 
irresistible to find some excuse for the failure of one's plans. Was not 
the failure due to the deliberate thwarting of others, rather than to 
an error in one's own way of thinking or acting? We cast the blame 
on the Government and the communalists; the latter blame the Con 
gress. Of course, there was thwarting of us, deliberate and persistent 
thwarting, by the Government and their allies. Of course, British 
governments in the past and the present have based their policy on 
creating divisions in our ranks. Divide and rule has always been the 
way of empires, and the measure of their success in this policy has 
been also the measure of their superiority over those whom they thus 
exploit. We cannot complain of this, or, at any rate, we ought not to 
be surprised at it. To ignore it and not to provide against it is in 
itself a mistake in one's thought. 

How are we to provide against it? Not, surely, by bargaining and 
haggling and generally adopting the tactics of the market place, for 
whatever offer we make, however high our bid might be, there is 
always a third party which can bid higher and, what is more, give 
substance to its words. If there is no common national or social out 
look, there will not be common action against the common adversary. 
If we think in terms of the existing political and economic structure 

114 



and merely wish to tamper with it here and there, to reform it, to 
"Indianize" it, then all real inducement for joint action is lacking. 
The object then becomes one of sharing in the spoils, and the third 
and controlling party inevitably plays the dominant role and hands 
out its gifts to the prize boys of its choice. Only by thinking in terms 
of a different political framework and even more so a different social 
framework can we build up a stable foundation for joint action. 
The whole area underlying the demand for independence was this: 
to make people realize that we were struggling for an entirely different 
political structure and not just an Indianized edition (with British 
control behind the scenes) of the present order, which Dominion 
status signifies. Political independence meant, of course, political free 
dom only, and did not include any social change or economic freedom 
for the masses. But it did signify the removal of the financial and 
economic chains which bind us to the City of London, and this would 
have made it easier for us to change the social structure. So I thought 
then. I would add now that I do not think it is likely that real political 
freedom will come to us by itself. When it comes, it will bring a large 
measure of social freedom also. 

But almost all our leaders continued to think within the narrow 
steel frame of the existing political, and of course the social, structure. 
They faced every problem communal or constitutional with this 
background, and, inevitably, they played into the hands of the British 
Government, which controlled completely that structure. They could 
not do otherwise, for their whole outlook was essentially reformist 
and not revolutionary, in spite of occasional experiments with direct 
action. But the time had gone by when any political or economic or 
communal problem in India could be satisfactorily solved by reformist 
methods. Revolutionary outlook and planning and revolutionary solu 
tions were demanded by the situation. But there was no one among 
the leaders to offer these. 

The want of clear ideals and objectives in our struggle for freedom 
undoubtedly helped the spread of communalism. The masses saw no 
clear connection between their day-to-day sufferings and the fight 
for Swaraj. They fought well enough at times by instinct, but that 
was a feeble weapon which could be easily blunted or even turned 
aside for other purposes. There was no reason behind it, and in 
periods of reaction it was not difficult for the communalists to play 
upon this feeling and exploit it in the name of religion. It is never 
theless extraordinary how the bourgeois classes, both among the Hindus 



and the Moslems, succeeded, in the sacred name of religion, in getting 
a measure of mass sympathy and support for programs and demands 
which had absolutely nothing to do with the masses, or even the 
lower middle class. Every one of the communal demands put forward 
by any communal group is, in the final analysis, a demand for jobs, 
and these jobs could only go to a handful of the upper middle class. 
There is also, of course, the demand for special and additional seats 
in the legislatures, as symbolizing political power, but this too is looked 
upon chiefly as the power to exercise patronage. These narrow political 
demands, benefiting at the most a small number of the upper middle 
classes, and often creating barriers in the way of national unity and 
progress, were cleverly made to appear the demands of the masses 
of that particular religious group. Religious passion was hitched on 
to them in order to hide their barrenness. 

In this way political reactionaries came back to the political field 
in the guise of communal leaders, and the real explanation of the 
various steps they took was not so much their communal bias as their 
desire to obstruct political advance. We could only expect opposition 
from them politically, but still it was a peculiarly distressing feature 
of an unsavory situation to find to what lengths they would go in 
this respect. Moslem communal leaders said the most amazing things 
and seemed to care not at all for Indian nationalism or Indian freedom; 
Hindu communal leaders, though always speaking apparently in the 
name of nationalism, had little to do with it in practice and, incapable 
of any real action, sought to humble themselves before the Govern 
ment, and did that too in vain. Both agreed in condemning socialistic 
and suchlike "subversive" movements; there was a touching unanimity 
in regard to any proposal affecting vested interests. Moslem communal 
leaders said and did many things harmful to political and economic 
freedom, but as a group and individually they conducted themselves 
before the Government and the public with some dignity. That could 
hardly be said of the Hindu communal leaders. 

The Delhi Unity Conference of 1924 was hardly over when a 
Hindu-Moslem riot broke out in Allahabad. It was not a big riot, 
as such riots go, in so far as casualties were concerned; but it was 
painful to have these troubles in one's home town. I rushed back with 
others from Delhi to find that the actual rioting was over; but the 
aftermath, in the shape of bad blood and court cases, lasted a long 
time. I forget why the riot had begun. That year, or perhaps later, 
there was also some trouble over the Ram Lila celebrations at Allaha- 

116 



bad. Probably because of restrictions about music before mosques, 
these celebrations, involving huge processions as they did, were aban 
doned as a protest. For about eight years now the Ram Lila has not 
been held in Allahabad, and the greatest festival of the year for 
hundreds of thousands in the Allahabad district has almost become 
a painful memory. How well I remember my visits to it when I was 
a child! How excited we used to get! And the vast crowds that came 
to see it from all over the district and even from other towns. It was 
a Hindu festival, but it was an open-air affair, and Moslems also 
swelled the crowds, and there was joy and lightheartedness every 
where. Trade flourished. Many years afterward, when, as a grown-up, 
I visited it, I was not excited, and the procession and the tableaux 
rather bored me. My standards of art and amusement had gone up. 
But even then, I saw how the great crowds appreciated and enjoyed 
the show. It was carnival time for them. And now, for eight or nine 
years, the children of Allahabad, not to mention the grown-ups, have 
had no chance of seeing this show and having a bright day of joyful 
excitement in the dull routine of their lives. And all because of trivial 
disputes and conflicts! Surely religion and the spirit of religion have 
much to answer for. What kill-joys they have been! 



XX 

MUNICIPAL WORK 

FOR TWO YEARS I carried on, but with an ever-increasing reluctance, 
with the Allahabad municipality. My term of office as chairman was 
for three years. Before the second year was well begun, I was trying to 
rid myself of the responsibility. I had liked the work and given a great 
deal of my time and thought to it. I had met with a measure of suc 
cess and gained the good will of all my colleagues. Even the Provincial 
Government had overcome its political dislike of me to the extent of 
commending some of my municipal activities. And yet I found myself 
hedged in, obstructed, and prevented from doing anything really worth 
while. 

It was not deliberate obstruction on anybody's part; indeed, I had a 
surprising amount of willing co-operation. But on the one side, there 
was the Government machine; on the other, the apathy of the members 

117 



of the municipality as well as the public. The whole steel frame of mu 
nicipal administration, as erected by Government, prevented radical 
growth or innovation. The financial policy was such that the munici 
pality was always dependent on the Government. Most radical schemes 
of taxation or social development were not permissible under the exist 
ing municipal laws. Even such schemes as were legally permissible had 
to be sanctioned by Government; and only the optimists, with a long 
stretch of years before them, could confidently ask for and await this 
sanction. It amazed me to find out how slowly and laboriously and in 
efficiently the machinery of Government moved when any job of social 
construction, or of nation building was concerned. There was no slow 
ness or inefficiency, however, when a political opponent had to be 
curbed or struck down. The contrast was marked. 

The department of the Provincial Government dealing with local 
self-government was presided over by a Minister; but, as a rule, this 
presiding genius was supremely ignorant of municipal affairs or, in 
deed, of any public affairs. Indeed, he counted for little and was largely 
ignored by his own department, which was run by the permanent 
officials of the Indian Civil Service. These officials were influenced by 
the prevailing conception of high officials in India that government 
was primarily a police function. Some idea of authoritarian paternalism 
colored this conception, but there was hardly any appreciation of the 
necessity of social services on a large scale. 

Year after year government resolutions and officials and some news 
papers criticize municipalities and local boards, and point out their 
many failings. And from this the moral is drawn that democratic in 
stitutions are not suited to India. Their failings are obvious enough, 
but little attention is paid to the framework within which they have 
to function. This framework is neither democratic nor autocratic; it is 
a cross between the two, and has the disadvantages of both. That a 
central government should have certain powers of supervision and 
control may be admitted, but this can only fit in with a popular local 
body if the central government itself is democratic and responsive to 
public needs. Where this is not so, there will either be a tussle between 
the two or a tame submission to the will of the central authority, which 
thus exercises power without in any way shouldering responsibility. 
This is obviously unsatisfactory, and it takes away from the reality of 
popular control. Even the members of the municipal board look more 
to the central authority than to their constituents, and the public also 
often ignores the board. Real social issues hardly ever come before the 

118 



board, chiefly because they lie outside its functions, and its most ob 
vious activity is tax collecting, which does not make it excessively 
popular. 

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that our local bodies are not, 
as a rule, shining examples of success and efficiency, though they might, 
even so, compare with some municipalities in advanced democratic 
countries. They are not usually corrupt; they are just inefficient, and 
their weak point is nepotism, and their perspectives are all wrong. All 
this is natural enough; for democracy, to be successful, must have a 
background of informed public opinion and a sense of responsibility. 
Instead, we have an all-pervading atmosphere of authoritarianism, and 
the accompaniments of democracy are lacking. There is no mass edu 
cational system, no effort to build up public opinion based on knowl 
edge. Inevitably public attention turns to personal or communal or 
other petty issues. 

The main interest of Government in municipal administration is 
that "politics" should be kept out. Any resolution of sympathy with 
the national movement is frowned upon; textbooks which might have 
a nationalist flavor are not permitted in the municipal schools, even 
pictures of national leaders are not allowed there. A national flag has 
to be pulled down on pain of suppression of the municipality. 

These few instances show how much freedom our municipal and 
district boards have, how little democratic they are. The attempt to 
keep out political opponents from all municipal and local services of 
course they did not go in for direct government service deserves a 
little attention. It is estimated that above three hundred thousand per 
sons have gone to prison at various times during the past fourteen 
years; and there can be no doubt that, politics apart, these three hun 
dred thousand included some of the most dynamic and idealistic, the 
most socially minded and selfless people in India. They had push and 
energy and the ideal of service to a cause. They were thus the best ma 
terial from which a public department or utility service could draw its 
employees. And yet Government has made every effort, even to the 
extent of passing laws, to keep out these people, and so to punish them 
and those who sympathized with them. It prefers and pushes on the 
lap-dog breed, and then complains of the inefficiency of our local 
bodies. And, although politics are said to be outside the province of 
local bodies, Government has no objection whatever to their indulging 
in politics in support of itself. Teachers in local board schools have been 

119 



practically compelled, for fear of losing their jobs, to go out in the vil 
lages to do propaganda on behalf of Government. 

During the last fifteen years Congress workers have had to face 
many difficult positions; they have shouldered heavy responsibilities; 
they have, after all, combated, not without success, a powerful and en 
trenched Government. This hard course of training has given them 
self-reliance and efficiency and strength to persevere; it has provided 
them with the very qualities of which a long and emasculating course 
of authoritarian government had deprived the Indian people. Of course, 
the Congress movement, like all mass movements, had, and has, many 
undesirables fools, inefficient^, and worse. But I have no doubt what 
ever that an average Congress worker is likely to be far more efficient 
and dynamic than another person of similar qualifications. 

There is one aspect of this matter which Government and its ad 
visers perhaps do not appreciate. The attempt to deprive Congress 
workers of all jobs and to shut avenues of employment to them is wel 
comed by the real revolutionary. The average Congressman is no 
toriously not a revolutionary, and after a period of semirevolutionary 
action he resumes his humdrum life and activities. He gets entangled 
either in his business or profession or in the mazes of local politics. 
Larger issues seem to fade off in his mind, and revolutionary ardor, 
such as it was, subsides. Muscle turns to fat, and spirit to a love of 
security. Because of this inevitable tendency of middle-class workers, 
it has always been the effort of advanced and revolutionary-minded 
Congressmen to prevent their comrades from entering the constitu 
tional mazes of the legislatures and the local bodies, or accepting 
whole-time jobs which prevent them from effective action. The Govern 
ment has, however, now come to their help to some extent by making 
it a little more difficult for the Congress worker to get a job, and it is 
thus likely that he will retain some of his revolutionary ardor or even 
add to it. 

After a year or more of municipal work I felt that I was not utilizing 
my energies to the best advantage there. The most I could do was to 
speed up work and make it a little more efficient. I could not push 
through any worth-while change. I wanted to resign from the chair 
manship, but all the members of the board pressed me to stay. I had 
received uniform kindness and courtesy from them, and I found it 
hard to refuse. At the end of my second year, however, I finally re 
signed. 

This was in 1925. In the autumn of that year my wife fell seriously 

120 



ill, and for many months she lay in a Lucknow hospital. The Congress 
was held that year at Cawnpore, and, somewhat distracted, I rushed 
backward and forward between Allahabad, Cawnpore, and Lucknow. 
(I was still general secretary of the Congress.) 

Further treatment in Switzerland was recommended for my wife. 
I welcomed the idea, for I wanted an excuse to go out of India myself. 
My mind was befogged, and no clear path was visible; and I thought 
that, perhaps, if I was far from India I could see things in better per 
spective and lighten up the dark corners of my mind. 

At the beginning of March 1926 we sailed, my wife, our daughter, 
and I, from Bombay for Venice. With us on the same boat went also 
my sister and brother-in-law, Ranjit S. Pandit. They had planned their 
European trip long before the question of our going had arisen. 



XXI 

IN EUROPE 

I WAS GOING back to Europe after more than thirteen years years of 
war, and revolution, and tremendous change. The old world I knew 
had expired in the blood and horror of the war, and a new world 
awaited me. I expected to remain in Europe for six or seven months or, 
at most, till the end of the year. Actually our stay lengthened out to a 
year and nine months. 

It was a quiet and restful period for both my mind and body. We 
spent it chiefly in Switzerland, in Geneva, and in a mountain sana 
torium at Montana. My younger sister, Krishna, came from India and 
joined us early in the summer of 1926, and remained with us till the 
end of our stay in Europe. I could not leave my wife for long, and 
so I could only pay brief visits to other places. Later, when my wife was 
better, we traveled a little in France, England, and Germany. On our 
mountaintop, surrounded by the winter snow, I felt completely cut off 
from India as well as the European world. India, and Indian happen 
ings, seemed especially far away. I was a distant onlooker, reading, 
watching, following events, gazing at the new Europe, its politics, eco 
nomics, and the far freer human relationships, and trying to under 
stand them. When we were in Geneva I was naturally interested in the 
activities of the League of Nations and the International Labor Office. 

121 



But with the coming of winter., the winter sports absorbed my atten 
tion; for some months they were my chief occupation and interest. I 
had done ice skating previously, but skiing was a new experience, and 
I succumbed to its fascination. It was a painful experience for a long 
time, but I persisted bravely, in spite of innumerable falls, and I came 
to enjoy it. 

Life was very uneventful on the whole. The days went by and my 
wife gradually gained strength and health. We saw few Indians; in 
deed, we saw few people apart from the little colony living in that 
mountain resort. But in the course of the year and three-quarters that 
we spent in Europe, we came across some Indian exiles and old revolu 
tionaries whose names had been familiar to me. 

I must say that I was not greatly impressed by most of the Indian 
political exiles that I met abroad, although I admired their sacrifice, 
and sympathized with their sufferings and present difficulties, which 
are very real. I did not meet many of them; there are so many spread 
out all over the world. Only a few are known to us even by reputa 
tion, and the others have dropped out of the Indian world and been 
forgotten by their countrymen whom they sought to serve. 

There were many other Indians floating about the face of Europe, 
talking a revolutionary language, making daring and fantastic sug 
gestions, asking curious questions. They seemed to have the impress of 
the British Secret Service upon them. 

We met, of course, many Europeans and Americans. From Geneva 
we went on a pilgrimage many a time (the first time with a letter of 
introduction from Gandhiji) to the Villa Olga at Villeneuve, to see 
Romain Holland. Another precious memory is that of Ernst Toller, 
the young German poet and dramatist; and of Roger Baldwin, of the 
Civil Liberties Union of New York. In Geneva we also made friends 
with Dhan Gopal Mukerji, the author. 

Before going to Europe I had met Frank Buchman, of the Oxford 
Group Movement, in India. He had given me some of the literature of 
his movement, and I had read it with amazement. Sudden conversions 
and confessions, and a revivalist atmosphere generally, seemed to me 
to go ill with intellectuality. I could not make out how some persons, 
who seemed obviously intelligent, should experience these strange emo 
tions and be affected by them to a great extent. I grew curious. I met 
Frank Buchman again, in Geneva, and he invited me to one of his 
international house parties, somewhere in Rumania, I think, this one 
was. I was sorry I could not go and look at this new emotionalism at 

122 



close quarters. My curiosity has thus remained unsatisfied, and the 
more I read of the growth of the Oxford Group Movement the more I 
wonder. 

Soon after our arrival in Switzerland, the General Strike broke out 
in England. I was vastly excited, and my sympathies were naturally 
all on the strikers' side. The collapse of the strike, after a few days, 
came almost as a personal blow. Some months later I happened to visit 
England for a few days. The miners' struggle was still on, and London 
lay in semidarkness at night. I paid a brief visit to a mining area I 
think it was somewhere in Derbyshire. I saw the haggard and pinched 
faces of the men and women and children, and, more revealing still, I 
saw many of the strikers and their wives being tried in the local or 
county court. The magistrates were themselves directors or managers 
of the coal mines, and they tried the miners and sentenced them for 
trivial offenses under certain emergency regulations. One case espe 
cially angered me: three or four women, with babies in their arms, 
were brought up in the dock for the offense of having jeered at the 
blacklegs. The young mothers (and their babies) were obviously miser 
able and undernourished; the long struggle had told upon them and 
enfeebled them, and embittered them against the scabs who seemed to 
take the bread from their mouths. 

One reads often about class justice, and in India nothing is com 
moner than this, but somehow I had not expected to come across such 
a flagrant example of it in England. It came as a shock. Another fact 
that I noticed with some surprise was the general atmosphere of fear 
among the strikers. They had definitely been terrorized by the police 
and the authorities, and they put up very meekly, I thought, with 
rather offensive treatment. It is true that they were thoroughly ex 
hausted after a long struggle, their spirit was near breaking point, their 
comrades of other trade-unions had long deserted them. But still, com 
pared to the poor Indian worker, there was a world of difference. The 
British miners had still a powerful organization, the sympathy of a 
nationwide, and indeed worldwide, trade-union movement, publicity, 
and resources of many kinds. All these were lacking to the Indian 
worker. And yet that frightened and terrorized look in the two had 
a strange resemblance. 

Toward the end of 1926 I happened to be in Berlin, and I learned 
there of a forthcoming Congress of Oppressed Nationalities, which 
was to be held at Brussels. The idea appealed to me, and I wrote home, 
suggesting that the Indian National Congress might take official part 

123 



in the Brussels Congress. My suggestion was approved, and I was 
appointed the Indian Congress representative for this purpose. 

The Brussels Congress was held early in February 1927. I do not 
know who originated the idea. Berlin was at the time a center which 
attracted political exiles and radical elements from aboard; it was grad 
ually catching up Paris in that respect. The communist element was 
also strong there. Ideas of some common action between oppressed na 
tions inter se f as well as between them and the labor left wing, were 
very much in the air. It was felt more and more that the struggle for 
freedom was a common one against the thing that was imperialism; 
and joint deliberation and, where possible, joint action were desirable. 
The colonial Powers England, France, Italy, etc. were naturally 
hostile to any such attempts being made; but Germany was, since the 
war, no longer a colonial Power, and the German Government viewed 
with a benevolent neutrality the growth of agitation in the colonies and 
dependencies of other Powers. This was one of the reasons which made 
Berlin a center for advanced and disaffected elements from abroad. 
Among these the most prominent and active were the Chinese belong 
ing to the left wing of the Kuomintang, which was then sweeping 
across China, the old feudal elements rolling down before its irresist 
ible advance. Even the imperialist Powers lost their aggressive habits 
and minatory tone before this new phenomenon. It appeared that the 
solution of the problem of China's unity and freedom could not long 
be delayed. The Kuomintang was flushed with success, but it knew 
the difficulties that lay ahead, and it wanted to strengthen itself by in 
ternational propaganda. Probably it was the left wing of the party, co 
operating with communists and near-communists abroad, that laid 
stress on this propaganda, both to strengthen China's national position 
abroad and its own position in the party ranks at home. The party had 
not split up at the time into two or more rival and bitterly hostile 
groups, and presented, to all outward seeming, a united front. 

The European representatives of the Kuomintang, therefore, wel 
comed the idea of the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities; perhaps 
they even originated the idea jointly with some other people. Some 
communists and near-communists were also at the back of the proposal 
right from the beginning, but, as a whole, the communist element kept 
in the background. Active support and help also came from Latin 
America, which was then chafing at the economic imperialism of the 
United States. Mexico, with a radical President and policy, was eager 
to take the lead in a Latin-American bloc against the United States; 

124 



and Mexico, therefore, took great interest in the Brussels Congress. 
Officially the Government could not take part, but it sent one of its 
leading diplomats to be present as a benevolent observer. 

There were also present at Brussels representatives from the national 
organizations of Java, Indo-China, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Arabs from 
North Africa, and African Negroes. Then there were many left-wing 
labor organizations represented; and several well-known men who had 
played a leading part in European labor struggles for a generation, 
were present. Communists were there also, and they took an important 
part in the proceedings; they came not as communists but as repre 
sentatives of trade-unions or similar organizations. 

George Lansbury was elected president, and he delivered an elo 
quent address. That in itself was proof that the Congress was not so 
rabid after all, nor was it merely hitched on to the star of communism. 
But there is no doubt that the gathering was friendly toward the com 
munists, and, even though agreement might be lacking on some mat 
ters, there appeared to be several common grounds for action. 

Mr. Lansbury agreed to be president also of the permanent organiza 
tion that was formed the League against Imperialism. But he re 
pented of his rash behavior soon, or perhaps his colleagues of the Brit 
ish Labour party did not approve of it. The Labour party was "His 
Majesty's Opposition" then, soon to blossom out as "His Majesty's 
Government," and future Cabinet Ministers cannot dabble in risky 
and revolutionary politics. Mr. Lansbury resigned from the presidency 
on the ground of being too busy for it; he even resigned from the 
membership of the League. I was hurt by this sudden change in a 
person whose speech I had admired only two or three months earlier. 

The League against Imperialism had, however, quite a number of 
distinguished persons as its patrons. Einstein was one of them, and 
Madame Sun Yat-sen, and I think, Remain Holland. Many months 
later Einstein resigned, as he disagreed with the pro-Arab policy of the 
League in the Arab-Jewish quarrels in Palestine. 

The Brussels Congress, as well as the subsequent Committee meet 
ings of the League, which were held in various places from time to 
time, helped me to understand some of the problems of colonial and 
dependent countries. They gave me also an insight into the inner 
conflicts of the Western labor world. I knew something about them al 
ready; I had read about them, but there was no reality behind my 
knowledge, as there had been no personal contacts. I had some such 
contacts now, and sometimes had to face problems which reflected these 

125 



inner conflicts. As between the labor worlds of the Second Interna 
tional and the Third International, my sympathies were with the latter. 
The whole record of the Second International from the war onward 
filled me with distaste, and we in India had had sufficient personal 
experience of the methods of one of its strongest supports the British 
Labour party. So I turned inevitably with good will toward commu 
nism, for, whatever its faults, it was at least not hypocritical and not 
imperialistic. It was not a doctrinal adherence, as I did not know much 
about the fine points of communism, my acquaintance being limited 
at the time to its broad features. These attracted me, as also the tre 
mendous changes taking place in Russia. But communists often irri 
tated me by their dictatorial ways, their aggressive and rather vulgar 
methods, their habit of denouncing everybody who did not agree with 
them. This reaction was no doubt due, as they would say, to my own 
bourgeois education and up-bringing. 

It was curious how, in our League against Imperialism committee 
meetings, I would usually be on the side of the Anglo-American mem 
bers on petty matters of argument. There was a certain similarity in 
our outlook in regard to method at least. We would both object to 
declamatory and long-winded resolutions, which resembled manifestos. 
We preferred something simpler and shorter, but the Continental 
tradition was against this. There was often difference of opinion be 
tween the communist elements and the non-communists. Usually we 
agreed on a compromise. Later on, some of us returned to our homes 
and could not attend any further committee meetings. 

The Brussels Congress was viewed with some consternation by the 
foreign and colonial offices of the imperialist Powers. The Congress 
itself was probably full of international spies, many of the delegates 
even representing various secret services. We had an amusing instance 
of this. An American friend of mine, who was in Paris, had a visit 
from a Frenchman who belonged to the French secret service. It was 
quite a friendly visit to inquire about certain matters. When he had 
finished his inquiries he asked the American if he did not recognize 
him, for they had met previously. The American looked hard, but he 
had to admit that he could not place him at all. The secret service agent 
then told him that he had met him at the Brussels Congress as a Negro 
delegate, with his face, hands, etc., all blacked over! 

One of the meetings of the Committee of the League against Im 
perialism took place at Cologne, and I attended it. After the meeting 
was over, we were asked to go to Diisseldorf, near by, to attend a 

126 



Sacco-Vanzetti meeting. As we were returning from that meeting, we 
were asked to show our passports to the police. Most of the people had 
their passports with them, but I had left mine at the hotel in Cologne 
as we had only come for a few hours to Diisseldorf . I was thereupon 
marched to a police station. Fortunately for me I had companions in 
distress an Englishman and his wife, who also had left their passport 
in Cologne. After about an hour's wait, during which probably tele 
phonic inquiries were made, the police chief was graciously pleased to 
allow us to depart. 

The League against Imperialism veered more toward communism 
in later years, though at no time, so far as I know, did it lose its indi 
vidual character. I could only remain in distant touch with it by means 
of correspondence. In 1931, because of my part in the Delhi truce be 
tween the Congress and the Government of India, it grew exceed 
ingly angry with me, and excommunicated me with bell, book, and 
candle or, to be more accurate, it expelled me by some kind of a reso 
lution. I must confess that it had great provocation, but it might have 
given me some chance of explaining my position. 

In the summer of 1927 my father came to Europe. I met him at 
Venice, and during the next few months we were often together. All 
of us my father, my wife, my young sister, and I paid a brief visit to 
Moscow in November during the tenth anniversary celebrations of the 
Soviet. It was a very brief visit, just three or four days in Moscow, 
decided upon at the last moment. But we were glad we went, for even 
that glimpse was worth while. It did not, and could not, teach us much 
about the new Russia, but it did give us a background for our reading. 
To my father all such Soviet and collectivist ideas were wholly novel. 
His whole training had been legal and constitutional, and he could not 
easily get out of that framework. But he was definitely impressed by 
what he saw in Moscow. 

Our stay in Europe had been unduly prolonged. Probably we would 
have returned home sooner but for father's visiting Europe. It was our 
intention to spend some time in southeastern Europe and Turkey and 
Egypt on our way back. But there was no time for this then, and I 
was eager to be back in time for the next Congress session, which was 
going to be held in Madras at Christmastime. We sailed from Mar 
seilles, my wife, sister, daughter, and I, early in December for Colombo. 
My father remained in Europe for another three months. 



127 



XXII 

EXPERIENCE OF LATHEE CHARGES 

I WAS RETURNING from Europe in good physical and mental condition. 
My wife had not yet wholly recovered, but she was far better, and that 
relieved me of anxiety on her score. I felt full of energy and vitality, 
and the sense of inner conflict and frustration that had oppressed me 
so often previously was, for the time being, absent. My outlook was 
wider, and nationalism by itself seemed to me definitely a narrow and 
insufficient creed. Political freedom, independence, were no doubt es 
sential, but they were steps only in the right direction; without social 
freedom and a socialistic structure of society and the State, neither the 
country nor the individual could develop much. I felt I had a clearer 
perception of world affairs, more grip on the present-day world, ever 
changing as it was. I had read largely, not only on current affairs and 
politics, but on many other subjects that interested me, cultural and 
scientific. I found the vast political, economic, and cultural changes 
going on in Europe and America a fascinating study. Soviet Russia, 
despite certain unpleasant aspects, attracted me greatly, and seemed 
to hold forth a message of hope to the world. Europe, in the middle 
twenties, was trying to settle down in a way; the great depression 
was yet to come. But I came back with the conviction that this settling 
down was superficial only, and big eruptions and - mighty changes 
were in store for Europe and the world in the near future. 

To train and prepare our country for these world events to keep in 
readiness for them, as far as we could seemed to be the immediate 
task. The preparation was largely an ideological one. First of all, there 
should be no doubt about the objective of political independence. This 
should be clearly understood as the only possible political goal for us; 
something radically different from the vague and confusing talk of 
Dominion status. Then there was the social goal. It would be too much, 
I felt, to expect the Congress to go far in this direction just then. The 
Congress was a purely political and nationalistic body, unused to think 
ing on other lines. But a beginning might be made. Outside the Con 
gress, in labor circles and among the young, the idea could be pushed 
on much further. For this purpose I wanted to keep myself free from 
Congress office, and I had a vague idea also of spending some months 
in remote rural areas to study their conditions. But this was not to be, 
and events were to drag me again into the heart of Congress politics. 

128 



Immediately on our arrival in Madras I was caught in the whirl 
I presented a bunch of resolutions to the Working Committeeresolu 
tions on independence, war danger, association with the League against 
Imperialism, etc. and nearly all of these were accepted and made into 
official Working Committee resolutions. I had to put them forward at 
the open session of the Congress, and, to my surprise, they were all al 
most unanimously adopted. The Independence resolution was sup 
ported even by Mrs. Annie Besant. This all-round support was very 
gratifying, but I had an uncomfortable feeling that the resolutions 
were either not understood for what they were, or were distorted to 
mean something else. That this was so became apparent soon after 
the Congress, when a controversy arose on the meaning of the Inde 
pendence resolution. 

These resolutions of mine were somewhat different from the usual 
Congress resolutions; they represented a new outlook. Many Congress 
men no doubt liked them, some had a vague dislike for them, but not 
enough to make them oppose. Probably the latter thought that they 
were academic resolutions, making little difference either way, and the 
best way to get rid of them was to pass them and move on to some 
thing more important. The Independence resolution thus did not 
represent then, as it did a year or two later, a vital and irrepressible 
urge on the part of the Congress; it represented a widespread and 
growing sentiment. 

Gandhiji was in Madras, and he attended the open Congress sessions, 
but he did not take any part in the shaping of policy. He did not at 
tend the meetings of the Working Committee, of which he was a 
member. That had been his general political attitude in the Congress 
since the dominance of the Swaraj party. But he was frequently con 
sulted, and little of importance was done without his knowledge. I do 
not know how far the resolutions I put before the Congress met with 
his approval. I am inclined to think that he disliked them, not so much 
because of what they said, but because of their general trend and out 
look. He did not, however, criticize them on any occasion. 

The unreality of the Independence resolution came out in that very 
session of the Congress, when another resolution condemning the 
Simon Commission and appealing for its boycott was considered. As a 
corollary to this it was proposed to convene an All-Parties Conference, 
which was to draw up a constitution for India. It was manifest that the 
moderate groups, with whom co-operation was sought, could never 

129 



think in terms of independence. The very utmost they could go to was 
some form of Dominion status. 

I stepped back into the Congress secretaryship. There were personal 
considerations the desire of the president for the year, Dr. M. A. 
Ansari, who was an old and dear friend and the fact that, as many 
of my resolutions had been passed, I ought to see them through. It 
was true that the resolution on the All-Parties Conference had partly 
neutralized the effect of my resolutions. Still, much remained. The real 
reason for my accepting office again was my fear that the Congress 
might, through the instrumentality of the All-Parties Conference, or 
because of other reasons, slide back to a more moderate and com 
promising position. It seemed to be in a hesitant mood, swinging al 
ternately from one extreme to another. I wanted to prevent, as far as 
I could, the swing back to moderation and to hold on to the inde 
pendence objective. 

The National Congress always attracts a large number of side shows 
at its annual sessions. One of the side shows at Madras was a Repub 
lican Conference which held its first (and last) sessions that year. I was 
asked to preside. The idea appealed to me, as I considered myself a re 
publican. But I hesitated, as I did not know who was at the back of the 
new venture, and I did not want to associate myself with mushroom 
growths. I presided, eventually, but later I repented of this, for the Re 
publican Conference turned out to be, like so many others, a still-born 
afiair. For several months I tried, and tried in vain, to get the text of 
the resolutions passed by it. It is amazing how many of our people 
love to sponsor new undertakings and then ignore them and leave 
them to shift for themselves. There is much in the criticism that we 
are not a persevering lot. 

I have been accused by some leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha of my 
ignorance of Hindu sentiments because of my defective education and 
general background of "Persian" culture. What culture I possess, or 
whether I possess any at all, is a little difficult for me to say. Persian, 
as a language, unhappily, I do not even know. But it is true that my 
father had grown up in an Indo-Persian cultural atmosphere, which 
was the legacy in north India of the old Delhi court, and of which, 
even in these degenerate days, Delhi and Lucknow are the two chief 
centers. Kashmiri Brahmans had a remarkable capacity for adaptation, 
and coming down to the Indian plains and finding that this Indo- 
Persian culture was predominant at the time, they took to it, and pro 
duced a number of fine scholars in Persian and Urdu. Later they 

130 



adapted themselves with equal rapidity to the changing order, when a 
knowledge of English and the elements of European culture became 
necessary. 

The year 1928 was, politically, a full year, with plenty of activity all 
over the country. There seemed to be a new impulse moving the peo 
ple forward, a new stir that was equally present in the most varied 
groups. Probably the change had been going on gradually during my 
long absence from the country; it struck me as very considerable on 
my return. Early in 1926, India was still quiescent, passive, perhaps not 
fully recovered from the effort of 1919-1922; in 1928 she seemed fresh, 
active, and full of suppressed energy. Everywhere there was evidence 
of this: among the industrial workers, the peasantry, middle-class 
youth, and the intelligentsia generally. The trade-union movement had 
grown greatly, and the All-India Trade-Union Congress, established 
seven or eight years previously, was already a strong and representative 
body. The peasantry was also astir. This was noticeable in the United 
Provinces and especially in Oudh, where large gatherings of protesting 
tenants became common. Another very noticeable feature of the India 
of 1928 was the growth of the youth movement. Everywhere youth 
leagues were being established, youth conferences were being held. 

Wherever the Commission went it was greeted by hostile crowds 
and the cry of "Simon, go back," and thus vast numbers of the Indian 
masses became acquainted not only with Sir John Simon's name but 
with two words of the English language, the only two they knew. 
These words must have become a hated obsession for the members of 
the Commission. The story is related that once, when they were stay 
ing at the Western Hostel in New Delhi, the refrain seemed to come 
to them in the night out of the darkness. They were greatly irritated 
at being pursued in this way, even at night. As a matter of fact, the 
noise that disturbed them came from the jackals that infest the waste 
places of the imperial capital. 

The All-Parties Conference met at Lucknow to consider the report 
of their committee. Again some of us were in a dilemma, for we did 
not wish to come in the way of a communal settlement, if that was 
possible, and yet we were not prepared to yield on the question of inde 
pendence. We begged that the conference leave this question open so 
that each constituent part could have liberty of action on this issue 
the Congress adhering to independence and the more moderate groups 
to Dominion status. But my father had set his heart on the report, and 
he would not yield, nor perhaps could he under the circumstances. I 



was thereupon asked by our independence group in the Conference 
and this was a large one to make a statement to the Conference on its 
behalf, dissociating ourselves completely from everything that lowered 
the objective of independence. But we made it further clear that we 
would not be obstructive as we did not wish to come in the way of the 
communal statement. 

This was not a very effective line to adopt on such a major issue; at 
best it was a negative gesture. A positive side was given to our attitude 
by our founding that very day the Independence for India League. 

The Simon Commission was moving about, pursued by black flags 
and hostile crowds shouting, "Go back." Occasionally there were 
minor conflicts between the police and the crowds. Lahore brought 
matters to a head and suddenly sent a thrill of indignation throughout 
the country. The anti-Simon Commission demonstration there was 
headed by Lala Lajpat Rai; and, as he stood by the roadside in front 
of the thousands of demonstrators, he was assaulted and beaten on his 
chest with a baton by a young English police officer. There had been 
no attempt whatever on the part of the crowd, much less on the part 
of Lalaji, to indulge in any methods of violence. Even so, as he stood 
peacefully by, he and many of his companions were severely beaten 
by the police. Anyone who takes part in street demonstrations runs the 
risk of a conflict with the police, and, though our demonstrations were 
almost always perfectly peaceful, Lalaji must have known of this risk 
and taken it consciously. But still, the manner of the assault, the need 
less brutality of it, came as a shock to vast numbers of people in India. 
Those were the days when we were not used to lathee charges by the 
police; our sensitiveness had not been blunted by repeated brutality. 
To find that even the greatest of our leaders, the foremost and most 
popular man in the Punjab, could be so treated seemed little short of 
monstrous, and a dull anger spread all over the country, especially in 
north India. How helpless we were, how despicable when we could 
not even protect the honor of our chosen leaders! 

The physical injury to Lalaji had been serious enough, as he had 
been hit on the chest and he had long suffered from heart disease. 
Probably, in the case of a healthy young man the injury would not 
have been great, but Lalaji was neither young nor healthy. What effect 
this physical injury had on his death a few weeks later it is hardly 
possible to say definitely, though his doctors were of opinion that it 
hastened the end. But I think that there can be no doubt that the 
mental shock which accompanied the physical injury had a tremen- 

132 



dous effect on Lalaji. He felt angry and bitter, not so much at the 
personal humiliation, as at the national humiliation involved in the 
assault on him. 

It was this sense of national humiliation that weighed on the mind 
of India, and when Lalaji's death came soon after, inevitably it was 
connected with the assault, and sorrow itself gave pride of place to 
anger and indignation. It is well to appreciate this, for only so can we 
have some understanding of subsequent events, of the phenomenon of 
Bhagat Singh, and of his sudden and amazing popularity in north 
India. It is very easy and very fatuous to condemn persons or acts with 
out seeking to understand the springs of action, the causes that under 
lie them. Bhagat Singh was not previously well known; he did not 
become popular because of an act of violence, an act of terrorism. Ter 
rorists have flourished in India, off and on, for nearly thirty years, and 
at no time, except in the early days in Bengal, did any of them attain 
a fraction of that popularity which came to Bhagat Singh. This is a 
patent fact which cannot be denied; it has to be admitted. And another 
fact, which is equally obvious, is that terrorism, in spite of occasional 
recrudescence, has no longer any real appeal for the youth of India. 
Fifteen years' stress on nonviolence has changed the whole back 
ground in India and made the masses much more indifferent to, and 
even hostile to, the idea of terrorism as a method of political action. 
Even the classes from which the terrorists are usually drawn, the lower 
middle-classes and intelligentsia, have been powerfully affected by the 
Congress propaganda against methods of violence. Their active and 
impatient elements, who think in terms of revolutionary action, also 
realize fully now that revolution does not come through terrorism, and 
that terrorism is an outworn and profitless method which comes in the 
way of real revolutionary action. Terrorism is a dying thing in India 
and elsewhere, not because of Government coercion, which can only 
suppress and bottle up, not eradicate, but because of basic causes and 
world events. Terrorism usually represents the infancy of a revolution 
ary urge in a country. That stage passes, and with it passes terrorism as 
an important phenomenon. Occasional outbursts may continue because 
of local causes or individual suppressions. India has undoubtedly 
passed that stage, and no doubt even the occasional outbursts will 
gradually die out. But this does not mean that all people in India have 
ceased to believe in methods of violence. They have, very largely, 
ceased to believe in individual violence and terrorism, but many, no 
doubt, still think that a time may come when organized, violent 

133 



methods may be necessary for gaining freedom, as they have often 
been necessary in other countries. That is today an academic issue 
which time alone will put to the test; it has nothing to do with terror 
istic methods. 

Bhagat Singh thus did not become popular because of his act of 
terrorism, but because he seemed to vindicate, for the moment, the 
honor of Lala Lajpat Rai, and through him of the nation. He became 
a symbol; the act was forgotten, the symbol remained, and within a 
few months each town and village of the Punjab, and to a lesser extent 
in the rest of northern India, resounded with his name. Innumerable 
songs grew up about him, and the popularity that the man achieved 
was something amazing. 

The assault on Lala Lajpat Rai, and his subsequent death, increased 
the vigor of the demonstrations against the Simon Commission in the 
places which it subsequently visited. It was due in Lucknow, and the 
local Congress committee made extensive preparations for its "recep 
tion." Huge processions, meetings, and demonstrations were organized 
many days in advance, both as propaganda and as rehearsals for the 
actual show. I went to Lucknow and was present at some of these. 
The success of these preliminary demonstrations, which were perfectly 
orderly and peaceful, evidently nettled the authorities, and they began 
to obstruct and issue orders against the taking out of processions in 
certain areas. It was in this connection that I had a new experience, 
and my body felt the baton and lathee blows of the police. 

Processions had been prohibited, ostensibly to avoid any interference 
with the traffic. We decided to give no cause for complaint on this 
score, and arranged for small groups of sixteen, as far as I can remem 
ber, to go separately, along unfrequented routes to the meeting place. 
Technically, this was no doubt a breach of the order, for sixteen with 
a flag were a procession. I led one of the groups of sixteen and, after 
a big gap, came another such group under the leadership of my col- 
lea'gue, Govind Ballabh Pant. My group had gone perhaps about two 
hundred yards the road was a deserted one when we heard the 
clatter of horses' hoofs behind us. We looked back to find a bunch of 
mounted police, probably two or three dozen in number, bearing down 
upon us at a rapid pace. They were soon right upon us, and the im 
pact of the horses broke up our little column of sixteen. The mounted 
policemen then started belaboring our volunteers with huge batons or 
truncheons, and, instinctively, the volunteers sought refuge on the side 
walks, and some even entered the petty shops. They were pursued and 



beaten down. My own instinct had urged me to seek safety when I 
saw the horses charging down upon us; it was a discouraging sight. 
But then, I suppose, some other instinct held me to my place, and I 
survived the first charge, which had been checked by the volunteers 
behind me. Suddenly I found myself alone in the middle of the road; 
a few yards away from me, in various directions, were the policemen 
beating down our volunteers. Automatically, I began moving slowly 
to the side of the road to be less conspicuous, but again I stopped and 
had a little argument with myself, and decided that it would be un 
becoming for me to move away. All this was a matter of a few seconds 
only, but I have the clearest recollections of that conflict within me 
and the decision, prompted by my pride, I suppose, which could not 
tolerate the idea of my behaving like a coward. Yet the line between 
cowardice and courage was a thin one, and I might well have been 
on the other side. Hardly had I so decided, when I looked round to 
find that a mounted policeman was trotting up to me, brandishing his 
long new baton. I told him to go ahead, and turned my head away 
again an instinctive effort to save the head and face. He gave me two 
resounding blows on the back. I felt stunned, and my body quivered 
all over, but, to my surprise and satisfaction, I found that I was still 
standing. The police force was withdrawn soon after and made to 
block the road in front of us. Our volunteers gathered together again, 
many of them bleeding and with split skulls, and we were joined by 
Pant and his lot, who had also been belabored, and all of us sat down 
facing the police. So we sat for an hour or so, and it became dark. On 
the one side, various high officials gathered; on the other, large crowds 
began to assemble as the news spread. Ultimately, the officials agreed 
to allow us to go by our original route, and we went that way with 
the mounted policemen, who had charged us and belabored us, going 
ahead of us as a kind of escort. 

I have written about this petty incident in some detail because of 
its effect on me. The bodily pain I felt was quite forgotten in a feeling 
of exhilaration that I was physically strong enough to face and bear 
lathee blows. And a thing that surprised me was that right through the 
incident, even when I was being beaten, my mind was quite clear 
and I was consciously analyzing my feelings. This rehearsal stood me 
in good stead the next morning, when a suffer trial was in store for 
us. For the next morning was the time when the Simon Commission 
was due to arrive, and our great demonstration was going to take place. 

My father was at Allahabad at the time, and I was afraid that 

135 



the news of the assault on me, when he read about it in the next 
morning's papers, would upset him and the rest of the family. So I 
telephoned to him late in the evening to assure him that all was well 
and that he should not worry. But he did worry, and, finding it 
difficult to sleep over it, he decided at about midnight to come over 
to Lucknow. The last train had gone, and so he started by motorcar. 
He had some bad luck on the way, and it was nearly five in the 
morning by the time he had covered the journey of 146 miles and 
reached Lucknow, tired out and exhausted. 

That was about the time when we were getting ready to go in 
procession to the station. The previous evening's incidents had the 
effect of rousing up Lucknow more than anything that we could 
have done, and, even before the sun was out, vast numbers of people 
made their way to the station. Innumerable little processions came 
from various parts of the city, and from the Congress office started 
the main procession, consisting of several thousands, marching in 
fours. We were in this main procession. We were stopped by the 
police as we approached the station. There was a huge open space, 
about half a mile square, in front of the station (this has now been 
built over by the new station) and we were made to line up on one side 
of this maidan, and there our procession remained, making no attempt 
to push our way forward. The place was full of foot and mounted 
police, as well as the military. The crowd of sympathetic onlookers 
swelled up, and many of these persons managed to spread out in 
twos and threes in the open space. Suddenly we saw in the far distance 
a moving mass. It was two or three long lines of cavalry or 
mounted police, covering the entire area, galloping down toward us, 
and striking and riding down the numerous stragglers that dotted the 
maidan. That charge of galloping horsemen was a fine sight, but 
for the tragedies that were being enacted on the way, as harmless and 
very much surprised sight-seers went under the horses' hoofs. Behind 
the charging lines these people lay on the ground, some still unable 
to move, others writhing in pain, and the whole appearance of that 
maidan was that of a battlefield. But we did not have much time for 
gazing on that scene or for reflections; the horsemen were soon upon 
us, and their front line clashed almost at a gallop with the massed 
ranks of our processionists. We held our ground, and, as we appeared 
to be unyielding, the horses had to pull up at the last moment and 
reared up on their hind legs with their front hoofs quivering in the 
air over our heads. And then began a beating of us, and battering 



with lathees and long batons both by the mounted and the foot police. 
It was a tremendous hammering, and the clearness o vision that I 
had had the evening before left me. All I knew was that I had to stay 
where I was and must not yield or go back. I felt half blinded with the 
blows, and sometimes a dull anger seized me and a desire to hit out. 
I thought how easy it would be to pull down the police officer in 
front of me from his horse and to mount up myself, but long training 
and discipline held, and I did not raise a hand, except to protect my 
face from a blow. Besides, I knew well enough that any aggression on 
our part would result in a ghastly tragedy, the shooting down of large 
numbers of our men. 

After what seemed a tremendous length of time, but was probably 
only a few minutes, our line began to yield slowly, step by step, with 
out breaking up. This left me somewhat isolated, and more exposed 
at the sides. More blows came, and then I was suddenly lifted ofif my 
feet from behind and carried off, to my great annoyance. Some of 
my younger colleagues, thinking that a dead set was being made at me, 
had decided to protect me in this summary fashion. 

Our processionists lined up again about a hundred feet behind our 
original line. The police also withdrew and stood in a line, fifty feet 
apart from us. So we remained, when the cause of all this trouble, 
the Simon Commission, secretly crept away from the station in the 
far distance, more than half a mile away. But, even so, they did not 
escape the back flags or demonstrators. Soon after, we came back in 
full procession to the Congress office and there dispersed, and I went on 
to father, who was anxiously waiting for us. 

Now that the excitement of the moment had passed, I felt pains 
all over my body and great fatigue. Almost every part of me seemed 
to ache, and I was covered with contused wounds and marks of blows. 
But fortunately I was not injured in any vital spot. Many of our 
companions were less fortunate, and were badly injured. Govind 
Ballabh Pant, who stood by me, offered a much bigger target, being 
six foot odd in height, and the injuries he received then have resulted 
in a painful and persistent malady which prevented him for a long 
time from straightening his back or leading an active life. I emerged 
with a somewhat greater conceit of my physical condition and powers 
of endurance. But the memory that endures with me, far more than 
that of the beating itself, is that of many of the faces of those police 
men, and especially of the officers, who were attacking us. Most of 
the real beating and battering was done by European sergeants; the 

137 



with lathees and long batons both by the mounted and the foot police. 
It was a tremendous hammering, and the clearness of vision that I 
had had the evening before left me. All I knew was that I had to stay 
where I was and must not yield or go back. I felt half blinded with the 
blows, and sometimes a dull anger seized me and a desire to hit out. 
I thought how easy it would be to pull down the police officer in 
front of me from his horse and to mount up myself, but long training 
and discipline held, and I did not raise a hand, except to protect my 
face from a blow. Besides, I knew well enough that any aggression on 
our part would result in a ghastly tragedy, the shooting down of large 
numbers of our men. 

After what seemed a tremendous length of time, but was probably 
only a few minutes, our line began to yield slowly, step by step, with 
out breaking up. This left me somewhat isolated, and more exposed 
at the sides. More blows came, and then I was suddenly lifted off my 
feet from behind and carried of?, to my great annoyance. Some of 
my younger colleagues, thinking that a dead set was being made at me, 
had decided to protect me in this summary fashion. 

Our processionists lined up again about a hundred feet behind our 
original line. The police also withdrew and stood in a line, fifty feet 
apart from us. So we remained, when the cause of all this trouble, 
the Simon Commission, secretly crept away from the station in the 
far distance, more than half a mile away. But, even so, they did not 
escape the back flags or demonstrators. Soon after, we carne back in 
full procession to the Congress office and there dispersed, and I went on 
to father, who was anxiously waiting for us. 

Now that the excitement of the moment had passed, I felt pains 
all over my body and great fatigue. Almost every part of me seemed 
to ache, and I was covered with contused wounds and marks of blows. 
But fortunately I was not injured in any vital spot. Many of our 
companions were less fortunate, and were badly injured. Govind 
Ballabh Pant, who stood by me, offered a much bigger target, being 
six foot odd in height, and the injuries he received then have resulted 
in a painful and persistent malady which prevented him for a long 
time from straightening his back or leading an active life. I emerged 
with a somewhat greater conceit of my physical condition and powers 
of endurance. But the memory that endures with me, far more than 
that of the beating itself, is that of many of the faces of those police 
men, and especially of the officers, who were attacking us. Most of 
the real beating and battering was done by European sergeants; the 

137 



Indian rank and file were milder in their methods. And those faces, 
full of hate and blood-lust, almost mad, with no trace of sympathy 
or touch of humanity! Probably the faces on our side just then were 
equally hateful to look at, and the fact that we were mostly passive did 
not fill our minds and hearts with love for our opponents, or add 
to the beauty of our countenances. And yet, we had no grievance 
against each other; no quarrel that was personal, no ill will. We 
happened to represent, for the time being, strange and powerful forces 
which held us in thrall and cast us hither and thither, and, subtly 
gripping our minds and hearts, roused our desires and passions and 
made us their blind tools. Blindly we struggled, not knowing what 
we struggled for and whither we went. The excitement of action held 
us; but, as it passed, immediately the question arose: To what end 
was all this? To what end? 



XXIII 

THUNDER IN THE AIR 

As WORKING GENERAL secretary of the Congress, I was busy in looking 
after and strengthening its organization, and I was particularly inter 
ested in directing people's attention to social and economic changes. 
I traveled a great deal and addressed many important gatherings. I 
presided, I think, over four provincial conferences in 1928 as well as 
over youth leagues and students' conferences. From time to time I 
visited rural areas, and occasionally I addressed industrial workers. 
The burden of my speeches was always much the same, though the 
form varied according to local circumstances and the stress depended on 
the kind of audience I happened to be addressing. Everywhere I spoke 
on political independence and social freedom and made the former 
a step toward the attainment of the latter. I wanted to spread the 
ideology of socialism especially among Congress workers and the 
intelligentsia; for these people, who were the backbone of the national 
movement, thought largely in terms of the narrowest nationalism. 
Their speeches laid stress on the glories of old times; the injuries, 
material and spiritual, caused by alien rule; the sufferings of our people; 
the indignity of foreign domination over us and our national honor 
demanding that we should be free; the necessity for sacrifice at the 
altar of the motherland. They were familiar themes which found 
an echo in every Indian heart, and the nationalist in me responded to 



them and was moved by them (though I was never a blind admirer 
of ancient times in India or elsewhere) . But, though the truth in them 
remained, they seemed to grow a little thin and threadbare with 
constant use, and their ceaseless repetition prevented the consideration 
of other problems and vital aspects of our struggle. They only fostered 
.emotion and did not encourage thought. _ 

I was by no means a pioneer in the socialist field in India. Indeed, 
I was rather backward, and I had only advanced painfully, step by 
step, where many others had gone ahead blazing a trail. The workers' 
trade-union movement was, ideologically, definitely socialist, and so 
were the majority of the youth leagues. A vague, confused socialism 
was already part of the atmosphere of India when I returned from 
Europe in December 1927, and even earlier than that there were many 
individual socialists. Mostly they thought along Utopian lines, but 
Marxian theory was influencing them increasingly, and a few con 
sidered themselves as hundred per cent Marxists. This tendency was 
strengthened in India, as in Europe and America, by developments 
in the Soviet Union, and particularly the Five-Year Plan. 

Such importance as I possessed as a socialist worker lay in the fact 
that I happened to be a prominent Congressman holding important 
Congress offices. There were many other well-known Congressmen 
who were beginning to think likewise. This was most marked in the 
United Provinces Provincial Congress Committee, and in this Com 
mittee we even tried, as early as 1926, to draw up a mild socialist 
program. We declared that the existing land system must go and 
that there should be no intermediaries between the State and the 
cultivator. We had to proceed cautiously, as we were moving in an 
atmosphere which was, till then, unused to such ideas. 

In the second half of 1928 and in 1929 there was frequent talk of my 
arrest. I do not know what reality lay behind the press references and 
the numerous private warnings I received from friends who seemed to 
be in the know, but the warnings produced a feeling of uncertainty 
in me, and I felt I was always on the verge of it. I did not mind this 
particularly as I knew that, whatever the future held for me, it could 
not be a settled life of routine. The sooner I got used to uncertainty 
and sudden changes and visits to prison the better. I think that on 
the whole I succeeded in getting used to the idea (and to a much lesser 
extent my people also succeeded) ; whenever arrest came I took it more 
casually than I might otherwise have done. So rumors of arrest were 
not without compensation; they gave a certain excitement and a bite 

139 



to my daily existence. Every day of freedom was something precious, 
a day gained. As a matter of fact, I had a long innings in 1928 and 
1929, and arrest came at last as late as April 1930. Since then my brief 
periods outside prison have had a measure of unreality about them, 
and I have lived in my house as a stranger on a short visit, or moved 
about uncertainly, not knowing what the morrow would hold for 
me, and with the constant expectation of a call back to jail. 

As 1928 approached its appointed end, the Calcutta Congress drew 
near. My father was to preside over it. He was full of the All-Parties 
Conference and of his report to it and wanted to push this through 
the Congress. To this he knew that I was not agreeable, because I 
was not prepared to compromise on the independence issue, and this 
irritated him. We did not argue about the matter much, but there was 
a definite feeling of mental conflict between us, an attempt to pull 
different ways. Differences of opinion we had often had before, vital 
differences which had kept us in different political camps. But I do 
not think that at any previous or subsequent occasion the tension 
had been so great. Both of us were rather unhappy about it. In Cal 
cutta matters came to this, that my father made it known that if he 
could not have his way in the Congress that is, if he could not have 
a majority for the resolution in favor of the All-Parties Report he 
would refuse to preside over the Congress. That was a perfectly 
reasonable and constitutional course to adopt. Nonetheless it was dis 
concerting to many of his opponents who did not wish to force the 
issue to this extent. 

There were negotiations between the two groups, and a compromise 
formula was announced. Then this fell through. It was all rather 
confusing and not very edifying. The main resolution of the Congress, 
as it was finally adopted, accepted the All-Parties Report but intimated 
that if the British Government did not agree to that constitution within 
a year the Congress would revert to independence. It was an offer of 
a year's grace and a polite ultimatum. The resolution was no doubt 
a come-down from the ideal of independence, for the All-Parties 
Report did not even ask for full Dominion status. And yet it was prob 
ably a wise resolution in the sense that it prevented a split when no one 
was ready for it, and kept the Congress together for the struggle that 
began in 1930. It was clear enough that the British Government were 
not going to accept the All-Parties Constitution within a year. The 
struggle was inevitable; and, as matters stood in the country, no such 
struggle could be at all effective without Gandhiji's lead. 

140 



I had opposed the resolution in the open Congress, though I did so 
half-heartedly. And yet I was again elected general secretary. In the 
Congress sphere I seemed to act the part of the famous Vicar of Bray. 
Whatever president sat on the Congress throne, still I was secretary in 
charge of the organization. 

A few days before the Calcutta Congress, the All-India Trade-Union 
Congress was held at Jharia, the center of the coal mine area. I attended 
and participated in it for the first two days and then had to go away to 
Calcutta. It was my first trade-union congress, and I was practically an 
outsider, though my activities among the peasantry, and lately among 
the workers, had gained for me a measure of popularity with the masses. 
I found the old tussle going on between the reformists and the more 
advanced and revolutionary elements. 

My own sympathies at Jharia were with the advanced group but, 
being a newcomer, I felt a little at sea in these domestic conflicts of the 
Trade-Union Congress, and I decided to keep aloof from them. After 
I had left Jharia, the annual Trade-Union Congress elections took 
place, and I learned at Calcutta that I had been elected president for 
the next year. I had been put forward by the moderate group, prob 
ably because they felt that I stood the best chance of defeating the other 
candidate, who was an actual worker (on the railways) and who had 
been put forward by the radical group. If I had been present at Jharia 
on the day of the election, I am sure that I would have withdrawn in 
favor of the worker candidate. It seemed to me positively indecent that 
a newcomer and nonworker should be suddenly thrust into the presi 
dency. This was in itself a measure of the infancy and weakness of the 
trade-union movement in India. 

In March 1929 the Government struck suddenly at organized labor 
by arresting some of its most prominent workers from the advanced 
groups. The leaders of the Bombay Girni Kamgar Union were taken, 
as well as labor leaders from Bengal, the United Provinces, and the 
Punjab. Some of these were communists, others were near-communists, 
yet others were just trade-unionists. This was the beginning of the 
famous Meerut trial which lasted for four years and a half. 

The Meerut Case Defense Committee (of which I was a member) 
did not have an easy time with the accused. There were different kinds 
of people among these, with different types of defenses, and often there 
was an utter absence of harmony among them. After some months we 
wound up the formal committee, but we continued to help in our in 
dividual capacities. The development of the political situation was ab- 

141 



sorbing more and more of our attention, and in 1930 all of us were 
ourselves in jail. 

Gandhiji was still keeping away from politics, except for the part 
he played at the Calcutta Congress. He was, however, in full touch 
with developments and was often consulted by the Congress leaders. 
His main activity for some years had been \hadi propaganda, and with 
this object he had undertaken extensive tours all over India. He took 
each province by turn and visited every district and almost every town 
of any consequence, as well as remote rural areas. Everywhere he at 
tracted enormous crowds, and it required a great deal of previous staff 
work to carry through his program. In this manner he has repeatedly 
toured India and got to know every bit of the vast country from the 
north to the far south, from the eastern mountains to the western sea. 
I do not think any other human being has ever traveled about India as 
much as he has done. 

In the past there were great wanderers who were continually on the 
move, pilgrim souls with the wanderlust; but their means of locomotion 
were slow, and a lifetime of such wandering could hardly compete with 
a year by railway and motorcar. Gandhiji went by railway and auto 
mobile, but he did not confine himself to them; he tramped also. In 
this way he gathered his unique knowledge of India and her people, 
and in this way also scores of millions saw him and came into personal 
touch with him. 

He came to the United Provinces in 1929 on his \hadi tour, and spent 
many weeks in these provinces during the hottest part of the year. I 
accompanied him occasionally for a few days at a time and, despite pre 
vious experience, could not help marveling at the vast crowds he at 
tracted. This was especially noticeable in our eastern districts, like Gor- 
akhpur, where the swarms of human beings reminded one of hordes 
of locusts. As we motored through the rural areas, we would have 
gatherings of from ten thousand to twenty-five thousand every few 
miles, and the principal meeting of the day might even exceed a hun 
dred thousand. There were no broadcasting facilities, except rarely in 
a few big cities, and it was manifestly impossible to be heard by these 
crowds. Probably they did not expect to hear anything; they were sat 
isfied if they saw the Mahatma. Gandhiji usually addressed them briefly, 
avoiding undue strain; it would have been quite impossible to carry 
on otherwise in this fashion from hour to hour and day to day. 

I did not accompany him throughout his United Provinces tour as 
I could be of no special use to him and there was no point in my add- 

142 



ing to the number of the touring party. I had no objection to crowds, 
but there was not sufficient inducement to get pushed and knocked 
about and my feet crushed the usual fate of people accompanying 
Gandhij i. I had plenty of other work to do and had no desire to con 
fine myself to \hadi propaganda, which seemed to me a relatively minor 
activity in view of the developing political situation. To some extent I 
resented Gandhiji's preoccupation with nonpolitical issues, and I could 
never understand the background of his thought. In those days he was 
collecting funds for Jtfiadi work, and he would say frequently that he 
wanted money for Daridranarayan, the "Lord of the Poor," or "God 
that resides in the poor"; meaning thereby, presumably, that he wanted 
it to help the poor to find employment and work in cottage industries. 
But behind that word there seemed to be a glorification of poverty; 
God was especially the Lord of the poor; they were His chosen people. 
That, I suppose, is the usual religious attitude everywhere. I could not 
appreciate it, for poverty seemed to me a hateful thing, to be fought 
and rooted out and not to be encouraged in any way. This inevitably 
led to an attack on a system which tolerated and produced poverty, and 
those who shrunk from this had of necessity to justify poverty in some 
way. They could only think in terms of scarcity and could not picture 
a world abundantly supplied with the necessaries of life; probably, ac 
cording to them, the rich and the poor would always be with us. 

Whenever I had occasion to discuss this with Gandhij i, he would lay 
stress on the rich treating their riches as a trust for the people; it was 
a viewpoint of considerable antiquity, and one comes across it fre 
quently in India as well as medieval Europe. I confess that I have al 
ways been wholly unable to understand how any person can reasonably 
expect this to happen, or imagine that therein lies the solution of the 
social problem. 

The Legislative Assembly and the provincial councils had long ceased 
to interest anyone, except the handful who moved in their sacred or 
bits. They carried on in their humdrum way, providing some kind of 
a cloak a torn and tattered affair to the authoritarian and despotic 
nature of the Government, an excuse to some people to talk of India's 
parliament, and allowances to their members. 

A rude awakening came to the Assembly one day when Bhagat 
Singh and B. K. Dutt threw two bombs from the visitors' gallery on to 
the floor of the house. No one was seriously hurt, and probably the 
bombs were intended, as was stated by the accused later, to make a 
noise and create a stir, and not to injure. 



They did create a stir both in the Assembly and outside. Other ac 
tivities of terrorists were not so innocuous. A young English police 
officer, who was alleged to have hit Lala Lajpat Rai, was shot down and 
killed in Lahore. In Bengal and elsewhere there seemed to be a re 
crudescence of terrorist activity. A number of conspiracy cases were 
launched, and the number of detenus people kept in prison or other 
wise detained without trial or conviction rapidly increased. 

In the Lahore conspiracy case some extraordinary scenes were en 
acted in the court by the police, and a great deal of public attention 
was drawn to the case because of this. As a protest against the treat 
ment given to them in court and in prison, there was a hunger strike 
on the part of most of the prisoners. I forget the exact reason why it 
began, but ultimately the question involved became the larger one of 
treatment of prisoners, especially politicals. This hunger strike went on 
from week to week and created a stir in the country. Owing to the 
physical weakness of the accused, they could not be taken to court, and 
the proceedings had to be adjourned repeatedly. The Government of 
India thereupon initiated legislation to allow court proceedings to con 
tinue even in the absence of the accused or their counsel. The question 
of prison treatment had also to be considered by them. 

I happened to be in Lahore when the hunger strike was already a 
month old. I was given permission to visit some of the prisoners in the 
prison, and I availed myself of this. I saw Bhagat Singh for the first 
time, and Jatindranath Das and a few others. They were all very weak 
and bedridden, and it was hardly possible to talk to them much. Bhagat 
Singh had an attractive, intellectual face, remarkably calm and peace 
ful. There seemed to be no anger in it. He looked and talked with 
great gentleness, but then I suppose that anyone who has been fasting 
for a month will look spiritual and gentle. Jatin Das looked milder 
still, soft and gentle like a young girl. He was in considerable pain 
when I saw him. He died later, as a result of fasting, on the sixty-first 
day of the hunger strike. 

Jatin Das's death created a sensation all over the country. It brought 
the question of the treatment of political prisoners to the front, and 
Government appointed a committee on the subject. As a result of the 
deliberations of this committee, new rules were issued creating three 
classes of prisoners. No special class of political prisoners was created. 
These new rules, which seemed to promise a change for the better, as 
a matter of fact made little difference, and the position remained, and 
still remains, highly unsatisfactory. 

144 



The 1929 Congress was going to be held in Lahore. After ten years 
it had come back to the Punjab. Much had happened during this 
decade, and India's face had changed, but there was no lack of parallels. 
Political tension was growing; the atmosphere of struggle was devel 
oping fast. The long shadow of the conflict to come lay over the land. 

As the summer and monsoon months gradually shaded off into the 
autumn, the provincial Congress committees busied themselves with 
the election of the president for the Lahore session of the Congress. 
There was almost unanimity in favor of Gandhi ji. 

So he was recommended for the presidency by the provincial com 
mittees. But he would have none of it. His refusal, though emphatic, 
seemed to leave some room for argument, and it was hoped that he 
would reconsider it. A meeting of the All-India Congress Committee 
was held in Lucknow to decide finally, and almost to the last hour all 
of us thought that he would agree. But he would not do so, and at the 
last moment he pressed my name forward. The All-India Congress 
Committee was somewhat taken aback by his final refusal, and a little 
irritated at being placed in a difficult and invidious position. For want 
of any other person, and in a spirit of resignation, they finally elected 
me. 

I have seldom felt quite so annoyed and humiliated as I did at that 
election. It was not that I was not sensible of the honor, for it was a 
great honor, and I would have rejoiced if I had been elected in the or 
dinary way. But I did not come to it by the main entrance or even a 
side entrance; I appeared suddenly by a trap door and bewildered the 
audience into acceptance. They put a brave face on it and, like a neces 
sary pill, swallowed me. My pride was hurt, and I almost felt like hand 
ing back the honor. Fortunately I restrained myself from making an 
exhibition of myself and stole away with a heavy heart. 

Probably the person who was happiest about this decision was my 
father. He did not wholly like my politics, but he liked me well enough, 
and any good thing that came my way pleased him. Often he would 
criticize me and speak a little curtly to me, but no person who cared 
to retain his good will could run me down in his presence. 

My election was indeed a great honor and a great responsibility for 
me; it was unique in that a son was immediately following his father 
in the presidential chair. It was often said that I was the youngest presi 
dent of the Congress I was just forty when I presided. This was not 
true. I think Gokhale was about the same age, and Maulana Abul 
Kalam Azad (though he is a little older than me) was probably just 

145 



under forty when he presided. But Gokhale was considered one of the 
elder statesmen even when he was in his late thirties, and Abul Kalam 
Azad has especially cultivated a look of venerable age to give a suitable 
background to his great learning. As statesmanship has seldom been 
considered one of my virtues, and no one has accused me of possessing 
an excess of learning, I have escaped so far the accusation of age, though 
my hair has turned gray and my looks betray me. 

The Lahore Congress drew near. Meanwhile events were marching, 
step by step, inevitably, pushed onward, so it seemed, by some motive 
force of their own. Individuals, for all the brave show they put up, 
played a very minor role. One had the feeling of being a cog in a great 
machine which swept on relentlessly. 

Hoping perhaps to check this onward march of destiny, the British 
Government took a forward step, and the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, made 
an announcement about a forthcoming Round Table Conference. It 
was an ingeniously worded announcement, which could mean much 
or very little, and it seemed to many of us obvious that the latter was 
the more likely contingency. And in any event, even if there was more 
in the announcement, it could not be anywhere near what we wanted. 
Hardly had this viceregal announcement been made, when, almost 
with indecent haste, so it seemed, a "Leaders' Conference" was ar 
ranged at Delhi, and people from various groups were invited to it. 
Gandhij i was there, so was my father; Vallabhbhai Patel (still presi 
dent of the Assembly) was also there, and Moderate leaders like Dr. Tej 
Bahadur Sapru and others. A joint resolution or manifesto was agreed 
to, accepting the Viceroy's declaration subject to some conditions, which, 
it was stated, were vital and must be fulfilled. If these conditions were 
accepted by Government, then co-operation was to be offered. These 
conditions * were solid enough and would have made a difference. 

It was a triumph to get such a resolution agreed to by representatives 
of all the groups, moderate and advanced. For the Congress it was a 
comedown; as a common measure of agreement it was high. But there 
was a fatal catch in it. The conditions were looked upon from at least 
two different viewpoints. The Congress people considered them to be 
essential, the sine qua non, without which there could be no co-opera- 

^Thc conditions were: 

(1) All discussions at the proposed conference to be on the basis of full Dominion 
status for India. 

(2) There should be a predominant representation of Congressmen at the conference. 

(3) A general amnesty of political prisoners. 

(4) The Government of India to be carried on from now onward, as far as is pos 
sible under existing conditions, on the lines of a Dominion government. 

146 



tion. For them they represented the minimum required. For the Moder 
ate groups they were a desirable maximum which should be stated, but 
which could not be insisted on to the point of refusal of co-operation. 

And so it happened that later on, though none of these conditions 
were satisfied and most of us lay in jail, together with scores of thou 
sands of others, our Moderate friends, who had signed that manifesto 
with us, gave their full co-operation to our jailers. 

Most of us suspected that this would happen though hardly to the 
extent it did happen but there was some hope that this joint action, 
whereby the Congress people had to some extent curbed themselves, 
would also result in curbing the propensities of the Liberals and others 
to indiscriminate and almost invariable co-operation with the British 
Government. A more powerful motive for some of us, who heartily 
disliked the compromising resolution, was to keep our own Congress 
ranks well knit together. On the eve of a big struggle we could not 
afford to split up the Congress. It was well known that Government 
was not likely to accept the conditions laid down by us, and our posi 
tion would thus be stronger and we could easily carry our Right wing 
with us. It was only a question of a few weeks; December and the 
Lahore Congress were near. 

And yet that joint manifesto was a bitter pill for some of us. To give 
up the demand for independence, even in theory and even for a short 
while, was wrong and dangerous; it meant that it was just a tactical 
affair, something to bargain with, not something which was essential 
and without which we could never be content. So I hesitated and re 
fused to sign the manifesto, but, as was not unusual with me, I allowed 
myself to be talked into signing. Even so, I came away in great dis 
tress, and the very next day I thought of withdrawing from the Con 
gress presidency, and wrote accordingly to Gandhiji. I do not suppose 
that I meant this seriously, though I was sufficiently upset. A soothing 
letter from Gandhiji and three days of reflection calmed me. 

Just prior to the Lahore Congress, a final attempt was made to find 
some basis of agreement between Congress and the Government. An 
interview with Lord Irwin, the Viceroy, was arranged. I do not know 
who took the initiative in arranging this interview, but I imagine that 
Vallabhbhai Patel was the prime mover. Gandhiji and my father were 
present at the interview, representing the Congress viewpoint. The in 
terview came to nothing; there was no common ground, and the two 
main parties the Government and Congress were far apart from each 
other. So now nothing remained but for the Congress to go ahead. The 



year of grace given at Calcutta was ending; independence was to be 
declared once for all the objective of the Congress, and the necessary 
steps taken to carry on the struggle to attain it. 

During these final weeks prior to the Lahore Congress I had to at 
tend to important work in another field. The All-India Trade-Union 
Congress was meeting at Nagpur, and, as president for the year, I had 
to preside over it. It was very unusual for the same person to preside 
over both the National Congress and the Trade-Union Congress 
within a few weeks of each other. I had hoped that I might be a link 
between the two and bring them closer to each other the National 
Congress to become more socialistic, more proletarian, and organized 
labor to join the national struggle. 

It was, perhaps, a vain hope, for nationalism can only go far in a 
socialistic or proletarian direction by ceasing to be nationalism. Yet I 
felt that, bourgeois as the outlook of the National Congress was, it did 
represent the only effective revolutionary force in the country. As such, 
labor ought to help it and co-operate with it and influence it, keeping, 
however, its own identity and idealogy distinct and intact. And I hoped 
that the course of events and the participation in direct action would 
inevitably drive the Congress to a more radical ideology and to face 
social and economic issues. The development of the Congress during 
recent years had been in the direction of the peasant and the village. 
If this development continued, it might in course of time become a vast 
peasant organization, or, at any rate, an organization in which the peas 
ant element predominated. 

Many Congressmen took prominent part in labor activities. The ad 
vanced sections of labor, however, fought shy of the National Congress. 
They mistrusted its leaders, and considered its ideology bourgeois and 
reactionary, which indeed it was, from the labor point of view. The 
Congress was, as its very name implied, a nationalist organization. 

I played a very undistinguished role at the Nagpur Trade-Union 
Congress. Being a newcomer in the labor field and still feeling my way, 
I was a little hesitant. Generally, I expressed my views in favor of the 
more advanced groups, but I avoided acting with any group and played 
the part more of an impartial speaker than a directing president. I was 
thus an almost passive spectator of the breaking-up of the Trade-Union 
Congress and the formation of a new moderate organization. Person 
ally, I felt that the Right groups were not justified in breaking away, 
and yet some of the leaders of the Left had forced the pace and given 
them every pretext to depart. Between the quarrels of the Right and 

148 



Left, a large Center group felt a little helpless. Perhaps given a right 
lead, it could have curbed the two and avoided the break-up of the 
Trade Union Congress, and, even if the break came, it would not have 
had the unfortunate consequences which resulted. 
I was out of all this from 1930 onward, as I was mostly in prison. 



XXIV 

INDEPENDENCE AND AFTER 

THE LAHORE CONGRESS remains fresh in my memory a vivid patch. 
That is natural, for I played a leading role there and, for a moment, 
occupied the center of the stage; and I like to think sometimes of the 
emotions that filled me during those crowded days. I can never forget 
the magnificent welcome that the people of Lahore gave me, tremen 
dous in its volume and its intensity. I knew well that this overflowing 
enthusiasm was for a symbol and an idea, not for me personally; yet 
it was no little thing for a person to become that symbol, even for a 
while, in the eyes and hearts of great numbers of people, and I felt 
exhilarated and lifted out of myself. But my personal reactions were of 
little account, and there were big issues at stake. The whole atmosphere 
was electric and surcharged with the gravity of the occasion. Our deci 
sions were not going to be mere criticisms or protests or expressions of 
opinion, but a call to action which was bound to convulse the country 
and affect the lives of millions. 

What the distant future held for us and our country, none dared 
prophesy; the immediate future was clear enough, and it held the 
promise of strife and suffering for us and those who were dear to us. 
This thought sobered our enthusiasms and made us very conscious of 
our responsibility. Every vote that we gave became a message of fare 
well to ease, comfort, domestic happiness, and the intercourse of 
friends, and an invitation to lonely days and nights and physical and 
mental distress. 

The main resolution on independence, and the action to be taken in 
furtherance of our freedom struggle, was passed almost unanimously, 
barely a score of persons, out of many thousands, voting against it. 
The All-India Congress Committee had been authorized to plan and 
carry out our campaign, but all knew that the real decision lay with 
Gandhiji. 

149 



The Lahore Congress was attended by large numbers of people from 
the Frontier Province near by. Individual delegates from this province 
had always come to the Congress sessions, and for some years past 
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan had been attending and taking part in our 
deliberations. In Lahore for the first time a large batch of earnest 
young men from the Frontier came into touch with all-India political 
currents. Their fresh minds were impressed, and they returned with a 
sense of unity with the rest of India in the struggle for freedom and 
full of enthusiasm for it. They were simple but effective men of action, 
less given to talk and quibbling than the people of any other province 
in India, and they started organizing their people and spreading the 
new ideas. They met with success, and the men and women of the 
Frontier, the latest to join in India's struggle, played an outstanding 
and remarkable part from 1930 onward. 

Immediately after the Lahore Congress, and in obedience to its 
mandate, my father called upon the Congress members of the Legis 
lative Assembly and the provincial councils to resign from their seats. 
Nearly all of them came out in a body, a very few refusing to do so, 
although this involved a breach of their election promises. 

Still we were vague about the future. In spite of the enthusiasm 
shown at the Congress session, no one knew what the response of the 
country would be to a program of action. We had burned our boats 
and could not go back, but the country ahead of us was an almost 
strange and uncharted land. To give a start to our campaign, and partly 
also to judge the temper of the country, January 26 was fixed as Inde 
pendence Day, when a pledge of independence was to be taken all over 
the country. 

And so, full of doubt about our program, but pushed on by enthusi 
asm and the desire to do something effective, we waited for the march 
of events. I was in Allahabad during the early part of January; my 
father was mostly away. It was the time of the great annual fair, the 
Magh Mela i probably it was the special Kumbh year, and hundreds of 
thousands of men and women were continually streaming into Allaha 
bad, or holy Prayag, as it was to the pilgrims. They were all kinds of 
people, chiefly peasants, also laborers, shopkeepers, artisans, merchants, 
businessmen, professional people indeed, it was a cross section of 
Hindu India. As I watched these great crowds and the unending 
streams of people going to and from the river, I wondered how they 
would react to the call for civil resistance and peaceful direct action. 
How many of them knew or cared for the Lahore decisions? How 

150 



amazingly powerful was that faith which had for thousands of years 
brought them and their forbears from every corner of India to bathe 
in the holy Ganga! Could they not divert some of this tremendous 
energy to political and economic action to better their own lot? Or 
were their minds too full of the trappings and traditions of their 
religion to leave room for other thoughts ? I knew, of course, that these 
other thoughts were already there, stirring the placid stillness of ages. 
It was the movement of these vague ideas and desires among the 
masses that had caused the upheavals of the past dozen years and had 
changed the face of India. There was no doubt about their existence 
and of the dynamic energy behind them. But still doubt came and 
questions arose to which there was no immediate answer. How far had 
these ideas spread? What strength lay behind them, what capacity for 
organized action, for long endurance? 

Our house attracted crowds of pilgrims. It lay conveniently situated 
near one of the places of pilgrimage, Bharadwaj, where in olden times 
there was a university, and on the days of the mela an endless stream 
of visitors would come to us from dawn to dusk. Curiosity, I suppose, 
brought most of them, and the desire to see well-known persons they 
had heard of, especially my father. But a large proportion of those who 
came were politically inclined and asked questions about the Congress 
and what it had decided and what was going to happen; also they 
were full of their own economic troubles and wanted to know what 
they should do about them. Our political slogans they knew well, and 
all day the house resounded with them. I started the day by saying a 
few words to each group of twenty or fifty or a hundred as it came, 
one after the other; but soon this proved an impossible undertaking, 
and I silently saluted them when they came. There was a limit to this, 
too, and then I tried to hide myself. It was all in vain. The slogans 
became louder and louder, the verandas of the house were full of these 
visitors of ours, each door and window had a collection of prying eyes. 
It was impossible to work or talk or feed or, indeed, do anything. This 
was not only embarrassing, it was annoying and irritating. Yet there 
they were, these people looking up with shining eyes full of affection, 
with generations of poverty and suffering behind them, and still pour 
ing out their gratitude and love and asking for little in return, except 
fellow feeling and sympathy. It was impossible not to feel humbled and 
awed by this abundance of affection and devotion. 

A dear friend of ours was staying with us at the time, and often it 
became impossible to carry on any conversation with her, for every five 



minutes or less I had to go out to say a word or two to a crowd that 
had assembled, and in between we listened to the slogans and shouting 
outside. She was amused at my plight and a little impressed, I think, 
by what she considered my great popularity with the masses. (As a 
matter of fact the principal attraction was my father, but, as he was 
away, I had to face the music.) She turned to me suddenly and asked 
me how I liked this hero worship. Did I not feel proud of it? I hesi 
tated a little before answering, and this led her to think that she had, 
perhaps, embarrassed me by too personal a question. She apologized. 
She had not embarrassed me in the least, but I found the question 
difficult to answer. My mind wandered away, and I began to analyze 
my own feelings and reactions. They were very mixed. 

It was true that I had achieved, almost accidentally as it were, an 
unusual degree of popularity with the masses; I was appreciated by the 
intelligentsia; to young men and women I was a bit of a hero, and a 
halo of romance seemed to surround me in their eyes. Songs had been 
written about me, and the most impossible and ridiculous legends had 
grown up. Even my opponents had often put in a good word for me 
and patronizingly admitted that I was not lacking in competence or in 
good faith. 

Only a saint, perhaps, or an inhuman monster could survive all this, 
unscathed and unaffected, and I can place myself in neither of these 
categories. It went to my head, intoxicated me a little, and gave me 
confidence and strength. I became (I imagine so, for it is a difficult 
task to look at oneself from outside) just a little bit autocratic in my 
ways, just a shade dictatorial. And yet I do not think that my conceit 
increased markedly. I had a fair measure of my abilities, I thought, and 
I was by no means humble about them. But I knew well enough that 
there was nothing at all remarkable about them, and I was very con 
scious of my failings. A habit of introspection probably helped me to 
retain my balance and view many happenings connected with myself 
in a detached manner. Experience of public life showed me that popu 
larity was often the handmaiden of undesirable persons; it was cer 
tainly not an invariable sign of virtue or intelligence. Was I popular, 
then, because of my failings or my accomplishments ? Why, indeed, was 
I popular? 

Not because of intellectual attainments, for they were not extraor 
dinary, and, in any event, they do not make for popularity. Not 
because of so-called sacrifices, for it is patent that hundreds and thou 
sands in our own day in India have suffered infinitely more, even to 

152 



the point of the last sacrifice. My reputation as a hero is entirely a bogus 
one; I do not feel at all heroic, and generally the heroic attitude or the 
dramatic pose in life strikes me as silly. As for romance, I should say 
that I am the least romantic of individuals. It is true that I have some 
physical and mental courage, but the background of that is probably 
pride personal, group, and national and a reluctance to be coerced 
into anything. 

I had no satisfactory answer to my question. Then I proceeded along 
a different line of inquiry. I found that one of the most persistent 
legends about my father and myself was to the effect that we used to 
send our linen weekly from India to a Paris laundry. We have 
repeatedly contradicted this, but the legend persists. Anything more 
fantastic and absurd it is difficult for me to imagine, and, if anyone is 
foolish enough to indulge in this wasteful snobbery, I should have 
thought he would get a special mention for being a prize fool. 

Another equally persistent legend, often repeated in spite of denial, 
is that I was at school with the Prince of Wales. The story goes on to 
say that when the Prince came to India in 1921 he asked for me; I was 
then in jail As a matter of fact, I was not only not at school with him, 
but I have never had the advantage of meeting him or speaking to him. 

I do not mean to imply that my reputation or popularity, such as 
they are, depend on these or similar legends. They may have a more 
secure foundation, but there is no doubt that the superstructure has a 
thick covering of snobbery, as is evidenced by these stories. At any rate, 
there is the idea of mixing in high society and living a life of luxury 
and then renouncing it all; renunciation has always appealed to the 
Indian mind. As a basis for a reputation this does not at all appeal to 
me. I prefer the active virtues to the passive ones, and renunciation and 
sacrifice for their own sakes have little appeal for me. I do value them 
from another point of view that of mental and spiritual training- 
just as a simple and regular life is necessary for the athlete to keep in 
good physical condition. And the capacity for endurance and persever 
ance in spite of hard knocks is essential for those who wish to dabble 
in great undertakings. But I have no liking or attraction for the ascetic 
view of life, the negation of life, the terrified abstention from its joys 
and sensations. I have not consciously renounced anything that I really 
valued; but then, values change. 

The question that my friend had asked me still remained unan 
swered: did I not feel proud of this hero worship of the crowd? I 
disliked it and wanted to run away from it, yet I had got used to it; 

153 



when it was wholly absent, I rather missed it. Neither way brought 
satisfaction, but, on the whole, the crowd had filled some inner need 
of mine. The notion that I could influence them and move them to 
action gave me a sense of authority over their minds and hearts; this 
satisfied, to some extent, my will to power. On their part, they exer 
cised a subtle tyranny over me, for their confidence and affection moved 
inner depths within me and evoked emotional responses. Individualist 
as I was, sometimes the barriers of individuality seemed to melt away, 
and I felt that it would be better to be accursed with these unhappy 
people than to be saved alone. But the barriers were too solid to dis 
appear, and I peeped over them with wondering eyes at this phenom 
enon which I failed to understand. 

Conceit, like fat on the human body, grows imperceptibly, layer 
upon layer, and the person whom it affects is unconscious of the daily 
accretion. Fortunately the hard knocks of a mad world tone it down or 
even squash it completely, and there has been no lack of these hard 
knocks for us in India during recent years. The school of life has been 
a difficult one for us, and suffering is a hard taskmaster. 

I have been fortunate in another respect also the possession of fam 
ily members and friends and comrades, who have helped me to retain 
a proper perspective and not to lose my mental equilibrium. Public 
functions, addresses by municipalities, local boards, and other public 
bodies, processions, and the like, used to be a great strain on my nerves 
and my sense of humor and reality. The most extravagant and pomp 
ous language would be used, and everybody would look so solemn and 
pious that I felt an almost uncontrollable desire to laugh, or to stick 
out my tongue, or stand on my head, just for the pleasure of shocking 
and watching the reactions on the faces at that august assembly! For 
tunately for my reputation and for the sober respectability of public life 
in India, I have suppressed this mad desire and usually behaved with 
due propriety. But not always. Sometimes there has been an exhibition 
on my part in a crowded meeting, or more often in processions, which 
I find extraordinarily trying. I have suddenly left a procession, arranged 
in our honor, and disappeared in the crowd, leaving my wife or some 
other person to carry on, perched up in a car or carriage, with that 
procession. 

This continuous effort to suppress one's feelings and behave in 
public is a bit of a strain, and the usual result is that one puts on a 
glum and solid look on public occasions. Perhaps because of this I was 
once described in an article in a Hindu magazine as resembling a 

154 



Hindu widow! I must say that, much as I admire Hindu widows of 
the old type, this gave me a shock. The author evidently meant to 
praise me for some qualities he thought I possessed a spirit of gentle 
resignation and renunciation and a smileless devotion to work. I had 
hoped that I possessed and, indeed, I wish that Hindu widows would 
possess more active and aggressive qualities and the capacity for 
humor and laughter. Gandhiji once told an interviewer that if he had 
not had the gift of humor he might have committed suicide, or some 
thing to this effect. I would not presume to go so far, yet life certainly 
would have been almost intolerable for me but for the humor and light 
touches that some people gave to it. 

My very popularity and the brave addresses that came my way, full 
(as is, indeed, the custom of all such addresses in India) of choice and 
flowery language and extravagant conceits, became subjects for raillery 
in the circle of my family and intimate friends. The high-sounding and 
pompous words and titles that were often used for all those prominent 
in the national movement, were picked out by my wife and sisters and 
others and bandied about irreverently. I was addressed as Bharat 
Bhushan "J ewe " f India," Tyagamurti "O Embodiment of Sacri 
fice"; this light-hearted treatment soothed me, and the tension of those 
solemn public gatherings, where I had to remain on my best behavior, 
gradually relaxed. Even my little daughter joined in the game. Only 
my mother insisted on taking me seriously, and she never wholly 
approved of any sarcasm or raillery at the expense of her darling boy. 
Father was amused; he had a way of quietly expressing his deep under 
standing and sympathy. 

But all these shouting crowds, the dull and wearying public func 
tions, the interminable arguments, and the dust and tumble of politics 
touched me on the surface only, though sometimes the touch was 
sharp and pointed. My real conflict lay within me, a conflict of ideas, 
desires, and loyalties, of subconscious depths struggling with outer cir 
cumstances, of an inner hunger unsatisfied. I became a battleground, 
where various forces struggled for mastery. I sought an escape from 
this; I tried to find harmony and equilibrium, and in this attempt I 
rushed into action. That gave me some peace; outer conflict relieved 
the strain of the inner struggle. 

Why am I writing all this sitting here in prison? The quest is still 
the same, in prison or outside, and I write down my past feelings and 
experiences in the hope that this may bring me some peace and psychic 
satisfaction. 

155 



XXV 

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE BEGINS 

INDEPENDENCE DAY CAME, January 26, 1930, and it revealed to us, as in 
a flash, the earnest and enthusiastic mood of the country. There was 
something vastly impressive about the great gatherings everywhere, 
peacefully and solemnly taking the pledge of independence 1 without 
any speeches or exhortation. This celebration gave the necessary im 
petus to Gandhiji, and he felt, with his sure touch on the pulse of the 
people, that the time was ripe for action. Events followed then in quick 
succession, like a drama working up to its climax. 

As civil disobedience approached and electrified the atmosphere, our 
thoughts went back to the movement of 1921-22 and the manner of 
its sudden suspension after Chauri Chaura. The country was more dis 
ciplined now, and there was a clearer appreciation of the nature of the 
struggle. The technique was understood to some extent, but more im 
portant still from Gandhiji's point of view, it was fully realized by 
everyone that he was terribly in earnest about nonviolence. There could 
be no doubt about that now, as there probably was in the minds of some 
people ten years before. Despite all this, how could we possibly be cer 
tain that an outbreak of violence might not occur in some locality 
either spontaneously or as the result of an intrigue? And, if such an 
incident occurred, what would be its effect on our civil disobedience 
movement ? Would it be suddenly wound up as before ? That prospect 
was most disconcerting. 

Gandhiji probably thought over this question also in his own way, 
though the problem that seemed to trouble him, as far as I could gather 
from scraps of conversation, was put differently. 

The nonviolent method of action to bring about a change for the 
better was to him the only right method and, if rightly pursued, an 
infallible method. Must it be said that this method required a specially 
favorable atmosphere for its functioning and success, and that it should 
not be tried if outward conditions were not suited to it? That led to 
the conclusion that the nonviolent method was not meant for all con 
tingencies, and was thus neither a universal nor an infallible method. 
This conclusion was intolerable for Gandhiji, for he firmly believed 
that it was a universal and infallible method. Therefore, necessarily, 
it must function even though the external conditions were unfavorable, 

1 This pledge is given in Appendix A. 

I5 6 



and even in the midst o strife and violence. The way of its functioning 
might be varied to suit varying circumstances, but to stop it would be 
a confession of failure of the method itself. 

Perhaps his mind worked in some such way, but I cannot be sure 
of his thoughts. He did give us the impression that there was a slightly 
different orientation to his thinking, and that civil disobedience, when 
it came, need not be stopped because of a sporadic act of violence. If, 
however, the violence became in any way part of the movement itself, 
then it ceased to be a peaceful civil disobedience movement, and its 
activities had to be curtailed or varied. This assurance went a long way 
in satisfying many of us. The great question that hung in the air now 
was how? How were we to begin? What form of civil disobedience 
should we take up that would be effective, suited to the circumstances, 
and popular with the masses ? And then the Mahatma gave the hint. 

Salt suddenly became a mysterious word, a word of power. The salt 
tax was to be attacked, the salt laws were to be broken. We were be 
wildered and could not quite fit in a national struggle with common 
salt. Another surprising development was Gandhiji's announcement of 
his "Eleven Points." What was the point of making a list of some 
political and social reforms good in themselves, no doubt when we 
were talking in terms of independence? Did Gandhiji mean the same 
thing when he used this term as we did, or did we speak a different 
language? We had no time to argue, for events were on the move. 
They were moving politically before our eyes from day to day in India; 
and, hardly realized by us at the time, they were moving fast in the 
world and holding it in the grip of a terrible depression. Prices were 
falling, and the city dwellers welcomed this as a sign of the plenty to 
come, but the farmer and the tenant saw the prospect with alarm. 

Then came Gandhiji's correspondence with the Viceroy and the be 
ginning of the Dandi Salt March from the Ashrama at Sabarmati. As 
people followed the fortunes of this marching column of pilgrims from 
day to day, the temperature of the country went up. A meeting of the 
All-India Congress Committee was held at Ahmedabad to make final 
arrangements for the struggle that was now almost upon us. The 
leader in the struggle was not present, for he was already tramping 
with his pilgrim band to the sea, and he refused to return. The All- 
India Congress Committee planned what should be done in case of 
arrests, and large powers were given to the president to act on behalf 
of the Committee, in case it could not meet, to nominate members of 
the Working Committee in place of those arrested, and to nominate a 

157 



successor for himself with the same powers. Similar powers were given 
by provincial and local Congress committees to their presidents. 

Thus was inaugurated a regime when so-called "dictators" flourished 
and controlled the struggle on behalf of the Congress. Secretaries of 
state for India and viceroys and governors have held up their hands 
in horror and proclaimed how vicious and degraded was the Congress 
because it believed in dictatorships; they, of course, being convinced 
adherents of democracy. Occasionally the Moderate press in India has 
also preached to us the virtues of democracy. We listened to all this in 
silence (because we were in prison) and in amazement. Brazen-faced 
hypocrisy could hardly go further. Here was India being governed 
forcibly under an absolute dictatorship under ordinances and suppres 
sion of every kind of civil liberty, and yet our rulers talked unctuously 
of democracy. Even normally, where was the shadow of democracy in 
India? It was no doubt natural for the British Government to defend 
its power and vested interests in India and to suppress those who 
sought to challenge its authority. But its assertion that all this was the 
democratic method was worthy of record for future generations to ad 
mire and ponder over. 

The Congress had to face a situation in which it would be impos 
sible for it to function normally; when it would be declared an unlaw 
ful organization, and its committees could not meet for consultation 
or any action, except secretly. Secrecy was not encouraged by us, as we 
wanted to keep our struggle a perfectly open one, and thus to keep up 
our tone and influence the masses. But even secret work did not take 
us far. All our leading men and women at the center, as well as in the 
provinces and in local areas, were bound to be arrested. Who was then 
to carry on? The only course open to us was, after the fashion of an 
army in action, to make arrangements for new commanders to be ap 
pointed as old ones were disabled. We could not sit down in the field 
of battle and hold committee meetings. Indeed, we did so sometimes, 
but the object of this, and the inevitable result, was to have the whole 
committee arrested en bloc. We did not even have the advantage of a 
general staff sitting safely behind the lines, or a civilian cabinet in still 
greater safety elsewhere. Our general staffs and cabinets had to keep, 
by the very nature of our struggle, in the most advanced and exposed 
positions, and they were arrested and removed in the early stages. And 
what was the power we conferred on our "dictators"? It was an honor 
for them to be put forward as symbols of the national determination to 
carry on the struggle; but the actual authority they had was largely 




D. G. Tendnlfyr 

Indian peasants marching to a session of the Indian National Con 
gress carry a banner reading, "Away with serfdom" 




Jawaharlal Nehru's younger sister, Mrs. Krishna 

Huteesingh (left), 'and his wife, Kamala, in the 

male dress which they adopted as volunteers in the 

civil disobedience campaign of 1930 



confined to "dictating" themselves to prison. They could only function 
at all when the committee they represented could not meet on account 
of force majeure; and wherever and whenever that committee could 
meet, the "dictator" lost his individual authority, such as it was. He or 
she could not tackle any basic problems or principles; only minor and 
superficial phases of the movement could be affected by the "dictator." 
Congress "dictatorships" were really steppingstones to prison; and 
from day to day this process went on, new persons taking the place of 
those who were disabled. 

And so, having made our final preparations, we bade good-by to our 
comrades of the All-India Congress Committee at Ahmedabad, for 
none knew when or how we would meet again, or whether we would 
meet at all. We hastened back to our posts to give the finishing touches 
to our local arrangements, in accordance with the new directions of the 
All-India Congress Committee, and, as Sarojini Naidu said, to pack up 
our toothbrushes for the journey to prison. 

On our way back, father and I went to see Gandhiji. He was at Jam- 
busar with his pilgrim band, and we spent a few hours with him there 
and then saw him stride away with his party to the next stage in the 
journey to the salt sea. That was my last glimpse of him then as I saw 
him, staff in hand, marching along at the head of his followers, with 
firm step and a peaceful but undaunted look. It was a moving sight. 

At Jambusar my father had decided, in consultation with Gandhiji, 
to make a gift of his old house in Allahabad to the nation and to re 
name this Swaraj Bhawan. On his return to Allahabad he made the 
announcement, and actually handed over charge to the Congress peo 
ple; part of the large house being converted into a hospital. He was 
unable to go through the legal formalities at the time, and, a year and 
a half later, I created a trust of the property, in accordance with his 
wishes. 

April came, and Gandhiji drew near to the sea, and we waited for 
the word to begin civil disobedience by an attack on the salt laws. For 
months past we had been drilling our volunteers, and Kamala and 
Krishna (my wife and sister) had both joined them and donned male 
attire for the purpose. The volunteers had, of course, no arms or even 
sticks. The object of training them was to make them more efficient 
in their work and capable of dealing with large crowds. The 6th of 
April was the first day of the National Week, which is celebrated an 
nually in memory of the happenings in 1919, from Satyagraha Day to 
Jallianwala Bagh. On that day Gandhiji began the breach of the salt 

159 



laws at Dandi beach, and three or four days later permission was given 
to all Congress organizations to do likewise and begin civil disobedi 
ence in their own areas. 

It seemed as though a spring had been suddenly released; all over 
the country, in town and village, salt manufacture was the topic of the 
day, and many curious expedients were adopted to produce salt. We 
knew precious little about it, and so we read it up where we could and 
issued leaflets giving directions; we collected pots and pans and ulti 
mately succeeded in producing some unwholesome stuff, which we 
waved about in triumph and often auctioned for fancy prices. It was 
really immaterial whether the stuff was good or bad; the main thing 
was to commit a breach of the obnoxious salt law, and we were success 
ful in that, even though the quality of our salt was poor. As we saw 
the abounding enthusiasm of the people and the way salt-making was 
spreading like a prairie fire, we felt a little abashed and ashamed for 
having questioned the efficacy of this method when it was first pro 
posed by Gandhiji. And we marveled at the amazing knack of the man 
to impress the multitude and make it act in an organized way. 

I was arrested on the I4th of April as I was entraining for Raipur in 
the Central Provinces, where I was going to attend a conference. That 
very day I was tried in prison and sentenced to six months' imprison 
ment under the Salt Act. In anticipation of arrest I had nominated 
(under the new powers given to me by the All-India Congress Com 
mittee) Gandhiji to act as Congress president in my absence, but, fear 
ing his refusal, my second nomination was for father. As I expected, 
Gandhiji would not agree, and so father became the acting president 
of the Congress. He was in poor health; nevertheless he threw himself 
into the campaign with great energy; and, during those early months, 
his strong guidance and enforcement of discipline was of tremendous 
benefit to the movement. The movement benefited greatly, but it was 
at the cost of such health and physical fitness as had remained in him. 

Those were days of stirring news processions and lathee charges and 
firing, frequent hartals to celebrate noted arrests, and special observ 
ances, like Peshawar Day, Garhwali Day, etc. For the time being the 
boycott of foreign cloth and all British goods was almost complete. 
When I heard that my aged mother and, of course, my sisters used to 
stand under the hot summer sun picketing before foreign cloth shops, 
I was greatly moved. Kamala did so also, but she did something more. 
She threw herself into the movement in Allahabad city and district 
with an energy and determination which amazed me, who thought I 

160 



had known her so well for so many years. She forgot her ill-health and 
rushed about the whole day in the sun, and showed remarkable powers 
of organization. I heard of this vaguely in jail. Later, when my father 
joined me there, I was to learn from him how much he had himself 
appreciated Kamala's work, and especially her organizing capacity. He 
did not at all fancy my mother or the girls rushing about in the hot 
sun, but, except for an occasional remonstrance, he did not interfere. 

The biggest news of all that came to us in those early days was of the 
occurrences in Peshawar on April 23,* and subsequently all over the 
Frontier Province. Anywhere in India such a remarkable exhibition of 
disciplined and peaceful courage before machine-gun firing would have 
stirred the country. In the Frontier Province it had an additional sig 
nificance, for the Pathans, noted for their courage, were not noted for 
their peaceful nature; and these Pathans had set an example which was 
unique in India. In the Frontier Province also occurred the famous 
incident of the refusal to fire on the civil population by the Garhwali 
soldiers. They refused to fire because of a soldier's distaste for firing 
on an unarmed crowd, and because, no doubt, of sympathy with the 
crowd. But even sympathy is not usually enough to induce a soldier to 
take the grave step of refusing to obey his officer's orders. He knows 
the consequences. The Garhwalis probably did so (in common with 
some other regiments elsewhere whose disobedience did not receive 
publicity) because of a mistaken notion that the British power was col 
lapsing. Only when such an idea takes possession of the soldier does he 
dare to act according to his own sympathies and inclinations. Probably 
for a few days or weeks the general commotion and civil disobedience 
led some people to think that the last days of British rule had come, 
and this influenced part of the Indian Army. Soon it became obvious 
that no such thing was going to happen in the near future, and then 
there was no more disobedience in the army. Care was also taken not 
to put them in compromising positions. 

Many strange things happened in those days, but undoubtedly the 
most striking was the part of the women in the national struggle. They 
came out in large numbers from the seclusion of their homes and, 
though unused to public activity, threw themselves into the heart of 
the struggle. The picketing of foreign cloth and liquor shops they made 
their preserve. Enormous processions consisting of women alone were 
taken out in all the cities; and, generally, the attitude of the women 

3 When British machine-guns and airplanes as well quelled a mass protest against 
certain governmental measures. Ed. 

161 



was more unyielding than that of the men. Often they became Con 
gress "dictators" in provinces and in local areas. 

The breach of the Salt Act soon became just one activity, and civil 
resistance spread to other fields. This was facilitated by the promulga 
tion of various ordinances by the Viceroy prohibiting a number of 
activities. As these ordinances and prohibitions grew, the opportunities 
for breaking them also grew, and civil resistance took the form of 
doing the very thing that the ordinance was intended to stop. The ini 
tiative definitely remained with the Congress and the people; and, as 
each ordinance law failed to control the situation from the point of 
view of government, fresh ordinances were issued by the Viceroy. 
Many of the Congress Working Committee members had been ar 
rested, but it continued to function with new members added on to it, 
and each official ordinance was countered by a resolution of the Work 
ing Committee giving directions as to how to meet it. These directions 
were carried out with surprising uniformity all over this country with 
one exception, the one relating to the publication of newspapers. 

When an ordinance was issued for the further control of the press 
and the demand of security from newspapers, the Working Committee 
called upon the nationalist press to refuse to give any security, and to 
stop publication instead. This was a hard pill to swallow for the news 
papermen, for just then the public demand for news was very great. 
Still the great majority of newspapers some Moderate papers excepted 
stopped publication, with the result that all manner of rumors began 
to spread. But they could not hold out for long; the temptation was too 
great, and the sight of their Moderate rivals picking up their business 
too irritating. So most of them drifted back to publication. 

Gandhiji had been arrested on May 5. After his arrest big raids on 
the salt pans and depots were organized on the west coast. There were 
very painful incidents of police brutality during these raids. Bombay 
then occupied the center of the picture with its tremendous hartals and 
processions and lathi charges. Several emergency hospitals grew up to 
treat the victims of these lathee charges. Much that was remarkable hap 
pened in Bombay, and, being a great city, it had the advantage of pub 
licity. Occurrences of equal importance in small towns and the rural 
areas received no publicity. 

In the latter half of June my father went to Bombay, and with him 
went my mother and Kamala. They had a great reception, and during 
their stay there occurred some of the fiercest of the lathee charges. These 
were, indeed, becoming frequent occurrences in Bombay. A fortnight 

162 



or so later an extraordinary all-night ordeal took place there, when 
Malaviyaji and members of the Working Committee, at the head of a 
huge crowd, spent the night facing the police, who blocked their way. 

On his return from Bombay father was arrested on June 30, and 
Syed Mahmud was arrested with him. They were arrested as acting 
president and secretary of the Working Committee, which was de 
clared unlawful. Both of them were sentenced to six months. My 
father's arrest was probably due to his having issued a statement defin 
ing the duties of a soldier or policeman in the event of an order to fire 
on civil populations being given. The statement was strictly a legal 
affair, and contained the present British Indian law on this point 
Nevertheless, it was considered a provocative and dangerous document. 

The Bombay visit had been a great strain on father; from early 
morning to late at night he was kept busy, and he had to take the re 
sponsibility for every important decision. He had long been unwell, 
but now he returned fagged out, and decided, at the urgent advice of 
his doctors, to take complete rest immediately. He arranged to go to 
Mussoorie and packed up for it, but the day before he intended leaving 
for Mussoorie, he appeared before us in our barrack in Naini Central 
Prison. 



XXVI 

IN NAINI PRISON 

I HAD GONE back to jail after nearly seven years, and memories of prison 
life had somewhat faded. I was in Naini Central Prison, one of the 
big prisons of the province, and I was to have the novel experience of 
being kept by myself. My enclosure was apart from the big enclosure 
containing the jail population of between 2200 and 2300. It was a 
small enclosure, circular in shape, with a diameter of about one hun 
dred feet, and with a circular wall about fifteen feet high surrounding 
it. In the middle of it was a drab and ugly building containing four 
cells. I was given two of these cells, connecting with each other, one 
to serve as a bathroom and lavatory. The others remained unoccupied 
for some time. 

After the exciting and very active life I had been leading outside, 
I felt rather lonely and depressed. I was tired out, and for two or three 
days I slept a great deal. The hot weather had already begun, and I 



was permitted to sleep at night in the open, outside my cell in the 
narrow space between the inner building and the enclosing wall. My 
bed was heavily chained up, lest I might take it up and walk away, 
or, more probably, to avoid the bed's being used as a kind of scaling 
ladder to climb the wall of the enclosure. The nights were full of 
strange noises. The convict overseers, who guarded the main wall, 
frequendy shouted to each other in varying keys, sometimes lengthen 
ing out their cries till they sounded like the moaning of a distant 
wind; the night watchmen in the barracks were continually counting 
away in a loud voice the prisoners under their charge and shouting 
out that all was well; and several times a night some jail official, going 
his rounds, visited our enclosure and shouted an inquiry to the warder 
on duty. As my enclosure was some distance away from the others, 
most of these voices reached me indistinctly, and I could not make 
out at first what they were. At times I felt as if I were on the verge of 
the forest, and the peasantry were shouting to keep the wild animals 
away from their fields; sometimes it seemed the forest itself and the 
beasts of the night were keeping up their nocturnal chorus. 

Was it my fancy, I wonder, or is it a fact that a circular wall reminds 
one more of captivity than a rectangular one? The absence of corners 
and angles adds to the sense of oppression. In the daytime that wall 
even encroached on the sky and only allowed a glimpse of a narrow- 
bounded portion. With a wistful eye I looked 

Upon that little tent of blue 

Which prisoners call the s\y, 

And at every drifting cloud that went 

With sails of silver by. 

At night that wall enclosed me all the more, and I felt as if I were 
at the bottom of a well. Or else that part of the star-lit sky that I saw 
ceased to be real and seemed part of an artificial planetarium. 

My barrack and enclosure were popularly known throughout the 
jail as the Kuttaghar the Dog House. This was an old name which 
had nothing to do with me. The little barrack had been built origi 
nally, apart from all others, for especially dangerous criminals who had 
to be isolated. Latterly it had been used for political prisoners, detenus, 
and the like who could thus be kept apart from the rest of the jail. 
In front of the enclosure, some distance away, was an erection that 
gave me a shock when I first had a glimpse of it from my barrack. 
It looked like a huge cage, and men went round and round inside it. 
I found out later that it was a water pump worked by human labor, 

164 



as many as sixteen persons being employed at a time. I got used to 
it, as one gets used to everything; but it has always seemed to me 
one of the most foolish and barbarous ways of utilizing human labor 
power. And, whenever I pass it, I think of the zoo. 

For some days I was not permitted to go outside my enclosure for 
exercise or any other purpose. I was later allowed to go out for half 
an hour in the early mornings, when it was almost dark, and to walk 
or run under the main wall. That early morning hour had been fixed 
for me so that I might not come in contact with, or be seen by, the 
other prisoners. I liked that outing, and it refreshed me tremendously. 
In order to compress as much open-air exercise as I could in the short 
time at my disposal, I took to running and gradually increased this to 
over two miles daily. 

I used to get up very early in the morning, about four, or even half- 
past three, when it was quite dark. Partly this was due to going to 
bed early, as the light provided was not good for much reading. I 
liked to watch the stars, and the position of some well-known con 
stellation would give me the approximate time. From where I lay I 
could just see the pole star peeping over the wall, and, as it was 
always there, I found it extraordinarily comforting. Surrounded by a 
revolving sky, it seemed to be a symbol of cheerful constancy and 
perseverence. 

For a month I had no companion, but I was not alone, as I had the 
warder and the convict overseers and a convict cook and cleaner in 
my enclosure. Occasionally other prisoners came there on some busi 
ness, most of them being convict overseers C.O.'s serving out long 
sentences. "Lifers" convicts sentenced for life were common. Usually 
a life sentence was supposed to terminate after twenty years, or even 
less, but there were many in prison then who had served more than 
twenty years already. I saw one very remarkable case in Naini. Prison 
ers carry about, attached to their clothes at the shoulder, little wooden 
boards giving information about their convictions and mentioning the 
date when release is due. On the board of one prisoner I read that 
his date of release was 1996! He had already, in 1930, served out sev 
eral years, and he was then a person of middle age. Probably he had 
been given several sentences, and they had been added up one after 
the other; the total, I think, amounting to seventy-five years. 

For years and years many of these "lifers" do not see a child or 
woman, or even animals. They lose touch with the outside world com 
pletely, and have no human contacts left. They brood and wrap them- 



selves in angry thoughts of fear and revenge and hatred; forget the 
good of the world, the kindness and joy, and live only wrapped up in 
the evil, till gradually even hatred loses its edge and life becomes a 
soulless thing, a machinelike routine. Like automatons they pass their 
days, each exactly like the other, and have few sensations except one 
fear! From time to time the prisoner's body is weighed and meas 
ured. But how is one to weigh the mind and the spirit which wilt and 
stunt themselves and wither away in this terrible atmosphere of op 
pression? People argue against the death penalty, and their arguments 
appeal to me greatly. But when I see the long-drawn-out agony of a 
life spent in prison, I feel that it is perhaps better to have that penalty 
rather than to kill a person slowly and by degrees. One of the "lifers" 
came up to me once and asked me : "What of us 'lifers' ? Will Swaraj 
take us out of this hell?" 

Who are these "lifers"? Many of them come in gang cases, when 
large numbers, as many as fifty or a hundred, may be convicted en bloc. 
Some of these are probably guilty, but I doubt if most of those con 
victed are really guilty; it is easy to get people involved in such cases. 
An approver's evidence, a little identification, is all that is needed. 
Dacoits are increasing nowadays, and the prison population goes up 
year by year. If people starve, what are they to do? Judges and mag 
istrates wax eloquent about the increase of crime but are blind to the 
obvious economic causes of it. 

Then there are the agriculturists who have a little village riot over 
some land dispute, lathis fly about, and somebody dies result, many 
people in jail for life or for a long term. Often all the menfolk in a 
family will be imprisoned in this way, leaving the women to carry on 
as best they can. Not one of these is a criminal type. Generally they 
are fine young men, considerably above the average villager, both 
physically and mentally. A litde training, some diversion of interest to 
other subjects and jobs, and these people would be valuable assets to 
the country. 

Indian prisons contain, of course, hardened criminals, persons who 
are aggressively antisocial and dangerous to the community. But I 
have been amazed to find large numbers of fine types in prison, boys 
and men, whom I would trust unhesitatingly. I do not know what the 
proportion of real criminals to noncriminal types is, and probably no 
one in the prison department has ever even thought of this distinction. 
A more sensible economic policy, more employment, more education 
would soon empty out our prisons. But of course to make that success- 

166 



ful, a radical plan, affecting the whole of our social fabric, is essential. 
The only other real alternative is what the British Government is do 
ing: increasing its police forces and enlarging its prisons in India. 
The number of persons sent to jail in India is appalling. In a recent 
report issued by the secretary of the All-India Prisoners* Aid Society, 
it is stated that in the Bombay Presidency alone 128,000 persons were 
sent to jail in 1933, and the figure for Bengal for the same year was 
124,000. I do not know the figures for all the provinces, but if the 
total for two provinces exceeds a quarter of a million, it is quite pos 
sible that the all-India total approaches the million mark. This figure 
does not, of course, represent the permanent jail population, for a large 
number of persons get short sentences. The permanent population will 
be very much less, but still it must be enormous. Some of the major 
provinces in India are said to have the biggest prison administrations 
in the world. The United Provinces are among those supposed to have 
this doubtful honor, and very probably they have, or had, one of the 
most backward and reactionary administrations. Not the least effort 
is made to consider the prisoner as an individual, a human being, and 
to improve or look after his mind. The one thing the United Provinces 
administration excels in is keeping its prisoners. There are remark 
ably few attempts to escape, and I doubt if one in ten thousand suc 
ceeds in escaping. 

One of the most saddening features of the prisons is the large num 
ber of boys, from fifteen upward, who are to be found in them. Most 
of them are bright-looking lads who, if given the chance, might easily 
make good. Lately some beginnings have been made to teach them 
the elements of reading and writing but, as usual, these are absurdly 
inadequate and inefficient. There are very few opportunities for games 
or recreation, no newspapers of any kind are permitted nor are books 
encouraged. For twelve hours or more all prisoners are kept locked 
up in their barracks or cells with nothing whatever to do in the long 
evenings. 

Interviews are only permitted once in three months, and so are letters 
a monstrously long period. Even so, many prisoners cannot take ad 
vantage of them. If they are illiterate, as most are, they have to rely 
on some jail official to write on their behalf; and the latter, not being 
keen on adding to his other work, usually avoids it. Or, if a letter is 
written, the address is not properly given, and the letter does not arrive. 
Interviews are still more difficult. Often prisoners are transferred to 
different jails, and their people cannot trace them. I have met many 



prisoners who had lost complete touch with their families for years 
and did not know what had happened. Interviews, when they do take 
place after three months or more, are most extraordinary. A number 
of prisoners and their interviewers are placed together on either side 
of a barrier, and they all try to talk simultaneously. There is a great 
deal of shouting at each other, and the slight human touch that might 
have come from the interview is entirely absent. 

A very small number of prisoners, ordinarily not exceeding one in a 
thousand (Europeans excepted), are given some extra privileges in the 
shape of better food and more frequent interviews and letters. During 
a big political civil resistance movement, when scores of thousands of 
political prisoners go to jail, this figure of special class prisoners goes 
up slightly, but even so it is very low. About 95 per cent of these politi 
cal prisoners, men and women, are treated in the ordinary way and are 
not given even these facilities. 

Some individuals, sentenced for revolutionary activities for life or 
long terms of imprisonment, are often kept in solitary confinement for 
long periods. In the United Provinces, I believe, all such persons are 
automatically kept in solitary cellular confinement. Ordinarily, this soli 
tary confinement is awarded as a special punishment for a prison of 
fense. But in the case of these persons usually young boys they are 
kept alone although their behavior in jail might be exemplary. Thus 
an additional and very terrible punishment is added by the jail de 
partment to the sentence of the court, without any reason therefor. This 
seems very extraordinary, and hardly in conformity with any rule of 
law. Solitary confinement, even for a short period, is a most painful 
affair; for it to be prolonged for years is a terrible thing. It means the 
slow and continuous deterioration of the mind, till it begins to border 
on insanity; and the appearance of a look of vacancy, or a frightened 
animal type of expression. It is the killing of the spirit by degrees, the 
slow vivisection of the soul. Even if a man survives it, he becomes 
abnormal and an absolute misfit in the world. And the question always 
arises was this man guilty at all of any act or offense? Police methods 
in India have long been suspect; in political matters they are doubly so. 

European or Eurasian prisoners, whatever their crime or status, are 
automatically placed in a higher class and get better food, lighter work, 
and more interviews and letters. A weekly visit from a clergyman 
keeps them in touch with outside affairs. The parson brings them for 
eign illustrated and humorous papers, and communicates with their 
families when necessary. 

168 



No one grudges the European convicts these privileges, for they are 
few enough, but it is a little painful to see the utter absence of any 
human standard in the treatment of others men and women. The 
convict is not thought of as an individual human being, and so he or 
she is seldom treated as such. One sees in prison the inhuman side of 
the State apparatus of administrative repression at its worst. It is a 
machine which works away callously and unthinkingly, crushing all 
that come in its grip, and the jail rules have been purposely framed to 
keep this machine in evidence. Offered to sensitive men and women, 
this soulless regime is a torture and an anguish of the mind. I have 
seen long-term convicts sometimes breaking down at the dreariness of 
it all, and weeping like little children. And a word of sympathy and 
encouragement, so rare in this atmosphere, has suddenly made their 
faces light up with joy and gratitude. 

And yet among the prisoners themselves there were often touching 
instances of charity and good comradeship. A blind "habitual" prisoner 
was once discharged after thirteen years. After this long period he was 
going out, wholly unprovided for, into a friendless world. His fellow 
convicts were eager to help him, but they could not do much. One gave 
his shirt deposited in the jail office, another some other piece of cloth 
ing. A third had that very morning received a new pair of chappals 
(leather sandals), and he had shown them to me with some pride. It 
was a great acquisition in prison. But, when he saw this blind com 
panion of many years going out barefooted, he willingly parted with 
his new chappals. I thought then that there appeared to be more 
charity inside the jail than outside it. 

That year 1930 was full of dramatic situations and inspiring happen 
ings; what surprised most was the amazing power of Gandhiji to 
inspire and enthuse a whole people. There was something almost hyp 
notic about it, and we remembered the words used by Gokhale about 
him: how he had the power of making heroes out of clay. Peaceful 
civil disobedience as a technique of action for achieving great national 
ends seemed to have justified itself, and a quiet confidence grew in 
the country, shared by friend and opponent alike, that we were march 
ing toward victory. A strange excitement filled those who were active 
in the movement, and some of this even crept inside the jail. "Swaraj 
is coming!" said the ordinary convicts; and they waited impatiently 
for it, in the selfish hope that it might do them some good. The 
warders, coming in contact with the gossip of the bazaars, also ex- 

169 



pected that Swaraj was near; the petty jail official grew a little more 
nervous. 

We had no daily newspapers in prison, but a Hindu weekly brought 
us some news, and often this news would set our imaginations afire. 
Daily lathee charges, sometimes firing, martial law at Sholapur with 
sentences of ten years for carrying the national flag. We felt proud of 
our people, and especially of our womenfolk, all over the country. I 
had a special feeling of satisfaction because of the activities of my 
mother, wife, and sisters, as well as many girl cousins and friends; and, 
though I was separated from them and was in prison, we grew nearer 
to each other, bound by a new sense of comradeship in a great cause. 
The family seemed to merge into a larger group, and yet to retain its 
old flavor and intimacy. Kamala surprised me, for her energy and 
enthusiasm overcame her physical ill-health, and, for some time at 
least, she kept well in spite of strenuous activities. 

The thought that I was having a relatively easy time in prison, at a 
time when others were facing danger and suffering outside, began to 
oppress me. I longed to go out; and, as I could not do that, I made 
my life in prison a hard one, full of work. I used to spin daily for 
nearly three hours on my own charJ^ha; for another two or three hours 
I did newar weaving, which I had especially asked for from the jail 
authorities. I liked these activities. They kept me occupied without 
undue strain or requiring too much attention, and they soothed the 
fever of my mind. I read a great deal, and otherwise busied myself 
with cleaning up, washing my clothes, etc. The manual labor I did was 
of my own choice, as my imprisonment was "simple," 

And so, between thought of outside happenings and my jail routine, 
I passed my days in Naini Prison. As I watched the working of an In 
dian prison, it struck me that it was not unlike the British government 
of India. There is great efficiency in the apparatus of government, which 
goes to strengthen the hold of the Government on the country, and 
little or no care for the human material of the country. Outwardly the 
prison must appear efficiently run, and to some extent this was true. 
But no one seemed to think that the main purpose of the prison must 
be to improve and help the unhappy individuals who come to it. Break 
them! that is the idea, so that by the time they go out, they may not 
have the least bit of spirit left in them. And how is the prison con 
trolled, and the convicts kept in check and punished? Very largely 
with the help of the convicts themselves, some of whom are made con 
vict warders (C.W.'s) or convict overseers (C.O.'s), and are induced to 

170 



co-operate with the authorities because of fear, and in the hope of 
rewards and special remissions. There are relatively few paid non- 
convict warders; most of the guarding inside the prison is done by 
convict warders and C.O.'s. A widespread system of spying pervades 
the prison, convicts being encouraged to become stool pigeons and to 
spy on one another; and no combination or joint action is, of course, 
permitted among the prisoners. This is easy to understand, for only by 
keeping them divided up could they be kept in check. 

Outside, in the government of our country, we see much the same, 
on a larger, though less obvious, scale. But there the C.W.'s or C.O.'s 
are known differently. They have impressive tides, and their liveries 
of office are more gorgeous. And behind them, as in prison, stands the 
armed guard with weapons ever ready to enforce conformity. 

How important and essential is a prison to the modern State! The 
prisoner at least begins to think so, and the numerous administrative 
and other functions of the Government appear almost superficial be 
fore the basic functions of the prison, the police, the army. In prison 
one begins to appreciate the Marxian theory, that the State is really 
the coercive apparatus meant to enforce the will of a group that con 
trols the government. 

For a month I was alone in my barrack. Then a companion came 
Narmada Prasad Singhand his coming was a relief. Two and a half 
months later, on the last day of June 1930, our little enclosure was 
the scene of unusual excitement. Unexpectedly early in the morning, 
my father and Dr. Syed Mahmud were brought there. They had both 
been arrested in Anand Bhawan, while they were actually in their beds, 
that morning. 

XXVII 

THE NO-TAX CAMPAIGN IN THE 
UNITED PROVINCES 

MY FATHER'S ARREST was accompanied by, or immediately preceded by, 
the declaration of the Congress Working Committee as an unlawful 
body. This led to a new development outside the Committee would 
be arrested en bloc when it was having a meeting. Substitute members 
were added to it, under the authority given to the acting presidents, 
and in this way several women became acting members. Kamala was 
one of them. 

171 



Father was in very poor health when he came to jail, and the con 
ditions in which he was kept there were of extreme discomfort. This 
was not intentional on the part of the Government, for they were pre 
pared to do what they could to lessen those discomforts. But they could 
not do much in Naini Prison. Four of us were now crowded together 
in the four tiny cells of my barrack. It was suggested by the superin 
tendent of the prison that father might be kept in some other part of 
the jail where he might have a little more room, but we preferred to 
be together, so that some of us could attend personally to his comforts. 

The monsoon was just beginning, and it was not particularly easy 
to keep perfectly dry even inside the cells, for the rainwater came 
through the roof occasionally and dripped in various places. At night 
it was always a problem where to put father's bed in the little ten-foot 
by five-foot veranda attached to our cell, in order to avoid the rain. 
Sometimes he had fever. The jail authorities ultimately decided to 
build an additional veranda, a fine broad one, attached to our cell. This 
veranda was built, and it was a great improvement, but father did not 
profit by it much, as he was discharged soon after it was ready. Those 
of us who continued to live in that barrack took full advantage of it 
later. 

Toward the end of July there was a great deal of talk about Dr. 
Tej Bahadur Sapru and Mr. M. R. Jayakar endeavoring to bring about 
peace between the Congress and the Government. We heard that 
there had been some correspondence between Lord Irwin and Messrs. 
Sapru and Jayakar, and that the "peacemakers" had visited Gandhiji. 
Later, we were told, a brief statement that father had agreed to in 
Bombay a few days before his arrest had encouraged them. Mr. Slo- 
combe (a correspondent of the London Daily Herald then in India) 
had drafted this statement after a conversation with my father, and 
father had approved it. It envisaged the possibility of suspending civil 
disobedience if the Government agreed to a number of conditions. I 
remember father mentioning it to me in Naini, after his arrest, and 
adding that he was rather sorry that he had given such a vague state 
ment in a hurry, as it was possible that it might be misunderstood. It 
was indeed misunderstood, as even the most exact and explicit state 
ments are likely to be, by people whose way of thinking is entirely 
different. 

Dr. Tej Bahadur Sapru and Mr. Jayakar suddenly descended on us 
in Naini Prison, on July 27, with a note from Gandhiji. We had long 
interviews with them, which were very exhausting for father as he 

172 



was actually feverish then. We talked and argued in a circle, hardly 
understanding one another's language or thought, so great was the dif 
ference in political outlook. It was obvious to us that there was not 
the faintest chance of any peace. We refused to make any suggestions 
without first consulting our colleagues of the Working Committee, 
especially Gandhiji. And we wrote something to this effect to Gandhiji. 

Eleven days later, on August 8, Dr. Sapru came to see us again with 
the Viceroy's reply. The Viceroy had no objection to our going to 
Yeravda, the prison in Poona where Gandhiji was kept; but he and 
his Council could not allow us to meet members of the Working Com 
mittee who were outside and were still carrying on an active campaign 
against the Government. 

Two days later, on August 10, the three of us father, Mahmud, 
and I were sent by a special train from Naini to Poona. Our train 
did not stop at the big stations; we rushed past them, stopping at the 
small wayside ones. Still, news of us traveled ahead, and large crowds 
gathered both at the stations where we stopped and at those where 
we did not stop. We reached Kirkee, near Poona, late at night on 
the nth. 

Our conferences in the prison office with Messrs. Sapru and Jayakar 
lasted three days, the i3th, i4th, and i5th of August, and we exchanged 
letters giving expression to our views and indicating the minimum con 
ditions necessary to enable us to withdraw civil disobedience and offer 
co-operation to the Government. These letters were subsequently pub 
lished in the newspapers. 

The strain of these conferences had told on father, and on the i6th 
he suddenly got high fever. This delayed our return, and we started 
back on the night of the ipth, again by special train, for Naini. Every 
effort was made by the Bombay Government to provide a comfortable 
journey for father, and even in Yeravda, during our brief stay there, 
his comforts were studied. I remember an amusing incident on the 
night of our arrival at Yeravda. Colonel Martin, the superintendent, 
asked father what kind of food he would like. Father told him that he 
took very simple and light food, and then he enumerated his various 
requirements from early morning tea in bed to dinner at night. (In 
Naini we used to get food for him daily from home.) The list father 
gave in all innocence and simplicity consisted certainly of light foods, 
but it was impressive. Very probably at the Ritz or the Savoy it would 
have been considered simple and ordinary food, as father himself was 
convinced that it was. But in Yeravda Prison it seemed strange and far 

173 



away and most inappropriate. Mahmud and I were highly amused to 
watch the expression on Colonel Martin's face as he listened to father's 
numerous and expensive requirements in the way of food. For a long 
time he had had in his keeping the greatest and most famous of India's 
leaders, and all that he had required in the way of food was goat's 
milk, dates, and perhaps oranges occasionally. The new type of leader 
that had come to him was very different. 

During our journey back from Poona to Naini we again rushed by 
the big stations and stopped in out-of-the-way places. But the crowds 
were larger still, filling the platforms and sometimes even swarming 
over the railway lines, especially at Harda, Itarsi, and Sohagpur. Acci 
dents were narrowly averted. 

Father's condition was rapidly deteriorating. Many doctors came to 
examine him, his own doctors as well as doctors sent on behalf of the 
Provincial Government. It was obvious that jail was the worst place 
for him, and there could be no proper treatment there. And yet, when 
a suggestion was made by some friend in the press that he should be 
released because of his illness, he was irritated, as he thought that 
people might think that the suggestion came from him. He even went 
to the length of sending a telegram to Lord Irwin, saying that he did 
not want to be released as a special favor. But his condition was grow 
ing worse from day to day; he was losing weight rapidly, and physi 
cally he was a shadow of himself. On the 8th of September he was 
discharged after exactly ten weeks of prison. 

Our barrack became a dull and lifeless place after his departure. 
There was so much to be done when he was with us, little services to 
add to his comfort, and all of us Mahmud, Narmada Prasad, and I 
filled our days with this joyful service. I had given up newar weaving, 
I spun very little, and I did not have much time for books either. And 
now that he was gone, we reverted rather heavily and joylessly to the 
old routine. Even the daily newspaper stopped after father's release. 
Four or five days later my brother-in-law, Ranjit S. Pandit, was 
arrested, and he joined us in our barrack. 

A month later, on October n, I was discharged on the expiry of six 
months' sentence. I knew I would have little freedom, for the struggle 
was going on and becoming more intense. The attempts of the "peace 
makers" Messrs. Sapru and Jayakar had failed. On the very day I 
was discharged one or two more ordinances were announced. I was 
glad to be out and eager to do something effective during my short 
spell of freedom. 

174 



Kamala was in Allahabad then, busy with her Congress work; father 
was under treatment at Mussoorie, and my mother and sisters were 
with him. I spent a busy day and a half in Allahabad before going up 
to Mussoorie myself with Kamala. The great question before us then 
was whether a no-tax campaign in the rural areas should be started or 
not. The time for rent collection and payment of revenue was close at 
hand, and, in any event, collections were going to be difficult because 
of the tremendous fall in the prices of agricultural produce. The world 
slump was now very evident in India. 

It seemed an ideal opportunity for a no-tax campaign, both as a part 
of the general civil disobedience movement and, independently, on its 
own merits. It was manifestly impossible both for landlords and tenants 
to pay up the full demand out of that year's produce. They had to fall 
back on old reserves, if they had any, or borrow. The zamindars usu 
ally had something to fall back upon, or could borrow more easily. The 
average tenant, always on the verge of destitution and starvation, had 
nothing to fall back upon. In any democratic country, or where the 
agriculturists were properly organized and had influence, it would have 
been quite impossible, under those circumstances, to make them pay 
much. In India their influence was negligible, except in so far as the 
Congress, in some parts of the country, stood for them; and except, of 
course, for the ever-present fear of peasant risings when the situation 
became intolerable for them. But they had become accustomed for 
generations past to stand almost anything without much murmuring. 

When I came out of jail in October, both political and economic 
conditions seemed to me to be crying out for a no-tax campaign in 
rural areas. The economic difficulties of the agriculturists were obvious 
enough. Politically, our civil disobedience activities, though still flour 
ishing everywhere, were getting a bit stale. People went on going to jail 
in small numbers, and sometimes in large groups, but the sting had 
gone from the atmosphere. The cities and the middle classes were a bit 
tired of the hartals and processions. Obviously something was needed 
to liven things up, a fresh infusion of blood was necessary. Where 
could this come from except from the peasantry? and the reserve 
stocks there were enormous. It would again become a mass movement 
touching the vital interests of the masses and, what was to me very 
important, would raise social issues. 

We discussed these matters, my colleagues and I, during the brief 
day and a half I was at Allahabad. At short notice we convened a 
meeting there of the executive of our Provincial Congress Committee, 

175 



and, after long debate, we decided to sanction a no-tax campaign, mak 
ing it permissive for any district to take it up. We did not declare it 
ourselves in any part of the province, and the Executive Council made 
it apply to zamindars as well as tenants, to avoid the class issue if pos 
sible. We knew, of course, that the main response would come from the 
peasantry. 

Having got this permission to go ahead, our district of Allahabad 
wanted to take the first step. We decided to convene a representative 
fysan or peasants' conference of the district a week later, to give the 
new campaign a push. I felt that I had done a good first day's work 
after release from jail. I added to it a big mass meeting in Allahabad 
city, where I spoke at length. It was for this speech that I was subse 
quently convicted again. 

And then, on October 13, Kamala and I went off to Mussoorie to 
spend three days with father. He was looking just a little better, and I 
was happy to think that he had turned the corner and was getting well. 
I remember those quiet and delightful three days well; it was good to 
be back in the family. Indira, my daughter, was there; and my three 
little nieces, my sister's daughters. I would play with the children, and 
sometimes we would march bravely round the house in a stately pro 
cession, led, flag in hand, by the youngest, aged three or four, singing 
Jhanda uncha rahe hamara, our flag song. And those three days were 
the last I was to have with father before his fatal illness came to snatch 
him away from me. 

Expecting my rearrest soon, and desiring perhaps to see a little more 
of me, father suddenly decided to return to Allahabad also. Kamala 
and I were going down from Mussoorie on October 17 to be in time 
for the peasant conference at Allahabad on the i9th. Father arranged 
to start with the others on the i8th, the day after us. 

We had a somewhat exciting journey back, Kamala and I. At Dehra 
Dun an order under Section 144, Criminal Procedure Code was served 
on me almost as I was leaving. At Lucknow we got off for a few hours, 
and I learned that another order under Section 144 awaited me there, 
but it was not actually served on me, as the police officer could not 
reach me owing to the large crowds. I was presented with an address 
by the municipality, and then we left by car for Allahabad, stopping at 
various places en route to address some peasant gatherings. We reached 
Allahabad on the night of the i8th. 

The morning of the igth brought yet another order under Section 
144 for me! The Government was evidently hot on my trail, and my 



hours were numbered. I was anxious to attend the %isan conference 
before my rearrest. We called this conference a private one of delegates 
only, and so it was, and did not allow outsiders to come in. It was very 
representative of Allahabad district, and, as far as I remember, about 
sixteen hundred delegates were present. The conference decided very 
enthusiastically to start the no-tax campaign in the district. There was 
some hesitation among our principal workers, some doubt about the 
success of such a venture, for the influence and the power of the big 
zamindars to terrorize, backed as this was by the Government, was 
very great, and they wondered if the peasantry would be able to with 
stand this. But there was no hesitation or doubt in the minds of the 
sixteen hundred and odd peasants of all degrees who were present or 
at any rate it was not apparent. I was one of the speakers at the con 
ference. I do not know if thereby I committed a breach of the Section 
144 order which had forbidden me from speaking in public. 

I then went to the station to receive my father and the rest of the 
family. The train was late, and, immediately after their arrival, I left 
them to attend a public meeting, a joint affair of the peasants, who 
had come from the surrounding villages, and the townspeople. Kamala 
and I were returning from this meeting, thoroughly tired out, after 
8 P.M. I was looking forward to a talk with father, and I knew that he 
was waiting for me, for we had hardly spoken to each other since his 
return. On our way back our car was stopped almost in sight of our 
house, and I was arrested and carried off across the River Jumna to my 
old quarters in Naini. Kamala went on, alone, to Anand Bhawan to 
inform the waiting family of this new development; and, at the stroke 
of nine, I re-entered the great gate of Naini Prison. 

After eight days' absence I was back again in Naini, and I rejoined 
Syed Mahmud, Narmada Prasad, and Ran jit Pandit in the same old 
barrack. Some days afterward I was tried in prison on a number of 
charges, all based on various parts of that one speech I had delivered 
at Allahabad, the day after my discharge. As usual with us, I did not 
defend myself, but made a brief statement in court. I was sentenced 
for sedition under Section I24A to eighteen months' rigorous imprison 
ment and a fine of five hundred rupees; under the Salt Act of 1882 to 
six months and a fine of one hundred rupees; and under Ordinance 
VI of 1930 (I forget what this ordinance was about) also to six months 
and a fine of one hundred rupees. As the last two were concurrent, the 
total sentence was two years' rigorous imprisonment and, in addition, 
five months in default of fines. This was my fifth term. 

177 



My rearrest and conviction had some effect on the tempo of the civil 
disobedience movement for a while; it put on a little spurt and showed 
greater energy. This was largely due to father. When news was brought 
to him by Kamala of my arrest, he had a slightly unpleasant shock. 
Almost immediately he pulled himself together and banged a table in 
front of him, saying that he had made up his mind to be an invalid no 
longer. He was going to be well and to do a man's work, and not to 
submit weakly to illness. It was a brave resolve, but unhappily no 
strength of will could overcome and crush that deep-seated disease that 
was eating into him. Yet for a few days it worked a marked change, 
to the surprise of those who saw him. For some months past, ever since 
he had been at Yeravda, he had been bringing up blood in his sputum. 
This stopped quite suddenly after this resolve of his, and for some days 
it did not reappear. He was pleased about it, and he came to see me in 
prison and mentioned this fact to me in some triumph. It was unfor 
tunately a brief respite, for the blood came later in greater quantities, 
and the disease reasserted itself. During this interval he worked with 
his old energy and gave a push to the civil disobedience movement all 
over India. He conferred with many people from various places and 
issued detailed instructions. He fixed one day (it was my birthday in 
November!) for an all-India celebration at which the offending pas 
sages from my speech, for which I had been convicted, were read out 
at public meetings. On that day there were numerous lathee charges 
and forcible dispersals of processions and meetings, and it was estimated 
that, on that day alone, about five thousand arrests were made all over 
the country. It was a unique birthday celebration. 

Ill as he was, this assumption of responsibility and pouring out of 
energy was very bad for father, and I begged of him to take absolute 
rest. I realized that such rest might not be possible for him in India, 
for his mind would always be occupied with the ups and downs of our 
struggle, and, inevitably, people would go to him for advice. So I sug 
gested to him to go for a short sea voyage toward Rangoon, Singapore, 
and the Dutch Indies, and he rather liked the idea. It was arranged 
that a doctor friend might accompany him on the voyage. With this 
object in view he went to Calcutta, but his condition grew slowly 
worse, and he was unable to go far. In a Calcutta suburb he remained 
for seven weeks, and the whole family joined him there, except 
Kamala, who remained in Allahabad for most of the time, doing 
Congress work. 

My rearrest had probably been hastened because of my activities in 

178 



connection with the no-tax campaign. As a matter of fact few things 
could have been better for that campaign than my arrest on that par 
ticular day, immediately after the tysan conference, while the peasant 
delegates were still in Allahabad. Their enthusiasm grew because of it, 
and they carried the decisions of the conference to almost every village 
in the district. Within a couple of days the whole district knew that the 
no-tax campaign had been inaugurated, and everywhere there was a 
joyful response to it. 

Our chief difficulty in those days was one of communication, of get 
ting people to know what we were doing or what we wanted them to 
do. Newspapers would not publish our news for fear of being penal 
ized and suppressed by Government; printing presses would not print 
our leaflets and notices; letters and telegrams were censored and often 
stopped. The only reliable method of communication open to us was 
to send couriers with dispatches, and even so our messengers were 
sometimes arrested. The method was an expensive one and required a 
great deal of organization. It was organized with some success, and the 
provincial centers were in constant touch with headquarters as well as 
with their principal district centers. It was not difficult to spread any 
information in the cities. Many of these issued unauthorized news 
sheets, usually cyclostyled, daily or weekly, and there was always a 
great demand for them. For our public notifications, one of the city 
methods was by beat of drum; this resulted usually in the arrest of the 
drummer. This did not matter, as arrests were sought, not avoided. 
All these methods suited the cities and were not easily applicable to the 
rural areas. Some kind of touch was kept up with principal village 
centers by means of messengers and cyclostyled notices, but this was 
not satisfactory, and it took time for our instructions to percolate to 
distant villages. 

The fysan conference at Allahabad got over this difficulty. Delegates 
had come to it from practically every important village in the district, 
and, when they dispersed, they carried the news of the fresh decisions 
affecting the peasantry, and of my arrest in connection with them, to 
every part of the district. They became, sixteen hundred of them, 
effective and enthusiastic propagandists for the no-tax campaign. The 
initial success of the movement thus became assured, and there was no 
doubt that the peasantry as a whole in that area would not pay their 
rent to begin with, and not at all unless they were frightened into 
doing so. No one, of course, could say what their powers of endurance 
would be in face of official or zamindari violence and terrorism. Our 

179 



appeal had been addressed both to zamindars and tenants not to pay; 
in theory it was not a class appeal. In practice most o the zamindars 
did pay their revenue, even some who sympathized with the national 
struggle. The pressure on them was great, and they had more to lose. 
The tenantry, however, stood firm and did not pay, and our campaign 
thus became practically a no-rent campaign. 

Government repression grew. Local Congress committees, youth 
leagues, etc., which had rather surprisingly carried on so far, were 
declared illegal and suppressed. The treatment of political prisoners in 
jails became worse. Government was especially irritated when people 
returned to jail for a second sentence soon after their discharge. This 
failure to bend in spite of punishment hurt the morale of the rulers. 
In November or early December 1930 there were some cases of flog 
ging of political prisoners in United Provinces prisons, apparently for 
offenses against jail discipline. News of this reached us in Naini Prison 
and upset us since then we have got used to this, as well as many 
worse happenings in India for flogging seemed to me to be an unde 
sirable infliction, even on hardened criminals of the worst type. For 
young, sensitive boys and for technical offenses of discipline, it was 
barbarous. We four in our barrack wrote to the Government about it, 
and, not receiving any reply for about two weeks, we decided to take 
some definite step to mark our protest at the floggings and our sym 
pathy with the victims of this barbarity. We undertook a complete fast 
for three days seventy-two hours. This was not much as fasts go, but 
none of us was accustomed to fasting and did not know how we would 
stand it. My previous fasts had seldom exceeded twenty-four hours. 

We went through that fast without any great difficulty, and I was 
glad to find out that it was not such an ordeal as I feared. Very fool 
ishly I carried on my strenuous exercises running, jerks, etc. right 
through that fast. I do not think that did me much good, especially as 
I had been feeling a little unwell previously. Each one of us lost seven 
to eight pounds in weight during those three days. This was in addi 
tion to the fifteen to twenty-six pounds that each had lost in the pre 
vious months in Naini. 

Except for these occasional alarms, we lived a quiet life in prison. 
The weather was agreeable, for winter in Allahabad is very pleasant. 
Ranjit Pandit was an acquisition to our barrack, for he knew much 
about gardening, and soon that dismal enclosure of ours was full of 
flowers and gay with color. He even arranged in that narrow, restricted 
space a miniature golf course! 

180 



One of the welcome excitements of our prison existence at Naini was 
the passage of airplanes over our heads. Allahabad is one of the ports 
of call for all the great air lines between East and West, and the giant 
planes going to Australia, Java, and French Indo-China would pass 
almost directly above our heads at Naini. Most stately of all were the 
Dutch liners flying to and from Batavia. Sometimes, if we were lucky, 
we saw a plane in the early winter morning, when it was still dark and 
the stars were visible. The great liner was brightly lit up, and at both 
ends it had red lights. It was a beautiful sight, as it sailed by, against 
the dark background of the early-morning sky. 

The New Year's Day, the first of January 1931, brought us the news 
of Kamala's arrest. I was pleased, for she had so longed to follow many 
of her comrades to prison. Ordinarily, if they had been men, both she 
and my sister and many other women would have been arrested long 
ago. But at that time the Government avoided, as far as possible, arrest 
ing women, and so they had escaped for so long. And now she had her 
heart's desire! How glad she must be, I thought. But I was apprehen 
sive, for she was always in weak health, and I feared that prison con 
ditions might cause her much suffering. 

As she was arrested, a pressman who was present asked her for a 
message, and, on the spur of the moment and almost unconsciously, 
she gave a little message that was characteristic of her: "I am happy 
beyond measure and proud to follow in the footsteps of my husband. 
I hope the people will keep the flag flying." Probably she would not 
have said just that if she had thought over the matter, for she con 
sidered herself a champion of woman's right against the tyranny of 
man! 

My father was in Calcutta and far from well, but news of Kamala's 
arrest and conviction shook him up, and he decided to return to Alla 
habad. He sent on my sister Krishna immediately to Allahabad and 
followed himself, with the rest of the family, a few days later. On the 
i2th of January he came to see me in Naini. I saw him after nearly 
two months, and I had a shock which I could conceal with difficulty. 
He seemed to be unaware of the dismay that his appearance had pro 
duced in me, and told me that he was much better than he had lately 
been in Calcutta. His face was swollen, and he seemed to think that 
this was due to some temporary cause. 

That face of his haunted me. It was so utterly unlike him. For the 
first time a fear began to creep in my mind that there was real danger 
for him ahead. I had always associated him with strength and health, 

181 



and I could not think of death in connection with him. He had always 
laughed at the idea of death, made fun of it, and told us that he pro 
posed to live for a further long term of years. Latterly I had noticed 
that whenever an old friend of his youth died, he had a sense of loneli 
ness, of being left by himself in strange company, and even a hint of 
an approaching end. But generally this mood passed, and his overflow 
ing vitality asserted itself; we of his family had grown so used to his 
rich personality and the all-embracing warmth of his affection that it 
was difficult for us to think of the world without him. 

I was troubled by that look of his, and my mind was full of fore 
bodings. Yet I did not think that any danger to him lay in the near 
future. I was myself, for some unknown reason, keeping poor health 
just then. 

Those were the last days of the first Round Table Conference, and 
we were a little amused and I am afraid our amusement had a touch 
of disdain in it. In the hour of our country's sorest trial, and when our 
men and women had behaved so wonderfully, there were some of our 
countrymen who were prepared to ignore our struggle and give their 
moral support to the other side. It became clearer to us than it had 
been before how, under the deceptive cover of nationalism, conflicting 
economic interests were at work, and how those with vested interests 
were trying to preserve them for the future in the name of this very 
nationalism. The Round Table Conference was an obvious collection 
of these vested interests. 

We did not really mind or care what the Round Table Conference 
did. It was far away, unreal and shadowy, and the struggle lay here in 
our towns and villages. We had no illusions about the speedy termina 
tion of our struggle or about the dangers ahead, and yet the events of 
1930 had given us a certain confidence in our national strength and 
stamina, and with that confidence we faced the future. 

What filled our minds most was the approach of January 26, the first 
anniversary of Independence Day, and we wondered how this would 
be celebrated. It was observed, as we learned subsequently, all over the 
country by the holding of mass meetings which confirmed the resolu 
tion of independence, and passed an identical resolution called the 
"Resolution of Remembrance." The organization of this celebration 
was a remarkable feat, for newspapers and printing presses were not 
available, nor could the post or telegraph be utilized. And yet an 
identical resolution, in the particular language of the province con 
cerned, was passed at large gatherings held at more or less the same 

182 



times at innumerable places, urban and rural, throughout the country. 
Most of these gatherings were held in defiance of the law and were 
forcibly dispersed by the police. 

January 26 found us in Naini Prison musing of the year that was 
past and of the year that was to come. In the forenoon I was told sud 
denly that my father's condition was serious and that I must go home 
immediately. On inquiry, I was informed that I was being discharged. 
Ranjit also accompanied me. 

That evening, many other persons were discharged from various 
prisons throughout India. These were the original and substitute mem 
bers of the Congress Working Committee. The Government was giv 
ing us a chance to meet and consider the situation. So, in any event, I 
would have been discharged that evening. Father's condition hastened 
my release by a few hours. Kamala also was discharged that day from 
her Lucknow prison after a brief jail life of 26 days. She too was a 
substitute member of the Working Committee. 



XXVIII 

DEATH OF MY FATHER 

I SAW FATHER after two weeks, for he had visited me at Naini on Jan 
uary 12, when his appearance had given me a shock. He had now 
changed for the worse, and his face was even more swollen. He had 
some little difficulty in speaking, and his mind was not always quite 
clear. But his old will remained, and this held on and kept the body 
and mind functioning. 

He was pleased to see Ranjit and me. A day or two later Ranjit 
(who did not come in the category of Working Committee members) 
was taken back to Naini Prison. This upset father, and he was con 
tinually asking for him and complaining that when so many people 
were coming to see him from distant parts of India, his own son-in-law 
was kept away. The doctors were worried by this insistence, and it was 
obvious that it was doing father no good. After three or four days, I 
think at the doctors' suggestion, the United Provinces Government re 
leased Ranjit. 

On January 26, the same day that I was discharged, Gandhiji was 
also discharged from Yeravda Prison. I was anxious to have him in 

183 



Allahabad, and, when I mentioned his release to father, I found that 
he was eager to see him. The very next day Gandhi) i started from 
Bombay after a stupendous mass meeting of welcome there, such as 
even Bombay had not seen before. He arrived at Allahabad late at 
night, but father was lying awake, waiting for him, and his presence 
and the few words he uttered had a markedly soothing effect on father. 
To my mother also his coming brought solace and relief. 

The various Working Committee members, original and substitute, 
who had been released were meanwhile at a loose end and were wait 
ing for directions about a meeting. Many of them, anxious about father, 
wanted to come to Allahabad immediately. It was decided therefore to 
summon them all forthwith to a meeting at Allahabad. Two days later 
thirty or forty of them arrived, and their meetings took place in Swaraj 
Bhawan next to our house. I went to these meetings from time to time, 
but I was much too distraught to take any effective part in them, and 
I have at present no recollection whatever of what their decisions were. 
I suppose they were in favor of a continuance of the civil disobedience 
movement. 

All these old friends and colleagues who had come, many of them 
freshly out of prison and expecting to go back again soon, wanted to 
visit father and to have what was likely to be a last glimpse and a last 
farewell of him. They came to him in twos and threes in the mornings 
and evenings, and father insisted on sitting up in an easy chair to re 
ceive his old comrades. There he sat, massively and rather expression- 
lessly, for the swelling on his face prevented much play of expression. 
But, as one old friend came after another and comrade succeeded com 
rade, there was a glitter in his eye and recognition of them, and his 
head bowed a little, and his hands joined in salutation. And though 
he could not speak much, sometimes he would say a few words, and 
even then his old humor did not leave him. There he sat like an old 
lion mortally wounded and with his physical strength almost gone, but 
still very leonine and kingly. As I watched him, I wondered what 
thoughts passed through his head, or whether he was past taking in 
terest in our activities. He was evidently often struggling with himself, 
trying to keep a grip of things which threatened to slip away from his 
grasp. To the end this struggle continued, and he did not give in, oc 
casionally speaking to us with extreme clarity. Even when a constric 
tion in his throat made it difficult for him to make himself understood, 
he took to writing on slips of paper what he wanted to say. 

He took practically no interest in the Working Committee meetings 

184 



which were taking place next door. A fortnight earlier they would have 
excited him, but now he felt that he was already far away from such 
happenings. "I am going soon, Mahatmaji," he said to Gandhiji, "and 
I shall not be here to see Swaraj. But I know that you have won it 
and will soon have it." 

Most of the people who had come from other cities and provinces 
departed. Gandhiji remained, and a few intimate friends and near rela 
tives, and the three eminent doctors, old friends of his, to whom, he 
used to say, he had handed over his body for safekeeping M. A. 
Ansari, Bidhan Chandra Roy, and Jivraj Mehta. On the morning of 
February 4 he seemed to be a little better, and it was decided to take 
advantage of this and remove him to Lucknow, where there were fa 
cilities for deep X-ray treatment which Allahabad did not possess. That 
very day we took him by car, Gandhiji and a large party following us. 
We went slowly, but he was nevertheless exhausted. The next day he 
seemed to be getting over the fatigue, and yet there were some dis 
quieting symptoms. Early next morning, February 6, I was watching 
by his bedside. He had had a troublesome and restless night; suddenly 
I noticed that his face grew calm and the sense of struggle vanished 
from it. I thought that he had fallen asleep, and I was glad of it. But 
my mother's perceptions were keener, and she uttered a cry. I turned 
to her and begged her not to disturb him as he had fallen asleep. But 
that sleep was his last long sleep, and from it there was no awakening. 

We brought his body that very day by car to Allahabad. I sat in that 
car and Ran jit drove it, and there was Hari, father's favorite personal 
servant. Behind us came another car containing my mother and Gan 
dhiji, and then other cars. I was dazed all that day, hardly realizing 
what had happened, and a succession of events and large crowds kept 
me from thinking. Great crowds in Lucknow, gathered together at 
brief notice the swift dash from Lucknow to Allahabad sitting by the 
body, wrapped in our national flag, and with a big flag flying above 
the arrival at Allahabad, and the huge crowds that had gathered for 
miles to pay homage to his memory. There were some ceremonies at 
home, and then the last journey to the Ganges with a mighty concourse 
of people. As evening fell on the river bank on that winter day, the 
great flames leaped up and consumed that body which had meant so 
much to us who were close to him as well as to millions in India. 
Gandhiji said a few moving words to the multitude, and then all of 
us crept silently home. The stars were out and shining brightly when 
we returned, lonely and desolate. 



Many thousands of messages of sympathy came to my mother and 
to me. Lord and Lady Irwin also sent my mother a courteous message. 
This tremendous volume of good will and sympathy took away some 
what the sting from our sorrow, but it was, above all, the wonderfully 
soothing and healing presence of Gandhi ji that helped my mother and 
all of us to face that crisis in our lives. 

I found it difficult to realize that he had gone. Three months later 
I was in Ceylon with my wife and daughter, and we were spending a 
few quiet and restful days at Nuwara Eliya. I liked the place, and it 
struck me suddenly that it would suit father. Why not send for him ? 
He must be tired out, and rest would do him good. I was on the point 
of sending a telegram to him to Allahabad. 

On our return to Allahabad from Ceylon the post brought one day 
a remarkable letter. The envelope was addressed to me in father's 
handwriting, and it bore innumerable marks and stamps of different 
post offices. I opened it in amazement to find that it was, indeed, a let 
ter from father to me, only it was dated February 28, 1926. It was de 
livered to me in the summer of 1931? thus having taken five and a half 
years in its journey. The letter had been written by father at Ahmeda- 
bad on the eve of my departure for Europe with Kamala in 1926. It was 
addressed to me to Bombay care of the Italian Lloyd steamer on which 
we were traveling. Apparently it just missed us there, and then it visited 
various places, and perhaps lay in many pigeonholes till some enter 
prising person sent it on to me. Curiously enough, it was a letter of 
farewell. 



XXIX 

THE DELHI PACT 

ON THE DAY and almost at the very hour of my father's death, a large 
group of the Indian members of the Round Table Conference landed 
in Bombay. Mr. Srinivasa Sastri and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, and per 
haps some others whom I do not remember, came direct to Allahabad. 
Gandhiji and some members of the Congress Working Committee 
were already there. There were some private meetings at our house at 
which an account was given of what the Round Table Conference had 
done. 

The Round Table delegates did not tell us anything of importance 

186 



about the Round Table Conference that we did not know already. 
They did tell us of various intrigues behind the scenes, of what Lord 
So-and-So said or Sir Somebody did in private. Our Liberal friends in 
India have always seemed to me to attach more importance to private 
talks and gossip with and about high officials than to principles or to 
the realities of the Indian situation. Our informal discussions with the 
Liberal leaders did not lead to anything, and our previous opinions 
were only confirmed that the Round Table Conference decisions had 
not the least value. Someone then suggested I forget who he was 
that Gandhiji should write to the Viceroy and ask for an interview and 
have a frank talk with him. He agreed to do so, although I do not 
think that he expected much in the way of result. 

Gandhiji always welcomed a meeting with those who disagreed with 
him. But it was one thing to deal with individuals on personal or 
minor issues; it was quite another matter to come up against an im 
personal thing like the British Government representing triumphant 
imperialism. Realizing this, Gandhiji went to the interview with Lord 
Irwin with no high expectation. The civil disobedience movement was 
still going on, though it had toned down because there was much talk 
of pourparlers with Government. 

The interview was arranged without delay, and Gandhiji went off 
to Delhi, telling us that if there were any serious conversations with 
the Viceroy regarding a provisional settlement, he would send for the 
members of the Working Committee. A few days later we were all 
summoned to Delhi. For three weeks we remained there, meeting daily 
and having long and exhausting discussions. Gandhiji had frequent 
interviews with Lord Irwin, but sometimes there was a gap of three or 
four days, probably because the Government of India was communi 
cating with the India Office in London. Sometimes apparently small 
matters or even certain words would hold up progress. One such word 
was "suspension" of civil disobedience. Gandhiji had all along made it 
clear that civil disobedience could not be finally stopped or given up, 
as it was the only weapon in the hands of the people. It could, how 
ever, be suspended. Lord Irwin objected to this word and wanted 
finality about the word, to which Gandhiji would not agree. Ultimately 
the word "discontinued" was used. 

Delhi attracted in those days all manner of people. There were many 
foreign journalists, especially Americans, and they were somewhat an 
noyed with us for our reticence. They would tell us that they got much 
more news about the Gandhiji-Irwin conversations from the New 



Delhi Secretariat than from us, which was a fact. Then there were 
many people of high degree who hurried to pay their respects to Gan 
dhiji, for was not the Mahatma's star in the ascendant? It was very 
amusing to see these people, who had kept far away from Gandhiji 
and the Congress and often condemned them, now hastening to make 
amends. The Congress seemed to have made good, and no one knew 
what the future might hold. Anyway, it was safer to keep on good 
terms with the Congress and its leaders. A year later yet another change 
was witnessed in them, and they were shouting again their deep abhor 
rence of the Congress and all its works and their utter dissociation 
from it. 

Even the communalists were stirred by events, and sensed with some 
apprehension that they might not occupy a very prominent place in the 
coming order. And so, many of them came to the Mahatma and assured 
him that they were perfectly willing to come to terms on the communal 
issue, and, if only he would take the initiative, there would be no dif 
ficulty about a settlement. 

The very prosperous gentlemen who came to visit Gandhiji showed 
us another side of human nature, and a very adaptable side, for wher 
ever they sensed power and success, they turned to it and welcomed it 
with the sunshine of their smiles. Many of them were stanch pillars 
of the British Government in India. It was comforting to know that 
they would become equally stanch pillars of any other government 
that might flourish in India. 

Often in those days I used to accompany Gandhiji in his early morn 
ing walks in New Delhi. That was usually the only time one had a 
chance of talking to him, for the rest of the day was cut up into little 
bits, each minute allotted to somebody or something. Even the early 
morning walk was sometimes given over to an interviewer, usually 
from abroad, or to a friend, come for a personal consultation. We 
talked of many matters, of the past, of the present, and especially of 
the future. I remember how he surprised me with one of his ideas 
about the future of the Congress. I had imagined that the Congress, as 
such, would automatically cease to exist with the coming of freedom. 
He thought that the Congress should continue, but on one condition: 
that it passed a self-denying ordinance, laying it down that none of its 
members could accept a pay job under the State, and, if anyone wanted 
such a post of authority in the State, he would have to leave the Con 
gress. I do not at present remember how he worked this out, but the 
whole idea underlying it was that the Congress, by its detachment and 

188 



having no ax to grind, could exercise tremendous moral pressure on the 
Executive as well as other departments of the Government, and thus 
keep them on the right track. 

Now this is an extraordinary idea which I find difficult to grasp, and 
innumerable difficulties present themselves. It seems to me that such 
an assembly, if it could be conceived, would be exploited by some 
vested interest. But, practicality apart, it does help one to understand 
a little the background of Gandhiji's thought. 

Gandhiji's conception of democracy has nothing to do with numbers 
or majority or representation in the ordinary sense. It is based on service 
and sacrifice, and it uses moral pressure. He claims to be "a born demo 
crat." "I make that claim, if complete identification with the poorest 
of mankind, longing to live no better than they, and a corresponding 
conscious effort to approach that level to the best of one's ability, can 
entitle one to make it." This is his definition of a democrat. He says 
further: 

"Let us recognize the fact that the Congress enjoys the prestige of a 
democratic character and influence not by the number of delegates and 
visitors it has drawn to its annual function, but by an ever-increasing 
amount of service it has rendered. Western democracy is on its trial, if 
it has not already proved a failure. May it be reserved to India to evolve 
the true science of democracy by giving a visible demonstration of its 
success. 

"Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be the inevitable products 
of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today. Nor is bulk a true test 
of democracy. True democracy is not inconsistent with a few persons 
representing the spirit, the hope, and the aspirations of those whom 
they claim to represent. I hold that democracy cannot be evolved by 
forcible methods. The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from 
without; it has to come from within." 

This is certainly not Western democracy, as he himself says; but, 
curiously enough, there is some similarity to the communist conception 
of democracy. A few communists will claim to represent the real needs 
and desires of the masses, even though the latter may themselves be 
unaware of them. The similarity, however, is slight and does not take 
us far; the differences in outlook and approach are far greater, notably 
in regard to methods and force. 

Whether Gandhiji is a democrat or not, he does represent the peasant 
masses of India; he is the quintessence of the conscious and subcon 
scious will of those millions. It is perhaps something more than repre- 



sentation; for he is the idealized personification of those vast millions. 
Of course, he is not the average peasant. A man of the keenest intellect, 
of fine feeling and good taste, wide vision; very human, and yet es 
sentially the ascetic who has suppressed his passions and emotions, sub 
limated them and directed them in spiritual channels; a tremendous 
personality, drawing people to himself like a magnet, and calling out 
fierce loyalties and attachments all this so utterly unlike and beyond 
a peasant. And yet withal he is the greatest peasant, with a peasant's 
outlook on affairs, and with a peasant's blindness to some aspects of 
life. But India is peasant India, and so he knows his India well, reacts 
to her slightest tremors, , gauges a situation accurately and almost in 
stinctively, and has a knack of acting at the psychological moment. 

What a problem and a puzzle he has been not only to the British 
Government but to his own people and his closest associates! Perhaps 
in every other country he would be out of place today, but India still 
seems to understand, or at least appreciate, the prophetic-religious type 
of man, talking of sin and salvation and nonviolence. Indian mythology 
is full of stories of great ascetics, who, by the rigor of their sacrifices 
and self-imposed penance, built up a "mountain of merit" which threat 
ened the dominion of some of the lesser gods and upset the established 
order. These myths have often come to my mind when I have watched 
the amazing energy and inner power of Gandhiji, coming out of some 
inexhaustible spiritual reservoir. He was obviously not of the world's 
ordinary coinage; he was minted of a different and rare variety, and 
often the unknown stared at us through his eyes. 

India, even urban India, even the new industrial India, had the im 
press of the peasant upon her; and it was natural enough for her to 
make this son of hers, so like her and yet so unlike, an idol and a be 
loved leader. He revived ancient and half-forgotten memories, and gave 
her glimpses of her own soul. Crushed in the dark misery of the pres 
ent, she had tried to find relief in helpless muttering and in vague 
dreams of the past and the future, but he came and gave hope to her 
mind and strength to her much-battered body, and the future became 
an alluring vision. Two-faced like Janus, she looked both backward into 
the past and forward into the future, and tried to combine the two. 

Many of us had cut adrift from this peasant outlook, and the old 
ways of thought and custom and religion had become alien to us. We 
called ourselves moderns and thought in terms of "progress," and in 
dustrialization and a higher standard of living and collectivization. We 
considered the peasant's viewpoint reactionary; and some, a growing 

190 



number, looked with favor toward socialism and communism. How 
came we to associate ourselves with Gandhiji politically, and to become, 
in many instances, his devoted followers? The question is hard to an 
swer, and to one who does not know Gandhiji, no answer is likely to 
satisfy. Personality is an indefinable thing, a strange force that has 
power over the souls of men, and he possesses this in ample measure, 
and to all who come to him he often appears in a different aspect. He 
attracted people, but it was ultimately intellectual conviction that brought 
them to him and kept them there. They did not agree with his philos 
ophy of life, or even with many of his ideals. Often they did not under 
stand him. But the action that he proposed was something tangible 
which could be understood and appreciated intellectually. Any action 
would have been welcome after the long tradition of inaction which 
our spineless politics had nurtured; brave and effective action with an 
ethical halo about it had an irresistible appeal, both to the intellect and 
the emotions. Step by step he convinced us of the Tightness of the action, 
and we went with him, although we did not accept his philosophy. To 
divorce action from the thought underlying it was not perhaps a proper 
procedure and was bound to lead to mental conflict and trouble later. 
Vaguely we hoped that Gandhiji, being essentially a man of action and 
very sensitive to changing conditions, would advance along the line 
that seemed to us to be right. And in any event the road he was fol 
lowing was the right one thus far; and, if the future meant a parting, 
it would be folly to anticipate it. 

All this shows that we were by no means clear or certain in our 
minds. Always we had the feeling that, while we might be more logical, 
Gandhiji knew India far better than we did, and a man who could 
command such tremendous devotion and loyalty must have something 
in him that corresponded to the needs and aspirations of the masses. If 
we could convince him, we felt that we could also convert these masses. 
And it seemed possible to convince him; for, in spite of his peasant out 
look, he was the born rebel, a revolutionary out for big changes, whom 
no fear of consequences could stop. 

How he disciplined our lazy and demoralized people and made them 
work not by force or any material inducement, but by a gentle look 
and a soft word and, above all, by personal example! In the early days 
of Satyagraha in India, as long ago as 1919, I remember how Umar 
Sobani of Bombay called him the "beloved slave-driver." Much had 
happened in the dozen years since then. Umar had not lived to see 
these changes, but we who had been more fortunate looked back from 

191 



those early months of 1931 with joy and elation. Nineteen-thirty had, 
indeed, been a wonder year for us, and Gandhiji seemed to have changed 
the face of our country with his magic touch. No one was foolish 
enough to think that we had triumphed finally over the British Govern 
ment. Our feeling of elation had little to do with the Government. We 
were proud of our people, of our womenfolk, of our youth, of our chil 
dren for the part they had played in the movement. It was a spiritual 
gain, valuable at any time and to any people, but doubly so to us, a 
subject and downtrodden people. And we were anxious that nothing 
should happen to take this away from us. 

To me, personally, Gandhiji had always shown extraordinary kind 
ness and consideration, and my father's death had brought him par 
ticularly near to me. He had always listened patiently to whatever I 
had to say and had made every effort to meet my wishes. This had, in 
deed, led me to think that perhaps some colleagues and I could influ 
ence him continuously in a socialist direction, and he had himself said 
that he was prepared to go step by step as he saw his way to do so. It 
seemed to me almost inevitable then that he would accept the funda 
mental socialist position, as I saw no other way out from the violence 
and injustice and waste and misery of the existing order. He might dis 
agree about the methods but not about the ideal. So I thought then, but 
I realize now that there are basic differences between Gandhiji's ideals 
and the socialist objective. 

On the night of the 4th of March we waited till midnight for 
Gandhiji's return from the Viceroy's house. He came back about 2 A.M., 
and we were wakened and told that an agreement had been reached. 
We saw the draft. I knew most of the clauses, for they had been often 
discussed, but, at the very top, Clause 2 1 with its reference to safe 
guards, etc., gave me a tremendous shock. I was wholly unprepared 
for it. I said nothing then, and we all retired. 

There was nothing more to be said. The thing had been done, our 
leader had committed himself; and, even if we disagreed with him, 
what could we do ? Throw him over ? Break from him ? Announce our 

1 Clause 2 of the Delhi Settlement (dated March 5, 1931): "As regards constitutional 
questions, the scope of future discussion is stated, with the assent of His Majesty's Gov 
ernment, to be with the object of considering further the scheme for the constitutional 
Government of India discussed at the Round Table Conference. Of the scheme there 
outlined, Federation is an essential part; so also are Indian responsibility and reserva 
tions or safeguards in the interests of India, for such matters as, for instance, defense; 
external affairs; the position of minorities; the financial credit of India; and the dis 
charge of obligations." 

192 



disagreement? That might bring some personal satisfaction to an in 
dividual, but it made no difference to the final decision. The civil dis 
obedience movement was ended for the time being at least, and not 
even the Working Committee could push it on now, when the Gov 
ernment could declare that Mr. Gandhi had already agreed to a settle 
ment. I was perfecdy willing, as were our other colleagues, to suspend 
civil disobedience and to come to a temporary settlement with the Gov 
ernment. It was not an easy matter for any of us to send our comrades 
back to jail, or to be instrumental in keeping many thousands in prison 
who were already there. Prison is not a pleasant place to spend our 
days and nights, though many of us may train ourselves for it and talk 
light-heartedly of its crushing routine. Besides, three weeks or more of 
conversations between Gandhiji and Lord Irwin had led the country to 
expect that a settlement was coming, and a final break would have been 
a disappointment. So all of us in the Working Committee were de 
cidedly in favor of a provisional settlement (for obviously it could be 
nothing more), provided that thereby we did not surrender any vital 
position. 

Two matters interested me above all others. One was that our ob 
jective of independence should in no way be toned down, and the 
second was the effect of the settlement on our United Provinces agra 
rian situation. Gandhiji had made this point quite clear to Lord Irwin. 
The peasants were unable to pay the taxes demanded by the Govern 
ment. He had stated that, while the no-tax campaign would be with 
drawn, we could not advise the peasantry to pay beyond their capacity. 
The question of our objective, of independence, also remained. I saw 
in that Clause 2 of the settlement that even this seemed to be jeopard 
ized. Was it for this that our people had behaved so gallantly for a 
year? Were all our brave words and deeds to end in this? The inde 
pendence resolution of the Congress, the pledge of January 26, so often 
repeated? So I lay and pondered on that March night, and in my heart 
there was a great emptiness as of something precious gone, almost be 
yond recall. 

This is the way the world ends, 

Not with a bang, but a whimper. 

Gandhiji learned indirectly of my distress, and the next morning he 
asked me to accompany him in his usual walk. We had a long talk, 
and he tried to convince me that nothing vital had been lost, no sur 
render of principle made. He interpreted Clause 2 of the agreement in 

193 



a particular way so as to make it fit in with our demand for independ 
ence, relying chiefly on the words in it: "in the interests of India." The 
interpretation seemed to me to be a forced one, and I was not con 
vinced, but I was somewhat soothed by his talk. The merits of the 
agreement apart, I told him that his way of springing surprises upon 
us frightened me; there was something unknown about him which, 
in spite of the closest association for fourteen years, I could not under 
stand at all and which filled me with apprehension. He admitted the 
presence of this unknown element in him, and said that He himself 
could not answer for it or foretell what it might lead to. 

For a day or two I wobbled, not knowing what to do. There was no 
question of opposing or preventing that agreement then. That stage 
was past, and all I could do was to dissociate myself theoretically from 
it, though accepting it as a matter of fact. That would have soothed 
my personal vanity, but how did it help the larger issue? Would it not 
be better to accept gracefully what had been done, and put the most 
favorable interpretation upon it, as Gandhiji had done? In an inter 
view to the press immediately after the agreement he had stressed that 
interpretation and that we stood completely by independence. He went 
to Lord Irwin and made this point quite clear, so that there might be 
no misapprehension then or in the future. In the event of the Con 
gress sending any representative to the Round Table Conference, he 
told him, it could only be on this basis and to advance this claim. Lord 
Irwin could not, of course, admit the claim, but he recognized the right 
of the Congress to advance it. 

So I decided, not without great mental conflict and physical distress, 
to accept the agreement and work for it wholeheartedly. There ap 
peared to me to be no middle way. 

In the course of Gandhiji's interviews with Lord Irwin prior to the 
agreement, as well as after, he had pleaded for the release of political 
prisoners other than the civil disobedience prisoners. The latter were 
going to be discharged as part of the agreement itself. But there were 
thousands of others, both those convicted after trial and detenus kept 
without any charge, trial, or conviction. Many of these detenus had 
been kept so for years, and there had always been a great deal of re 
sentment all over India, and especially in Bengal, which was most af 
fected, at this method of imprisonment without trial. Gandhiji had 
pleaded for their release, not necessarily as part of the agreement, but 
as eminently desirable in order to relieve political tension and estab- 

194 



lish a more normal atmosphere in Bengal. But the Government was 
not agreeable to this. 

I left Delhi soon after the provisional settlement was arrived at and 
went to Lucknow. We had taken immediate steps to stop civil disobe 
dience all over the country, and the whole Congress organization had 
responded to our new instructions with remarkable discipline. We had 
many people in our ranks who were dissatisfied, many firebrands; and 
we had no means of compelling them to desist from the old activities. 
But without a single exception known to me, the huge organization 
accepted in practice the new role, though many criticized it. Our first 
job was to see that the civil disobedience prisoners were discharged. 
Thousands of these were discharged from day to day, and after some 
time only a number of disputed cases were left in prison; apart, of 
course, from the thousands of detenus and those convicted for violent 
activities, who were not released. 

These discharged prisoners, when they went home to their towns or 
villages, were naturally welcomed back by their people. There were 
often decorations and buntings, and processions, and meetings, and 
speeches and addresses of welcome. It was all very natural and to be 
expected, but the change was sudden from the time when the police 
lathee was always in evidence, and meetings and processions were forci 
bly dispersed. The police felt rather uncomfortable, and probably there 
was a feeling of triumph among many of our people who came out 
of jail. There was little enough reason to be triumphant, but a coming 
out of jail always brings a feeling of elation (unless the spirit has been 
crushed in jail), and mass jail deliveries add very much to this ex 
hilaration. 

I mention this fact here, because in later months great exception was 
taken by the Government to this "air of triumph," and it was made 
a charge against us! Brought up and living always in an authoritarian 
atmosphere, with a military notion of government and with no roots 
or supports in the people, nothing is more painful to them than a 
weakening of what they consider their prestige. None of us, so far as 
I know, had given the least thought to the matter, and it was with 
great surprise that we learned later that Government officials, from 
the heights of Simla to the plains below, were simmering with anger 
and wounded pride at this impudence of the people. These outbursts 
on the part of the Government and its friends in the press, came as 
a revelation to us. They showed what a state of nerves they had been 
in, what suppressions they had put up with, resulting in all manner 



of complexes. It was extraordinary that a few processions and a few 
speeches of our rank-and-file men should so upset them. 

As a matter of fact there was in Congress ranks then, and even less 
in the leadership, no idea of having "defeated" the British Govern 
ment. But there was a feeling of triumph among us at our own peo 
ple's sacrifices and courage. 

I had a little breakdown in health soon after the Delhi Pact. Even 
in jail I had been unwell, and then the shock of father's death, fol 
lowed immediately by the long strain of the Delhi negotiations, proved 
too much for my physical health. I recovered somewhat for the Kara 
chi Congress. 

The Karachi Congress was an even greater personal triumph for 
Gandhiji than any previous Congress had been. The president, Sardar 
Vallabhbhai Patel, was one of the most popular and forceful men in 
India with the prestige of victorious leadership in Gujrat, but it was 
the Mahatma who dominated the scene. 

The principal resolution dealt with the Delhi Pact and the Round 
Table Conference. I accepted it, of course, as it emerged from the 
Working Committee; but, when I was asked by Gandhiji to move 
it in the open Congress, I hesitated. It went against the grain, and I 
refused at first, and then this seemed a weak and unsatisfactory posi 
tion to take up. Either I was for it or against it, and it was not proper 
to prevaricate or leave people guessing in the matter. Almost at the last 
moment, a few minutes before the resolution was taken up in the open 
Congress, I decided to sponsor it. In my speech I tried to lay before 
the great gathering quite frankly what my feelings were and why I 
had wholeheartedly accepted that resolution and pleaded with them 
to accept it. That speech, made on the spur of the moment and coming 
from the heart, and with little of ornament or fine phrasing in it, was 
probably a greater success than many of my other efforts which had 
followed a more careful preparation. 

I spoke on other resolutions, too, notably on the Bhagat Singh reso 
lution and the one on fundamental rights and economic policy. The 
latter resolution interested me especially, partly because of what it con 
tained, and even more so because it represented a new outlook in the 
Congress. So far the Congress had thought along purely nationalist 
lines, and had avoided facing economic issues, except in so far as it 
encouraged cottage industries and Swadeshi generally. In the Karachi 
resolution it took a step, a very short step, in a socialist direction by 
advocating nationalization of key industries and services, and various 

196 



other measures to lessen the burden on the poor and increase it on 
the rich. This was not socialism at all, and a capitalist state could easily 
accept almost everything contained in that resolution. 

This very mild and prosaic resolution evidently made the big people 
of the Government of India furiously to think. Perhaps they even pic 
tured, with their usual perspicacity, the red gold of the Bolsheviks 
stealing its way into Karachi and corrupting the Congress leaders. 
Living in a kind of political harem, cut off from the outer world, and 
surrounded by an atmosphere of secrecy, their receptive minds love to 
hear tales of mystery and imagination. And then these stories are given 
out in little bits in a mysterious manner, through favored newspapers, 
with a hint that much more could be seen if only the veil were lifted. 
In this approved and well-practiced manner, frequent references have 
been made to the Karachi resolution on Fundamental Rights, etc., and 
I can only conclude that they represent the Government view of this 
resolution. The story goes that a certain mysterious individual with 
communist affiliations drew up this resolution, or the greater part of 
it, and thrust it down upon me at Karachi; that thereupon I issued an 
ultimatum to Mr. Gandhi to accept this or to face my opposition on 
the Delhi Pact issue, and Mr. Gandhi accepted it as a sop to me and 
forced it down on a tired Subjects Committee and Congress on the 
concluding day. 

So far as Mr. Gandhi is concerned, I have had the privilege of know 
ing him pretty intimately for the last twenty-one years, and the idea 
of my presenting ultimatums to him or bargaining with him seems 
to me monstrous. We may accommodate ourselves to each other; or 
we may, on a particular issue, part company; but the methods of the 
market place can never affect our mutual dealings. 



XXX 

A SOUTHERN HOLIDAY 

MY DOCTORS URGED me to take some rest and go for a change, and I 
decided to spend a month in Ceylon. India, huge as the country is, did 
not offer a real prospect of change or mental rest, for wherever I might 
go, I would probably come across political associates and the same prob 
lems would pursue me. Ceylon was the nearest place within reach of 



India, and so to Ceylon we wentKamala, Indira, and I. That was 
the first holiday I had had since our return from Europe in 1927, the 
first time since then that my wife and daughter and I holidayed to 
gether peacefully with little to distract our attention. There has been 
no repetition of that experience, and sometimes I wonder if there will 
be any. 

And yet we did not really have much rest in Ceylon, except for two 
weeks at Nuwara Eliya. We were fairly overwhelmed by the hospi 
tality and friendliness of all classes of people there. It was very pleasant 
to find all this good will, but it was often embarrassing also. At Nu 
wara Eliya groups of laborers, tea-garden workers and others, would 
come daily, walking many miles, bringing gracious gifts with them 
wild flowers, vegetables, homemade butter. We could not, as a rule, 
even converse together; we merely looked at each other and smiled. 
Our little house was full of those precious gifts of theirs, which they 
had given out of their poverty, and we passed them on to the local 
hospital and orphanages. 

We visited many of the famous sights and historical ruins of the 
island, and Buddhist monasteries, and the rich tropical forests. At 
Anuradhapura I liked greatly an old seated statue of the Buddha. A 
year later, when I was in Dehra Dun Jail, a friend in Ceylon sent 
me a picture of this statue, and I kept it on my little table in my 
cell. It became a precious companion for me, and the strong, calm 
features of Buddha's statue soothed me and gave me strength and 
helped me to overcome many a period of depression. 

Buddha has always had a great appeal for me. It is difficult for me 
to analyze this appeal, but it is not a religious appeal, and I am not 
interested in the dogmas that have grown up round Buddhism. It is 
the personality that has drawn me. So also the personality of Christ 
has attracted me greatly. 

I saw many Buddhist bhiT(kus (monks) in their monasteries and on 
the highways, meeting with respect wherever they went. The dominant 
expression of almost all of them was one of peace and calm, a strange 
detachment from the cares of the world. They did not have intellectual 
faces, as a rule, and there was no trace of the fierce conflicts of the 
mind on their countenances. Life seemed to be for them a smootH- 
flowing river moving slowly to the great ocean. I looked at them with 
some envy, with just a faint yearning for a haven; but I knew well 
enough that my lot was a different one, cast in storms and tempests. 
There was to be no haven for me, for the tempests within me were 

198 




Kamala, Nehru's wife 




Jawaharlal Nehru with his daughter, Indira 



as stormy as those outside. And if perchance I found myself in a safe 
harbor, protected from the fury of the winds, would I be contented 
or happy there? 

For a little while the harbor was pleasant, and one could lie down 
and dream and allow the soothing and enervating charm of the tropics 
to steal over one. Ceylon fitted in with my mood then, and the beauty 
of the island filled me with delight. Our month of holiday was soon 
over, and it was with real regret that we bade good-by. So many mem 
ories come back to me of the land and her people; they have been 
pleasant companions during the long, empty days in prison. One little 
incident lingers in my memory; it was near Jaffna, I think. The teach 
ers and boys of a school stopped our car and said a few words of greet 
ing. The ardent, eager faces of the boys stood out, and then one of their 
number came to me, shook hands with me, and without question or 
argument, said: "I will not falter." That bright young face with shin 
ing eyes, full of determination, is imprinted in my mind. I do not 
know who he was; I have lost trace of him. But somehow I have the 
conviction that he will remain true to his word and will not falter 
when he has to face life's difficult problems. 

From Ceylon we went to south India, right to the southern tip at 
Cape Comorin. Amazingly peaceful it was there. And then through 
Travancore, Cochin, Malabar, Mysore, Hyderabad mostly Indian 
States, some the most progressive of their kind, some the most back 
ward. Travancore and Cochin educationally far in advance of British 
India; Mysore probably ahead industrially; Hyderabad almost a per 
fect feudal relic. We received courtesy and welcome everywhere, both 
from the people and the authorities; but behind that welcome I could 
sense the anxiety of the latter lest our visit might lead the people to 
think dangerously. 

In Bangalore, in the Mysore State, I had hoisted at a great gathering 
a national flag on an enormous iron pole. Not long after my departure 
this pole was broken up into bits, and the Mysore Government made 
the display of the flag an offense. This ill-treatment and insult of the 
flag I had hoisted pained me greatly. 

In Travancore even the Congress had been made an unlawful asso 
ciation, and no one can enroll ordinary members for it, although in 
British India it is now lawful since the withdrawal of civil disobedi 
ence. Hyderabad had no necessity for going back or withdrawing facili 
ties, for it had never moved forward at all or given any facility of the 
kind. Political meetings are unknown in Hyderabad; even social and 

199 



religious gatherings are looked upon with suspicion, and special per 
mission has to be taken for them. There are no newspapers worthy of 
the name issued there, and, in order to prevent the germs of corrup 
tion from coming from outside, a large number of newspapers pub 
lished in other parts of India are prevented entry. 

In Cochin we visited the quarter of the "White Jews," as they are 
called, and saw one of the services in their old tabernacle. The little 
community is very ancient and very unique. It is dwindling in num 
bers. The part of Cochin they live in, we were told, resembles ancient 
Jerusalem. It certainly has an ancient look about it. 

We also visited, along the backwaters of Malabar, some of the towns 
inhabited chiefly by Christians belonging to the Syrian churches. Few 
people realize that Christianity came to India as early as the first cen 
tury after Christ, long before Europe turned to it, and established a 
firm hold in south India. Although these Christians have their religious 
head in Antioch or somewhere else in Syria, their Christianity is prac 
tically indigenous and has few outside contacts. 

To my surprise, we also came across a colony of Nestorians in the 
south; I was told by their bishop that there were ten thousand of them. 
I had labored under the impression that the Nestorians had long been 
absorbed, in other sects, and I did not know that they had ever flour 
ished in India. But I was told that at one time they had a fairly large 
following in India, extending as far north as Benares. 

We had gone to Hyderabad especially to pay a visit to Mrs. Sarojini 
Naidu and her daughters, Padmaja and Leilamani. During our stay 
with them a small purdanashin gathering of women assembled at their 
house to meet my wife, and Kamala apparently addressed them. Prob 
ably she spoke of women's struggle for freedom against man-made 
laws and customs (a favorite topic of hers) and urged the women not 
to be too submissive to their menfolk. There was an interesting sequel 
to this two or three weeks later, when a distracted husband wrote to 
Kamala from Hyderabad and said that since her visit to that city his 
wife had behaved strangely. She would not listen to him and fall in 
with his wishes, as she used to, but would argue with him and even 
adopt an aggressive attitude. 

Seven weeks after we had sailed from Bombay for Ceylon we were 
back in that city, and immediately I plunged again into the whirlpool 
of Congress politics. 



200 



XXXI 

FRICTION AND THE ROUND TABLE CONFERENCE 

SHOULD GANDHIJI GO to London for the second Round Table Confer 
ence or not? Again and again the question arose, and there was no 
definite answer. No one knew till the last moment not even the 
Congress Working Committee or Gandhiji himself. For the answer 
depended on many things, and new happenings were constantly giving 
a fresh turn to the situation. Behind that question and answer lay real 
and difficult problems. 

We were told repeatedly, on behalf of the British Government and 
their friends, that the first Round Table Conference had already laid 
down the framework of the constitution, that the principal lines of the 
picture had been drawn, and all that remained was the filling in of 
this picture. But the Congress did not think so; so far as it was con 
cerned, the picture had to be drawn or painted from the very begin 
ning on an almost blank canvas. It was true that by the Delhi agree 
ment the federal basis had been approved and the idea of safeguards 
accepted. But a federation had long seemed to many of us the best 
solution of the Indian constitutional problem, and our approval of this 
idea did not mean our acceptance of the particular type of federation 
envisaged by the first Round Table Conference. 

The gulf between the Congress viewpoint and that of the British 
Government was immense, and it seemed exceedingly unlikely that it 
could be bridged at that stage. Very few Congressmen expected any 
measure of agreement between the Congress and the Government at 
the second Round Table Conference, and even Gandhiji, optimistic as 
he always is, could not look forward to much. And yet he was never 
hopeless and was determined to try to the very end. All of us felt that, 
whether success came or not, the effort had to be made, in pursuance 
of the Delhi agreement. But there were two vital considerations which 
might have barred our participation in the second Round Table Con 
ference. We could only go if we had full freedom to place our view 
point in its entirety before the Round Table Conference, and were not 
prevented from doing so by being told that the matter had already been 
decided, or for any other reason. We could also be prevented from 
being represented at the Round Table Conference by conditions in 
India. A situation might have developed here which precipitated a con 
flict with the Government, or in which we had to face severe repres- 

201 



sion, If this took place in India and our very house was on fire, it would 
have been singularly out of place for any representative of ours to 
ignore the fire and talk academically of constitutions and the like in 
London. 

The situation was developing swiftly in India. In Bengal the Delhi 
agreement had made little difference, and the tension continued and 
grew worse. Some civil disobedience prisoners were discharged, but 
thousands of politicals, who were technically not civil disobedience 
prisoners, remained in prison. The detenus also continued in jail or 
detention camps. Fresh arrests were frequently made for "seditious" 
speeches or other political activities, and generally it was felt that the 
Government offensive had continued without any abatement. 

The Congress Working Committee felt very helpless before this 
intricate problem of Bengal. In the United Provinces the agrarian 
situation was becoming worse. 

In the Frontier Province, too, the Delhi Pact brought no peace. 
There was a permanent state of tension there, and government was a 
military affair, with special laws and ordinances and heavy punish 
ments for trivial offenses. To oppose this state of affairs, Abdul Ghaffar 
Khan led a great agitation, and he soon became a bugbear to the Gov 
ernment. From village to village he went striding along, carrying his 
six-feet-three of Pathan manhood, and establishing centers of the "Red- 
shirts." Wherever he or his principal lieutenants went, they left a trail 
of their "Redshirts" behind, and the whole province was soon covered 
by branches of the Khudai Khidmatgar. They were thoroughly peace 
ful and, though vague allegations of violence have been made against 
them, not a single definite charge has been established. But, whether 
they were peaceful or not, they had the tradition of war and violence 
behind them, they lived near the turbulent frontier, and this rapid 
growth of a disciplined movement, closely allied to the Indian national 
movement, thoroughly upset the Government. I do not suppose they 
ever believed in its professions of peace and nonviolence. But, even if 
they had done so, their reactions to it would only have been of fright 
and annoyance. It represented too much of actual and potential powers 
for them to view it with equanimity. 

Of this great movement the unquestioned head was Khan Abdul 
Ghaffar KhzLii'Fatyr-e-Afghan" t( Fa\r^Pathan; r the "Pride of the 
Pathans," "Gandhi-e-Sarhad" the "Frontier Gandhi," as he came to be 
known. He had attained an amazing popularity in the Frontier Prov 
ince by sheer dint of quiet, persevering work, undaunted by difficulties 

202 



or Government action. He was, and is, no politician as politicians go; 
he knows nothing of the tactics and maneuvers of politics. A tall, 
straight man, straight in body and mind, hating fuss and too much 
talk, looking forward to freedom for his Frontier Province people 
within the framework of Indian freedom, but vague about, and unin 
terested in, constitutions and legal talk. Action was necessary to achieve 
anything, and Mahatma Gandhi had taught a remarkable way of peace 
ful action which appealed to him. For action, organization was neces 
sary; therefore, without further argument or much drafting of rules 
for his organization, he started organizing and with remarkable 
success. 

He was especially attracted to Gandhiji. At first his shyness and 
desire to keep in the background made him keep away from him. 
Later they had to meet to discuss various matters, and their contacts 
grew. It was surprising how this Pathan accepted the idea of nonvio 
lence, far more so in theory than many of us. And it was because he 
believed in it that he managed to impress his people with the impor 
tance of remaining peaceful in spite of provocation. 

Abdul Ghaffar Khan has been known and liked for many years in 
Congress circles. But he has grown to be something more than an 
individual comrade; more and more he has come to be, in the eyes of 
the rest of India, the symbol of the courage and sacrifice of a gallant 
and indomitable people, comrades of ours in a common struggle. 

Long before I had heard of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, I knew his brother, 
Dr. Khan Sahib. He was a student at St. Thomas's Hospital in Lon 
don when I was at Cambridge, and later, when I was eating my Bar 
dinners at the Inner Temple, he and I became close friends; and hardly 
a day went by, when I was in London, when we did not meet. I 
returned to India, leaving him in England, and he stayed on for many 
more years, serving as a doctor in wartime. I saw him next in Naini 
Prison. 

It was Gandhiji's wish to go to the Frontier Province immediately 
after the Karachi Congress, but the Government did not encourage 
this at all. Repeatedly, in later months, when Government officials 
complained of the doings of the "Redshirts," he pressed to be allowed 
to go there to find out for himself, but to no purpose. Nor was my 
going there approved. In view of the Delhi agreement, it was not con 
sidered desirable by us to enter the Frontier Province against the 
declared wish of the Government. 

From all over the country we were continually receiving complaints 

203 



from local Congress Committees pointing out breaches of the Delhi 
Pact by local officials. The more important of these were forwarded by 
us to the Government, which, in its turn, brought charges against 
Congressmen of violation of the Pact. So charges and countercharges 
were made, and later they were published in the press. Needless to 
say, this did not result in the improvement of the relations between the 
Congress and the Government. 

And yet this friction on petty matters was by itself of no great impor 
tance. Its importance lay in its revealing the development of a more 
fundamental conflict, something which did not depend on individuals 
but arose from the very nature of our national struggle and the want of 
equilibrium of our agrarian economy, something that could not be 
liquidated or compromised away without a basic change. Our national 
movement had originally begun because of the desire of our upper 
middle classes to find means of self-expression and self-growth, and 
behind it there was the political and economic urge. It spread to the 
lower middle classes and became a power in the land; and then it 
began to stir the rural masses, who were finding it more and more diffi 
cult to keep up, as a whole, even their miserable rock-bottom standard 
of living. The old self-sufficient village economy had long ceased to 
exist. Auxiliary cottage industries, ancillary to agriculture, which had 
relieved somewhat the burden on the land, had died off, partly because 
of State policy, but largely because they could not compete with the 
rising machine industry. The burden on land grew, and the growth of 
Indian industry was too slow to make much difference to this. Ill- 
equipped and almost unawares, the overburdened village was thrown 
into the world market and was tossed about hither and thither. It 
could not compete on even terms. It was backward in its methods of 
production, and its land system, resulting in a progressive fragmenta 
tion of holdings, made radical improvement impossible. So the agricul 
tural classes, both landlords and tenants, went downhill, except during 
brief periods of boom. The landlords tried to pass on the burden to 
their tenantry, and the growing pauperization of the peasantry both 
the petty landholders and the tenants drew them to the national 
movement. The agricultural proletariat, the large numbers of landless 
laborers in rural areas, were also attracted; and for all these rural classes 
nationalism or Swaraj meant fundamental changes in the land system 
which would relieve or lessen their burdens and provide land for the 
landless. These desires found no clear expression either in the peasantry 
or in the middle-class leaders of the national movement. 

204 



The civil disobedience movement of 1930 happened to fit in unbe 
known to its own leaders at first, with the great world slump in 
industry and agriculture. The rural masses were powerfully affected 
by this slump, and they turned to the Congress and civil disobedience. 
For them it was not a matter of a fine constitution drawn up in Lon 
don or elsewhere, but of a basic change in the land system, especially 
in the zamindari areas. The zamindari system, indeed, seemed to have 
outlived its day and had no stability left in it. But the British Govern 
ment, situated as it was, could not venture to undertake a radical 
change of this land system. Even when it had appointed the Royal 
Agricultural Commission, the terms of reference to it barred a discus 
sion of the question of ownership of land or the system of land tenure. 

The British Government, like most governments I suppose, has an 
idea that much of the trouble in India is due to "agitators." It is a sin 
gularly inept notion. India has had a great leader during the past 
fifteen years who has won the affection and even adoration of her 
millions and has seemed to impose his will on her in many ways. He 
has played a vitally important part in her recent history, and yet more 
important than he were the people themselves who seemed to follow 
blindly his behests. The people were the principal actors, and behind 
them, pushing them on, were great historical urges which prepared 
them and made them ready to listen to their leader's piping. But for 
that historical setting and political and social urges, no leaders or agi 
tators could have inspired them to action. It was Gandhiji's chief virtue 
as a leader that he could instinctively feel the pulse of the people and 
know when conditions were ripe for growth and action. 

In 1930 the national movement in India fitted in for a while with the 
growing social forces of the country, and because of this a great power 
came to it, a sense of reality, as if it were indeed marching step by step 
with history. The Congress represented that national movement, and 
this power and strength were reflected in the growth of Congress 
prestige. This was something vague, incalculable, indefinable, but 
nevertheless very much present. The peasantry, of course, turned to 
the Congress and gave it its real strength; the lower middle-class 
formed the backbone of its fighting ranks. Even the upper bourgeoisie, 
troubled by this new atmosphere, thought it safer to be friendly with 
the Congress. The great majority of the textile mills in India signed 
undertakings prescribed by the Congress and were afraid of doing 
things which might bring on them the displeasure of the Congress. 
While people argued fine legal points in London at the first Round 

205 



Table Conference, the reality of power seemed to be slowly and imper 
ceptibly flowing toward the Congress as representing the people. 

This vague sense of a dual authority growing in the country was nat 
urally most irritating to the Government. The sense of conflict grew, 
and we could feel the hardening on the side of Government. Soon after 
the Delhi Pact, Lord Irwin had left India, and Lord Willingdon had 
come in his place as Viceroy. A legend grew up that the new Viceroy 
was a hard and stern person and not so amenable to compromise as 
his predecessor. Many of our politicians have inherited a "liberal" habit 
of thinking of politics in terms of persons rather than of principles. 
They do not realize that the broad imperial policy of the British Gov 
ernment does not depend on the personal views of the Viceroys. The 
change of Viceroys, therefore, did not and could not make any differ 
ence, but, as it happened, the policy of Government gradually changed 
owing to the development of the situation. The Civil Service hierarchy 
had not approved of pacts and dealings with the Congress; all their 
training and authoritarian conceptions of government were opposed to 
this. They had an idea that they had added to the Congress influence 
and Gandhij i's prestige by dealing with him almost as an equal and 
it was about time that he was brought down a peg or two. The notion 
was a very foolish one, but then the Indian Civil Service is not known 
for the originality of its conceptions. Whatever the reason, the Gov 
ernment stiffened its back and tightened its hold, and it seemed to tell 
us, in the words of the old prophet: My little finger is thicker than 
my father's loins. Whereas he chastised you with whips, I will chastise 
you with scorpions. 

But the time for chastisement was not yet. If possible the Congress 
was to be represented at the second Round Table Conference. Twice 
Gandhij i went to Simla to have long conversations with the Viceroy 
and other officials. 

His first visit to Simla was inconclusive. The second visit took place 
in the last week of August. A final decision had to be taken one way 
or the other, but still he found it difficult to make up his mind to leave 
India. In Bengal, in the Frontier Province, and in the United Provinces, 
he saw trouble ahead, and he did not want to go unless he had some 
assurance of peace in India. At last some kind of an agreement was 
arrived at with the Government, embodied in a statement and some 
letters that were exchanged. This was done at the very last moment 
to enable him to travel by the liner that was carrying the delegates to 
the Round Table Conference. Indeed, it was after the last moment, in 

206 



a sense, as the last train had gone. A special train from Simla to Kalka 
was arranged, and other trains were delayed to make the connections. 

I accompanied him from Simla to Bombay, and there, one bright 
morning toward the end of August, I waved good-by to him as he 
was carried away to the Arabian Sea and the far West. That was my 
last glimpse of him for two years. 

Gandhij i went to London as the sole representative of the Congress 
to the Round Table Conference. We had decided, after long debate, 
not to have additional representatives. Partly this was due to our desire 
to have our best men in India at a very critical time, when the most 
tactful handling of the situation was necessary. We felt that, in spite of 
the Round Table Conference meeting in London, the center of gravity 
lay in India, and developments in India would inevitably have their 
reactions in London. We wanted to check untoward developments, and 
to keep our organization in proper condition. This was, however, not 
the real reason for our sending only one representative. 

We were not joining the Round Table Conference to talk intermi 
nably about the petty details of a constitution. We were not interested 
in those details at that stage, and they could only be considered when 
some agreement on fundamental matters had been arrived at with the 
British Government. The real question was how much power was to 
be transferred to a democratic India. If by a strange chance a basis of 
agreement was found on those fundamentals, the rest followed easily 
enough. It had been settled between us that, in case of such an agree 
ment, Gandhij i would immediately summon to London some or even 
all the members of the Working Committee, so that we could then 
share the work of detailed negotiation. 

The British Government had, however, no intention of falling in 
with our wishes in the matter. Their policy was to postpone the con 
sideration of fundamental questions and to make the Conference ex 
haust itself, more or less, on minor and immaterial matters. Even when 
major matters were considered, the Government held its hand, refused 
to commit itself, and promised to express its opinion after mature con 
sideration later on. Their trump card was, of course, the communal 
issue, and they played it for all it was worth. It dominated the Con 
ference. 

The great majority of the Indian members of the Conference fell in, 
most of them willingly, some unwillingly, with this official maneuver 
ing. They were a motley assembly. Few of them represented any but 
themselves. Some were able and respected; of many others this could 

207 



not be said. As a whole they represented, politically and socially, the 
most reactionary elements in India. So backward and reactionary were 
they that the Indian Liberals, so very moderate and cautious in India, 
shone as progressives in their company. 

It was fitting that in this assembly of vested interests imperialist, 
feudal, financial, industrial, religious, communal the leadership of the 
British Indian delegation should usually fall to the Aga Khan, who 
in his own person happened to combine all these interests in some de 
gree. Closely associated as he has been with British imperialism and 
the British ruling class for over a generation, he could thoroughly ap 
preciate and represent our rulers' interests and viewpoint. He was an 
able representative of Imperialist England at that Round Table Con 
ference. The irony of it was that he was supposed to represent India. 

The scales were terribly loaded against us at that Conference, and, 
little as we expected from it, we watched its proceedings with amaze 
ment and ever-growing disgust. We saw the pitiful and absurdly inade 
quate attempts to scratch the surface of national and economic prob 
lems, the pacts and intrigues and maneuvers, the joining of hands of 
some of our own countrymen with the most reactionary elements of 
the British Conservative party, the endless talk over petty issues, the 
deliberate shelving of all that really mattered, the continuous playing 
into the hands of the big vested interests and especially British im 
perialism, the mutual squabbles, varied by feasting and mutual admira 
tion. It was all jobbery big jobs, litde jobs, jobs and seats for the 
Hindus, for the Moslems, for the Sikhs, for the Anglo-Indians, for the 
Europeans; but all jobs for the upper classes the masses had no look-in. 
Opportunism was rampant, and different groups seemed to prowl 
about like hungry wolves waiting for their prey the spoils under the 
new constitution. The very conception of freedom had taken the form 
of large-scale jobbery "Indianization" it was called more jobs for 
Indians in the army, in the civil services, etc. No one thought in terms 
of independence, of real freedom, of a transfer of power to a demo 
cratic India, of the solution of any of the vital and urgent economic 
problems facing the Indian people. Was it for this that India had strug 
gled so manfully? Must we exchange this murky air for the rare at 
mosphere of fine idealism and sacrifice? 

Gandhiji was in an extraordinarily difficult position in that Con 
ference, and we wondered from afar how he could tolerate it. But with 
amazing patience he carried on and made attempt after attempt to find 
some basis of agreement. One characteristic gesture he made, which 

208 



suddenly showed up how communalism really covered political reac 
tion. He did not like many of the communal demands put forward 
on behalf of the Moslem delegates to the Conference; he thought, and 
his own Moslem nationalist colleagues thought so, that some of these 
demands were a bar to freedom and democracy. But still he offered to 
accept the whole lot of them, without question or argument, if the 
Moslem delegates there joined forces with him and the Congress on 
the political issue, that is, on independence. 

The offer, however, was not accepted, and indeed it is a little difficult 
to imagine the Aga Khan standing for Indian independence. This 
demonstrated that the real trouble was not communal, although the 
communal issue loomed large before the Conference. It was political 
reaction that barred all progress and sheltered itself behind the com 
munal issue. By careful selection of its nominees for the Conference, 
the British Government had collected these reactionary elements, and, 
by controlling the procedure, they had made the communal issue the 
major issue, and an issue on which no agreement was possible between 
the irreconcilables gathered there. 

The British Government succeeded in its endeavor, and thereby dem 
onstrated that it still has, not only the physical strength to uphold its 
Empire, but also the cunning and statecraft to carry on the imperial 
tradition for a while longer. 

The Conference itself, with all its scheming and opportunism and 
futile meandering, was no failure for India. It was constituted so as to 
fail, and the people of India could hardly be made responsible for its 
failing. But it succeeded in diverting world attention from real issues 
in India, and, in India itself, it produced disillusion and depression and 
a sense of humiliation. It gave a handle to reactionary forces to raise 
their heads again. 

Success or failure was to come to the people of the country by events 
in India itself. The powerful nationalist movement could not fade away, 
because of distant maneuvering in London. Nationalism represented 
a real and immediate need of the middle classes and peasantry, and 
by its means they sought to solve their problems. The movement could 
thus either succeed, fulfil its function, and give place to some other 
movement, which would carry the people further on the road to prog 
ress and freedom, or else it could be forcibly suppressed for the time 
being. That struggle was to come in India soon after and was to re 
sult in temporary disablement. The second Round Table Conference 

209 



could not affect this struggle much, but it did create an atmosphere 
somewhat unfavorable to it. 



XXXII 

ARRESTS, ORDINANCES, PROSCRIPTIONS 

SOME TIME AFTER Gandhiji had gone to London two incidents suddenly 
concentrated all-India attention on the situation in Bengal. These two 
took place in Hijli and Chittagong. 

Hijli was a special detention camp jail for detenus. It was officially 
announced that a riot had taken place inside the camp, the detenus had 
attacked the staff, and the latter had been forced to fire on them. Two 
detenus were killed by this firing, and many were wounded. A local 
official inquiry, held immediately after, absolved the staff from all 
blame for this firing and its consequences. But there were many curious 
features; some facts leaked out which did not fit in with the official 
version, and vehement demands were made for a fuller inquiry. Con 
trary to the usual official practice in India, the Government of Bengal 
appointed an inquiring committee consisting of high judicial officers. 
It was a purely official committee, but it took evidence and considered 
the matter fully, and its findings were against the staff of the detention 
camp jail. It was held that the fault was largely that of the staff and the 
firing was unjustified. The previous Government communiques issued 
on the subject were thus entirely falsified. 

There was nothing very extraordinary about the Hijli occurrence. 
Unhappily, such incidents are not rare in India, and one frequently 
reads of "jail riots" and of the gallant suppression of unarmed and 
helpless prisoners within the jail by armed warders and others. Hijli 
was unusual in so far as it exposed, and exposed officially, the utter 
one-sidedness, and even the falsity, of Government communiques on 
such occurrences. 

The Chittagong affair was much more serious. A terrorist shot down 
and killed a Moslem police inspector. This was followed by a Hindu- 
Moslem riot, or so it was called. It was patent, however, that it was 
something much more than that, something different from the usual 
communal riot. It was obvious that the terrorist's act had nothing to 
do with communalism; it was directed against a police officer, regard 
less of whether he was a Hindu or Moslem. Yet it is true that there 

210 



was some Hindu-Moslem rioting afterward. How this started, what 
was the occasion for it, has not been cleared up, although very serious 
charges have been made by responsible public men. Another feature 
of the rioting was the part taken by definite groups of other people, 
Anglo-Indians, chiefly railway employees, and other Government em 
ployees, who are alleged to have indulged in reprisals on a large scale. 
J. M. Sen-Gupta and other noted leaders of Bengal made specific alle 
gations in regard to the occurrences in Chittagong, and challenged an 
inquiry or even a suit for defamation, but the Government preferred 
to take no such step. 

The Chittagong murder of a police official by a terrorist, and its 
consequences, made one realize very vividly the dangerous possibili 
ties of terroristic activity and the enormous harm it might do to the 
cause of Indian unity and freedom. The reprisals that followed also 
showed us that fascist methods had appeared in India. Since then there 
have been many instances, notably in Bengal, of such reprisals, and the 
fascist spirit has undoubtedly spread in the European and Anglo- 
Indian community. Some of the Indian hangers-on of British imperial 
ism have also imbibed it. 

I went to Calcutta for a few days in November 1931. I had a very 
crowded program and, apart from meeting individuals and groups 
privately, addressed a number of mass meetings. In all these meetings 
I discussed the question of terrorism and tried to show how wrong and 
futile and harmful it was for Indian freedom. I did not abuse the ter 
rorists, nor did I call them "dastardly" or "cowardly," after the fashion 
of some of our countrymen who have themselves seldom, if ever, 
yielded to the temptation of doing anything brave or involving risk. 
It has always seemed to me a singularly stupid thing to call a man or 
woman who is constantly risking his life a coward. And the reaction 
of it on that man is to make him a little more contemptuous of his 
timid critics who shout from a distance and are incapable of doing 
anything. 

On my last evening in Calcutta, a litde before I was due to go to 
the station for my departure, two young men called on me. They were 
very young, about twenty, with pale, nervous faces and brilliant eyes. 
I did not know who they were, but soon I guessed their errand. They 
were very angry with me for my propaganda against terroristic vio 
lence. They said that it was producing a bad effect on young men, 
and they could not tolerate my intrusion in this way. We had a little 
argument; it was a hurried one, for the time of my departure was at 

211 



hand. I am afraid our voices and our tempers rose, and I told them 
some hard things; and, as I left them, they warned me finally that if 
I continued to misbehave in the future they would deal with me as 
they had dealt with others. 

And so I left Calcutta, and, as I lay in my berth in the train that 
night, I was long haunted by the excited faces of these two boys. Full 
of life and nervous energy they were; what good material if only they 
turned the right way! I was sorry that I had dealt with them hurriedly 
and rather brusquely, and wished I had had the chance of a long con 
versation with them. Perhaps I could have convinced them to apply 
their bright young lives to other ways, ways of serving India and free 
dom, in which there was no lack of opportunity for daring and self- 
sacrifice. Often I have thought of them in these afteryears. I never 
found out their names, nor did I have any other trace of them; and I 
wonder, sometimes, if they are dead or in some cell in the Andaman 
Islands. 

It was December. The second Peasant Conference took place in Alla 
habad, and then I hurried south to the Karnataka to fulfill an old 
promise made to my old comrade of the Hindustani Seva Dal, Doctor 
N. S. Hardiker. The Seva Dal, the volunteer wing of the national 
movement, had all along been an auxiliary of the Congress, though its 
organization was quite separate. In the summer of 1931, however, the 
Working Committee decided to absorb it completely into the Congress 
organization, and to make it the volunteer department of the Congress. 
This was done, and Hardiker and I were put in charge of it. 

On my way to the Karnataka from Allahabad I had gone to Bom 
bay with Kamala. She was again ill, and I arranged for her treatment 
in Bombay. It was in Bombay, almost immediately after our arrival 
from Allahabad, that we learned that the Government of India had 
promulgated a special ordinance for the United Provinces. They had 
decided not to wait for Gandhiji's arrival, although he was already on 
the high seas and due in Bombay soon. The ordinance was supposed 
to deal with the agrarian agitation, but it was so extraordinarily wide- 
flung and far-reaching that it made all political or public activity 
impossible. It provided even for the punishment of parents and guard 
ians for the sins of their children and wards a reversal of the old 
biblical practice. 

I was eager to go back to Allahabad and to give up the Karnataka 
tour. I felt that my place was with my comrades in the United Prov 
inces, and to be far away when so much was happening at home was 

212 



an ordeal. I decided, however, in favor of adhering to the Karnataka 
program. On my return to Bombay some friends advised me to stay 
on for Gandhi ji's arrival, which was due exactly a week later. But this 
was impossible. From Allahabad came news of Purushottam Das Tan- 
don's arrest and other arrests. There was, besides, our Provincial Con 
ference which had been fixed at Etawah for that week. And so I 
decided to go to Allahabad and to return to Bombay six days later, if 
I were free, to meet Gandhiji and to attend a meeting of the Working 
Committee. I left Kamala bedridden in Bombay. 

Even before I had reached Allahabad, at Chheoki station, an order 
under the new ordinance was served on me. At Allahabad station an 
other attempt was made to serve a duplicate of that order on me; at 
my house a third attempt was made by a third person. Evidently no 
risks were being taken. The order interned me within the municipal 
limits of Allahabad, and I was told that I must not attend any public 
meeting or function, or speak in public, or write anything in a news 
paper or leaflet. There were many other restrictions. I found that a 
similar order had been served on many of my colleagues., including 
Tasadduq Sherwani. The next morning I wrote to the district magis 
trate (who had issued the order) acknowledging receipt of it and in 
forming him that I did not propose to take my orders from him as to 
what I was to do or not to do. I would carry on with my ordinary 
work in the ordinary way, and in the course of this work I proposed 
to return to Bombay soon to meet Mr. Gandhi and take part in the 
meeting of the Working Committee, of which I was the secretary. 

A new problem confronted us. I had come from Bombay with the 
intention of suggesting a postponement of the Provincial Conference, 
as it clashed somewhat with Gandhiji's arrival, and in order to avoid 
conflict with the Government. But before my return to Allahabad a 
peremptory message had come from the United Provinces Government 
to our president, Sherwani, inquiring if our Conference would con 
sider the agrarian question, for if so, they would prohibit the Confer 
ence itself. It was patent that the main purpose of the Conference was 
to discuss the agrarian question, which was agitating the whole prov 
ince; to meet and not to discuss it would be the height of absurdity 
and self-stultification. And in any event our president or anyone else 
had no authority to tie down the Conference. Quite apart from the 
Government's threat, it was the intention of some of us to postpone 
the Conference, but this threat made a difference. Many of us were 
rather obstinate in such matters, and the idea of being dictated to by 

213 



Government was not pleasant. After long argument we decided to 
swallow our pride and to postpone the Conference. We did so because 
almost at any cost we wanted still to avoid the development of the 
conflict, which had already begun, till Gandhiji's arrival. We did not 
want him to be confronted with a situation in which he was powerless 
to take the helm. In spite of our postponement of our Provincial Con 
ference there was a great display of the police and military at Etawah, 
some stray delegates were arrested, and the Swadeshi Exhibition there 
was seized by the military. 

Sherwani and I decided to leave Allahabad for Bombay on the 
morning of December 26. As we got into the train we read in the 
morning's papers of the new Frontier Province ordinance and the 
arrest of Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Doctor Khan Sahib and others. 
Very soon our train, the Bombay Mail, came to a sudden halt at a way 
side station, Iradatganj, which is not one of its usual stopping places, 
and police officials mounted up to arrest us. A Black Maria waited by 
the railway line, and Sherwani and I were taken in this closed pris 
oners' van away to Naini. The superintendent of police, an English 
man, who had arrested us on that morning of Boxing Day looked 
glum and unhappy. I am afraid we had spoiled his Christmas. 

And so to prison! 

Two days after our arrest Gandhiji landed in Bombay, and it was 
only then that he learned of the latest developments. Some of his 
closest colleagues in the Frontier Province and the United Provinces 
had been arrested. The die seemed to be cast and all hope of peace 
gone, but still he made an effort to find a way out, and sought an 
interview with the Viceroy, Lord Willingdon, for the purpose. The 
interview, he was informed from New Delhi, could only take place 
on certain conditions these conditions being that he must not discuss 
recent events in Bengal, the United Provinces, and the Frontier, the 
new ordinances, and the arrests under them. (I write from memory, 
and have not got the text of the viceregal reply before me.) What 
exactly Gandhiji or any Congress leader was officially supposed to dis 
cuss with the Viceroy, apart from these forbidden subjects which 
were agitating the country, passes one's comprehension. It was abso 
lutely clear now that the Government of India had determined to 
crush the Congress and would have no dealings with it. The Work 
ing Committee had no choice left but to resort to civil disobedience. 
They expected arrest at any moment, and they wanted to give a lead 
to the country before their enforced departure. Even so, the civil dis- 

214 



obedience resolution was passed tentatively, and another attempt was 
made by Gandhiji to see the Viceroy, and he sent him a second tele 
gram asking for an unconditional interview. The reply of the Gov 
ernment was to arrest Gandhiji as well as the Congress president, 
and to press the button which was to let loose fierce repression all 
over the country. It was clear that whoever else wanted or did not 
want the struggle, the Government was eager and overready for it. 

We were in jail, of course, and all this news came to us vaguely 
and disjointedly. Our trial was postponed to the New Year, and so 
we had, as undertrials, more interviews than a convict could have. 
We heard of the great discussion that was going on as to whether 
the Viceroy should or should not have agreed to the interview, as if 
it really mattered either way. This question of the interview shad 
owed all other matters. It was stated that Lord Irwin would have 
agreed to the interview and if he and Gandhiji had met all would 
have been well. I was surprised at the extraordinarily superficial view 
that the Indian press took of the situation and how they ignored 
realities. Was the inevitable struggle between Indian nationalism and 
British imperialism in the final analysis, two irreconcilables to be 
reduced to the personal whims of individuals? Could the conflict of 
two historical forces be removed by smiles and mutual courtesy? 
Gandhiji was driven to act in one way, because Indian nationalism 
could not commit hara-kiri or submit willingly to foreign dictation in 
vital matters; the British Viceroy of India had to act in a particular 
way to meet the challenge of this nationalism and to endeavor to 
protect British interest, and it made not the slightest difference who 
the Viceroy was at the time. Lord Irwin would have acted exactly as 
Lord Willingdon did, for either of them was but the instrument of 
British imperialist policy and could only make some minor devia 
tions from the line laid down. Lord Irwin, indeed, was subsequently 
a member of the British Government, and he associated himself fully 
with the official steps taken in India. To praise or condemn individual 
Viceroys for British policy in India seems to me a singularly inept 
thing to do, and our habit of indulging in this pastime can only be 
due to an ignorance of the real issues or to a deliberate evasion of 
them. 

January 4, 1932, was a notable day. It put a stop to argument and 
discussion. Early that morning Gandhiji and the Congress president, 
Vallabhbhai Patel, were arrested and confined without trial as State 
prisoners. Four new ordinances were promulgated giving the most 

215 



far-reaching powers to magistrates and police officers. Civil liberty 
ceased to exist, and both person and property could be seized by the 
authorities. It was a declaration of a kind of state of siege for the 
whole of India, the extent and intensity of application being left to 
the discretion of the local authorities. 1 

On that 4th of January also our trial took place in Naini Prison 
under the United Provinces Emergency Powers Ordinance, as it was 
called. Sherwani was sentenced to six months' rigorous imprisonment 
and a fine of one hundred and fifty rupees; I was sentenced to two 
years' rigorous imprisonment and a fine of five hundred rupees (in 
default six months more). Our offenses were identical; we had been 
served with identical orders of internment in Allahabad city; we had 
committed the same breach of them by attempting to go together to 
Bombay; we had been arrested and tried together under the same 
section, and yet our sentences were very dissimilar. There was, how 
ever, one difference: I had written to the district magistrate and in 
formed him of my intention to go to Bombay in defiance of the 
order; Sherwani had given no such formal notice, but his proposed 
departure was equally well known, and had been mentioned in the 
press. Immediately after the sentence Sherwani asked the trying mag 
istrate, to the amusement of those present and the embarrassment of 
the magistrate, if his smaller sentence was due to communal consid 
erations. 

Quite a lot happened on that fateful day, January 4, all over the 
country. Not far from where we were, in Allahabad city, huge 
crowds came in conflict with the police and military, and there were 
the usual lathee charges involving deaths and other casualties. The 
jails began to fill with civil disobedience prisoners. To begin with, 
these prisoners went to the district jails, and Naini and the other 
great central prisons received only the overflows. Later, all the jails 
filled up, and huge temporary camp jails were established. 

The Congress had been declared illegal the Working Committee 
at the top, the provincial committees, and innumerable local commit 
tees. Together with the Congress all manner of allied or sympathetic 
or advanced organizations had been declared unlawful \isan sabhas 
and peasant unions, youth leagues, students' associations, advanced 
political organizations, national universities and schools, hospitals, 

1 Sir Samuel Hoare, Secretary of State for India, stated in the House of Commons on 
March 24, 1932: "I admit that the ordinances that we have approved are very drastic 
and severe. They cover almost every activity of Indian life." 

216 



Swadeshi concerns, libraries. The lists were indeed formidable, and 
contained many hundreds of names for each major province. The all- 
India total must have run into several thousands, and this very num 
ber of outlawed organizations was in itself a tribute to the Congress 
and the national movement. 

My wife lay in Bombay, ill in bed, fretting at her inability to take 
part in civil disobedience. My mother and both my sisters threw 
themselves into the movement with vigor, and soon both the sisters 
were in jail with a sentence of a year each. Odd bits of news used to 
reach us through newcomers to prison or through the local weekly 
paper that we were permitted to read. We could only guess much 
that was happening, for the press censorship was strict, and the pros 
pect of heavy penalties always faced newspapers and news agencies. 
In some provinces it was an offense even to mention the name of a 
person arrested or sentenced. 

So we sat in Naini Prison cut off from the strife outside, and yet 
wrapped up in it in a hundred ways; busying ourselves with spin 
ning or reading or other activities, talking sometimes of other mat 
ters, but thinking always of what was happening beyond the prison 
walls. We were out of it, and yet in it. Sometimes the strain of expec 
tation was very great; or there was anger at something wrongly 
done; disgust at weakness or vulgarity. At other times we were 
strangely detached, and could view the scene calmly and dispassion 
ately and feel that petty individual errors or weaknesses mattered 
little when vast forces were at play and the mills of the gods were 
grinding. We would wonder what the morrow would bring of strife 
and tumult, and gallant enthusiasm and cruel repression and hateful 
cowardice and what was all this leading to? Whither were we go 
ing? The future was hid from us, and it was as well that it was 
hidden; even the present was partly covered by a veil, so far as we 
were concerned. But this we knew: that there was strife and suffering 
and sacrifice in the present and on the morrow. 



217 



XXXIII 

BALLYHOO 

THOSE EARLY MONTHS of 1932 were remarkable, among other things, 
for an extraordinary exhibition o ballyhoo> on the part of the British 
authorities. Officials, high and low, shouted out how virtuous and 
peaceful they were, and how sinful and pugnacious was the Congress. 
They stood for democracy while the Congress favored dictatorships. 
Was not its president called a dictator? In their enthusiasm for a 
righteous cause they forgot trifles like ordinances, and suppression of 
all liberties, and muzzling of newspapers and presses, imprisonment 
of people without trial, seizure of properties and moneys, and the 
many other odd things that were happening from day to day. They 
forgot also the basic character of British rule in India. Ministers of 
Government (our own countrymen) grew eloquent on how Con 
gressmen were "grinding their axes" in prison while they labored 
for the public good on paltry salaries of a few thousand rupees per 
month. The lower magistracy not only sentenced us to heavy terms 
but lectured to us in the process, and sometimes abused the Congress 
and individuals connected with it. Even Sir Samuel Hoare, from the 
serene dignity of his high office as Secretary of State for India, an 
nounced that "though dogs may bark the caravan passes on." Most sur 
prising of all, the Cawnpore Communal Riots were laid at the door of 
the Congress. The horrors of these truly horrible riots were laid bare, 
and it was repeatedly stated that the Congress was responsible for 
them. As it happened, the Congress had played the only decent part in 
them, and one of its noblest sons lay dead, mourned by every group 
and community in Cawnpore. No doubt, in this and other matters, the 
truth will prevail in the end, but sometimes the lie has a long start. 

It was all very natural, I suppose, this exhibition of a hysterical war 
mentality; and no one could expect truth or restraint under the circum 
stances. But it did seem to go beyond expectation and was surprising 
in its intensity and abandon. It was some indication of the state of 
nerves of the ruling group in India, and of how they had been repress 
ing themselves in the past. Probably the anger was not caused by any 
thing we had done or said, but by the realization of their own previous 
fear of losing their empire. Rulers who are confident of their own 
strength do not give way in this manner. 

It was evident that the Government had long prepared its blow, and 

218 



it wanted it to be as thorough and staggering as possible right at the 
beginning. In 1930 it was always attempting, by fresh ordinances, to 
catch up an ever-worsening situation. The initiative remained then 
with Congress. The 1932 methods were different, and Government 
began with an offensive all along the line. Every conceivable power 
was given and taken under a batch of all-India and provincial ordi 
nances; organizations were outlawed; buildings, property, automobiles, 
bank accounts were seized; public gatherings and processions forbid 
den; and newspapers and printing presses fully controlled. India lived 
practically under martial law, and Congress never really got back the 
initiative or any freedom of action. The first blows stunned it and most 
of its bourgeois sympathizers who had been its principal supporters in 
the past. Their pockets were hit, and it became obvious that those who 
joined the civil disobedience movement, or were known to help it in 
any way, stood to lose not only their liberty, but perhaps all their 
property. 

I do not think any Congressman has a right to object to the proce 
dure adopted by the Government, although the violence and coercion 
used by the Government against an overwhelmingly nonviolent move 
ment was certainly most objectionable from any civilized standards. If 
we choose to adopt revolutionary direct-action methods, however non 
violent they might be, we must expect every resistance. We cannot 
play at revolution in a drawing room, but many people want to have 
the advantage of both. For a person to dabble in revolutionary meth 
ods, he must be prepared to lose everything he possesses. The prosper 
ous and the well-to-do are therefore seldom revolutionaries, though 
individuals may play the fool in the eyes of the worldly wise and be 
dubbed traitors to their own class. 

The new environment in India tolerated no neutral hues, and so 
some of our countrymen appeared in the brightest of approved colors, 
and, with song and feasting, they declared their love and admiration 
for our rulers. They had nothing to fear from the ordinances and the 
numerous prohibitions and inhibitions and curfew orders and sunset 
laws; for had it not been officially stated that all this was meant for 
the disloyal and the seditious, and the loyal need have no cause for 
alarm ? 

The Government had somehow got hold of the idea that Congress 
was going to exploit women in the struggle by filling the jails with 
them, in the hope that women would be well treated or would get 
light sentences. It was a fantastic notion, as if anyone likes to push his 

219 



womenfolk into prison. Usually, when girls or women took an active 
part in the campaign, it was in spite of their fathers or brothers or 
husbands, or at any rate not with their full co-operation. Government, 
however, decided to discourage women by long sentences and bad 
treatment in prison. Soon after my sisters' arrest and conviction, a 
number of young girls, mostly 15 or 16 years old, met in Allahabad to 
discuss what they could do. They had no experience but were full of 
enthusiasm and wanted advice. They were arrested as they were 
meeting in a private house, and each of them was sentenced to two 
years' rigorous imprisonment. This was a minor incident, one of many 
that were occurring all over India from day to day. Most of the girls 
and women who were sentenced had a very bad time in prison, even 
worse than the men had. I heard of many painful instances, but the 
most extraordinary account that I saw was one prepared by Miraben 
(Madeleine Slade) giving her experiences, together with those of other 
civil disobedience prisoners, in a Bombay jail. 

The response of the peasantry in some of the principal districts of the 
United Provinces to the call for civil disobedience, which inevitably 
got mixed up with the dispute about fair rent and remissions, was very 
fine. It was a far bigger and more disciplined response than in 1930. 
To begin with, there was good humor about it too. A delightful story 
came to us of a visit of a police party to the village Bakulia in Rae 
Bareli district. They had gone to attach goods for nonpayment of rent. 
The village was relatively prosperous, and its residents were men of 
some spirit. They received the revenue and police officials with all 
courtesy and, leaving the doors of all the houses open, invited them to 
go wherever they wanted to. Some attachments of catde, etc., were 
made. The villages then offered pan supari to the police and revenue 
officials, who retired looking very small and rather shamefaced! But 
this was a rare and unusual occurrence, and very soon there was little 
of humor or charity or human kindness to be seen. Poor Bakulia 
could not escape punishment for its spirit because of its humor. 

Swaraj Bhawan had been seized by the Government, in common 
with numerous other buildings all over the country. All the valuable 
equipment and material belonging to the Congress hospital, which 
was functioning in Swaraj Bhawan, was also seized. For a few days 
the hospital ceased functioning altogether, but then an open-air dis 
pensary was established in a park near by. Later the hospital, or rather 
dispensary, moved to a small house adjoining Swaraj Bhawan, and 
there it functioned for nearly two and a half years. 

220 



There was some talk of our dwelling house, Anand Bhawan, also 
being taken possession of by the Government, for I had refused to pay 
a large amount due as income tax. This tax had been assessed on 
father's income in 1930., and he had not paid it that year because of 
civil disobedience. In 1931, after the Delhi Pact, I had an argument 
with the income tax authorities about it, but ultimately I agreed to 
pay and did pay an installment. Just then came the ordinances, and I 
decided to pay no more. It seemed to me utterly wrong, and even im 
moral, for me to ask the peasants to withhold payment of rent and 
revenue and to pay income tax myself. I expected, therefore, that our 
house would be attached by the Government. I disliked this idea in 
tensely, as it would have meant my mother being turned out; our 
books, papers, goods and chattels, and many things that we valued for 
personal and sentimental reasons going into strange hands and perhaps 
being lost; and our national flag being pulled down and the Union 
Jack put up instead. At the same time I was attracted to the idea of 
losing the house. I felt that this would bring me nearer to the peas 
antry, who were being dispossessed, and would hearten them. From 
the point of view of our movement it was certainly a desirable thing. 
But the Government decided otherwise and did not touch the house, 
perhaps because of consideration for my mother, perhaps because they 
judged rightly that it would give an impetus to civil disobedience. 
Many months afterward some odd railway shares of mine were dis 
covered and attached, for nonpayment of income tax. My motorcar, 
as well as my brother-in-law's, had been previously attached and sold. 

One feature of these early months pained me greatly. This was the 
hauling down of our national flag by various municipalities and public 
bodies, and especially by the Calcutta Corporation, which was said to 
have a majority of Congress members. The flag was taken down 
under pressure from the police and the Government, which threat 
ened severe action in case of noncompliance. This action would have 
probably meant a suspension of the municipality or punishment of its 
members. Organizations with vested interests are apt to be timid, 
and perhaps it was inevitable that they should act as they did; but 
nevertheless it hurt. That flag had become a symbol to us of much 
that we held dear, and under its shadow we had taken many a pledge 
to protect its honor. To pull it down with our own hands, or to have 
it pulled down at our behest, seemed not only a breaking of that pledge 
but almost a sacrilege. It was a submission of the spirit, a denial of the 
truth in one; an affirmation, in the face of superior physical might, of 

221 



the false. And those who submitted in this way lowered the morale of 
the nation, and injured its self-respect. 

It was not that they were expected to behave as heroes and rush 
into the fire. It was wrong and absurd to blame anyone for not being 
in the front rank and courting prison, or other suffering or loss. Each 
one had many duties and responsibilities to shoulder, and no one else 
had a right to sit in judgment on him. But to sit or work in the back 
ground is one thing; to deny the truth, or what one conceives to be 
the truth, is a more serious matter. It was open to members of munici 
palities, when called upon to do anything against the national interest, 
to resign from their seats. As a rule they preferred to remain in those 
seats. No one knows how he will behave in a similar crisis when the 
primeval instincts overpower reason and restraint. So we may not 
blame. But that should not prevent us from noting that falling away 
from right conduct, and from taking care in future that the steering 
wheel of the ship of the nation is not put in hands that tremble and 
fail when the need is greatest. Worse still is the attempt to justify this 
failure and call it right conduct. That, surely, is a greater ofiense than 
the failure itself. 

The months went by bringing their daily toll of good news and bad, 
and we adapted ourselves in our respective prisons, to our dull and 
monotonous routine. The National Week came April 6 to 13 and 
we knew that this would witness many an unusual happening. Much, 
indeed, happened then; but for me everything else paled before one 
occurrence. In Allahabad my mother was in a procession which was 
stopped by the police and later charged with lathees. When the proces 
sion had been halted, someone brought her a chair, and she was sitting 
on this on the road at the head of the procession. Some people who 
were especially looking after her, including my secretary, were arrested 
and removed, and then came the police charge. My mother was 
knocked down from her chair and was -hit repeatedly on the head with 
canes. Blood came out of an open wound in the head; she fainted and 
lay on the roadside, which had now been cleared of the processionists 
and public. After some time she was picked up and brought by a police 
officer in his car to Anand Bhawan. 

That night a false rumor spread in Allahabad that my mother had 
died. Angry crowds gathered together, forgot about peace and non 
violence, and attacked the police. There was firing by the police, 
resulting in the death of some people. 

When the news of all this came to me some days after the occur- 

222 



rence (for we had a weekly paper), the thought of my frail old mother 
lying bleeding on the dusty road obsessed me, and I wondered how 
I would have behaved if I had been there. How far would my non 
violence have carried me? Not very far, I fear, for that sight would 
have made me forget the long lesson I had tried to learn for more than 
a dozen years; and I would have recked little of the consequences, 
personal or national. 

Slowly she recovered, and, when she came to see me next month in 
Bareilly Jail, she was still bandaged up. But she was full of joy and 
pride at having shared with our volunteer boys and girls the privilege 
of receiving cane and lathi blows. Her recovery, however, was more 
apparent than real, and it seems that the tremendous shaking that she 
received at her age upset her system entirely and brought into promi 
nence deep-seated troubles, which a year later assumed dangerous 
proportions. 



XXXIV 

IN BAREILLY AND DEHRA DUN JAILS 

AFTER six WEEKS in Naini Prison I was transferred to the Bareilly 
District Jail. I was again keeping indifferent health, and, much to 
my annoyance, I used to get a daily rise in temperature. After four 
months spent in Bareilly, when the summer temperature was almost 
at its highest, I was again transferred, this time to a cooler place, Dehra 
Dun Jail, at the foot of the Himalayas. There I remained, without 
a break, for fourteen and a half months, almost to the end of my two- 
year term. News reached me, of course, from interviews and letters 
and selected newspapers, but I was wholly out of touch with much 
that was happening and had only a hazy notion of the principal events. 

When I was out of prison for five months I was kept busy with per 
sonal affairs as well as the political situation as I found it then. I was 
back in prison again. For three years I have been mostly in prison and 
out of touch with events, and I have had litde opportunity of making 
myself acquainted in any detail with all that has happened during this 
period. 

Gradually, the civil disobedience movement declined; though it still 
carried on, not without distinction. Progressively it ceased to be a mass 
movement. Apart from the severity of Government repression, the first 

223 



severe blow to it came in September 1932, when Gandhiji fasted for 
the first time on the Harijan issue. 1 That fast roused mass conscious 
ness, but it diverted it from the main political issue. Civil disobedience 
was finally killed for all practical purposes by the suspension of it in 
May 1933. It continued after that more in theory than in practice. It is 
no doubt true that, even without that suspension, it would have grad 
ually petered out. India was numbed by the violence and the harsh 
ness of repression. The nervous energy of the nation as a whole was 
for the moment exhausted, and it was not being recharged. Individu 
ally there were still many who could carry on civil resistance, but they 
functioned in a somewhat artificial atmosphere. 

It was not pleasant for us in prison to learn of this slow decay of a 
great movement. And yet very few of us had expected a flashing suc 
cess. There was always an odd chance that something flashing might 
happen if there was an irrepressible upheaval of the masses. But that 
was not to be counted upon, and so we looked forward to a long 
struggle with ups and downs and many a stalemate in between, and a 
progressive strengthening of the masses in discipline and united action 
and ideology. Sometimes in those early days of 1932 I almost feared 
a quick and spectacular success, for this seemed to lead inevitably to a 
compromise leaving the "Governmentarians" and opportunists at the 
top. The experience of 1931 had been revealing. Success to be worth 
while should come when the people generally were strong enough and 
clear enough in their ideas to take advantage of it. Otherwise the 
masses would fight and sacrifice, and, at the psychological moment, 
others would step in gracefully and gather the spoils. There was grave 
danger of this, because in the Congress itself there was a great deal of 
loose thinking and no clear ideas as to what system of government or 
society we were driving at. It was not merely a question of civil dis 
obedience being countered and suppressed by the Government, but of 
all political life and public activity being stopped, and hardly a voice 
was raised against this. Those who usually stood for these liberties 
were involved in the struggle itself, and they took the penalties for 
refusing to submit to the State's coercion. Others were cowed into 
abject submission and hardly raised their voices in criticism. Mild criti 
cism, when it was indulged in, was apologetic in tone and invariably 
accompanied by strong denunciation of the Congress and those who 
were carrying on the struggle. 

The Indian Liberals claim to some extent to carry on the traditions 

1 "Harijan" is Gandhi's term for the depressed classes. Ed. 

224 



of British Liberalism (although they have nothing in common with 
them except the name) and might have been expected to put up some 
intellectual opposition to the suppression o civil liberties. But they 
played no such part. It was not for them to say with Voltaire: "I dis 
agree absolutely with what you say, but I will defend to the death 
your right to say it." It is not perhaps fair to blame them for this, for 
they have never stood out as the champions of democracy or liberty, 
and they had to face a situation in which a loose word might have got 
them into trouble. It is more pertinent to observe the reactions of those 
ancient lovers of liberty, the British Liberals, and the new socialists of 
the British Labour party to repression in India. They managed to con 
template the Indian scene with a certain measure of equanimity, pain 
ful as it was, and sometimes their satisfaction at the success of the 
"scientific application of repression," as a correspondent of the Man 
chester Guardian put it, was evident. When the National Government 
of Great Britain has sought to pass a sedition bill, a great deal of criti 
cism has been directed to it, especially from Liberals and Labourites 
on the ground, inter alia, that it restricts free speech and gives magis 
trates the right of issuing warrants for searches. Whenever I read this 
criticism, I sympathized with it, and I had at the same time the picture 
of India before me, where the actual laws in force today are approxi 
mately a hundred times worse than the British sedition bill sought to 
enact. I wondered how it was that British people who strain at a gnat 
in England could swallow a camel in India without turning a hair. 
Indeed I have always wondered at and admired the astonishing knack 
of the British people for making their moral standards correspond with 
their material interests, and for seeing virtue in everything that ad 
vances their imperial designs. Mussolini and Hitler are condemned by 
them in perfect good faith and with righteous indignation for their 
attacks on liberty and democracy; and, in equal good faith, similar 
attacks and deprivation of liberty in India seem to them as necessary, 
and the highest moral reasons are advanced to show that true disin 
terested behavior on their part demands them. 

While fire raged all over India, and men's and women's souls were 
put to the test, far away in London the chosen ones foregathered to 
draw up a constitution for India at the third Round Table Conference 
in 1932. 

It was surprising to find how far these people had alienated them 
selves, not only in their day-to-day lives, but morally and mentally, 
from the Indian masses. Reality for these distinguished statesmen con- 

225 



sisted of one thing British imperial power, which could not be suc 
cessfully challenged and therefore should be accepted with good or 
bad grace. It did not seem to strike them that it was quite impossible 
for them to solve India's problem or draw up a real live constitution 
without the good will of the masses. 

In India there was an amazing growth of the spirit of violence in 
official circles. An inspector-general of prisons went to the length of 
issuing a confidential circular to all the prisons, pointing out that civil 
disobedience prisoners must be "dealt with grimly." 2 Whipping be 
came a frequent jail punishment. On April 27, 1933, the Under-Secre- 
tary for India stated in the House of Commons "that Sir Samuel' Hoare 
was aware that over 500 persons in India were whipped during 1932 
for offenses in connection with the civil disobedience movement." It 
is not clear if this figure includes the many whippings in prisons for 
breaches of jail discipline. As news of frequent whippings came to us 
in prison in 1932, I remembered our protest and our three-day fast in 
December 1930 against one or two odd instances of whipping. I had 
felt shocked then at the brutality of it; now I was still shocked, and 
there was a dull pain inside me, but it did not strike me that I should 
protest and fast again. I felt much more helpless in the matter. The 
mind gets blunted to brutality after a while. 

The hardest of labor was given to our men in prison mills, oil 
presses, etc. and their lot was made as unbearable as possible in order 
to induce them to apologize and be released on an undertaking being 
given to Government. That was considered a great triumph for the 
jail authorities. 

Most of these jail punishments fell to the lot of boys and young 
men, who resented coercion and humiliation. A fine and spirited lot of 
boys they were, full of self-respect and "p e p" and the spirit of adven 
ture, the kind that in an English public school or university would 
have received every encouragement and praise. Here in India their 
youthful idealism and pride led them to fetters and solitary confine 
ment and whipping. 

The lot of our womenfolk in prison was especially hard and painful 
to contemplate. They were mostly middle-class women, accustomed to 
a sheltered life, and suffering chiefly from the many repressions and 
customs produced by a society dominated to his own advantage by 

a This circular was dated June 30, 1932, and it contained the following: "The 
Inspector-General impresses upon superintendents and jail subordinates the fact that 
there is no justification for preferential treatment in favor of civil disobedience movement 
prisoners as such. This class require to be kept in their places and dealt with grimly." 

226 



man. The call of freedom had always a double meaning for them, and 
the enthusiasm and energy with which they threw themselves into the 
struggle had no doubt their springs in the vague and hardly conscious, 
but nevertheless intense, desire to rid themselves of domestic slavery 
also. Excepting a very few, they were classed as ordinary prisoners and 
placed with the most degraded of companions, and often under horrid 
conditions. I was once lodged in a barrack next to a female enclosure, 
a wall separating us. In that enclosure there were, besides other con 
victs, some women political prisoners, including one who had been my 
hostess and in whose house I had once stayed. A high wall separated 
us, but it did not prevent me from listening in horror to the language 
and curses which our friends had to put up with from the women 
convict warders. 

It was very noticeable that the treatment of political prisoners in 
1932 and 1933 was worse than it had been two years earlier, in 1930. 
This could not have been due merely to the whims of individual offi 
cers, and the only reasonable inference seems to be that this was the 
deliberate policy of the Government, Even apart from political prison 
ers, the United Provinces Jail Department had had the reputation in 
those years of being very much against anything that might savor of 
humanity. 3 



XXXV 
THE STRUGGLE OUTSIDE 

BRAVE MEN AND women defied peacefully a powerful and entrenched 
government, though they knew that it was not for them to achieve 
what they wanted in the present or the near future. And repression 
without break and with ever-increasing intensity demonstrated the 
basis of British rule in India. There was no camouflage about it now, 
and this at least was some satisfaction to us. Bayonets were triumphant, 
but a great warrior had once said that "you can do everything with 
bayonets save sit on them." It was better that we should be governed 
thus, we thought, than that we should sell our souls and submit to 
spiritual prostitution. We were physically helpless in prison, but we felt 
we served our cause even there and served it better than many outside. 

8 In the original edition of this book, the chapters numbered I and II in the present 
edition followed at this point. Ed. 

227 



Should we, because of our weakness, sacrifice the future of India to 
save ourselves? It was true that the limits of human vitality and 
human strength were narrow, and many an individual was physically 
disabled, or died, or fell out of the ranks, or even betrayed the cause. 
But the cause went on despite setbacks; there could be no failure if 
ideals remained undimmed and spirits undaunted. Real failure was a 
desertion of principle, a denial of our right, and an ignoble submission 
to wrong. Self-made wounds always took longer to heal than those 
caused by an adversary. 

There was often a weariness at our weaknesses and at a world gone 
awry, and yet there was a measure of pride for our achievement. For 
our people had indeed behaved splendidly, and it was good to feel 
oneself to be a member of a gallant band. 

During those years of civil disobedience two attempts were made 
to hold open Congress sessions, one at Delhi and the other at Cal 
cutta. It was obvious that an illegal organization could not meet nor 
mally and in peace, and any attempt at an open session meant conflict 
with the police. The meetings were in fact dispersed forcibly with the 
help of the lathee by the police, and large numbers of people were ar 
rested. The extraordinary thing about these gatherings was the fact 
that thousands came from all parts of India as delegates to these illegal 
gatherings. I was glad to learn that people from the United Provinces 
played a prominent part in both of them. My mother also insisted on 
going to the Calcutta session at the end of March 1933. She was ar 
rested, however, together with Pandit Malaviya and others, and de 
tained in prison for a few days at Asansol, on the way to Calcutta. I 
was amazed at the energy and vitality she showed, frail and ailing as 
she was. Prison was really of little consequence to her; she had gone 
through a harder ordeal. Her son and both her daughters and others 
whom she loved spent long periods in prison, and the empty house 
where she lived had become a nightmare to her. 

As our struggle toned down and stabilized itself at a low level, 
there was little of excitement in it, except at long intervals. My thoughts 
traveled more to other countries, and I watched and studied, as far as 
I could in jail, the world situation in the grip of the great depression. 
I read as many books as I could find on the subject, and the more I 
read the more fascinated I grew. India with her problems and strug 
gles became just a part of this mighty world drama, of the great 
struggle of political and economic forces that was going on every- 

228 



where, nationally and internationally. In that struggle my own sympa 
thies went increasingly toward the communist side. 

I had long been drawn to socialism and communism, and Russia 
had appealed to me. Much in Soviet Russia I dislike the ruthless 
suppression of all contrary opinion, the wholesale regimentation, the 
unnecessary violence (as I thought) in carrying out various policies. 
But there was no lack of violence and suppression in the capitalist 
world, and I realized more and more how the very basis and founda 
tion of our acquisitive society and property was violence, Without 
violence it could not continue for many days. A measure of political 
liberty meant little indeed when the fear of starvation was always com 
pelling the vast majority of people everywhere to submit to the will of 
the few, to the greater glory and advantage of the latter. 

Violence was common in both places, but the violence of the capi 
talist order seemed inherent in it; while the violence of Russia, bad 
though it was, aimed at a new order based on peace and co-operation 
and real freedom for the masses. With all her blunders, Soviet Russia 
had triumphed over enormous difficulties and taken great strides to 
ward this new order. While the rest of the world was in the grip of the 
depression and going backward in some ways, in the Soviet country 
a great new world was being built up before our eyes. Russia, follow 
ing the great Lenin, looked into the future and thought only of what 
was to be, while other countries lay numbed under the dead hand of 
the past and spent their energy in preserving the useless relics of a 
bygone age. In particular, I was impressed by the reports of the great 
progress made by the backward regions of Central Asia under the 
Soviet regime. In the balance, therefore, I was all in favor of Russia, 
and the presence and example of the Soviets was a bright and hearten 
ing phenomenon in a dark and dismal world. 

But Soviet Russia's success or failure, vastly important as it was as a 
practical experiment in establishing a communist state, did not affect 
the soundness of the theory of communism. The Bolsheviks may blun 
der or even fail because of national or international reasons, and yet 
the communist theory may be correct. On the basis of that very theory 
it was absurd to copy blindly what had taken place in Russia, for its 
application depended on the particular conditions prevailing in the 
country in question and the stage of its historical development. Be 
sides, India, or any other country, could profit by the triumphs as well 
as the inevitable mistakes of the Bolsheviks. Perhaps the Bolsheviks 
had tried to go too fast because, surrounded as they were by a world 

229 



of enemies, they feared external aggression. A slower tempo might 
avoid much of the misery caused in the rural areas. But then the ques 
tion arose if really radical results could be obtained by slowing down 
the rate of change. Reformism was an impossible solution of any vital 
problem at a critical moment when the basic structure had to be 
changed, and, however slow the progress might be later on, the initial 
step must be a complete break with the existing order, which had ful 
filled its purpose and was now only a drag on future progress. 

In India, only a revolutionary plan could solve the two related ques 
tions of the land and industry as well as almost every other major 
problem before the country. "There is no graver mistake," as Mr. 
Lloyd George says in his War Memoirs, "than to leap the abyss in two 
jumps." 

Russia apart, the theory and philosophy of Marxism lightened up 
many a dark corner of my mind. History came to have a new meaning 
for me. The Marxist interpretation threw a flood of light on it, and it 
became an unfolding drama with some order and purpose, howsoever 
unconscious, behind it. In spite of the appalling waste and misery of 
the past and the present, the future was bright with hope, though 
many dangers intervened. It was the essential freedom from dogma 
and the scientific outlook of Marxism that appealed to me. It was true 
that there was plenty of dogma in official communism in Russia and 
elsewhere, and frequently heresy hunts were organized. That seemed 
to be deplorable, though it was not difficult to understand in view of 
the tremendous changes taking place rapidly in the Soviet countries 
when effective opposition might have resulted in catastrophic failure. 

The great world crisis and slump seemed to justify the Marxist 
analysis. While all other systems and theories were groping about in 
the dark, Marxism alone explained it more or less satisfactorily and 
offered a real solution. 

As this conviction grew upon me, I was filled with a new excite 
ment, and my depression at the nonsuccess of civil disobedience grew 
much less. Was not the world marching rapidly toward the desired 
consummation? There were grave dangers of wars and catastrophes, 
but at any rate we were moving. There was no stagnation. Our na 
tional struggle became a stage in the longer journey, and it was as well 
that repression and suffering were tempering our people for future 
struggles and forcing them to consider the new ideas that were stir 
ring the world. We would be the stronger and the more disciplined 

230 



and hardened by the elimination of the weaker elements. Time was 
in our favor. 

And so I studied carefully what was happening in Russia, Germany, 
England, America, Japan, China, France, Spain, Italy, and Central 
Europe, and tried to understand the tangled web of current affairs. I 
followed with interest the attempts of each country separately, and of 
all of them together, to weather the storm. The repeated failures of 
international conferences to find a solution for political and economic 
ills and the problem of disarmament reminded me forcibly of a litde, 
but sufficiently troublesome, problem of our own the communal 
problem. With all the good will in the world, we have so far not solved 
the problem; and, in spite of a widespread belief that failure would 
lead to world catastrophe, the great statesmen of Europe and America 
have failed to pull together. In either case the approach was wrong, and 
the people concerned did not dare to go the right way. 

In thinking over the troubles and conflicts of the world, I forgot to 
some extent my own personal and national troubles. I would even feel 
buoyant occasionally at the fact that I was alive at this great revolu 
tionary period of the world's history. Perhaps I might also have to play 
some little part in my own corner of the world in the great changes 
that were to come. At other times I would find the atmosphere of 
conflict and violence all over the world very depressing. Worse still 
was the sight of intelligent men and women who had become so accus 
tomed to human degradation and slavery that their minds were too 
coarsened to resent suffering and poverty and inhumanity. Noisy vul 
garity and organized humbug flourished in this stifling moral atmos 
phere, and good men were silent. The triumph of Hitler and the 
Brown Terror that followed was a great shock, though I consoled 
myself that it could only be temporary. Almost one had the feeling of 
the futility of human endeavor. The machine went on blindly; what 
could a little cog in it do? 

But still the communist philosophy of life gave me comfort and 
hope. How was it to be applied to India ? We had not solved yet the 
problem of political freedom, and the nationalistic outlook filled our 
minds. Were we to jump to economic freedom at the same time or 
take them in turn, however short the interval might be ? World events 
as well as happenings in India were forcing the social issue to the 
front, and it seemed that political freedom could no longer be sep 
arated from it. 

The policy of the British Government in India had resulted in rang- 

231 



ing the socially reactionary classes in opposition to political independ 
ence. That was inevitable, and I welcomed the clearer demarcation of 
the various classes and groups in India. But was this fact 'appreciated by 
others ? Apparently not by many. It was true that there were a handful 
of orthodox communists in some of the big cities, and they were hostile 
to, and bitterly critical of, the national movement. The organized la 
bor movement, especially in Bombay and, to a lesser extent, in Cal 
cutta, was also socialistic in a loose kind of way, but it was broken up 
into bits and suffering from the depression. Vague communistic and 
socialistic ideas had spread among the intelligentsia, even among intel 
ligent Government officials. The younger men and women of the 
Congress, who used to read Bryce on democracies and Morley and 
Keith and Mazzini, were now reading, when they could get them, 
books on socialism and communism and Russia. The Meerut Con 
spiracy Case had helped greatly in directing people's minds to these 
new ideas, and the world crisis had compelled attention. Everywhere 
there was in evidence a new spirit of inquiry, a questioning and a 
challenge to existing institutions. The general direction of the mental 
wind was obvious, but still it was a gentle breeze, unsure of itself. 
Some people flirted with fascist ideas. A clear and definite ideology 
was lacking. Nationalism still was the dominating thought. 

It seemed clear to me that nationalism would remain the outstand 
ing urge, till some measure of political freedom was attained. Because 
of this the Congress had been, and was still (apart from certain labor 
circles), the most advanced organization in India, as it was far the 
most powerful. During the past thirteen years, under Gandhi ji's lead 
ership, it had produced a wonderful awakening of the masses, and, in 
spite of its vague bourgeois ideology, it had served a revolutionary 
purpose. It had not exhausted its utility yet and was not likely to do so 
till the nationalist urge gave place to a social one. Future progress, both 
ideological and in action, must therefore be largely associated with the 
Congress, though other avenues could also be used. 

To desert the Congress seemed to me thus to cut oneself adrift from 
the vital urge of the nation, to blunt the most powerful weapon we 
had, and perhaps to waste energy in ineffective adventurism. And yet, 
was the Congress, constituted as it was, ever likely to adopt a really 
radical social solution ? If such an issue were placed before it, the result 
was bound to be to split it into two or more parts, or at least to drive 
away large sections from it. That in itself was not undesirable or un 
welcome if the issues became clearer and a strongly knit group, either 

232 




(Above) Congress volunteers give the anti-fascist salute (Below) Part of 
the huge audience at a 1939 session of the Indian National Congress 



.1 A 



I nter photo 






ill, 




Indian bodyguard before the British governor's palace in Bombay 



a majority or minority in the Congress, stood for a radical social 
program. 

But Congress at present meant Gandhiji. What would he do? Ide 
ologically he was sometimes amazingly backward, and yet in action he 
had been the greatest revolutionary of recent times in India. He was a 
unique personality, and it was impossible to judge him by the usual 
standards, or even to apply the ordinary canons of logic to him. But, 
because he was a revolutionary at bottom and was pledged to political 
independence for India, he was bound to play an uncompromising role 
till that independence was achieved. And in this very process he would 
release tremendous mass energies and would himself, I half hoped, ad 
vance step by step toward the social goal. 

The orthodox communists in India and outside have for many years 
past attacked Gandhiji and the Congress bitterly, and imputed all 
manner of base motives to the Congress leaders. Many of their theo 
retical criticisms of Congress ideology were able and pointed, and sub 
sequent events partly justified them. Some of the earlier communist 
analyses of the general Indian political situation turned out to be re 
markably correct. But, as soon as they leave their general principles 
and enter into details, and especially when they consider the role of 
the Congress, they go hopelessly astray. One of the reasons for the 
weakness in numbers as well as influence of the communists in India 
is that, instead of spreading a scientific knowledge of communism and 
trying to convert people's minds to it, they have largely concentrated 
on abuse of others. This has reacted on them and done them great 
injury. Most of them are used to working in labor areas, where a few 
slogans are usually enough to win over the workers. But mere slogans 
are not enough for the intellectual, and they have not realized that in 
India today the middle-class intellectual is the most revolutionary 
force. Almost in spite of the orthodox communists, many intellectuals 
have been drawn to communism, but even so there is a gulf between 
them. 

According to the communists, the objective of the Congress leaders 
has been to bring mass pressure on the Government in order to obtain 
industrial and commercial concessions in the interests of Indian capital 
ists and zamindars. The task of the Congress is "to harness the eco 
nomic and political discontent of the peasantry, the lower middle class, 
and the industrial working class to the chariot of the mill owners and 
financiers of Bombay, Ahmedabad, and Calcutta." The Indian capital 
ists are supposed to sit behind the scenes and issue orders to the Con- 

233 



gress Working Committee first to organize a mass movement and, 
when it becomes too vast and dangerous, to suspend it or sidetrack it. 
Further, that the Congress leaders really do not want the British to go 
away, as they are required to control and exploit a starving population, 
and the Indian middle class do not feel themselves equal to this. 

It is surprising that able communists should believe this fantastic 
analysis, but, believing this as they apparently do, it is not surprising 
that they should fail so remarkably in India. Their basic error seems to 
be that they judge the Indian national movement from European la 
bor standards; and, used as they are to the repeated betrayals of the 
labor movement by the labor leaders, they apply the analogy to India. 
The Indian national movement is obviously not a labor or proletarian 
movement. It is a bourgeois movement, as its very name implies, and 
its objective so far has been, not a change of the social order, but politi 
cal independence. This objective may be criticized as not far-reach 
ing enough, and nationalism itself may be condemned as out of date. 
But, accepting the fundamental basis of the movement, it is absurd to 
say that the leaders betray the masses because they do not try to upset 
the land system or the capitalist system. They never claimed to do so. 
Some people in the Congress, and they are a growing number, want 
to change the land system and the capitalist system, but they cannot 
speak in the name of the Congress. 

It is true that the Indian capitalist classes (not the big zamindars 
and talukdars) have profited greatly by the national movement be 
cause of British and other foreign boycotts, and the push given to 
Swadeshi. This was inevitable, as every national movement encourages 
home industries and preaches boycotts. As a matter of fact, the Bombay 
mill industry in a body, during the continuance of civil disobedience 
and when we were preaching the boycott of British goods, had the 
temerity to conclude a pact with Lancashire. From the point of view 
of the Congress, this was a gross betrayal of the national cause, and it 
was characterized as such. The representative of the Bombay mill 
owners in the Assembly also consistently ran down the Congress and 
"extremists" while most of us were in jail. 

The part that many capitalist elements have played in India during 
the past few years has been scandalous, even from the Congress and 
nationalist viewpoint. As for the big zamindars and talukdars, they 
ranged themselves completely against the Congress in the Round Table 
Conference, and they openly and aggressively declared themselves on 
the side of the Government right through civil disobedience. It was 

234 



with their help that Government passed repressive legislation in vari 
ous provinces embodying the ordinances. And in the United Provinces 
Council the great majority of the zamindar members voted against 
the release of civil disobedience prisoners. 

The idea that Gandhiji was forced to launch seemingly aggressive 
movements in 1921 and 1930 because of mass pressure, is also abso 
lutely wrong. Mass stirrings there were, of course, but on both occa 
sions it was Gandhiji who forced the pace. In 1921 he carried the 
Congress almost single-handed and plunged it into nonco-operation. 
In 1930 it would have been quite impossible to have any aggressive 
and effective direct action movement if he had resisted it in any way. 

It is very unfortunate that foolish and ill-informed criticisms of a 
personal nature are made, because they divert attention from the real 
issues. To attack Gandhiji's bona fides is to injure oneself and one's 
own cause, for to the millions of India he stands as the embodiment of 
truth, and anyone who knows him at all realizes the passionate earnest 
ness with which he is always seeking to do right. 

Communists in India have associated with the industrial workers of 
the big towns. They have little knowledge of, or contact with, the 
rural areas. The industrial workers, important as they are, and likely 
to be more so in the future, must take second place before the peasants, 
for the problem of today in India is the problem of the peasantry. 
Congress workers, on the other hand, have spread all over these rural 
areas, and, in the ordinary course, the Congress must develop into a 
vast peasant organization. Peasants are seldom revolutionary after their 
immediate objective is attained, and it is likely that sometime in the 
future the usual problem of city versus village and industrial worker 
versus peasant will rise in India also. 

It has been my privilege to be associated very closely- with a large 
number of Congress leaders and workers, and I could not wish for a 
finer set of men and women. And yet I have differed from them on 
vital issues, and often I have felt a litde weary at finding that they do 
not appreciate or understand something that seems to me quite ob 
vious. It was not due to want of intelligence; somehow we moved in 
different ideological grooves. I realize how difficult it is to cross these 
boundaries suddenly. They constitute different philosophies of life, 
and we grow into them gradually and unconsciously. It is futile to 
blame the other party. Socialism involves a certain psychological out 
look on life and its problems. It is more than mere logic. So also are 
the other outlooks based on heredity, upbringing, the unseen influ- 

235 



ences of the past, and our present environments. Only life itself with 
its bitter lessons forces us along new paths and ultimately, which is far 
harder, makes us think differently. Perhaps we may help a little in 
this process. And perhaps 

On rencontre sa destinee 

Souvent par les chemlns qon prend pour I'eviter. 



XXXVI 

WHAT IS RELIGION? 

OUR PEACEFUL AND monotonous routine in jail was suddenly upset in 
the middle of September 1932 by a bombshell News came that Gan 
dhi) i had decided to "fast unto death" in disapproval of the separate 
electorates given by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald's communal award to 
the depressed classes. 1 What a capacity he had to give shocks to peo 
ple! Suddenly all manner of ideas rushed into my head; all kinds of 
possibilities and contingencies rose up before me and upset my equili 
brium completely. For two days I was in darkness with no light to 
show the way out, my heart sinking when I thought of some results 
of Gandhiji's action. The personal aspect was powerful enough, and 
I thought with anguish that I might not see him again. It was over 
a year ago that I had seen him last on board ship on the way to Eng 
land. Was that going to be my last sight of him? 

And then I felt annoyed with him for choosing a side issue for his 
final sacrifice. What would be the result on our freedom movement? 
Would not the larger issues fade into the background, for the time 
being at least? And, if he attained his immediate object and got a joint 
electorate for the depressed classes, would not that result in a reaction 
and a feeling that something had been achieved and nothing more 
need be done for a while? And was not his action a recognition, and 
in part an acceptance, of the communal award and the general scheme 
of things as sponsored by the Government? Was this consistent with 
nonco-operation and civil disobedience? After so much sacrifice and 

1 A provisional decree determining the degree o representation to be held by various 
Indian groups in the provincial assemblies. It was opposed for many reasons by Indian 
nationalists, and by Gandhi particularly, because it established a separate electorate for 
the depressed classes and thus, in his view, widened the cleavage between these classes 
and other Hindus. Ed. 

236 



brave endeavor, was our movement to tail off into something insig 
nificant? 

I felt angry with him at his religious and sentimental approach to 
a political question, and his frequent references to God in connection 
with it. He even seemed to suggest that God had indicated the very 
date of the fast. What a terrible example to set! 

If Bapu died! What would India be like then? And how would her 
politics run? There seemed to be a dreary and dismal future ahead, 
and despair seized my heart when I thought of it. 

So I thought and thought, while confusion reigned in my head, with 
anger and hopelessness, and love for him who was the cause of this 
upheaval. I hardly knew what to do, and I was irritable and short- 
tempered with everybody, most of all with myself. 

And then a strange thing happened to me. I had quite an emotional 
crisis, and at the end of it I felt calmer, and the future seemed not so 
dark. Bapu had a curious knack of doing the right thing at the psy 
chological moment, and it might be that his action impossible to 
justify as it was from my point of view would lead, to great results, 
not only in the narrow field in which it was confined, but in the wider 
aspects of our national struggle. And, even if Bapu died, our struggle 
for freedom would go on. So whatever happened, one had to keep 
ready and fit for it. Having made up my mind to face even Gandhiji's 
death without flinching, I felt calm and collected and ready to face 
the^ world and all it might offer. 

Then came news of the tremendous upheaval all over the country, 
a magic wave of enthusiasm running through Hindu society, and un- 
touchability appeared to be doomed. What a magician, I thought, was 
this little man sitting in Yeravda Prison, and how well he knew how 
to pull the strings that move people's hearts! 

A telegram from him reached me. It was the first message I had 
received from him since my conviction, and it did me good to hear 
from him after that long interval. In this telegram he said: 

During all these days of agony you have been before mind's eye. 
I am most anxious to know your opinion. You know how I value 
your opinion. Saw Indu [and] Sarup's children. Indu looked 
happy and in possession of more flesh. Doing very well. Wire 
reply. Love. 

It was extraordinary, and yet it was characteristic of him, that in the 
agony of his fast and in the midst of his many preoccupations, he 

237 



should refer to the visit of my daughter and my sister's children to 
him, and even mention that Indira had put on flesh! (My sister was 
also in prison then and all these children were at school in Poona.) 
He never forgets the seemingly little things in life which really mean 
so much. 

News also came to me just then that some settlement had been 
reached over the electorate issue. The superintendent of the jail was 
good enough to allow me to send an answer to Gandhiji, and I sent 
him the following telegram: 

Your telegram and brief news that some settlement reached 
filled me with relief and joy. First news of your decision to fast 
caused mental agony and confusion, but ultimately optimism tri 
umphed and I regained peace of mind. No sacrifice too great for 
suppressed downtrodden classes. Freedom must be judged by 
freedom of lowest but feel danger of other issues obscuring only 
goal. Am unable to judge from religious viewpoint. Danger your 
methods being exploited by others but how can I presume to ad 
vise a magician. Love. 

A "pact" was signed by various people gathered in Poona; with un 
usual speed the British Prime Minister accepted it and varied his pre 
vious award accordingly, and the fast was broken. I disliked such pacts 
and agreements greatly, but I welcomed the Poona Pact apart from its 
contents. 

The excitement was over, and we reverted to our jail routine. News 
of the Harijan movement and of Gandhiji's activities from prison came 
to us, and I was not very happy about it. There was no doubt that a 
tremendous push had been given to the movement to end untouch- 
ability and raise the unhappy depressed classes, not so much by the 
pact as by the crusading enthusiasm created all over the country. That 
was to be welcomed. But it was equally obvious that civil disobedience 
had suffered. The country's attention had been diverted to other issues, 
and many Congress workers had turned to the Harijan cause. Probably 
most of these people wanted an excuse to revert to safer activities which 
did not involve the risk of jail-going or, worse still, lathee blows and 
confiscations of property. That was natural, and it was not fair to ex 
pect all the thousands of our workers to keep always ready for intense 
suffering and the break-up and destruction of their homes. But still it 
was painful to watch this slow decay of our great movement. Civil dis 
obedience was, however, still going on, and occasionally there were 

238 



mass demonstrations like the Calcutta Congress in March-April 1933. 
Gandhiji was in Yeravda Prison, but he had been given certain privi 
leges to meet people and issue directions for the Harijan movements. 
Somehow this took away from the sting of his being in prison. All this 
depressed me. 

Many months later, early in May 1933, Gandhiji began his twenty- 
one-day fast. The first news of this had again come as a shock to me, 
but I accepted it as an inevitable occurrence and schooled myself to it. 
Indeed I was irritated that people should urge him to give it up, after 
he had made up his mind and declared it to the public. For me the 
fast was an incomprehensible thing, and, if I had been asked before 
the decision had been taken, I would certainly have spoken strongly 
against it. But I attached great value to Gandhi ji's word, and it seemed 
to me wrong for anyone to try to make him break it, in a personal mat 
ter which, to him, was of supreme importance. So, unhappy as I was, 
I put up with it. 

A few days before beginning his fast he wrote to me, a typical letter 
which moved me very much. As he asked for a reply I sent him the 
following telegram: 

Your letter. What can I say about matters I do not understand? 
I feel lost in strange country where you are the only familiar land 
mark and I try to grope my way in dark but I stumble. Whatever 
happens my love and thoughts will be with you. 

I had struggled against my utter disapproval of his act and my de 
sire not to hurt him. I felt, however, that I had not sent him a cheerful 
message, and now that he was bent on undergoing his terrible ordeal, 
which might even end in his death, I ought to cheer him up as much 
as I could. Little things make a difference psychologically, and he 
would have to strain every nerve to survive. I felt also that we should 
accept whatever happened, even his death, if unhappily it should occur, 
with a stout heart. So I sent him another telegram: 

Now that you are launched on your great enterprise may I send 
you again love and greetings and assure you that I feel more clearly 
now that whatever happens it is well and whatever happens you 
win. 

He survived the fast. On the first day of it he was discharged from 
prison, and on his advice civil disobedience was suspended for six 
weeks. 

239 



Again I watched the emotional upheaval of the country during the 
fast, and I wondered more and more if this was the right method in 
politics. It seemed to be sheer revivalism, and clear thinking had not 
a ghost of a chance against it. All India, or most of it, stared reverently 
at the Mahatma and expected him to perform miracle after miracle 
and put an end to untouchability and get Swaraj and so on and did 
precious little itself! And Gandhi ji did not encourage others to think; 
his insistence was only on purity and sacrifice. I felt that I was drifting 
further and further away from him mentally, in spite of my strong 
emotional attachment to him. Often enough he was guided in his polit 
ical activities by an unerring instinct. He had the flair for action, but 
was the way of faith the right way to train a nation ? It might pay for 
a short while, but in the long run ? 

And I could not understand how he could accept, as he seemed to 
do, the present social order, which was based on violence and conflict. 
Within me also conflict raged, and I was torn between rival loyalties. 
I knew that there was trouble ahead for me, when the enforced pro 
tection of jail was removed. I felt lonely and homeless; and India, to 
whom I had given my love and for whom I had labored, seemed a 
strange and bewildering land to me. Was it my fault that I could not 
enter into the spirit and ways of thinking of my countrymen? Even 
with my closest associates I felt that an invisible barrier came between 
us, and, unhappy at being unable to overcome it, I shrank back into 
my shell. The old world seemed to envelop them, the old world of 
past ideologies, hopes, and desires. The new world was yet far distant. 

Wandering between two worlds, one dead, 

The other powerless to be born, 
With nowhere yet to rest his head. 

India is supposed to be a religious country above everything else; 
Hindu, Moslem, Sikh, and others take pride in their faiths and testify 
to their truth by breaking heads. The spectacle of what is called re 
ligion, or at any rate organized religion, in India and elsewhere has 
filled me with horror, and I have frequently condemned it and wished 
to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seems to stand for blind 
belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition and exploitation, 
and the preservation of vested interests. And yet I knew well that 
there was something else in it, something which supplied a deep inner 
craving of human beings. How else could it have been the tremen 
dous power it has been and brought peace and comfort to innumerable 

240 



tortured souls? Was that peace merely the shelter of blind belief and 
absence of questioning, the calm that comes from being safe in harbor, 
protected from the storms of the open sea, or was it something more ? 
In some cases certainly it was something more. 

But organized religion, whatever its past may have been, today is 
very largely an empty form devoid of real content. It has been filled 
up by some totally different substance. And, even where something of 
value still remains, it is enveloped by other and harmful contents. 

That seems to have happened in our Eastern religions as well as in 
the Western. The Church of England is perhaps the most obvious ex 
ample of a religion which is not a religion in any real sense of the 
word. Partly that applies to all organized Protestantism, but the Church 
of England has probably gone further because it has long been a State 
political department. 2 

Many of its votaries are undoubtedly of the highest character, but 
it is remarkable how that Church has served the purposes of British 
imperialism and given both capitalism and imperialism a moral and 
Christian covering. It has sought to justify, from the highest ethical 
standards, British predatory policy in Asia and Africa and given that 
extraordinary and enviable feeling of being always in the right to the 
English. Whether the Church has helped in producing this attitude of 
smug rectitude or is itself a product of it, I do not know. Other less 
favored countries on the continent of Europe and in America often 
accuse the English of hypocrisy perfide Albion is an old taunt but 
the accusation is probably the outcome of envy at British success, and 
certainly no other imperialist Power can afford to throw stones at Eng 
land, for its own record is equally shady. No nation that is consciously 
hypocritical could have the reserves of strength that the British have 
repeatedly shown, and the brand of "religion" which they have adopted 
has apparently helped them in this by blunting their moral susceptibili 
ties where their own interests were concerned. Other peoples and na 
tions have often behaved far worse than the British have done, but 
they have never succeeded, quite to the same extent, in making a 
virtue of what profited them. All of us find it remarkably easy to spot 
the mote in the other's eye and overlook the beam in our own, but 
perhaps the British excel at this performance. 

Protestantism tried to adapt itself to new conditions and wanted to 

2 In India the Church o England has been almost indistinguishable from the Govern 
ment. The officially paid (out of Indian revenues) priests and chaplains are the symbols 
of the imperial power just as the higher services are. 

241 



have the best of both worlds. It succeeded remarkably so far as this 
world was concerned,, but from the religious point of view it fell, as 
an organized religion, between two stools, and religion gradually gave 
place to sentimentality and big business. Roman Catholicism escaped 
this fate, as it stuck on to the old stool, and, so long as that stool holds, 
it will flourish. Today it seems to be the only living religion, in the 
restricted sense of the word, in the West. A Roman Catholic friend 
sent me in prison many books on Catholicism and papal encyclicals, 
and I read them with interest. Studying them, I realized the hold it 
had on such large numbers of people. It offered, as Islam and popular 
Hinduism offer, a safe anchorage from doubt and mental conflict, an 
assurance of a future life which will make up for the deficiencies of 
this life. 

I am afraid it is impossible for me to seek harborage in this way. I 
prefer the open sea, with all its storms and tempests. Nor am I greatly 
interested in the afterlife, in what happens after death. I find the prob 
lems of this life sufficiently absorbing to fill my mind. The traditional 
Chinese outlook, fundamentally ethical and yet irreligious or tinged 
with religious skepticism, has an appeal for me, though in its applica 
tion to life I may not agree. It is the Tao, the path to be followed and 
the way of life, that interests me; how to understand life, not to reject 
it but to accept it, to conform to it, and to improve it. But the usual 
religious outlook does not concern itself with this world. It seems to 
me to be the enemy of clear thought, for it is based not only on the 
acceptance without demur of certain fixed and unalterable theories and 
dogmas, but also on sentiment and emotion and passion. It is far re 
moved from what I consider spirituality and things of the spirit, and it 
deliberately or unconsciously shuts its eyes to reality lest reality may 
not fit in with preconceived notions. It is narrow and intolerant of 
other opinions and ideas; it is self-centered and egotistic; and it often 
allows itself to be exploited by self-seekers and opportunists. 

This does not mean that men of religion have not been and are not 
still often of the highest moral and spiritual type. But it does mean that 
the religious outlook does not help, and even hinders, the moral and 
spiritual progress of a people, if morality and spirituality are to be 
judged by this world's standards, and not by the hereafter. Usually 
religion becomes an asocial quest for God or the Absolute, and the 
religious man is concerned far more with his own salvation than with 
the good of society. The mystic tries to rid himself of self, and in the 
process usually becomes obsessed with it. Moral standards have no 

242 



relation to social needs but are based on a highly metaphysical doctrine 
of sin. And organized religion invariably becomes a vested interest and 
thus inevitably a reactionary force opposing change and progress. 

It is well known that the Christian church in the early days did not 
help the slaves to improve their social status. The slaves became the 
feudal serfs of the Middle Ages of Europe because of economic condi 
tions. The attitude of the Church, as late as two hundred years ago 
(in 1727)3 was well exemplified in a letter written by the Bishop of 
London to the slave owners of the southern colonies of America. 3 

"Christianity," wrote the Bishop, "and the embracing of the gospel 
does not make the least alteration in Civil property or in any of the 
duties which belong to civil relations; but in all these respects it con 
tinues Persons just in the same State as it found them. The Freedom 
which Christianity gives is Freedom from the bondage of Sin and 
Satan and from the Dominion of Men's Lusts and Passions and in 
ordinate Desires; but as to their outward condition, whatever that was 
before, whether bond or free, their being baptised and becoming Chris 
tians makes no manner of change in them." 

No organized religion today will express itself in this outspoken 
manner, but essentially its attitude to property and the existing social 
order will be the same. 

"No man can live without religion," Gandhiji has written some 
where. "There are some who in the egotism of their reason declare 
that they have nothing to do with religion. But that is like a man say 
ing that he breathes, but that he has no nose." Again he says: "My 
devotion to truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say 
without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who 
say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what 
religion means." Perhaps it would have been more correct if he had 
said that most of these people who want to exclude religion from life 
and politics mean by that word "religion" something very different 
from what he means. It is obvious that he is using it in a sense prob 
ably moral and ethical more than any other different from that of 
the critics of religion. 

8 This letter is quoted in Reinhold Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society (p. 78), 
a book which is exceedingly interesting and stimulating. 



243 



XXXVII 

THE "DUAL POLICY" OF THE BRITISH 
GOVERNMENT 

THE HARIJAN MOVEMENT was going on, guided by Gandhiji from 
Yeravda Prison and later from outside. There was a great agitation for 
removing the barriers to temple entry, and a bill to that effect was 
introduced in the Legislative Assembly. And then the remarkable spec 
tacle was witnessed of an outstanding leader of the Congress going 
from house to house in Delhi, visiting the members of the Assembly 
and canvassing for their votes for this temple entry bill. Gandhiji him 
self sent an appeal through him to the Assembly members. And yet 
civil disobedience was still going on and people were going to prison; 
the Assembly had been boycotted by the Congress, and all our mem 
bers had withdrawn from it. The rump that remained and the others 
who had filled the vacancies had distinguished themselves in this crisis 
by opposition to the Congress and support of the Government. A ma 
jority of them had helped the Government to pass repressive legislation 
giving some permanence to the extraordinary provisions of the ordi 
nances. 

I was amazed at Gandhi ji's appeal, under the circumstances then ex 
isting, and even more so by the strenuous efforts of Rajagopalachari, 
who, a few weeks before, had been the acting president of the Congress. 
Civil disobedience, of course, suffered by these activities; but what hurt 
me more was the moral side. To me, for Gandhiji or any Congress 
leader to countenance such activities appeared immoral and almost a 
breach of faith with the large numbers of people in jail or carrying 
on the struggle. But I knew that his way of looking at it was different. 

The Government attitude to this temple entry bill, then and subse 
quently, was very revealing. It put every possible difficulty in the way 
of its promoters, went on postponing it and encouraging opposition to 
it, and then finally declared its own opposition to it and killed it. That, 
to a greater or lesser extent, has been its attitude to all measures of so 
cial reform in India, and on the plea of noninterference with religion, 
it has prevented social progress. But this, it need hardly be said, has not 
prevented it from criticizing our social evils and encouraging others 
to do so. By a fluke, the Sarda child marriage restraint bill became law, 
but the subsequent history of this unhappy act showed more than 
anything else how much averse to enforcing any such measure the Gov- 

244 



ernment was. The Government that could produce ordinances over 
night, creating novel offenses and providing for vicarious punishment, 
and could send scores o thousands of people to prison for breach of 
their provisions, apparently quailed at the prospect of enforcing one of 
its regular laws like the Sarda Act. The effect of the Act was first to 
increase tremendously the very evil it was intended to combat, for 
people rushed to take advantage of the intervening six months of grace 
which the Act very foolishly allowed. And then it was discovered that 
the Act was more or less of a joke and could be easily ignored without 
any steps being taken by Government. Not even the slightest attempt 
at propaganda was made officially, and most people in the villages never 
knew what the Act was. They heard distorted accounts of it from 
Hindu and Moslem village preachers, who themselves seldom knew 
the correct facts. 

This extraordinary spirit of toleration of social evils in India which 
the British Government has shown is obviously not due to any par 
tiality for them. This is due to their close association with the most 
reactionary elements in India. As opposition to their rule increases, 
they have to seek strange allies, and today the firmest champions of 
British rule in India are the extreme communalists and the religious 
reactionaries and obscurantists. 

If the British Government was quiescent and took no steps to popu 
larize the Sarda Act and to enforce it, why did not the Congress or 
other nonofficial organizations carry on propaganda in favor of it? 
This question is often put by British and other foreign critics. So far 
as the Congress is concerned, it has been engaged during the last 
fifteen years, and especially since 1930, in a fierce life-and-death strug 
gle for national freedom with the British rulers. The other organiza 
tions have no real strength or contact with the masses. Men and women 
of ideals and force of character and influence among the masses were 
drawn into the Congress and spent much of their time in British 
prisons. 

But the real reason why the Congress and other nonofficial organi 
zations cannot do much for social reform goes deeper. We suffer from 
the disease of nationalism; that absorbs our attention, and it will con 
tinue to do so till we get political freedom. 

Past experience shows us that we can make little social progress under 
present conditions, in spite of apparent transfers of subjects to elected 
ministers. I am sure that if the Congress started a nationwide propa- 

245 



ganda for the greater use of soap it would come in conflict with Gov 
ernment in many places. 

I do not think it is very difficult to convert the masses to social re 
form if the State takes the matter in hand. But alien rulers are always 
suspect, and they cannot go far in the process of conversion. If the alien 
element were removed and economic changes were given precedence, 
an energetic administration could easily introduce far-reaching social 
reforms. 

But social reform and the Sarda Act and the Harijan movement 
did not fill our minds in prison, except in so far as I felt a little irri 
tated by the Harijan movement because it had come in the way of 
civil disobedience. Early in May 1933, following Gandhiji's twenty-one- 
day fast, civil disobedience had been suspended for six weeks, and we 
waited anxiously for further developments. That suspension had given 
a final blow to the movement, for one cannot play fast and loose with 
a national struggle and switch it on and off at will. Even before the 
suspension the leadership of the movement had been singularly weak 
and ineffective. There were petty conferences being held, and all man 
ner of rumors spread which militated against active work. Some of 
the acting presidents of the Congress were very estimable men, but it 
was unkindness to them to make them generals of an active campaign. 
There was too much of a hint of tiredness about them, of a desire to 
get out of a difficult position. There was some discontent against this 
vacillation and indecision in high quarters, but it was difficult to ex 
press it in an organized way, as all Congress bodies were unlawful. 

In the middle of June the period of suspension of civil disobedience 
was extended by another six weeks. Meanwhile the Government had 
in no way toned down its aggression. In the Andaman Islands, political 
prisoners (those convicted in Bengal for acts of revolutionary violence 
were sent there) were on hunger strike on the question of treatment, 
and one or two of them died starved to death. Others lay dying. Peo 
ple who addressed meetings in India in protest of what was happening 
in the Andamans were themselves arrested and sentenced. We were 
not only to suffer, but we were not even to complain, even though 
prisoners died by the terrible ordeal of the hunger strike, having no 
other means of protest open to them. Some months later, in September 
1933 (when I was out of prison), an appeal was issued over a number 
of signatures including Rabindranath Tagore, C. F. Andrews, and 
many other well-known people, mostly unconnected with the Congress, 
asking for more humanitarian treatment of the Andamans' prisoners, 

246 



and preferably for their transfer to Indian jails. The Home Member 
of the Government of India expressed his great displeasure at this 
statement, and criticized the signatories strongly for their sympathy 
for the prisoners. Later, as far as I can remember, the expression of 
such sympathy was made a punishable offense in Bengal. 

Before the second six weeks of suspension of civil disobedience were 
over, news came to us in Dehra Dun Jail that Gandhiji had called an 
informal conference at Poona. Two or three hundred people met there, 
and, on Gandhiji's advice, mass civil disobedience was suspended, but 
individual civil disobedience was permitted, and all secret methods 
were barred. The decisions were not very inspiring, but I did not par 
ticularly object to them so far as they went. To stop mass civil dis 
obedience was to recognize and stabilize existing conditions, for, in 
reality, there was no mass movement then. Secret work was merely a 
pretense that we were carrying on, and often it demoralized, having 
regard to the character of our movement. To some extent it was neces 
sary in order to send instructions and keep contacts, but civil disobe 
dience itself could not be secret. 

What surprised me and distressed me was the absence of any real 
discussion at Poona of the existing situation and of our objectives. 
Congressmen had met together after nearly two years of fierce conflict 
and repression, and much had happened meanwhile in the world at 
large and in India, including the publication of the White Paper con 
taining the British Government's proposals for constitutional reform. 
We had to put up during this period with enforced silence, and on 
the other side there had been ceaseless and perverted propaganda to 
obscure the issues. It was frequendy stated, not only by supporters of 
the Government but by Liberals and others, that the Congress had 
given up its objective of independence. The least that should have been 
done, I thought, was to lay stress on our political objective, to make it 
clear again and, if possible, to add to it social and economic objectives. 
Instead of this, the discussion seems to have been entirely confined to 
the relative merits of mass and individual civil disobedience, and the 
desirability or otherwise of secrecy. There was also some strange talk 
of "peace" with the Government. Gandhiji sent a telegram to the Vice 
roy, as far as I remember, asking for an interview, to which the Viceroy 
replied with a "No," and then Gandhiji sent a second telegram men 
tioning something about "honorable peace." Where was this elusive 
peace that was being sought, when the Government was triumphantly 
trying to crush the nation in every way, and people were starving to 

247 



death in the Andamans? But I knew that, whatever happened, it was 
Gandhiji's way always to offer the olive branch. 

Repression was going on in full swing, and all the special laws sup 
pressing public activities were in force. In February 1933 even a me 
morial meeting on my father's death anniversary was prohibited by the 
police, although it was a non-Congress meeting, and such a good Mod 
erate as Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru was to have presided over it. And as 
a vision of future favors to come we had been presented with the 
White Paper. 

This was a remarkable document, a perusal of which left one gasp 
ing for breath. India was to be converted into a glorified Indian state, 
with a dominating influence of the states' feudal representatives in the 
federation. But in the states themselves no outside interference would 
be tolerated, and undiluted autocracy would continue to prevail there. 
The real imperial links, the chains of debt, would bind us forever to 
the City of London, and the currency and monetary policy would also 
be controlled, through a Reserve Bank, by the Bank of England. There 
would be an impregnable defense of all vested rights, and additional 
vested interests were going to be created. Our revenues were mort 
gaged up to the hilt for the benefit of these vested interests. The great 
imperial services, which we loved so much, would continue uncon 
trolled and untouched, to train us for further installments of self- 
government. There was going to be provincial autonomy, but the Gov 
ernor would be a benevolent and all-powerful dictator keeping us in 
order. And high above all would sit the All-Highest, the supreme Dic 
tator, the Viceroy, with complete powers to do what he would and 
check when he desired. Truly, the genius of the British ruling class 
for colonial government was never more in evidence, and well may 
the Hitlers and Mussolinis admire them and look with envy on the 
Viceroy of India. 

A constitution having been produced which tied up India hand and 
foot, a collection of "special responsibilities" and safeguards were added 
as additional fetters, making the unhappy country a prisoner incapable 
of movement. As Mr. Neville Chamberlain said : "They had done their 
best to surround the proposals with all the safeguards the wit of man 
could devise." 

Further, we were informed that for these favors we would have to 
pay heavily to begin with a lump sum of a few crores, and then an 
nual payment. We could not have the blessings of Swaraj without 
adequate payment. We had been suffering under the delusion that In- 

248 



dia was poverty-stricken and already had too heavy a burden to carry, 
and we had looked to freedom to lighten it. That had been for the 
masses, the urge for freedom. But it now appeared that the burden 
was to become heavier. 

This Gilbertian solution of the Indian problem was offered with true 
British grace, and we were told how generous our rulers were. Never 
before had an imperial Power of its own free will offered such power 
and opportunities to a subject people. And a great debate arose in Eng 
land between the donors and those who, horrified at such generosity, 
objected to it. This was the outcome of the many comings and goings 
between India and England during three years, of the three Round 
Table Conferences, and innumerable committees and consultations. 

Congress policy then was mainly one of defiance of the ordinance 
laws and other repressive measures, and this led to jail. Congress and 
the nation were exhausted after the long struggle and could not bring 
any effective pressure on the Government. 

Naked coercion, as India was experiencing, however, is an expensive 
affair for the rulers. Even for them it is a painful and nerve-shaking 
ordeal, and they know well that ultimately it weakens their founda 
tions. It exposes continually the real character of their rule, both to the 
people coerced and the world at large. They infinitely prefer to put on 
the velvet glove to hide the iron fist. Nothing is more irritating and, 
in the final analysis, harmful to a Government than to have to deal 
with people who will not bend to its will, whatever the consequences. 
So even sporadic defiance of the repressive measures had value; it 
strengthened the people and sapped the morale of Government. 

The moral consideration was even more important to us. In a fa 
mous passage Thoreau has said: "At a time when men and women 
are unjustly imprisoned the place for just men and women is also in 
prison." Many of us often feel that a moral life under existing condi 
tions is intolerable, when, even apart from civil disobedience, many of 
our colleagues are always in prison and the coercive apparatus of the 
State is continually repressing us and humiliating us, as well as help 
ing in the exploitation of our people. In our own country we move 
about as suspects, shadowed and watched, our words recorded lest 
they infringe the all-pervading law of sedition, our correspondence 
opened, the possibility of some executive prohibition or arrest always 
facing us. For us the choice is: abject submission to the power of the 
State, spiritual degradation, the denial of the truth that is in us, and 
our moral prostitution for purposes that we consider base or opposi- 

249 



tion with all the consequences thereof. No one likes to go to jail or 
to invite trouble. But often jail is preferable to the other alternative. 



XXXVIII 

THE END OF A LONG TERM 

THE TIME FOR my discharge was drawing near. I had received the 
usual remissions for "good behavior," and this had reduced my two- 
year term by three and a half months. My peace of mind., or rather the 
general dullness o the mind which prison produces, was being dis 
turbed by the excitement created by the prospect of release. What must 
I do outside? A difficult question, and the hesitation I had in answer 
ing it took away from the joy of going out. But even that was a mo 
mentary feeling; my long-suppressed energy was bubbling up, and I 
was eager to be out. 

The end of July 1933 brought a painful and very disturbing piece 
of news the sudden death of J. M. Sen-Gupta under detention. He 
had been made a State prisoner on his return from Europe early in 
1932, while he was still on board ship in Bombay. Since then he had 
been a prisoner or a detenu, and his health had deteriorated. Various 
facilities were given to him by the Government, but evidently they 
could not check the course of the disease. His funeral in Calcutta was 
the occasion for a remarkable mass demonstration and tribute; it 
seemed that the long-pent-up suffering soul of Bengal had found an 
outlet for a while at least. 

So Sen-Gupta had gone. Subhas Bose, another State prisoner whose 
health had broken down under years of internment and prison, had at 
last been permitted by the Government to go to Europe for treatment. 
The veteran Vallabhbhai Patel also lay ill in Europe. And how many 
others had broken down in health or died., unable to stand the physical 
strain of jail life and ceaseless activity outside! How many, though 
outwardly not much changed, had suffered deeper mental derange 
ments and developed complexes on account of the abnormal lives they 
had been made to lead! 

Sen-Gupta's death made me vividly aware of all this terrible, silent 
suffering going on throughout the country, and I felt weary and de 
pressed. To what end was all this? To what end? 

250 



I had been fortunate in my own health, and in spite o the strains 
and irregular life of Congress activity, I had, on the whole, kept well. 
Partly, I suppose, this was due to the good constitution I had inherited, 
partly to my care of the body. Illness and weak health as well as too 
much fat seemed to me a most unbecoming state of affairs, and, with 
the help of exercise, plenty of fresh air, and simple food, I managed 
to keep away from them. 

I have cared little for food fads, and have only avoided overeating 
and rich foods. Like nearly all Kashmiri Brahmans, our family was a 
meat-eating one, and from childhood onward I had always taken meat, 
although I never fancied it much. With the coming of nonco-operation 
in 1920 I gave up meat and became a vegetarian. I remained a vege 
tarian till a visit to Europe six years later, when I relapsed to meat 
eating. On my return to India I became a vegetarian again, and since 
then I have been more or less a vegetarian. Meat eating seems to agree 
with me well, but I have developed a distaste for it, and it gives me a 
feeling of coarseness. 

My periods of ill-health, chiefly in prison in 1932, when for many 
months I had a rise of temperature every day, annoyed me, because 
they hurt my conceit of good health. And for the first time I did not 
think, as I used to do, in terms of abounding life and energy, but a 
specter of a gradual decay and a wearing away rose up before me and 
alarmed me. I do not think I am particularly frightened of death. But 
a slow deterioration, bodily and mental, was quite another matter. 
However, my fears proved exaggerated, and I managed to get rid of 
the indisposition and bring my body under control. Long sun baths 
during the winter helped me to get back my feeling of well-being. 
While my companions in prison would shiver in their coats and shawls, 
I would sit, bare-bodied, delightfully warmed up by the sun's embrace. 
This was only possible in north India during the winter, as elsewhere 
the sun is usually too hot. 

Among my exercises one pleased me particularly the shtrshasana, 
standing on the head with the palms of the hands, fingers interlocked, 
supporting the back of the head, elbows on the floor, body vertical, up 
side down. I suppose physically this exercise is very good: I liked it 
even more for its psychological effect on me. The slightly comic posi 
tion increased my good humor and made me a little more tolerant of 
life's vagaries. 

My usual good health and the bodily sense of well-being have been 
of very great help to me in getting over periods of depression, which 

251 



are inevitable in prison life. They have helped me also in accommo 
dating myself to changing conditions in prison or outside. I have had 
many shocks which at the time seemed to bowl me over, but to my 
own surprise I have recovered sooner than I expected. I suppose a test 
of my fundamental sobriety and sanity is the fact that I hardly know 
what a bad headache is, nor have I ever been troubled with insomnia. 
I have escaped these common diseases o civilization, as also bad eye 
sight, in spite of excessive use of the eyes for reading and writing, 
sometimes in a bad light in jail. An eye specialist expressed his amaze 
ment last year at my good eyesight. Eight years before he had proph 
esied that I would have to take to spectacles in another year or two. 
He was very much mistaken, and I am still carrying on successfully 
without them. Although these facts might establish my reputation for 
sobriety and sanity, I might add that I have a horror of people who 
are inescapably and unchangingly sane and sober. 

While I waited for my discharge from prison, the new form of civil 
disobedience for individuals was beginning outside. Gandhi ji decided 
to give the lead, and, after giving full notice to the authorities, he 
started on August i with the intention of preaching civil resistance to 
the Gujrat peasantry. He was immediately arrested, sentenced to one 
year, and sent back again to his cell in Yeravda. I was glad he had 
gone back. But soon a new complication arose. Gandhiji claimed the 
same facilities for carrying on Harijan work from prison as he had 
had before; the Government refused to grant them. Suddenly we 
heard that Gandhiji had started fasting again on this issue. It seemed 
an extraordinarily trivial matter for such a tremendous step. It was 
quite impossible for me to understand his decision, even though he 
might be completely right in his argument with the Government. We 
could do nothing, and we looked on, bewildered. 

After a week of the fast his condition grew rapidly worse. He had 
been removed to a hospital, but he was still a prisoner, and Govern 
ment would not give in on the question of facilities for Harijan work. 
He lost the will to live (which he had during his previous fasts) and 
allowed himself to go downhill. The end seemed to be near. He said 
good-by and even made dispositions of the few personal articles 
that were lying about him, giving some to the nurses. But the Gov 
ernment had no intention of allowing him to die on their hands, and 
that evening he was suddenly discharged. It was just in time to save 
him. Another day and perhaps it would have been too late. Probably 

252 



a great deal of the credit for saving him should go to C. F. Andrews, 
who had rushed to India, contrary to Gandhi] i's advice. 

Meanwhile I was transferred from Dehra Dun Jail on August 23, 
and I returned to Naini Prison after more than a year and a half's 
residence in other jails. Just then news came of my mother's sudden 
illness and her removal to hospital. On August 30, 1933, I was dis 
charged from Naini because my mother's condition was considered 
serious. Ordinarily I would have been released, at the latest, on Sep 
tember 12 when my term expired. I was thus given an additional 
thirteen days of remission by the Provincial Government. 

Immediately after my release, I hastened to Lucknow to my mother's 
bedside, and I remained with her for some days. I had come out of 
prison after a fairly long period, and I felt detached and out of touch 
with my surroundings. I realized with a little shock, as we all do, that 
the world had gone on moving and changing while I lay stagnating 
in prison. Children and boys and girls growing up; marriages, births, 
deaths; love and hate, work and play, tragedy and comedy. New inter 
ests in life, new subjects for conversation, always there was a little ele 
ment of surprise in what I saw and heard. Life seemed to have passed 
by, leaving me in a backwater. It was not a wholly pleasant feeling. 
Soon I would have adapted myself to my environment, but I felt no 
urge to do so. I realized that I was only having a brief outing outside 
prison, and would have to go back again before long. So why trouble 
myself about adaptation to something which I would leave soon? 

Politically, India was more or less quiet; public activities were largely 
controlled and suppressed by the Government, and arrests occasion 
ally took place. But the silence of India then was full of significance. 
It was the ominous silence which follows exhaustion after experiencing 
a period of fierce repression, a silence which is often very eloquent, 
but is beyond the ken of governments that repress. India was the ideal 
police state, and the police mentality pervaded all spheres of govern 
ment. Outwardly all nonconformity was suppressed, and a vast army 
of spies and secret agents covered the land. There was an atmosphere 
of demoralization and an all-pervading fear among the people. Any 
political activity, especially in the rural areas, was immediately sup 
pressed, and the various provincial governments were trying to hound 
out Congressmen from the service of municipalities and local boards. 
Every person who had been to prison as a civil resister was unfit, ac 
cording to Government, for teaching in a municipal school or serving 
the municipality in any other way. Great pressure was brought to bear 

253 



on municipalities, etc., and threats were held out that Government 
grants would be stopped if the offending Congressmen were not dis 
missed. The most notorious example of this coercion took place in 
the Calcutta Corporation. Ultimately, I believe, the Bengal Govern 
ment passed a law against the employment by the Corporation of 
persons who had been convicted for political offenses. 

Reports of Nazi excesses in Germany had a curious effect on British 
ofHcials and their press in India. They gave them a justification for all 
they had done in India, and it was pointed out to us, with a glow of 
conscious virtue, how much worse our lot would have been if the 
Nazis had had anything to do with us. New standards and records 
had been set up by the Nazis, and it was certainly not an easy matter 
to rival them. Perhaps our lot would have been worse; it is difficult 
for me to judge, for I have not all the facts of the occurrences that have 
taken place in various parts of India during the past five years. The 
British Government in India believes in the charity that its right hand 
should not know what its left hand does, and so it has turned down 
every suggestion for an impartial inquiry, although such inquiries are 
always weighted on the official side. I think it is true that the aver 
age Englishman hates brutality, and I cannot conceive English people 
openly glorying in and repeating lovingly the word Brutalitat (or its 
English equivalent), as the Nazis do. Even when they indulge in the 
deed, they are a little ashamed of it. But whether we are Germans or 
English or Indians, I am afraid our veneer of civilized conduct is thin 
enough, and, when passions are aroused, it rubs off and reveals some 
thing that is not good to look at. 

I have had ample leisure in jail to read the speeches of high officials, 
their answers to questions in the Assembly and councils, and Govern 
ment statements. I noticed, during the years 1932 to 1935, a marked 
change coming over them, and this change became progressively more 
and more obvious. They became more threatening and minatory, de 
veloping more and more in the style of a sergeant-major addressing 
his men. A remarkable example of this was a speech delivered by the 
Commissioner of, I think, the Midnapur Division in Bengal in Novem 
ber or December 1933. Vac victis seems to run like a thread through 
these utterances. Nonofficial Europeans, in Bengal especially, go even 
further than the official variety, and both in their speeches and actions 
have shown a very decided fascist tendency. 

Yet another revealing instance of brutalization was the recent public 
hangings of some convicted criminals in Sind. Because crime was on 

254 



the increase in Sind, the authorities there decided to execute these 
criminals publicly, as a warning to others. Every facility was given to 
the public to attend and watch this ghastly spectacle, and it is said that 
many thousands came. 

So after my discharge from prison I surveyed political and economic 
conditions in India, and felt little enthusiasm. 

I had no desire to go back to prison. I had had enough of it. But I 
could not see how I could escape it under the existing circumstances, 
unless I decided to retire from all political activity. I had no such in 
tention, and so I felt that I was bound to come into conflict with the 
Government. At any moment some order might be served on me to 
do something, or to abstain from doing something, and all my nature 
rebelled at being forced to act in a particular way. An attempt was be 
ing made to cow and coerce the people of India. I was helpless and 
could do nothing on the wider field, but, at any rate, I could refuse 
personally to be cowed and coerced into submission. 

Before I went back to prison, I wanted to attend to certain matters. 
My mother's illness claimed my attention first of all. Very slowly she 
improved; the process was so slow that for a year she was bedridden. 
I was eager to see Gandhiji, who lay recovering from his latest fast in 
Poona. For over two years I had not met him. I also wanted to meet 
as many of my provincial colleagues as possible to discuss, not only the 
existing political situation in India, but the world situation as well as 
the ideas that filled my mind. I thought then that the world was going 
rapidly toward a catastrophe, political and economic, and we ought to 
keep this in mind in drawing up our national programs. 

My household affairs also claimed my attention. I had ignored them 
completely so far, and I had not even examined my father's papers 
since his death. We had cut down our expenditure greatly, but still it 
was far more than we could afford. And yet it was difficult to reduce 
it further, so long as we lived in that house of ours. We were not keep 
ing a car because that was beyond our means, and also because, at any 
moment, it could be attached by Government. Faced by financial dif 
ficulties, I was diverted by the large mail of begging letters that I re 
ceived. (The censor passed the lot on.) There was a general and very 
erroneous impression, especially in south India, that I was a wealthy 
person. 

Soon after my release my younger sister, Krishna, got engaged to 
be married, and I was anxious to have the wedding early, before my 

2 55 



enforced departure took place. Krishna herself had come out of prison 
a few months earlier after serving out a year. 

As soon as my mother *s health permitted it, I went to Poona to see 
Gandhiji. I was happy to see him again and to find that, though weak, 
he was making good progress. We had long talks. It was obvious that 
we differed considerably in our outlook on life and politics and eco 
nomics; but I was grateful to him for the generous way in which he 
tried to come as far as he could to meet my viewpoint. Our corre 
spondence, subsequently published, dealt with some of the wider issues 
that filled my mind, and, though they were referred to in vague lan 
guage, the general drift was clear. I was happy to have Gandhi ji's 
declaration that there must be a de-vesting of vested interests, though 
he laid stress that this should be by conversion, not compulsion. As 
some of his methods of conversion are not far removed, to my think 
ing, from courteous and considerate compulsion, the difference did not 
seem to me very great. I had the feeling with him then, as before, that 
though he might be averse to considering vague theories the logic of 
facts would take him, step by step, to the inevitability of fundamental 
social changes. 

For the present, I thought then, this question did not arise. We 
were in the middle of our national struggle, and civil disobedience was 
still the program, in theory, of the Congress, although it had been re 
stricted to individuals. We had to carry on as we were and try to 
spread socialistic ideas among the people, and especially among the 
more politically conscious Congress workers, so that when the time 
came for another declaration of policy we might be ready for a notable 
advance. Meanwhile, Congress was an unlawful organization, and the 
British Government was trying to crush it. We had to meet that attack. 

The principal problem which faced Gandhiji was a personal one. 
What was he to do himself? He was in a tangle. If he went to jail 
again, the same question of Harijan privileges would arise and, pre 
sumably, the Government would not give in, and he would fast again. 
Would the same round be repeated? He refused to submit to such a 
cat-and-mouse policy, and said that if he fasted again for those privi 
leges, the fast would continue even though he were released. That 
meant a fast to death. 

The second possible course before him was not to court imprison 
ment during the year of his sentence (ten and a half months of this 
remained still) and devote himself to Harijan work. But at the same 
time he would meet Congress workers and advise them when necessary. 

256 




Mohandas K. Gandhi 



Satyendranath Blsi 




Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore, the poet. Tagore was 
born on the same day, month, and year as Nehru's father 



Tara{ Das 



A third possibility he suggested to me was that he should retire 
from the Congress altogether for a while, and leave it in the hands of 
the "younger generation," as he put it. 

The first course, ending, as it seemed, in his death by starvation, was 
impossible for any one of us to recommend. The third seemed very 
undesirable when the Congress was an illegal body. It would either 
result in the immediate withdrawal of civil disobedience and all forms 
of direct action and a going back to legality and constitutional ac 
tivity, or in a Congress, outlawed and isolated, now even from Gan- 
dhiji, being crushed still further by Government. Besides, there was 
no question of any group's taking possession of an illegal organization 
which could not meet and discuss any policy. By a process of exclu 
sion we arrived thus at the second course of action suggested by him. 
Most of us disliked it, and we knew that it would give a heavy blow 
to the remains of civil disobedience. If the leader had himself retired 
from the fight, it was not likely that many enthusiastic Congress work 
ers would jump into the fire. But there seemed no other way out of 
the tangle, and Gandhi ji made his announcement accordingly. 

We agreed, Gandhi ji and I, though perhaps for different reasons, 
that the time was not yet for a withdrawal of civil disobedience and 
that we had to carry on even at a low ebb. For the rest, I wanted to 
turn people's attention to socialistic doctrines and the world situation. 

I spent a few days in Bombay on my way back. I was fortunate in 
catching Uday Shankar there and seeing his dancing. This was an un 
expected treat which I enjoyed greatly. Theaters, music, cinema, talk 
ies, radio and broadcasting all this had been beyond my reach for 
many years, for even during my intervals of freedom I had been too 
engrossed in other activities. I have only been once to a talkie so far, 
and the great names of cinema stars are names only to me. I have 
missed the theater especially, and I have often read with envy of new 
productions in foreign countries. In northern India, even when I was 
out of jail, there was little opportunity of seeing good plays, for there 
were hardly any within reach. 

Recently there has been an artistic awakening, led by the brilliant 
Tagore family, and its influence is already apparent all over India. 
But how can any art flourish widely when the people of the country 
are hampered and restricted and suppressed at every turn and live in 
an atmosphere of fear? 

In Bombay I met many friends and comrades, some only recently 
out of prison. The socialistic element was strong there, and there was 

257 



much resentment at recent happenings in the upper ranks of the Con 
gress. Gandhiji was severely critized for his metaphysical outlook ap 
plied to politics. With much of the criticism I was in agreement, but 
I was quite clear that, situated as we were, we had little choice in the 
matter and had to carry on. Any attempt to withdraw civil disobedi 
ence would have brought no relief to us, for the Government's of 
fensive would continue and all effective work would inevitably lead 
to prison. Our national movement had arrived at a stage when it had 
to be suppressed by Government, or it would impose its will on the 
British Government. This meant that it had arrived at a stage when it 
was always likely to be declared illegal, and, as a movement, it could 
not go back even if civil disobedience were withdrawn. The contin 
uance of disobedience made little difference in practice, but it was an 
act of moral defiance which had value. It was easier to spread new 
ideas during a struggle than it would be when the struggle was wound 
up for the time being, and demoralization ensued. The only alter 
native to the struggle was a compromising attitude to the British 
authority and constitutional action in the councils. 

It was a difficult position, and the choice was not an easy one. I ap 
preciated the mental conflicts of my colleagues, for I had myself had to 
face them. But I found there, as I have found elsewhere in India, some 
people who wanted to make high socialistic doctrine a refuge for inac 
tion. It was a little irritating to find people who did little themselves 
criticizing others who had shouldered the burden in the heat and dust 
of the fray, as reactionaries. These parlor socialists are especially hard 
on Gandhiji as the archreactionary, and advance arguments which in 
logic leave little to be desired. But the little fact remains that this "re 
actionary" knows India, understands India, almost is peasant India, 
and has shaken up India as no so-called revolutionary has done. Even 
his latest Harijan activities have gently but irresistibly undermined 
orthodox Hinduism and shaken it to its foundations. The whole tribe 
of the Orthodox have ranged themselves against him and consider 
him their most dangerous enemy, although he continues to treat them 
with all gentleness and courtesy. In his own peculiar way he has a 
knack of releasing powerful forces which spread out, like ripples on 
the water's surface, and affect millions. Reactionary or revolutionary, 
he has changed the face of India, given pride and character to a cring 
ing and demoralized people, built up strength and consciousness in 
the masses, and made the Indian problem a world problem. Quite 
apart from the objectives aimed at and its metaphysical implications, 

258 



the method o nonviolent nonco-operation or civil resistance is a unique 
and powerful contribution of his to India and the world, and there can 
be no doubt that it has been peculiarly suited to Indian conditions. 

I think it is right that we should encourage honest criticism and 
have as much public discussion of our problems as possible. It is un 
fortunate that Gandhiji's dominating position has to some extent pre 
vented this discussion. There was always a tendency to rely on him 
and to leave the decision to him. This is obviously wrong, and the 
nation can only advance by reasoned acceptance of objectives and 
methods, and a co-operation and discipline based on them and not on 
blind obedience. No one, however great he may be, should be above 
criticism. But, when criticism becomes a mere refuge for inaction, there 
is something wrong with it. For socialists to indulge in this kind of 
thing is to invite condemnation from the public, for the masses judge 
by acts. "He who denies the sharp tasks of today," says Lenin, "in the 
name of dreams about soft tasks of the future becomes an opportunist. 
Theoretically it means to fail to base oneself on the developments now 
going on in real life, to detach oneself from them in the name of 
dreams." 

Socialists and communists in India are largely nurtured on litera 
ture dealing with the industrial proletariat. In some selected areas, like 
Bombay or near Calcutta, large numbers of factory workers abound, 
but for the rest India remains agricultural, and the Indian problem 
cannot be disposed of, or treated effectively, in terms of the industrial 
workers. Nationalism and rural economy are the dominating consider 
ations, and European socialism seldom deals with these. Prewar con 
ditions in Russia were a much nearer approach to India, but there 
again the most extraordinary and unusual occurrences took place, and 
it is absurd to expect a repetition of these anywhere else. I do be 
lieve that the philosophy of communism helps us to understand and 
analyze existing conditions in any country, and further indicates the 
road to future progress. But it is doing violence and injustice to that 
philosophy to apply it blindfold and without due regard to facts and 
conditions. 

Life is anyhow a complex affair, and the conflicts and contradic 
tions of life sometimes make one despair a little. It is not surprising 
that people should differ, or even that comrades with a common ap 
proach to problems should draw different conclusions. But a person 
who tries to hide his own weakness in high-sounding phrases and 
noble principles is apt to be suspect. A person who tries to save him- 

259 



self from prison by giving undertakings and assurances to the Gov 
ernment, or by other dubious conduct, and then has the temerity to 
criticize others, is likely to injure the cause he espouses. 



XXXIX 

DOMINION STATUS AND INDEPENDENCE 

DURING MY VISIT to Poona to see Gandhiji, I accompanied him one 
evening to the Servants of India Society's home. For an hour or so 
questions were put to him on political matters by some of the mem 
bers of the Society, and he answered them. Mr. Srinivasa Sastri was 
not there, nor was Pandit Hriday Nath Konzru, probably the ablest 
of the other members, but some senior members were present. A few 
of us who were present on the occasion listened with growing amaze 
ment, for the questions related to the most trivial of happenings. 
Mostly they dealt with Gandhiji's old request for an interview with 
the Viceroy and the Viceroy's refusal. Was this the only important sub 
ject they could think of in a world full of problems, and when their 
own country was carrying on a hard struggle for freedom and hun 
dreds of organizations were outlawed? There was the agrarian crisis 
and the industrial depression causing widespread unemployment. There 
were the dreadful happenings in Bengal and the Frontier and in other 
parts of India; the suppression of freedom of thought and speech and 
writing and assembly; and so many other national and international 
problems. But the questions were limited to unimportant happenings, 
and the possible reactions of the Viceroy and the Government of India 
to an approach by Gandhiji. 

I had a strong feeling as if I had entered a monastery, the inhabitants 
of which had long been cut off from effective contact with the out 
side world. And yet our friends were active politicians, able men with 
long records of public service and sacrifice. They formed, with a few 
others, the real backbone of the Liberal party. The rest of the party 
was a vague, amorphous lot of people who wanted occasionally to 
have the sensation of being connected with political activities. Some 
of these, especially in Bombay and Madras, were indistinguishable 
from Government officials. 

The questions that a country puts are a measure of that country's 

260 



political development. Often the failure of that country is due to the 
fact that it has not put the right question to itself. Our wasting our 
time and energy and tempers over the communal distribution of seats, 
or our forming parties on the communal award and carrying on 
a sterile controversy about it to the exclusion of vital problems, is a 
measure of our political backwardness. In the same way the questions 
that were put to Gandhiji that day in the Servants of India Society's 
home mirrored the strange mental state of that Society and of the Lib 
eral party. They seemed to have no political or economic principles, no 
wide outlook, and their politics seemed to be of the parlor or court 
variety what high officials would do or would not do. 

The Indian Liberals are not liberal at all in any sense of the word, 
or at most they are liberal only in spots and patches. What they ex 
actly are it is difficult to say, for they have no firm positive basis of 
ideas and, though small in numbers, differ from one another. They 
are strong only in negation. They see error everywhere and attempt to 
avoid it, and hope that in doing so they will find the truth. Truth for 
them, indeed, always lies between two extremes. By criticizing every 
thing they consider extreme, they experience the feeling of being vir 
tuous and moderate and good. This method helps them in avoiding 
painful and difficult processes of thought and in having to put forward 
constructive ideas. 

Moderation and conservatism and a desire to avoid risks and sud 
den changes are often the inevitable accompaniments of old age. They 
do not seem quite so appropriate in the young, but ours is an ancient 
land, and sometimes its children seem to be born tired and weary, with 
all the lackluster and marks of age upon them. But even this old coun 
try is now convulsed by the forces of change, and the moderate outlook 
is bewildered. The old world is passing, and all the sweet reasonable 
ness of which the Liberals are capable does not make any difference; 
they might as well argue with the hurricane or the flood or the earth 
quake. 

We are all moderates or extremists in varying degrees, and for va 
rious objects. If we care enough for anything, we are likely to feel 
strongly about it, to be extremist about it. Otherwise we can afford a 
gracious tolerance, a philosophical moderation, which really hides to 
some extent our indifference. I have known the mildest of Moderates 
to grow very aggressive and extremist when a suggestion was made 
for the sweeping away of certain vested interests in land. Our Liberal 
friends represent to some extent the prosperous and well-to-do. They 

261 



can afford to wait for Swaraj and need not excite themselves about it. 
But any proposal for radical social change disturbs them greatly, and 
they are no longer moderate or sweetly reasonable about it. Thus their 
moderation is really confined to their attitude toward the British Gov 
ernment, and they nurse the hope that if they are sufficiently respectful 
and compromising perhaps, as a reward for this behavior, they might 
be listened to. Inevitably they have to accept the British viewpoint. 

I write of Liberals, but what I write applies to many of us also in 
the Congress. It applies even more to the Responsivists, 1 who have out 
distanced the Liberals in their moderation. There is a great deal of 
difference between the average Liberal and the average Congressman, 
and yet the dividing line is not clear and definite. Ideologically there 
is little to choose between the advanced Liberal and the moderate Con 
gressman. But, thanks to Gandhiji, every Congressman has kept some 
touch with the soil and the people of the country and has dabbled in 
action; because of this he has escaped some of the consequences of a 
vague and defective idealogy. Not so the Liberals : they have lost touch 
with both the old and the new. As a group they represent a vanishing 
species. 

Most of us, I suppose, have lost the old pagan feeling and not gained 
the new insight. Not for us to "have sight of Proteus rising from the 
sea"; or "hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn." And very few of 
us are fortunate enough: 

To see a World in a Grain of Sand 
And a Heaven in a Wild flower, 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour. 

Not for most of us, unhappily, to sense the mysterious life of nature, 
to hear her whisper close to our ears, to thrill and quiver at her touch. 
Those days are gone. But, though we may not see the sublime in na 
ture as we used to, we have sought to find it in the glory and tragedy 
of humanity, in its mighty dreams and inner tempests, its pangs and 
failures, its conflicts and misery, and, over all this, its faith in a great 
destiny and a realization of those dreams. That has been some recom 
pense for us for all the heartbreaks that such a search involves, and 
often we have been raised above the pettiness of life. But many have 
not undertaken this search and, having cut themselves adrift from the 
ancient ways, find no road to follow in the present. They neither dream 

a A group which branched off from the Swaraj party some years before. Ed. 

262 



nor do they act. They have no understanding of human convulsions 
like the great French Revolution or the Russian Revolution. The com 
plex, swift, and cruel eruptions of human desires, long suppressed, 
frighten them. For them the Bastille has not yet fallen. 

It is often said with righteous indignation that "patriotism is not a 
monopoly of Congressmen." The same phrase is repeated again and 
again with a lack of originality which is somewhat distressing. I hope 
no Congressman has ever claimed a corner on this emotion. Certainly 
I do not think it is a Congress monopoly, and I would be glad to make 
a present of it to anyone who desired it. It is often enough the refuge 
of the opportunist and the careerist, and there are so many varieties of 
it to suit all tastes, all interests, all classes. If Judas were alive today, 
he would no doubt act in its name. Patriotism is no longer enough: 
we want something higher, wider, and nobler. 

Nor is moderation enough by itself. Restraint is good and is the 
measure of our culture, but behind that restraint there must be some 
thing to restrain and hold back. It has been, and is, man's destiny to 
control the elements, to ride the thunderbolt, to bring the raging fire 
and the rushing and tumbling waters to his use, but most difficult of 
all for him has been to restrain and hold in check the passions that 
consume him. So long as he will not master them, he cannot enter 
fully into his human heritage. But are we to restrain the legs that move 
not and the hands that are palsied? 

Most of those who have 'shaped Congress policy during the last 
seventeen years have come from the middle classes. Liberal or Con 
gressmen, they have come from the same class and have grown up in 
the same environment. Their social life and contacts and friendships 
have been similar, and there was little difference to begin with between 
the two varieties of bourgeois ideals that they professed. Temperamen 
tal and psychological differences began to separate them, and they began 
to look in different directions one group more toward the Govern 
ment and the rich, upper middle class, the other toward the lower 
middle classes. The ideology still remained the same, the objectives did 
not differ, but behind the second group there was now the push of 
larger numbers from the market place and the humbler professions as 
well as the unemployed intelligentsia. The tone changed; it was no 
longer respectful and polite, but strident and aggressive. Lacking 
strength to act effectively, some relief was found in strong language. 
Frightened by this new development, the moderate elements dropped 
out and sought safety in seclusion. Even so, the upper middle class was 

263 



strongly represented in the Congress, though in numbers the little 
bourgeoisie was predominant. They were drawn not only by the desire 
for success in their national struggle, but because they sought an inner 
satisfaction in that struggle. They sought thereby to recover their lost 
pride and self-respect, and to rehabilitate their shattered dignity. It was 
the usual nationalist urge and, though this was common to all, it was 
here that the temperamental differences between the Moderate and 
the Extremist became evident. Gradually the lower middle class began 
to dominate the Congress, and later the peasantry made their influence 
felt. 

As the Congress became more and more the representative of the 
rural masses, the gulf that separated it from the Liberals widened, and 
it became almost impossible for the Liberal to understand or appreciate 
the Congress viewpoint. It is not easy for the upper-class drawing room 
to understand the humble cottage or the mud hut. Yet, in spite of these 
differences, both the ideologies were nationalist and bourgeois; the va 
riation was one of degree, not of kind. In the Congress many people 
remained to the last who would have been quite at home in the Liberal 
group. 

For many generations the British treated India as a kind of enor 
mous country house (after the old English fashion) that they owned. 
They were the gentry owning the house and occupying the desirable 
parts of it, while the Indians were consigned to the servants' hall, the 
pantry, and the kitchen. As in every proper country house, there was 
a fixed hierarchy in those lower regions butler, housekeeper, cook, 
valet, maid, footman, etc. and strict precedence was observed among 
them. But between the upper and lower regions of the house there was, 
socially and politically, an impassable barrier. The fact that the British 
Government should have imposed this arrangement upon us was not 
surprising; but what does seem surprising is that we, or most of us, 
accepted it as the natural and inevitable ordering of our lives and 
destiny. We developed the mentality of a good country-house servant. 
Sometimes we were treated to a rare honor we were given a cup of 
tea in the drawing room. The height of our ambition was to become 
respectable and to be promoted individually to the upper regions. 
Greater than any victory of arms or diplomacy was this psychological 
triumph of the British in India. The slave began to think as a slave, 
as the wise men of old had said. 

Times have changed, and the country-house type of civilization is 
not accepted willingly now, either in England or India. But still there 

264 



remain people among us who desire to stick to the servants' hall and 
take pride in the gold braid and livery o their service. Others, like the 
Liberals, accept that country house in its entirety, admire its architec 
ture and the whole edifice, but look forward to replacing the owners, 
one by one, by themselves. They call this Indianization. For them the 
problem is one of changing the color of the administration, or at most 
having a new administration. They never think in terms of a new 
State. 

For them Swaraj means that everything continues as before, only 
with a darker shade. They can only conceive of a future in which they, 
or people like them, will play the principal role and take the place of 
the English high officials; in which there are the same types of services, 
government departments, legislatures, trade, industry with the Indian 
Civil Service at their jobs; the princes in their palaces, occasionally 
appearing in fancy dress or carnival attire with all their jewels glitter 
ing to impress their subjects; the landlords claiming special protection, 
and meanwhile harassing their tenants; the moneylender, with his 
moneybags, harassing both zamindar and tenant; the lawyer with his 
fees; and God in His heaven. 

Essentially their oudook is based on the maintenance of the status 
quo, and the changes they desire can almost be termed personal changes. 
And they seek to achieve these changes by a slow infiltration with the 
good will of the British. The whole foundation of their politics and 
economics rests on the continuance and stability of the British Empire, 
Looking on this Empire as unshakable, at least for a considerable time, 
they adapt themselves to it and accept not only its political and eco 
nomic ideology but also, to a large extent, its moral standards, which 
have all been framed to secure the continuance of British dominance. 

The Congress attitude differs fundamentally from this because it 
seeks a new State and not just a different administration. What that 
new State is going to be may not be quite clear to the average Con 
gressman, and opinions may differ about it. But it is common ground 
in the Congress (except perhaps for a moderate fringe) that present 
conditions and methods cannot and must not continue, and basic 
changes are essential. Herein lies the difference between Dominion 
status and independence. The former envisages the same old structure, 
with many bonds visible and invisible tying us to the British economic 
system; the latter gives us, or ought to give us, freedom to erect a new 
structure to suit our circumstances. 

It is not a question of an implacable and irreconcilable antagonism 

265 



to England and the English people, or the desire to break from them 
at all costs. It would be natural enough if there were bad blood between 
India and England after what has happened. "The clumsiness of power 
spoils the key and uses the pickax," says Tagore; the key to our hearts 
was destroyed long ago, and the abundant use of the pickax on us 
has not made us partial to the British. But, if we claim to serve the 
larger cause of India and humanity, we cannot afford to be carried 
away by our momentary passions. And, even if we were so inclined, 
the hard training which Gandhiji has given us for the last fifteen 
years would prevent us. I write this sitting in a British prison, and for 
months past my mind has been full of anxiety, and I have perhaps 
suffered more during this solitary imprisonment than I have done in 
jail before. Anger and resentment have often filled my mind at vari 
ous happenings, and yet, as I sit here and look deep into my mind 
and heart, I do not find any anger against England or the English peo 
ple. I dislike British imperialism, and I resent its imposition on India; 
I dislike the capitalist system; I dislike exceedingly and resent the way 
India is exploited by the ruling classes of Britain. But I do not hold 
England or the English people as a whole responsible for this; and, 
even if I did, I do not think it would make much difference, for it is 
a little foolish to lose one's temper at or to condemn a whole people. 
They are as much the victims of circumstances as we are. 

Personally, I owe too much to England in my mental make-up ever 
to feel wholly alien to her. And, do what I will, I cannot get rid of 
the habits of mind, and the standards and ways of judging other coun 
tries as well as life generally, which I acquired at school and college 
in England. My predilections (apart from the political ones) are in 
favor of England and the English people, and, if I have become what 
is called an uncompromising opponent of British rule in India, it is 
almost in spite of these. 

It is their rule, their domination, to which we object, and with which 
we cannot compromise willingly not the English people. Let us by 
all means have the closest contacts with the English and other foreign 
peoples. We want fresh air in India, fresh and vital ideas, healthy co 
operation; we have grown too musty with age. But, if the English 
come in the role of a tiger they can expect no friendship or co-operation. 
To the tiger of imperialism there will be only the fiercest opposition, 
and today our country has to deal with that ferocious animal. It may 
be possible to tame the wild tiger of the forest and to charm away his 
native ferocity, but there is no such possibility of taming capitalism and 

266 



imperialism when they combine and swoop down on an unhappy land. 

For anyone to say that he or his country will not compromise is, in 
a sense, a foolish remark, for life is always forcing us to compromise. 
When applied to another country or people, it is completely foolish. 
But there is truth in it when it is applied to a system or a particular 
set of circumstances, and then it becomes something beyond human 
power to accomplish. Indian freedom and British imperialism are two 
incompatibles, and neither martial law nor all the sugar coating in the 
world can make them compatible or bring them together. Only with 
the elimination of British imperialism from India will conditions be 
created which permit of real Indo-British co-operation. 

We are told that independence is a narrow creed in the modern 
world, which is increasingly becoming interdependent, and therefore 
in demanding independence we are trying to put the clock back. Lib 
erals and pacifists and even so-called socialists in Britain advance this 
plea and chide us for our narrow nationalism, and incidentally suggest 
to us that the way to a fuller national life is through the "British Com 
monwealth of Nations." It is curious how all roads in England 
liberalism, pacifism, socialism, etc. lead to the maintenance of the 
Empire. 

I do not know what India will be like or what she will do when she 
is politically free. But I do know that those of her people who stand 
for national independence today stand also for the widest internation 
alism. For a socialist, nationalism can have no meaning; but even many 
of the nonsocialists in the advanced ranks of the Congress are con 
firmed internationalists. If we claim independence today, it is with no 
desire for isolation. On the contrary, we are perfectly willing to sur 
render part of that independence, in common with other countries, to 
a real international order. Any imperial system, by whatever high- 
sounding name it may be called, is an enemy of such an order, and 
it is not through such a system that world co-operation or world peace 
can be reached. 

Recent developments have shown all over the world how the various 
imperialist systems are isolating themselves more and more by autarchy 
and economic imperialism. Instead of the growth of internationalism 
we see a reversal of the process. The reasons for this are not difficult to 
discover, and they indicate the growing weakness of the present eco 
nomic order. One of the results of this policy is that, while it produces 
greater co-operation within the area of autarchy, it also means isolation 
from the rest of the world. For India, as we have seen by the Ottawa 

267 



and other decisions, it has meant a progressive lessening of our ties and 
contacts with other countries. We have become, even more than we 
were, the hangers-on of British industry; and the dangers of this pol 
icy, apart from the immediate harm it has done in various ways, are 
obvious. Thus Dominion status seems to lead to isolation and not to 
wider international contacts. 

Names are apt to mislead, but the real question before us in India 
is whether we are aiming at a new State or merely at a new adminis 
tration. The Liberal answer is clear: they want the latter and nothing 
more. Not for them the full-blooded words: Power, Independence, 
Freedom, Liberty; they sound dangerous. 

This, then, is their objective, and this is to be reached not by "direct 
action" or any other form of aggressive action but by a display of 
"wisdom, experience, moderation, power of persuasion, quiet influ 
ence, and real efficiency." It is hoped that by our good behavior and 
our good work we shall ultimately induce our rulers to part with 
power. In other words, they resist us today because either they are 
irritated against us on account of our aggressive attitude, or they doubt 
our capacity, or both. This seems a rather na'ive analysis of imperial 
ism and the present situation. That brilliant English writer, Professor 
R. H. Tawney, has written an appropriate and arresting passage deal 
ing with the notion of gaining power in stages and with the co-opera 
tion of the ruling classes. He refers to the British Labour party, but 
his words are even more applicable to India, for in England they have 
at least democratic institutions, where the will of the majority can, in 
theory, make itself felt. Professor Tawney writes : 

"Onions can be eaten leaf by leaf, but you cannot skin a live tiger 
paw by paw; vivisection is its trade, and it does the skinning first. . . . 

"If there is any country where the privileged classes are simpletons, 
it is certainly not England. The idea that tact and amiability in pre 
senting the Labour party's case can hoodwink them into the belief 
that it is their case also, is as hopeless as an attempt to bluff a sharp 
solicitor out of a property of which he holds the title deeds. The plutoc 
racy consists of agreeable, astute, forcible, self-confident, and, when 
hard pressed, unscrupulous people, who know pretty well on which 
side their bread is buttered, and intend that the supply of butter shall 
not run short. ... If their position is seriously threatened, they will 
use every piece on the board, political and economic the House of 
Lords, the Crown, the Press, disaffection in the Army, financial crisis, 
international difficulties, and even, as newspaper attacks on the pound 

268 



in 1931 showed, the emigre trick of injuring one's country to protect 
one's pocket." 

In every democratic country today there is an argument going on 
as to whether radical economic changes can be brought about in the 
ordinary course through the constitutional machinery at their disposal. 
Many people are of opinion that this cannot be done, and some 
unusual and revolutionary method will have to be adopted. For our 
purpose in India the issue of this argument is immaterial, for we have 
no constitutional means of bringing about the changes we desire. 
There is no way out except by revolution or illegal action. What then 
is one to do? Give up all idea of change and resign oneself to fate? 

The position today in India is even more extraordinary. The Execu 
tive can and does prevent or restrict all manner of public activities. 
Any activity that is, in its opinion, dangerous for it is prohibited. Thus 
all effective public activity can be stopped. Submission to this means 
giving up all public work. That is an impossible position to take up. 

The withdrawal of civil disobedience by the Congress was naturally 
welcomed by the Liberals. It was also not surprising that they should 
take credit for their wisdom in having kept aloof from this "foolish 
and ill-advised movement." "Did we not say so?" they told us. It was 
a strange argument. When we stood up and put up a good fight, we 
were knocked down; therefore, the moral pointed out was that stand 
ing up is a bad thing. Crawling is best and safest. It is quite impos 
sible to be knocked down or to fall from that horizontal position. 



XL 

INDIA OLD AND NEW 

IT WAS NATURAL and inevitable that Indian nationalism should resent 
alien rule. And yet it was curious how large numbers of our intelli 
gentsia, to the end of the nineteenth century, accepted, consciously or 
unconsciously, the British ideology of empire. They built their own 
arguments on this, and only ventured to criticize some of its outward 
manifestations. History and economics and other subjects that were 
taught in the schools and colleges were written entirely from the 
British imperial viewpoint, and laid stress on our numerous failings 
in the past and present, and the virtues and high destiny of the British. 

269 



We accepted to some extent this distorted version, and, even when we 
resisted it instinctively, we were influenced by it. At first there was no 
intellectual escape from it, for we knew no other facts or arguments, 
and so we sought relief in religious nationalism, in the thought that at 
least in the sphere of religion and philosophy we were second to no 
other people. We comforted ourselves in our misfortune and degrada 
tion with the notion that though we did not possess the outward show 
and glitter of the West we had the real inner article, which was far 
more valuable and worth having. Vivekananda and others, as well as 
the interest of Western scholars in our old philosophies, gave us a 
measure of self-respect again and roused up our dormant pride in our 
past. 

Gradually we began to suspect and examine critically British state 
ments about our past and present conditions, but still we thought and 
worked within the framework of British ideology. If a thing was bad, 
it would be called "un-British"; if a Britisher in India misbehaved, the 
fault was his, not that of the system. But the collection of this critical 
material of British rule in India, in spite of the moderate outlook of 
the authors, served a revolutionary purpose and gave a political and 
economic foundation to our nationalism. Dadabhai Naoroji's Poverty 
and Un-British Rule in India, and books by Romesh Dutt and William 
Digby and others, thus played a revolutionary role in the development 
of our nationalist thought. Further researches in ancient Indian history 
revealed brilliant and highly civilized periods in the remote past, and 
we read of these with great satisfaction. We also discovered that the 
British record in India was very different from what we had been led 
to believe from their history books. 

Our challenge to the British version of history, economics, and 
administration in India grew, and yet we continued to function within 
the orbit of their ideology. That was the position of Indian nationalism 
as a whole at the turn of the century. That is still the position of the 
Liberal group and other small groups as well as a number of moderate 
Congressmen, who go forward emotionally from time to time, but 
intellectually still live in the nineteenth century. Because of that the 
Liberal is unable to grasp the idea of Indian freedom, for the two are 
fundamentally irreconcilable. He imagines that step by step he will go 
up to higher offices and will deal with fatter and more important files. 
The machinery of government will go on smoothly as before, only he 
will be at the hub, and somewhere in the background, without intrud 
ing themselves too much, will be the British Army to give him pro- 

270 



tection in case of need. That is his idea o Dominion status within the 
Empire. It is a naive notion impossible of achievement, for the price of 
British protection is Indian subjection. We cannot have it both ways, 
even if that was not degrading to the self-respect of a great country. 
Sir Frederick Whyte (no partisan of Indian nationalism) says in a 
recent book: 1 "He [the Indian] still believes that England will stand 
between him and disaster, and as long as he cherishes this delusion he 
cannot even lay the foundation of his own ideal of self-government." 
Evidently he refers to the Liberal or the reactionary and communal 
types of Indians, largely with whom he must have come into contact 
when he was president of the Indian Legislative Assembly. This is 
not the Congress belief, much less is it that of other advanced groups. 
They agree with Sir Frederick, however, that there can be no freedom 
till this delusion goes and India is left to face disaster, if that is her 
fate, by herself. The complete withdrawal of British military control 
of India will be the beginning of Indian freedom. 

It is not surprising that the Indian intelligentsia in the nineteenth 
century should have succumbed to British ideology; what is surprising 
is that some people should continue to suffer that delusion even after 
the stirring events and changes of the twentieth century. In the nine 
teenth century the British ruling classes were the aristocrats of the 
world, with a long record of wealth and success and power behind 
them. This long record and training gave them some of the virtues as 
well as failings of aristocracy. We in India can comfort ourselves with 
the thought that we helped substantially during the last century and 
three-quarters in providing the wherewithal and the training for this 
superior state. They began to think themselves as so many races and 
nations have done the chosen of God, and their Empire an earthly 
Kingdom of Heaven. If their special position was acknowledged and 
their superiority not challenged, they were gracious and obliging, pro 
vided that this did them no harm. But opposition to them became 
opposition to the divine order, and as such was a deadly sin which 
must be suppressed. 

If this was the general British attitude to the rest of the world, it was 
most conspicuous in India. There was something fascinating about the 
British approach to the Indian problem, even though it was singularly 
irritating. The calm assurance of always being in the right and of hav 
ing borne a great burden worthily, faith in their racial destiny and 
their own brand of imperialism, contempt and anger at the unbelievers 

1 Sir Frederick Whyte: The Future of East and West, 

271 



and sinners who challenged the foundations o the true faith there 
was something of the religious temper about this attitude. Like the 
Inquisitors of old, they were bent on saving us regardless of our 
desires in the matter. Incidentally they profited by this traffic in virtue, 
thus demonstrating the truth of the old proverb: "Honesty is the best 
policy." The progress of India became synonymous with the adaptation 
of the country to the imperial scheme and the fashioning of chosen 
Indians after the British mold. The more we accepted British ideals 
and objectives, the fitter we were for "self-government." Freedom 
would be ours as soon as we demonstrated and guaranteed that we 
would use it only in accordance with British wishes. 

Indians and Englishmen are, I am afraid, likely to disagree about 
the record of British rule in India, That is perhaps natural, but it does 
come as a shock when high British officials, including Secretaries of 
State for India, draw fanciful pictures of India's past and present and 
make statements which have no basis in fact. It is quite extraordinary 
how ignorant English people, apart from some experts and others, are 
about India. If facts elude them, how much more is the spirit of India 
beyond their reach? They seized her body and possessed her, but it 
was the possession of violence. They did not know her or try to know 
her. They never looked into her eyes, for theirs were averted and hers 
downcast through shame and humiliation. After centuries of contact 
they face each other, strangers still, full of dislike for each other. 

Yet India with all her poverty and degradation had enough of nobil 
ity and greatness about her; and, though she was overburdened with 
ancient tradition and present misery and her eyelids were a little 
weary, she had "a beauty wrought out from within upon the flesh, the 
deposit, little cell by cell, of strange thoughts and fantastic reveries and 
exquisite passions." Behind and within her battered body one could 
still glimpse a majesty of soul. Through long ages she had traveled 
and gathered much wisdom on the way, and trafficked with strangers 
and added them to her own big family, and witnessed days of glory 
and of decay, and suffered humiliation and terrible sorrow, and seen 
many a strange sight; but throughout her long journey she had clung 
to her immemorial culture, drawn strength and vitality from it, and 
shared it with other lands. Like a pendulum she had swung up and 
down; she had ventured with the daring of her thought to reach up 
to the heavens and unravel their mystery, and she had also had bitter 
experience of the pit of hell. Despite the woeful accumulations of 
superstition and degrading custom that had clung to her and borne 

272 



her down, she had never wholly forgotten the inspiration that some of 
the wisest of her children, at the dawn of history, had given her in the 
Upanishads. Their keen minds, ever restless and ever striving and 
exploring, had not sought refuge in blind dogma or grown compla 
cent in the routine observance of dead forms of ritual and creed. They 
had demanded not a personal relief from suffering in the present or a 
place in a paradise to come, but light and understanding: "Lead me 
from the unreal to the real, lead me from darkness to light, lead me 
from death to immortality." 2 In the most famous of the prayers recited 
daily even today by millions, the gayatri mantra, the call is for knowl 
edge, for enlightenment. 

Though often broken up politically, her spirit always guarded a 
common heritage, and in her diversity there was ever an amazing 
unity. Like all ancient lands she was a curious mixture of the good and 
bad, but the good was hidden and had to be sought after, while the 
odor of decay was evident, and her hot, pitiless sun gave full publicity 
to the bad. 

There is some similarity between Italy and India. Both are ancient 
countries with long traditions of culture behind them, though Italy is 
a newcomer compared to India, and India is a much vaster country. 
Both were split up politically, and yet the conception of Italia, like that 
of India, never died, and in all their diversity the unity was predomi 
nant. In Italy the unity was largely a Roman unity, for that great city 
had dominated the country and been the fount and symbol of unity. 
In India there was no such single center or dominant city, although 
Benares might well be called the Eternal City of the East, not only 
for India but also for Eastern Asia. But, unlike Rome, Benares never 
dabbled in empire or thought of temporal power. Indian culture was 
so widespread all over India that no part of the country could be called 
the heart of that culture. From Cape Comorin to Amaranath and 
Badrinath in the Himalayas, from Dwarka to Puri, the same ideas 
coursed; and, if there was a clash of ideas in one place, the noise of it 
soon reached distant parts of the country. 

Just as Italy gave the gift of culture and religion to Western Europe, 
India did so to Eastern Asia, though China was as old and venerable 
as India. And, even when Italy was lying prostrate politically, her life 
coursed through the veins of Europe. 

It was Metternich who called Italy a "geographical expression," and 
many a would-be Metternich has used that phrase for India; strangely 

1 Brihadaranyal^ Upanishad, i, 3, 27. 

273 



enough, there is a similarity even in their geographical positions in the 
two continents. More interesting is the comparison o England with 
Austria, for has not England of the twentieth century been compared 
to Austria of the nineteenth, proud and haughty and imposing still, 
but with the roots that gave strength shriveling up and decay eating 
its way into the mighty fabric? 

It is curious how one cannot resist the tendency to give an anthro 
pomorphic form to a country. Such is the force of habit and early asso 
ciations. India becomes Bharat Mata, Mother India, a beautiful lady, 
very old but ever youthful in appearance, sad-eyed and forlorn, cruelly 
treated by aliens and outsiders, and calling upon her children to pro 
tect her. Some such picture rouses the emotions of hundreds of thou 
sands and drives them to action and sacrifice. And yet India is in the 
main the peasant and the worker, not beautiful to look at, for poverty 
is not beautiful. Does the beautiful lady of our imaginations represent 
the bare-bodied and bent workers in the fields and factories? Or the 
small group of those who have from ages past crushed the masses and 
exploited them, imposed cruel customs on them and made many of 
them even untouchable? We seek to cover truth by the creatures of 
our imaginations and endeavor to escape from reality to a world of 
dreams. 

And yet, despite these different classes and their mutual conflicts, 
there was a common bond which united them in India, and one is 
amazed at its persistence and tenacity and enduring vitality. What was 
this strength due to? Not merely the passive strength and weight of 
inertia and tradition, great as these always are. There was an active 
sustaining principle, for it resisted successfully powerful outside influ 
ences and absorbed internal forces that rose to combat it. And yet with 
all its strength it could not preserve political freedom or endeavor to 
bring about political unity. These latter do not appear to have been 
considered worth much trouble; their importance was very foolishly 
ignored, and we have suffered for this neglect. Right through history 
the old Indian ideal did not glorify political and military triumph, and 
it looked down upon money and the professional money-making class. 
Honor and wealth did not go together, and honor was meant to go, at 
least in theory, to the men who served the community with little in the 
shape of financial reward. 

The old culture managed to live through many a fierce storm and 
tempest, but, though it kept its outer form, it lost its real content. 
Today it is fighting silently and desperately against a new and all- 

274 



powerful opponent the bania civilization of the capitalist West. It will 
succumb to this newcomer, for the West brings science, and science 
brings food for the hungry millions. But the West also brings an anti 
dote to the evils of this cut-throat civilization the principles of social 
ism, of co-operation, and service to the community for the common 
good. This is not so unlike the old Brahman ideal of service, but it 
means the brahmanization (not in the religious sense, of course) of all 
classes and groups and the abolition of class distinctions. It may be that 
when India puts on her new garment, as she must, for the old is torn 
and tattered, she will have it cut in this fashion, so as to make it con 
form both to present conditions and her old thought. The ideas she 
adopts must become racy to her soil. 



XLI 

THE RECORD OF BRITISH RULE 

WHAT HAS BEEN the record of British rule in India? I doubt if it is 
possible for any Indian or Englishman to take an objective and dis 
passionate view of this long record. And, even if this were possible, it 
would be still more difficult to weigh and measure the psychological 
and other immaterial factors. We are told that British rule "has given 
to India that which throughout the centuries she never possessed, a 
government whose authority is unquestioned in any part of the sub 
continent"; it has established the rule of law and a just and efficient 
administration; it has brought to India Western conceptions of parlia 
mentary government and personal liberties; and "by transforming 
British India into a single unitary state it has engendered amongst 
Indians a sense of political unity" and thus fostered the first beginnings 
of nationalism. 1 That is the British case, and there is much truth in 
it, though the rule of law and personal liberties have not been evident 
for many years. 

The Indian survey of this period lays stress on many other factors, 
and points out the injury, material and spiritual, that foreign rule has 
brought us. The viewpoint is so different that sometimes the very 
thing that is commended by the British is condemned by Indians. As 

1 Tlie quotations are from the Report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Indian 
Constitutional Reform (1934). 

2 75 



Dr. Ananda Coomaraswamy writes: "One of the most remarkable 
features of British rule in India is that the greatest injuries inflicted 
upon the Indian people have the outward appearance of blessings." 

As a matter of fact the changes that have taken place in India dur 
ing the last century or more have been world changes common to most 
countries in the East and West. The growth of industrialism in western 
Europe, and later on in the rest of the world, brought nationalism and 
the strong unitary state in its train everywhere. The British can take 
credit for having first opened India's window to the West and brought 
her one aspect of Western industrialism and science. But having done 
so they throttled the further industrial growth of the country till 
circumstances forced their hands. India was already the meeting place 
of two cultures, the western Asiatic culture of Islam and the eastern, 
her own product, which spread to the Far East. And now a third and 
more powerful impulse came from further west, and India became a 
focal point and a battleground for various old and new ideas. There 
can be no doubt that this third impulse would have triumphed and 
thus solved many of India's old problems, but the British, who had 
themselves helped in bringing it, tried to stop its further progress. 
They prevented our industrial growth and thus delayed our political 
growth, and preserved all the out-of-date feudal and other relics they 
could find in the country. They even froze up our changing and to 
some extent progressing laws and customs at the stage they found 
them, and made it difficult for us to get out of their shackles. It was 
not with their good will or assistance that the bourgeoisie grew in 
India. But after introducing the railway and other products of indus 
trialism they could not stop the wheel of change; they could only 
check it and slow it down, and this they did to their own manifest 
advantage. 

"On this solid foundation the majestic structure of the Government 
of India rests, and it can be claimed with certainty that in the period 
which has elapsed since 1858 when the Crown assumed supremacy 
over all the territories of the East India Company, the educational and 
material progress of India has been greater than it was ever within her 
power to achieve during any other period of her long and checkered 
history." 2 This statement is not so self-evident as it appears to be, and 
it has often been stated that literacy actually went down with the 
coming of British rule. But, even if the statement was wholly true, it 
amounts to a comparison of the modern industrial age with past ages. 

* Report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (1934). 

276 



In almost every country in the world the educational and material 
progress has been tremendous during the past century because of sci 
ence and industrialism, and it may be said with assurance of any such 
country that progress of this kind "has been greater than was ever 
within her power to achieve during any other period of her long and 
checkered history" though perhaps that country's history may not be 
a long one in comparison with Indian history. Are we needlessly can 
tankerous and perverse if we suggest that some such technical progress 
would have come to us anyhow in this industrial age, and even with 
out British rule ? And, indeed, if we compare our lot with many other 
countries, may we not hazard the guess that such progress might have 
been greater if we had not had to contend against a stifling of that 
progress by the British themselves? Railways, telegraphs, telephones, 
wireless, and the like are hardly tests of the goodness or beneficence of 
British rule. They were welcome and necessary, and, because the Brit 
ish happened to be the agents who brought them first, we should be 
grateful to them. But even these heralds of industrialism came to us 
primarily for the strengthening of British rule. They were the veins 
and arteries through which the nation's blood should have coursed, 
increasing its trade, carrying its produce, and bringing new life and 
wealth to its millions. It is true that in the long run some such result 
was likely, but they were designed and worked for another purpose 
to strengthen the imperial hold and to capture markets for British 
goods which they succeeded in achieving. I am all in favor of indus 
trialization and the latest methods of transport, but sometimes, as I 
rushed across the Indian plains, the railway, that life-giver, has almost 
seemed to me like iron bands confining and imprisoning India. 

The British conception of ruling India was the police conception of 
the State. Government's job was to protect the State and leave the 
rest to others. Their public finance dealt with military expenditure, 
police, civil administration, interest on debt. The economic needs of 
the citizens were not looked after, and were sacrificed to British inter 
ests. The cultural and other needs of the people, except for a tiny 
handful, were entirely neglected. The changing conceptions of public 
finance which brought free and universal education, improvement of 
public health, care of poor and feeble-minded, insurance of workers 
against illness, old age, unemployment, etc., in other countries, were 
almost entirely beyond the ken of the Government. It could not in 
dulge in these spending activities, for its tax system was most regres 
sive, taking a much larger proportion of small incomes than of the 

277 



larger ones, and its expenditure on its protective and administrative 
functions was terribly heavy and swallowed up most of the revenue. 

The outstanding feature of British rule was their concentration on 
everything that went to strengthen their political and economic hold 
on the country. Everything else was incidental. If they built up a pow 
erful central government and an efficient police force, that was an 
achievement for which they can take credit, but the Indian people can 
hardly congratulate themselves on it. Unity is a good thing, but unity 
in subjection is hardly a thing to be proud of. The very strength of a 
despotic government may become a greater burden for a people; and 
a police force, no doubt useful in many ways, can be, and has been 
often enough, turned against the very people it is supposed to protect. 

Britain's supremacy in India brought us peace, and India was cer 
tainly in need of peace after the troubles and misfortunes that followed 
the break-up of the Moghal empire. Peace is a precious commodity, 
necessary for any progress, and it was welcome to us when it came. 
But even peace can be purchased at too great a price, and we can have 
the perfect peace of the grave, and the absolute safety of a cage or of 
prison. Or peace may be the sodden despair of men unable to better 
themselves. The peace which is imposed by an alien conqueror has 
hardly the restful and soothing qualities o the real article. 

It is a futile task to consider the "is" and possibilities of history. 
I feel sure that it was a good thing for India to come in contact with 
the scientific and industrial West. Science was the great gift of the 
West; India lacked this, and without it she was doomed to decay. 
The manner of our contacts was fortunate, and yet, perhaps, only 
a succession of violent shocks could shake us out of our torpor. From 
this point of view the Protestant, individualistic, Anglo-Saxon English 
were suitable, for they were more different from us than most other 
Westerners, and could give us greater shocks. 

They gave us political unity, and that was a desirable thing; but 
whether we had this unity or not, Indian nationalism would have 
grown and demanded that unity. 

The political unity of India was achieved incidentally as a side 
product of the Empire's advance. In later years, when that unity allied 
itself to nationalism and challenged alien rule, we witnessed the delib 
erate promotion of disunity and sectarianism, formidable obstacles to 
our future progress. 

What a long time it is since the British came here, a century and 
three-quarters since they became dominant! They had a free hand, as 



despotic governments have, and a magnificent opportunity to mold 
India according to their desire. During these years the world has 
changed out of all recognition England, Europe, America, Japan. 
The insignificant American colonies bordering the Atlantic in the 
eighteenth century constitute today the wealthiest, the most powerful 
and technically the most advanced nation; the vast territories of the 
U.S.S.R., where till only yesterday the dead hand of the Tsar's govern 
ment suppressed and stifled all growth, now pulsate with a new life 
and build a new world before our eyes. There have been big changes 
in India also, and the country is very different from what it was in 
the eighteenth century railways, irrigation works, factories, schools 
and colleges, huge government offices, etc., etc. 

And yet, in spite of these changes, what is India like today ? A servile 
state, with its splendid strength caged up, hardly daring to breathe 
freely, governed by strangers from afar; her people poor beyond com 
pare, short-lived and incapable of resisting disease and epidemic; illiter 
acy rampant; vast areas devoid of all sanitary or medical provision; 
unemployment on a prodigious scale, both among the middle classes 
and the masses. Freedom, democracy, socialism, communism are, we 
are told, the slogans of impractical idealists, doctrinaires, or knaves; 
the test must be one of the well-being of the people as a whole. That 
is indeed a vital test, and by that test India makes a terribly poor show 
today. We read of great schemes of unemployment relief and the al 
leviation of distress in other countries; what of our scores of millions 
of unemployed and the distress that is widespread and permanent? 
We read also of housing schemes elsewhere; where are the houses of 
hundreds of millions of our people, who live in mud huts or have no 
shelter at all? May we not envy the lot of other countries where edu 
cation, sanitation, medical relief, cultural facilities, and production 
advance rapidly ahead, while we remain where we were, or plod wear 
ily along at the pace of a snail ? Russia in a brief dozen years of won 
derful effort has almost ended illiteracy in her vast territories and has 
evolved a fine and up-to-date system of education, in touch with the 
life of the masses. Backward Turkey, under the Ataturk, Mustapha 
Kemal's, leadership, has also made giant strides toward widespread 
literacy. 

Indians have been accused of talking too much and doing little. It 
is a just charge. But may we not express our wonder at the inexhausti 
ble capacity of the British for committees and commissions, each of 
which, after long labor, produces a learned report "a great State docu- 

279 



ment" which is duly praised and pigeonholed? And so we get the 
sensation of moving ahead, of progress, and yet have the advantage of 
remaining where we were. Honor is satisfied, and vested interests re 
main untouched and secure. Other countries discuss how to get on; 
we discuss checks and brakes and safeguards lest we go too fast. 

"The Imperial splendor became the measure of the people's poverty," 
so we are told (by the Joint Parliamentary Committee, 1934) of the 
Moghal times. It is a just observation, but may we not apply the same 
measure today? What of New Delhi today with its viceregal pomp 
and pageantry, and the provincial governors with all their ostentation ? 
And all this with a background of abject and astonishing poverty. The 
contrast hurts, and it is a little difficult to imagine how sensitive men 
can put up with it. India today is a poor and dismal sight behind all 
the splendors of the imperial frontage. There is a great deal of patch 
work and superficiality, and behind it the unhappy petty bourgeoisie, 
crushed more and more by modern conditions. Further back come the 
workers, living miserably in grinding poverty, and then the peasant, 
that symbol of India, whose lot it is to be "born to Endless Night." 

It would be absurd to cast the blame for all India's ills on the 
British. That responsibility must be shouldered by us, and we may not 
shirk it; it is unseemly to blame others for the inevitable consequences 
of our own weaknesses. An authoritarian system of government, and 
especially one that is foreign, must encourage a psychology of subservi 
ence and try to limit the mental outlook and horizon of the people. It 
must crush much that is finest in youth enterprise, spirit of adven 
ture, originality, "pep" and encourage sneakiness, rigid conformity, 
and a desire to cringe and please the bosses. Such a system does not 
bring out the real service mentality, the devotion to public service or 
to ideals; it picks out the least public-spirited persons whose sole objec 
tive is to get on in life. We see what a class the British attract to- 
themselves in India! Some of them are intellectually keen and capable 
of good work. They drift to government service or semigovernment 
service because of lack of opportunity elsewhere, and gradually they 
tone down and become just parts of the big machine, their minds 
imprisoned by the dull routine of work. They develop the qualities of 
a bureaucracy- "a competent knowledge of clerkship and the diplo 
matic art of keeping office." At the highest they have a passive devotion 
to the public service. There is, or can be, no flaming enthusiasm. That 
is not possible under a foreign government. 

But, apart from these, the majority of petty officials are not an admir- 

280 



able lot, for they have learned only to cringe to their superiors and 
bully their inferiors. The fault is not theirs. That is the training the 
system gives them. And if sycophancy and nepotism flourish, as they 
often do, is it to be wondered at? They have no ideals in service; the 
haunting fear of unemployment and consequent starvation pursues 
them, and their chief concern is to hold on to their jobs and get other 
jobs for their relatives and friends. Where the spy and that most odious 
of creatures, the informer, always hover in the background, it is not 
easy to develop the more desirable virtues in a people. 

Recent developments have made it even more difficult for sensitive, 
public-spirited men to join government service. The Government does 
not want them, and they do not wish to associate with it too closely, 
unless compelled by economic circumstance. 

But, as all the world knows, it is the white man who bears the bur 
den of Empire, not the brown. We have various imperial services to 
carry on the imperial tradition, and a sufficiency of safeguards to pro 
tect their special privileges all, we are told, in the interests of India. 
It is remarkable how the good of India seems to be tied up with the 
obvious interests and advancement of these services. If any privilege 
or prize post of the Indian Civil Service is taken away, we are told 
that inefficiency and corruption will result. If the reserved jobs for the 
Indian Medical Service are reduced, this becomes a "menace to India's 
health." And of course if the British element in the Army is touched, 
all manner of terrible perils confront us. 

I think there is some truth in this : that if the superior officials sud 
denly went away and left their departments in charge of their subordi 
nates, there would be a fall in efficiency. But that is because the whole 
system has been built this way, and the subordinates are not by any 
means the best men, nor have they ever been made to shoulder respon 
sibility. I feel convinced that there is abundant good material in India, 
and it could be available within a fairly short period if proper steps 
were taken. But that means a complete change in our governmental 
and social outlook. It means a new State. 

As it is, we are told that whatever changes in the constitutional ap 
paratus may come our way, the rigid framework of the great services 
which guard and shelter us will continue as before. Hierophants of 
the sacred mysteries of government, they will guard the temple and 
prevent the vulgar from entering its holy precincts. Gradually, as we 
make ourselves worthy of the privilege, they will remove the veils one 

281 



after another, till, in some future age, even the holy of holies stands 
uncovered to our wondering and reverent eyes. 

Of all these imperial services, the Indian Civil Service holds first 
place, and to it must largely go the credit or discredit for the function 
ing of government in India. We have been frequendy told of the many 
virtues of this Service, and its greatness in the imperial scheme has 
almost become a maxim. Its unchallenged position of authority in 
India with the almost autocratic power that this gives, as well as the 
praise and boosting which it receives in ample measure, cannot be 
wholly good for the mental equilibrium of any individual or group. 
With all my admiration for the Service, I am afraid I must admit that 
it is peculiarly susceptible, both individually and as a whole, to that old 
and yet somewhat modern disease, paranoia. 

It would be idle to deny the good qualities of the Indian Civil 
Service, for we are not allowed to forget them, but so much bunkum 
has been and is said about the Service that I sometimes feel that a 
little debunking would be desirable. The American economist, Veblen, 
has called the privileged classes the "kept classes." I think it would 
be equally true to call the Indian Civil Service, as well as the other 
imperial services, the "kept services." They are a very expensive luxury. 

It is perfectly true that the Service has, as a whole, kept up a certain 
standard, though that standard is necessarily one of mediocrity, and 
has occasionally thrown up exceptional men. More could hardly be 
expected of any such service. As a group their power is practically abso 
lute, subject only in theory to a control by the British Parliament. 
"Power corrupts," Lord Acton has told us, "and absolute power cor 
rupts absolutely." 

The members of the Indian Civil Service were intellectually and 
emotionally not prepared for the great changes taking place in India. 
They lived in a narrow, circumscribed world of their own Anglo- 
Indian which was neither England nor India. They had no apprecia 
tion of the forces at work in contemporary society. In spite of their 
amusing assumption of being the trustees and guardians of the Indian 
masses, they knew little about them and even less about the new 
aggressive bourgeoisie. They judged Indians from the sycophants and 
office seekers who surrounded them and dismissed others as agitators 
and knaves. Their knowledge of postwar changes all over the world, 
and especially in the economic sphere, was of the slightest, and they 
were too much in a rut to adjust themselves to changing conditions. 

282 



They did not realize that the order they represented was out of date 
under modern conditions. 

Yet that order will continue so long as British imperialism continues, 
and this is powerful enough still and has able, resourceful leaders. The 
British Government in India is like a tooth that is decaying but is still 
strongly imbedded. It is painful, but it cannot be easily pulled out. 
The pain is likely to continue, and even grow worse, till the tooth is 
taken out or falls out itself. 

The underlying assumption of the Indian Civil Service is that they 
discharge their duties most efficiently, and therefore they can lay every 
stress on their claims, which are many and varied. If India is poor, that 
is the fault of her social customs, her banias and moneylenders, and, 
above all, her enormous population. The greatest bania of all, the Brit 
ish Government in India, is conveniently ignored. And what they pro 
pose to do about this population I do not know, for in spite of a great 
deal of help received from famines, epidemics, and a high death rate 
generally, the population is still overwhelming. Birth control is pro 
posed, and I, for one, am entirely in favor of the spread of the knowl 
edge and methods of birth control. But the use of these methods itself 
requires a much higher standard of living for the masses, some meas 
ure of general education, and innumerable clinics all over the country. 
Under present conditions birth-control methods are completely out of 
reach for the masses. The middle classes can profit by them as, I 
believe, they are doing to a growing extent. 

But this argument of overpopulation is deserving of further notice. 
The problem today all over the world is not one of lack of food or lack 
of other essentials, but lack of capacity to buy food, etc., for those who 
are in need. Even in India, the food supply has increased and can 
increase more than proportionately to the population. 

Whenever India becomes free, and in a position to build her new 
life as she wants to, she will necessarily require the best of her sons 
and daughters for this purpose. Good human material is always rare, 
and in India it is rarer still because of our lack of opportunities under 
British rule. We shall want the help of many foreign experts in many 
departments of public activity, particularly in those which require spe 
cial technical and scientific knowledge. Among those who have served 
in the Indian Civil Service or other imperial services there will be 
many, Indians or foreigners, who will be necessary and welcome to the 
new order. But of one thing I am quite sure: that no new order can 
be built up in India so long as the spirit of the Indian Civil Service 

283 



pervades our administration and our public services. It will either 
succeed in crushing freedom or will be swept away itself. Only with 
one type of state is it likely to fit in, and that is the fascist type. 

Even more mysterious and formidable are the so-called Defense 
Services. We may not criticize them, we may not say anything about 
them, for what do we know about such matters? We must only pay 
and pay heavily without murmuring. In 1934 Sir Philip Chetwode, 
Commander-in-Chief in India, told Indian politicians, in pungent 
military language, to mind their own business and not interfere with 
his. Referring to the mover of an amendment to some proposition, he 
said: "Do he and his friends think that a war-worn and war-wise race 
like the British, who won their Empire at the point of the sword and 
have kept it by the sword ever since, are to be talked out of war wis 
dom which that experience brings to a nation by armchair critics. . . .?" 
He made many other interesting remarks, and we were informed, lest 
we might think that he had spoken in the heat of the moment, that 
he had carefully written out his speech and spoke from a manuscript. 

A politician and an armchair critic might wonder if the claims of 
eminent generals for freedom from interference are valid after the ex 
periences of the World War. They had a free field then to a large 
extent, and from all accounts they made a terrible mess of almost every 
thing in every army British, French, German, Austrian, Italian, Rus 
sian. Captain Liddell Hart, the distinguished British military historian 
and strategist, writes in his History of the World War that at one stage 
in the war while British soldiers fought the enemy British generals 
fought one another. 

Politicians, like all other people, err frequently, but democratic poli 
ticians have to be sensitive and responsive to men and events, and they 
usually realize their mistakes and try to repair them. The soldier is 
bred in a different atmosphere, where authority reigns and criticism 
is not tolerated. So he resents the advice of others, and, when he errs, 
he errs thoroughly and persists in error. For him the chin is more 
important than the mind or brain. In India we have the advantage 
of having produced a mixed type, for the civil administration itself 
has grown up and lives in a semimilitary atmosphere of authority and 
self-sufficiency, and possesses therefore to a great extent the soldier's 
chin and other virtues. 

We are told that the process of "Indianization" of the Army is being 
pushed on, and in another thirty years or more an Indian general 
might even appear on the Indian stage. It is possible that in not much 

284 



more than a hundred years the process of Indianization might be con 
siderably advanced. One is apt to wonder how, in a moment of crisis, 
England built up a mighty army of millions within a year or two. If 
it had possessed our mentors, perhaps it would have proceeded more 
cautiously and warily. It is possible, of course, that the war would have 
been over long before this soundly trained army was ready for it. 
One thinks also of the Russian Soviet armies growing out of almost 
nothing and facing and triumphing over a host of enemies, and today 
constituting one of the most efficient fighting machines in the world. 
They did not apparently possess "war-worn and war-wise" generals 
to advise them. 

What has been the record of British rule in India? Who are we to 
complain of its deficiencies when they were but the consequences of 
our own failings? If we lose touch with the river of change and enter a 
backwater, become self-centered and self-satisfied, and, ostrichlike, ig 
nore what happens elsewhere, we do so at our peril. The British came 
to us on the crest of a wave of new impulse in the world, and repre 
sented mighty historic forces which they themselves hardly realized. 
Are we to complain of the cyclone that uproots us and hurls us about, 
or the cold wind that makes us shiver ? Let us have done with the past 
and its bickering and face the future. To the British we must be grate 
ful for one splendid gift of which they were the bearers, the gift of 
science and its rich offspring. It is difficult, however, to forget or view 
with equanimity the efforts of the British Government in India to en 
courage the disruptive obscurantist, reactionary, sectarian, and oppor 
tunist elements in the country. Perhaps that too is a needed test and 
challenge for us, and, before India is reborn, it will have to go through 
again and again the fire that cleanses and tempers and burns up the 
weak, the impure, and the corrupt. 



XLII 

A CIVIL MARRIAGE AND A QUESTION OF SCRIPT 

AFTER SPENDING ABOUT a week in Poona and Bombay in the middle of 
September 1933, I returned to Lucknow. My mother was still in hos 
pital there and improving very slowly. Kamala was also in Lucknow, 

285 



trying to attend to her, although she was not very well herself. My 
sisters used to come over from Allahabad for the week ends. I remained 
in Lucknow for two or three weeks, and I had more leisure there than 
I was likely to have in Allahabad, my chief occupation being visits to 
the hospital twice daily. I utilized my spare hours in writing some 
articles for the press, and these were widely published all over the 
country. A series of articles entitled "Whither India?" in which I had 
surveyed world affairs in relation to the Indian situation, attracted 
considerable attention. I learned later that these articles were even 
reproduced in Persian translations in Teheran and Kabul. There was 
nothing novel or original in these articles for anyone in touch with 
recent developments and modern Western thought. But in India our 
people had been too engrossed in their domestic troubles to pay much 
attention to what was happening elsewhere. The reception given to 
my articles, as well as many other indications, showed that they were 
developing a wider outlook. 

My mother was getting very tired of being in hospital, and we de 
cided to take her back to Allahabad. One of the reasons for this was 
my sister Krishna's engagement, which had just been announced. We 
wanted to have the marriage as soon as possible, before I was suddenly 
removed to prison again. I had no notion how long I would be allowed 
to remain out, as civil disobedience was still the official program of 
the Congress, while the Congress itself and scores of other organiza 
tions were illegal. 

We fixed the marriage for the third week of October in Allahabad. 
It was to be a civil ceremony. I was glad of this, though as a matter 
of fact we had no choice in the matter. The marriage was between 
two different castes, Brahman and non-Brahman, and under pres 
ent British Indian law no religious ceremony had validity for such a 
marriage. Fortunately a recently passed Civil Marriage Act came to our 
rescue. 

There was no fuss about my sister's wedding; it was a very simple 
affair. Ordinarily I dislike the fuss attendant on Indian marriages. In 
view of my mother's illness and, even more, the fact that civil disobedi 
ence was still going on and many of our colleagues were in prison, 
anything in the nature of show was singularly out of place. 

The little invitation we issued for the wedding was written in Hin 
dustani in the Latin script. Gandhiji did not approve of this. I did 
not use the Latin script because I had become a convert to it, although 
it had long attracted me. Its success in Turkey and Central Asia had 

286 



impressed me, and the obvious arguments in its favor were weighty. 
But even so I was not convinced, and even if I had been convinced, I 
knew well that it did not stand the faintest chance of being adopted 
in present-day India. There would be the most violent opposition to 
it from all groups, nationalist, religious, Hindu, Moslem, old and new. 
And I feel that the opposition would not be merely based on emotion. 
A change of script is a very vital change for any language with a rich 
past, for a script is a most intimate part of its literature. 

I have no doubt whatever that Hindustani is going to be the com 
mon language of India. Indeed it is largely so today for ordinary pur 
poses. Its progress has been hampered by foolish controversies about 
the script. An effort must be made to discourage the extreme tenden 
cies and develop a middle literary language, on the lines of the spoken 
language in common use. With mass education this will inevitably 
take place. 

Some people imagine that English is likely to become the lingua 
jranca of India. That seems to me a fantastic conception, except in 
respect of a handful of upper-class intelligentsia. It has no relation to 
the problem of mass education and culture. It may be, as it is partly 
today, that English will become increasingly a language used for 
technical, scientific, and business communications, and especially for 
international contacts. It is essential for many of us to know foreign 
languages in order to keep in touch with world thought and activities, 
and I should like our universities to encourage the learning of other 
languages besides English French, German, Russian, Spanish, Italian. 
This does not mean that English should be neglected, but, if we are 
to have a balanced view of the world, we must not confine ourselves 
to English spectacles. We have already become sufficiendy lopsided in 
our mental outlook because of this concentration on one aspect and 
ideology, and even the most rabid of our nationalists hardly realize 
how much they are cribbed and confined by the British outlook in 
relation to India. 



XLIII 

COMMUNALISM AND REACTION 

ABOUT THE TIME of my sister's wedding came news of Vallabhbhai J. 
PatePs death in Europe. He had long been ailing, and it was because 
of his ill-health that he had been released from prison in India. His 

287 



passing away was a painful event, and the thought of our veteran 
leaders' leaving us in this way, one after another, in the middle of our 
struggle, was an extraordinarily depressing one. Many tributes were 
paid to Vallabhbhai, and most of these laid stress on his ability as a 
parliamentarian and his success as president of the Assembly. This was 
perfectly true, and yet this repetition irritated me. Was there any lack 
of good parliamentarians in India or of people who could fill the 
speaker's chair with ability? That was the one job for which our 
lawyer's training had fitted us. Vallabhbhai had been something much 
more than that he had been a great and indomitable fighter for India's 
freedom. 

During my visit to Benares in November I was invited to address 
the students of the Hindu University. I gladly accepted this invitation 
and addressed a huge gathering presided over by Pandit Madan Mo 
han Malaviya, the Vice-Chancellor. In the course of my speech I had 
much to say about communalism, and I denounced it in forcible lan 
guage, and especially condemned the activities of the Hindu Maha- 
sabha. This was not exactly a premeditated attack, but for a long time 
past my mind had been full of resentment at the increasingly reaction 
ary efforts of the communalists of all groups; and, as I warmed up 
to my subject, some of this resentment came out. Deliberately I laid 
stress on the reactionary character of the Hindu communalists, for 
there was no point in my criticizing Moslems before a Hindu audi 
ence. At the moment, it did not strike me that it was not in the best 
of taste to criticize the Hindu Mahasabha at a meeting presided over 
by Malaviyaji, who had long been one of its pillars. I did not think 
of this, as he had not had much to do with it lately, and it almost 
seemed that the new aggressive leaders of the Mahasabha had pushed 
him out. 

My Benares speech, briefly reported, created an uproar. Used as I 
was to such outcries, I was quite taken aback by the vehemence of 
the attack of the Hindu Mahasabha leaders. These attacks were largely 
personal and seldom touched the point at issue. It was a hornets' nest, 
and, though I was used to hornets, it was no pleasure to enter into 
controversies which degenerated into abuse. But now I had no choice, 
and I wrote what I considered a reasoned article on Hindu and Mos 
lem communalism, showing how in neither case was it even bona fide 
communalism, but was political and social reaction hiding behind 
the communal mask. 

I was very much heartened, not only by the reception of all these 

288 



articles, but by the visible effect they were producing on people who 
tried to think. My object was to point out that the communal leaders 
were allied to the most reactionary elements in India and England 
and were in reality opposed to political, and even more so to social, 
advance. All their demands had no relation whatever to the masses. 
It was my intention to carry on with this reasoned attack when prison 
claimed me again. 

It is interesting to trace British policy since the Rising o 1857 in its 
relation to the communal question. Fundamentally and inevitably it 
has been one of preventing the Hindu and Moslem from acting to 
gether, and of playing off one community against another. After 1857 
the heavy hand of the British fell more on the Moslems than on the 
Hindus. They considered the Moslems more aggressive and militant, 
possessing memories of recent rule in India, and therefore more dan 
gerous. The Moslems had also kept away from the new education 
and had few jobs under the Government. 

The new nationalism then grew up from above the upper-class, 
English-speaking intelligentsia and this was naturally confined to the 
Hindus, for the Moslems were educationally very backward. The 
Government encouraged the Moslems more to keep them away from 
the new nationalist platform. In this task they were helped by an out 
standing personality Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. Like many of his con 
temporaries, he was a great admirer of the British, and a visit to 
Europe seems to have had a most powerful effect on him. Visiting 
England in 1869, he wrote letters home giving his impressions. In one 
of these he stated: "All good things, spiritual and worldly, which 
should be found in man, have been bestowed by the Almighty on 
Europe, and especially on England." * 

Greater praise no man could give to the British and to Europe, and 
it is obvious that Sir Syed was tremendously impressed. Perhaps also 
he used strong language and heightened the contrasts in order to shake 
up his own people out of their torpor and induce them to take a step 
forward. He was convinced that without Western education his com 
munity would become more and more backward and powerless. Eng 
lish education meant Government jobs, security, influence, honor. So 
to this education he turned all his energy, trying to win over his 
community to his way of thinking. He wanted no diversions or dis 
tractions. The beginnings of a new nationalism, sponsored by the Hindu 
bourgeoisie, seemed to him to offer such a distraction, and he opposed 
1 This quotation has been taken from Hans Kohn's History of Nationalism in the East. 

289 



it. He was not going to risk the full co-operation of the Government 
in his educational plans by any premature step. So he turned his back 
on the infant National Congress, and the British Government were 
only too willing to encourage this attitude. 

Sir Syed's decision to concentrate on Western education for Moslems 
was undoubtedly a right one. Without that they could not have played 
any effective part in the building up of Indian nationalism of the 
new type, and they would have been doomed to play second fiddle 
to the Hindus with their better education and far stronger economic 
position. Sir Syed's activities, therefore, although seemingly very mod 
erate, were in the right revolutionary direction. 

His dominating and forceful personality impressed itself on the 
Indian Moslems, and the Aligarh College became the visible emblem 
of his hopes and desires. His message was appropriate and necessary 
when it came, but it could not be the final ideal of a progressive com 
munity. It is possible that, had he lived a generation later, he would 
himself have given another orientation to that message. Aligarh Col 
lege did fine work, produced a large number of competent men, and 
changed the whole tone of the Moslem intelligentsia, but still it could 
not wholly get out of the framework in which it was built a feudal 
spirit reigned over it, and the goal of the average student's ambition 
was government service. 

The Indian Moslems had not wholly recovered from the cramping 
effects of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan's political message when the events 
of the early years of the twentieth century helped the British Govern 
ment to widen the breach between them and the nationalist move 
ment, now clamant and aggressive. Sir Valentine Chirol wrote in 1910 
in his Indian Unrest: "It may be confidently asserted that never before 
have the Mohammedans of India as a whole identified their interests 
and their aspirations so closely as at the present day with the consolida 
tion and permanence of British rule." Political prophecies are danger 
ous. Within five years after Sir Valentine wrote, the Moslem intelli 
gentsia was trying hard to break through from the fetters that kept it 
back and to range itself beside the Congress. Within a decade the 
Indian Moslems seemed to have outstripped the Congress and were 
actually giving the lead to it. But these ten years were momentous 
years, and the Great War had come and gone and left a broken-down 
world as a legacy. 

And yet Sir Valentine had superficially every reason to come to the 
conclusion he did. The Aga Khan had emerged as the leader of the 

290 



Moslems, and that fact alone showed that they still clung to their 
feudal traditions, for the Aga Khan was no bourgeois leader. He was 
an exceedingly wealthy prince and the religious head of a sect, and 
from the British point of view he was very much a persona gratd 
because of his close association with the British ruling cksses. Sir 
Valentine Chirol tells us that the Aga Khan impressed upon Lord 
Minto, the Viceroy, "the Mohammedan view of the political situation 
created by the partition of Bengal, lest political concessions should be 
hastily made to the Hindus which would pave the way for the ascend 
ency of a Hindu majority equally dangerous to the stability of British 
rule and to the interests of the Mohammedan minority whose loyalty 
was beyond dispute." 

But behind this superficial lining up with the British Government 
other forces were working. Inevitably the new Moslem bourgeoisie 
was feeling more and more dissatisfied with existing conditions and 
was being drawn toward the nationalist movement. The Aga Khan 
himself had to take notice of this and to warn the British in character 
istic language. He wrote in the Edinburgh Review of January 1914 
(that is, long before the war) advising the Government to abandon 
the policy of separating Hindus from Moslems, and to rally the mod 
erate of both creeds in a common camp so as to provide a counterpoise 
to the radical nationalist tendencies of young India both Hindu and 
Moslem. 

But the Aga Khan or the British Government could not stop the 
inevitable drift of the Moslem bourgeoisie toward nationalism. The 
World War hastened the process, and, as new leaders arose, the Aga 
Khan seemed to retire into the background. Gandhiji swept most of 
these leaders and the Moslems generally into his nonco-operation 
movement, and they played a leading part in the events of 1919-23. 

Then came the reaction, and communal and backward elements, 
both among the Hindus and the Moslems, began to emerge from their 
enforced retirement. The outstanding fact seems to me how, on both 
sides, the communal leaders represent a small upper-class reactionary 
group, and how these people exploit and take advantage of the relig 
ious passions of the masses for their own ends. 

Latterly there has been an interesting development in the speeches 
and statements of some of the Moslem communal leaders. This has no 
real importance, but I doubt if many people think so; nevertheless it is 
significant of the mentality of communalism, and a great deal of prom 
inence has been given to it. Stress has been laid on the "Moslem 

291 



nation" in India, on "Moslem culture/' on the utter incompatibility of 
Hindu and Moslem "cultures." The inevitable deduction from this is 
(although it is not put baldly) that the British must remain in India 
for ever and ever to hold tie scales and mediate between the two 
"cultures." 

A few Hindu communal leaders think exactly on the same lines, 
with this difference, however, that they hope that, being in a majority, 
their brand of "culture" will ultimately prevail. 

Hindu and Moslem "cultures" and the "Moslem nation"- how these 
words open out fascinating vistas of past history and present and future 
speculation! The Moslem nation in India a nation within a nation, 
and not even compact, but vague, spread out, indeterminate. Politically, 
the idea is absurd; economically it is fantastic; it is hardly worth con 
sidering. To talk of a "Moslem nation," therefore, means that there is 
no nation at all but a religious bond; it means that no nation in the 
modern sense must be allowed to grow; it means that modern civili 
zation should be discarded and we should go back to the medieval 
ways; it means either autocratic government or a foreign government; 
it means, finally, just nothing at all except an emotional state of mind 
and a conscious or unconscious desire not to face realities, especially 
economic realities. Emotions have a way of upsetting logic, and we 
may not ignore them simply because they seem so unreasonable. But 
this idea of a Moslem nation is the figment of a few imaginations only, 
and, but for the publicity given to it by the press, few people would 
have heard of it. And, even if many people believed in it, it would 
still vanish at the touch of reality. 

But what is this "Moslem culture"? Is it a kind of racial memory of 
the great deeds of the Arabs, Persians, Turks, etc.? Or language? Or 
art and music? Or customs? I do not remember any one referring to 
present-day Moslem art or Moslem music. The two languages which 
have influenced Moslem thought in India are Arabic and Persian, 
especially the latter. But the influence of Persian has no element of 
religion about it. The Persian language and many Persian customs and 
traditions came to India in the course of thousands of years and 
impressed themselves powerfully all over north India. Persia was the 
France of the East, sending its language and culture to all its neigh 
bors. That is a common and precious heritage for all of us in India. 

I have tried hard to understand what this "Moslem culture" is, but I 
confess that I have not succeeded. I find a tiny handful of middle-class 
Moslems as well as Hindus in north India influenced by the Persian 

292 



language and traditions. The Moslem peasantry and industrial workers 
are hardly distinguishable from the Hindu. 

I must say that those Hindus and Moslems who are always looking 
backward, always clutching at things which are slipping away from 
their grasp, are a singularly pathetic sight. I do not wish to damn the 
past or to reject it, for there is so much that is singularly beautiful in 
our past. That will endure, I have no doubt. But it is not the beautiful 
that these people clutch at, but something that is seldom worth while 
and is often harmful. 

If progress consists in the individual's taking a broader view of what 
constitutes politics, our communalists as well as our Government have 
deliberately and consistently aimed at the opposite of this the narrow 
ing of this view. 



XLIV 

IMPASSE AND EARTHQUAKE 

THE POSSIBILITY OF my rearrest and conviction always hung over me. 
It was, indeed, more than a possibility when the land was ruled by 
ordinances and the like and Congress itself was an illegal organization. 
Constituted as the British Government was, and constituted as I was, 
my suppression seemed inevitable. This ever-present prospect influ 
enced my work. I could not settle down to anything, and I was in a 
hurry to get through as much as possible. 

Yet I had no desire to invite arrest, and to a large extent I avoided 
activities which might lead to it. Invitations came to me from many 
places in the province and outside to undertake a tour. I refused them, 
for any such speaking tour could only be a raging campaign which 
would be abruptly ended. There was no halfway house for me then. 
When I visited any place for some other object to confer with 
Gandhiji and the Working Committee members I addressed public 
meetings and spoke freely. In Jubbulpore we had a great meeting and 
a very impressive procession; in Delhi the gathering was one of the 
biggest I had seen there. Indeed, the very success of these meetings 
made it clear that the Government would not tolerate their frequent 
repetition. In Delhi, soon after the meeting, there was a very strong 
rumor of my impending arrest, but I survived and returned to Alla- 

2 93 



habad, breaking journey at Aligarh to address the Moslem university 
students there. 

Twice, during those months, the members of the Working Com 
mittee met together to consider the all-India situation. The Committee 
itself was not functioning, not so much because it was an illegal body 
but because, at Gandhiji's instance after Poona, all Congress com 
mittees and offices had been suspended. I happened to occupy a pecul 
iar position as, on coming out of jail, I refused to join this self-denying 
ordinance and insisted on calling myself the general secretary of the 
Congress. But I functioned in the air. There was no proper office, no 
staff, no acting president; and Gandhiji, though available for consulta 
tion, was busy with one of his tremendous all-India tours, this time for 
Harijan work. We managed to catch him during his tour at Jubbul- 
pore and Delhi and held our consultations with Working Committee 
members. They served to bring out clearly the differences between 
various members. There was an impasse, and no way out of it agree 
able to everybody. Gandhiji was the deciding factor between those who 
wanted to withdraw civil disobedience and those who were against 
this. As he was then in favor of the latter course, matters continued as 
before. 

Meanwhile I continued sending articles and statements to the press. 
To some extent I had to tone down my writings, for they were written 
with a view to publication, and there was the censor and various laws 
whose octopuslike tentacles reached far. Even if I was prepared to take 
risks, the printers, publishers, and editors were not. On the whole the 
newspapers were good to me and stretched many a point in my favor. 
But not always. Sometimes statements and passages were suppressed, 
and once a whole long article, over which I had taken some pains, 
never saw the light of day. When I was in Calcutta in January 1934, 
the editor of one of the leading dailies came to see me. He told me that 
he had sent one of my statements to the editor-in-chief of all Calcutta 
newspapers for his opinion, and, as the editor-in-chief had disapproved 
of it, it had not been published. The "editor-in-chief" was the Govern 
ment press censor for Calcutta. 

In some of my press interviews and statements I ventured to criticize 
forcibly some groups and individuals. This was resented, partly because 
of the idea, which Gandhiji had helped to spread, that Congress could 
be attacked without any danger of its hitting back. 

The effect of my socialist propaganda upset even some of my col 
leagues of the Working Committee. They would have put up with me 

294 



without complaint, as they had done for several years during which I 
had been carrying on this propaganda, but I was now frightening to 
some extent the vested interests in the country, and my activities could 
no longer be called innocuous. I knew that some of my colleagues 
were no socialists, but I had always thought that, as a member of the 
Congress Executive, I had perfect freedom to carry on socialist propa 
ganda without committing the Congress to it. The realization that 
some members of the Working Committee did not think that I had 
that freedom came as a surprise. I was putting them in a false position, 
and they resented it. But what was I to do ? I was not going to give up 
what I considered the most important part of my work. I would much 
rather resign from the Working Committee if there was a conflict 
between the two. But how could I resign when the Committee was 
illegal and was not even functioning properly? 

This difficulty faced me again later I think it was toward the end 
of December when Gandhiji wrote to me from Madras. He sent me 
a cutting from the Madras Mail containing an interview he had given. 
The interviewer had asked him about me, and he had replied almost 
apologizing for my activities and expressing his faith in my rectitude: 
I would not commit the Congress to these novel ways. I did not par 
ticularly fancy this reference to me, but what upset me much more was 
Gandhi ji's defense, further on in the interview, of the big zamindari 
system. He seemed to think that this was a very desirable part of rural 
and national economy. This was a great surprise to me, for the big 
zamindaris and taluks have very few defenders today. All over the 
world they have been broken up, and even in India most people recog 
nize that they cannot last long. Even talukdars and zamindars would 
welcome an end of the system, provided, of course, they got sufficient 
compensation therefor. The system is indeed sinking of its own weight. 
And yet Gandhiji was in favor of it and talked of trusteeship and the 
like. How very different was his outlook from mine, I thought again, 
and I wondered how far I could co-operate with him in future. Must 
I continue to remain in the Working Committee? There was no way 
out just then, and a few weeks later the question became irrelevant 
because of my return to prison. 

My domestic affairs took up a lot of my time. My mother's health 
continued to improve, but very slowly. She was still bedridden, but she 
seemed to be out of danger. I turned to my financial affairs, which had 
been long neglected and were in a muddle. We had been spending 
much more than we could afford, and there seemed to be no obvious 

295 



way of reducing our expenditure. I was not particularly anxious about 
making both ends meet. I almost looked forward to the time when I 
would have no money left. Money and possessions are useful enough 
in the modern world, but often they become a burden for one who 
wants to go on a long journey. It is very difficult for moneyed people 
to take part in undertakings which involve risk; they are always afraid 
of losing their goods and chattels. What is the good of money or prop 
erty if the Government can take possession of it when it chooses, or 
even confiscate it? So I almost wished to get rid of what little I had. 
Our needs were few, and I felt confident of my ability to earn enough. 
My chief concern was that my mother, in the evening of her life, 
should not suffer discomforts or any marked lowering of the standard 
of living. I was also anxious that my daughter's education should not 
be interfered with, and this, according to my thinking, involved a stay 
in Europe. Apart from this, neither my wife nor I had any special 
need for money. Or so we thought, being unused to the real lack of it. 
I am quite sure that, should the time come when we lack money, we 
shall not be happy about it. One extravagance which I have kept up 
will be hard to give up, and this is the buying of books. 

To improve the immediate financial situation we decided to sell off 
my wife's jewelry, the silver and other similar articles that we pos 
sessed, as well as many cartloads of odds and ends. Kamala did not like 
the idea of parting with her jewelry, although she had not worn any 
of it for a dozen years and it had lain in the bank. She had looked 
forward to handing it on to our daughter. 

It was January 1934. Arrests of our workers continued in the villages 
of the Allahabad district. January 26 Independence Day was coming 
and it could not be ignored. But who was to give the lead? And what 
was the lead to be? There was no one besides me who was function 
ing, even in theory, as an official of the All-India Congress. I consulted 
some friends, and almost all agreed that something should be done, 
but there was no agreement as to what this something should be. I 
found a general tendency to avoid any action which might lead to 
arrests on a large scale. Eventually I issued a brief appeal for the 
appropriate celebration of Independence Day, the manner of doing so 
to be decided by each local area for itself. In Allahabad we planned a 
fairly widespread celebration all over the district. 

We felt that the organizers of this Independence Day celebration 
would be arrested on that day. Before I went back to prison again I 
wanted to pay a visit to Bengal. This was partly to meet old colleagues 

296 



there, but really it was to be a gesture in the nature of tribute to the 
people of Bengal for their extraordinary sufferings during the past 
few years. 

I had to go to Calcutta with Kamala to consult our doctors there 
about her treatment. She had been far from well, but we had both 
tried to overlook this to some extent and postpone recourse to a treat 
ment which might involve a long stay in Calcutta or elsewhere. We 
wanted to be together as much as possible during my brief period out 
side prison. After I went back to jail, I thought, she would have plenty 
of time for doctors and treatment. Now that arrest seemed near, I 
decided to have these consultations at least in my presence in Calcutta; 
the rest could be attended to later. 

So we decided to go to Calcutta, Kamala and I, on January 15. We 
wanted to return in good time for our Independence Day meetings. 

It was the afternoon of January 15, 1934. I was standing in the ve 
randa of our house in Allahabad addressing a group of peasants. The 
annual Magh Mela had begun, and we had crowds of visitors all day. 
Suddenly I became unsteady on my feet and could hardly keep my 
balance. I clung on to a column near by. Doors started banging, and a 
rumbling noise came from the adjoining Swaraj Bhawan, where many 
of the tiles were sliding down the roof. Being unaccustomed to earth 
quakes, I did not know at first what was happening, but I soon real 
ized it. I was rather amused and interested at this novel experience, 
and I continued my talk to the peasants and began telling them about 
the earthquake. My old aunt shouted to me from some distance to run 
out of the building. The idea struck me as absurd. I did not take the 
earthquake seriously, and in any event I was not going to leave my 
bedridden mother upstairs, and my wife, who was probably packing, 
also upstairs and seek safety for myself. For what seemed quite an 
appreciable time the shocks continued and then passed off. They pro 
vided a few minutes' conversation and soon were almost forgotten. 
We did not know then, nor could we guess, what those two or three 
minutes had meant to millions in Behar and elsewhere. 

That evening Kamala and I left for Calcutta, and, all unknowing, 
we were carried by our train that night through the southern earth 
quake area. The next day there was litde news in Calcutta about the 
disaster. The day after bits of news began to come in. On the third day 
we began to have a faint notion of the calamity. 

We spent three and a half days in Calcutta, and during this period I 

297 



addressed three public meetings. As I had done before in Calcutta, I 
condemned and argued against terroristic acts, and then I passed on to 
the methods that the Government had adopted in Bengal. I spoke from 
a full heart, for I had been greatly moved by accounts of occurrences 
in the province. What pained me most was the manner in which 
human dignity had been outraged by indiscriminate suppression of 
whole populations. The political problem, urgent as it was, took second 
place before this human problem. These three speeches of mine formed 
the three counts in the charge against me in my subsequent trial in 
Calcutta. I was later sentenced on that charge. 

From Calcutta we went to Santiniketan to pay a visit to the poet, 
Rabindranath Tagore. It was always a joy to meet him and, having 
come so near, we did not wish to miss him. I had been to Santiniketan 
twice before. It was Kamala's first visit, and she had come especially 
to see the place, as we were thinking of sending our daughter there. 
Indira was going to appear for her matriculation soon afterward, and 
the problem of her future education was troubling us. I was wholly 
against her joining the regular official or semiofficial universities, for I 
disliked them. The whole atmosphere that envelops them is official, 
oppressive, and authoritarian. They have no doubt produced fine men 
and women in the past, and they will continue to do so. But these few 
exceptions cannot save the universities from the charge of suppressing 
and deadening the fine instincts of youth. Santiniketan offered an 
escape from this dead hand, and so we fixed upon it, although in some 
ways it was not so up to date and well-equipped as the other uni 
versities. 

On our way back we stopped at Patna to discuss with Rajendra 
Babu the problem of earthquake relief. He had just been discharged 
from prison, and, inevitably, he had taken the lead in unofficial relief 
work. Our arrival was unexpected, for none of our telegrams had been 
delivered. The house where we intended staying with Kamala's 
brother was in ruins; it was a big double-storied brick structure. So, 
like many others, we lived in the open. 

The next day I paid a visit to Muzaffarpur. It was exactly seven days 
after the earthquake, and little had so far been done to remove the 
debris, except from some of the main streets. As these streets were 
cleaned, corpses were being discovered, some in curiously expressive 
attitudes, as if trying to ward off a falling wall or roof. The ruins were 
an impressive and terrifying sight. The survivors were thoroughly 
shaken up and cowed by their nerve-racking experiences. 

298 



We returned to Allahabad, and collections of funds and materials 
were immediately organized, and all of us, of the Congress or out of it, 
took this up in earnest. Some of rny colleagues were of opinion that 
because of the earthquake the Independence Day celebrations should be 
called off. But other colleagues and I saw no reason why even an earth 
quake should interfere with our program. So on January 26 we had a 
large number of meetings in the villages of Allahabad district and a 
meeting in the city, and we met with greater success than we had 
anticipated. 

Soon after returning from Behar I issued a statement about the 
earthquake, ending up with an appeal for funds. In this statement I 
criticized the inactivity of the Behar Government during the first few 
days after the earthquake. Thousands of people were killed in Mong- 
hyr city alone, and three weeks later I saw a vast quantity of debris 
still lying untouched, although a few miles away at Jamalpur there 
was a large colony of many thousands of railway workers, who could 
have been utilized for this purpose within a few hours of the catas 
trophe. Living people were unearthed even twelve days after the earth 
quake. The Government had taken immediate steps to protect prop 
erty, but they had not been so expeditious in trying to rescue people 
who lay buried. 

My criticism was resented, and soon afterward a few people in 
Behar came out with a general testimonial in favor of the Government 
as a kind of counterblast. The earthquake and its demands became 
almost a secondary matter. More important was the fact that the Gov 
ernment had been criticized, and it had to be defended by its loyal 
subjects. This was an interesting instance of a widespread phenomenon 
in India the dislike of criticism of the Government, which is a com 
monplace in Western countries. It is the military mentality which 
cannot tolerate criticism. Like the King, the British Government in 
India and all of its superior officials can do no wrong. To hint at any 
such thing is Use majeste. 

The curious part of it is that a charge of inefficiency and incompe 
tence is resented far more than an accusation of harsh government or 
tyranny. The latter might indeed land the person making it in prison, 
but the Government is used to it and does not really mind it. After all, 
in a way, it might almost be considered a compliment to an imperial 
race. But to be called inefficient and wanting in nerve hurts, for this 
strikes at the root of their self-esteem; it disturbs the messianic delu 
sions of the English officials in India. 

299 



There is a general belief among Englishmen, frequently asserted as 
if it was an incontrovertible maxim, that a change of government in 
India, involving a reduction or elimination of British influence, would 
result in a much worse and more inefficient government. I believe that 
self-government is good for any country. But I am not prepared to 
accept even self-government at the cost of really good government. 
Self-government, if it is to justify itself, must stand ultimately for 
better government for the masses. It is because I believe that the British 
Government in India, whatever its claims in the past may have been, 
is incapable of providing good government and rising standards for the 
masses today, that I feel that it has outlived its utility, such as it was, 
in India. The only real justification for Indian freedom is the promise 
of better government, of a higher standard for the masses, of industrial 
and cultural growth, and of the removal of the atmosphere of fear and 
suppression that foreign imperialist rule invariably brings in its train. 

The Allahabad Earthquake Relief Committee deputed me to visit 
the areas affected by the earthquake and to report on the methods of 
relief work adopted there. I went immediately, alone, and for ten days 
I wandered about those torn and ruined territories. It was a very stren 
uous tour, and I had little sleep during those days. From five in the 
morning till almost midnight we were up and about, motoring over 
the cracked and crumpled-up roads, or going by little boats where the 
bridges had collapsed and the roads were under water owing to a 
change in level. The towns were impressive enough with their exten 
sive ruins, and their roads torn up and twisted sometimes as by a giant 
hand, or raised high above the plinth of the houses on either side. Out 
of huge cracks in these roads water and sand had gushed out and 
swept away men and cattle. More even than these towns, the plains of 
north Behar the garden of Behar, they used to be called had desola 
tion and destruction stamped upon them. Mile upon mile of sand, and 
large sheets of water, and huge cracks and vast numbers of little craters 
out of which this sand and water had come. Some British officers who 
flew over this area said that it bore some resemblance to the battlefields 
of northern France in wartime and soon after. 

The city of Monghyr was the last place in our tour. We had wan 
dered a good deal and gone almost up to the frontier of Nepal, and 
we had seen many harrowing sights. We had become used to ruins 
and destruction on a vast scale. And yet when we saw Monghyr and 
the absolute destruction of this rich city, we gasped and shivered at 
the horror of it. I can never forget that terrible sight. 

300 



In Monghyr I indulged in a theatrical gesture to give a push to the 
self-help movement for digging and removing the debris. I did so with 
some hesitation, but it turned out to be a success. All the leaders o the 
relief organizations went out with spades and baskets and did a good 
day's digging, and we brought out the corpse of a little girl. I left 
Monghyr that day, but the digging went on and many local people 
took it up with very good results. 

During my tour in the earthquake areas, or just before going there, 
I read with a great shock Gandhiji's statement to the effect that the 
earthquake had been a punishment for the sin of untouchability. This 
was a staggering remark, and I welcomed and wholly agreed with 
Rabindranath Tagore's answer to it. Anything more opposed to the 
scientific outlook it would be difficult to imagine. 

And, if the earthquake was a divine punishment for sin, how are 
we to discover for which sin we are being punished? for, alas! we 
have many sins to atone for. Each person can have his pet explanation; 
we may have been punished for submitting to alien domination, or 
for putting up with an unjust social system. The Maharaja of Durb- 
hanga, the owner of enormous estates, was, financially, one of the 
major sufferers from the earthquake. We might as well say that this 
was a judgment on the zamindari system. That would be nearer the 
mark than to suggest that the more or less innocent people of Behar 
were being made to suffer vicariously for the sins of untouchability 
of the people of south India. Why did not the earthquake visit the 
land of untouchability itself? Or the British Government might call 
the calamity a divine punishment for civil disobedience, for, as a 
matter of fact, north Behar, which suffered most from the earthquake, 
took a leading part in the freedom movement. 

I got back home in Allahabad on February n, dead tired after my 
tour. Ten strenuous days had made me look ghastly, and my people 
were surprised at my appearance. I tried to begin writing my report 
of the tour for the Allahabad Relief Committee, but sleep overcame 
me. I spent at least twelve hours out of the next twenty-four in sleep. 

Next day, in the late afternoon, Kamala and I had finished tea, and 
Purushottam Das Tandon had just then joined us. We were standing 
in the veranda when a car drove up and a police officer alighted. I 
knew immediately that my time had come. I went up to him and said: 
"Bahut dinon se dp\a intazar thd" "I have been waiting for you for 
a long time." He was a little apologetic and said that he was not to 
blame. The warrant was from Calcutta. 

301 



Five months and thirteen days I had been out, and now I went back 
again to seclusion and loneliness. But the real burden was not mine; 
it had to be shouldered, as always, by the womenfolk by my ailing 
mother, my wife, my sister. 



XLV 

ALIPORE JAIL 

THAT VERY NIGHT I was taken to Calcutta. From Howrah station a 
huge Black Maria carried me to Lai Bazaar Police Station. I had 
read much of this famous headquarters of the Calcutta police, and I 
looked round with interest. There were large numbers of European 
sergeants and inspectors to be seen, far more than would have been 
in evidence in any police headquarters in northern India. The con 
stables seemed to be almost all from Behar or the eastern districts of 
the United Provinces. During the many journeys I made in the big 
prison lorry, to court and back or from one prison to another, a num 
ber of these constables used to accompany me inside. They looked 
thoroughly unhappy, disliking their job, and obviously full of sym 
pathy for me. Sometimes their eyes glistened with tears. 

I was kept in the Presidency Jail to begin with, and from there I 
was taken for my trial to the Chief Presidency Magistrate's court. 
This was a novel experience. The courtroom and building had more 
the appearance of a besieged fortress than of an open court. Except 
for a few newspapermen and the usual lawyers, no outsiders were 
allowed anywhere in the neighborhood. The police were present in 
some force. These arrangements apparently had not been made espe 
cially for me; that was the daily routine. When I was taken to the 
courtroom I had to march through a long passage (inside the room) 
which was closely wired on top and at the side. It was like going 
through a cage. The dock was far from the magistrate's seat. The 
courtroom was crowded with policemen and black-coated and -gowned 
lawyers. 

I was used enough to court trials. Many of my previous trials had 
taken place in jail precincts. But there had always been some friends, 
relatives, familiar faces about, and the whole atmosphere had been a 
little easier. The police had usually kept in the background, and there 
had never been any cagelike structures about. Here it was very diflfer- 

302 



ent, and I gazed at strange, unfamiliar faces between whom and me 
there was nothing in common. It was not an attractive crowd. I am 
afraid gowned lawyers en masse are not beautiful to look at, and 
police-court lawyers seem to develop a peculiarly unlovely look. At 
last I managed to spot one familiar lawyer's face in that black array, 
but he was lost in the crowd. 

I felt very lonely and isolated even when I sat on the balcony outside 
before the trial began. My pulse must have quickened a little, and 
inwardly I was not quite so composed as I usually had been during 
my previous trials. It struck me then that if even I, with so much 
experience of trials and convictions, could react abnormally to that 
situation, how much more must young and inexperienced people feel 
the tension? 

I felt much better in the dock itself. There was, as usual, no defense 
offered, and I read out a brief statement. The next day, February 16, 
I was sentenced to two years. My seventh term of imprisonment had 
begun. 

I looked back with some satisfaction to my five and a half months' 
stay outside. That time had been fairly well occupied, and I had man 
aged to get through some useful jobs. My mother had turned the 
corner and was out of immediate danger. My younger sister, Krishna, 
had married. My daughter's future education had been fixed up. I 
had straightened out some of my domestic and financial tangles. Many 
personal matters that I had been long neglecting had been attended 
to. In the field of public affairs I knew that no one could do much 
then. I had at least helped a little in stiffening up the Congress attitude 
and in directing it to some extent toward social and economic ways 
of thinking. My Poona correspondence with Gandhi ji, and later my 
articles in the press, had made a difference. My articles on the com 
munal question had also done some good. And then I had met 
Gandhiji again after more than two years, and many other friends 
and comrades, and had charged myself with nervous and emotional 
energy for another period. 

One shadow remained to darken my mind Kamala's ill-health. I 
had no notion then how very ill she was, for she has a habit of carrying 
on till she collapses. But I was worried. And yet I hoped that now 
I was in prison she would be free to devote herself to her treatment. 
It was more difficult to do so while I was out, and she was not willing 
to leave me for long. 

I had one other regret. I was sorry that I had not visited even once 

303 



the rural areas of Allahabad district. Many of my young colleagues 
had recently been arrested there for carrying out our instructions, and 
it seemed almost like disloyalty to them not to follow them in the 
district. 

Again the Black Maria carried me back to prison. On our way we 
passed plenty of troops on the march with machine guns, armored 
cars, etc. I peeped at them through the tiny openings of our prison 
van. How ugly an armored car is, I thought, and a tank. They re 
minded me of prehistoric monsters dinosaurs and the like. 

I was transferred from the Presidency Jail to the Alipore Central 
Jail, and there I was given a little cell, about ten feet by nine. In front 
of it were a veranda and a small open yard. The wall enclosing the yard 
was a low one, about seven feet, and looking over it I was confronted 
by a strange sight. All manner of odd buildings single-story, double- 
story, round, rectangular, curious roofings rose all round, some over 
topping the others. It seemed that the structures had grown one by one, 
being fitted in anyhow to take advantage of all the available space. 
Almost it looked like a jigsaw puzzle or a futurist attempt at the fan 
tastic. And yet I was told that all the buildings had been arranged very 
methodically with a tower in the center (which was a church for the 
Christian prisoners) and radiating lines. Being a city jail, the area was 
limited, and every little bit of it had to be utilized. 

I had hardly recovered from my first view of the seemingly fantastic 
structures around me when a terrifying sight greeted me. Two chim 
neys, right in front of my cell and yard, were belching forth dense 
volumes of black smoke, and sometimes the wind blew this smoke in 
my direction, almost suffocating me. They were the chimneys of the 
jail kitchens. I suggested to the superintendent later that gas masks 
might be provided to meet this offensive. 

It was not an agreeable start, and the future was not inviting to 
enjoy the unchanging prospect of the red-brick structures of Alipore 
Jail and to swallow and inhale the smoke of its kitchen chimneys. 
There were no trees or greenery in my yard. It was all paved and 
pucca and clean, except for the daily deposit of smoke, but it was also 
bare and cheerless. I could just see the tops of one or two trees in 
adjoining yards. They were barren of leaf or flower when I arrived. 
But gradually a mysterious change came over them, and little bits of 
green were peeping out all over their branches. The leaves were com 
ing out of the buds; they grew rapidly and covered the nakedness of 

34 



the branches with their pleasant green. It was a delightful change 
which made even Alipore Jail look gay and cheerful 

In one of these trees was a kite's nest which interested me, and I 
watched it often. The little ones were growing and learning the tricks 
of the trade, and sometimes they would swoop down with rapidity 
and amazing accuracy and snatch the bread out of a prisoner's hand, 
almost out of his mouth. 

From sunset to sunrise (more or less) we were locked up in our 
cells, and the long winter evenings were not very easy to pass. I grew 
tired of reading or writing hour after hour, and would start walking 
up and down that little cell four or five short steps forward and then 
back again. I remembered the bears at the zoo tramping up and down 
their cages. Sometimes when I felt particularly bored I took to my 
favorite remedy, the shirshdsana standing on the head! 

The early part of the night was fairly quiet, and city sounds used to 
float in the noise of the trams, a gramaphone, or someone singing in 
the distance. It was pleasant to hear this faint and distant music. But 
there was not much peace at night, for the guards on duty tramped up 
and down, and every hour there was some kind of an inspection. Some 
officer came round with a lantern to make sure that none of us had 
escaped. At 3 A.M. every day, or rather night, there was a tremendous 
din, and a mighty sound of scraping and scrubbing. The kitchens had 
begun functioning. 

There were vast numbers of warders and guards and officers and 
clerks in the Alipore Jail, as also in the Presidency. Both these prisons 
housed a population about equal to that of Naini Prison 2200 to 
2300 but the staff in each must have been more than double that of 
Naini. There were many European warders and retired Indian army 
officers. It was evident that the British Empire functioned more inten 
sively and more expensively in Calcutta than in the United Provinces. 
A sign and a perpetual reminder of the might of the Empire was the 
cry that prisoners had to shout out when high officials approached 
them. "Sarftar salaam" was the cry, lengthened out, and it was accom 
panied by certain physical movements of the body. The voices of the 
prisoners shouting out this cry came to me many times a day over my 
yard wall, and especially when the superintendent passed by daily. I 
could just see over my seven-foot wall the top of the huge State 
umbrella under which the superintendent marched. 

Was this extraordinary crysar{ar salaam and the movements that 
went with it relics of old times, I wondered; or were they the invention 

305 



of some inspired English official? I do not know, but I imagine that it 
was an English invention. It has a typical Anglo-Indian sound about 
it. Fortunately this cry does not prevail in the United Provinces jails 
or probably in any other province besides Bengal and Assam. The way 
this enforced salutation to the might of the sar\ar is shouted out 
seemed to me very degrading. 

The brief winter was soon over, and spring raced by, and summer 
began. It grew hotter day by day. I had never been fond of the Cal 
cutta climate, and even a few days of it had made me stale and flat. In 
prison conditions were naturally far worse, and I did not prosper as 
the days went by. Lack of space for exercise and long lock-up hours 
in that climate probably affected my health a little, and I lost weight 
rapidly. How I began to hate all locks and bolts and bars and walls! 

After a month in Alipore I was allowed to take some exercise out 
side my yard. This was an agreeable change, and I could walk up and 
down under the main wall, morning and evening. Gradually I got 
accustomed to Alipore Jail and the Calcutta climate; and even the 
kitchen, with its smoke and mighty din, became a tolerable nuisance. 
Other matters occupied my mind, other worries filled me. News from 
outside was not good. 

I was surprised to find in Alipore that no daily paper would be 
allowed to me after my conviction. As an under-trial prisoner I re 
ceived the daily Statesman, of Calcutta, but this was stopped the day 
after my trial was over. In the United Provinces, ever since 1932, a 
daily (chosen by the Government) was permitted to A-Class or first 
division prisoners. So also in most other provinces, and I was fully 
under the impression that the same rule was applicable in Bengal. 
Instead of the daily, however, I was supplied with the weekly States 
man. This was evidently meant for retired English officials or business 
men who had gone back to England, and it contained a summary of 
Indian news likely to interest them. No foreign news at all was given, 
and I missed it very much, as I used to follow it closely. Fortunately I 
was allowed to have the Manchester Guardian Weekly, and this kept 
me in touch with Europe and international affairs. 

My arrest and trial in February coincided with upheavals and bitter 
conflicts in Europe. There was the ferment in France resulting in 
fascist riots and the formation of a "National" Government. And, far 
worse, in Austria, Chancellor Dollfuss was shooting down workers 
and putting an end to the great edifice of social democracy there. The 
news of the Austrian bloodshed depressed me greatly. What an awful 

306 



and bloody place this world was, and how barbarous was man when 
he wanted to protect his vested interests! All over Europe and America 
fascism seemed to be advancing. When Hitler came into power in 
Germany, I had imagined that his regime could not possibly last long, 
as he was offering no solution of Germany's economic troubles. So 
also, as fascism spread elsewhere, I consoled myself that it represented 
the last ditch of reaction. After it must come the breaking of the 
shackles. But I began to wonder if my wish was not father to my 
thought. Was it so obvious that this fascist wave would retire so easily 
or so quickly? And, even if conditions became intolerable for the 
fascist dictatorships, would they not rather hurl their countries into 
devastating war rather than give in ? What would be the result of such 
a conflict? 

Meanwhile, fascism of various kinds and shapes spread. Spain, that 
new "Republic of Honest Men" los hombres honrados the very 
Manchester Guardian of governments, as someone called it, had gone 
far back and deep into reaction. All the fine phrases of its honest 
Liberal leaders had not kept it from sliding down. Everywhere Liber 
alism showed its utter ineffectiveness to face modern conditions. It 
clung to words and phrases, and thought that they could take the 
place of action. When a crisis came, it simply faded off like the end of 
a film that is over. 

I read the leading articles of the Manchester Guardian on the Aus 
trian tragedy with deep interest and appreciation. 

"Austrian democracy has been destroyed, although to its everlasting 
glory it went down fighting and so created a legend that may rekindle 
the spirit of European freedom some day in years to come." 

"The Europe that is unfree has ceased to breathe; there is no flow 
or counterflow of healthy spirits; a gradual suffocation has set in, and 
only some violent convulsion or inner paroxysm and a striking out to 
the right and left can avert the mental coma that is approaching. . . . 
Europe from the Rhine to the Urals is one great prison." 

Moving passages which found an echo in my heart. But I wondered: 
what of India? How can it be that the Manchester Guardian or the 
many lovers of freedom who undoubtedly exist in England should be 
so oblivious to our fate? How can they miss seeing here what they 
condemn with such fervor elsewhere? It was a great English Liberal 
leader, trained in the nineteenth-century tradition, cautious by tem 
perament, restrained in his language, who said twenty years ago, on 
the eve of the Great War: "Sooner than be a silent witness of the 

307 



tragic triumph of force over law, I would see this country of ours 
blotted out of the page of history/' A brave thought, eloquently put, 
and the gallant youth of England went in their millions to vindicate 
it. But if an Indian ventures to make a statement similar to Mr. 
Asquith's, what fate is his? 

The British are an insular race, and long success and prosperity 
have made them look down on almost all others. For them, as some 
one has said, "les negres commencent a Calais'' But that is too general 
a statement. Perhaps the British upper-class division of the world would 
be somewhat as follows: (i) Britain a long gap, and then (2) the 
British Dominions (white populations only) and America (Anglo- 
Saxons only, and not dagoes, wops, etc.), (3) Western Europe, (4) 
Rest of Europe, (5) South America (Latin races), a long gap, and then 
(6) the brown, yellow, and black races of Asia and Africa. 

How far we of the last of these classes are from the heights where 
our rulers live! Is it any wonder that their vision grows dim when 
they look toward us, and that we should irritate them when we talk 
of democracy and liberty? These words were not coined for our use. 
Was it not a great Liberal statesman, John Morley, who declared 
that he could not conceive of democratic institutions in India even in 
the far, dim future ? Democracy for India was, like Canada's fur coat, 
unsuited to her climate. And, later on, Britain's Labour party, the 
standard-bearers of socialism, the champions of the underdog, pre 
sented us, in the flush of their triumph, with a revival of the Bengal 
Ordinance in 1924, and during their second government our fate was 
even worse. I am quite sure that none of them mean us ill, and, when 
they address us in their best pulpit manner "Dearly beloved breth 
ren" they feel a glow of conscious virtue. But, to them, we are not as 
they are and must be judged by other standards. It is difficult enough 
for an Englishman and a Frenchman to think alike because of lingu 
istic and cultural differences; how much vaster must be the difference 
between an Englishman and an Asiatic? 

Lord Lytton, a former governor of an Indian province, who acted 
as Viceroy for a while, often referred to as a liberal and sympa 
thetic governor, is reported to have said 1 that "the Government of 
India was far more representative of India as a whole than the Con 
gress politicians. The Government of India was able to speak in the 
name of officials, the Army, the Police, the Princes, the fighting regi 
ments and both Moslems and Hindus, whereas the Congress politicians 

1 House of Lords, December 17, 1934. 

308 



could not even speak on behalf o one of the great Indian communi 
ties." He went on to make his meaning quite clear: "When I speak 
of Indian opinion., I am thinking of those on whose co-operation I had 
to rely and on whose co-operation the future Governors and Viceroys 
will have to rely." 

Two interesting points emerge from his speech: the India that counts 
means those who help the British; and the British Government of 
India is the most representative and, therefore, democratic body in the 
country. That this argument should be advanced seriously shows that 
English words seem to change their meanings when they cross the 
Suez Canal. The next and obvious step in reasoning would be, that 
autocratic government is the most representative and democratic form 
because the King represents everybody. We get back to the divine right 
of kings and "I'Stat, cest moi!" 

In India we are told that our communal divisions come in the way 
of our democratic progress, and, therefore, with incontrovertible logic, 
those divisions are perpetuated. We are further told that we are not 
united enough. In Egypt there are no communal divisions, and it 
appears that the most perfect political unity prevails. And yet, this 
very unity becomes an obstacle in the way of democracy and freedom! 
Truly the path of democracy is straight and narrow. Democracy for 
an Eastern country seems to mean only one thing: to carry out the 
behests of the imperialist ruling power and not to touch any of its 
interests. Subject to that proviso, democratic freedom can flourish 
unchecked. 



XLVI 

DESOLATION 

APRIL CAME. Rumors reached me in my cell in Alipore of happenings 
outside, rumors that were unpleasant and disturbing. The superin 
tendent of the jail informed me casually one day that Mr. Gandhi had 
withdrawn civil disobedience. I knew no more. The news was not 
welcome, and I felt sad at this winding up of something that had 
meant so much to me for many years. And yet I reasoned with myself 
that the end was bound to come. I knew in my heart that sometime 
or other civil disobedience would have to be wound up, for the time 
being at least. Individuals may hold out almost indefinitely, regardless 

309 



of the consequences, but national organizations do not behave in this 
manner. I had no doubt that Gandhiji had interpreted correctly the 
mind of the country and of the great majority of Congressmen, and 
I tried to reconcile myself to the new development, unpleasant as it 
was. 

Some days later the weekly Statesman came to me, and I read in it 
the statement which Gandhiji had issued when withdrawing civil dis 
obedience. I read it with amazement and sinking of heart. Again and 
again I read it; civil disobedience and much else vanished from my 
mind, and other doubts and conflicts filled it. "This statement," wrote 
Gandhiji, "owes its inspiration to a personal chat with the inmates 
and associates of the Satyagraha Ashrama. . . . More especially is it due 
to revealing information I got in the course of a conversation about 
a valued companion of long standing who was found reluctant to per 
form the full prison task, preferring his private studies to the allotted 
task. This was undoubtedly contrary to the rules of Satyagraha. More 
than the imperfection of the friend whom I love, more than ever it 
brought home to me my own imperfections. The friend said he had 
thought that I was aware of his weakness. I was blind. Blindness in a 
leader is unpardonable. I saw at once that I must for the time being 
remain the sole representative of civil resistance in action." 

The imperfection or fault, if such it was, of the "friend" was a very 
trivial affair. I confess that I have often been guilty of it, and I am 
wholly unrepentant. But, even if it was a serious matter, was a vast 
national movement involving scores of thousands directly and millions 
indirectly to be thrown out of gear because an individual had erred? 
This seemed to me a monstrous proposition and an immoral one. I 
cannot presume to speak of what is and what is not Satyagraha, but in 
my own little way I have endeavored to follow certain standards of 
conduct, and all those standards were shocked and upset by this state 
ment of Gandhij i's. I knew that Gandhiji usually acts on instinct (I 
prefer to call it that than the "inner voice" or an answer to prayer), 
and very often that instinct is right. He has repeatedly shown what a 
wonderful knack he has of sensing the mass mind and of acting at the 
psychological moment. The reasons which he afterward adduces to 
justify his action are usually afterthoughts and seldom carry one very 
far. A leader or a man of action in a crisis almost always acts subcon 
sciously and then thinks of the reasons for his action. I felt also that 
Gandhiji had acted righdy in suspending civil resistance. But the 
reason he had given seemed to me an insult to intelligence and an 

310 



amazing performance for a leader of a national movement. He was 
perfectly entitled to treat his ashrama inmates in any manner he liked; 
they had taken all kinds o pledges and accepted a certain regime. But 
the Congress had not done so; I had not done so. Why should we be 
tossed hither and thither for, what seemed to me, metaphysical and 
mystical reasons in which I was not interested? Was it conceivable to 
have any political movement on this basis? I had willingly accepted 
the moral aspect of Satyagraha as I understood it (within certain limits, 
I admit). That basic aspect appealed to me, and it seemed to raise 
politics to a higher and nobler level. I was prepared to agree that the 
end does not justify all kinds of means. But this new development or 
interpretation was something much more far-reaching, and it held 
forth some possibilities which frightened me. 

The whole statement frightened and oppressed me tremendously. 
And then finally the advice he gave to Congressmen was that "they 
must learn the art and beauty of self-denial and voluntary poverty. 
They must engage themselves in nation-building activities, the spread 
of \hadi through personal hand-spinning and hand-weaving, the 
spread of communal unity of hearts by irreproachable personal conduct 
toward one another in every walk of life, the banishing of untoucha- 
bility in every shape or form in one's own person, the spread of total 
abstinence from intoxicating drinks and drugs by personal contact 
with individual addicts and generally by cultivating personal purity. 
These are services which provide maintenance on the poor man's scale. 
Those for whom the poor man's scale is not feasible should find a place 
in small unorganized industries of national importance which give a 
better wage." 

This was the political program that we were to follow. A vast dis 
tance seemed to separate him from me. With a stab of pain I felt that 
the cords of allegiance that had bound me to him for many years had 
snapped. For long a mental tussle had been going on within me. I had 
not understood or appreciated much that Gandhiji had done. His fasts 
and his concentration on other issues during the continuance of civil 
disobedience, when his comrades were in the grip of the struggle, his 
personal and self -created entanglements, which led him to the extraor 
dinary position that, while out of prison, he was yet pledged to himself 
not to take part in the political movement, his new loyalties and 
pledges which put in the shade the old loyalty and pledge and job, 
undertaken together with many colleagues, while yet that job was 
unfinished, had all oppressed me. During my short period out of 

311 



prison I had felt these and other differences more than ever. Gandhiji 
had stated that there were temperamental differences between us. They 
were perhaps more than temperamental, and I realized that I held 
clear and definite views about many matters which were opposed to 
his. And yet in the past I had tried to subordinate them, as far as I 
could, to what I conceived to be the larger loyalty the cause of na 
tional freedom for which the Congress seemed to be working. I tried 
to be loyal and faithful to my leader and my colleagues, for in my 
spiritual make-up loyalty to a cause and to one's colleagues holds a 
high place. I fought many a battle within myself when I felt that I was 
being dragged away from the anchor of my spiritual faith. Somehow 
I managed to compromise. Perhaps I did wrong, for it can never be 
right for anyone to let go of that anchor. But in the conflict of ideals I 
clung to my loyalty to my colleagues, and hoped that the rush of events 
and the development of our struggle might dissolve the difficulties that 
troubled me and bring my colleagues nearer to my viewpoint. 

And now? Suddenly I felt very lonely in that cell of Alipore Jail. 
Life seemed to be a dreary affair, a very wilderness of desolation. Of 
the many hard lessons that I had learned, the hardest and the most 
painful now faced me: that it is not possible in any vital matter to rely 
on anyone. One must journey through life alone; to rely on others is 
to invite heartbreak. 

Some of my accumulated irritation directed itself against religion 
and the religious outlook. What an enemy this was to clearness of 
thought and fixity of purpose, I thought; for was it not based on 
emotion and passion? Presuming to be spiritual, how far removed it 
was from real spirituality and things of the spirit. Thinking in terms 
of some other world, it had little conception of human values and 
social values and social justice. With its preconceived notions it de 
liberately shut its eyes to reality for fear that this might not fit in with 
them. It based itself on truth, and yet so sure was it of having discov 
ered it, and the whole of it, that it did not take the trouble to search 
for it; all that concerned it was to tell others of it. The will to truth 
was not the same thing as the will to believe. It talked of peace and yet 
supported systems and organizations that could not exist but for vio 
lence. It condemned the violence of the sword, but what of the violence 
that comes quietly and often in peaceful garb and starves and kills; or, 
worse still, without doing any outward physical injury, outrages the 
mind and crushes the spirit and breaks the heart? 

And then I thought of him again who was the cause of this commo- 

312 



tion within me. What a wonderful man was Gandhiji after all, with 
his amazing and almost irresistible charm and subtle power over 
people. His writings and his sayings conveyed little enough impression 
of the man behind; his personality was far bigger than they would 
lead one to think. And his services to India, how vast they had been! 
He had instilled courage and manhood in her people, and discipline 
and endurance, and the power of joyful sacrifice for a cause, and, with 
all his humility, pride. Courage is the one sure foundation of character, 
he had said; without courage there is no morality, no religion, no love. 
"One cannot follow truth or love so long as one is subject to fear." With 
all his horror of violence, he had told us that "cowardice is a thing even 
more hateful than violence." And "discipline is the pledge and guaran 
tee that a man means business. There is no deliverance and no hope 
without sacrifice, discipline, and self-control. Mere sacrifice without dis 
cipline will be unavailing." Words only and pious phrases perhaps, 
rather platitudinous, but there was power behind the words, and India 
knew that this little man meant business. 

He came to represent India to an amazing degree and to express 
the very spirit of that ancient and tortured land. Almost he was India, 
and his very failings were Indian failings. A slight to him was hardly 
a personal matter, it was an insult to the nation; and Viceroys and 
others who indulged in these disdainful gestures little realized what a 
dangerous crop they were sowing. I remember how hurt I was when 
I first learned that the Pope had refused an interview to Gandhiji 
when he was returning from the Round Table Conference in Decem 
ber 1931. That refusal seemed to me an affront to India, and there can 
be no doubt that the refusal was intentional, though the affront was 
probably not thought of. The Catholic Church does not approve of 
saints or mahatmas outside its fold, and because some Protestant 
churchmen had called Gandhiji a great man of religion and a real 
Christian, it became all the more necessary for Rome to dissociate itself 
from this heresy. 

But Gandhiji's greatness or his services to India or the tremendous 
debt I personally owed to him were not in question. In spite of all that, 
he might be hopelessly in the wrong in many matters. What, after all, 
was he aiming at ? In spite of the closest association with him for many 
years, I am not clear in my own mind about his objective. I doubt if he 
is clear himself. One step is enough for me, he says; and he does not 
try to peep into the future or to have a clearly conceived end before 
him. Look after the means, and the end will take care of itself, he is 

313 



never tired of repeating. Be good in your personal individual lives, and 
all else will follow. That is not a political or scientific attitude, nor is it 
perhaps even an ethical attitude. It is narrowly moralist, and it begs 
the question: What is goodness? Is it merely an individual affair or a 
social affair? Gandhiji lays all stress on character and attaches little 
importance to intellectual training and development. Intellect without 
character is likely to be dangerous, but what is character without intel 
lect? How, indeed, does character develop? Gandhiji has been com 
pared to the medieval Christian saints, and much that he says seems to 
fit in with this. It does not fit in at all with modern psychological ex 
perience and method. 

But, however this may be, vagueness in an objective seems to me de 
plorable. Action to be effective must be directed to clearly conceived 
ends. Life is not all logic, and those ends will have to be varied from 
time to time to fit in with it, but some end must always be clearly 
envisaged. 

I imagine that Gandhiji is not so vague about the objective as he 
sometimes appears to be. He is passionately desirous of going in a cer 
tain direction, but this is wholly at variance with modern ideas and 
conditions, and he has so far been unable to fit the two, or to chalk out 
all the intermediate steps leading to his goal. Hence the appearance of 
vagueness and avoidance of clarity. But his general inclination has 
been clear enough for a quarter of a century, ever since he started for 
mulating his philosophy in South Africa. I do not know if those early 
writings still represent his views. I doubt if they do so in their entirety, 
but they do help us to understand the background of his thought. 

"India's salvation consists," he wrote in 1909, "in unlearning what 
she has learned during the last fifty years. The railways, telegraphs, 
hospitals, lawyers, doctors, and suchlike have all to go; and the 
so-called upper classes have to learn consciously, religiously, and delib 
erately the simple peasant life, knowing it to be a life giving true hap 
piness." And again: "Every time I get into a railway car or use a 
motor bus I know that I am doing violence to my sense of what is 
right"; "to attempt to reform the world by means of highly artificial 
and speedy locomotion is to attempt the impossible." 

All this seems to me utterly wrong and harmful doctrine, and im 
possible of achievement. Behind it lies Gandhiji's love and praise of 
poverty and suffering and the ascetic life. For him progress and civili 
zation consist not in the multiplication of wants, of higher standards of 
living, "but in the deliberate and voluntary restriction of wants, which 



promotes real happiness and contentment, and increases the capacity 
for service." If these premises are once accepted, it becomes easy to fol 
low the rest of Gandhi ji's thought and to have a better understanding 
of his activities. But most of us do not accept those premises, and yet 
we complain later on when we find that his activities are not to our 
liking. 

Personally I dislike the praise of poverty and suffering. I do not 
think they are at all desirable, and they ought to be abolished. Nor do 
I appreciate the ascetic life as a social ideal, though it may suit individ 
uals. I understand and appreciate simplicity, equality, self-control; but 
not the mortification of the flesh. Just as an athlete requires to train his 
body, I believe that the mind and habits have also to be trained and 
brought under control. It would be absurd to expect that a person who 
is given to too much self-indulgence can endure much suffering or 
show unusual self-control or behave like a hero when the crisis comes. 
To be in good moral condition requires at least as much training as to 
be in good physical condition. But that certainly does not mean asceti 
cism or self-mortification. 

Nor do I appreciate in the least the idealization of the "simple peas 
ant life." I have almost a horror of it, and instead of submitting to it 
myself I want to drag out even the peasantry from it, not to urbaniza 
tion, but to the spread of urban cultural facilities to rural areas. Far 
from this life's giving me true happiness, it would be almost as bad as 
imprisonment for me. What is there in "The Man with the Hoe" to 
idealize over? Crushed and exploited for innumerable generations, he 
is only little removed from the animals who keep him company. 

Who made him dead to rapture and despair, 
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes, 
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox? 

This desire to get away from the mind of man to primitive condi 
tions where mind does not count, seems to me quite incomprehensible. 
The very thing that is the glory and triumph of man is decried and 
discouraged, and a physical environment which will oppress the mind 
and prevent its growth is considered desirable. Present-day civilization 
is full of evils, but it is also full of good; and it has the capacity in it 
to rid itself of those evils. To destroy it root and branch is to remove 
that capacity from it and revert to a dull, sunless, and miserable exist 
ence. But even if that were desirable it is an impossible undertaking. 
We cannot stop the river of change or cut ourselves adrift from it, and 

3*5 



psychologically we who have eaten of the apple o Eden cannot forget 
that taste and go back to primitiveness. 

It is difficult to argue this, for the two standpoints are utterly differ 
ent. Gandhiji is always thinking in terms of personal salvation and of 
sin, while most of us have society's welfare uppermost in our minds. 
I find it difficult to grasp the idea of sin, and perhaps it is because of 
this that I cannot appreciate Gandhiji's general outlook. He is not out 
to change society or the social structure; he devotes himself to the 
eradication of sin from individuals. "The follower of Swadeshi," he 
has written, "never takes upon himself the vain task of trying to re 
form the world, for he believes that the world is moved and always 
will be moved according to the rules set by God." And yet he is aggres 
sive enough in his attempts to reform the world; but the reform he 
aims at is individual reform, the conquest over the senses and the 
desire to indulge them, which is sin. Probably he will agree with the 
definition of liberty which an able Roman Catholic writer on fascism 
has given: "Liberty is no more than freedom from the bondage of sin." 
How almost identical this is with the words of the Bishop of London 
written two hundred years ago: "The Freedom which Christianity 
gives is Freedom from the Bondage of sin and Satan and from the 
Dominion of Men's Lusts and Passions and inordinate Desires." 

If this standpoint is once appreciated, then one begins to understand 
a little Gandhiji's attitude to sex, extraordinary as that seems to the 
average person today. For him "any union is a crime when the desire 
for progeny is absent," and "the adoption of artificial methods must 
result in imbecility and nervous prostration." "It is wrong and im 
moral to seek to escape the consequences of one's act. ... It is bad for 
him to indulge his appetite and then escape the consequences by taking 
tonics or other medicines. It is still worse for a person to indulge his 
animal passions and escape the consequences of his acts." 

Personally I find this attitude unnatural and shocking, and if he is 
right, then I am a criminal on the verge of imbecility and nervous 
prostration. The Roman Catholics have also vigorously opposed birth 
control, but they have not carried their argument to the logical limit, 
as Gandhiji has done. They have temporized and compromised with 
what they consider to be human nature. But Gandhiji has gone to 
the extreme limit of his argument and does not recognize the validity 
or necessity of the sexual act at any time except for the sake of chil 
dren; he refuses to recognize any natural sex attraction between man 
and woman. "But I am told," he says, "that this is an impossible ideal, 

316 



that I do not take account of the natural attraction between man and 
woman. I refuse to believe that the sensual affinity, referred to here, 
can be at all regarded as natural; in that case the deluge would soon be 
over us. The natural affinity between man and woman is the attraction 
between brother and sister, mother and son, or father and daughter, 
It is this natural attraction that sustains the world." And more em 
phatically still: "No, I must declare with all the power I can command 
that sensual attraction, even between husband and wife, is unnatural." 
One can accept it as an act of faith or reject it. There is no halfway 
house, for it is a question of faith, not of reason. For my part I think 
Gandhiji is absolutely wrong in this matter. His advice may fit in with 
some cases, but as a general policy it can only lead to frustration, in 
hibition, neurosis, and all manner of physical and nervous ills. Sexual 
restraint is certainly desirable, but I doubt if Gandhiji's doctrine is 
likely to result in this to any widespread extent. It is too extreme, and 
most people decide that it is beyond their capacity and go their usual 
ways, or there is friction between husband and wife. Evidently Gan 
dhiji thinks that birth-control methods necessarily mean inordinate 
indulgence in the sex act, and that if the sexual affinity between man 
and woman is admitted every man will run after every woman, and 
vice versa. Neither inference is justified, and I do not know why he is 
so obsessed by this problem of sex, important as it is. For him it is a 
"soot or whitewash" question; there are no intermediate shades. At 
either end he takes up an extreme position which seems to me most 
abnormal and unnatural. Perhaps this is a reaction from the deluge of 
literature on sexology that is descending on us in these days. I presume 
I am a normal individual and sex has played its part in my life, but 
it has not obsessed me or diverted me from my other activities. It has 
been a subordinate part, 

I have drifted to other topics, but in those distressful days in Alipore 
Jail all these ideas crowded in my mind, not in logical order or se 
quence, but in a wild jumble which confused me and oppressed me. 
Above all, there was the feeling of loneliness and desolation, heightened 
by the stifling atmosphere of the jail and my lonely little cell. If I had 
been outside, the shock would have been more momentary, and I 
would have adjusted myself sooner to new conditions and found relief 
in expression and action. Inside the prison there was no such relief, 
and I spent some miserable days. Fortunately for myself, I am resilient 
and recover soon from attacks of pessimism. I began to grow out of 

317 



my depression, and then I had an interview in jail with Kamala. That 
cheered me up tremendously, and my feeling of isolation left me. 
Whatever happened, I felt, we had one another. 



XLVII 

PARADOXES 

PEOPLE WHO DO not know Gandhiji personally and have only read his 
writings are apt to think that he is a priestly type, extremely puritani 
cal, long-faced, Calvinistic, and a kill-joy, something like the "priests 
in black gowns walking their rounds." But his writings do him an 
injustice; he is far greater than what he writes, and it is not quite fair 
to quote what he has written and criticize it. He is the very opposite 
of the Calvinistic priestly type. His smile is delightful, his laughter 
infectious, and he radiates light-heartedness. There is something child 
like about him which is full of charm. When he enters a room, he 
brings a breath of fresh air with him which lightens the atmosphere. 

He is an extraordinary paradox. I suppose all outstanding men are 
so to some extent. For years I have puzzled over this problem: why 
with all his love and solicitude for the underdog he yet supports a sys 
tem which inevitably produces it and crushes it; why with all his pas 
sion for nonviolence he is in favor of a political and social structure 
which is wholly based on violence and coercion ? Perhaps it is not cor 
rect to say that he is in favor of such a system; he is more or less of a 
philosophical anarchist. But, as the ideal anarchist state is too far off 
still and cannot easily be conceived, he accepts the present order. It is 
not, I think, a question of means, that he objects, as he does, to the use 
of violence in bringing about a change. Quite apart from the methods 
to be adopted for changing the existing order, an ideal objective can 
be envisaged, something that is possible of achievement in the not-dis 
tant future. 

Sometimes he calls himself a socialist, but he uses the word in a 
sense peculiar to himself which has little or nothing to do with the 
economic framework of society which usually goes by the name of 
socialism. Following his lead, a number of prominent Congressmen 
have taken to the use of that word, meaning thereby a kind of mud 
dled humanitarianism. I know that Gandhiji is not ignorant of the 

318 



subject, for he has read many books on economics and socialism and 
even Marxism, and has discussed it with others. But I am becoming 
more and more convinced that in vital matters the mind by itself does 
not carry us far. 

Gandhi ji underwent a tremendous conversion during his early days 
in South Africa, and this shook him up greatly and altered his whole 
outlook on life. Since then he has had a fixed basis for all his ideas, 
and his mind is hardly an open mind. He listens with the greatest 
patience and attention to people who make new suggestions to him, 
but behind all his courteous interest one has the impression that one is 
addressing a closed door. He is so firmly anchored to some ideas that 
everything else seems unimportant. To insist on other and secondary 
matters would be a distraction and a distortion of the larger scheme. 
To hold on to that anchor would necessarily result in a proper adjust 
ment of these other matters. If the means are right, the end is bound 
to be right. 

That, I think, is the main background of his thought. He suspects 
also socialism, and more particularly Marxism, because of their associa 
tion with violence. The very words "class war" breathe conflict and 
violence and are thus repugnant to him. He has also no desire to raise 
the standards of the masses beyond a certain very modest competence, 
for higher standards and leisure may lead to self-indulgence and sin. It 
is bad enough that the handful of the well-to-do are self-indulgent; it 
would be much worse if their numbers were added to. 

That outlook is as far removed from the socialistic, or for that mat 
ter the capitalistic, as anything can be. To say that science and indus 
trial technique today can demonstrably feed, clothe, and house every 
body and raise their standards of living very greatly, if vested interests 
did not intervene, does not interest him much, for he is not keen on 
those results, beyond a certain limit. The promise of socialism there 
fore holds no attraction for him, and capitalism is only partly tolerable 
because it circumscribes the evil. He dislikes both, but puts up with 
the latter for the present as a lesser evil and as something which exists 
and of which he has to take cognizance. 

I may be wrong perhaps in imputing these ideas to him, but I do 
feel that he tends to think in this manner, and the paradoxes and con 
fusions in his utterances that trouble us are really due to entirely differ 
ent premises from which he starts. He does not want people to make 
an ideal of ever-increasing comfort and leisure, but to think of the 
moral life, give up their bad habits, to indulge themselves less and less, 

319 



and thus to develop themselves individually and spiritually. And those 
who wish to serve the masses have not so much to raise them mate 
rially as to go down themselves to their level and mix with them on 
equal terms. In so doing inevitably they will help in raising them 
somewhat. That, according to him, is true democracy. "Many have 
despaired of resisting me," he writes in a statement he issued on Sep 
tember 17, 1934. "This is a humiliating revelation to me, a born demo 
crat. I make that claim, if complete identification with the poorest of 
mankind, longing to live no better than they, and a corresponding 
conscious effort to approach that level to the best of one's ability, can 
entitle one to make it." 

Gandhiji is always laying stress on the idea of the trusteeship of the 
feudal prince, of the big landlord, of the capitalist. He follows a long 
succession of men of religion. The Pope has declared that "the rich 
must consider themselves the servants of the Almighty as well as the 
guardians and the distributors of his wealth, to whom Jesus Christ 
himself entrusted the fate of the poor." Popular Hinduism and Islam 
repeat this idea and are always calling upon the rich to be charitable, 
and they respond by building temples or mosques or dharamshalas, or 
giving, out of their abundance, coppers or silver to the poor and feeling 
very virtuous in consequence. 

This religious attitude is bound up with the world of long ago, when 
the only possible escape from present misery was in the hope of a 
world to come. But, though conditions changed and raised the human 
level in material prosperity beyond the wildest dreams of the past, the 
stranglehold of that past continued, the stress now being laid on cer 
tain vague, unmeasurable spiritual values. 

Gandhiji wants to improve the individual internally, morally and 
spiritually, and thereby to change the external environment. He wants 
people to give up bad habits and indulgences and to become pure. He 
lays stress on sexual abstinence, on the giving up of drink, smoking, 
etc. Opinions may differ about the relative wickedness of these indul 
gences, but can there be any doubt that even from the individual point 
of view, and much more so from the social, these personal failings are 
less harmful than covetousness, selfishness, acquisitiveness, the fierce 
conflicts of individuals for personal gain, the ruthless struggles of 
groups and classes, the inhuman suppression and exploitation of one 
group by another, the terrible wars between nations? Of course he 
detests all this violence and degrading conflict. But are they not inher 
ent in the acquisitive society of today with its law that the strong must 

320 



prey on the weak, and its motto, that, as of old, "they shall take who 
have the power and they shall keep who can"? The profit motive 
today inevitably leads to conflict. The whole system protects and gives 
every scope to man's predatory instincts; it encourages some finer in 
stincts, no doubt, but much more the baser instincts of man. Success 
means the knocking down of others and mounting on their van 
quished selves. If these motives and ambitions are encouraged by so 
ciety and attract the best of our people, does Gandhi ji think that he 
can achieve his ideal the moral man in this environment ? He wants 
to develop the spirit of service; he will succeed in the case of some 
individuals, but, so long as society puts forward as exemplars the vic 
tors of an acquisitive society and the chief urge as the personal profit 
motive, the vast majority will follow this course. 

But the problem is no longer merely a moral or an ethical one. It is 
a practical and urgent problem of today, for the world is in a hopeless 
muddle, and some way out must be found. We cannot wait, Micaw- 
berlike, for something to turn up. Nor can we live by negation alone, 
criticizing the evil aspects of capitalism, socialism, communism, etc., 
and hoping vaguely for the golden mean, which will produce a happy 
compromise combining the best features of all systems, old and new. 
The malady has to be diagnosed and the cure suggested and worked 
for. It is quite certain that we cannot stand where we are, nationally 
and internationally; we may try to go back or we may push forward. 
Probably there is no choice in the matter, for going back seems incon 
ceivable. 

And yet many of Gandhiji's activities might lead one to think that 
he wants to go back to the narrowest autarchy, not only a self -sufficient 
nation, but almost a self-sufficient village. In primitive communities 
the village was more or less self-sufficient and fed and clothed itself 
and otherwise provided for its needs. Of necessity that means an ex 
tremely low standard of living. I do not think Gandhiji is permanently 
aiming at this, for it is an impossible objective. The huge populations 
of today would not be able even to subsist in some countries; they 
would not tolerate this reversion to scarcity and starvation. It is possi 
ble, I think, that in an agricultural country like India, so very low is 
our present standard, that there might be a slight improvement for 
the masses with the development of village industries. But we are tied 
up, as every country is tied up, with the rest of the world, and it seems 
to me quite impossible for us to cut adrift. We must think, therefore, 
in terms of the world, and in these terms a narrow autarchy is out of 

321 



the question. Personally I consider it undesirable from every point of 
view. 

Inevitably we are led to the only possible solution the establishment 
of a socialist order, first within national boundaries, and eventually in 
the world as a whole, with a controlled production and distribution of 
wealth for the public good. How this is to be brought about is another 
matter, but it is clear that the good of a nation or of mankind must 
not be held up because some people who profit by the existing order 
object to the change. If political or social institutions stand in the way 
of such a change, they have to be removed. To compromise with them 
at the cost of that desirable and practical ideal would be a gross be 
trayal. Such a change may partly be forced or expedited by world con 
ditions, but it can hardly take place without the willing consent or 
acquiescence of the great majority of the people concerned. They have 
therefore to be converted and won over to it. Conspiratorial violence 
of a small group will not help. Naturally efforts must be made to win 
over even those who profit by the existing system, but it is highly un 
likely that any large percentage of them will be converted. 

The \hadi movement, hand-spinning and hand-weaving, which is 
Gandhiji's special favorite, is an intensification of individualism in pro 
duction, and is thus a throwback to the preindustrial age. As a solution 
of any vital present-day problem it cannot be taken seriously, and it 
produces a mentality which may become an obstacle to growth in the 
right direction. Nevertheless, as a temporary measure I am convinced 
that it has served a useful purpose, and it is likely to be helpful for 
some time to come, so long as the State itself does not undertake the 
rightful solution of agrarian and industrial problems on a countrywide 
scale. 

Again I think of the paradox that is Gandhiji. With all his keen in 
tellect and passion for bettering the downtrodden and oppressed, why 
does he support a system, and a system which is obviously decaying, 
which creates this misery and waste? He seeks a way out, it is true, 
but is not that way to the past barred and bolted? And meanwhile he 
blesses all the relics of the old order which stand as obstacles in the 
way of advance the feudal states, the big zamindaris and talukdaris, 
the present capitalist system. Is it reasonable to believe in the theory 
of trusteeship to give unchecked power and wealth to an individual 
and to expect him to use it entirely for the public good? Are the best 
of us so perfect as to be trusted in this way? Even Plato's philosopher- 
kings could hardly have borne this burden worthily. And is it good 

322 



for the others to have even these benevolent supermen over them? But 
there are no supermen or philosopher-kings; there are only frail human 
beings who cannot help thinking that their own personal good or the 
advancement of their own ideas is identical with the public good. The 
snobbery of birth, position, and economic power is perpetuated, and the 
consequences in many ways are disastrous. 

Again, I would repeat that I am not at present considering the ques 
tion of how to effect the change, of how to get rid of the obstacles in 
the way, by compulsion or conversion, violence or nonviolence. I shall 
deal with this aspect later. But the necessity for the change must be 
recognized and clearly stated. If leaders and thinkers do not clearly 
envisage this and state it, how can they expect even to convert anybody 
to their way of thinking, or develop the necessary ideology in the peo 
ple? Events are undoubtedly the most powerful educators, but events 
have to be properly understood and interpreted if their significance is 
to be realized and properly directed action is to result from them. 

I have often been asked by friends and colleagues who have occa 
sionally been exasperated by my utterances: Have you not come across 
good and benevolent princes, charitable landlords, well-meaning and 
amiable capitalists? Indeed I have. I myself belong to a class which 
mixes with these lords of the land and owners of wealth. I am a typical 
bourgeois, brought up in bourgeois surroundings, with all the early 
prejudices that this training has given me. Communists have called me 
a petty bourgeois with perfect justification. Perhaps they might label 
me now one of the "repentant bourgeoisie." But whatever I may be is 
beside the point. It is absurd to consider national, international, eco 
nomic, and social problems in terms of isolated individuals. Those very 
friends who question me are never tired of repeating that our quarrel 
is with the sin and not the sinner. I would not even go so far. I would 
say that my quarrel is with a system and not with individuals. A 
system is certainly embodied to a great extent in individuals and 
groups, and these individuals and groups have to be converted or com 
bated. But, if a system has ceased to be of value and is a drag, it has 
to go, and the classes or groups that cling to it will also have to un 
dergo a transformation. That process of change should involve as little 
suffering as possible, but unhappily suffering and dislocation are inevi 
table. We cannot put up with a major evil for fear of a far lesser one, 
which in any event is beyond our power to remedy. 

Every type of human association political, social, or economic has 
some philosophy at the back of it. When these associations change, this 

323 



philosophical foundation must also change in order to fit in with it 
and to utilize it to the best advantage. Usually the philosophy lags be 
hind the course of events, and this lag creates all the trouble. Democ 
racy and capitalism grew up together in the nineteenth century, but 
they were not mutually compatible. There was a basic contradiction 
between them, for democracy laid stress on the power of the many, 
while capitalism gave real power to the few. This ill-assorted pair car 
ried on somehow because political parliamentary democracy was in 
itself a very limited kind of democracy and did not interfere much 
with the growth of monopoly and power concentration. 

Even so, as the spirit of democracy grew, a divorce became inevitable, 
and the time for that has come now. Parliamentary democracy is in 
disrepute today, and as a reaction from it all manner of new slogans 
fill the air. Because of this, the British Government in India becomes 
more reactionary still and makes it an excuse for withholding from us 
even the outer forms of political freedom. The Indian princes, strangely 
enough, make this a justification for their unchecked autocracy and 
stoutly declare their intention of maintaining medieval conditions in 
their domains such as exist nowhere else in the world. But the failure 
of parliamentary democracy is not that it has gone too far, but that it 
has not gone far enough. It was not democratic enough because it did 
not provide for economic democracy, and its methods were slow and 
cumbrous and unsuited to a period of rapid change. 

The Indian states represent today probably the extremest type of au 
tocracy existing in the world. They are, of course, subject to British 
suzerainty, but the British Government interferes only for the protec 
tion or advancement of British interests. A veil of mystery surrounds 
these states. Newspapers are not encouraged there, and at the most a 
literary or semiofficial weekly might flourish. Outside newspapers are 
often barred. Literacy is very low, except in some of the southern 
states Travancore, Cochin, etc. where it is far higher than in British 
India. The principal news that comes from the states is of a viceregal 
visit, with all its pomp and ceremonial and mutually complimentary 
speeches, or of an extravagantly celebrated marriage or birthday of the 
ruler, or an agrarian rising. Special laws protect the princes from criti 
cism, even in British India, and within the states the mildest criticism 
is rigorously suppressed. Public meetings are almost unknown, and 
even meetings for social purposes are often banned. Leading public 
men from outside are frequently prevented from entering the states. 

When such conditions prevail in the states, it would have been nat- 

324 



ural for the Congress to stand up for the elementary rights of the peo 
ple of the states and to criticize their wholesale suppression. But Gan- 
dhiji fathered a novel policy on the Congress in regard to the states 
the "policy of noninterference in the internal administration of the 
states." This hush-hush policy has been adhered to by him in spite of 
the most extraordinary and painful occurrences in the states, and in 
spite of wholly unprovoked attacks by the states' governments on the 
Congress. Apparently the fear is that Congress criticism might offend 
the rulers and make it more difficult to "convert" them. 

More or less the same considerations apply to the talukdari and big 
zamindari system. It hardly seems a matter for argument that this 
semifeudal system is out of date and is a great hindrance to produc 
tion and general progress. It conflicts even with a developing capital 
ism, and almost all over the world large landed estates have gradually 
vanished and given place to peasant proprietors. I had always imagined 
that the only possible question that could arise in India was one of 
compensation. But to my surprise I have discovered during the last year 
or so (1934-5) that Gandhiji approves of the talukdari system as such 
and wants it to continue. He said in July 1934 at Cawnpore that "better 
relations between landlords and tenants could be brought about by a 
change of hearts on both sides. If that was done, both could live in 
peace and harmony." He was "never in favor of abolition of the taluk 
dari or zamindari system, and those who thought that it should be abol 
ished did not know their own minds." (This last charge is rather 
unkind.) 

He is further reported to have said: "I shall be no party to dispossess 
ing propertied classes of their private property without just cause. My 
objective is to reach your hearts and convert you [he was addressing a 
deputation of big zamindars] so that you may hold all your private 
property in trust for your tenants and use it primarily for their welfare. 
. . . But supposing that there is an attempt unjustly to deprive you of 

your property, you will find me fighting on your side The socialism 

and communism of the West is based on certain conceptions which are 
fundamentally different from ours. One such conception is their belief 
in the essential selfishness of human nature. . . . Our socialism and 
communism should therefore be based on nonviolence and on the 
harmonious co-operation of labor and capital, landlord and tenant." 

I do not know if there are any such differences in the basic concep 
tions of the East and West. Perhaps there are. But an obvious differ 
ence in the recent past has been that the Indian capitalist and landlord 

3 2 5 



have ignored far more the interests of their workers and tenants than 
their Western prototypes. There has been practically no attempt on 
the part of the Indian landlord to interest himself in any social service 
for the tenants' welfare. Many landlords have been deprived of their 
lands by moneylenders, and the smaller ones have sunk to the position 
of tenants on the land they once owned. These moneylenders from the 
city advanced money on mortgages and foreclosed, thus blossoming 
out into zamindars; according to Gandhi ji, they are now the trustees 
for the unhappy people whom they have themselves dispossessed of 
their lands,, and are expected to devote their income primarily to the 
welfare of their tenantry. 

If the talukdari system is good, why should it not be introduced all 
over India? Large tracts of India have peasant proprietors. I wonder 
if Gandhi ji would be agreeable to the creation of large zamindaris and 
taluks in Gujrat ? I imagine not. But then why is one land system good 
for the United Provinces or Behar or Bengal, and another for Gujrat 
and the Punjab? Presumably there is not any vital difference between 
the people of the north and east and west and south of India, and their 
basic conceptions are the same. It comes to this, then, that whatever 
is should continue, the status quo should be maintained. There should 
be no economic inquiry as to what is most desirable or beneficial for 
the people, no attempts to change present conditions; all that is neces 
sary is to change the people's hearts. That is the pure religious attitude 
to life and its problems. It has nothing to do with politics or economics 
or sociology. And yet Gandhiji goes beyond this in the political, na 
tional sphere. 

Such are some of the paradoxes that face India today. We have man 
aged to tie ourselves up into a number of knots, and it is difficult to 
get on till we untie them. That release will not come emotionally. 
What is better, Spinoza asked long ago, "freedom through knowledge 
and understanding, or emotional bondage?" He preferred the former. 



XLVIII 

DEHRA JAIL AGAIN 

I WAS NOT flourishing in Alipore Jail. My weight had gone down con 
siderably, and the Calcutta air and increasing heat were distressing me. 
There were rumors of my transfer to a better climate. On May 7 I was 

326 



told to gather my belongings and to march out o the jail. I was being 
sent to Dehra Dun Jail. The drive through Calcutta in the cool eve 
ning air was very pleasant after some months o seclusion, and the 
crowds at the big Howrah station were fascinating. 

I was glad of my transfer and looked forward to Dehra Dun with 
its near-by mountains. On arrival I found that all was not as it used 
to be nine months earlier, when I had left it for Naini. I was put in a 
new place, an old cattle shed cleaned up and fitted out. 

As a cell it was not bad, and there was a little veranda attached to it. 
There was also a small yard adjoining, about fifty feet in length. The 
cell was better than the ancient one I had had previously in Dehra, but 
soon I discovered that other changes were not for the better. The sur 
rounding wall, which had been ten feet high, had just been raised, 
especially for my benefit, by another four or five feet. The view of the 
hills I had so looked forward to was completely cut off, and I could 
just see a few treetops. I was in this jail for over three months, and I 
never had even a glimpse of the mountains. I was not allowed to walk 
outside in front of the jail gate, as I used to, and my little yard was 
considered quite big enough for exercise. 

These and other new restrictions were disappointing, and I felt irri 
tated. I grew listless and disinclined to take even the little exercise that 
my yard allowed. I had hardly ever felt quite so lonely and cut off 
from the world. The solitary confinement began to tell on my nerves, 
and physically and mentally I declined. On the other side of the wall, 
only a few feet away, I knew there was freshness and fragrance, the 
cool smell of grass and soft earth, and distant vistas. But they were all 
out of reach, and my eyes grew weary and heavy, faced always by those 
walls. There was not even the usual movement of prison life, for I was 
kept apart and by myself. 

After six weeks the monsoon broke and it rained in torrents; we had 
twelve inches of rain during the first week. There was a change in the 
air and whisperings of new life; the temperature came down, and the 
body felt relaxed and relieved. But there was no relief for the eyes or 
the mind. Sometimes the iron door of my yard would open to allow 
a warder to come in or go out, and for a few seconds I had a sudden 
glimpse of the outside world green fields and trees, bright with color 
and glistening with pearly drops of rain for a moment only, and then 
it all vanished like a flash of lightning. The door was hardly ever 
fully opened. Apparently the warders had instructions not to open it 
if I was anywhere near and, even when they opened it, to do so just 

327 



a little. These brief glimpses of greenery and freshness were hardly 
welcome to me. That sight produced in me a kind of nostalgia, a heart 
ache, and I would even avoid looking out when the door opened. 

But all this unhappiness was not really the fault of the jail, though it 
contributed to it. It was the reaction of outside events Kamala's illness 
and my political worries. I was beginning to realize that Kamala was 
again in the grip of her old disease, and I felt helpless and unable to 
be of any service to her. I knew that my presence by her side would 
have made a difference. 

Unlike Alipore, Dehra Dun Jail allowed me a daily newspaper, and 
I could keep in touch with political and other developments outside. 
In Patna the All-India Congress Committee met after nearly three 
years (for most of this time it had been unlawful), and its proceedings 
were depressing. It surprised me that no attempt was made at this first 
meeting, after so much that had happened in India and the world, to 
analyze the situation, to have full discussions, to try to get out of old 
ruts. Gandhiji seemed to be, from a distance, his old dictatorial self 
"If you choose to follow my lead, you have to accept my conditions," 
he said. He told the All-India Congress Committee to be businesslike 
and to adopt the resolutions placed before them by the Working Com 
mittee with speed, and then he went away. 

It is probably true that prolonged discussions would not have im 
proved matters. Two groups took shape: one desiring purely constitu 
tional activities through the legislatures, the other thinking rather 
vaguely along socialistic lines. The majority of the members belonged 
to neither of these groups. They disliked a reversion to constitutional 
ism, and at the same time socialism frightened them a little and seemed 
to them to introduce an element which might split their ranks. They 
had no constructive ideas, and the one hope and sheet anchor they 
possessed was Gandhiji. As of old, they turned to him and followed his 
lead, even though many of them did not wholly approve of what he 
said. Gandhij i's support of the moderate constitutional elements gave 
them dominance in the Committee and the Congress. 

The reaction took the Congress further back than I had thought. At 
no time during the last fifteen years, ever since the advent of nonco- 
operation, had Congress leaders talked in this ultraconstitutional 
fashion. 

The proscription of the Congress was ended by the Government, and 
it became a legal organization. But many of its associated and sub 
sidiary bodies continued to be illegal, such as its volunteer department, 

328 



the Seva Dal, as also a number of \isan sabhas, which were semi- 
independent peasant unions, and several educational institutions and 
youth leagues, including a children's organization. In particular the 
Khudai Khidmatgars, or the Frontier Redstarts, as they are called, 
were still outlawed. This organization had become a regular part of 
the Congress in 1931, and represented it in the Frontier Province. 
Thus, although the Congress had completely drawn off the direct 
action part of the struggle and had reverted to constitutional ways, the 
Government kept on all the special laws meant for civil disobedience 
and even continued the proscription of important parts of the Congress 
organization. Special attention was also paid to the suppression of 
peasant organizations and labor unions, while, it was interesting to 
note, high Government officials went about urging the zamindars and 
landlords to organize themselves. Every facility was offered to these 
landlords' organizations. The two major ones in the United Provinces 
were having their subscriptions collected for them by official agency, 
together with the revenue or taxes. 

One of the secretaries of the Hindu Mahasabha actually went out of 
his way to approve of the continuation of the ban on the "Redshirts," 
and to pat Government on the back for it. This amazed me. Apart 
from this question of principle, it was well known that these Frontier 
people had behaved wonderfully during the years of struggle; and their 
leader, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, one of the bravest and straightest 
men in India, was still in prison a State prisoner kept confined with 
out any trial. It seemed to me that communal bias could hardly go 
further. 

I was much upset by this Hindu Sabha secretary's statement. It was 
bad enough in itself, but to my mind it appeared as a symbol of the 
new state of affairs in the country. In the heat of that summer after 
noon I dozed off, and I remember having a curious dream. Abdul 
Ghaffar Khan was being attacked on all sides, and I was fighting to 
defend him. I woke up in an exhausted state, feeling very miserable, 
and my pillow was wet with tears. This surprised me, for in my wak 
ing state I was not liable to such emotional outbursts. 

My nerves were obviously in a bad way in those days. My sleep be 
came troubled and disturbed, which was very unusual for me, and all 
manner of nightmares came to me. Sometimes I would shout out in 
my sleep. Once evidently the shouting had been more vigorous than 
usual, and I woke up with a start to find two jail warders standing 

329 



near my bed, rather worried at my noises. I had dreamed that I was 
being strangled. 

About this time a resolution of the Congress Working Committee 
had also a painful effect on me. This resolution was passed, it was 
stated, "in view of the loose talk about the confiscation of private prop 
erty and necessity of class war," and it proceeded to remind Congress 
men that the Karachi resolution "neither contemplates confiscation of 
private property without just cause or compensation, nor advocacy of 
class war. The Working Committee is further of the opinion that 
confiscation and class war are contrary to the Congress creed of non 
violence." The resolution was loosely worded and exhibited a certain 
amount of ignorance on the part of the framers as to what class war 
was. It was obviously aimed at the newly formed Congress Socialist 
party. There had, as a matter of fact, been no talk of confiscation on 
the part of any responsibile member of this group; there had, how 
ever, been frequent reference to the existence of class war under present 
conditions. The Working Committee's resolution seemed to hint that 
any person believing in the existence of this class conflict could not 
even be an ordinary member of the Congress. 

The Working Committee subsequently tried to explain its resolu 
tion on class war. The importance of that resolution lay not so much 
in its language or what it definitely laid down, as in the fact that it was 
yet another indication of the way Congress was going. The resolution 
had obviously been inspired by the new parliamentary wing of the 
Congress aiming at gaining the support o men of property in the 
coming election to the Legislative Assembly. At their instance the 
Congress was looking more and more to the Right and trying to win 
over the moderate and conservative elements in the country. Soothing 
words were being addressed even to those who had been hostile to the 
Congress movements in the past and had sided with the Government 
during the continuance of civil disobedience. A clamorous and critical 
Left wing was felt to be a handicap in this process of conciliation and 
"conversion," and the Working Committee's resolution, as well as 
many other individual utterances, made it clear that the Congress 
Executive were not going to be moved from their new path by this 
nibbling from the Left. If the Left did not behave, it would be sat upon 
and eliminated from the Congress ranks. The manifesto issued by the 
Parliamentary Board of the Congress contained a program which was 
far more cautious and moderate than any that the Congress had spon 
sored during the past fifteen years. 

330 



On the Government side there was an air o triumph, in no way 
concealed, at what they considered the success o their policy in sup 
pressing civil disobedience and its offshoots. The operation had been 
successful, and for the moment is mattered little whether the patient 
lived or died. They proposed to continue the same policy, with minor 
variations, even though the Congress had been for the moment brought 
round to some extent. Perhaps they also thought that in continuing to 
suppress the more advanced elements in the Congress or in the labor 
and peasant ranks, they would not greatly offend the more cautious 
leaders of the Congress. 

To some extent my thoughts in Dehra Dun Jail ran along these 
channels. I was really not in a position to form definite opinions about 
the course of events, for I was out of touch. In Alipore I had been al 
most completely out of touch; in Dehra a newspaper of the Govern 
ment's choice brought me partial and sometimes one-sided news. It is 
quite possible that contacts with my colleagues outside and a closer 
study of the situation would have resulted in my varying my opinions 
in some degree. 

Distressed with the present, I began thinking of the past, of what 
had happened politically in India since I began to take some part in 
public affairs. How far had we been right in what we had done? How 
far wrong? It struck me that my thinking would be more orderly and 
helpful if I put it down on paper. This would also help in engaging 
my mind in a definite task and so diverting it from worry and de 
pression. So in the month of June 1934 I began this "autobiographical 
narrative" in Dehra Jail, and for the last eight months I have con 
tinued it when the mood to do so has seized me. Often there have been 
intervals when I felt no desire to write; three of these gaps were each 
of them nearly a month long. But I managed to continue, and now 
I am nearing the end of this personal journey. Most of this has been 
written under peculiarly distressing circumstances when I was suf 
fering from depression and emotional strain. Perhaps some of this 
is reflected in what I have written, but this very writing helped me 
greatly to pull myself out of the present with all its worries. As I wrote, 
I was hardly thinking of an outside audience; I was addressing myself, 
framing questions and answering them for my own benefit, sometimes 
even drawing some amusement from it. I wanted as far as possible to 
think straight, and I imagined that this review of the past might help 
me to do so. 

Toward the end of July, Kamala's condition rapidly deteriorated, 



and within a few days became critical. On August n I was suddenly 
asked to leave Dehra Jail, and that night I was sent under police 
escort to Allahabad. The next evening we reached Prayag station in 
Allahabad, and there I was informed by the district magistrate that I 
was being released temporarily so that I might visit my ailing wife. It 
was six months to a day from the time of my arrest. 



XLIX 

ELEVEN DAYS 

For the Sword outwears its sheath, 
And the soul wears out the breast. 

BYRON. 

MY RELEASE WAS temporary. I was given to understand that it was for 
a day or two or for such longer period as the doctors might think 
absolutely necessary. It was a peculiar position, full of uncertainty, and 
it was not possible for me to settle down to anything. A fixed period 
would have enabled me to know how I stood, and I would have tried 
to adjust myself to it. As it was, any day, at any moment, I might be 
taken back to prison. 

The change was sudden, and I was wholly unprepared for it. From 
solitary confinement to a crowded house with doctors, nurses, and 
relatives. My daughter Indira had also come from Santiniketan. Many 
friends were continually coming to see me and inquire after Kamala's 
health. The style of living was quite different; there were home com 
forts, better food. And coloring all this background was anxiety for 
Kamala's serious condition. 

There she lay, frail and utterly weak, a shadow of herself, struggling 
feebly with her illness, and the thought that she might leave me be 
came an intolerable obsession. It was eighteen and a half years since 
our marriage, and my mind wandered back to that day and to all that 
these succeeding years had brought us. I was twenty-six at the time, 
and she was about seventeen, a slip of a girl, utterly unsophisticated 
in the ways of the world. The difference in our ages was considerable, 
but greater still was the difference in our mental outlook, for I was far 
more grown-up than she was. And yet with all my appearance of 
worldly wisdom I was very boyish, and I hardly realized that this 

332 



delicate, sensitive girl's mind was slowly unfolding like a flower and 
required gentle and careful tending. We were attracted to each other 
and got on well enough, but our backgrounds were different, and 
there was a want of adjustment. These maladjustments would some 
times lead to friction, and there were many petty quarrels over triviali 
ties, boy-and-girl affairs which did not last long and ended in a quick 
reconciliation. We both had quick tempers, sensitive natures, and 
childish notions of keeping our dignity. In spite of this our attach 
ment grew, though the want of adjustment lessened only slowly. 
Twenty-one months after our marriage, Indira, our daughter and only 
child, arrived. 

Our marriage had almost coincided with new developments in poli 
tics, and my absorption in them grew. They were the home-rule days, 
and soon after came martial law in the Punjab and nonco-operation, 
and more and more I was involved in the dust and tumble of public 
affairs. So great became my concentration in these activities that, all 
unconsciously, I almost overlooked her and left her to her own re 
sources, just when she required my full co-operation. My affection for 
her continued and even grew, and it was a great comfort to know that 
she was there to help me with her soothing influence. She gave me 
strength, but she must have suffered and felt a little neglected. An 
unkindness to her would almost have been better than this semifor- 
getful, casual attitude. 

And then came her recurring illness and my long absences in prison, 
when we could only meet at jail interviews. The civil disobedience 
movement brought her in the front rank of our fighters, and she re 
joiced when she too went to prison. We grew ever nearer to each 
other. Our rare meetings became precious, and we looked forward to 
them and counted the days that intervened. We could not get tired of 
each other or stale, for there was always a freshness and novelty about 
our meetings and brief periods together. Each of us was continually 
making fresh discoveries in the other, though sometimes perhaps the 
new discoveries were not to our liking. Even our grown-up disagree 
ments had something boyish and girlish about them. 

After eighteen years of married life she had still retained her girlish 
and virginal appearance; there was nothing matronly about her. Al 
most she might have been the bride that came to our house so long 
ago. But I had changed vastly, and, though I was fit and supple and 
active enough for my age and, I was told, I still possessed some boy 
ish traits my looks betrayed me. I was partly bald, and my hair was 

333 



gray; lines and furrows crossed my face, and dark shadows sur 
rounded my eyes. The last four years with their troubles and worries 
had left many a mark on me. Often, in these later years, when Ka- 
mala and I had gone out together in a strange place, she was mistaken, 
to my embarrassment, for my daughter. She and Indira looked like 
two sisters. 

Eighteen years of married life! But how many long years out of 
them had I spent in prison cells, and Kamala in hospitals and sana 
toria? And now again I was serving a prison sentence and out just for 
a few days, and she was lying ill, struggling for life. I felt a little irri 
tated at her for her carelessness about her health. And yet how could 
I blame her, for her eager spirit fretted at her inaction and her inability 
to take her full share in the national struggle? Physically unable to do 
so, she could neither take to work properly nor to treatment, and the 
fire inside her wore down the body. 

Surely she was not going to leave me now when I needed her most? 
Why, we had just begun to know and understand each other, really; 
our joint life was only now properly beginning. We relied so much on 
each other; we had so much to do together. 

So I thought as I watched her from day to day and hour to hour. 

Colleagues and friends came to see me. They told me of much that 
had happened of which I was unaware. They discussed current politi 
cal problems and asked me questions. I found it difficult to answer 
them. It was not easy for my mind to get away from Kamala's illness, 
and after the isolation and detachment of jail I was not in a position 
to face concrete questions suddenly. Long experience had taught me 
that it is not possible to appraise a situation from the limited informa 
tion available in jail. Personal contacts were necessary for a proper 
mental reaction, otherwise the expression of opinion was likely to be 
purely academic and divorced from reality. It seemed also unfair to 
Gandhiji and my old colleagues of the Congress Working Committee 
for me to say anything definite regarding Congress policy before I had 
had the opportunity to discuss everything with them. My mind was 
full of criticisms of much that had been done, but I was not prepared 
to make any positive suggestions. Not expecting to come out of prison 
just then, I had not thought along these lines. 

I had also a feeling that, in view of the courtesy shown by the Gov 
ernment in allowing me to come to my wife, it would not be proper 
for me to take advantage of this for political purposes. I had given no 

334 



undertaking or assurance to avoid any such activity; nevertheless I was 
continually being pulled back by this idea. 

I avoided issuing any public statements except to contradict false 
rumors. Even in private I refrained from committing myself to any 
definite line of policy, but I was free enough with my criticisms of 
past events. The Congress Socialist party had recently come into 
existence, and many of my intimate colleagues were associated with it. 
So far as I had gathered, its general policy was agreeable to me, but it 
seemed a curious and mixed assemblage, and, even if I had been 
completely free, I would not have suddenly joined it. Local politics 
took up some of my time, for in Allahabad, as in several other places, 
there had been an extraordinarily virulent campaign during the elec 
tions for the local Congress committees. No principles were involved 
it was purely a question of personalities and I was asked to help in 
settling some of the personal quarrels that had arisen. 

I felt disgusted with the local squabble and the kind of politics which 
were rapidly developing. I felt out of tune with them and a stranger 
in my own city of Allahabad. What could I do, I wondered, in this 
environment when the time came for me to attend to such matters? 

I wrote to Gandhiji about Kamala's condition. As I thought I would 
be going back to prison soon and might have no other chance to do 
so, I gave him also some glimpse into my rnind. Recent events had 
embittered and distressed me greatly, and my letter carried a faint 
reflection of this. I did not attempt to suggest what should be done or 
what should not be done; all I did was to interpret some of my reac 
tions to what had happened. It was a letter full of barely suppressed 
emotions, and I learned subsequently that it pained Gandhiji con 
siderably. ' 

Day after day went by, and I waited for the summons to prison or 
some other intimation from Government. From time to time I was 
informed that further directions would be issued the next day or the 
day after. Meanwhile the doctors were asked to send a daily bulletin 
of my wife's condition to the Government. Kamala had slightly im 
proved since my arrival. 

It was generally believed, even by those who are usually in the con 
fidence of the Government, that I would have been fully discharged 
but for two impending events the fall session of the Congress that 
was taking place in October in Bombay and the Assembly elections in 
November. Out of prison I might be a disturbing factor at these, and 
so it seemed probable that I might be sent back to prison for another 

335 



three months and then discharged. There was also the possibility of 
my not being sent back to jail, and this possibility seemed to grow as 
the days went by. I almost decided to settle down. 

It was the eleventh day after my release, August 23. The police car 
drove up, and the police officer came up to me and told me that my 
time was up and I had to accompany him to Naini Prison. I bade 
good-by to my people. As I was getting into the police car, my ailing 
mother ran up again to me with arms outstretched. That face of hers 
haunted me for long. 



L 

BACK TO PRISON 

Shadow is itself unrestrained in its path while sunshine f as an incident of 
its very nature, is pursued a hundredfold by nuance. Thus is sorrow from 
happiness a thing apart; the scope of happiness, however, is hampered by 
the aches and hurts of endless sorrows. 

RAJATARANGINI. 1 

I WAS BACK again in Naini Prison, and I felt as if I were starting a 
fresh term of imprisonment. In and out, out and in; what a shuttlecock 
I had become! This switching on and off shook up the whole system 
emotionally and it was not easy to adjust oneself to repeated changes. 
I had expected to be put in my old cell at Naini, to which a previous 
long stay had accustomed me. There were some flowers there, orig 
inally planted by my brother-in-law, Ranjit Pandit, and a good 
veranda. But this old Barrack No. 6 was occupied by a detenu, a State 
prisoner, kept confined without trial, or conviction. It was not consid 
ered desirable for me to associate with him, and I was therefore placed 
in another part of the jail which was much more closed in and was 
devoid of flowers or greenery. 

But the place where I spent my days and nights mattered little, for 
my mind was elsewhere. I feared that the little improvement that had 
taken place in Kamala's condition would not stand the shock of my 
rearrest. And so it happened. For some days it was arranged to supply 
me in prison with a very brief doctor's bulletin daily. This came by a 
devious route. The doctor had to telephone it to the police headquar 
ters, and the latter then sent it on to the prison. It was not considered 

a R. S. Pandit's translation. ("River of Kings." Taranga, viii verse, 1913.) 

336 



desirable to have any direct contacts between the doctors and the jail 
staff. For two weeks these bulletins came to me, sometimes rather 
irregularly, and then they were stopped although there was a pro 
gressive deterioration in Kamala's condition. 

Bad news and the waiting for news made the days intolerably long, 
and the nights were sometimes worse. Time seemed almost to stand 
still or to move with desperate slowness, and every hour was a burden 
and a horror. I had never before had this feeling in this acute degree. 
I thought then that I was likely to be released within two months or 
so, after the Bombay Congress session, but those two months seemed 
an eternity. ' 

Exactly a month after my rearrest a police officer took me from 
prison on a brief visit to my wife. I was told that I would be allowed 
to visit her in this way twice a week, and even the time for it was 
fixed. I waited on the fourth day no one came for me; and on the 
fifth, sixth, seventh. I became weary of waiting. News reached me that 
her condition was becoming critical again. What a joke it was, I 
thought, to tell me that I would be taken to see her twice a week! 

At last the month of September was over. They were the longest 
and most damnable thirty days that I had ever experienced. 

Suggestions were made to me through various intermediaries that if 
I could give an assurance, even an informal assurance, to keep away 
from politics for the rest of my term I would be released to attend on 
Kamala. Politics were far enough from my thoughts just then, and 
the politics I had seen during my eleven days outside had disgusted 
me, but to give an assurance! And to be disloyal to my pledges, to the 
cause, to my colleagues, to myself! It was an impossible condition, 
whatever happened. To do so meant inflicting a mortal injury on the 
roots of my being, on almost everything I held sacred. I was told that 
Kamala's condition was becoming worse and worse, and my presence 
by her side might make all the difference between life and death. Was 
my personal conceit and pride greater than my desire to give her this 
chance? It might have been a terrible predicament for me, but fortu 
nately that dilemma did not face me in that way at least. I knew that 
Kamala herself would strongly disapprove of my giving any undertak 
ing, and, if I did anything of the kind, it would shock her and harm 
her. 

Early in October I was taken to see her again. She was lying almost 
in a daze with a high temperature. She longed to have me by her, but, 
as I was leaving her, to go back to prison, she smiled at me bravely 

337 



and beckoned to me to bend down. When I did so, she whispered: 
"What is this about your giving an assurance to Government? Do not 
give it!" 

During the eleven days I was out of prison it had been decided to 
send Kamala, as soon as she was a little better, to a more suitable place 
for treatment. Ever since then we had waited for her to get better, but 
instead she had gone downhill, and now, six weeks later, the change 
for the worse was very marked. It was futile to continue waiting and 
watching this process of deterioration, and it was decided to send her 
to Bhowali in the hills even in her present condition. 

The day before she was to leave for Bhowali I was taken from 
prison to bid her good-by. When will I see her again? I wondered. 
And will I see her at all? But she looked bright and cheerful that day, 
and I felt happier than I had done for long. 

Nearly three weeks later I was transferred from Naini Prison to 
Almora District Jail so as to be nearer to Kamala. Bhowali was on 
the way, and my police escort and I spent a few hours there. I was 
greatly pleased to note the improvement in Kamala, and I left her, to 
continue my journey to Almora, with a light heart. Indeed, even before 
I reached her, the mountains had filled me with joy. 

I was glad to be back in these mountains, and, as our car sped 
along the winding road, the cold morning air and the unfolding 
panorama brought a sense of exhilaration. Higher and higher we 
went; the gorges deepened; the peaks lost themselves in the clouds; 
the vegetation changed till the firs and pines covered the hillsides. 
A turn of the road would bring to our eyes suddenly a new expanse 
of hills and valleys with a little river gurgling in the depths below. I 
could not have my fill of the sight, and I looked on hungrily, storing 
my memory with it, so that I might revive it in my mind when actual 
sight was denied. 

Clusters of little mountain huts clung to the hillsides, and round 
about them were tiny fields made by prodigious labor on every possi 
ble bit of slope. They looked like terraces from a distance, huge steps 
which sometimes went from the valley below right up almost to the 
mountain top. What enormous labor had gone to make nature yield a 
little food to the sparse population! How they toiled unceasingly, only 
to get barely enough for their needs! Those plowed terraces gave a 
domesticated look to the hillsides, and they contrasted strangely with 
the bleaker or the more wooded slopes, 
It was very pleasant in the daytime, and, as the sun rose higher, the 

338 



growing warmth brought life to the mountains, and they seemed to 
lose their remoteness and become friendly and companionable. But 
how they change their aspect with the passing of day! How cold and 
grim they become when "Night with giant strides stalks o'er the 
world" and life hides and protects itself and leaves wild nature to its 
own! In the semidarkness of the moonlight or starlight the mountains 
loom up mysterious, threatening, overwhelming, and yet almost insub 
stantial, and through the valleys can be heard the moaning of the 
wind. The poor traveler shivers as he goes his lonely way and senses 
hostility everywhere. Even the voice of the wind seems to mock him 
and challenge him. And at other times there is no breath of wind or 
other sound, and there is an absolute silence that is oppressive in its 
intensity. Only the telegraph wires perhaps hum faintly, and the stars 
seem brighter and nearer than ever. The mountains look down grimly, 
and one seems to be face to face with a mystery that terrifies. With 
Pascal one thinks: "Le silence eternel de ces espaces infinis m'effraie!' 
In the plains the nights are never quite so soundless; life is still audible 
there, and the murmuring and humming of various animals and in 
sects break the stillness of the night. 

But the night with its chill and inhospitable message was yet distant 
as we motored along to Almora. As we neared the end of our journey, 
a turn in the road and a sudden lifting of the clouds brought a new 
sight which I saw with a gasp of surprised delight. The snowy peaks 
of the Himalayas stood glistening in the far distance, high above the 
wooded mountains that intervened. Calm and inscrutable they seemed, 
with all the wisdom of past ages, mighty sentinels over the vast Indian 
plain. The very sight of them cooled the fever in the brain, and the 
petty conflicts and intrigues, the lusts and falsehoods of the plains and 
the cities seemed trivial and far away before their eternal ways. 

The little jail of Almora was perched up on a ridge. I was given a 
lordly barrack to live in. This consisted of one huge hall, fifty-one feet 
by seventeen, with a fytcha, very uneven floor, and a worm-eaten roof 
which was continually coming down in little bits. There were fifteen 
windows and a door, or rather there were so many barred openings in 
the walls, for there were no doors or windows. There was thus no lack 
of fresh air. As it grew colder some of the window openings were 
covered with coir matting. In this vast expanse (which was bigger 
than any yard at Dehra Dun) I lived in solitary grandeur. But I was 
not quite alone, for at least two score sparrows had made their home 
in the broken-down roof. Sometimes a wandering cloud would visit 

339 



me, its many arms creeping in through the numerous openings and 
filling the place with a damp mist. 

Here I was locked up every evening at about five, after I had taken 
my last meal, a kind of high tea, at four-thirty; and at seven in the 
morning my barred door would be unlocked. In the daytime I would 
sit either in my barrack or outside in an adjoining yard, warming 
myself in the sun. I could just see over the enclosing walls the top of a 
mountain a mile or so away, and above me I had a vast expanse of 
blue sky dotted with clouds. Wonderful shapes these clouds assumed, 
and I never grew tired of watching them. I fancied I saw them take 
the shape of all manner of animals, and sometimes they would join 
together and look like a mighty ocean. Or they would be like a beach, 
and the rustling of the breeze through the deodars would sound like 
the coming in of the tide on a distant sea front. Sometimes a cloud 
would advance boldly on us, seemingly solid and compact, and then 
dissolve in mist as it came near and finally enveloped us. 

I preferred the wide expanse of my barrack to a narrow cell, though 
it was lonelier than a smaller place would have been. Even when it 
rained outside, I could walk about in it. But, as it grew colder, its 
cheerlessness became more marked, and my love for fresh air and the 
open abated when the temperature hovered about the freezing point. 
The new year brought a good fall of snow to my delight, and even 
the drab surroundings of prison became beautiful. Especially beautiful 
and fairy like were the deodar trees just outside the jail walls with 
their garment of snow. 

I was worried by the ups and downs of Kamala's condition, and a 
piece of bad news would upset me for a while, but the hill air calmed 
me and soothed me, and I reverted to my habit of sleeping soundly. 
As I was on the verge of sleep, I often thought what a wonderful and 
mysterious thing was sleep. Why should one wake up from it? Sup 
pose I did not wake at all? 

Yet the desire to be out of jail was strong in me, more than I had 
ever felt before. The Bombay Congress was over, and November came 
and went by, and the excitement of the Assembly elections also passed 
away. I half expected that I might be released soon. 

But then came the surprising news of the arrest and conviction of 
Khan Abdul Chafer Khan and the amazing orders passed on Subhas 
Bose during his brief visit to India. These orders in themselves were 
devoid of all humanity and consideration; they were applied to one 
who was held in affection and esteem by vast numbers of his country- 

34 



men, and who had hastened home, in spite of his own illness, to the 
deathbed of his father to arrive too late. If that was the outlook of the 
Government, there could be no chance of my premature release. Offi 
cial announcements later made this perfectly clear. 

After I had been a month in Almora jail I was taken to Bhowali 
to see Kamala. Since then I have visited her approximately every 
third week. Sir Samuel Hoare, the Secretary of State for India, has 
repeatedly stated that I am allowed to visit my wife once or twice a 
week. He would have been more correct if he had said once or twice a 
month. During the last three and a half months that I have been at 
Almora I have paid five visits to her. I do not mention this as a griev 
ance, because I think that in this matter the Government have been 
very considerate to me and have given me quite unusual facilities to 
visit Kamala. I am grateful to them for this. The brief visits I have 
paid her have been very precious to me and perhaps to her also. The 
doctors suspended their regime for the day of my visit to some extent, 
and I was permitted to have fairly long talks with her. We came ever 
nearer to each other, and to leave her was a wrench. We met only to 
be parted. And sometimes I thought with anguish that a day might 
come when the parting was for good. 

My mother had gone to Bombay for treatment, for she had not 
recovered from her ailment. She seemed to be progressing. One morn 
ing in mid-January a telegram brought a wholly unexpected shock. 
She had had a stroke of paralysis. There was a possibility of my being 
transferred to a Bombay prison to enable me to see her, but, as there 
was a little improvement in her condition, I was not sent. 

January gave place to February, and there was the whisper of spring 
in the air. The bulbul and other birds were again to be seen and heard, 
and tiny shoots were mysteriously bursting out of the ground and 
gazing at this strange world. Rhododendrons made blood-red patches 
on the hillsides, and peach and plum blossoms were peeping out. The 
days passed and I counted them as they passed, thinking of my next 
visit to Bhowali. I wondered what truth there is in the saying that 
life's rich gifts follow frustration and cruelty and separation. Perhaps 
the gifts would not be appreciated otherwise. Perhaps suffering is nec 
essary for clear thought, but excess of it may cloud the brain. Jail 
encourages introspection, and my long years in prison have forced me 
to look more and more within myself. I am not by nature an introvert, 
but prison life, like strong coffee or strychnine, leads to introversion. 
Sometimes, to amuse myself, I drew an outline of Professor McDoug- 

34 1 



all's cube for the measurement of introversion and extroversion, and I 
gazed at it to find out how frequent were the changes from one inter 
pretation to another. They seemed to be rapid. 



LI 

REFLECTIONS ON SOCIAL CHANGE 

Dawn reddens in the wa\e of night, but the days of our life return not. 
The eye contains a far horizon , but the wound of spring lies deep in the 
heart. 

Li T'Ai-Po. 

I FOLLOWED FROM the newspapers supplied to me the proceedings of 
the Bombay session of the Congress. The two outstanding features of 
this, as far as I could make out from my distant and secluded abode 
on the mountains, were: the dominant personality of Gandhiji and 
the exceedingly poor show that the communal opposition under Pandit 
Madan Mohan Malaviya and Mr. Aney put up. 

Gandhiji's retirement from the Congress was a striking feature of 
the session, and outwardly it marked the end of a great chapter in 
Congress and Indian history. But, essentially, its significance was not 
great, for he cannot rid himself, even if he wanted to, of his dominat 
ing position. 

I was glad that the Congress had adopted the idea of a Constituent 
Assembly for setding the constitution of the country. It seemed to me 
that there was no other way of solving the problem, and I am sure 
that sometime or other some such assembly will have to meet. Mani 
festly it cannot do so without the consent of the British Government, 
unless there has been a successful revolution. It is equally manifest 
that this consent is not likely to be forthcoming under present circum 
stances. A real assembly can therefore not meet till enough strength 
has been evolved in the country to force the pace. This inevitably 
means that even the political problem will remain unsolved till then. 

It was interesting to watch the reactions of Simla and London to this 
idea. It was made known semiofficially that Government would have 
no objection; they gave it a patronizing approval, evidently looking 
upon it as an old type of All-Parties Conference, foredoomed to failure, 
which would strengthen their hands. Later they seem to have realized 

342 



the dangers and possibilities of the idea, and they began opposing it 
vigorously. 

Soon after the Bombay Congress came the Assembly elections. With 
all my lack of enthusiasm for the Congress parliamentary program, 
I was greatly interested, and I wished the Congress candidates success, 
or to put it more correctly, I hoped for the defeat of their opponents. 
Among these opponents was a curious assortment of careerists, com- 
munalists, renegades, and people who had stanchly supported the 
Government in its policy of repression. The Congress met with re 
markable success, and I was pleased that a good number of undesirables 
had been kept out. 

The Assembly elections threw a revealing light on the people at the 
back of the two most reactionary communal bodies. Industrial advance 
and profits are their governing motives. 

Soon after the Assembly elections the Report of the Joint Parliamen 
tary Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform was issued. Among 
the varied and widespread criticisms to which it was subjected, stress 
was often laid on the fact that it showed "distrust" and "suspicion" of 
the Indian people. This seemed to me a very strange way of looking 
at our national and social problems. Were there no vital conflicts of 
interest between British imperial policy and our national interests? 
The question was which was to prevail. Did we want freedom 
merely to continue that imperial policy? Apparendy that was the 
British Government's notion, for we were informed that the "safe 
guards" would not be used so long as we behaved and demonstrated 
our fitness for self-rule by doing just what British policy required. If 
British policy was to be continued in India, why all this shouting 
about getting the reins in our own hands? 

The measure of liberty that this proposed gift of Britain offers to 
India can be taken from the fact that even the most moderate and 
politically backward groups in India have condemned it as reactionary. 
The habitual and persistent supporters of Government have had to 
combine criticisms of it with their usual genuflections. Others have 
been more vehement. 

In view of these proposals the Liberals found it difficult to retain in 
full measure their abiding faith in the inscrutable wisdom of Provi 
dence in placing India under British dominion. 

A certain hopeful reliance is placed by Liberal leaders, and probably 
by many others including some Congressmen, on the victory of the 
Labour party in Britain and the formation of a Labour Government 

343 



there. There is absolutely no reason why India should not endeavor to 
go ahead with the co-operation of advanced groups in Britain, or 
should not try to profit by the advent of a Labour Government. But to 
rely helplessly on a change in fortune's wheel in England is hardly 
dignified or in consonance with national honor. Dignity apart, it is 
not good common sense. Why should we expect much from the 
British Labour party? We have had two Labour Governments already, 
and we are not likely to forget their gifts to India. At the South- 
port Conference in 1934, a resolution was submitted by Mr. V. K. 
Krishna Menon "expressing the conviction that it is imperative that 
the principle of self-determination for the establishment of full self- 
government for India should be implemented forthwith." Mr. Arthur 
Henderson urged the withdrawal of the resolution and, very frankly, 
refused to give an undertaking on behalf of the Executive to carry out 
its policy of self-determination for India. He said: "We have laid down 
very clearly that we are going to consult if possible all sections of the 
Indian people. That ought to satisfy anybody." The satisfaction will 
perhaps be tempered by the fact that exactly this was the declared pol 
icy of the last Labour Government and the National Government, 
resulting in the Round Table Conference, the White Paper, the Joint 
Committee Report, and the India Act. 

It is perfectly clear that in matters of imperial policy there is little 
to choose between Tory or Labour in England. It is true that the 
Labour rank and file is far more advanced, but it has little influence 
on its very conservative leadership. It may be that the Labour Left 
wing will gather strength, for conditions change rapidly nowadays; but 
do national or social movements curl themselves up and go to sleep, 
waiting for problematical changes elsewhere? 

One of the notable consequences of the Round Table Conference 
and the proposal to have a federation, is to push the Indian princes 
very much to the forefront. The solicitude of the Tory die-hards for 
them and their "independence" has put new life into them. Never 
before have they had so much importance thrust on them. Previously 
they had dared not say no to a hint from the British Resident, and 
the Government of India's attitude to the numerous highnesses was 
openly disdainful. There was continual interference in their internal 
affairs, and often this was justified. Even today a large number of the 
states are directly or indirectly being governed by British officers "lent" 
to the states. But Mr. Churchill's and Lord Rothermere's campaign 
seems to have unnerved the Government of India a little, and it has 

344 



grown cautious about interfering with their decisions. The princes also 
now talk in a much more superior way. 

I have tried to follow these superficial developments in the Indian 
political scene, but I cannot help feeling that they are unreal, and the 
background in India oppresses me. The background is one of continual 
repression of every kind of freedom, of enormous suffering and frus 
tration, of distortion of good will, and encouragement of many evil 
tendencies. Large numbers lie in prison and spend their young lives, 
year after year, eating their hearts out. Their families and friends and 
connections and thousands of others grow bitter, and a nauseating 
sense of humiliation and powerlessness before brute strength takes pos 
session of them. Numerous organizations are outlawed even in normal 
times, while "Emergency Powers" and "Tranquillity Acts" make for 
themselves almost a permanent home in the Government's armory. 
Exceptions in the matter of restrictions of liberties rapidly become the 
general rule. Large numbers of books and periodicals are proscribed 
or prevented entry by a "Sea Customs Act," and the possession of 
"dangerous" literature may lead to a long term of imprisonment. A 
frank expression of opinion on the political or economic problems of 
the day, or a favorable report of social and cultural conditions in Rus 
sia meets with the strong disapproval of the censor. The Modern Re 
view was warned by the Bengal Government because it published an 
article by Dr. Rabindranath Tagore on Russia, an article written after 
a personal visit to that country. We are informed by the Under-Secre- 
tary for India in Parliament that "the article gave a distorted view 
of the achievements of British rule in India," and hence action was 
taken against it. 1 The judge of these achievements is the censor, and 
we may not have a contrary opinion or give expression to it. Objection 
was also taken by Government to the publication of a brief message 
from Rabindranath Tagore to the Dublin Society of Friends. This 
is a strange background for the introduction of reforms and respon 
sible government and the like. 

Far-reaching changes are taking place before our eyes, and the fu 
ture, whatever shape it might take, is not a remote, far-off thing which 
arouses a purely academic interest in the detached minds of philoso 
phers, sociologists, and economists. It is a matter which affects every 
human being for better or for worse, and surely it is every citizen's 
duty to try to understand the various forces at play and decide on his 
own course of action. A world is coming to an end, and a new world 

1 November 12, 1934. 

345 



is taking shape. To find an answer to a problem it is necessary to know 
what it is. Indeed it is as important to know the problem as to seek a 
solution for it. 

Even more important are the economic changes that are rapidly tak 
ing place the world over. We must realize that the nineteenth-century 
system has passed away and has no application to present-day needs. 

We have to face many questions, and we must face them boldly. 
Has the present social or economic system a right to exist if it is un 
able to improve greatly the condition of the masses? Does any other 
system give promise of this widespread betterment? How far will a 
mere political change bring radical improvement? If vested interests 
come in the way of an eminently desirable change, is it wise or moral 
to attempt to preserve them at the cost of mass misery and poverty? 
Surely the object is not to injure vested interests, but to prevent them 
from injuring others. If it was possible to come to terms with these 
vested interests, it would be most desirable to do so. People may dis 
agree with the justice or injustice of this, but few will doubt the ex 
pediency of a settlement. Such a settlement obviously cannot be the 
removal of one vested interest by the creation of another. Whenever 
possible and desirable, reasonable compensation might be given, for a 
conflict is likely to cost far more. But, unhappily, all history shows that 
vested interests do not accept such compromises. Classes that have 
ceased to play a vital part in society are singularly lacking in wisdom. 
They gamble for all or nothing, and so they fade away. 

In considering a method for changing the existing order we have to 
weigh the costs of it in material as well as spiritual terms. We cannot 
afford to be too shortsighted. We have to see how far it helps ulti 
mately in the development of human happiness and human progress, 
material and spiritual. But we have always to bear in mind the ter 
rible costs of not changing the existing order, of carrying on as we do 
today with our enormous burden of frustrated and distorted lives, star 
vation and misery, and spiritual and moral degradation. 

It is obvious that the vast changes that socialism envisages cannot be 
brought about by the sudden passing of a few laws. But the basic laws 
and power are necessary to give the direction of advance and to lay 
the foundation of the structure. If the great building-up of a socialized 
society is to proceed, it cannot be left to chance nor can it be done in 
fits and starts with intervals of destruction of what has been built. The 
major obstructions have thus to be removed. The object is not to de 
prive, but to provide; to change the present scarcity to future abun- 

34 6 



dance. But in doing so the path must necessarily be cleared of impedi 
ments and selfish interests which want to hold society back. And the 
path we take is not merely a question of what we like or dislike or 
even of abstract justice, but of what is economically sound, capable of 
progress, adaptation to changing conditions, and likely to do good to 
the largest number of human beings. 

A clash of interests seems inevitable. There is no middle path. Each 
one of us will have to choose his side. Before we can choose, we must 
know and understand. The emotional appeal of socialism is not 
enough. This must be supplemented by an intellectual and reasoned 
appeal based on facts and arguments and detailed criticism. In the 
West a great deal of this kind of literature exists, but in India there is 
a tremendous lack of it, and many good books are not allowed entry 
here. But to read books from other countries is not enough. If socialism 
is to be built up in India, it will have to grow out of Indian conditions, 
and the closest study of these conditions is essential. We want experts 
in the job who study and prepare detailed plans. Unfortunately our 
experts are mostly in Government service or in the semiofficial univer 
sities, and they dare not go far in this direction. 

An intellectual background is not enough to bring socialism. Other 
forces are necessary. But I do feel that without that background we 
can never have a grip of the subject or create a powerful movement. 
At the present moment the agrarian problem is far the most important 
in India, and it is likely to remain so. But industry is of little less im 
portance, and it grows. What is our objective: a peasant state or an 
industrial one ? Of course we are bound to remain predominantly agri 
cultural, but one can and, I think, must push industry. 

Our captains of industry are quite amazingly backward in their 
ideas; they are not even up-to-date capitalists. The masses are so poor 
that they do not look upon them as potential consumers and fight bit 
terly against any proposal to increase wages or lower hours of work. 
The whole outlook of the industry is an early nineteenth-century one. 
They make stupendous profits when they have the chance and the 
worker continues as before; if there is a slump, the owners complain 
that they cannot carry on without reducing wages. Not only have they 
the help of the State, but also usually the sympathy of our middle-class 
politicians. To compare the magnificent palaces of the jute millionaires 
and the cotton lords, with their ostentatious display of pomp and lux 
ury, to the wretched hovels where their seminaked workers live, should 

347 



be an education of the most impressive kind. But we take these con 
trasts for granted and pass them by, unaffected and unimpressed. 

Bad as is the lot of the Indian industrial worker, it is, from the in 
come point of view, far better than the peasant's lot. The peasant has 
one advantage : he lives in fresh air and escapes the degradation of the 
slums. But so low has he sunk that he often converts even his open-air 
village into a "dung heap," as Gandhiji has called it. There is no sense 
of co-operation in him or of joint effort for the good of the community. 
It is easy to condemn him for this, but what is the unhappy creature 
to do when life presents itself to him as a bitter and unceasing indi 
vidual struggle with every man's hand raised against him? How he 
lives at all is an almost incredible wonder. It has been found that the 
average daily income of typical farmers in the Punjab was about nine 
annas (roughly ninepence) per head in 1928-29. This fell in 1930-31 to 
nine pies (three farthings) per head! The Punjab peasant is considered 
to be far more prosperous than the peasantry of Behar and Bengal in 
the United Provinces. In some of the eastern districts of the United 
Provinces (Gorakhpur, etc.) in prosperous times before the slump, the 
daily field wage was two annas (twopence). To talk of improving 
these staggering conditions by philanthropy or local efforts in rural 
uplift is a mockery of the peasant and his misery. 

How are we to get out of this quagmire? Means can no doubt be 
devised, although it is a difficult task to raise masses of people who 
have sunk so low. But the real difficulty comes from interested groups 
who oppose change, and under imperialist domination the change 
seems to be out of the question. In what direction will India look in 
the coming years? Communism and fascism seem to be the major 
tendencies of the age, and intermediate tendencies and vacillating 
groups are gradually being eliminated. 

As between fascism and communism my sympathies are entirely 
with communism. As these pages will show, I am very far from being 
a communist. My roots are still perhaps partly in the nineteenth cen 
tury, and I have been too much influenced by the humanist liberal tra 
dition to get out of it completely. This bourgeois background follows 
me about and is naturally a source of irritation to many communists, 
I dislike dogmatism, and the treatment of Karl Marx's writings or any 
other books as revealed scripture which cannot be challenged, and the 
regimentation and heresy hunts which seem to be a feature of modern 
communism. I dislike also much that has happened in Russia, and 

348 



especially the excessive use of violence in normal times. But still I in 
cline more and more toward a communist philosophy. 

Marx may be wrong in some of his statements, or his theory of 
value; this I am not competent to judge. But he seems to me to have 
possessed quite an extraordinary degree of insight into social phe 
nomena, and this insight was apparently due to the scientific method 
he adopted. This method, applied to past history as well as current 
events, helps us in understanding them far more than any other 
method of approach, and it is because of this that the most revealing 
and keen analyses of the changes that are taking place in the world 
today come from Marxist writers. It is easy to point out that Marx 
ignored or underrated certain subsequent tendencies, like the rise of a 
revolutionary element in the middle class, which is so notable today. 
But the whole value of Marxism seems to me to lie in its absence of 
dogmatism, in its stress on a certain outlook and mode of approach, 
and in its attitude to action. That outlook helps us in understanding 
the social phenomena of our own times and points out the way of 
action and escape. 

Even that method of action was no fixed and unchangeable road 
but had to be suited to circumstances. That, at any rate, was Lenin's 
view, and he justified it brilliantly by fitting his action to changing 
circumstances. He tells us: "To attempt to answer 'yes' or 'no' to 
the question of the definite means of struggle, without examining in 
detail the concrete situation of a given moment at a given stage of its 
development, means to depart altogether from the Marxian ground." 
And again he says: "Nothing is final; we must always learn from 
circumstances." 

Because of this wide and comprehensive outlook, the really under 
standing communist develops to some extent an organic sense of social 
life. Politics for him cease to be a mere record of opportunism or a 
groping in the dark. The ideals and objectives he works for give a 
meaning to the struggle and to the sacrifices he willingly faces. He 
feels that he is part of a grand army marching forward to realize 
human fate and destiny, and he has the sense of "marching step by 
step with history." 

Probably most communists are far from feeling all this. Perhaps only 
a Lenin had this organic sense of life in its fullness which made his 
action so effective. But to a small extent every communist, who has 
understood the philosophy of his movement, has it. 

It is difficult to be patient with many communists; they have devel- 

349 



oped a peculiar method of irritating others. But they are a sorely tried 
people, and, outside the Soviet Union, they have to contend against 
enormous difficulties. I have always admired their great courage and 
capacity for sacrifice. They suffer greatly, as, unhappily, untold mil 
lions suffer in various ways, but not blindly before a malign and all- 
powerful fate. They suffer as human beings, and there is a tragic 
nobility about such suffering. 

The success or failure of the Russian social experiments does not 
directly affect the validity of the Marxian theory. It is conceivable, 
though it is highly unlikely, that a set of untoward circumstances or 
a combination of powers might upset those experiments. But the value 
of those mighty social upheavals will still remain. With all my in 
stinctive dislike for much that has happened there, I feel that they offer 
the greatest hope to the world. I do not know enough, and I am not 
in a position to judge their actions. My chief fear is that the back 
ground of too much violence and suppression might bring an evil trail 
behind them which it may be difficult to get rid of. But the greatest 
thing in favor of the present directors of Russia's destiny is that they 
are not afraid to learn from their mistakes. They can retrace their steps 
and build anew. And always they keep their ideal before them. Their 
activities in other countries, through the Communist International, 
have been singularly futile, but apparently those activities have been 
reduced to a minimum now. 

Coming back to India, communism and socialism seem a far cry, 
unless the rush of external events forces the pace here. We have to 
deal not with communism but, with the addition of an extra syllable, 
with communalism. And communally India is in a dark age. Men of 
action waste their energies on trivial things and intrigue, and maneu 
ver and try to overreach each other. Few of them are interested in 
trying to make the world a better, brighter place. Perhaps this is a 
temporary phase that will pass soon. 

The Congress has at least largely kept out of this communal dark 
ness, but its outlook is petty bourgeois, and the remedy it seeks for 
this as for other problems is in terms of the petty bourgeoisie. It is 
not likely to succeed that way. It represents today this lower middle 
class, for that is the most vocal and revolutionary at present. But it is 
nevertheless not as vital as it appears to be. It is pressed on either side 
by two forces one entrenched, the other still weak but growing rap 
idly. It is passing through a crisis of its existence at present; what will 
happen to it in the future it is difficult to say. It cannot go over to the 

350 



side of the entrenched forces before it has fulfilled its historic mission 
of attaining national freedom. But, before it succeeds in that, other 
forces may grow powerful and influence it in their direction, or grad 
ually displace it. It seems likely, however, that so long as a large 
measure of national freedom is not obtained, the Congress will play 
a dominant role in India. 

Any violent activity seems to be out of the question, injurious, and 
waste of effort. That, I think, is generally recognized in India, in spite 
of rare instances of futile and sporadic violence. That way cannot lead 
us anywhere except into a hopeless maze of violence and counter- 
violence out of which it will be difficult to emerge. 

I write vaguely and somewhat academically about current events and 
try to play the part of a detached onlooker. I am not usually consid 
ered a looker-on when action beckons; my offense, I am often told, is 
that I rush in foolishly without sufficient provocation. What would I 
do now? What would I suggest to my countrymen to do? Perhaps the 
instinctive caution of a person who dabbles in public affairs comes in 
the way of my committing myself prematurely. But, if I may confess 
the truth, I really do not know, and I do not try to find out. When I 
cannot act, why should I worry ? I do worry to a large extent, but that 
is inevitable. At least, so long as I am in prison, I try to save myself 
from coming to grips with the problem of immediate action. 

All activity seems to be far away in prison. One becomes the object 
of events, not the subject of action. And one waits and waits for 
something to happen. I write of political and social problems of India 
and the world, but what are they to this little self-contained world of 
jail which has long been my home? Prisoners have only one major 
interest: the date of their release. 



LII 

A CONCLUSION 

We are enjoined to labor; but it is not granted to us to complete our 
labors The Talmud. 

I HAVE REACHED the end of the story. This egotistical narrative of my 
adventures through life, such as they are, has been brought up to 
today, February 14, 1935, District Jail, Almora. Three months ago to 
day I celebrated in this prison my forty-fifth birthday, and I suppose 

351 



I have still many years to live. Sometimes a sense of age and weariness 
steals over me; at other times I feel full of energy and vitality. I have 
a fairly tough body, and my mind has a capacity for recovering from 
shock, so I imagine I shall yet survive for long unless some sudden 
fate overtakes me. But the future has to be lived before it can be 
written about. 

The adventures have not been very exciting perhaps; long years in 
prison can hardly be termed adventurous. Nor have they been in any 
way unique, for I have shared these years with their ups and downs 
with tens of thousands of my countrymen and countrywomen; and 
this record of changing moods, of exaltations and depressions, of in 
tense activity and enforced solitude, is our common record. I have been 
one of a mass, moving with it, swaying it occasionally, being influ 
enced by it; and yet, like the other units, an individual, apart from the 
others, living my separate life in the heart of the crowd. We have 
posed often enough and struck up attitudes, but there was something 
very real and intensely truthful in much that we did, and this lifted 
us out of our petty selves and made us more vital and gave us an im 
portance that we would otherwise not have had. Sometimes we were 
fortunate enough to experience that fullness of life which comes from 
attempting to fit ideals with action. And we realized that any other 
life involving a renunciation of these ideals and a tame submission to 
superior force, would have been a wasted existence, full of discontent 
and inner sorrow. 

To me these years have brought one rich gift, among many others. 
More and more I have looked upon life as an adventure of absorbing 
interest, where there is so much to learn, so much to do. I have con 
tinually had a feeling of growing up, and that feeling is still with me 
and gives a zest to my activities as well as to the reading of books, 
and generally makes life worth while. 

In writing this narrative I have tried to give my moods and thoughts 
at the time of each event, to represent as far as I could my feelings on 
the occasion. It is difficult to recapture a past mood, and it is not easy 
to forget subsequent happenings. Later ideas, thus, must inevitably 
have colored my account of earlier days; but my object was, primarily 
for my own benefit, to trace my own mental growth. Perhaps what I 
have written is not so much an account of what I have been but of 
what I have sometimes wanted to be or imagined myself to be. 

Indeed, I often wonder if I represent anyone at all, and I am in 
clined to think that I do not, though many have kindly and friendly 

352 



feelings toward me. I have become a queer mixture o the East and 
the West, out of place everywhere, at home nowhere. Perhaps my 
thoughts and approach to life are more akin to what is called Western 
than Eastern, but India clings to me, as she does to all her children, 
in innumerable ways; and behind me lie, somewhere in the subcon 
scious, racial memories of a hundred, or whatever the number may be, 
generations of Brahmans. I cannot get rid of either that past inheritance 
or my recent acquisitions. They are both part of me, and, though they 
help me in both the East and the West, they also create in me a feeling 
of spiritual loneliness not only in public activities but in life itself. I 
am a stranger and alien in the West. I cannot be of it. But in my own 
country also, sometimes, I have an exile's feeling. 

The distant mountains seem easy of access and climbing, the top 
beckons, but, as one approaches, difficulties appear; and the higher one 
goes the more laborious becomes the journey, and the summit recedes 
into the clouds. Yet the climbing is worth the effort and has its own 
joy and satisfaction. Perhaps it is the struggle that gives value to life, 
not so much the ultimate result. Often it is difficult to know which 
is the right path; it is easier sometimes to know what is not right, 
and to avoid that is something after all. If I may quote, with all hu 
mility, the last words of the great Socrates: "I know not what death 
is it may be a good thing, and I am not afraid of it. But I do know 
that it is a bad thing to desert one's post, and I prefer what may be 
good to what I know to be bad." 

The years I have spent in prison! Sitting alone, wrapped in my 
thoughts, how many seasons I have seen go by, following one another 
into oblivion! How many moons I have watched wax and wane, and 
the pageant of the stars moving along inexorably and majestically! 
How many yesterdays of my youth lie buried here! Sometimes I see 
the ghosts of these dead yesterdays rise up, bringing poignant mem 
ories, and whispering to me: "Was it worth while?" There is no hesi 
tation 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 en 
deavor 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. 

It is almost exactly a year since my conviction; a year has gone by 
out of the two years of my sentence. Another full year remains, for 

353 



there are no remissions this time, as simple imprisonment carries no 
such deductions. Even the eleven days that I was out in August last 
have been added on to the period of my sentence. But this year too 
will pass, and I shall go out and then ? I do not know, but 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. 



POSTSCRIPT 

BADENWEILER, SCHWARZWALD, 
October 25, 7935 

IN MAY LAST my wife left Bhowali for further treatment in Europe. 
After her departure there were no more visits to Bhowali for me, no 
more fortnightly outings and drives on the mountain roads. I missed 
them, and Almora Jail seemed to be drearier than before. 

News came of the Quetta earthquake, and for a while all else was 
forgotten. But not for long, for the Government of India does not 
allow us to forget it or its peculiar ways. Soon we learned that Rajen- 
dra Prasad, the Congress president, and the man who knew more 
about earthquake relief work than almost any other person in India, 
was not permitted to go to Quetta and help in relief. Nor could Gand 
hi ji or any other public man of note. Many Indian newspapers had 
their securities confiscated for writing articles on Quetta. 

Everywhere the military mentality, the police outlook in the As 
sembly, in civil government, in bombing on the Frontier. Almost it 
would seem that the British Government in India is permanently at 
war with large sections of the Indian people. 

The police are a useful and necessary force, but a world full of po 
licemen and the police bludgeon may not, perhaps, be a desirable place 
to live in. It has often been said that an unrestrained use of force de 
grades the user of it as it humiliates and degrades the object of it. Few 
things are more striking today in India than the progressive deteriora 
tion, moral and intellectual, of the higher services, more especially the 
Indian Civil Service. This is most in evidence in the superior officials, 
but it runs like a thread throughout the services. Whenever occasion 
arises for making a fresh appointment to the higher ranks, the person 
who represents the new spirit best is inevitably chosen. 

On September 4 I was suddenly discharged from Almora Jail as 

354 



news had come that my wife's condition was critical. She was under 
treatment in Badenweiler in the Schwarzwald in Germany. My sen 
tence was "suspended," I was told, and I was released five and a half 
months before my time. I hurried to Europe by air. 

Europe in turmoil, fearful of war and tumult and with economic 
crises always on the horizon; Abyssinia invaded and her people 
bombed; various imperialist systems in conflict and threatening each 
other; and England, the greatest of the imperialist Powers, standing 
up for peace and the League Covenant while it bombs and ruthlessly 
oppresses its subject peoples. But here in the Black Forest it is calm 
and peaceful, and even the swastika is not much in evidence. I watch 
the mists steal up the valley and hide the distant frontier of France 
and cover the landscape, and I wonder what lies behind them. 



LIII 

FIVE YEARS LATER 

FIVE AND A half years ago, sitting in my prison barrack in the Almora 
District Jail, I wrote the last line of my autobiography. Eight months 
later I added a postscript from Badenweiler in Germany. That auto 
biography, published in England, had a kindly reception from all man 
ner of people in various countries, and I was glad that what I had 
written had brought India nearer to many friends abroad, and had 
made them appreciate, to some extent, the inner significance of our 
struggle for freedom. Unfortunately this book did not reach the Ameri 
can public, and various happenings conspired to delay an American 
edition. I am happy that at last it is going to appear in a new garb 
in America. 

My publisher has asked me to add to it in order to bring it up to 
date. His demand is reasonable, and I could not deny it. And yet I 
have found it no easy matter to comply with it. We live in strange 
times, when life's normal course has been completely upset, and it is 
difficult for me even to communicate with my publisher. With my 
approval, my autobiography has now been abridged considerably, for 
much that it contained is perhaps of little interest today, especially to 
American readers. And yet I do not know what this abridgement is, 
what has been taken out, what remains. We have been unable to over- 

355 



come the difficulties of communication which war brings in its train. 
America seems to be very far away from India now, and sometimes it 
takes many months for letters to cross the oceans. And then there is the 
censor. 

But a more serious difficulty confronted me. I wrote my autobiog 
raphy entirely in prison, cut off from outside activity. I suffered from 
various humors in prison, as every prisoner does; but gradually I de 
veloped a mood of introspection and some peace of mind. How am I 
to capture that mood now, how am I to fit in with that narrative? 
As I glance through my book again, I feel almost as if some other 
person had written a story of long ago. The five years that have gone 
by have changed the world and left their impress upon me. Physically 
I am older, of course, but it is the mind that has received shock and 
sensation again and again and has hardened, or perhaps matured. My 
wife's death in Switzerland ended a chapter of my existence and took 
away much from my life that had been part of my being. It was diffi 
cult for me to realize that she was no more, and I could not adjust 
myself easily. I threw myself into my work, seeking some satisfaction in 
it, and rushed about from end to end of India. Even more than in my 
earlier days, my life became an alternation of huge crowds and inten 
sive activity and loneliness. My mother's death later broke a final link 
with the past. My daughter was away studying at Oxford, and later 
under treatment in a sanatorium abroad. I would return to my home 
from my wanderings almost unwillingly and sit in that deserted house 
all by myself, trying even to avoid interviews there. I wanted peace 
after the crowds. 

But there was no peace in my work or my mind, and the respon 
sibility that I had to shoulder often oppressed me very greatly. I could 
not align myself with various parties and groups; I did not even fit 
in with my closest colleagues. I could not function as I wanted to, and 
at the same time I prevented others from functioning as they wanted 
to. A sense of suppression and frustration grew, and I became a soli 
tary figure in public life, though vast crowds came to hear me and 
enthusiasm surrounded me. 

I was affected more than others by the development of events in 
Europe and the Far East. Munich was a shock hard to bear, and the 
tragedy of Spain became a personal sorrow to me. As these years of 
horror succeeded one another, the sense of impending catastrophe 
overwhelmed me, and my faith in a bright future for the world be 
came dim, 

356 



And now the catastrophe has come. The volcanoes in Europe spit fire 
and destruction, and here in India I sit on the edge of another volcano, 
not knowing when it may burst. It is difficult to tear myself away 
from the problem of the moment, to develop the mood of retrospec 
tion and survey these five years that have gone by, and write calmly 
about them. And, even if I could do so, I would have to write another 
big book, for there is so much to say. I shall endeavor, therefore, as 
best I may, to refer briefly only to certain events and developments in 
which I have played a part or which have affected me. 

I was with my wife when she died in Lausanne on February 28, 1936. 
A little while before, news had reached me that I had been elected 
president of the Indian National Congress for the second time. I re 
turned to India by air soon after, and on my way, in Rome, I had a 
curious experience. Some days before my departure a message was 
conveyed to me that Signor Mussolini would like to meet me when I 
passed through Rome. In spite of my strong disapproval of the fascist 
regime, I would ordinarily have liked to meet Signor Mussolini and to 
find out for myself what a person who was playing such an important 
part in the world's affairs was like. But I was in no mood for inter 
views then. What came in my way even more was the continuance of 
the Abyssinian campaign and my apprehension that such an interview 
would inevitably be used for purposes of fascist propaganda. No denial 
from me would go far. I remembered how Mr. Gandhi, when he 
passed through Rome in 1931, had a bogus interview in the Giornale 
d'ltalia fastened on to him. I remembered also several other instances 
of Indians visiting Italy being used, against their wishes, for fascist 
propaganda. I was assured that nothing of the kind would happen to 
me and that our interview would be entirely private. Still, I decided to 
avoid it, and I conveyed my regrets to Signor Mussolini. 

I could not avoid going through Rome, however, as the Dutch 
K.L.M. airplane I was traveling on spent a night there. Soon after my 
arrival in Rome, a high official called upon me and gave me an invi 
tation to meet Signor Mussolini that evening. It had all been fixed 
up, he told me. I was surprised and pointed out that I had already 
asked to be excused. We argued for an hour, till the time fixed for 
the interview itself, and then I had my way. There was no interview. 

I returned to India and plunged into my work. Within a few days 
of my return I had to preside over the annual session of the National 
Congress. For some years, which I had spent mainly in prison, I had 

357 



been out of touch with developments. I found many changes, new 
alignments, a hardening on party lines within the Congress. There was 
an atmosphere of suspicion and bitterness and conflict. I treated this 
lightly, having confidence in my own capacity to deal with the situa 
tion. For a short while I seemed to carry the Congress in the direction 
I wanted it to go. But I realized soon that the conflict was deep-rooted, 
and it was not so easy to charm away the suspicion of each other and 
the bitterness that had grown in our ranks. I thought seriously of re 
signing from the presidency, but, realizing that this would only make 
matters worse, I refrained. 

Again and again, during the next few months, I considered this 
question of resignation. I found it difficult to work smoothly with my 
own colleagues in the Congress executive, and it became clear to me 
that they viewed my activities with apprehension. It was not so much 
that they .objected to any specific act, but they disliked the general 
trend and direction. They had justification for this, as my outlook was 
different. I was completely loyal to Congress decisions, but I empha 
sized certain aspects of them, while my colleagues emphasized other 
aspects. I decided finally to resign, and I informed Gandhiji of my 
decision. In the course of my letter to him I wrote: "Since my 
return from Europe I have found that the meetings of the Working 
Committee exhaust me greatly; they have a devitalizing effect on me, 
and I have almost the feeling of being much older in years after every 
fresh experience. I should not be surprised if this feeling was also 
shared by my colleagues of the Committee. It is an unhealthy experi 
ence, and it comes in the way of effective work." 

Soon afterward a far-away occurrence, unconnected with India, af 
fected me greatly and made me change my decision. This was the news 
of General Franco's revolt in Spain. I saw this rising, with its back 
ground of German and Italian assistance, developing into a European 
or even a world conflict. India was bound to be drawn into this, and 
I could not afford to weaken our organization and create an internal 
crisis by resigning just when it was essential for us to pull together. I 
was not wholly wrong in my analysis of the situation, though I was 
premature and my mind rushed to conclusions which took some years 
to materialize. ] 

The reaction of the Spanish War on me indicates how, in my mind, 
the problem of India was tied up with other world problems. More and 
more I came to think that these separate problems, political or eco 
nomic, in China, Abyssinia, Spain, Central Europe, India, or elsewhere, 

35 s 




Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Madam Chiang, and Jawaharlal Nehru, 
during Nehru's visit to Chungking in 1939 



Acme 




Jawaharlal Nehru in his study, 1940 



were facets of one and the same world problem. There could be no 
final solution of any one of them till this basic problem was solved. 
And in all probability there would be upheaval and disaster before the 
final solution was reached. As peace was said to be indivisible in the 
present-day world, so also freedom was indivisible, and the world 
could not continue for long part free, part unfree. The challenge of 
fascism and Nazi-ism was in essence the challenge of imperialism. 
They were twin brothers, with this variation, that imperialism func 
tioned abroad in colonies and dependencies while fascism and Nazi-ism 
functioned in the same way in the home country also. If freedom was 
to be established in the world, not only fascism and Nazi-ism had to go, 
but imperialism had to be completely liquidated. 

This reaction to foreign events was not confined to me. Many others 
in India began, to some extent, to feel that way, and even the public 
was interested. This public interest was kept up by thousands of meet 
ings and demonstrations that the Congress organized all over the coun 
try in sympathy with the people of China, Abyssinia, Palestine, and 
Spain. Some attempts were also made by us to send aid, in the shape 
of medical supplies and food, to China and Spain. This wider interest 
in international affairs helped to raise our own national struggle to a 
higher level and to lessen somewhat the narrowness which is always 
a feature of nationalism. 

But, inevitably, foreign affairs did not touch the life of the average 
person, who was absorbed in his own troubles. The peasant was full 
of his growing difficulties, his appalling poverty, and of the many bur 
dens that crushed him. The agrarian problem was, after all, the major 
problem of India, and the Congress had gradually evolved an agrarian 
program which, though going far, yet accepted the present structure. 
The industrial worker was little better off, and there were frequent 
strikes. Politically minded people discussed the new constitution that 
had been imposed upon India by the British Parliament. This consti 
tution, though giving some power in the provinces, kept the reality of 
power in the hands of the British Government and their representa 
tives. For the Central Government a federation was proposed which 
tied up feudal and autocratic states with semidemocratic provinces, and 
was intended to perpetuate the British imperialist structure. It was a 
fantastic affair, which could never work, and which had every safe 
guard that the wit of man could devise to protect British vested inter 
ests. This constitution was indignantly rejected by the Congress, and 
in fact there was hardly anyone in India who had a good word for it. 

359 



At first the provincial part of it was applied. In spite of our rejection 
of the constitution, we decided to contest elections, as this brought us 
into intimate touch not only with millions of voters, but also others. 
This general election was a memorable affair for me. I was not a can 
didate myself, but I toured all over India on behalf of Congress candi 
dates, and I imagine that I created some kind of a record in the way 
of election campaigns. In the course of about four months I traveled 
about fifty thousand miles, using every kind of convenience for this 
purpose, and often going into remote rural areas where there were no 
proper means of transport. I traveled by airplane, railway, automobile, 
motor truck, horse carriages of various kinds, bullock cart, bicycle, 
elephant, camel, horse, steamer, paddle-boat, canoe, and- on foot. 

I carried about with me microphones and loud-speakers and ad 
dressed a dozen meetings a day, apart from impromptu gatherings by 
the roadside. Some mammoth gatherings approached a hundred thou 
sand; the average audience was usually twenty thousand. The daily 
total of persons attending was frequendy a hundred thousand, and 
sometimes it was much greater. On a rough estimate it can be said 
that ten million persons actually attended the meetings I addressed, 
and probably several million more were brought into some kind of 
touch with me during my journeying by road. 

I rushed about from place to place, from the northern frontiers of 
India to the southern seas, taking little rest, kept up by the excitement 
of the moment and the enormous enthusiasm that met me. It was an 
extraordinary feat of physical endurance which surprised me. This elec 
tion campaign, in which large numbers of people took part on our 
behalf, stirred up the whole countryside, and a new life was visible 
everywhere. For us it was something much more than an election cam 
paign. We were interested not only in the thirty million voters but 
also in the hundreds of millions of others who had no votes. 

There was another aspect of this extensive touring which gripped 
me. For me it was a voyage of discovery of India and her people. I 
saw a thousand facets of this country of mine in all their rich diver 
sity, and yet always with the unifying impress of India upon them. I 
gazed at the millions of friendly eyes that looked up at me and tried 
to understand what lay behind them. The more I saw of India, the 
more I felt how little I knew of her infinite charm and variety, how 
much more there was for me to find out. She seemed to smile at me 
often, and sometimes to mock at me and elude me. 

Sometimes, though rarely, I took a day off and visited some famous 

360 



sight near by the Ajanta Caves or Mohenjo Daro in the Indus Valley. 
For a brief while I lived in the past, and the Bodhisatvas and the beau 
tiful women of the Ajanta Frescoes filled my mind. Some days later 
I would start with surprise as I looked at some woman, working in 
the fields or drawing water from a village well, for she would remind 
me of the women of Ajanta. 

The Congress triumphed in the general election, and there was a 
great argument as to whether we should accept ministries in the prov 
inces. Ultimately it was decided that we should do so but on the under 
standing that there would be no interference from the Viceroy or the 
governors. 

In the summer of 1937 I visited Burma and Malaya. It was no holi 
day, as crowds and engagements pursued me everywhere, but the 
change was pleasant, and I loved to see and meet the flowery and 
youthful people of Burma, so unlike in many ways the people of India 
with the stamp of long ages past upon them. 

New problems faced us in India. In most of the provinces Congress 
governments were in power, and many of the ministers had spent 
years in prison previously. My sister, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, became 
one of the ministers in the United Provinces the first woman minis 
ter in India. The immediate effect of the coming of the Congress 
ministries was a feeling of relief in the countryside, as if a great burden 
had been lifted. A new life coursed through the whole country, and 
the peasant and the worker expected big things to happen immediately. 
Political prisoners were released, and a large measure of civil liberty, 
such as had not been known previously, was established. The Congress 
ministers worked hard and made others work hard also. But they had 
to work with the old apparatus of government, which was wholly 
alien to them and often hostile. Even the services were not under their 
control. Twice there was a conflict with the governors, and the minis 
ters offered their resignations. Thereupon the governors accepted the 
viewpoint of the ministers, and the crisis ended. But the power and 
influence of the old services the civil service, the police, and others 
backed by the governor and buttressed by the constitution itself, were 
great and could make themselves felt in a hundred ways. Progress was 
slow, and dissatisfaction arose. 

This dissatisfaction found expression in the Congress itself, and the 
more advanced elements grew restive. I was myself unhappy at the 
trend of events as I noticed that our fine fighting organization was 
being converted gradually into just an electioneering organization. A 

361 



struggle for independence seemed to be inevitable, and this phase of 
provincial autonomy was just a passing one. In April 1938 I wrote to 
Gandhiji expressing my dissatisfaction at the work of the Congress 
ministries. "They are trying to adapt themselves far too much to the 
old order and trying to justify it. But all this, bad as it is, might be 
tolerated. What is far worse is that we are losing the high position 
that we have built up, with so much labor, in the hearts of the people. 
We are sinking to the level of ordinary politicians." 

I was perhaps unnecessarily hard on the Congress ministers; the 
fault lay much more in the situation itself and in the circumstances. 
The record of these ministries was in fact a formidable one in numer 
ous fields of national activity. But they had to function within certain 
limits, and our problems required going outside these limits. Among 
the many good things that they did were the agrarian legislation they 
passed, giving considerable relief to the peasantry, and the introduction 
of what is called basic education. This basic education is intended to 
be made free and compulsory for every child in the country for seven 
years, from the age of seven to fourteen. It is based on the modern 
method of teaching through a craft, and it has been so evolved as to 
reduce the capital and recurring cost very greatly, without in any way 
impairing the efficiency of education. For a poor country like India, 
with scores of millions of children to educate, the question of cost is 
important. This system has already revolutionized education in India 
and is full of promise. 

Higher education was also tackled vigorously, and so also public 
health, but the efforts of the Congress governments had not borne 
much fruit when they finally resigned. Adult literacy, however, was 
pushed with enthusiasm and yielded good results. Rural reconstruction 
also had a great deal of attention paid to it. 

The record of the Congress governments was impressive, but all this 
good work could not solve the fundamental problems of India. That 
required deeper and more basic changes and an ending of the im 
perialistic structure which preserved all manner of vested interests. 

So conflict grew within the Congress between the more moderate 
and the more advanced sections. The first organized expression of this 
took place in a meeting of the All-India Congress Committee in Oc 
tober 1937. This distressed Gandhiji greatly, and he expressed himself 
strongly in private. Subsequently he wrote an article in which he dis 
approved of some action I had taken as Congress president. 

I felt that I could no longer carry on as a responsible member of 

362 



the Executive, but I decided not to do anything to precipitate a crisis. 
My term of office as Congress president was drawing to an end, and 
I could drop out quietly then. I had been president for two successive 
years and three times in all. There was some talk of my being elected 
for another term, but I was quite clear in my own mind that I should 
not stand. About this time I played a little trick which amused me 
greatly. I wrote an article, which was published anonymously in the 
Modern Review of Calcutta, in which I opposed my own re-election. 1 
No one, not even the editor, knew who had written it, and I watched 
with great interest its reaction on my colleagues and others. All manner 
of wild guesses were made about the writer, but very few people knew 
the truth till John Gunther mentioned it in his book Inside Asia. 

Subhas Bose was elected president of the next Congress session, 
which was held at Haripura, and soon afterward I decided to go to 
Europe. I wanted to see my daughter, but the real reason was to 
freshen up my tired and puzzled mind. 

But Europe was hardly the place for peaceful contemplation or for 
light to illumine the dark corners of the mind. There was gloom there 
and the apparent stillness that comes before the storm. It was the Eu 
rope of 1938 with Mr. Neville Chamberlain's appeasement in full swing 
and marching over the bodies of nations, betrayed and crushed, to the 
final scene that was staged at Munich. I entered into this Europe of 
conflict by flying straight to Barcelona. There I remained for five days 
and watched the bombs fall nightly from the air. There I saw much 
else that impressed me powerfully; and there, in the midst of want 
and destruction and ever-impending disaster, I felt more at peace with 
myself than anywhere else in Europe. There was light there, the light 
of courage and determination and of doing something worth while. 

I went to England and spent a month there and met people of all 
degrees and all shades of opinion. I sensed a change in the average 
man, a change in the right direction. But there was no change at the 
top where Chamberlainism sat triumphantly. And then I went to 
Czechoslovakia and watched at close quarters the difficult and intricate 
game of how to betray your friend and the cause you are supposed to 
stand for on the highest moral grounds. I followed this game during 
the Munich crisis from London, Paris, and Geneva and came to many 
strange conclusions. What surprised me most was the utter collapse, 
in the moment of crisis, of all the so-called advanced people and groups. 

1 See Appendix E. 

363 



Geneva gave me the impression of archaeological remains, with the 
dead bodies of the hundreds of international organizations that had 
their headquarters there, lying about. London exhibited tremendous 
relief that war had been averted and cared for little else. Others had 
paid the price, and it did not matter; but it was going to matter very 
much before a year was out. The star of Mr. Chamberlain was in the 
ascendant, though protesting voices were heard. Paris distressed me 
greatly, especially the middle-class section of it, which did not even 
protest overmuch. This was the Paris of the Revolution, the symbol 
of liberty the world over. 

I returned from Europe sad at heart with many illusions shattered. 
On my way back I stopped in Egypt, where Mustafa Nahas Pasha and 
the other leaders of the Wafd party gave me a warm welcome. I was 
glad to meet them again and to discuss our common problems in the 
light of the fast-developing world situation. Some months later a depu 
tation from the Wafd party visited us in India and attended our annual 
Congress session. 

In India the old problems and conflicts continued, and I had to face 
the old difficulty of how to fit in with my colleagues. It distressed me 
to see that on the eve of a world upheaval many Congressmen were 
wrapped up in these petty rivalries. Yet there was some sense of pro 
portion and understanding among Congressmen in the upper circles 
of the organization. Outside the Congress, the deterioration was much 
more marked. Communal rivalry and tension had increased, and the 
Moslem League, under Mr. M. A. Jinnah's leadership, was aggres 
sively antinationalist and narrow-minded and continued to pursue an 
astonishing course. There was no constructive suggestion, no attempt 
even to meet halfway, no answers to questions as to what exactly they 
wanted. It was a negative program of hatred and violence, reminiscent 
of Nazi methods. What was particularly distressing was the growing 
vulgarity of communal organizations which was affecting our public 
life. There were, of course, many Moslem organizations and large num 
bers of Moslems who disapproved of the activities of the Moslem 
League and favored the Congress. 

Following this course, the Moslem League inevitably went more and 
more astray till it stood openly against democracy in India and even 
for the partition of the country. They were encouraged in these fan 
tastic demands by British officials, who wanted to exploit the Moslem 
League, as all other disruptive forces, in order to weaken the Congress 
influence. It was astonishing that just when it became obvious that 

364 



small nations had no further place in the world, except as parts of a 
federation of nations, there should be this demand for a splitting up 
of India. Probably the demand was not seriously meant, but it was 
the logical consequence of the two-nation theory that Mr, Jinnah had 
advanced. The new development of communalism had little to do with 
religious differences. These admittedly could be adjusted. It was a 
political conflict between those who wanted a free, united, and demo 
cratic India and certain reactionary and feudal elements who, under 
the guise of religion, wanted to preserve their special interests. Re 
ligion, as practiced and exploited in this way by its votaries of differ 
ent creeds, seemed to me a curse and a barrier to all progress, social 
and individual. Religion, which was supposed to encourage spirituality 
and brotherly feeling, became the fountainhead of hatred, narrowness, 
meanness, and the lowest materialism. 

Matters came to a head in the Congress at the presidential election 
early in 1939. Unfortunately Maulana Abul Kalam Azad refused to 
stand, and Subhas Chandra Bose was elected after a contest. This gave 
rise to all manner of complications and deadlocks which persisted for 
many months. At the Tripuri Congress there were unseemly scenes. 
I was at that time very low in spirits, and it was difficult for me to 
carry on without a breakdown. Political events, national and interna 
tional happenings, affected me, of course; but the immediate causes 
were unconnected with public affairs. I was disgusted with myself, and 
in a press article I wrote: "I fear I give little satisfaction to them [my 
colleagues], and yet that is not surprising, for I give even less satis 
faction to myself. It is not out of this stuff that leadership comes, and 
the sooner my colleagues realize this the better for them and me. The 
mind functions efficiently enough, the intellect is trained to carry on 
through habit, but the springs that give life and vitality to that func 
tioning seem to dry up." 

Subhas Bose resigned from the presidency and started the Forward 
Bloc, which was intended to be almost a rival organization to the 
Congress. It petered out after a while, as it was bound to do, but it 
added to the disruptive tendencies and the general deterioration. Un 
der cover of fine phrases, adventurist and opportunist elements found 
platforms, and I could not help thinking of the rise of the Nazi party 
in Germany. Their way had been to mobilize mass support for one 
program and then to utilize this for an entirely different purpose. 

Deliberately I kept out of the new Congress Executive. I felt I could 
not fit in, and I did not like much that had been done. Gandhiji's fast 

365 



in connection with Rajkot and the subsequent developments upset me. 
I wrote then that the "sense of helplessness increases after the Rajkot 
events. I cannot function where I do not understand, and I do not 
understand at all the logic of what has taken place." "More and more," 
I added, "the choice before many of us becomes difficult, and this is 
no question of Right or Left or even of political decisions. The choice 
is of unthinking acceptance of decisions which sometimes contradict 
one another and have no logical sequence, or opposition, or inaction. 
Not one of these courses is easily commendable. To accept unthink 
ingly what one cannot appreciate or willingly agree to produces mental 
flabbiness and paralysis. No great movement can be carried on on this 
basis; certainly not a democratic movement. Opposition is difficult 
when it weakens us and helps the adversary. Inaction produces frustra 
tion and all manner of complexes when from every side comes the call 
for action." 

Soon after my return from Europe at the end of 1938, two other 
activities claimed my attention. I presided over the All-India States' 
Peoples' Conference at Ludhiana and thus became even more inti 
mately connected with the progressive movements in the semifeudal 
Indian states. In large numbers of these states there had been a grow 
ing ferment, occasionally leading to clashes between the peoples' or 
ganizations and the authorities, which were often helped by British 
troops. It is difficult to write in restrained language about those states 
or about the part that the British Government has played in maintain 
ing these relics of the Middle Ages. A recent writer has rightly called 
them Britain's Fifth Column in India. There are some enlightened 
rulers who want to side with their people and introduce substantial 
reforms, but the paramount power comes in the way. A democratic 
state will not function as a fifth column. 

It is clear that these five hundred and fifty-odd states cannot func 
tion separately as political or economic units. They cannot remain as 
feudal enclaves in a democratic India. A few large ones may become 
democratic units in a federation; the others must be completely ab 
sorbed. No minor reforms can solve this problem. The states system 
will have to go, and it will go when British imperialism goes. 

My other activity was the chairmanship of a National Planning 
Committee which was formed under Congress auspices with the co 
operation of the provincial governments. As we proceeded with this 
work, it grew and grew, till it embraced almost every phase of national 
activity. We appointed twenty-nine subcommittees for various groups 

366 



of subjects agricultural, industrial, social, economic, financial and 
tried to co-ordinate their activities so as to produce a scheme of planned 
economy for India. Our scheme will necessarily be in outline which 
will have to be filled in later. The Planning Committee is still func 
tioning and is not likely to finish its labors for some months more. 
For me this has been fascinating work, and I have learned much from 
it. It is clear that any scheme that we may produce can only be given 
effect to in a free India. It is also clear that any effective planning must 
involve a socialization of the economic structure. 

In the summer of 1939 I paid a brief visit to Ceylon, as friction had 
grown there between the Indian residents and the Government. I was 
happy to be back again in that beautiful island, and my visit, I think, 
laid the foundations for closer relations between India and Ceylon. I 
had the most cordial of welcomes from everybody, including the Cey- 
lonese members of the Government. I have no doubt that in any future 
order Ceylon and India must hang together. My own picture of the 
future is a federation which includes China and India, Burma and 
Ceylon, Afghanistan, and possibly other countries. If a world federa 
tion comes, that will be welcome. 

The situation in Europe in August 1939 was threatening, and I did 
not want to leave India at a moment of crisis. But the desire to visit 
China, even for a short while, was strong. So I flew to China, and 
within two days of my leaving India I was in Chungking. Very soon 
I had to rush back to India, as war had at last descended upon Europe. 
I spent less than two weeks in free China, but these two weeks were 
memorable ones both personally for me and for the future relations 
of India and China. I found, to my joy, that my desire that China and 
India should draw closer to each other was fully reciprocated by China's 
leaders, and more especially by that great man who has become the 
symbol of China's unity and her determination to be free. I met Mar 
shal Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Chiang many times, and we dis 
cussed the present and the future of our respective countries. I returned 
to India an even greater admirer of China and the Chinese people than 
I had been previously, and I could not imagine that any adverse fate 
could break the spirit of these ancient people, who had grown so 
young again. 

War and India. What were we to do ? For years past we had thought 
about this and proclaimed our policy. Yet in spite of all this the British 
Government declared India to be a belligerent country without any 

367 



reference to our people, to the Central Assembly, or to the provincial 
governments. That was a slight hard to get over, for it signified that 
imperialism functioned as before. The Congress Working Committee 
issued a long statement in the middle of September 1939, in which our 
past and present policy was defined and the British Government was 
invited to explain their war aims, more particularly in regard to Brit 
ish imperialism. We had frequently condemned fascism and Nazi-ism, 
but we were more intimately concerned with the imperialism that 
dominated over us. Was this imperialism to go? Did they recognize 
the independence of India and her right to frame her own constitu 
tion through a Constituent Assembly? What immediate steps would 
be taken to introduce popular control of the Central Government? 
Later, in order to meet every possible objection of any minority group, 
the idea behind the Constituent Assembly was further amplified. It 
was stated that minority claims would be setded in this Assembly with 
the consent of the minority concerned, and not by a majority vote. If 
such agreement was not possible in regard to any issue, then this was 
to be referred to an impartial tribunal for final decision. This was an 
unsafe proposal from a democratic point of view, but the Congress 
was prepared to go to almost any length in order to allay the suspicions 
of minorities. 

The British Government's answer was clear. It left no doubt that 
they were not prepared to clarify their war aims or to hand over con 
trol of the Government to the people's representatives. The old order 
continued and was to continue, and British interests in India could not 
be left unprotected. The Congress ministries in the provinces thereupon 
resigned, as they were not prepared to co-operate on these terms in the 
prosecution of the war. The constitution was suspended, and auto 
cratic rule was re-established. The old constitutional conflict of Western 
countries between an elected parliament and the king's prerogative, 
which had cost the heads of two kings in England and France, took 
shape in India. But there was something much more than this con 
stitutional aspect. The volcano was not in action, but it was there and 
rumblings were heard. 

The impasse continued, and, meanwhile, new laws and ordinances 
descended upon us by decree, and Congressmen and others were ar 
rested in ever-growing numbers. Resentment grew and a demand for 
action on our side. But the course of the war and the peril of England 
itself made us hesitate, for we could not wholly forget the old lesson 

368 



which Gandhi ji had taught us, that our objective should not be to 
embarrass the opponent in his hour of need. 

As the war progressed, new problems arose, or the old problems 
took new shape, and the old alignments seemed to change, the old 
standards to fade away. There were many shocks, and adjustment was 
difficult. The Russo-German Pact, the Soviet's invasion of Finland, the 
friendly approach of Russia toward Japan. Were there any principles, 
or any standards of conduct in this world, or was it all sheer oppor 
tunism ? 

April came and the Norwegian debacle. May brought the horrors of 
Holland and Belgium. June, the sudden collapse of France, and Paris, 
that proud and fair city, nursery of freedom, lay crushed and fallen. 
Not only military defeat came to France but, what was infinitely 
worse, spiritual submission and degradation. How did all this come 
about, I wondered, unless there was something rotten at the core? Was 
it that England and France were the outstanding representatives of an 
old order that must pass, and therefore they were unable to hold out? 
Was it that imperialism, though apparently giving them strength, 
really weakened them in a struggle of this nature? They could not 
fight for freedom if they denied it themselves, and their imperialism 
would turn to unabashed fascism, as it had done in France. The 
shadow of Mr. Neville Chamberlain and his old policy still fell on 
England. The Burma-China route was being closed in order to appease 
Japan. And here in India there was no hint at change, and our self- 
imposed restraint was understood to mean an incapacity to do any 
thing effective. The lack of any vision in the British Government 
amazed me, their utter incapacity to read the signs of the times and to 
understand what was happening and adapt themselves to it. Was this 
some law of nature that in international happenings, as in other fields, 
cause must inexorably be followed by effect; that a system that had 
ceased to have any useful function could not even defend itself intelli 
gently ? 

If the British Government were slow of understanding and could 
not learn even from experience, what can one say about the Govern 
ment of India ? There is something comic and something tragic about 
the functioning of this Government, for nothing seems to shake them 
out of their age-long complacency; neither logic nor reason, neither 
peril nor disaster. Like Rip Van Winkle, they sleep, even though wak 
ing, on Simla hill. 

The developments in the war situation posed new questions before 



the Congress Working Committee. Gandhiji wanted the Committee to 
extend tie principle of nonviolence, to which we had adhered in our 
struggle for freedom, to the functioning of a free state. A free India 
must rely on this principle to guard itself against external aggression or 
internal disorder. This question did not rise for us at the time, but it 
occupied his own mind, and he felt that the time had come for a clear 
enunciation. Every one of us was convinced that we must adhere to 
our policy of nonviolence, as we had so far done, in our own struggle. 
The war in Europe had strengthened this conviction. But to commit 
the future state was another and a more difficult matter, and it was not 
easy to see how anyone moving on the plane of politics could do it. 

Mr. Gandhi felt, and probably rightly, that he could not give up or 
tone down a message which he had for the world. He must have free 
dom to give it as he liked and must not be kept back by political 
exigencies. So, for the first time, he went one way and the Congress 
Working Committee another. There was no break with him, for the 
bond was too strong, and he will no doubt continue to advise in many 
ways and often to lead. Yet it is perhaps true that by his partial with 
drawal, a definite period in the history of our national movement has 
come to an end. In recent years I have found a certain hardness creep 
ing into him, a lessening of the adaptability that he possessed. Yet the 
old spell is there, the old charm works, and his personality and great 
ness tower over others. Let no one imagine that his influence over 
India's millions is any the less. He has been the architect of India's 
destiny for twenty years and more, and his work is not completed. 

During the last few weeks, the Congress, at the instance of C. 
Rajagopalachari, made yet another offer to Britain. Rajagopalachari is 
said to belong to the Right in the Congress. His brilliant intellect, self 
less character, and penetrating powers of analysis have been a tremen 
dous asset to our cause. He was the Prime Minister of Madras during 
the functioning of the Congress Government there. Eager to avoid con 
flict, he put forward a proposal which was hesitatingly accepted by 
some of his colleagues. This proposal was the acknowledgment of 
India's independence by Britain and the immediate formation at the cen 
ter of a Provisional National Government, which would be responsible 
to the present Central Assembly. If this were done, this Government 
would take charge of defense and thus help in the war effort. 

This Congress proposal was eminently feasible and could be given 
effect to immediately without upsetting anything. The National Gov 
ernment was inevitably going to be a composite affair with full repre- 

37 



sentation of minority groups. The proposal was definitely a moderate 
one. From the point of view of defense and war effort, it is patent that 
any serious effort involves the confidence and co-operation of the 
people. Only a national government has the chance to get this. It is not 
possible through imperialism. 

But imperialism thinks otherwise and imagines that it can continue 
to function and to coerce people to do its will. Even when danger 
threatens, it is not prepared to get this very substantial help if this 
involves a giving up of political and economic control over India. It 
does not care even for the tremendous moral prestige which would 
come to it if it did the right thing in India, and the rest of the Empire. 

Today, on August 8, 1940, as I write this, the Viceroy has given us 
the British Government's reply. It is in the old language of imperial 
ism, and the content has changed in no way. The sands of time run 
out here in India, as in Europe and the world. 

So many of my colleagues have gone back to prison, and I envy them 
somewhat. Perhaps it is easier to develop an organic sense of life in the 
solitude of confinement than in this mad world of war and politics, of 
fascism and imperialism. 

But sometimes there is an escape for a while at least from this world. 
Last month I went back to Kashmir after an absence of twenty-three 
years. I was only there for twelve days, but these days were filled with 
beauty, and I drank in the loveliness of that land of enchantment. I 
wandered about the Valley and the higher mountains and climbed a 
glacier, and felt that life was worth while. 

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU 



371 



EPILOGUE 

THE PARTING OF THE WAYS 

To SAY THAT anything has happened in India which leads to a parting 
of the ways as between Britain and India is incorrect. For their ways 
have been separate as they were bound to be, so long as England was 
the dominating imperialist Power and India was subject to her will. 
Such a relation could only be based on coercion., and coercion cannot 
lead to a marching together, hand in hand. It can only lead to the 
dominant party's chaining and pulling the other and dragging it against 
its will, or to a breaking of this chain. 

So our ways have lain in different directions, and a continuous tug 
of war has resulted; sometimes the conflict has been psychological and 
wordy, sometimes it has been rebellion. In 1857 a bloody rebellion took 
place, and it was suppressed in a ghastly manner. The conflict con 
tinued, bitter and persistent, though it was not so obvious on the sur 
face. It took shape in the organization of the national movement, 
which spoke softly for a while but whose voice grew harder as it came 
to represent the real feelings of the people. Another rebellion against 
the dominating authority took shape, a peaceful one, discarding all 
methods of violence, but more powerful and widespread than any 
previous one. The hundreds of millions of India, weary of their long 
subjection and poverty and exploitation, shed their fear and, looking 
the dominating imperialism in the face, demanded freedom. 

There were many ups and downs, and much suffering and sorrow 
came to these millions, but there was no looking back for them. The 
conflict continued in various ways, and, meanwhile, the world rushed 
toward the abyss of self-destruction. India's problem began to be 
viewed in a larger perspective and in relation to the difficulties that 
encompassed the world. Though our vision became broader and 
deeper, and though it tried to peep into the future, yet that problem 
remained essentially one of Indian nationalism versus British imperial 
ism. India's freedom and independence were the prerequisites for us in 
order to play our part in the larger world. And, in that larger world 
also, it seemed to us a sham and a mockery to talk of freedom and 
democracy and yet hold on to imperialism. 

Fascism and Nazi-ism were anathema to us, and the horrors of cen 
tral Europe produced a powerful reaction on India. Yet we remem 
bered (how can we ever forget?) the horrors we had witnessed in 

372 



India. Yet we saw and felt, to the innermost core of our being, the 
day-to-day humiliation and exploitation of our own people. We were 
not wise or clever enough to understand that, though fascism and 
Nazi-ism were definitely bad, imperialism was not so bad after all. 

War came in Europe, and we discovered that India had also been 
declared a belligerent country, without so much as a formal reference 
or intimation to any representatives of the people of India. The Con 
gress might be considered an unofficial organization, but there was the 
Central Assembly, there were the provincial governments enjoying, it 
was said, provincial autonomy. None of these was told or asked for its 
opinion. 

The air resounded with loud cries invoking freedom and asserting 
the sanctity of democracy. They sounded good. But we had heard these 
cries so often before and experienced for ourselves the aftermath. We 
could not be easily swept away ; we were cautious, doubly so because of 
the way in which the war had been imposed upon us, despite our 
repeated warnings. Was this freedom and democracy meant for us also, 
or only for the favored mortals who lived in Europe and its extensions ? 
Did it mean that imperialism would go from here and elsewhere? 

We inquired from the British Government and asked to be enlight 
ened, so that we might know what course we should pursue. Our 
inquiries were considered irrelevant and impertinent. Yet the answers 
that they gave indicated sufficiently clearly that there was no intention 
and, so far as they were concerned, no possibility of the ending of the 
imperialist structure in India, no question of power being transferred 
to the people's representatives. The National Congress had not asked 
anything for itself. It wanted no jobs in high places, which it could 
have had even without asking for them. It wanted a declaration of 
independence for India and a Constituent Assembly, elected by the 
people, to frame the constitution of a free India, with full safeguards 
for the protection of all minority rights. 

In the mind and heart of India there was a conflict. There was an 
intense dislike of fascism and Nazi-ism and no desire to see them win. 
If India could but be convinced that this war was being fought for a 
new world order, for real freedom, then indeed India would throw all 
her weight and strength into it. But imperialism and we were old ac 
quaintances, very old, with many generations of contact. We knew 
each other, suspected each other, and disliked each other thoroughly. 
There was this background of one hundred and eighty years of hos 
tility, of exploitation, of bitterness, of promises unfulfilled, of disrup- 

373 



tion and reactionary movements encouraged, and attempts to break up 
the national unity o India. It was no easy matter for us to get over 
these tremendous hurdles, or remove the complexes that had grown up. 
Yet we said we would do it, but we could not even attempt it unless a 
great psychological shock was given to the people, a pleasant shock, 
which would suddenly change the air of India and get rid of the fears 
and complexes. That pleasant shock could only come by an unequi 
vocal declaration of independence and immediate steps to give effect to 
the popular will in the carrying on of the administration. Unless this 
was done, no man in India, no group, could make the people move in 
the direction of willing association with the war. 

Wars today require mass support, and even authoritarian countries 
have to whip up their people by ceaseless propaganda. No war can be 
fought effectively by a professional army in an atmosphere of public 
ill will or indifference. So even from the narrower point of view of 
organizing India's defense or India's participation in the war effort, a 
popular representative government was essential. Imperialism can 
coerce; it cannot win public approval and good will. 

The Viceroy and the British Government said no to us, and our 
course seemed to be clear. The Congress governments in the provinces 
resigned, and parliamentary government in these provinces ceased, 
because it was not prepared to submit to the British Government's fiat 
against the wishes of the people it represented. It was the old conflict 
between king and parliament taking a new shape; the Viceroy and the 
governors represented the Bang's veto, our elected assemblies the will 
of the people. In America a proud and freedom-loving people resisted 
the authority of a distant king and his ministers and, after a long 
struggle, established their own freedom. 

But in India, in the twentieth century, on the eve of the new order 
that was promised, in the face of loud declarations in favor of freedom 
and democracy, in India, parliamentary government, such as it existed 
in the provinces, was suspended. The Viceroy's authority was supreme; 
he could make laws and unmake them, tax people and coerce them 
without the slightest reference to any representative body. 

The Congress ministries had resigned, it is true, though they had the 
great majority of the members f the assemblies behind them. They 
resigned because they could not accept the Viceroy's mandates or the 
British Government's policy. But the assemblies were still there. The 
Viceroy or the governors could have dissolved them and had a fresh 
election. But they knew well that such an election would result in an 

374 



overwhelming majority in favor of the Congress governments that had 
resigned. No other ministry was possible, as it could not command a 
majority. So the only course was for the provincial assemblies to be 
suspended, no fresh elections, and the Viceroy and governors to exer 
cise dictatorial powers. It was a clear case of conflict between the people 
and parliament on the one side and the King's representatives on the 
other. One party had to be suppressed or to give in. Parliament was 
suppressed. It was as if Mr. Neville Chamberlain, unable to carry 
Parliament with him, had advised the King to suspend it and to rule 
by decree; or President Roosevelt, in a like predicament, had ignored 
the House of Representatives and the Senate and constituted himself 
the dictator. We hear a great deal about authoritarianism and dictators, 
and England's chiefs condemn both in resonant and forcible language. 
Yet in India today there is a full-blooded dictatorship and authorita 
rianism. 

Our course was clear. Yet we restrained and held ourselves, even 
though many among us were indignant with us, even though many 
colleagues of ours found their way to prisons for the offense of explain 
ing our policy to the people. We were hesitant because we hoped 
against hope that England's Government, including some progressive 
and labor elements, might, in this hour of supreme trial, shake itself 
out of its deadening imperialism and act according to its professions. 
We had no desire to encourage the Nazi rulers in any way; the 
thought of their domination over Europe and elsewhere was a painful 
one. We who had suffered as a subject people knew well what this 
would mean for others. We, of all people, could not tolerate the racial 
views and racial oppression of the Nazis. The horror that enveloped 
Holland and Belgium, the supreme tragedy of France deeply moved 
us. The imminent peril of England made us feel that we should not 
add to her difficulties and embarrassments. Though England's ruling 
classes may have treated us badly and her imperialism may have 
crushed us, we had no ill will for her people, who were bravely facing 
peril and extreme danger. We tried hard to find a way out honorable 
and advantageous to both India and England. We made new proposals, 
even going beyond our own mandate given at the last sessions of the 
Congress at Ramgarh. We pledged ourselves for the organization of 
Indian defense and help in the war effort. But we could only do so as 
free people, with the good will and co-operation of India's millions. 
That freedom had to be declared and a provisional national govern 
ment formed, which would represent not one party only but various 

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important elements. The fundamental basis for this proposal was the 
recognition that the imperialist structure had to go. 

The Viceroy and the British Government have said a final no to us 
and to India. On the eve of the French collapse, Britain's rulers were 
unorthodox enough to propose a union of England and France. That 
was an astonishing proposal. It came too late. But it showed that the 
British Government had got out of the rut and could take a big step 
if the situation demanded it. But where their own interests are so 
vitally concerned, as in India, they still live in the rut, and not all the 
shock of war and danger has taken them out. Even an obvious advan 
tage in this war cannot make them give up the special position that 
imperialism has conferred upon them. They talk complacently still of 
their Empire and of their desire to maintain it, forgetting perhaps that 
the word, which sounds so good to them, is a symbol to us of our own 
subjection, degradation, and poverty. 

I repeat that it is incorrect to say that there is any new parting of 
the ways, for our ways never lay together. But this declaration of the 
British Government means the final breaking of such slender bonds as 
held our minds together; it means the ending of all hope that we shall 
ever march together. I am sorry, for in spite of my hostility to British 
imperialism and all imperialisms, I have loved much that was England, 
and I should have liked to keep the silken bonds of the spirit between 
India and England. Those bonds can only exist in freedom. I wanted 
India's freedom for India's sake, of course; but I also wanted it for 
England's sake. That hope is shattered, and fate seems to have fash 
ioned a different future for us. The way of co-operation does not lie 
for us; the hundred-year-old hostility will remain and grow in future 
conflicts, and the breach, when it comes, as come it must, will also not 
be in friendship but in hostility. 

I am told that the British Government has been led to believe that 
we shall tamely submit to their decrees because so far we have been 
quiescent. Our very restraint appears to have made them think that we 
were incapable of any action. In this world of force, of bombing air 
planes, tanks, and armed men, how weak we are! Why trouble about 
us ? But perhaps, even in this world of armed conflict, there is such a 
thing as the spirit of man, and the spirit of a nation, which is neither 
ignoble nor weak, and which may not be ignored, save at peril. 

To those of us who are intimately connected with Indian politics, 
the British Government's reply needs no analysis or clarification. To do 
them justice, it is clear enough, and there is no ambiguity. Yet others 

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perhaps might miss its significance and be misled by the use of re 
sounding words into thinking that something worth while was offered, 
that the people of India were getting some power in her government. 

It is proposed to appoint some nonofficial Indians to the Viceroy's 
Executive Council. This Council is no real Executive or Cabinet; it is 
more advisory. Real power rests with the Viceroy, who does not always 
take members of his Council into his confidence. They are heads of 
departments, advising the Viceroy about their special subjects. All 
policy emanates from the Viceroy. In fact, his is the responsibility, and 
he is answerable to the Secretary of State for India in the British 
Parliament. If this legal, constitutional, and conventional structure 
remains, it makes little difference who or how many people are added 
to the Council. They do not make an atom of difference to the Vice 
roy's position, power, or authority, except in so far as they might try to 
influence him by their powers of persuasion. 

Apart from this, the addition of a few nonofficials to the Executive 
Council does not make an essential difference to it; the majority con 
tinues to be of the nominated offic