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RIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


First Published March 1938 
Reprinted June 1938 


THE ALLAHABAD LAW JOURNAL PRESS, ALLAHABAD 
M. PANDEY —- PRINTER 


PREFACE 


The title given to this collection of odd essays 
and statements is apt to mislead. This book is 
not a history of the past eighteen months in India, 
nor is it the story of a tourist’s visit to India. In 
Match 1936 I returned from Europe and ever since 
then I have functioned on the public stage as 
President of the National Congress. This period 
has been an eventful one in the ever changing 
drama of Indian politics, and perforce I have had 
to play a prominent part in it. In a sense it has 
been a new phase in the development of our 
national movement for freedom. New ideas have 
spread, new hopes have arisen, new conflicts and 
difficulties have had to be faced, new problems 
require solution. A history of this brief period 
would be worthwhile, but we shall have to wait 
for that. Meanwhile it might serve some little pur- 
pose to collect the material for this study, and it was 
with this end in view that it was decided to publish 
this scrappy collection of essays of varying merit 
and importance. It does not pretend to be any- 


v1 


thing more than my personal reactions to certain 
happenings and tendencies. But perhaps even this 
may help somewhat in understanding the India of 
today and her manifold problems. 


These problems are no longer merely her 
domestic concern. More and mote they are be- 
coming parts of the world problems that are 
agitating humanity today, and India is becoming 
increasingly conscious of this fact. And that is the 
reason why events in Spain and Palestine and 
China have stirred the people of India so deeply. 


ALLAHABAD JAWAHARLAL NEHRU 
January 1938 


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CONTENTS 


In a Train : 

Working Committee 19 36 

To my Friends and Critics 

An Author Replies 

The New Offensive 

Congress and Socialism 

Reality . 

A Road-side Interlude 

This Touring Business 

Students and Politics 

A Pudukottah Reception 

Farewell to Tamil Nad 

Calcutta 

Congress Presidentship 

Presidential Address to the National 
Congress, Faizpur, December 1936 .. 

A. Message to Socialists we 

A Note on the Tour 

Election Messages 

Presidential Address to the All-India 
Convention, Delhi, March 1937 

Fascism and Empire 

The Arabs and Jews in Palestine 

Spain and Palestine 

The Communal Award 


Viil 


PAGE 
24. The Congress and Muslims - .. 150 
25. Burma and Ceylon sed 6 .. 169 
26. India and China sik - ea. 294 
27. Farewell to Burma as oe .. 176 
28. A Question of Manners ; .. 179 
29. Indians and Ceylonese in Malaya .. 184 
30. Indian Labour in Malaya oe .. 188 
31. To My Countrymen in Malaya .. 199 
32. Farewell to Malaya ee ok .. 206 
33. Back Home - rv .. 208 
34. The Princes and Federation .. 213 

35. Bombing and Kidnapping on the Fron- 
tier ae 215 

36. The Congress and Labour and Peasant 
Organisations .. ie 225 
37. Note on the Constitutional Impasse .. 241 
38. The Decision to Accept Office .. 248 
39. Salaries of Public Servants 7 1. 255 
40. The Question of Language - .. 260 
41. Indian Troops to China .. .. 290 
42. Zanzibar and the Boycott of Cloves .. 293 
43. The Andamans’ Hunger-strike .. 301 


44. The Right Perspective .. = .. 303 


1 
IN A TRAIN* 


Friends often ask me: When do you read? 
My life seems pretty full of various activities, some 
useful perhaps, others of a doubtful utility. It is 
not easy to make friends with books and live in 
their charmed world when the horrid business of 
politics consumes our youth and eats up our days 
and nights which, under a better dispensation, 
would be given to happier pursuits. Yet even in 
this dreary round I try to find a little time at night 
to read some book that is far removed from politics. 
I do not succeed always. But most of my reading 
takes place in railway trains as I journey to and fro 
across this vast land. 

A third class or an intermediate class compart- 
ment is not an ideal place to read in or do any 
work. But the invariable friendliness of my fellow- 
travellers and the courtesy of railway officials make 
a difference and I am afraid I cannot pretend to 
experiencing all the discomforts of such travelling. 
Others insist on my having more than my fair 
share of space, and many acts of courtesy give a 
pleasant human touch to the journey. Not that I 


*Written in moving train. First published in the 
Modern Review, Calcutta. 


2 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


love discomfort or seek it. Nor do I indulge in 
travelling third class because there is any virtue 
in it or principle involved. The main consider- 
ation is one of fupees, annas and pies. The 
difference in third class and second class fares is so 
great that only dire necessity induces me to indulge 
in the luxury of second class travel. 

In the old days, a dozen years ago, I used to 
write a great deal while travelling, chiefly letters 
dealing with Congress work. Repeated experience 
of various railway lines made me judge them from 
the point of view of facility of writing on them. 
I think I gave first place to the East Indian Railway; 
the North Western was fair; but the G. I. P. Rail- 
way was definitely bad and shook one thoroughly. 
Why this was so I do not know, nor do I know 
why fares should differ so greatly between the 
different railway companies, all under State control. 
Here again the G. I. P. Railway stands out as one 
of the most expensive and it will not even issue 
oftdinary return tickets. 

I have given up the habit of writing much in a 
train. Perhaps my body is less flexible now and 
cannot adjust itself so well as it used to to the 
shaking and jolting of a moving train. But I 
catry a box full of books with me on my journcys, 
taking always far more than I can possibly read. 
It is a comforting feeling to have books around 
one even though one may not read. 

This journey was going to be a long one, to 
far Karachi, almost it seemed to me after my air 
journeys, half way to Europe. So my box was well 


IN A TRAIN 3 


filled with a variety of books. I started off, as was 
my wont, in an intermediate class compartment. 
But at Lahore, the next day, fearful and terrifying 
accounts of the heat and the dust on the way 
weakened my resolve and I promoted myself to the 
luxuries of second class travel. Thus travelling 
in style and moderate comfort I went across the 
Sind desert. It was as well that I did so for 
even in our closely shuttered compartment clouds 
of fine dust streamed in through all manner of 
crevices and covered us layer upon layer, and made 
the air heavy to breathe. I thought of the third 
class and shuddered. I can stand heat and much 
else but dust I find much more difficult to tolerate. 

Among the books I read on the long journey 
was about a remarkable and unusual man, Edward 
Wilson, lover of birds-and animals and comrade 
unto death of Scott in the Antarctic regions. The 
book had a double appeal to me for it had come 
to me from yet another remarkable man. It was 
a gift from A. G. Fraser, for long principal of the 
Achimota College in West Africa, that noble and 
unique monument of African education which he 
had built up with labour and sympathy and affec- 
tion. 

The sandy, inhospitable desert of Sind passed 
by as the train sped along, and I read of the Antarc- 
tic regions and of man’s gallant fight against the 
elements, of human courage that conquered mighty 
nature itself, of endurance almost beyond belief. 
And of high endeavour and loyalty to comrades 
and forgetfulness of self and good humour in the 


4 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


face of every conceivable misfortune. And why ? 
Not for any advantage to the persons concerned, 
not even obviously for the public good or the 
matked benefit of science. Why then? Simply 
because of the daring that is in man, the spirit that 
will not submit but always seeks to mount higher 
and higher, the call that comes from the stars. 
Most of us are deaf to that call but it is well that a 
few hear it and ennoble our present generation. 
To them life is a continual challenge, a long ad- 
venture, a testing of their worth : 


“T count life just a stuff 
To try the soul’s strength on......... 


Such a one was Edward Wilson and it is well 
that after having reached the Southern Pole, he 
and his companions lay down for their final rest in 
those vast Antarctic regions where the long day 
follows the long night and silence reigns. There 
they lie surrounded by immeasurable expanses of 
snow and ice, and over them the hand of man has 
put up a fitting inscription : 

““To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.” 


The Poles have been conquered, the deserts 
surveyed, the high mountains have yielded to man, 
though Everest still remains proud and unvanquish- 
._ ed. But man is persistent and Everest will have 
to bow to him, for his puny body has a Mind that 
recognizes no bounds and a spirit that knows no 
defeat. And then, what remains? ‘The earth be- 
comes smaller and smaller and romance and knightly 
adventure seem to go out of it. We are even told 


23 


IN A TRAIN 5 


that a flight to the Pole may be a common occur- 
rence before long. And the mountains have funicu- 
lars running up their sides and luxury hotels at the 
top where jazz bands break the stillness of the night 
and mock the eternal silence of the snows, and 
dull middle-aged people play bridge and talk 
scandal, and bored and blasé young people and old 
seek pleasure feverishly, and seek it in vain. 

And yet, adventure is always there for the 
adventurous, and the wide world still beckons to 
those who have courage and spirit, and the stars 
hurl their challenge across the skies. Need one 
go to the Poles or the deserts or the mountains for 
adventure when the adventure of life is there for 
all who cate? What a mess we have made of this 
life of ours and of human society, and with plenty 
and joy and a free development of the human spirit. 
open to us, we yet starve in misery and have our 
spirits crushed in a slavery worse than that of old. 
Let us do our bit to change this so that human 
beings may become worthy of their great inheritance 
and make their lives full of beauty and joy and the 
things of the spirit. The adventure of life beckons 
and it is the greatest adventure of all. 

The desert is covered with darkness but the 
train rushes on to its appointed goal. So also 
perhaps humanity is stumbling aleng though the 
night is dark and the goal hidden from us. Soon 
the day will come and instead of the desert there will 
be the blue-green sea to greet us. 


July 17, 1936 


e 


2 
WORKING COMMITTEE 1936 


The constitution of the Congress directs the 
President to select the members of the Working 
Committee for his term of office. This duty and 
this burden thus devolve upon me and I have 
given this matter the most careful and earnest 
consideration. Inevitably I have consulted many 
colleagues and sought their guidance in the matter. 
This became especially incumbent on me as I was 
placed in a somewhat peculiar position. As Presi- 
dent, I was the chief executive of the Congress 
and was supposed to represent that great organiza- 
tion. But in some major matters of policy I do 
not represent the majority viewpoint to which 
expression has been given in the resolutions of the 
Lucknow Congress. Thus the Working Committee 
could not, at the same time, represent, on these 
matters, my views as well as those of the majority. 
I have felt that it would be improper for me, under 
these circumstances, to select a committee entirely 
in consonance with my views and that the views 
of the majority of Congressmen, as expressed in 
in the open sessions of the Congress, must prevail. 
I was tempted to shift the burden of selection on 
the All India Congress Committee, so that this 


WORKING COMMITTEE 1936 7 


Committee might choose such persons to represent 
it as it thought fit and proper. But after much 
thought I have come to the conclusion that this 
would not be a proper course to adopt and I may 
not shirk the responsibility that has been cast on 
me. I have tried therefore to form a committee 
which represents mainly the majority viewpoint, 
but which also contains some representatives of 
the minority. Such a selection has its disadvantages. 
I have endeavoured, however, to make it a com- 
mittee which, I hope, will pull together in the 
struggle against imperialism and serve the Congress 
and the country worthily in this great struggle. 
I trust that my colleagues of the All India Cong- 
ress Committee and Congressmen in general will 
give this Committee their loyal cooperation and 
support and strengthen its hands in the great 
work before us, so that we can build up a joint 
and impregnable anti-imperialist front. 

The Committee is limited, under the constitu- 
tion, to fifteen members, including the President. 
It is impossible to include all those whom I would 
like to have in it. I regret especially that some 
old and valued members, who have served on the 
Working Committee in past years, have been left 
out of it. I hope, however, that we shall continue 
to have their full cooperation and that we shall 
frequently avail ourselves of their advice. 


I select the following fourteen members for 
the Working Committee : 


LTreasurer—Shri Jamnalal Bajaj 


8 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


General Secretary-—Shri J. B. Kripalani 


Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Shri Rajendra 
Prasad, Shri Vallabhbhai J. Patel, Khan Abdul 
Ghaffar Khan, Shri C. Rajagopalachari, Shri Subhas 
Chandra Bose, Shri Narendra Dev, Shri Jairamdas 
Doulatram, Shri S. D. Deo, Shri Jaya Prakash 
Narayan, Shri Bhulabhai Desai, Shri Achyut Pat- 
wardhan. 

So long as Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan is in 
ptison, Dr. Khan Sahib will act for him. 


April 1936 


3 
TO MY FRIENDS AND CRITICS 


To newspapers and journalists my gratitude is 
infinite for their courtesy in giving publicity to 
what I say and write. Especially I am beholden 
to my critics who labour so hard to improve me 
by pointing out my innumerable failings and 
blemishes. I value that criticism more even than 
the praise of others. My regret is that a life full 
of many activities, of rushing about from place to 
place, of addressing vast gatherings ri being 
tossed about by friendly and enthusiastic crowds, 
of debate and argument, of heavy office work and 
the facing of mountains of letters, of an hour stolen 
now and then to cut myself away for a while from 
the strife and turmoil of our mad world and to 
lose myself in a pleasing volume, leaves me little 
chance or time to keep pace with the abundant 
advice which friends as well as opponents generous- 
ly shower upon me. But sometimes I dip into this 
well of advice and criticism and, in spite of my 
innate modesty, a feeling of elation seizes me at 
the thought that even the casual words that fall 
from my lips move people so much, even though 
sometimes that movement may be one of wrath. 

In this abundance of speaking and reporting 


IO EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


perhaps I should not complain if errors are frequent 
and words are torn out of their context, or ima- 
ginary utterances fastened on to me, or my attempts 
at humour are not understood or taken too serious- 
ly. Life is hard enough as it is, it would be a diffi- 
cult burden to carry but for its lighter touches. It is 
bad enough that I should speak so often ; it would 
be an utter weariness of the flesh if I had to correct 
every bit of misreporting or misinterpretation. And 
the questions that are put to me! Innumerable 
and of an infinite variety they are, from God and 
teligion to marriage, morality, sex, and those 
shadows of God on earth, vested interests and 
property. These questions seldom relate to my 
utterances or to the problems before the country. 
Indeed it is strange how my critics prefer to skip 
over what I say and to labour other matters. 

Yet the questions interest me and I would 
gladly deal with them if life was not so short and 
our days numbered. Unhappily we are so circums- 
tanced that we spend our youth and our later years 
in the dreary atmosphere of politics, in getting 
excited over the Communal Award and the Shahid- 
ganj mosque, and have no time to see life as it is 
ot to face its real problems. For after all the real 
problem of life is one of human and social rela- 
tionships, of the relation of man to man, of man to 
woman, of man to society. We cannot even see 
this problem whole, much less can we tackle it, for 
our eyes ate blinded and our limbs shackled by the 
political and economic structure that envelops us. 

So for the present I may not lose myself in 


TO MY FRIENDS AND CRITICS It 


answering these many questions and I shall content 
myself by referring the questioner to my autobio- 
graphy wherein he will find my general reactions 
to men and things. And yet I cannot remain 
wholly silent when vague insinuations are made 
about my colleagues and I am quoted as an authority 
for these. I find references to continuous frictions 
between my colleagues and myself, of imminent 
disruption within the Congress, and of other dire 
happenings. I find also some words of mine which 
I used at a women’s meeting in Bombay distorted 
to mean something that I never intended. 

I believe I have been frank enough at Lucknow 
and later about the anomalous position which I 
occupy in the Congress Executive. That curious 
and somewhat embarrassing position has however 
nothing to do with my socialist faith. It was 
entirely a political difference which saw the light of 
day at Lucknow. None of us made a secret of 
it for we felt that about vital matters we had all 
to be perfectly open and above board and frank 
with the public whose suffrages we seek and who 
will be the ultimate arbiter of India’s destiny. 
So we agreed to differ and differ openly, but having 
done so, we also agreed to co-operate and pull 
together, not only because of the larger cause of 
Indian independence, which we all had at heart, 
but also because our points of agreement were far 
more numerous than our points of disagreement. 
There was, inevitably, a difference in outlook, a 
difference in stress on various things. All this was 
political, not socialistic, except in so far as socialism - 


3 y” 


I2 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


produced that difference in outlook and stress. 
Nothing that could be called socialistic appeared 
in any of the resolutions at Lucknow. Even the 
socialists realised that the primary issue was politi- 
cal, that of independence, and on that they con- 
centrated. 

Having agreed to pull together, I must say that 
my colleagues have treated me and my vagaries 
with every consideration and I am deeply grateful 
to them. I realise fully, and I stated as much to 
my colleagues once, that I am a bit of a handful, 
always apt to jump and hop and often rushing in 
where wiser and sedater people would abide their 
time. Still they bore with me and suffered my 
vagaries. ‘To talk of splits and the like is an 
absurdity. There can be no division in our ranks 
when the call of independence comes to all of us 
and tingles the blood in our veins. We may agree 
or disagree, we may even part company sometimes, 
but still we march together to the tune of that call. 
And to all who hear it and respond to it, we offer 
a warm welcome to our ranks, whatever their 
other views might be. 

About khadi again I have been reported as 
having passed disparaging remarks. I have stated 
often enough that I do not consider khadi as a 
final solution of our economic ills, and therefore 
I seek elsewhere for that final solution. But still 
I believe that, situated as we are today, khadi has a 
definite value, political, social and economic, and 
must therefore be encouraged. 

But most of the questions relate to socialism 


TO MY FRIENDS AND CRITICS 13 


and unhappily betray not only ignorance but 
passion, which darkens the mind. Socialism is an 
economic doctrine. It is a way of organising the 
production and distribution and other activities of 
society. It is, according to its votaries, a solution 
of the ills from which society suffers today. And 
yet, in considering this economic policy, we are 
continually having God and religion hurled at us, 
and Russia, like King Charles’ head, 1s always crop- 
ping up. I am perfectly prepared to discuss - 
Almighty or the strange and mysterious ways in 
which he is worshipped, and I am equally willing to 
talk of Russia, for Russia is a fascinating country 
today. But I do object to being side-tracked from 
the main issue. That can only be caused by confu- 
sion ot a deliberate avoidance of the real question. 

About religion Iam quite convinced that there 
must be the most perfect freedom of faiths and 
observance. People can worship God in any of 
the thousand ways they like. But I also claim that 
freedom not to worship God if I so choose, and I 
also claim freedom to draw people away from 
what I consider superstition and unsocial practices. 
But when religion comes in the garb of vested 
interest and exploits people, it is not religion and it 
must be countered. 

I believe in the basic economic theory which 
underlies the social structure of Russia. I think 
also that Russia has made the most remarkable 
progress culturally, educationally and industrially, 
and even spiritually, if I may use the word in its 
real sense. But nevertheless I do not accept or 


14 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


approve of everything that has taken place in Russia 
and I do not therefore propose to follow blind- 
fold the example of Russia. Therefore I prefer to 
use the word socialism rather than communism, 
because the latter has come to signify Soviet Russia. 
Some captains of industry in Bombay take great 
exception to my use of the word socialism instead 
of communism, apparently thinking that thereby 
I seek to delude our people. They need not excite 
themselves over this matter. I am not afraid of 
the word communism. Constituted as I am, all 
my sympathies go to the under-dog and to him 
who is persecuted most. That in itself would be 
sufficient to incline me towards communism when 
all the power of the State and of vested interest 
tries to crush it. Others move in a different way 
and naturally and gracefully incline to an alliance 
with power and the top-dog. That power in 
India is British Imperialism. 

But words and labels confuse. What I seek 
is an elimination of the profit motive in society 
and its replacement by a spirit of social service, 
co-operation taking the place of competition, pro- 
duction for consumption instead of for profit. 
Because I hate violence and consider it an abomina- 
tion I cannot tolerate willingly our present system 
which 1s based on violence. I seek, therefore, a 
more enduring and peaceful system from which 
the roots of violence have been removed, and where 
hatred shrivels up and yields place to nobler feel- 
ings. All this I call socialism. 

How this will come to India I cannot say, 


TO MY FRIENDS AND CRITICS 15 


what intermediate steps there will be, what crises 
to overcome. But I know this that without some 
such effort we shall not solve our problems of 
poverty and unemployment. If there are other 
ways why do not my critics place them before the 
country, instead of getting angry at something 
which they do not like or perhaps do not under- 
stand ? 

But before socialism comes, or can even be 
attempted, there must be the power to shape our 
destiny ; there must be political independence. 
That remains the big and all absorbing issue before 
us, and whether we believe in socialism or not, if 
we ate serious about independence, we must join 
forces to wrest it from unwilling hands. 

I believe in full democracy, political and 
economic. For the moment I work for political 
democracy but I hope that this will enlarge itself 
into social democracy also. The Congress has laid 
down the only possible democratic procedure for 
settling our problems—that of a Constituent As- 
sembly. I cannot understand how any person who 
calls himself a democrat can object to this or seck 
another way. But people who talk of the un- 
thinking millions of India, as the signatures of the 
Bombay manifesto of Twenty-one did, and object 
to vital problems being placed before them, prob- 
ably would not like to be called democrats. 

Do we stand for a democratic solution of our 
problems? That is a question I should like to 
ask my critics. If so then why all this shouting 
and trembling and wrathful utterance when I place 


16 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


these problems before our people and try to make 
them think of them? I have hardly mentioned 
socialism to them except incidentally, but I have 
laid stress on the amazing poverty of our people, 
on the vast unemployment of our peasants and 
workers and middle classes, on the progressive 
deterioration of all classes except the handful at 
the top. ‘That has been my sin in the eyes of that 
handful. But that is the only picture that comes 
before my eyes when I think of India. I cannot 
tid myself of it, try as I may. It is not a pleasant 
picture. I do not like it, and, as I see it, sometimes 
my blood freezes within me, and sometimes it boils 
with indignation that such things should be. 


June 5, 1936 


4 
AN AUTHOR REPLIES 


For an author to enter into argument with his 
critics is an unbecoming procedure. He has had 
his say in his book, and it is right that they should 
have their say. For me to venture to criticise the 
ctitics of my Autobiography would be almost un- 
pardonable, for reviewers both in England and 
India have treated this book with a generosity and 
goodwill which have been overwhelming. 

But I am challenged by Mr. N. C. Kelkar and 
other friends and answers are demanded of me to a 
number of questions that they have framed. I 
have absolutely no desire to enter the lists on this 
issue with Mr. Kelkar, whom I have long respected, 
or others. But as I am asked questions, I cannot 
remain wholly silent. 

What is my Autobiography P It is not meant 
to be a record of all the important events of the 
past few years. It is a record of my own thoughts 
and moods and how they were affected by external 
happenings. I endeavoured to make this a truthful 
record of my own mental development. How far I 
succeeded in doing so, it is not for me to say. But 
the important thing is not what happened, but 
how it struck nie and what impression it produced 

2 


18 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


on me. ‘That is the test of the truth or otherwise 
of the book. 

Of course if my own impression of what 
happened was at considerable variance with actual- 
ity, this would knock the bottom out of any argu- 
ment that I might advance, and my own mind and 
thoughts would be based on falsehood. I would 
isolate myself from reality and probably shrivel up. 
Thus the truth or otherwise of events as recorded 
in the book is of importance. 

But still I would venture to say that the primary 
test of the book is psychological. It has given 
me no little pleasure to find that many of my re- 
viewers have proceeded on this basis and some 
English friends even, who are opposed wholly 
to my politics, have gained a certain psychological 
insight into the mind and soul of our national 
movement. For though I wrote as an individual 
about an individual, to some extent I may claim to 
have represented the mental conflicts of large num- 
bers of others who worked in our freedom move- 
ment. True understanding between friends as 
well as opponents comes only from this psychologi- 
cal insight; as between opposing groups it is fright- 
fully hard, if not impossible, to gain this insight. 

I would beg, therefore, that my book be consi- 
dered primarily from this aspect, all others are 
secondary. 

My second request would be that the entire 
wood be considered as a whole and that we should 
not lose ourselves in the trees. Inevitably, in 
a great country like India and during a powerful 


AN AUTHOR REPLIES 19 


nationalist movement, various sets of ideas emerge 
and fight for mastery. These ideas are bigger and 
apart from the individuals or leaders who express 
them, and as far as possible we should consider 
them as ideas and not merely as appendages to 
persons whom we may like or dislike. Thus in 
our political movement during the past few years 
there was a cettain Congress ideology, a Liberal 
ideology, a Responsivist ideology, as well as others. 
Today the economic and social issue having forced 
itself into the forefront, other sets of ideas are 
producing a ferment and a conflict in men’s minds. 
In considering these various sets and complexes of 
ideas we can say, regardless of the individuals who 
hold them, that a particular one is progressive or 
harmful, it leads to independence or is reactionary. 
I hold that the Liberal and Responsivist ideologies 
are definitely reactionary and harmful, and they in- 
evitably involve a co-operation with British imperial- 
ism. Thus instead of helping us to march alon 

the road to freedom, they strengthen the hold of 
British imperialism. This has nothing to do with 
the individuals who may hold these views ; I may 
respect them in their personal capacities and have 
affection for them and admire their character and 
courage. But still I may hold that they err political- 
ly and give the wrong lead. The Congress, I 
think, has given a straighter and a definitely anti- 
imperialist lead, and though in some matters it 
has been reactionary at times, it has, I believe, 
pushed us towards freedom. Believing this, I 
have given it my allegiance and worked for it to 


20 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


the best of my ability. 

If these are my definite opinions must I not 
express them for fear of offending some people by 
my criticism of their views? ‘That would be a 
futile and a puerile policy, unbecoming in a public 
man. We who dabble in public affairs and seek to 
change the destinies of millions dare not remain 
quiet on vital issues. I claim the right of free 
ctiticism of public policies and I gladly acknowl- 
edge this tight in others who may be opposed to 
my views. Only thus can we have glimpses of the 
truth and hammer out a right policy. But of course 
such criticism should be without malice or ill-will. 

It was with this viewpoint that I wrote my 
book. I may have failed to live up to the ideal 
aimed at, but the book does represent my own 
carefully considered views on the various ideologies 
and policies before the country. There may be 
minor errors here and there but they do not affect 
the main argument. I might add that some extra- 
ordinary references have appeared in the press to 
the effect that I have been going about apologising 
for my book and for its so-called inaccuracies. 
I have done no such thing and I am yet unaware 
of any major error in it. 

Members of the Responsivist Party, I am told, 
sign the Congress creed of independence. Personal- 
ly, though I welcome this, I am not prepared to 
accept that this is a final proof in their case or in 
the case of Congressmen generally, of the acceptance 
of the ideology of independence, as I understand it. 
It.ig well known that there are some Congressmen 


AN AUTHOR REPLIES 21 


who are not terribly keen on independence and who 
seek continually to tone it down. The real test 
comes in action and in our day to day activities. 
How far my own ideology of independence 
governs the Congress I cannot say. But I know it is 
widely prevalent in Congress ranks. I believe that 
it is essentially different from the idcas of political 
freedom that Liberals and Responsivists, as a body, 
give expression to. This Liberal and Responsivist 
conception of Indian freedom, though opposed to 
British control in India, seems to me to move 
within the orbit of British imperialism. Hence, 
though disliking it and seeking to rid themselves 
of it, they in effect help it and strengthen it. They 
cooperate with it frequently and give it a moral 
backing which is injurious to our freedom move- 
ment. Many of them insist on the continuation of 
the British military occupation of India, an idea 
that is wholly repugnant to me. The whole con- 
ception of Dominion Status seems to me to be an 
acceptance of the basic fabric of British imperialism. 
That conception is therefore unacceptable to me. It 
is evident that our ideas in regard to imperialism, 
what it is and what it thrives on, differ fundamental- 
ly. It is not surprising therefore that with differing 
premises we should draw different conclusions. — 
The Liberals and the Responsivists have in the 
past repeatedly accepted high office under the 
British Government—Executive Councillorships, 
Ministries and the like. Whatever the motive be- 
hind it, Ihave no doubt in my mind that this in- 
evitably results in intimate cooperation with and 


22 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


support of the imperialist system. It means co- 
operation in the repression of the freedom move- 
ment. We have seen that repeatedly in the past. 
Mr. N. C. Kelkar, if I remember rightly, once 
congratulated publicly one of his party members on 
his appointment as an Executive Councillor. If 
the Congress decides to accept office under the 
new Act, I am quite sure that to that extent it will 
cooperate with and strengthen British imperialism. 
It will also then become partly responsible for any 
repression of suppression of civil liberties that 
might ensue. 

Repression and the denial of civil liberties has 
frequently been condemned by the Liberals and the 
Responsivists. And yet, it has seemed to me that 
the condemnation has often been of the quantity 
of it and not the quality. This was natural enough 
as the official viewpoint as to the necessity of te- 
pression was largely accepted. I remember Mr. 
N. C. Kelkar pressing Government to release 
members of the Congress Working Committee 
from prison. The argument advanced was that 
the situation had improved sufficiently to permit 
this to be done, and, in any event, if they mis- 
behaved again, they could be sent back to prison. 
That argument did violence to my way of thinking 
as it seemed to me a substantial justification of the 
Government’s general policy and it$ previous 
activities. 

Take again the replies I have received from Sir 
Sivaswamy Iyar and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru to my 
circular on Civil Liberties. I make no grievance 


AN AUTHOR REPLIES 23 


of their refusal to join the proposed organisation. 
Others also had done so without giving the parti- 
cular reasons they gave. These reasons are impor- 
tant and significant and they go to show, to my 
thinking, that they accept the British Government’s 
viewpoint in regard to the suppression of civil 
liberties, although they no doubt think that the 
Government went further than it should have done. 

All this seems to me to be the acceptance of 
the ideology of imperialism and powerful moral 
support of the policy of repression. Innumerable 
other activities—political, semi-political, social—at 
a time when fierce repression was going on all over 
the country, added to this moral support. For 
persons who felt keenly the distress of the country 
and the humiliation of the ordinances and the 
repression, it was hardly fitting to be hobnobbing 
continually with those who were responsible for 
this repression, of feasting with them, of giving 
patties to them. This was not a matter of sym- 
pathising with civil disobedience, but of zo¢ sympa- 
thising with the Government that was trying to 
crush the spirit of India. It was a question almost 
of common decency. 

This is the general background of my thought 
and I should like Mr. Kelkar to understand it, 
though he might disagree with it utterly. And, 
if there is any substance in that thought, my con- 
clusions follow from it. It does not help in the 
clarification of issues, if we call each other perverse 
or impute evil motives to one another. 

I could give many quotations from speeches 


24 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


and writings which support my contention that 
there is no anti-imperialist outlook among leading 
members of the Responsivist Party as well as the 
Liberals. But this article is long enough already. 
I shall, however, mention one or two instances. 

Mr. M. R. Jayakar (I think it was in an inter- 
view in the Times of India early in September 1935) 
appealed to his countrymen to work the new Act 
in a spirit of compromise, to enter into a pact with 
the Governor, not to oppose him in any way, and 
thus prevent the use of the special powers. 
this is not an acceptance of the so-called Reforms 
and of the whole imperialist system which stands 
behind them, I do not know what it is. I could 
not better the criticism of the ‘Servant of India’ 
(September 5, 1935) of this declaration of Mr. 
Jayakar. 

Dr. Moonje has in the past frequently appealed 
for cooperation with the British Government and he 
was fortunate enough to be congratulated for it by 
the Calcutta ‘Statesman.’ His military school 
received the blessings of the Commander-in-Chief 
and Lord Willingdon is reported to have expressed 
the hope that the school would loyally serve the 
British Empire. Personally I have no desire to 
serve the British Empire nor have I any sympathy 
for those who have this passion. But however 
that might be, no one could call those who wish to 
serve and strengthen the British Empire as anti- 
imperialists. 


June 16, 1936 


3) 
THE NEW OFFENSIVE 


The New Offensive. But of course it is not 
new. We have long been aware of it. And yet 
it seems to be taking a new aspect and a more 
aggressive one. Forced to recognize that terrorism, 
of which so much has been made in recent years, 
does not exist any longer, the Sherlock Holmes and 
Watsons of the Bengal Government have searched 
diligently for fresh dangers hidden from the public 
eye. How else is the vast secret service system of 
the Government to be kept employed ? They have 
loyal service to their credit, they have received ful- 
some ptaise from Vicetoys and Governors, they 
have families to support, are they to be asked to 
join the swelling ranks of the unemployed ? 

We are told by people who are in the know of 
the secrets of Government that “there had been 
recently a marked tendency to abandon the terroris- 
tic policy of individual murder.” It is comforting 
to know that the sleuth-hounds of Government 
have discovered this tremendous secret. Ordinary 
men and women had come to this conclusion many 
years ago, but then they had no secret information. 
They could only judge from the obvious, and 
the obvious, as every detective knows, is often very 


26 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


misleading. But now the mystery men have given 
their verdict and we can sleep more securely in our 
beds. ‘Terrorism is over, it has become the ‘former 
enemy.’ Its ghost 1s laid to rest. 

But alas! we may not have peace or rest for if 
tetrorism is dead another enemy has fisen in its 
place. “The enemy today is Communism.” Red 
gold flows from Russia and Labour Unions, peasant 
associations, various samitis, ashrams, youth move- 
ments, etc., have all become the agents to spread 
this nefarious doctrine. 

It is true that the individuals who spread this 
poison keep within the law. Their utterances are 
discreet, they talk of the distress among the peas- 
antry, they discourage terrorism. But what of that ? 
They are clever and at the back of their minds 
there are surely deep-laid plans to commit das- 
tardly crimes. 

Therefore the time has come to meet this new 
menace. The many ordinance and other laws not 
being enough, special and additional measures 
should be enacted. We are told that “just as in the 
prolonged fight against terrorism it became neces- 
sary to introduce special legislation, so for the 
preservation of law and order and for the very 
existence of Government, established authority may 
have to take special measures to stem the rising 
tide of Communism in Bengal.” 

The fresh offensive has been prepared by a 
pteliminary bombardment by the Government 
Publicity Department. ‘They have broadcasted for 
public benefit what presumably are their views on 


THE NEW OFFENSIVE 27 


communism. No one need be ignorant any longer 
of this intricate economic doctrine and philosophy 
of life. For we are told exactly what communism 
is. ‘Communism spells destruction, despair, death. 
Communism means the rooting out of all religion. 
Communism entails the complete elimination of 
culture. Communism robs the people of their land, 
their jewellery, their money and all their earthly 
possessions. Communism turns boys into thieves 
and murderers ; it makes prostitutes of the nation’s 
girlhood. The Great Moghul caused to be ins- 
cribed on a marble tablet in his Diwan-i-Khas. ‘If 
there is a Paradise on earth, it is here, it is here.’ 
Of very truth it may be written of Communism 
that ‘If there be a hell on earth, it is here, it is 
here.’ ”’ 

This bright specimen of thought and writing 
has been fathered by the Publicity Department of 
the Government of India and it gives us an insight 
into the minds of those who govern us and produce 
‘special measures’ and ordinances. Irresponsible 
and autocratic rulers have their own standards of 
behaviour which are not for others, and we are well 
used to their mental aberrations and their pro- 
gressive deterioration in the face of a popular 
challenge to their authority. But what shall we 
say to this nauseating product of a diseased mental- 
ity? Have the Government of India discarded all 
standards of intellectual integrity ? Is their mental 
apparatus going to pieces ? 

The question is of interest to the student of 
politics, sociology or pathology. But it is some- 


28 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


thing more vital for us, for we have to live under 
this dispensation and any one of us may be spirited 
away to the ‘paradise’ of the Andamans, or other- 
wise subjected to pains and penalties. 

We have been discussing the problem of civil 
liberties in India, and some, giving civil liberty a 
theoretical allegiance, have told us that we are 
partly responsible for its suppression. For if we 
behave why should the need of punishment arise ? 
I should like to ask them, as well as the signatories 
of the Bombay Manifesto of the 21, what their 
reactions are to this fresh move on the part of 
Government. 

We seem to be moving fairly rapidly to a state 
of affairs when our universities and text books of 
economics and history would serve little purpose. 
They might indeed do harm. The director of 
Public Information in India might well take their 
place and issue from time to time brief credos of the 
true doctrine which must be believed. Or, better 
still, he might have recourse to the radio and 
abolish the printing press. 


June 15, 1936 


6 
CONGRESS AND SOCIALISM 


Socialism may be good or bad, it may be a 
dream of the distant future, or a problem of the 
present ; whatever it is or might be, it seems to 
occupy a large corner of the mind of India today. 
The word is bandied about from right to left, and 
behind it lurks, we are solemnly told, the grim 
shadow of communism. ‘True, the notion of many 
of its critics as to what is socialism is of the haziest. 
And even professional economists, after the manner 
of Government propagandists, try to confuse the 
issue by dragging in God and religion and marriage 
and the degradation of women. We must not 
complain, although it is a tiring business to explain 
the alphabet to people who tell us that they can 
read. The curious part of it is that most of this 
talk and shouting about socialism comes from those 
who seem to dislike it and who do not want mention 
made of the word or the idea. 

Socialism, as every schoolboy ought to know, 
is an economic theory which endeavouts to under- 
stand and solve the problems that afflict the world 
today. It is also a way of looking at history and 
of trying to find from its wayward course the laws, 
if any, that govern human society. Vast numbers 


30 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


of people all over the world believe in it and seek to 
realise it. A great area from the Pacific to the 
Baltic is already under its sway ; other great coun- 
tries like France and Spain, hover on the brink 
of it; and there is hardly a country in the world 
where it has not got a numerous and faithful follow- 
ing. Neither the intelligence behind it, nor the 
numbers that support it, necessarily establish its 
truth. But they do demand a respectful and careful 
consideration of it by us in India. They put us on 
enquiry for our own problems, political and eco- 
nomic, loudly demand solution. After considering 
it we may reject it utterly, or we may learn some- 
thing from it at least even though we do not accept 
it wholly. To ignore this vital impulse which moves 
millions and captures both the minds and hearts of 
worthwhile people, can never be the path of 
wisdom. 

But for us, it 1s rightly said, the political issue 
dominates the scene, and without independence all 
talk of socialism, or any other radical change in our 
economic system, is moonshine. Even a discus- 
sion about socialism introduces an element of con- 
fusion and divides our ranks. We must concentrate 
on political independence and that alone. This 
argument is deserving of consideration for we may 
not do anything which weakens us by breaking 
our joint front against Imperialism. To some 
extent the premises are accepted by the most ardent 
socialist for he admits that political freedom is the 
first and the essential objective for us today. 
Everything else must necessarily follow it, and 


CONGRESS AND SOCIALISM 31 


without it there can be no other radical change. 

Thus much is common ground. Nationalism 
is admitted to be our primary urge and concern. 
And yet the way of looking even at this common 
objective is not the same. 

Nobody wants to create division in our ranks 
and all of us talk continually of joint fronts against 
our powerful adversary. Yet we can hardly ignore 
conflicts of interests, and even as we advance 
politically (quite apart from socialism or the econo- 
mic issue) these conflicts become more apparent. 
When the Congress came into the hands of the 
‘extremists,’ the ‘moderates’ dropped out. This 
was not because of any economic issue but simply 
because politically we were becoming more ad- 
vanced and the moderate elements consciously and 
subconsciously felt that too great a political advance 
might endanger their interests. They dropped out. 
Yet curiously this split did not weaken the Congress, 
much as one might have regretted the parting from 
some old colleagues. The Congress drew into its 
fold large numbers of others and became a more 
powerful and representative organisation. Later 
came non-co-operation and again some Congress- 
men could not keep pace with the great majority. 
They dropped out (again on the political issue, 
though behind it there were other issues) and again 
the Congress was not weakened. Vast numbers of 
additional people joined it and for the first time in 
its long history it became a power in our rural 
areas. It came to represent India as it had never 
done before and to move. millions by its mandates 


32 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


and advice. Thus the inherent conflicts between 
small groups at the top and the vast majority of 
our countrymen became ever more apparent as we 
advanced politically. We did not create them. 
We went ahead regardless of them and thereby 
increased in power and effectiveness. 

Gradually other issues began to colour our 
political horizon. Gandhii spoke about the 
peasantry ; he led strong movements in Champaran 
and Kaira. This was not a political issue though 
inevitably it had political repercussions. Why did 
he introduce this complication in the pure national- 
ism of our political movement ? Why did he go 
about speaking of the terrible poverty of our 
people? This was new talk, a new orientation, 
likely to change the centre of gravity of our move- 
ment. He knew this well and deliberately he worked 
for this economic orientation of our political prob- 
lem. Was it not largely because of this, as well 
as because of his great personality, that the millions 
tolled in under the banner of the Congress? All 
of us began to talk of the under-dog, and the sorely 
tried and crushed under-dog turned to us with 
relief and hope. 

Gandhiji persisted in his stress on the poverty 
of India’s millions. We knew this of course 
theoretically—who could forget it >—for we had 
the evidence of our own eyes, and the teaching of 
the giants of old—Dadabhai Naoroji, Digby, 
Ranade, Romesh Dutt. And yet it was a matter 
of books and statistics for us of the middle class. 
Gandhiji made it a live issue and we saw for the 


CONGRESS AND SOCIALISM 33 


first time with horror-struck eyes what India was 
—a mass of hungry, starving, miserable people. To 
alleviate this hunger and unemployment he urged 
the revival of spinning and weaving. Many people 
who considered themselves very wise laughed at 
this, .but the charkha, though it may not have gone 
far in solving the problem of poverty, brought 
relief to many. Even more so it gave a new spirit 
of self-reliance and cooperation to those who 
lacked this most. It played a brave part in our 
political movement. Here again we see an extra- 
neous non-political issue influencing for good our 
national movement. 

In later years Gandhiji also stressed the prob- 
lem of the depressed classes. In doing so inevitably 
he angered some groups of Sanatanists. There was 
conflict between these representatives of old custom 
and vested interest and the progressive forces. For 
fear of this conflict Gandhyi did not hesitate to 
launch his great campaign against untouchability. 
It was not directly a political issue. Yet it was 
raised, and rightly raised. 

So in the Congress and outside it we see these 
conflicts of interests ever coming to the front. 
Whether it is a measure of social reform, like the 
Sarda Act or Dr. Bhagwan Das’s new Bill, or a 
political measure affecting various interests, or a 
labour or peasant matter, this conflict of interests 
always comes up. Let us avoid cnflict by all 
means, but how can one ignore it when it is there ? 
And what are we to do about it? After sixteen 
years of stressing that we stand for the masses there 


3 


34 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


can be only one answer to this question when 
this conflict affects them. That answer Gandhiji 
gave in one of his speeches at the Round Table 
Conference in London in 1931. “Above all,” he 
said, “the Congress represents, in its essence, the 
dumb semi-starved millions scattered over the 
length and breadth of the land in its 700,000 villages, 
no matter whether they come from British India or 
what is called Indian India. Every interest which, 
in the opinion of the Congress, is worthy of protec- 
tion has to subserve the interests of these dumb 
millions ; and so you find now and again apparently 
a clash between several interests, and if there is a 
genuine real clash, I have no hesitation in saying, 
on behalf of the Congress, that the Congress will 
sacrifice evety interest for the sake of the interest 
of these dumb millions.” 

Our ever-increasing contacts with the peasant- 
ry made us think more and more in terms of their 
grievances and their welfare. There were agrarian 
movements in Bardoli, in the United Provinces and 
elsewhere. Local Congress Committee had often, 
almost against their will, to face the problem of 
the conflict of interests and to advise their peasant 
members as to their course of action. Provincial 
Committees in some provinces did likewise. 

In the summer of 1929 the All India Congress 
Committee itself, at a meeting held in Bombay, 
boldly faced the issue and gave an ideological lead 
to the country. With all its nationalist background 
and stress on political freedom, it declared emphati- 
cally that the economic structure of society was one 


CONGRESS AND SOCIALISM 35 


of the root causes of our poverty. Its resolution 
ran thus : 

“In the opinion of this Committee, the great 
poverty and misery of the Indian people are due not 
only to the foreign exploitation of India but also 
to the economic structure of society, which the 
alien rulers support so that their exploitation may 
continue. In order therefore to remove this 
poverty and misery and to ameliorate the condition 
of the Indian masses, it is essential to make re- 
volutionary changes in the present economic and 
social structure of society and to remove the gross 
inequalities.” 

Revolutionary changes! I ventured to use 
these words not so long ago in Lucknow city and 
some people thought that they were new om a 
Congress platform. Few socialists could improve 
on this general declaration of policy and outlook. 
Yet it would be absurd to say that the Congress 
had gone socialist. It was becoming more and 
more concerned with the poverty and misery of 
the Indian people and the realisation was growing 
that metre political changes were not enough, some- 
thing more was necessary. That something more 
was a change in the present economic and social 
structure, a revolutionary change. What this 
change was going to be, it did not state; it was 
naturally, under the circumstances, vague and un- 
decided about it. 

Civil disobedience came, a political movement 
for a political objective. Again we saw a conflict 
of interests coming to the forefront and the big 


36 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


vested interests, fearing a far-reaching political 
change, opposed the movement and supported the 
British Government. In some areas, like the 
United Provinces, the conflict of interests was more 
matked because of the agrarian upheaval. 

At Karachi the drive towards an economic 
Otientation became more marked. The Congress 
hesitated to go far but it could not hold back. 
Again it declared that “In order to end the exploita- 
tion of the masses political freedom must include 
real economic freedom of the starving millions.” 
It talked in terms of a living wage and it declared 
that the State shall own or control key industries 
and sefvices, mineral resources, railways, water- 
ways, shipping and other means of public trans- 
pert.” A socialistic proposal, yet it was still far 
from socialism. : 

Thus has Congress been driven by force of 
events and the pressure of reality to face the eco- 
nomic issue. With all its passion for political free- 
dom it could not isolate it from economic freedom. 
The two were inseparably bound up together. We 
have ttied to keep them apart and to concentrate 
on political freedom, but economic problems would 
insist on barging in. We would shut our eyes to 
the conflicts of interests and yet, even on the 
political plane, these conflicts became ever more 
apparent. The Round Table Conference provided 
a tevealing display of vested interests lining up 
behind British Imperialism and opposing the forces 
that were working for Indian freedom. 

Memories ate short and many people forget 


CONGRESS AND SOCIALISM 37 


this recent history of the Congress and of India. 
Socialism or a change of the economic structure of 
society are not new ideas unheard of previously in 
the Congress ; nor is the conflict of interests a novel 
conception. And yet it is perfectly true that the 
Congress is not socialistic today. But whether it is 
socialistic or not, it ceased many years ago to be 
an otganisation thinking in political terms only and 
ignoring economic issues. As I write, one of its 
principal activities is to enquire into peasant priev- 
ances and draw up an agrarian programme. It 
must face this and other urgent economic problems. 
And in doing so, wherever conflicts of interests 
appear, as they are always appearing, all interests 
that clash with those of the masses will have to be 
sactificed. | 

It is clear that we must concentrate on the 
political issue—the independence of India. That is 
of fundamental and primary importance for us and 
any activity or ideology which blurs that issue is 
undesirable and not to be encouraged. On that I 
take it there is agreement amongst Congressmen of 
all ranks. Why then this talk of socialism ? 

As I understand it, it is not because any socialist 
imagines that socialism can have any place in India 
before political freedom has been established. It 
can only follow independence if India is ripe for it 
and the great majority of the people desire it. But 
the socialistic outlook helps in the political struggle. 
It clears the issues before us and makes us realise 
what the real political content (apart from the 
social content) of freedom must be. Independence 


38 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


itself has been variously interpreted, but for a 
socialist it has only one meaning and that meaning 
excludes all association with imperialism. There- 
fore stress is laid on the anti-imperialist character 
of out political strength and this gives us a yard 
measure to judge our various activities. 

Further the socialist outlook stresses (what the 
Congress has been emphasizing in varying degrees 
during these past fifteen years) that we must stand 
for the masses and that our struggle should be of 
the masses. Freedom should mean the ending of 
the exploitations of the masses. 

This brings us to a consideration of the kind of 
Swataj we ate aiming at. Dr. Bhagwan Das, with a 
most commendable persistence, has been demanding 
for many years that Swaraj should be defined. I 
do not agree with him in some of his views but I 
do agree with him that we cannot go on talking 
vaguely about Swaraj without indicating, however 
roughly, what kind of Swaraj we are aiming at. 
Are the present owners of vested interests to be the 
successors of the British in the governance of the 
country P Obviously that cannot be the Congress 
policy for we have often declared that we are against 
the exploitation of the people. So inevitably we 
must aim at strengthening the masses so that they 
may effectively hold power when imperialism fades 
away from India. ‘ 

That strengthening of the masses, and of the 
Congress organisations through them, is not only 
necessaty because of our objective, but because of 
the strength itself. Only the masses can give real 


CONGRESS AND SOCIALISM 39 


strength to that struggle, only they can carry on the 
political fight to the end. 

Thus the socialist outlook helps us in our 
present struggle. It is not a question of carrying 
on now a useless academical argument about a 
distant and problematic future, but of shaping our 
policy now so as to make our political struggle 
more powerful and effective. This is not socialism. 
It is anti-Imperialism. It is the political aspect as 
seen from the socialistic viewpoint. 

Socialism of course looks further ahead. It 
aims at social reconstruction based on an elimina- 
tion of the profit motive. That is not possible 
today and so the consideration of it may appear to 
some as academic and premature. But that view 
would be short-sighted indeed. For the considera- 
tion and clarification of the objective, even though 
we may not decide about it, affects our approach 
to it. In whose hands will power come when 
political freedom is achieved? For social change 
will depend on this, and if we want social change 
we must see that those who desire such change have 
the power to bring it about. If this is not what we 
are aiming at, then it means that all our struggle 
is meant to make India safe for i interests 
who desires no change. 

The socialist approach is the aastoach of Marx- 
ism. It is a way of looking at past and present 
history. The greatness of Marx none will deny 
today and yet few realise that his realistic interpre- 
tation of events, which has illumined the long and 
tortuous coutse of history, was not a sudden and 


40 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


brilliant innovation. It had deep roots in the past ; 
it was known to the old Greeks and Roman as well 
as to European thinkers of the Renaissance and 
onwards. They conceived of history as a movement 
and a conflict of ideas and interests. Marx applied 
science to this old philosophy, developed it and 
made it the brilliant exposition that has so impressed 
the world. There may be lacunae in this exposi- 
tion, over-emphasis here and there. We must not 
look upon it as a set of dogmas, but as a scientific 
way of looking at history and social changes. Much 
is made of the fact that Marx emphasized the econo- 
mic side of life only. He did emphasize it because 
it is important and because there had been a tendency 
to ignore it. But he never ignored the other forces 
which have moved human beings and shaped events. 

Marx is a name that terrifies some people who 
know little about him. It may interest them to 
know what one, who, far from being an agitator, is 
a vety tespectable and honoured British Liberal said 
not long ago. Lord Lothian, in the course of the 
annual oration at the London School of Economics 
in June 1931 said: 

“Ts there not more truth in the Marxian diag- 
nosis of the ills of modern society than we have been 
accustomed to think ? I confess that the prophe- 
cies of Marx and Lenin are being realized with the 
most uncomfortable accuracy. When we look 
round at the Western world as it is, and the persis- 
tence of its troubles, is it not obvious that we must 
probe into the fundamental causes far more deeply 
than we have been in the habit of doing? And 


CONGRESS AND SOCIALISM 4! 


in so doing, I think that we may find that a good 
deal of the Marxian diagnosis is true.” 

This confession from one who might easily 
have been Viceroy of India is significant. In spite 
of all the prejudices of his class and the powerful 
pressure of his environment, his keen intelligence 
could not help being attracted by the Marxian 
diagnosis. Lord Lothian may have changed his 
opinion during the past five years. I cannot say 
how far what he said in 1931 represents his thoughts 
today. 

But Marxism is not an issue before the Cong- 
ress today. ‘The issue is whether we must fight the 
evil effects that we see around us or seek the causes 
that underlie there. ‘Those who concern themselves 
with the effects only seldom go far. “They ought 
not to forget that they are fighting with effects, 
but not with the causes of these effects ; they are 
retarding the downward movement, but not chang- 
ing its direction, that they are applying palliatives, 
not cuting the malady.” 

That is the real problem—effects or causes. 
And if we seek for causes, as we must, the socialist 
analysis throws light on them. And thus though 
the socialist State may be a dream of the distant 
future, and many of us may not live to see it, social- 
ism is a beacon light of the present, lightening up 
the path which we have to tread. 

So socialists feel. But they must know that 
many others, their comrades in the present struggle, 
do not think so. They cannot assume, as some do, 
an attitude of superior knowledge and make of 


42 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


themselves a sect apart. ‘They have to justify them- 
selves in other ways and thus seek to win over to 
their way of thinking those other comrades and 
the country at large. For whether we agree or 
differ about socialism, we march together to the goal 
of independence. 


July 15, 1936 


7 
REALITY 


The elections are yet far off, half a year has 
to pass before this mimic war will be upon us. 
But their long shadow darkens the horizon and 
hoarse and strident voices assail our ears. Our 
newspapers are full of them and our middle class 
intelligentsia talk of little else. Yet as I wandered 
in Sind and the Punjab, this tumult and shouting 
seemed to be a little unreal, the talk of candidates 
and pacts and manoeuvres and intrigues ruffled 
the surface only. Underneath this surface I sensed 
strange currents, I heard a deep rumbling. Why 
did these vast crowds, especially in the rural areas, 
gather together or wait long hours by the road 
side? Not surely to see or hear a person who had 
gained notoriety, or just to pay their homage to 
the Congress. There was a deeper urge, a hunger 
that gnawed and required satisfaction. And per- 
haps if we could understand this urge and this 
hunger, we would also understand somewhat the 
problem of India. 

But we are too absorbed in our election tactics, 
or in the communal decision, or in a mosque dis- 
pute, and the millions pass by ignored and not 
understood. They have not the gift of explaining 


44 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


their urges and their hunger, and our eyes look 
another way. 

It was an extraordinary experience to see these 
scores of thousands of Punjab zamindars. They 
were not exuberant or loud-voiced like city-folk, 
the outward signs of enthusiasm were often lacking. 
There they sat quietly and stolidly but behind that 
quietness there was commotion and underneath that 
peasant stolidity there were reserves of power and 
a deep unrest. As I watched them and tried to 
look within them I thought of a volcano which has 
long seemed extinct but which shakes again with 
inner fire, and of the sea which begins to darken 
before a storm. 

Our meetings were sometimes interfered with 
by the police and the authorities, the organisers 
were arrested or interned, especially those who were 
suspected of socialist leanings. It was made clear 
that high authority did not approve of these 
gatherings. 


“By the King’s Majesty it is proclaimed 
Now doff your caps, you ill-conditioned pack! 
That high authority is made aware 

Of leagues in secret join’d by lawless men 
Against the peace and order of this realm.” 


And yet the ill-conditioned pack came in its 
thousands and ever the cry was the burden of land 
revenue and debt. No one talked of the communal 
decision, or of Shahidganj, or of Muslim demands 
or Hindu rights. Hindu and Muslim and Sikh 
thought and talked only in terms of the common 


REALITY 45 


burdens they suffered under. And as I sat with 
them, the trivial conflicts of the cities receded into 
the distance and seemed utterly unimportant before 
these mighty manifestations of Peasant India. For 
those who solve this problem of the peasant in 
India, it will be well. But those who fail to do so 
will vanish like the snows of yester year. 


August 9, 1936 


8 
A ROAD-SIDE INTERLUDE* 


We had had a heavy day full of meetings and 
processions. From Ambala we had gone to Karnal 
and Panipat and Sonepat and, last of all, Rohtak. 
The Punjab tour with all its enthusiasm and crowds 
was at last over. A sense of relief came over me 
after the long strain, and a weariness which demand- 
ed sleep from which there would be no quick 
awakening. 

Night had fallen, and we rushed along the 
Rohtak-Delhi road, for we had to catch a train at 
Delhi that night. I could hardly keep awake. Sud- 
denly we had to pull up, for right across the road 
sat a crowd of men and women, some with torches 
in their hands. They came to us and when they 
had satisfied themselves as to who we were, they 
told us that they had been waiting there since the 
afternoon. They were a hefty lot of Jats, petty 
zamindats most of them, and it was impossible 
to go on without a few words to them. e got 
out and sat there in the semi-darkness surrounded 
by a thousand or more Jat men and women. 

‘Ouami nara, said some one and a thousand 


*First published in Trevesi, Madras. 


A ROAD-SIDE INTERLUDE 47 


throats answered lustily, three times, ‘Bande 
Mataram’ And then we had ‘Bharat Mata ki jai, 
and other slogans. 

“What was all this about,” I asked them, 
“this Bande Mataram and Bharat Mata ki jai?” 

No answer. They looked at me and then at 
one another and seemed to feel a little uncomfort- 
able at my questioning. I repeated my question: 
“What did they mean by shouting out those 
slogans °” Stillno answer. The Congress worker 
in charge of that area was feeling unhappy. He 
volunteered to tell me all about it but I did not 
encourage him. 

“Who was this Mata, whom they saluted and 
whose ja they shouted ?” I persisted in question- 
ing. Still they remained silent and puzzled. They 
had never been asked these strange questions. They 
had taken things for granted and shouted when 
they had been told to shout, not taking the trouble 
to understand. If the Congress people told them 
to shout, why they would do so, loudly and with 
vigour. It must be a good slogan. It cheered 
them and probably it brought dismay to their 
opponents. 

Still I persisted in my questioning and then 
one person, greatly daring, said that Masa referred 
to dharti, the earth. The peasant mind went back 
to the soil, his true mother and benefactor. 

“Which dharti,” I asked further, “the dharti of 
their village area, or of the Punjab, or of the whole 
world ?” They were troubled and perplexed by 
this intricate questioning, and then several voices 


48 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


atose together asking me to tell them all about it. 
They did not know and wanted to understand. 

I told them what Bharat was and Hindustan, 
how this vast land stretched from Kashmir and the 
Himalayas in the north to Lanka in the south, 
how it included great provinces like the Punjab, 
and Bengal and Bombay and Madras. How all 
over this great land they would find millions of 
peasants like themselves, with the same problems 
to face, much the same difficulties and burdens, and 
crushing poverty and misery. This vast country 
was Hindustan, Bharat Mata, for all of us who 
lived in it and were her children. Bharat Mata was 
not a lady, lovely and forlorn, with long tresses 
reaching to the ground, as sometimes shown in 
fanciful pictures. 

Bharat Mata ki jai. Whose jai then did we 
shout ? Not of that fanciful lady who did not exist. 
Was it then of the mountains and rivers and deserts 
and trees and stones of Hindustan? ‘No’ they 
answeted, but they could give me no positive reply. 

“Surely our jai is for the people who live in 
India, the many millions who live in her villages 
and cities,” I told them, and the answer was pleasing 
to them and they felt that it was right. 

“Who are these people? Surely you and the 
like of you. And so when you shout Bharat Mata 
ki jai, you shout your own jaz as well as the jai of 
out brothers and sisters all over Hindustan. Re- 
member that Bharat Mata is you and it is your own 
jai.” They listened intently and a great light 
seemed to dawn on their heavy peasant minds. 


A ROAD-SIDE INTERLUDE 49 


It was a wonderful thought—that this slogan they 
had shouted for so long referred to them, yes to 
themselves, the poor Jat peasants of a village in 
Rohtak district. It was their jaz. Why then let us 
shout it again, all together and with right good- 
will: Bharat Mata ki jai. 

And so on into the darkness to Delhi city and 
the train, and then a long sleep. 


September 16, 1936 


9 
THIS TOURING BUSINESS 


This touring business is becoming more and 
more difficult for me. As a tour progresses it 
seems to gather momentum, the crowds become 
vaster and vaster, and the most carefully made 
plans go to pieces because of the pressure of in- 
numerable human beings. All this enthusiasm is 
exhilarating, one feels intoxicated by it, and for 
some time at least one’s physical capacity increases. 
But there is a limit to this increase ; a twelve hour a 
day programme is increased to eighteen hours a day 
and even then it is not completed. Disappointed 
audiences, after waiting in vain for many hours, 
get irritated and their anger descends on the local 
organisers who are least to blame in the matter. 
And so, in the midst of widespread enthusiasm, 
sometimes a trail of unpleasantness is left behind. 
This can be avoided to a large extent and an attempt 
should be made to do so. 

These difficulties are partly due to the tour 
programmes that are drawn up, and partly to 
extraneous causes. Tour programmes have been 
so heavy that, even apart from the physical strain 
involved, they are often incapable of fulfilment. 
A day cannot be extended beyond twenty-four 


THIS TOURING BUSINESS 51 


hours. Inevitably there are delays at every stage 
when one has to deal with vast crowds. Fifty 
thousand men and women moving in procession 
cannot be made to adhere strictly to a time-table. 
It takes time even to reach the dais of a meeting or 
to come away from it. To get a vast audience 
seated in an orderly manner is a laborious process, 
unless a great deal of previous staff work has 
preceded the meeting. And so delay accumulates 
on delay. 

This is the fate of the regular programme. 
Then there are impromptu meetings and processions 
which have not been provided for. Every few 
miles along the road-side crowds gather together 
and wait for hours. It is ungracious to ignore 
them and pass them by without stopping. So one 
has to stop and thank them for their affectionate 
welcome and say a few words to them. Often 
enough the villages on the route are decorated and 
elaborate arches are put up. At the entrance to 
the village or town half the population turns out 
and waits patiently for hours. What is one to do 
with all this love and affection? It is overpower- 
ing and one has to bow to it. 

For various reasons I attract enormous crowds 
and I evoke an astonishing amount of enthusiasm. 
Partly this may be due to a certain personal popula- 
rity, but largely, I think it is due to the great 
prestige and influence of the Congress. Whatever 
the reasons may be, the fact of these vast gatherings 
of human beings, full of enthusiasm and excitement, 
must be taken into account and they must be dealt 


§2 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


with fairly and squarely. 

Itrust therefore, that in future tour programmes 
must be drawn up after full consideration has been 
given to all these factors. They must be reasonable 
and capable of fulfilment ; they must allow a sufh- 
cient margin for road-side halts and impromptu 
gatherings. Processions should be avoided unless 
they are considered absolutely necessary. <A large 
number of small meetings should be avoided (al- 
though even these small meetings tend to become 
big). Itis better to concentrate on a few really big 
gatherings and microphones and amplifiers should 
be provided for these. It is not humanly possible 
to address these vast audiences without mechanical 
aids. 

I make these criticisms but I am full of grati- 
tude to the Congress workers and organisers on 
whom the burden of fixing up my tours has fallen. 
They worked hard and exhausted themselves in the 
process, but the magnificent response of our people 
overwhelmed them and me. The memory of that 
wonderful response will remain with me and will 
inspire me. Jam proud and happy to be connected 
with an organisation, which by virtue of its long 
service and sacrifice, has secured in such ample 
measure the love and confidence of millions of our 
countrymen. 


September 16, 1936 


10 
STUDENTS AND POLITICS* 


India at present is a peculiar country and the 
questions that are raised surprise one. Some even 
argue that the independence of India is bad for 
India ; that something less than independence is in 
reality more than it. Not being metaphysically 
inclined I find some difficulty in understanding 
these abstruse problems. Yet another peculiar 
question relates to students and politics. Students 
must not take part in politics, some say. What is 
politics P According to the usual interpretation in 
India (official India), to assist or support the Govern- 
ment in any way is not politics ; but it is politics to 
criticise or work against the existing order in India. 

Who are the students ? They may be children 
in the elementary schools or young men and women 
in college. Obviously the same considerations can- 
not apply to both. 

Quite a large number of senior students today 
possess a vote for the coming provincial elections. 
To vote is to take part in politics ; to vote intelli- 
gently necessitates the understanding of political 
issues ; to understand political issues results usually 


* First published in the Students’ Tribune, Lahore. 


54 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


in accepting a certain political policy ; and if one 
accepts that policy it is the duty of the citizen to 
push that policy, to try to convert others to it. 
Thus inevitably a voter must be a politician, and he 
should be an ardent politician if he is a keen 
citizen. Only those who lack the political or 
social sense can remain passive and neutral or 
indifferent. 

Even apart from his duty as a voter, every 
student must, if he is properly trained, prepare 
himself for life and its problems. Otherwise his 
education has been wasted effort. Politics and 
economics deal with these problems and no person 
is properly educated unless he understands them. 
Perhaps it is difficult for most people to see a clear 
path through life’s jungle. But whether we know 
the solution of the problem or not, we must at least 
know the nature of it. What are the questions that 
life puts to usP The answers may be difficult, but 
the curious thing is that people seek to answer with- 
out knowing the real questions. No serious or 
thinking student can take up this futile attitude. 

The various isms that play such an important 
part in the world today—nationalism, liberalism, 
socialism, communism, imperialism, fascism, etc.— 
are efforts on the part of various groups to answer 
these questions. Which answer is correct? Or 
are they all steeped in error? In any event we 
have to choose and in order to choose we must 
know and have the capacity to choose correctly. 
This cannot be done if there are repressions and 
suppressions of thought and action. It cannot be 


STUDENTS AND POLITICS 55 


done properly if High Authority sits on us and 
prevents the free play of the mind. 

Thus it becomes necessary for all thinking 
individuals, and more so for the student than for 
others, to take the fullest theoretical part in politics. 
Naturally this will apply to the senior students at 
life’s threshold rather than the junior ones who are 
still far from these problems. But a theoretical 
consideration is not enough for a proper under- 
standing ; even theory requires practice. From the 
point of view of study alone the student must leave 
his lecture halls and investigate reality in village and 
town, in field and factory ; to take part to some 
extent in the various activities of the people, in- 
cluding political activities. 

One has ordinarily to draw the line somewhere. 
A student’s first business is to train his mind and 
body and make them efficient instruments for 
thought, understanding and action. Before he is 
trained he cannot think or act effectively. Yet the 
training itself comes not from listening to pious 
advice, but by indulging in action to some extent. 
That action, under normal conditions, must be 
subordinated to the theoretical training. But it 
cannot be eliminated or else the training itself is 
deficient. 

It is our misfortune that in India our educa- 
tional system is thoroughly lop-sided. But an even 
greater misfortune is the highly authoritarian 
atmosphere that surrounds it. Not in education 
alone, but everywhere in India, red-liveried, pom- 
pous and often empty-headed Authority seeks to 


56 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


mould people after its own pattern and prevent the 
growth of the mind and the spread of ideas. Re- 
cently we have seen how this Authority has made a 
mess of things even in the realm of sport and our 
cricket team in England, full of brilliant players, was 
effectively hamstrung by the ignorant nobodies who 
controlled it. Genius was sacrificed so that Autho- 
rity might triumph. In our universities this spirit 
of authority reigns supreme and, in the name of 
discipline, comes down heavily on any who do not 
meekly obey. They do not like the qualities that 
are encouraged in free countries, the spirit of daring, 
the adventures of the soul in uncharted regions. 
Is it surprising then that we do not produce many 
men and women who seek to conquer the Poles 
or Everest, to control the elements and bring them 
to man’s use, to hurl defiance at man’s ignorance 
and timidity and inertia and littleness and try to 
raise him up to the stars 

Must students take part in politics? Must 
they take part in life, a full wholesome part in life’s 
varied activities, or be of the clerkly breed, carrying 
out orders from above? As students they cannot 
keep out of politics, as Indian students even more so 
they must keep touch with them. Yet it is true 
that normally the training of their minds and bodies 
must be their principal consideration during this 
period of their growth. They must observe a 
certain discipline but that discipline should not be 
such as crushes the mind and kills the spirit. 

So, normally. But abnormal conditions come 
when all normal rules are swept away. During the 


STUDENTS AND POLITICS 57 


Gteat War whete were the students of England, 
France, Germany ? Not in their colleges but in the 
trenches, facing and meeting death. Where are the 
students of Spain today ? 

A subject country is always to some extent in 
an abnormal condition. So India is today. And in 
considering these problems we must also consider 
our environment and the growing abnormality in 
the world. And as we seek to understand it, we 
are driven to take part, however little it might be, 
in the shaping of events. 


October 1, 1936 


11 
A PUDUKOTTAH RECEPTION* 


One is apt to get a little tired mentally after 
continuous repetition of the same kind of incidents. 
Fortunately Pudukottah offered a variety which took 
us out of the dull rut. As we approached Pudukot- 
tah town I saw part of the Pudukottah army lining 
the road in battle array. Iwas interested. Further 
up a larger force of the army occupied the road. 
I grew more interested. So I got off the car and 
inquired from someone who might be the head of 
the Police or the Field Marshal what all this was 
about and whether there were manoeuvres of the 
army, or the International situation affected the 
Pudukottah State, and whether preparations were 
being made for the coming crisis, or was a riot 
feared. I was told that the army had turned out 
merely to clear the way for me so that the crowds 
might not embarrass me. A very delicate compli- 
enent indeed, on the part of the Pudukottah State 
to the President of the Indian National Congress, 
to which I was unaccustomed. I have had so far 
tremendous receptions from all manner of people 


*Pudukottah is a small Indian State in the Madras Pre- 
sidency. 


A PUDUKOTTAH RECEPTION 59 


and crowds. But to be escorted by an army through 
the streets lined with troops was a Viceregal ex- 
perience which I had not had. So I thought I had 
better make the most of it while I had the chance 
and I decided to march through that part of the 
territory of this great State. And so we marched 
along, the Pudukottah army following while a 
silent crowd and people stood by. It must have 
been a pleasant sight to which I was not accus- 
tomed. We marched a mile or so when unfortu- 
nately, owing to pressure of time I had to go back 
to the car. And so I bade good-bye to the 
Pudukottah army and rushed off away to Trichino- 
poly. 

This incident is full of meaning and shows us 
how States function and especially under more or 
less British Administration. For I understand that 
the ruler of Pudukottah is a minor and the adminis- 
tration is under British control. I was passing 
through the State at a great pace as I had no time 
to waste. I would not have stopped at all any- 
where but for the State authorities who were full 
of fear of all manner of happenings, and did the 
very thing which I could not have done, owing to 
lack of time, and created a commotion all over the 
State and drew more attention to my passage than 
would have otherwise happened. So far as [ am 
concerned I welcome this and I am grateful to the 
State authorities for this military arrangement made 
to welcome my passage through their territory. 
I understand that garlanding was specially forbid- 
den by the State as a revolutionary activity which 


Go EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


might upset the whole fabric of the administration. 
Probably the fabric is so flimsy that any breath of 
wind will blow it away. Hence its excessive 


nervousness. 


October 16, 1936 


12 
FAREWELL TO TAMIL NAD 


Men and Women of the Tamil Nad: 

For two weeks, I have wandered up and down 
your Province and visited many of your famous 
cities and large numbers of villages. I have address- 
ed hundreds of meetings and vast multitudes of 
men and women. For these two weeks we have 
been together and have seen each other, and per- 
haps we have grown to understand one another a 
little better. 

And now I am going back to the north and as 
I go, innumerable memories crowd into my mind— 
memories of surging crowds, and an enthusiasm 
bordering on frenzy, and shining eyes with un- 
spoken pledges looking through them. 

I brought the message of the Congress to you. 
That message was no new one to you, and yet you 
demonstrated anew, in your magnificent way, your 
allegiance to the Congress and to the country’s 
freedom. Individuals come and go, but the cause 
remains and binds us together in a common unity. 
Right through this tour of mine, this sense of unity 
in a great enterprise has been with me, the unity 
of India trying to break through the divisions and 
Shackles that are our lot today. I forgot that I 


62 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


was in the far south away from my home in the 
north : only one thing mattered—the independence 
of India—and we were all comrades struggling 
shoulder to shoulder to realise this desire of our 
hearts. The love of India filled us and we looked 
forward, eagerly and anxiously, to the promise of 
freedom. 

And everywhere with this love of independence 
was a passion for social freedom, a desire to end 
the exploitation of our people and establish a 
juster order which would put an end to the cause of 
poverty and the vast and growing unemployment 
which strangles us. The great crowds that gathered 
to hear me were largely naked poverty-stricken 
people, hungering for relief from their terrible 
burdens. And in their minds and ours political 
freedom and social freedom were mixed together 
and were two facets of the future we worked for. 

But all this wonderful enthusiasm and over- 
powering affection have to be disciplined and 
organised lest they waste themselves on trivial 
objects. The Congress has endeavoured with much 
success to do this, but we must go further still, 
and harness this energy and vitality to the cause of 
the Congress and of India’s freedom. For this, the 
Congress must spread its organisation, just as it has 
already done its appeal, to every village and function 
throughout on a democratic basis. Leadership 1s 
essential, but authoritarianism is bad, and already 
we suffer from it sufficiently under British domina- 
tion. 

In some places there were local disputes chiefly 


FAREWELL TO TAMIL NAD 63 


about Municipal and District Board elections. 
Some of them undoubtedly were due to a certain 
looseness in the choice of Congress candidates. Men 
were chosen who had little of the Congress spirit 
in them and subsequently could not play the great 
game and even occasionally broke their pledges. 
That way lies danger. Our strength will lessen and 
out ideals fade if we lower down our quality, in 
seatch for quantity. Therefore we may not lower 
our ideals whatever happens. 

Women came to our meetings in surprising 
numbers and it was clear that they were also to 
some extent politically awake. I was glad to see 
this awakening amongst them for women must 
play their full part in this national and social 
struggle. , 

Big problems face us. We must grow big 
enough to solve them and we may not allow the 
trivial or secondary to take first place in our minds. 

I must express vety deep gratitude to you for 
the affection showered upon me. Yet that was 
for the Congress, for I came as Congress President, 
the bearer of the Congress message. Remember 
that message, and remember also that true enthu- 
siasm leads to activity, joint disciplined activity 
under the Congress flag, and in furtherance of the 
Congress aim. 

I go back now, but I shall long remember this 
visit and I shall take the message of our comrades 
in the Tamil Nad to other parts and other people. 


October 18, 1936 


13 
CALCUTTA 


I go back from Calcutta after five crowded and 
strenuous days, a little tired but full of hope and 
elation. The weariness of the body counts for 
little and it passes when there is freshness of the 
spirit and these days in Calcutta have refreshed me 
and put new energy into me. Here, in this great 
city, I met many old comrades of the Congress, 
many people representing the districts of Bengal, 
representatives of the workers, young men and 
women, and all manner of other folk. I had the 
privilege of attending the meeting of the Bengal 
Provincial Congress Committee. We were faced 
by a somewhat intricate problem, but both in the 
consideration of this problem and in discussions 
over wider issues I found an overwhelming desire 
on the part of all to cooperate with each other, to 
pull together amongst themselves and with the rest 
of India in the great cause of Indian freedom which 
is the predominant issue in our country today. 
That the B. P. C. C. passed an unanimous resolu- 
tion is a matter for great satisfaction and I congra- 
tulate it on this achievement. More than that, 
however, what impressed me was the spirit which 
underlay this decision and the other problems that 


CALCUTTA 65 


it faced. There seemed to be a vivid realisation 
that our salvation demanded the sinking of petty 
differences and the building up of a strong and 
impregnable front against the imperialism that 
envelops us and crushes us. The measure of our 
realising this and understanding the wider issues 
that face us is the measure of our strength and hope 
for the future. I rejoice that Bengal stands toge- 
ther, a united house, prepared to face the 
opponents of Indian freedom and cooperate fully 
in the cause of Indian freedom and the emancipa- 
tion of the masses from exploitation. 

This spirit was visible not only in the ranks 
of the workers but in the general public. The 
magnificent welcome that was given to me on my 
atrival and the vast multitudes that I have addressed 
at numerous meetings are evidence of the faith of 
Bengal in the Congress and her vitality. The 
personal affection and consideration that ] have 
received here from everybody has been overwhelm- 
ing and it is difficult for me to express my deep 
gratitude for it. I shall remember it for long 
years. Not all the repression and suppression that 
Bengal has had to put up with has damped the 
spirit of her people or made them waver in their 
nay for freedom. ‘This unquenchable spirit of 

ers shines brightly through all their torment and 
suffering. That spirit will conquer, I have no 
doubt. But, lest we fritter our energy over the 
less important things, we must always remember 
that first things must always come first and the 
first thing in India is Indian freedom, and the 


5 


66 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


appalling poverty of India’s millions. Everything 
else is secondary. 

I go back now but Bengal will be often in my 
thoughts and we in the rest of India will expect 
brave things from the people of Bengal. I shall 
not say good-bye for we shall meet again often and 
often in comradeship in the great cause. 


November 9, 1936 


14 
CONGRESS PRESIDENTSHIP 


Ever since my name was mentioned for tre- 
election to the Congress Presidentship I have 
thought repeatedly and anxiously over the matter. 
The idea did not attract me for I do not believe in 
the same person functioning again and again in one 
office. My utility, such as it is, would not dis- 
appeat if I was not president. It might possibly be 
gteater, for I would be relieved of the routine 
performance of many duties which take up a great 
deal of time and energy. The burden that a Cong- 
ress President has to carry is no light one and his 
lot is not enviable. There were other colleagues 
and comrades fitted for the task and it seemed 
improper that I should in a way monopolise this 
seat of honour and this burden of authority. I dis- 
cussed the matter with my comrades and I pressed 
for other names, notably that of Khan Abdul 
Ghaffar Khan. But Khan Saheb was wholly un- 
willing and the others were also reluctant. I felt 
that I could not myself adopt a wholly negative 
attitude as there were some reasons, in the past 
yeat as in the present, which favoured me. In a 
way I represented a link between various sets of 
ideas and so I helped somewhat in toning down 


7O EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


struggle for Swaraj itself the socialistic analysis 
helps by showing us the true nature of the struggle, 
its relation to the wider world struggle, and the 
kind of Swaraj we should aim at. 

So the problem today in India is one of com- 
bating Imperialism in all its aspects, and the 
necessity for us is to build up an anti-imperialist 
front for this purpgse. That front must include 
all elements and people who desire independence 
whatever their social or economic objectives might 
be. It must include socialists and those who are 
not socialists alike on this basis. The Congress 
itself has offered the widest basis for this joint front. 
We must maintain that. We may not break that 
front for we have to face powerful imperialist and 
reactionary forces. If any weaken this front, they 
do so at their peril and to the injury of the nation. 

Our task is therefore to pool our resources, 
to tone down our differences as far as we can, to 
bear with each other even though we may differ 
on some matters, for ours is the larger agreement 
on the issue of Indian freedom and independence. 
We have done so in the past and built up the magni- 
ficent structure of the Congress. We shall do so 
in the present and in the future and so build up on 
an ever wider foundation this strong and united 
front against imperialism. 

The immediate task is to combat the new Act 
and all its works. The Congress Election Mani- 
festo has declared that there can or will be no co- 
operation with this Act. Let there be no weaken- 
ing in this resolve and let us carry it to its logical 


CONGRESS PRESIDENTSHIP 71 


consequence. We shall fight the elections with 
all our strength but we shall fight them for this 
and no other purpose, remembering always that 
the real struggle and the real strength lies outside 
the legislatures. 

These ate my present thoughts and I place 
them before my countrymen so that they may know 
how my mind is working. But over and above all 
this lies the shadow of international crisis and 
ever-impending war. We may not forget it for 
our fate and our future is involved in it. 


November 20, 1936 


15 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS TO THE 
NATIONAL CONGRESS, FAIZPUR 
DECEMBER 1936 


Eight and a half months ago I addressed you 
from this tribune and now, at your bidding, I am 
here again. I am grateful to you for this repeated 
expression of your confidence, deeply sensible of 
the love and affection that have accompanied it, 
somewhat overburdened by this position of high 
honour and authority that you would have me 
occupy again, and yet J am fearful of this responsi- 
bility. Men and women, who have to carry the bur- 
den of responsible positions in the world today, 
have a heavy and unenviable task and many are 
unable to cope with it. In India that task is as 
heavy as anywhere else and if the present is full of 
difficulty the veil of the future hides perhaps vaster 
and mote intricate problems. Is it surprising then 
that I accept your gracious gift with hesitation ? 

Before we consider the problems that face us, 
we must give thought to our comrades—those who 
have left us during these past few months and those 
who languish year after year, often with no end in 
prospect, in prison and detention camp. Two 
well-beloved colleagues have gone—Mukhtar 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 73 


Ahmad Ansari and Abbas Tyabji, the bearers 
of names honoured in Congress history, dear to 
all of us as friends and comrades, brave and wise 
counsellors in times of difficulty. 

To our comrades in prison or in detention we 
send greeting. Their travail continues and it 
grows, and only recently we have heard with horror 
of the suicide of three detenus who found life in- 
tolerable for them in the fair province of Bengal, 
whose young men and women in such large numbers 
live in internment without end. We have an 
analogy elsewhere, in Nazi Germany where concen- 
tration camps flourish and suicides are not un- 
common. 

Soon after the last Congress I had to nominate 
the Working Committee and I included in this 
our comrade, Subhas Chandra Bose. But you know 
how he was snatched away from us on arrival at 
Bombay and ever since then he has been kept in 
internment despite failing health. Our Committee 
has been deprived of his counsel, and I have missed 
throughout the year this brave comrade on whom 
we all counted so much. Helplessly we watch this 
crushing of our men and women, but this help- 
lessness in the present steels our resolve to end 
this intolerable condition of our people. 

One who was not with us at Lucknow has come 
back to us after long internment and prison. We 
offer cordial welcome to Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan 
for his own brave self as well as for the sake of the 
people of the Frontier Province whom he has so 
effectively and gallantly led in India’s struggle for 


76 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


of consistent support of Nazi Germany. The 
Anglo-German Naval Treaty threw France into the 
arms of Italy and led to the rape of Abyssinia. 
Behind all the talk of sanctions against Italy later 
on, there was the refusal by the British Government 
to impose any effective sanction. Even when the 
United States of America offered to codperate in 
imposing the oil sanction, Britain refused, and was 
content to see the bombing of Ethiopians and the 
breaking up of the League of Nations’ system of 
collective security. True, the British Government 
always talked in terms of the League and in defence 
of collective security, but its actions belied its 
words and were meant to leave the field open to 
fascist aggression. Nazi Germany took step after 
step to humiliate the League and upset the Euro- 
pean order, and ever the British ‘National’ Govern- 
ment followed meekly in its trail and gave it its 
whispered blessing. 

Spain came then as an obvious and final test, 
a democratic government assailed by a fascist- 
military rebellion aided by mercenary foreign 
troops. Here again while fascist Powers helped 
the rebels, the League Powers proclaimed a futile 
policy of non-intervention, apparently designed 
to prevent the Spanish democratic government 
from combating effectively the rebel menace. 

So we find British imperialism inclining more 
and more towards the fascist Powers, though the 
language it uses, as is its old habit, is democratic 
in texture and pious in tone. And because of this 
contradiction between words and deeds, British 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 77 


prestige has sunk in Europe and the world, and is 
lower today than it has ever been for many gene- 
rations. 

So in the world today these two great forces 
strive for mastery—those who labour for demo- 
cratic and social freedom and those who wish to 
crush this freedom under imperialism and fascism. 
In this struggle Britain, though certainly not the 
mass of the British people, inevitably joins the 
ranks of reaction. And the struggle today is 
fiercest and clearest in Spain, and on the outcome 
of that depends war or peace in the world in the 
neat future, fascist domination or the scorching of 
fascism and imperialism. That struggle has many 
lessons for us, and perhaps the most important 
of these is the failure of the democratic process 
in resolving basic conflicts and introducing vital 
changes to bring social and economic conditions 
in line with world conditions. That failure is not 
caused by those who desire or work for these 
changes. They accept the democratic method, 
but when this method threatens to affect great 
vested interests and privileged classes, these classes 
refuse to accept the democratic process and rebel 
against it. For them democracy means their own 
domination and the protection of their special 
interests. When it fails to do this, they have no fur- 
ther use for it and try to break it up. And in their 
attempt to break it, they do not scruple to use any 
and every method, to ally themselves with foreign 
and anti-national forces. Calling themselves 
nationalists and patriots, they employ mercenary 


78 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


armies of foreigners to kill their own kith and kin 
and enslave their own people. 

In Spain today out hattles are being fought 
and we watch this struggle not merely with the 
sympathy of friendly outsiders, but with the painful 
anxiety of those who are themselves involved 
in it. We have seen our hopes wither and a blank 
despair has sometimes seized us at this tragic 
destruction of Spain’s manhood and womanhood. 
But in the darkest moments the flame that symbo- 
lizes the hope of Spanish freedom has burnt bright. 
ly and proclaimed to the worldits eventual triumph. 
So many have died, men and women, boys and girls, 
that the Spanish Republic may live and freedom 
might endure. We see in Spain, as so often else- 
where, the tragic destruction of the walls of the cita- 
del of freedom. How often they have been lost 
and then retaken, how often destroyed and rebuilt. 

I wish, and many of you will wish with me, 
that we could give some effective assistance to our 
comrades in Spain, something more than sympathy, 
however deeply felt. The call for help has core 
to us fiom those sorely stricken people and we 
cannot remain silent to that appeal. And yet I 
do not know what we can do in our helplessness 
when we are struggling ourselves against an im- 
perialism that binds and crushes. 

So I would like to stress before you, as I did 
before, this organic connection between world 
events, this action and interaction between one 
and the other. Thus we shall understand a little 
this complicated picture of the world today, a 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 79 


unity in spite of its amazing diversity and conflicts. 
In Europe, as in the Far East, there is continuous 
trouble, and everywhere there is ferment. The 
Arab struggle against British imperialism in Pales- 
tine is as much part of this great world conflict 
as India’s struggle for freedom. Democracy and 
fascism, nationalism and imperialism, socialism and 
a decaying capitalism, combat each other in the 
world of ideas, and this conflict develops on the 
material plane and bayonets and bombs take the 
place of votes in the struggle for power. Changing 
conditions in the world demand a new political 
and economic orientation and if this does not come 
soon, there is friction and conflict. Gradually 
this leads to a revolution in the minds of men 
and this seeks to materialise, and every delay in 
this change-over leads to further conflict. The 
existing equilibrium having gone, giving place 
to no other, there is deterioration, reaction and 
disaster. It is this disaster that faces us in the 
world today and war on a terrible scale is an ever 
present possibility. Except for the fascist Powers 
every country and people dreads this war and yet 
they all prepare for it feverishly, and in doing so 
they line up on this side or that. The middle groups 
fade out or, ghost-like, they flit about, unreal, 
disillusioned, self-tortured, ever-doubting. That 
has been the fate of the old liberalism everywhere, 
though in India perhaps those who call themselves 
Liberals, and others who think in their way, have 
yet to come out of the fog of complacency that 
envelops them. But we 


80 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


‘‘Move with new desires. 

For where we used to build and love 

Is no man’s land, and only ghosts can live 
Between two fires.”’ 


What are these new desires ? The wish to put 
an end to this mad world system which breeds war 
and conflict and which crushes millions; to abolish 
poverty and unemployment and release the energies 
of vast numbers of people and utilise them for the 
progress and betterment of humanity; to build 
where today we destroy. During the past eight 
months I have wandered a great deal in this vast 
land of ours and I have seen again the throbbing 
agony of India’s masses, the call of their eyes for 
relief from the terrible burdens they carry. That is 
our problem; all others are secondary and merely 
lead up to it. To solve that problem we shall have 
to end the imperialistic control and exploitation 
of India. But what is this imperialism of today ? 
It is not merely the physical possession of one coun- 
try by another; its roots lie deeper. Modern 
imperialism is an outgrowth of capitalism and 
cannot be separated from it. 


It is because of this that we cannot understand 
our problems without understanding the impli- 
cations of imperialism and socialism. ‘The disease 
is deep-seated and requires a radical and revolu- 
tionary remedy and that remedy is the socialist 
structure of society. We do not fight for socialism 
in India today for we have to go far before we can 
act in terms of socialism, but socialism comes in 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 8x 


here and now to help us to understand our pro- 
blem and point out the path to its solution, and to 
tell us the real content of the swaraj to come. With 
no proper understanding of the problem, our 
actions ate likely to be erratic, purposeless and 
ineffective. 

The Congress stands today for full democracy 
in India and fights for a democratic State, not for 
socialism. It is anti-imperialist‘and strives for great 
changes in our political and economic structure. 
I hope that the logic of events will lead it to social- 
ism for that seems to me the only remedy fer 
India’s ills. But the urgent and vital problem 
for us today is political independence and 
the establishment of a democratic State. And 
because of this, the Congress must line up 
with all the progressive forces of the world 
and must stand for world peace. Recently there 
has taken place in Europe a significant deve- 
lopment in the peace movement. The World 
Peace Congress, held at Brussels in September last, 
brought together numerous mass organisations on 
a common platform and gave an effective lead for 
peace. Whether this lead will succeed in averting 
war, no one can say, but all lovers of peace will 
welcome it and wish it success. Our Congress was 
ably represented at Brussels by Shri V. K. Krishna 
Menon and the report that he has sent us is being 
placed before you. I trust that the Congress will 
associate itself fully with the permanent peace 
organisation that is being built up and assist with 
all its strength in this great task. In doing so we 


6 


82 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


must make our own position perfectly clear. For 
us, and we think for the world, the problem of peace 
cannot be separated from imperialism, and in order 
to remove the root causes of war, imperialism must 
go. We believe in the sanctity of treaties but we 
cannot consider ourselves bound by treaties in the 
making of which the people of India had no part 
unless we accept them in due course. The pro- 
blem of maintaining peace cannot be isolated by us, 
in our present condition, from war resistance. 
The Congress has already declared that we can 
bg no parties to an imperialist war, and we will 
not allow the exploitation of India’s man power 
and resources for such a war. Any such attempt 
will be resisted by us. 

The League of Nations has fallen very low and 
there are few who take it seriously as an instrument 
for the preservation of peace. India has no enthu- 
siasm for it whatever and the Indian membership 
of the League ts a farce, for the selection of delegates 
is made cs the British Government. We must 
work for a real League of Nations, democratically 
constructed, which would in effect be a League of 
Peoples. If even the present League, ineffective 
and powerless as it is, can be used in favour of 
peace, we shall welcome it. 

With this international background in view, 
let us consider our national problems. The 
Government of India Act of 1935, the new Consti- 
tution, stares at us offensively, this new charter of 
bondage which has been imposed upon us despite 
our utter rejection of it, and we are preparing to 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 83 


fight elections under it. Why we have entered into 
this election contest and how we propose to follow 
it up has been fully stated in the Election Manifesto 
of the All-India Congress Committee, and I 
commend this manifesto for your adoption. We 
go to the legislatures not to codperate with the 
apparatus of British imperialism, but to combat the 
Act and seek to end it, and to resist in every way 
British imperialism in its attempt to strengthen 
its hold on India and its exploitation of the Indian 
people. That is the basic policy of the Congress 
and no Congressman, no candidate for election, 
must forget this. Whatever we do must be within 
the four corners of this policy. We are not going 
to the legislatures to pursue the path of consti- 
tutionalism or a barren reformism. 

There is a certain tendency to compromise 
over these elections, to seek a majority at any cost. 
This is a dangerous drift and must be stopped. 
The elections must be used to rally the masses to the 
Congress standard, to carry the message of the Con- 
gress to the millions of voters and non-voters alike, 
to press forward the mass struggle. The biggest 
majority in a legislature will be of little use to us 
if we have not got this mass movement behind us, 
and a majority built on compromises with reac- 
tionary groups or individuals will defeat the very 
purpose of the Congress. 

With the effort to fight the Act, and as a corol- 
lary to it, we have to stress our positive demand for 
a Constituent Assembly elected under adult suffrage. 
That is the very cornerstone of Congress policy 


84 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


today and our election campaign must be based 
on it. This Assembly must not be conceived as 
something emanating from the British Govern- 
ment or as a compromise with British imperialism. 
If it is to have any reality, it must have the will of 
the people behind it and the organised strength 
of the masses to support it, and the power to draw 
up the constitution of a free India. We have 
to create that mass support for it through these 
elections and later through our other activities. 

The Working Committee has recommended to 
this Congress that a Convention of all Congress 
members of all the legislatures, and such other 
persons as the Committee might wish to add to 
them, should meet soon after the election to put 
forwatd the demand for the Constituent Assembly, 
and determine how to oppose, by all feasible 
methods, the introduction of the Federal structure 
of the Act. Such a Convention, which must include 
the members of the All India Congress Committee, 
should help us greatly in focussing our struggle and 
giving it proper direction in the legislatures and 
outside. It will prevent the Congress members 
of the legislatures from developing provincialism 
and getting entangled in minor provincial matters. 
It will give them the right perspective and a sense 
of all India discipline, and it should help greatly 
in developing mass activities on a large scale. The 
idea is full of big possibility and I trust the Cong- 
ress will approve of it. 

Next to this demand for the Constituent 
Assembly our most important task will be to oppose 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 85 


the Federal structure of the Act. Utterly bad as 
the Act is, there is nothing so bad in it as this 
Federation and so we must exert ourselves to the 
utmost to break this, and thus end the Act as a 
whole. To live not only under British imperialist 
exploitation but also under Indian feudal control, 
is something that we are not going to tolerate 
whatever the consequences. It is an interesting 
and instructive result of the long period of British 
rule in India that when, as we arc told, it is trying 
to fade off, it should gather to itself all the reaction- 
ary and obscurantist groups in India, and endea- 
vour to hand partial control to the feudal elements. 

The development of this federal scheme 1s 
worthy of consideration. We are not against the 
conception of a federation. It is likely that a free 
India may be a federal India, though in any event 
there must be a great deal of unitary control. But 
the present federation that is being thrust upon us 
is a federation in bondage and under the control, 
politically and socially, of the most backward 
elements in the country. The present Indian States 
took shape early in the nineteenth century in the 
unsettled conditions of early British rule. The 
treaties with their autocratic rulers, which are held 
up to us so often now as sacred documents which 
may not be touched, date from that period. 

It is worthwhile comparing the state of Europe 
then with that of India. In Europe then there were 
numerous tiny kingdoms and princedoms, kings 
were autocratic, holy alliances and royal prerogatives 
flourished. Slavery was legal. During these 


86 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


hundred years and more Europe has changed out 
of recognition. As a result of numerous revolu- 
tions and changes the princedoms have gone and 
very few kings remain. Slavery has gone. Modern 
industry has spread and democratic institutions have 
grown up with an ever-widening franchise. These 
in their turn have given place in some countries to 
fascist dictatorships. Backward Russia, with one 
mighty jump, has established a Soviet Socialist 
State and an economic order which has resulted in 
tremendous progress in all directions. The world 
has gone on changing and hovers on the brink 
of yet another vast change. But not so the Indian 
States ; they remain static in this ever-changing 
panorama, staring at us with the eyes of the early 
nineteenth century. The old treaties are sacrosanct, 
treaties made not with the people or their represen- 
tatives but with their autocratic rulers. 

This is a state of affairs which no nation, no 
people can tolerate. We cannot recognise these 
old settlements of more than a hundred years ago 
as permanent and unchanging. ‘The Indian States 
will have to fit into the scheme of a free India and 
their peoples must have, as the Congress has 
declared, the same personal, civil and democratic 
liberties as those of the rest of India. 

Till recent years little was heard of the treaties 
of the States or of paramountcy. ‘The rulers knew 
their proper places in the imperial scheme of things 
and the heavy hand of the British Government was 
always in evidence. But the growth of the national 
movement in India gave them a fictitious impor- 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 87 


tance, for the British Government began to rely 
upon them more and more to help it in combating 
this nationalism. ‘The rulers and their ministers 
were quick to notice the change in the angle of 
vision and to profit by it. They tried to play, 
not without success, the British Government and 
the Indian people against each other andto gain 
advantages from both. ‘They have succeeded to a 
remarkable degree and have gained extraordinary 
power under the federal scheme. Having preserved 
themselves as autocratic units, Which are wholly out- 
side the control of the rest of India, they have gained 
power over other parts of India. Today we find 
them talking as if they were independent and laying 
down conditions for their adherence to the Federa- 
tion. There is talk even of the abolition of the 
viceregal paramountcy, so that these States may 
remain, alone in the whole world, naked and un- 
checked autocracies, which cannot be tampered 
with by any constitutional means. <A sinister 
development is the building up of the armies of 
some of the bigger States on an eflicient basis. 

Thus our opposition to the federal part of the 
Constitution Act is not merely a theoretical one, 
but a vital matter which affects our freedom struggle 
and our future destiny. We have got to make it 
a central pivot of our struggle against the Act. 
We have got to break this Federation. 

Our policy is to put an end to the Act and have 
a clean slate to write afresh. We are told by people 
who can think only in terms of action taken in the 
legislatures, that it is not possible to wreck it, and 


88 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


there are ample provisions and safeguards to enable 
the Government to carry on despite a hostile 
majority. We are well aware of these safeguards ; 
they are one of the principal reasons why we reject 
the Act. We know also that there are second 
chambers to obstruct us. We can create constitu- 
tional crises inside the legislatures, we can have 
deadlocks, we can obstruct the imperialist machine 
but always there is a way out. ‘The Constitution 
cannot be wrecked by action inside the legislatures 
only. For that, mass action outside is necessary, 
and that isswhy we must always remember that the 
essence of our freedom struggle lies in mass organi- 
sation and mass action. 

The policy of the Congress in regard to the 
legislatures is perfectly clear; only in one matter 
it still remains undecided—the question of accept- 
ance or not of office. Probably the decision of this 
question will be postponed till after the elections. 
At Lucknow I ventured to tell you that, in my 
opinion, acceptance of office was a negation of our 
policy of rejection of the Act; it was further a 
reversal of the policy we had adopted in 1920 and 
followed since then. Since Lucknow, the Congress 
has further clarified its position in the Election 
Manifesto and declared that we ate not going to 
the legislatures to codperate in any way with the 
Act but to combat it. That limits the field of our 
decision in regard to offices, and those who incline 
to acceptance of them must demonstrate that this 
is ues way to non-codperate with the Act, and to 
end it. 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 89 


It seems to me that the only logical consequence 
of the Congress policy, as defined in our resolutions 
and in the Election Manifesto, is to have nothing 
to do with office and ministry. Any deviation 
from this would mcan a reversal of that policy. 
It would inevitably mean a kind of partnership with 
British imperialism in the exploitation of the Indian 
people, an acquiescence, even though under protest 
and subject to reservations, in the basic ideas under- 
lying the Act, an association to some extent with 
British imperialism in the hateful task of the repres- 
sion of our advanced elements. Office accepted on 
any other basis is hardly possible, and if it is possi- 
ble, it will lead almost immediately to deadlock and 
conflict. That deadlock and impasse does not 
frighten us; we welcome it. But then we must 
think in terms of deadlocks and not in terms of 
carrying on with the office. 

There scems to be a fear that if we do not 
accept office, others will do so, and they will put 
obstacles in the way of our freedom movement. 
But if we are in a majority we can prevent others 
from misbehaving ; we can even prevent the forma- 
tion of any ministry. If our majority is a doubtful 
one then office for us depends on compromises 
with non-Congress elements, a policy full of danger 
for our cause, and one which would inevitably lead 
to our acting in direct opposition to the Congress 
mandate of rejection of the Act. Whether we are 
in a majority or in a minority, the real thing will 
always be the organised mass backing behind us. 
A majority without that backing can do little in the 


go EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


legislatures, even a militant minority with conscious 
and organised mass support can make the function- 
ing of the Act very dificult. 

We have put the Constituent Assembly in the 
forefront of our programme, as well as the fight 
against the federal structure. With what force can 
we press these two vital points and build up a mass 
agitation around them if we wobble over the ques- 
tion of office and get entangled in its web? 

We have great tasks ahead, great problems to 
solve both in India and in the international sphere. 
Who can face and solve these problems in India 
but this great organisation of ours, which has, 
through fifty years’ effort and sacrifice, established 
its unchallengeable right to speak for the millions 
of India? Has it not become the mirror of their 
hopes and desires, their urge to freedom, and the 
strong arm that will wrest this freedom from un- 
willing and resisting hands? It started ina small 
way with a gallant band of pioneers, but even then 
it represented a historic force and it drew to itself 
the goodwill of the Indian people. From year to 
year it grew, faced inner conflicts whenever it 
wanted to advance and was held back by some of 
its members. But the urge to go ahead was too 
great, the push from below increased, and though 
a few left us, unable to adjust themselves to chang- 
ing conditions, vast numbers of others joined the 
Congress. It became a great propaganda machine 
dominating the public platform of India. But it 
was an amorphous mass and its organisational side 
was weak, and effective action on a large scale 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 91 


was beyond its powers. The coming of Gandhiji 
brought the peasant masses to the Congress, and 
the new constitution that was adopted at his ins- 
tance in Nagpur in 1920 tightened up the organisa- 
tion, limited the number of delegates according to 
population, and gave it strength and capacity for 
joint and effective action. That action followed 
soon after on a countrywide scale and was repeated 
in later years. But the very success and prestige 
of the Congress often drew undesirable elements 
to its fold and accentuated the defects of the constt- 
tution. ‘The organisation was becoming unwieldy 
and slow of movement and capable of being exploit- 
ed in local areas by particular groups. Two years 
ago radical changes were made in the constitution 
again at Gandhiji’s instance. One of these was the 
fixation of the number of delegates according to 
membership, a change which has given a greater 
reality to our elections and strengthened us or- 
ganisationally. But still our organisational side 
lags far behind the great prestige of the Congress, 
and there is a tendency for our committees to func- 
tion in the air, cut off from the rank and file. 

It was partly to remedy this that the Mass 
Contacts resolution was passed by the Lucknow 
Congress, but unhappily the Committee that was 
in charge of this.matter has not reported yet. The 
problem is a wider one than was comprised in that 
resolution for it includes an overhauling of the 
Congress constitution with the object of making it a 
closer knit body, capable of disciplined and effective 
action. That action to be effective must be mass 


O2 EIGHTEEN MONTHiS IN INDIA 


action, and the essence of the strength of the 
Congress has been this mass basis and mass response 
to its calls. But though that mass basis is thee, it 
is not reflected in the organisational side, and hence 
an inherent weakness in our activities. We have 
seen the gradual transformation of the Congress 
from a small upper class body, to one representing 
the great body of the lower middle classes, and later 
the masses of this country. As this drift to the 
masses continued the political role of the organisa- 
tion changed and is changing, for this political role 
is largely determined by the economic roots of the 
organisation. 

We are already and inevitably committed to 
this mass basis for without it there is no power or 
strength in us. We have now to bring that into 
line with the organisation, so as to give our primary 
members greater powers of initiative and control, 
and opportunities for day to day activities. We 
have, in other words, to democratise the Congress 
still further. 

Another aspect of this problem that has been 
debated during the past year has been the desirahi- 
lity of afhliating other organisations, of peasants, 
workers and others, which also aim at the freedom 
of the Indian people, and thus to make the Congress 
the widest possible joint front of all the anti-imper- 
jalist forces in the country. As it is, the Congress 
has an extensive direct membership among these 
groups ; probably 759, of its members come from 
the peasantry. But, it is argued, that functional 
representation will give far greater reality to the 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 93 


peasants and workers in the Congress. This 
proposal has been resisted because of a fear that 
the Congress might be swamped by new elements, 
sometimes even politically backward elements. As 
a matter of fact, although this question is an impor- 
tant one for us, any decision of it will make little 
difference at present ; its chief significance will be as 
a gesture of goodwill. For there are few well 
organised workers’ of peasants’ unions in the 
country which are likely to profit by Congress 
affiliation. ‘There is not the least possibility of any 
swamping, and, in any event, this ‘can easily be 
avoided. I think that now or later some kind of 
functional representation in the Congress is inevit- 
able and desirable. It is easy for the Congress to 
lay down conditions for such affiliation, so as to 
prevent bogus and mushroom growths or undesir- 
able organisations from profiting by it. A limit 
might also be placed on the number of representa- 
tives that such affiliated organisations can send. 
Some such recommendation, I believe, has been 
made by the U. P. Provincial Congress Committec. 
The real object before us is to build up a power- 
ful joint front of all the anti-imperialist forces in 
the country. The Congress has indeed been in 
the past, and is today such a united popular front, 
and inevitably the Congress must be the basis and 
pivot of united action. The active participation of 
the organised workers and peasants in such a front 
would add to its strength and must be welcomed. 
Codperation between them and the Congress orga- 
nisation has been growing and has been a marked 


94 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


feature of the past year. This tendency must be 
encoutaged. The most urgent and vital need of 
India today is this united national front of all forces 
and elements that are ranged against imperialism. 
Within the Congress itself most of these forces are 
represented, and in spite of their diversity and 
difference in outlook, they have codperated and 
worked together for the common good. That is a 
healthy sign both of the vitality of our great move- 
ment and the unity that binds it together. The 
basis of it is anti-imperialism and independence. Its 
immediate demand is for a Constituent Assembly 
leading to a democratic State where political power 
has been transferred to the mass of the people. 
An inevitable consequence of this is the withdrawal 
of the alien army of occupation. 

These are the objectives before us, but we can- 
not ignore the present-day realities and the day-to- 
day problems of our people. These ever-present 
realities are the poverty and unemployment of our 
millions, appalling poverty and unemployment 
which has even the middle classes in its grip and 
grows like a creeping paralysis. The world is 
full of painful contrasts today, but surely nowhere 
else are these contrasts so astounding as in India. 
Imperial Delhi stands, visible symbol of British 
power, with all its pomp and circumstance and 
vulgar ostentation and wasteful extravagance ; and 
within a few miles of it are the mud huts of India’s 
starving peasantry, out of whose meagre earnings 
these great palaces have been built, huge salaries 
and allowances paid. The ruler of a State flaunts 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 95 


his palaces and his luxury before his wretched and 
miserable subjects and talks of his treaties and his 
inherent right to autocracy. And the new Act 
and Constitution have come to us to preserve and 
perpetuate these contrasts, to make India safe for 
autocracy and imperialist exploitation. 

As I write, a great railway strike is in progtess. 
For long the world of railway workers has been 
in ferment because of retrenchment and reduction 
in wages and against them is the whole power of 
the State. Some time ago there was a heroic strike 
in the Ambernath Match Factory near Bombay, 
owned by a great foreign trust. But behind that 
trust and supporting it, we saw the apparatus of 
Government functioning in the most extraordinary 
way. The workers in our-country have yet to gain 
elementary rights ; they have yet to have an eight 
hour day and unemployment insurance and a 
guaranteed living wage. 

But a vaster and more pressing problem is that 
of the peasantry, for India is essentially a land of the 
peasants. In recognition of this fact, and to bring 
the Congress nearer to the peasant masses, we are 
meeting here today at the village of Faizpur and 
not, as of old, in some great city. The Lucknow 
Congress laid stress on this land problem and called 
on the Provincial Committees to frame agrarian 
programmes. ‘This work is still incomplete for the 
vastness and intricacy of it has demanded full 
investigation. But the urgency of the problem calls 
for immediate solution. Demands for radical 
reforms in the rent and revenue and the abolition 


96 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


of feudal levies have been made from most of the 
provinces. The crushing burden of debt on the 
agricultural classes has led to a wide-spread cry for 
a moratorium and a substantial liquidation of debt. 
In the Punjab Karza (Debt) Committees have grown 
up to protect the peasantry. All these and many 
other demands are insistently made and vast gather- 
ings of peasants testify to their inability to carry 
their present burdens. Yet it is highly doubtful 
if this problem can be solved piecemeal and without 
changing completely the land system. That land 
system cannot endure and an obvious step is to 
remove the intermediaries between the cultivator 
and the State. Codperative or collective farming 
must follow. 

The reform of the land system is tied up with 
the development of industry, both large-scale and 
cottage, in order to give work to out scores of 
millions of unemployed and raise the pitiful stand- 
ards ot out people. That again is connected with 
so many other things—education, housing, roads 
and transport, sanitation, medical relief, social 
services, etc. Industry cannot expand properly be- 
cause of the economic and financial policy of the 
Government which, in the name of Imperial Pre- 
ference, encourages British manufactures in India, 
and works for the profit of Big Finance in the City 
of London. The currency ratio continues in spite 
of persistent Indian protest ; gold has been pouring 
out of India continuously now for five years at a 
prodigious rate, though all India vehemently oppo- 
ses this outflow. And the new Act tells us that we 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 97 


may do nothing which the Viceroy or the Governor 
might consider as an unfair discrimination against 
British trade or commeicial interests. The old 
order may yield place to the new but British 
interests are safe and secure. 

And so one problem runs into another and all 
together form that vast complex that is India today. 
Are we going to solve this by petty tinkering and 
patchwork with all manner of vested interests 
obstructing us and preventing advance? Only a 
great planned system for the whole land and dealing 
with all these various national activities, coordinating 
them, making each serve the larger whole and the 
interests of the mass of our people, only such a 
planned system with vision and courage to back it, 
can find a solution. But planned systems do not 
flourish under the shadow of monopolies and vested 
interests and imperialist exploitation. They require 
the air and soil of political and social freedom. 

These are distant goals for us today though 
the rapid march of events may bring us face to face 
with them sooner than we imagine. ‘The immediate 
goal—independence—is nearer and more definite, 
and that is why perhaps we escape, to a large extent, 
that tragic disillusion and hopelessness which affects 
so many in Europe. 

We are apparently weak, not really so. We 
grow in strength, the Empire of Britain fades away. 
Because we are politically and economically crushed, 
our civil liberties taken away, hundreds of our 
organisations made illegal, thousands of our young 
men and women always kept in prison or in deten- 


7 


98 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


tion camp, our movements continually watched by 
hordes of secret servicemen and informers, our 
spoken word taken down, lest it offend the law of 
sedition, because of all this and more we are not 
weaker but stronger, for all this intense repression 
is the measure of our growing national strength. 
War and revolution dominate the world and nations 
arm desperately. If war comes or other great crises, 
India’s attitude will make a difference. We hold the 
keys of success in our hands if we but turn them 
rightly. And it is the increasing realisation of this 
that has swept away the defeatist mentality of our 
people. 

Meanwhile the general election claims our 
attention and absorbs our energy. Here too we 
find official interference, in spite of denial, and 
significant attempts to prevent secrecy of voting in 
the case of illiterate voters. The United Provinces 
have been singled out for this purpose and the 
system of coloured boxes, which will be used every- 
where else, has been ruled out for the U. P. But 
we shall win in these elections in spite of all the 
odds—State pressure, vested interest, money. 

That will be but a little step in a long journey, 
and we shall march on, with danger and distress 
as companions. We have long had these for our 
fellow travellers and we have grown used to them. 
And when we have learnt how to dominate them, 
we shall also know how to dominate success. 


16 
A MESSAGE TO SOCIALISTS* 


Comrade Masani has asked me for a message 
to your Conference. I send my greeting gladly and 
I hope that your deliberations will result in good 
to the great cause we have at heart. That cause 
today is best served by building up a powerful anti- 
imperialist joint front in the country. It is obvious 
that the National Congress is the only organisation 
which can function as such a joint front. 

As you know I am vastly interested in the 
socialist approach to all questions. It is right that 
we could understand the theory underlying this 
approach. This helps to clarify our minds and 
give purpose to our activities. But two aspects of 
this question fill my own mind. One is how to 
apply this approach to Indian conditions. The 
other is how to speak of socialism in the language 
of India. I think it is often forgotten that if we 
are to be understood we must speak the language 
of the country. JI am not merely referring to the 
vatious languages of India. I am referring much 
more to the language of the mind and the heart, 


* Sent to the Conference of the Congress Socialist Party 
at Faizpur, December 1936. 


TOO EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


to the language which grows from a complex of 
associations of past history and culture and present 
environment. So long as we do not speak in 
some language which has that Indian mentality for 
background we lose a great measure of our effective- 
ness. Merely to use words and phrases, which 
may have meaning for us but which are not 
cutrent coin among the masses of India, is often 
wasted effort. It is this problem of the approach to 
socialism that occupies my mind—how to interpret 
it in terms of India, how to reach the hearts of the 
people with its hope-giving and inspiring message. 

That is a question which I should like a socialist 
to consider well. 


December 20, 1936 


17 
A NOTE ON THE TOUR 


The President of the National Congress has to 
undertake a considerable amount of touring. India 
is a large country, but the difficulty in the way of 
touring is not so much the largeness of the country 
as the absence of good roads in a great part of rural 
India. And yet it is this rural India that demands 
attention and even clamours for it. The General 
Elections all over India nécessitated more extensive 
and intensive touring than usual, and most of this 
was done in the three months prior to the elections 
in February 1937. The actual number of touring 
days prior to the elections was 130 and during this 
period about 50,000 miles were covered—about 
26,000 miles by railway, 22,500 by road (chiefly 
by car) and 1,600 by air. The means of transport 
varied greatly. They included aeroplanes, railway 
(usually third class travelling, sometimes second 
class, and on two occasions special trains for short 
distances) ; motor cars (from a Rolls Royce to a 
fifteen year old Ford) ; motor lorry ; horse carriage, 
tonga, ekka, bullock cart, bicycle, elephant, camel, 
horse, steamer, paddle-boat, canoe, and on foot. 

The Congress provinces visited were: Bombay, 
Punjab, Sind, Delhi, United Provinces, Andhra, 


To2 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


Tamil Nad, Nagpur, Mahakoshal and Maharashtra. 
Calcutta was also visited, but not other parts of 
Bengal. Kerala (Malabar) was just touched at 
Cannanore. This leaves only Gujrat, N.-W. F. 
Province, Assam and parts of Central India and 
Rajputana which were not visited. 

Most of the touring was done in rural areas 
and apart from the meetings which had been 
arranged, there were innumerable impromptu 
gatherings by the roadside. During a day as 
many as a dozen meetings might be held, some of 
them having audiences of thirty thousand or more. 
Some mammoth gatherings approached a hundred 
thousand. A meeting of five thousand was con- 
sidered a small affair. The daily total of persons 
attending was frequently 100,000, sometimes it was 
much greater. On a tough and conservative 
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. These vast audiences usually had a large 
proportion of women. 

These figures do not include the attendance at 
the Faizpur Congress, nor do they include the 
tours (such as those to Burma and Malaya) subse- 
quent to February 1937. 


These intensive tours called for a great deal of 
stafl-work and efficient organisation. Generally 
speaking the organisation was excellent but too 
much was attempted to be done ina brief day of 
twenty-four hours. Day after day the programme 


A NOTE ON THE TOUR T03 


began at dawn and went on till very late at night— 
eighteen hours or more. Once on February 13th— 
14th it meant continuous movement and addressing 
of meetings for the whole day and night—twenty- 


four hours—the next day’s programme beginning 
soon after. 


18 
ELECTION MESSAGES 
BEHAR 


For seven days I sped like an arrow from the 
bow from place to place in Behar carrying the 
message of the Congress wherever I went. Dur- 
ing these seven days I travelled from end to end 
of the province right up to the frontier of Nepal. 
I met vast audiences of poverty-stricken peasantry 
in the rural areas ; I passed through ancient cities 
famous in history and tradition ; and modern towns 
with their industries and commerce and unemploy- 
ment and railway strikers. Through the steel city 
of Jamshedpur I went and across the black coal 
area of Jharia. Rapidly I passed through Chota 
Nagpur with its beautiful forests and its so-called 
aborigines. Everywhere I found enthusiastic res- 
ponse to the message of the Congress, everywhere 
love and goodwill beyond measure. I leave the 
province with regret but I carry back with me the 
fragrant memory of the generous affection of its 
poe and I shall feel strengthened and invigorated 

y it in the perils and tasks to come. Men and 
women of Behar, dear comrades in a great and 


ELECTION MESSAGES | 105 


glorious enterprise, I wish you good fortune and 
courage and perseverance. 


January 1937 


UNITED PROVINCES 
I 


I have completed my tour of the districts of the 
United Provinces and now I proceed to the South, 
to Maharashtra and Karnatak. I have visited nearly 
all the forty-eight districts of my province during 
the past weeks and months and I return full of joy 
and confidénce at the wonderful enthusiasm of our 
people. The name of the Congress is magic both 
in town and village ; it has become the shelter and 
hope for our millions. All the embattled legions 
of our rulers and of vested interests cannot keep 
those millions down any longer. They are weary 
of the long night; they smell the breath of the 
dawn, and so under the sheltering and inspiring 
banner of the Congress we march forward to 
triumph. For the present we have to face the 
elections. Tomorrow and the day after the voters 
march to the polling booths. Let every voter man 
or woman do his or her duty by the country and 
vote for the Congress. Thus we shall write in 
millions of hands our flaming resolve to be free. 


February 6, 1937 


106 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 
II 


Comrades of the United Provinces, I send you 
greeting and from far Karnatak I join in your 
triumph. We have won overwhelmingly in the 
elections as we knew we would. But who has 
won? Not our candidates in their individual 
capacities, not even we, workers and soldiers of 
the Congress who have toiled and laboured for this 
success. It is the Congress that has won, that 
great organisation which has nurtured us and 
lighted the spark of hope in the hearts of our 
suffering millions. Even mote so it is those masses 
themselves who have triumphed despite all the 
pressure and threats and violence and inducements 
that were offered to them. From all accounts it 
was a fine and inspiring sight to see orderly proces- 
sions of our village folk marching long distances 
with our national flags, going to the polling booths 
and voting en bloc for the Congress candidates. 
They listened to our call, heard the message of 
the Congress and responded to it in magnificent 
measute. The United Provinces, as other patts of 
India, stands thus for the complete rejection of the 
new Constitution and for a fight to put an end to 
it and build afresh on the basis of a Constituent 
Assembly. But above all the masses voted for 
the Congress because they felt that the Congress 
stood for their interests, worked for them, and was 
their true representative. Let us remember this fact 
always and keep true to our mass moorings. Only 
that will bring us ultimate success and redeem 


ELECTION MESSAGES 107 


out pledge to our people. Anything else will be a 
betrayal of our cause and of the hopes that we 
have roused in our millions. The lesson of the 
election for us in the U. P., in Behar and elsewhere 
is that wherever we have gone straight to the 
masses and spoken the clear and simple language 
that they understand, they have gladly and whole- 
heartedly thrown their weight in our favour. Where 
we have weakened and compromised, our success 
has been more partial. Our best and strongest 
canilidates have been Congress workers with no 
personal influence or resources. And so let us be 
humble before this victory and realise that the 
credit goes to the masses. The people of the U. P. 
and Behar and other parts of India have given 
notice to quit British Imperialism in India. I am 
confident that Bombay and Gujrat and Maharashtra 
and Karnatak will follow suit and deliver the same 
emphatic notice. The days of imperialism are 
numbered ; the people have spoken and pronounced 
its doom. It is for us to follow this up and link 
ourselves still further with the masses. The 
elections will be over soon but the great work we 
are pledged to still remains. To that we have now 
to address ourselves. With full confidence we 
march to this final triumph. 


February 12, 1937 


To the People of Southern and Western India 


{ go back to the north at the end of my long 


108 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


journeying. I go back to prepare for the longer 
pilgrimage to Swaraj of which this has been but 
a step. I brought the message of the Congress to 
the South and the West. But you have heard now 
that message not only through my feeble voice but 
from the numberless millions of the north who have 
rallied to the Congress call, and their thundering 
cry for freedom reverberates through the broad 
plains and valleys of Hindustan. What echo does 
that find in your hearts? Does not your blood 
quicken in your veins at that heartening cry of the 
masses? India awaits your own brave response 
and knows full well what it will be. Away with 
reaction and the enemies of freedom. Line up 
with the Congress, line up, line up, and let us all 
march together to Swaraj. Who dares to ignore 
this call? 


February 1937 


19 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS TO THE 
ALL-INDIA CONVENTION, 
DELHI, MARCH 1937 


We are used to our Congress gatherings, vast 
and impressive and representing the will of the 
Indian people for freedom. Behind them lie half 
a century of our country’s history and a tradition of 
growth and change and adaptation to fresh needs 
and new situations. But today we meet in this Con- 
vention under novel conditions, for this Conven- 
tion has no background except what we choose to 
give it, has no future except such as we determine. 
Well established institutions and organisations 
develop, in the course of time, a certain will and 
momentum which carry them forward almost apart 
from the desires of their constituent elements. 
They have an individuality which expresses itself in 
its own particular way, a certain stability and 
steadiness of purpose, as well as a certain conservat- 
ism. ‘They do not easily move out of their moor- 
ings; like an elephant, they are heavy of move- 
ment, but when they move, they have all the greater 
momentum, and they change the shape of things. 
Such is our Congress. 


I1O EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


But this Convention is new and few people 
seem to know what it is or what it is going to be. 
Some doubt is justified ; and yet all of us know well 
our moorings and our purpose, and though, 
as a Convention, we may be new, we have our 
roots in those past struggles which are written in 
the history of the Congress and our freedom 
movement. This Convention is a child of the 
Congress, looking to it for strength and guidance. 

In writing this address I suffer from a disability. 
During the few days that will elapse between now 
and the meeting of the Convention, the major 
issues before us will be decided by the All-India 
Congress Committee. I do not know what these 
final decisions will be, and so, when this written 
message changes to the spoken word, much may have 
happened which might need variation or emphasis. 
And yet, whatever this variation might be, the 
Congress policy and programme are clear and fixed 
for us by repeated resolutions of the Congress 
itself and by our Election Manifesto. We must 
move within that orbit and any attempt to go out 
of it would be a betrayal of that policy and of the 
larger interests for which the Congress has stood. 
Those of you who have been elected to the new 
legislatures have asked the suffrage of the people 
on the basis of the Congress election manifesto, 
and you must inevitably take your stand on this. 
The very greatness of your success at the polls is 
striking testimony of the response of the masses 
to this policy and programme. Miuillions have testi- 
fied to their faith and confidence in this ; they have 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS III 


given it the final seal of the approval of the Indian 
people. 

The electorate was confined to a bare ten per 
cent of our people, but everybody knows that the 
lower down the scale we go, the greater is the 
Congress strength. The remaining ninety per cent 
are even more solidly for the Congress than the 
ten per cent who have supported us. Though our 
success has been overwhelming and has confounded 
our opponents, and swept away the representatives 
of the big vested interests who opposed us, it should 
be remembered that the whole machinery of election 
was so designed as to weaken us. ‘The pressure 
of an autocratic and entrenched Government was 
exercised against us, and behind it were ranged all 
the reactionaries and obscurantists who always 
flourish under the shadow of imperialism. Yet we 
won in resounding manner. 

Only in regard to the Muslim seats did we 
lack success. But our very failure on this occasion 
has demonstrated that success is easily in our grasp 
and the Muslim masses are increasingly turning to 
the Congress. We failed because we had long 
neglected working among the Muslim masses and 
we could not reach them in time. But where we 
reached, especially in the rural areas, we found 
almost the same response, the same anti-imperialist 
spirit, as in others. The communal problem, of 
which we hear so much, seemed to be utterly non- 
existent, when we talked to the peasant, whether 
Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. We failed also among 
the Muslims because of their much smaller electorate 


1I2 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


which could be easily manipulated and coerced by 
authority and vested interests. But I am convinced 
that, even so, we would have had a much larger 
measute of success if we had paid more attention 
to the Muslim masses. They have been too long 
neglected and misled and they deserve special 
consideration. I have no manner of doubt that 
they are turning to the Congress to seek relief from 
their innumerable burdens and their future codpera- 
tion is assured, provided we approach them rightly 
and on the basis of economic questions. 

We have too long thought in terms of pacts 
and compromises between communal leaders and 
neglected the people behind them. ‘That is a dis- 
credited policy and I trust that we shall not revert 
to it. And yet some people still talk of the Muslims 
as a group dealing with the Hindus or others as a 
group, a medieval conception which has no place 
in the modern world. We deal with economic 
groups today and the problems of poverty and 
unemployment and national freedom are common 
for the Hindu, the Muslim, the Sikh, and the 
Christian. As soon as we leave the top fringe, 
which is continually talking of percentages of seats 
in the legislatures and State jobs, and teach the 
masses, we come up against these problems. ‘This 
way lies the ending of what has long been known 
as the communal problem. 

One of the most remarkable signs of the times 
is the ferment amongst the Muslims in India, both 
the intelligentsia and the masses. Without any effec- 
tive leadership, they have drifted aimlessly, and they 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 113 


resent this helpless position and feel that the com- 
munal leadership they have had has weakened them 
politically, in spite of the trivial and superficial 
gains which they are supposed to have got from an 
imperialism which seeks to wean them away from 
the national movement. Muslim young men and 
old, and the Muslim press, are full of this self- 
analysis, and the desire to get out of the communal 
rut and line up with the forces of freedom and 
progress is strong within them. They see how 
the Congress has swept away Hindu communal 
organisations, how it has captured the imagination 
of the masses, and they feel a little desolate and 
left out. They want to share in the triumphs of 
today and tomorrow, and are prepared to take 
their share of the burdens also. And so this election 
and our campaign, though they resulted in the loss 
of Muslim seats as a rule, have been a triumph for 
us even in regard to the Muslims. They have gone 
some way to lay the ghost of communalism. It is 
for us now to go ahead and welcome the Muslim 
masses and intelligentsia in our great organisation 
and rid this country of communalism in every shape 
and form. 

The elections have many lessons to teach us 
but the outstanding fact is this: Where we went 
to the masses direct we won overwhelmingly. Our 
partial lack of success in some provinces was 
clearly due to the Congress organisation there being 
confined to the cities and having little contact 
with the peasantry. We must remedy these failings 
and speak more and more the language of the 


8 


I1l4 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


masses and fashion our policy to meet their needs. 
We must carry the Congress organisation to every 
village, the Congress message to every mud hut. 

Ihave referred to some of our failings and 
some of our failures. It is well to remember these 
and not to allow ourselves to be swept away by 
success into forgetting them. We build for the 
future and our foundations must be well and truly 
laid. ‘To win an election is a small matter for us ; 
we ate out to win the freedom of our people. 

Having disposed of these failures let me refer 
to the success that has come to us, for it is this 
tremendous success, not surprising for us who know 
our people, but astounding and upsetting to others, 
that is the outstanding feature of these elections. 
How carefully and lovingly the Government had 
nursed the great vested interests of India, encourag- 
ed the big landlords and communalists, helped them 
to organise themselves to oppose us, and looked 
confidently for success in its evil venture! Where 
are they now, these pillars of Imperialism in India 
and exploiters of the Indian people ? Sunk almost 
without trace, overwhelmed by the sea of Indian 
humanity, swept away by the big broom of the 
masses from the political scene. Like a house of 
cards, they have fallen at the touch of reality ; even 
so will others go who oppose India’s freedom, and a 
day will come when British imperialism throttles 
and crushes our people no more and is a dream of 
the past for us. 

We went to our people and spoke to them of 
freedom and the ending of their exploitation ; we 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS II5 


went to that forgotten creature, the Indian peasant, 
and remembered that his poverty was the basic 
problem of India ; we identified ourselves with him 
in his suffering and talked to him of how to get 
rid of it through political and social freedom. We 
told him of imperialism and of this new Act and 
Constitution which bind us still further and which 
we were out to end and replace by panchayati ruj, 
fashioned by a Constituent Assembly, a grand 
panchayat of the nation, elected by all our people. 
We read out to him our Election Manifesto and 
explained its significance. He and his kind gather- 
ed in vast numbers to hear us and, listening to the 
Congress message, his sunken eyes glistened and. 
his shrunken starved body rose up in enthusiasm 
and the wine of hope filled his veins. Who that 
saw that vision can forget it, or that subsequent 
sight of thousands marching to the polling booths 
in disciplined array, ignoring pressure and threat, 
disdaining the free conveyances and free food 
offered to them by our opponents? It was a pil- 
grimage for them to give their allegiance to the 
Congress, to vote for the ending of the new Consti- 
tution, for the establishment of panchayati raj when 
they would themselves have power to liquidate the 
poverty that consumed them. 

That is the significance of this election. If 
there is any meaning in democracy, if this compli- 
cated and expensive apparatus of elections and 
voting has any sense behind it and is not an 
impertinent farce, then the Indian people have 
spoken, so that even the deaf might hear, and 


116 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


proclaimed that they will not have this Constitution. 
They have given notice to quit British imperialism. 
This Constitution must therefore go, lock, stock 
and barrel, and leave the field clear for our Cons- 
tituent Assembly. 

We talk of and discuss our policy in the legis- 
latures, but all this is vain and profitless parleying 
before the fundamental and dominant fact of the 
situation that this Constitution must go. So the 
people of India have decided and we shall be false 
and unfaithful representatives of our people if we 
allow ourselves to forget this fact contrary to that 
emphatic direction. 

I know that there are elements amongst us 
who are too fond of slurring over these fundamen- 
tals, who look longingly to office, and who have 
even compromised the dignity of our great cause 
and of the Congress by discussing the personnel 
of ministries long before the question of acceptance 
or non-acceptance of ministerial office has been 
decided by the All-India Congress Committee. 
Whatever their views may be on this issue, whatever 
the decision of the A. I. C. C. might be, I would 
have them remember, now and for the future, that 
no Congressman, worthy of his name, no Congress 
member of a legislature, can act except with the 
dignity and discipline that our cause and organisa- 
tion demand. I would have them remember the 
Election Manifesto and the Congress resolutions 
on the basis of which they sought the suffrage of 
the people. Let no one forget that we have entered 
the legislatures not to codperate in any way with 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS I1I7 


British imperialism but to fight and end this Act 
which enslaves and binds us. Let no one forget 
that we fight for independence. ° 

What is this Independence? A clear, definite, 
ringing word, which all the world understands, with 
no possibility of ambiguity. And yet, to our mis- 
fortune, even that word has become an object of 
interpretation and misinterpretation. Let us be 
clear about it. Independence means national free- 
dom in the fullest sense of the word; it means, 
as out pledge has stated, a severance of the British 
connection. It means anti-imperialism and no 
compromise with empire. Words are hurled at us: 
dominion status, Statute of Westminster, British 
Commonwealth of Nations, and we quibble about 
their meaning. I see no ‘real commonwealth any- 
where, only an empire exploiting the Indian people 
and numerous other peoples in different parts of 
the world. I want my country to have nothing to 
do with this enormous engine of exploitation in 
Asia and Africa. If this engine goes, we have 
nothing but goodwill for England, and in any 
event we wish to be friends with the mass of the 
British people. 

Dominion status is a term which arose under 
peculiar circumstances and it changed its significance 
as time passed. In the British group of nations, 
it signified a certain European dominating group 
exploiting numerous subject peoples. That distinc- 
tion continues whatever change the Statute of 
Westminster might have brought about in the 
relations inter se of the members of that European 


118 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


dominating group. That group represents British 
imperialism and it stands in the world today for the 
very otder and forces of reaction against which we 
struggle. How then can we associate ourselves 
willingly with this order and these forces? Or 
is it conceived that we might, in the course of time 
and if we behave ourselves, be promoted from the 
subject group to the dominating group, and yet 
the imperialist structure and basis of the whole 
will remain more or less as it is? ‘This is a vain 
conception having no relation to reality, and even 
if it were within the realms of possibility, we should 
have none of it, for we would then become partners 
in imperialism and in the exploitation of others. 
And among these others would probably be large 
numbers of out own people. 


Itis said, and I believe Gandhiji holds this view, 
that if we achieved national freedom, this would 
mean the end of British imperialism in India, 
and a necessary result of this would be the winding 
up of British imperialism itself. Under such condi- 
tions there is no reason why we should not continue 
our connection with Britain. There is force in the 
argument for our quarrel] is not with Britain or the 
British people, but with British imperialism. But 
when we think in these terms, a larger and a different 
world comes into our ken, and dominion status and 
the Statute of Westminster pass away from the 
present to the historical past. That larger world 
does not think of a British group of nations, but of 
a world group based on political and social free- 
dom. 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS I1I9g 


To talk, therefore, of dominion status, in its 
widest significance, even including the right to 
separate, is to confine ourselves to one group, 
which of necessity will oppose and be opposed by 
other groups, and which will essentially be based 
on the present decaying social order. ‘Therefore 
we cannot entertain this idea of dominion status in 
any shape or form; it is independence we want, 
not any particular status. Under cover of that 
phrase, the tentacles of imperialism will creep up 
and hold us in their grip, though the outer structure 
might be good to look at. 

And so our pledge must hold and we must 
labour for the severance of the British connection. 
But let us repeat again that we favour no policy 
of isolation or aggressive nationalism, as the word 
is understood in the Central European countries 
today. We shall have the closest of contacts, we 
hope, with all progressive countries, including 
England, if she has shed her imperialism. 

But all this discussion about dominion status is 
academic talk. It is many years now since India 
put that idea by and there can be no reversion to it. 
Today, with the whole world in the cauldron of 
change and disaster threatening it, this lawyers’ 
jargon seems strangely out of place. What counts 
today for us is to break and end this Constitution. 
What counts for the world is Spain and British 
rearmament and the French armament loan, and 
the frantic and terrific race to be ready for war 
before this catastrophe comes to overwhelm civilisa- 
tion. When will this come, suddenly and unan- 


I20 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


nounced, and make a wreck of the modern world ? 
That is the question for you and all of us, for on 
our answer and on our ability to cope with this 
crisis will depend the future of the Indian people. 
We have bigger decisions to take, graver choices 
before us, than those of lawyers’ making. 

Those decisions and that action require strength 
and perseverance and a disciplined nation. ‘They 
require the masses in intelligent and organised 
movement for mass ideals and mass welfare. They 
demand that joint front of anti-imperialist forces, 
of which we have heard so much, and of which our 
National Congress is the living embodiment. It is 
not by mere votes in the legislatures, or petty 
reforms, or even artificial deadlocks, that freedom 
will come, but by the mobilisation of mass strength, 
and the co-ordination of our struggle in the legis- 
latures with our struggle outside. For, essentially, 
we aim at the conquest of power, power for the 
Indian people to shape their destiny, and that 
power will only come through our own strength 
and will to achieve. 

This is why the Working Committee has laid 
stress again on the extra-parliamentary activities of 
congress members of the legislatures and on mass 
contacts. Our overwhelming success in the elec- 
tions will be wasted if we do not keep up our 
intimate contacts with the masses and seek to serve 
them and mobilise them for the great tasks ahead. 

With this background of principles and Cong- 
ress policy we have to consider the narrower issue 
of what we are to do inside the legislatures. This 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 121 


narrow issue, and especially the question of accep- 
tance or non-acceptance of ministerial office, has 
given rise to much controversy, and has often been 
considered divorced from the more fundamental 
factors of the situation. If we remember these 
factors, and the Congress and the Working Com- 
mittee have stressed them again and again, the issue 
becomes narrowed down still further. Indeed it 
hardly arises, except indirectly, for, as I have already 
stated, the outstanding fact of the elections is that 
the people of this country have given their verdict 
clearly, unequivocally and emphatically against this 
slave Constitution. If the British Government has 
any respect for democracy and still sees virtue in 
democratic procedure, as it so loudly proclaims, 
then it has no alternative but to withdraw this 
Constitution and Act. That is our position and our 
demand, and so long as it is not acceded to we 
shall labour and struggle to that end. 

Congress members of the legislatures have their 
work cut out for them by Congress resolutions. 
That work is primarily to fight the Act and press 
and work for a Constituent Assembly. Some 
people, in their ignorance, have imagined that this 
Convention is itself the Constituent Assembly, and 
that it is going to draft a new Constitution for 
India. This Convention is going to do no such 
thing. That is not its function and the time for 
drawing up India’s Constitution is not yet. Nor 
is the Constituent Assembly a magnified All 
Parties Conference. The Constituent Assembly 
that we demand will come into being only as the 


I22 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


expression of the will and the strength of the Indian 
people; it will function when it has sanctions behind 
it to give effect to its decisions without reference 
to outside authority. It will represent the so- 
vereignty of the Indian people and will meet as 
the arbiter of our destiny. 

How can this Assembly meet today when 
British Imperialism holds forcible sway here with 
its armies of occupation, and spies and informers 
and secret service, and the denial of civil liberty? 
When so many of our loved ones and comrades 
languish in prison or detention camp? When this 
monstrous Constitution has been imposed upon us, 
despite our indignant repudiation of it ? 

Therefore let us be clear about it. There is no 
room for a Constituent Assembly in India till we 
have in effect removed these burdens and obstruc- 
tions, and the will of the Indian people can have 
sovereign play. And, till then, there 1s no room 
in India for any other constitution imposed upon 
us; there is room only, unhappily, for conflict and 
struggle between an imperialism that dominates 
and a nationalism that seeks deliverance. That 
nationalism is no weakling today and, though it 
may have to wait awhile for its deliverance, it will 
not tolerate domination and dictation. 

So we ate told by the Congress to go to the 
legislatures not to codperate, for this so-called 
codperation would only be another name for sub- 
mission to dictation, but to fight the Act. What- 
ever decision we might take on other issues, that 
basic policy remains and must remain. Inevit- 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 123 


ably it follows that we cannot have any alliances 
with individuals and groups who do not subscribe 
to this policy. 

It is within this narrow framework that we have 
to consider the question of office acceptance. That 
question will have been decided by the All-India 
Congress Committee by the time we meet in 
Convention and I stand before you, and by that 
decision this Convention will be bound. So I 
cannot say much about it here. I have often given 
exptession to my views on this subject and our 
electoral victory has not changed them in any 
way. But we have to remember that whatever 
the decision of the All-India Congress Committee 
might be, the whole logic of Congress resolutions 
and declarations and policy leads us to maintain a 
spirit of non-codperation towards this Constitution 
and Act. Ordinarily in a democratic constitution 
to have a majority means an acceptance of ministerial 
responsibility. ‘To refuse responsibility and power 
when a democratic process offers it to us is illogical 
and improper. But we have neither democracy 
not power in this Constitution; the illogicality and 
contradiction lie in the Constitution itself. Are 
we to twist and distort ourselves to fit in with this 
perversion? ‘Therefore whatever else we might 
do that spirit of non-codperation and struggle 
against British imperialism must pervade our 
efforts. 

Many of you are eager and desirous of doing 
something to telieve the burdens of our masses, 
to help the peasant and the worker and the vast 


124 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


numbers of middle class unemployed. Who does 
not want to do that ? No one likes conflict and 
obstruction, and we have hungered so long for 
real opportunities for serving our people through 
constructive effort. They cry aloud for succour, 
these unhappy millions of our countrymen, and even 
when their voices are silent, their dumb eyes are 
eloquent with appeal. It is difficult to live in this 
country surrounded by this human desolation 
and misery, unspoken often and the harder to bear 
because of that. We talk of Swaraj and indepen- 
dence, but in human terms it means relief to the 
masses from their unutterable sorrow and misery. 
Ultimately all that we work for resolves itself into 
that. And if we have a chance to give such relief 
even in a small measure, we cannot reject it. 

But that relief must be for the millions, not for 
a few odd individuals. And if we think in terms 
of those millions what relief does this new Con- 
stitution offer? I have read its relevant clauses 
again and again, ever with a growing astonishment 
at the audacity of those who have framed it and 
thrust it on us, protecting all those who needed 
no protection, confirming their privileged position 
as exploiters, binding us hand and foot not to touch 
them in any way, and leaving the masses of India 
to sink deeper in the quicksands of poverty. We 
cannot give adequate telief to the masses with- 
in the scope of this Constitution; that is a demon- 
strable impossibility. We cannot build any new 
social structure so long as special privileges and 
vested interests surround us and suffocate us. 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 125 


We cannot carry out any policy, political, economic, 
social, educational or any other, when the whole 
executive agency and civil service is not subject 
to our control, and we may not touch the major 
part of the revenues. The “special powers and 
responsibilities” of the Governors and the Gover- 
not-General apart, the Act by itself is more than 
sufficient to disable any minister. 

But we can do some other things. We can 
take upon ourselves the odium and responsibility 
of keeping the imperialist structure functioning, 
we can become indirectly responsible for the re- 
pression of our own comrades, we can take away the 
initiative from the masses and tone down their 
fine temper which we ourselves have helped in 
building up. All this may happen if we follow 
the path of least resistance and gradually adapt 
ourselves to existing conditions. I do not think 
that this will happen for the temper of the Congress 
and the people will not allow it. We have gone 
too far for that. 

Thus we do not seek the working of the new 
Constitution but the most suitable way of meeting 
and creating deadlocks, which are inevitable in this 
scheme of things, and of carrying on our struggle 
for freedom. 

I can see no flaw in my reasoning, if the pre- 
mises of the Congress resolutions are accepted, as 
accept them we must. Whatever the A. I. C. C. 
may decide on this question of office acceptance, 
we shall have to carry on the spirit and letter of those 
resolutions, in the legislatures as well as outside. 


126 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


Our decisions must be all India decisions, for 
it would be fatal to have variations in policy to suit 
the minor needs of provinces. The unity of India 
has to be maintained; so also the unity of our 
struggle against imperialism. Danger lurks in pro- 
vinces acting separately and being induced to parley 
separately. Therefore, as I conceive it, the chief 
virtue of this Convention, now or later, is to keep 
this all India characte: of our work in the legisla- 
tures ever in the forefront and to prevent fissiparous 
tendencies and the development of provincialism. 
A necessary counterpart of this is the maintenance of 
a uniform discipline among Congress members 
of all legislatures. Every effort is likely to be made 
on the part of our opponents to affect breaches in 
that discipline and all India policy, but we must 
realise that without that self-imposed discipline 
and uniformity, our strength goes and we become 
isolated groups and individuals, ignored and 
ciushed in turn by our opponents. 

The wider policy that will govern us must 
inevitably come from the Congress and that policy 
must be loyally carried out by this Convention 
and its members. What other functions the Con- 
vention will perform will be laid down by the All- 
India Congress Committee and I do not wish to 
prejudge the issue in this written message of mine. 
But I can conceive the Convention or its represen- 
tatives not only doing what I have mentioned above, 
but in times of national or international crisis 
playing an important role in our struggle for power 
and freedom. 


PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS 127 


You will soon go back to your provinces 
and constituencies and explain to our comrades 
there the decisions taken here in Delhi city, and 
prepare for the new forms of struggle that 
await you. We have some experience of this 
struggle for freedom and many of us have given 
the best part of our lives to it, and a variation 
in its shape or form will not deter us. But 
we must hold to our old anchor and not be 
swept away by passing currents. And we must 
remember that we live in a dynamic world where 
almost everybody expects sudden and violent 
change and catastrophe. That crisis, national or 
international, may seize us by the throat unawares 
sooner than we imagine. So we must be ever 
ready for it, and we may not think or act in terms of 
static or slow moving periods. 

Our next task is the hartal of April 1st, and on 
that day I hope you will be in your constituencies 
to take part in that mighty demonstration against 
this slave Constitution and to declare again, with 
millions of our countrymen, that this Constitution 
must be scrapped and must give place to another, 
framed by a Constituent Assembly and based on 
the sovereignty of the people of India. 


20 
FASCISM AND EMPIRE* 


I gladly associate myself with the demon- 
stration organised by the Spain-India Committee 
at the Kingsway Hall. Spain and the tragedy 
that is being enacted there dominate our thoughts 
today whether we live near by in the other countries 
of Europe or in far India. For this tragedy and 
conflict are not of Spain only but of the wide 
world, and on what ultimately happens in Spain 
depends the future of so much that we value. Most 
people realise now that the Spanish war is no longer 
a Spanish affair, or a civil war between different 
groups of Spaniards. It is a European war on 
Spanish soil or, more correctly, an invasion of 
Spain by Fascist forces and mercenaries from 
abroad. Andsoin Spain these rival forces fight 
for mastery, fascism and anti-fascism, and demo- 
cracy crushed in so many countries of Europe, 
fights desperately for life. 

The issue as between Italian fascism and 
German Nazism, on the one hand, and Spanish 
democracy on the other, seems to be clear enough 


*For a demonstration organised by the Spain-India Com- 
mittee at the Kingsway Hall, London, on April 9th, 1937. 


FASCISM AND EMPIRE 129g 


and I suppose that most people in England, who 
stand for democracy and freedom, sympathise 
with the Spanish people. But many of these 
very people are perhaps not so clear when they 
consider the policy of the British Government 
in regard to Spain. And when they go a few steps 
further and think of the relation of British im- 
perialism to India, all clarity disappears. 

And yet the real lesson of Spain is that fascism 
and imperialism are blood brothers, marching hand 
in hand, though they may have their faces averted 
from each other, or may even come into occasional 
conflict with each other. Englishmen see, more 
or less, the democratic side of their Government 
functioning in the domestic sphere, and they 
conclude that elsewhere also their Government 
has this democratic background. But the whole 
foreign policy of Britain during the last four years 
has shown that the forces that move it have nothing 
to do with democracy; they are friendly to the de- 
velopment of the fascist Powers, though they have 
half-heartedly and unsuccessfully tried to check this 
development occasionally when it seemed to threa- 
ten British imperial interests. That is the story 
of British policy in the Far East, in the shameful 
betrayal of Abyssinia, in the intrigues of Central 
Europe, and in the farce of non-intervention in 
Spain, culminating in the open avowal of Fascist 
Italy that it will continue to send its armies to crush 
the people of Spain. 

Many people are bewildered by the seeming 
inconsistencies and contradictions of British foreign 


9 


130 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


policy, and yet there is no real inconsistency. The 
inconsistency is in the minds of those who imagine 
that the democratic background of British domestic 
policy governs foreign policy 2lso; or sometimes 
there is inconsistency in the utterances of foreign 
ministers and other politicians who juggle with 
words to delude the public into reconciling these 
contrary tendencies and policies. In the field of 
action British foreign policy has pursued consis- 
tently and unhesitatingly the path of rapproche- 
ment with fascism. All the horror of Spain has 
not diverted it from its set purpose, the recent 
blood-curdling massacres in Addis Ababa have not 
affected it in the slightest degree. Even fear of 
endangering Britain’s international position by the 
erowth of fascist Powers in northern and Central 
Europe and in the Mediterranean has not resulted 
in a marked variation of that policy. 

Why is this so P Because essentially imperial- 
ism and fascism are close of kin and one merges 
into the other. Sometimes imperialism has two 
faces—a domestic one talking the language of 
democracy, and a colonial one verging into fascism. 
Of the two, the dominant one is the latter and it 
ultimately governs larger policies. So we see that 
whatever government functions in Britain, whether 
it is a Conservative Government or a Labour 
Government or a ‘National’ Government, in India 
this Government wears a fascist uniform. The 
drift towards fascism continues in India and the 
new Constitution, with all its democratic facade 
in the provinces, is essentially fascist in conception 


FASCISM AND EMPIRE 131 


and probably in action, especially in the federal 
structure. The only really democratic part of it is 
the larger electorate in the provinces and this 
electorate has declared overwhelmingly in favour 
of scrapping the new Act. But the Act and the 
Constitution continue, and the tremendous majori- 
ties elected under this very Constitution are 
powerless and cannot have their way. 

Empire and democracy are two incompatibles; 
one must swallow the other. And in the political 
and social conditions of the modern world, empire 
must either liquidate itself or drift to fascism, 
and, in so drifting, carry its domestic structure 
with it. 

So the question of British imperialism in India 
is intimately related to British domestic policy and 
governs the latter. It seems inconceivable that 
there will be any major social change in Britain so 
long as the Empire flourishes, nor is there likely 
to be any marked change in foreign policy. It 
seems more probable that great changes will take 
place in India, ending in the liquidation of the 
Empire, and these will result in major changes in 
Britain. Or the two may come more or less simul- 
taneously. 

The background of the Spanish struggle there- 
fore is one of world conflict between democracy 
and the forces of freedom everywhere and fascism 
and imperialism. That is the lesson Spain teaches 
in her agony and through her blood and suffering. 
We who stand for Spain must learn that lesson in 
all its implications and stand equally for the ending 


« 


132 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


of fascism and empire and all that they signify. 
We must pull out the root of the trouble. 

But while we argue and debate, blood flows 
in Spain and heroic men and women and even 
children fight our battles and give their lives for 
human liberty. Governments deny them the aid 
that was their due, but the peoples of the world have 
heatd their cry for succour and have responded 
to it, for was not that cry the cry of the exploited 
everywhere ? 

We are ourselves helpless in India and hunger 
and stark-poverty meet us everywhere; we fight 
for our freedom and to rid ourselves of the empire 
that exploits and crushes us. Famine and flood 
and natural calamity have pursued us and 
added to the burdens of empire. But out of our 
hunger and poverty we will send what help we can 
to our comrades in Spain, and though this may not 
be much, it will carry with it the earnest and anx- 
ious good wishes of the people of India. For 
those who suffer themselves feel most for their 
brothers in misfortune elsewhere. 


March 27, 1937. 


21 
THE ARABS AND JEWS IN PALESTINE 


My expression of sympathy with the Arab 
national movement and their struggle for freedom 
has brought me some protests from Jews in 
India. I venture therefore to state a little more 
fully what my attitude is to this problem of Pales- 
tine. 

Few people, I imagine, can withhold their deep 
sympathy from the Jews for the long centuries of 
the most terrible oppression to which they have 
been subjected all over Europe. Fewer still can re- 
press their indignation at the barbarities and racial 
suppression of the Jews which the Nazis have 
indulged in during the last few years, and which 
continue today. Even outside Germany, Jew- 
baiting has become a favourite pastime of various 
Fascist groups. This revival in an intense form of 
racial intolerance and race war is utterly repug- 
nant to me and I have been deeply distressed at 
the sufferings of vast numbers of people of the 
Jewish race. Many of these unfortunate exiles, 
with no country or home to call their own, are 
known to me, and some I consider it an honour 
to call my friends. 

IT approach this question therefore with every 


134 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


sympathy for the Jews. So far as Iam concerned 
the racial or the religious issue does not affect my 
opinion. 

But my reading of war-time and post-War 
history shows that there was a gross betrayal of the 
Arabs by British imperialism. The many promises 
that were made to them by Colonel Lawrence and 
others, on behalf of the British Government, and 
which resulted in the Arabs helping the British 
and Allied Powers during the war, were consistently 
ignored after the wat was over. All the Arabs, 
in Syria, Iraq, Transjordan and Palestine, smarted 
under this betrayal, but the position of the Arabs 
in Palestine was undoubtedly the worst of all. 
Having been promised freedom and independence 
repeatedly from i915 onwards, suddenly they 
found themselves converted into a mandatory terri- 
tory with a new burden added on—the promise 
of the creation of a national home for the Jews— 
a burden which almost made it impossible for 
them to realise independence. 

The Jews have a right to look to Jerusalem 
and their Holy Land and to have free access to them. 
But the position after the Balfour Declaration was 
very different. A new State within a State was 
sought to be created in Palestine, an ever-grow- 
ing State with the backing of British Imperial- 
ism behind it, and the hope was held out that this 
new Jewish State would, in the near future, become 
so powerful in numbers and in economic position 
that it would dominate the whole of Palestine. 
Zionist policy aimed at this domination and worked 


ARABS AND JEWS 135 


for it, though, I believe, some sections of Jewish 
opinion were opposed to this aggressive attitude. 
Inevitably, the Zionists opposed the Arabs and 
looked for protection and support to the British 
Government. 

Such case as the Zionists had might be called 
a moral one, their ancient associations with their 
Holy Land and their present reverence for it. One 
may sympathise with it. But what of the Arabs? 
For them also it was a holy land—both for the 
Muslim and the Christian Arabs. For thirteen 
hundred years or more they had lived there and all 
their national and racial interests had taken strong 
roots there. Palestine was not an empty land 
fit for colonisation by outsiders. It was a well- 
populated and full land with little room for large 
numbers of colonists from abroad. Is it any wonder 
that the Arabs objected to this intrusion? And 
their objection grew as they realised that the aim of 
British imperialism was to make the Arab-Jew 
problem a permanent obstacle to their independence. 
We in India have sufficient experience of similar 
obstacles being placed in the way of our freedom 
by British imperialism. 

It is quite possible that a number of Jews 
might have found welcome in Palestine and settled 
down there. But when the Zionists came with the 
avowed object of pushing out the Arabs from all 
places of importance and of dominating the country, 
they could hardly be welcomed. And the fact 
that they have brought much money from outside 
and started industries and schools and universities, 


136 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


cannot diminish the opposition of the Arabs, who 
see with dismay the prospect of their becoming 
permanently a subject race, dominated, politically 
and economically, by the Zionists and the British 
Government. 

The problem of Palestine is thus essentially 
a nationalist one—a people struggling for indepen- 
dence against imperialist control and exploitation. 
It is not a racial or religious one. Perhaps some 
of our Muslim fellow-countrymen extend their 
sympathy to the Arabs because of the religious 
bond. But the Arabs are wiser and they lay stress 
only on nationalism and independence, and it is 
well to remember that all Arabs, Christian as well 
as Muslim, stand together in this struggle against 
British imperialism. Indeed some of the most 
prominent leaders of the Arabs in this national 
struggle have been Christians. 

If the Jews had been wise they would have 
thrown in their lot with the Arab struggle for in- 
dependence. Instead they have chosen to side 
with British imperialism and to seek its protection 
against the people of the country. Ultimately, 
therefore, the struggle resolves itself into one of 
nationalism versus imperialism, and all other minor 
aspects of it, such as the Arab-Jew problem, 
though important today, have little historical 
significance. In the same way the communal pro- 
blem, spoilt child of British imperialism, looms 
large in India today, but in the wide range of history 
it loses all importance. 

India and Palestine have both their national 


ARABS AND JEWS 137 


problems and both struggle for independence; 
they have something in common in this struggle 
and the opponent is the same. In both cases, as 
elsewhere, nationalism comes into contact with 
new social forces and is affected thereby, and gra- 
dually takes shape as an aspect of the world pro- 
blem, which affects us all alike whether we realise 
it or not. We must therefore understand each 
other and sympathise with each other. 

As we take this long view the Arab-Jew ques- 
tion fades into insignificance. The Arabs of 
Palestine will no doubt gain their independence, 
but this is likely to be a part of the larger unity of 
Atab peoples for which the countries of western 
Asia have so long hankered after, and this again will 
be part of the new order which will emerge out of 
present day chaos. The Jews, if they are wise, 
will accept the teaching of history, and make friends 
with the Arabs and throw their weight on the side 
of the independence of Palestine, and not seek a 
position of advantage and dominance with the 
help of the imperialist Power. 

I trust, therefore, that the people of India will 
send their warmest greetings and good wishes 
to the Arabs of Palestine in their brave struggle for 
freedom against a powerful adversary. 


June 13, 1936 


22 
SPAIN AND PALESTINE* 


Political India is full today of talk of the 
coming provincial elections and candidates for these 
elections ate cropping up everywhere. As the days 
go by we shall probably hear more and more of these 
elections and the air will be full of sound and fury 
which always accompany them. Other questions 
also occupy our minds, such as the communal 
question or even the petty controversy about 
Hindi and Urdu. And yet how petty all these 
ate before the mighty ptoblems of poverty and 
unemployment—the poverty that crushes our 
millions, the unemployment that has us by the 
throat. Inevitably we must think of these pro- 
blems for our sphere of thought and action is 
India. 

But to confine ourselves to Indian problems 
is not good enough, it is not even sufficient for our 
own national purposes or our struggle for freedom. 
Every tyro in public life knows that the politics 
and economics of different countries are related 
to each other, that the world hangs together today 


*Speech delivered on Palestine Day, September 27, 
1936, in Allahabad. 


SPAIN AND PALESTINE 139 


as it has never done before, and the great pro- 
blems we have to face are essentially world pro- 
blems. To ignore this world aspect of any major 
issue is to lose perspective and invite error. 

Therefore let us look round the world today 
with all its conflict and tension and cruelty and 
unhappiness, and behind all, its vast questioning. 
We meet today especially to think of the little 
country of Palestine and of its troubles. Ina world 
view this problem of Palestine has relatively little 
importance for bigger things are happening else- 
where. And yet it has an intrinsic importance 
of its own and it throws a light on the working of 
imperialism from which we ourselves suffer. There- 
fore it is right that we should consider it and send 
our greetings to those who are struggling for 
freedom there. 

But before we turn our thoughts to Palestine 
I should like to take you to Spain for a while for that 
will give us a broader view of the world stage. 
It is in Spain today that the most vital happenings 
are taking place, frightful and terrible events, of 
enormous consequence to the future of Europe 
and the world. Our fate in India is bound up 
with them more than we realise. 

What has happened in Spain? Some months 
ago there were noimal democratic elections there 
and as a result a popular radical party—a joint 
popular front—came into power. They formed 
a government of a liberal democratic variety. It 
was not a communist or even socialist government. 
There was not a single communist or socialist 


140 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


in it. They started with a programme of liberal 
reform to take Spain out of the feudal and re- 
actionaty tuts in which it had lived for so long. 
They made good progress, and then suddenly 
there was a military rebellion, headed by the army 
chiefs and other reactionaries. And this rebellion 
first started not in Spain, but in Morocco with the 
aid of non-Spanish troops. It was a rebellion 
against law and order—words so dear to the British 
Govertnment—against the constituted govern- 
ment of the country, against a moderate liberal 
régime. 

How did these military bosses dare to raise 
the flag of rebellion? It is clear enough now. 
They did it with the material aid of the Fascist 
countries, of Germany and Italy and, it is interest- 
ing to note, financial aid from the big financiei1s 
of the city of London. 

The Spanish Government and people were 
taken aback. It was terribly dificult for unorgani- 
sed and improperly armed masses to face an or- 
ganised and well-equipped army in rebellion. And 
this was why the rebels expected an easy victory. 
But the Spanish people rose at the bidding of their 
popular government and without discipline or 
proper arms they faced bravely the rebel armies, 
most of which consisted of Moroccan troops. 
There was a mass levy of the people, even boys 
and girls rushed to the rescue of their hard-won 
liberty. We saw a strange sight—these masses 
fighting against regular armies and holding them 
often in check. 


SPAIN AND PALESTINE Iq! 


The reactions in other countries were note- 
wotthy. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were 
entirely on the side of the rebels and gave them 
every help. France sympathised with the Spanish 
Government but dared not help. In England 
the great newspapers, like the Tvmes, frankly 
sympathised with the rebels, thus indicating clearly 
the attitude of the British Government and the 
British ruling classes. British financiers rejoiced 
at the victories of the rebels. European govern- 
ments evolved a policy of non-intervention which 
meant in effect that the Spanish Government could 
not be helped, but the rebels could draw aid from 
outside. 

And so this terrible tussle goes on in Spain 
with everything weighted in favour of the rebels. 
And yet the otdinary people, men and women, 
boys and girls, are keeping their end up and giving 
their lives in thousands to prevent their country 
from falling under a bloody and most reactionary 
tyranny. 

In Spain today we see clearly the terrible 
conflict of the forces of progress and the forces 
of reaction, the conflict which is latent all over the 
world. On the issue of this conflict depends 
whether Europe and the world will be dominated 
by Fascism or not. On that issue depends vast 
and bloody war all over the world. The triumph 
of the rebel means the strangling of France 
by three fascist countries surrounding her. It 
means that Fascism will make a triumphant attempt 
at world dominion in co-operation with the Fascism 


I42 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


of Japan. 

In this vital issue we find the ruling classes 
and government of Britain definitely favouring 
Fascism. We find imperialist Britain with her 
much vaunted democracy sympathising with those 
who are trying to crush democracy in Spain. 
For it must be remembered that the struggle in 
Spain is not between communism or socialism 
and Fascism, but between democracy and a cruel 
military-Fascism. 

This is not really surprising for essentially 
Imperialssm and Fascism are of one family and if 
a crisis comes they stand together. All over the 
world today they oppose the forces of progress— 
in Europe of social progress, in India and other 
subject countries of even political progress. Be- 
tween imperialist and fascist Powers there is also 
inherent conflict for many of them want a greater 
share in the spoils of exploitation. But despite 
this mutual conflict they sympathise with and aid 
each other as against the social urge to freedom 
and the nationalist struggle for political freedom. 
And thus we find the Indian struggle for inde- 
pendence a part of this world struggle against im- 
perialism and fascism. So also the struggle that is 
going on against British imperialism in Palestine. 

We must have this larger and clearer view or 
else we shall lose ourselves in a maze and fail to 
understand events. But if we have this to guide 
us and to provide us with a yard measure we shall 
be able to judge of happenings correctly and we 
shall know which group or individual is on this side 


SPAIN AND PALESTINE 143 


of the struggle or that. In India we find sometimes 
persons posing as experts on foreign affairs ex- 
pressing sympathy for the rebel cause in Spain 
ot for fascism generally, and some of our news- 
papers unthinkingly accept this outlook. Essentially 
this is propaganda for the fascist and reactionary 
cause. It is not surprising that reactionaries in 
India should sympathise with reactionaries else- 
where. 

In Palestine the problem seems to be one of 
Arabs and Jews, and some of our Muslim friends 
here look upon it as a religious problem demanding 
sympathy for their co-religionists. That is a wrong 
and misleading outlook. It is a problem of a grow- 
ing nationalism desiring freedom and being sup- 
pressed by imperialism. In this process, British 
imperialism, as in India, has tried to play off one 
community against another and set the Jews against 
the Arabs. Like our own communal problem, they 
have sought to produce a communal problem in 
Palestine. So also the French Government have 
done in Syria. We must learn from this what the 
true genesis of this communal problem is in subject 
countries and try to remove the root cause. 

It is true that at present there 1s ill-will and 
conflict between the Arabs and Jews in Palestine. 
It is also true that a true solution will come by an 
understanding between them based on the freedom 
of the country. The Jews have been and are the 
victims of a cruel fascism and we must feel for 
their sufferings. It is a misfortune that they 
should allow themselves to be exploited in Pales- 


144 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


tine by British imperialism. Their future in Pales- 
tine lies in codperation with the Arabs and in re- 
cognition of the fact that Palestine is and must 
continue to be essentially an Arab country. If 
that is admitted coGperation is easy and Jews will 
be welcomed in Palestine, as well as in Trans- 
Jordan, to help, as they are in a position to do, 
in the development of the country. Arabs and 
Jews have codperated in the past and lived together 
as friends. There is no reason why they should 
not do so again. 

For the moment the immediate issue is the fresh 
determination of British imperialism to crush the 
Arab movement. Large additional British armies 
are being sent to Palestine almost to conquer the 
countty afresh. Martial law will flourish there. 
Our sympathies and good wishes must go out 
to the people of Palestine in this hour of their 
distress. The crushing of their movement Is a 
blow to our nationalist strength as well as to theirs. 
We hang together in this world struggle for free- 
dom. 

I am aware that outrages and regrettable 
happenings have taken place in Palestine. We 
must disapprove of them for they tarnish and 
weaken a good cause. I also know that various 
feudal elements are trying to exploit the nationalist 
sentiment to their own advantage. But, in spite 
of all this, let us remember that essentially the 
struggle is one of Arab nationalism seeking freedom 
against British imperialism, and all the power of 
that imperialism is trying to crush it. It cannot 


SPAIN AND PALESTINE 145 


ultimately be crushed for nationalism and the will 
to freedom survive. 

But though we send our sympathy and good 
wishes to the people of Palestine, the real way to 
help is to play our own part worthily in our own 
struggle for freedom in India. That is but another, 
and perhaps the most important, aspect of the great 
struggle against world imperialism. It is absurd 
for people to talk of sympathy for the Arabs, and 
then codperate with British imperialism in India. 

For us, therefore, the problem becomes one of 
carrying on our own struggle for independence. 
All those who stress other and smaller aspects, like 
the communal aspect, divert attention from the 
real issue. In this struggle we shall waste our 
energy and injure the cause if we think in terms 
of minor improvements with the help of that very 
imperialism which we seek to combat. In the 
Congress Election Manifesto this vital background 
of our struggle has been emphasized. This mani- 
festo has been welcomed by the country as a whole, 
though there are some people who have grown 
angry over it. We see here the essential difference 
between our great organisation standing for anti- 
imperialism and certain principles, and others who 
have no clear vision and who always think in terms 
of individuals and petty reforms or communal 
favours. If the country wants freedom it has only 
one course open to it—to line up with the Congress. 
Our doors ate open to all on this basis ; we are not 
exclusive. But those who think in terms of codpetr- 
ation with British imperialism have no common 


te) 


146 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA - 


ground with us. They may be estimable people, 
as many of them are, but the question is not of 
individuals but of principles. And in the great 
world crises that overshadow the horizon, it is 
essential that we should offer a strong and united 
front to the forces of imperialism and reaction. 
Only the Congress offers that front. 

The Congress attitude is clear. Only in one 
matter—the question of accepting or not accepting 
office under the new Constitution—is it still un- 
decided. My own view about this has been re- 
peatedly stated and I hold by it with the same 
conviction as ever. It is that we must not accept 
offices or ministries or else we help in working the 
new Act. This flows naturally from the Congress 
Manifesto and IJ trust that when the time comes, 
this decision will be taken. 


September 27, 1936 


23 
THE COMMUNAL AWARD 


During my speeches in the Punjab I have 
referred on several occasions to the Communal 
Award. Short reports in English of long speeches 
in Hindustani inevitably give a somewhat mislead- 
ing idea of what I said and criticism of it is thus 
sometimes based on wrong data. It is always desir- 
able that there should be clarity of ideas on contro- 
versial issues so that while we may differ, we should 
at least realise clearly what the issues are. I am 
therefore briefly stating here what my views are on 
the Communal decision. I have already given 
expression to these views in my Lucknow-Congress 
addiess, where I stated that the Communal decision 
and democracy can never go together. Its very 
basis is the denial of democracy and it must inevit- 
ably be a tremendous barrier in the way of inde- 
pendence and the consideration of social and econo- 
mic issues which are the real problems facing us 
in India. I cannot conceive of any one, thinking 
clearly in terms of independence or social change, 
accepting or approving of the communal decision. 
It has been a matter of great surprise and regret 
to me that many of our Muslim friends and com- 
rades, who have stood for Indian independence, 


148 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


should so approve of this pernicious decision. 

There is no question of my being neutral or 
non-committal about this Award, nor, so far as I 
am aware, is that the Congress position. I am not 
in the habit of being neutral about important 
matters. ‘To the Communal decision I am entirely 
opposed and I cannot willingly accept it at any 
time because to do so would be for me to forget 
independence and social freedom and the demo- 
cratic tradition. 

The question therefore for me is, not to approve 
ot disapprove of the Award or to remain neutral. 
I am not neutral and I disapprove of it strongly. 
It resolves itself into this : how to get rid of 
this most undesirable thing? I can see only two 
ways of doing this : the way of independence when 
inevitably such arrangements will have to go and 
give place to more democratic methods, and the 
way of mutual adjustment and compromise between 
the principal groups interested in the Award. I 
would add that I do not think that any real compro- 
mise is possible between those who stand for 
independence and those who expect to live for 
-ever under the shadow of the British Empire. They 
look different ways, they work for different objec- 
tives. 

To expect that the British will come to our 
aid in this matter is to expect the impossible. It 
is to their manifest advantage not to do so. To 
expect the communal leaders to do so is equally 
unlikely. The only way thus is to divert the 
attention of the broad masses to national and 


THE COMMUNAL AWARD 149 


economic problems which affect them much more 
and thus enable them to see the communal question 
in its true perspective. To go on laying great 
stress on the Communal Award defeats the very 
purpose we aim at for it prevents people from 
thinking of other issues. 

The position of the Congress on the communal 
question has long been clear. It has declared that 
it stands for a national democratic solution but 
should there be 2 compromise between the parties 
concerned, it would probably accept it. Apart 
from this it lays stress on the Constituent Assembly 
for the framing of a constitution for a free India 
and for the decision of communal issues. 


June 2, 1936 


24 
THE CONGRESS AND MUSLIMS 
I 


Mr. Jinnah has in a recent utterance taken 
exception to my saying that essentially there were 
only two parties in the country—the Government 
and the Congress—and he has reminded me that 
there was a third party and that was the Indian 
Muslims. In the course of this speech he has made 
some remarkable statements. JI am rushing about 
from place to place in Behar and can find no time 
to give the careful consideration which Mr. Jinnah’s 
speech deserves. But the importance of what he 
has said impels me to steal some time from an 
exhausting programme, after a very heavy day’s 
work, to offer a few remarks. 

Mr. Jinnah, it seems to me, has said something 
which surely is communalism raised to the nth 
power. He objects to the Congress interfering 
with Muslim affairs in Bengal and calls upon the 
Congress to let Muslims alone. This objection and 
demand bear a strong family likeness to what Bhai 
Permanand has often said on behalf of the Hindu 
communalists. Carried to a logical conclusion, 
Mr. Jinnah’s statement means that in no department 


THE CONGRESS AND MUSLIMS I§1 


of public activity must non-Muslims have anything 
to do with Muslim affairs. In politics and social 
and economic matters Muslims must function sepa- 
rately as a group and deal with other groups as 
one nation deals with another. So also in trade 
unions, peasant unions, business, Chambers of 
Commerce and like organisations and activities. 
Muslims in India are indeed a nation apart and 
those who forget this fact commit a sin against the 
Holy Ghost and offend Mr. Jinnah. 

Again, who are the Muslims ? Apparently only 
those who follow Mr. Jinnah and the Muslim 
League. When Maulana Mohammad Ali joined 
the Congress, Mr. Jinnah tells us that he fought 
against the Muslims. It was a small matter that 
scores of thousands of Muslims wete members of 
the Congress then and millions sympathised and 
codperated with it. Being outside the fold of the 
Muslim League and not following Mr. Jinnah’s 
lead, they can be presumed to be other than 
Muslims. Presumably, according to Mr. Jinnah, 
powerful Muslim organisations in the Punjab and in 
Bengal, like the Ahrars and the Kisan parties, being 
outside the fold of the Muslim League, are not 
really Muslim. We have a new test of orthodoxy. 

What exactly Mr. Jinnah would like us of the 
Congress to do with the large numbers of Muslims 
in the Congress I do not know. Would he like us 
to ask them to resign and go on bended knee to 
him? And what shall I say to the great crowds of 
Muslim peasants and workers who come to listen 
to me? 


152 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


All this seems to me extraordinary and harmful 
doctrine and most unjust to the Muslims. His 
reference to a ‘third party’ is also far from happy 
or complimentary to the Muslims. Between British 
imperialism and Indian nationalism he would have 
them remain as a political group apart, apparently 
playing off one against the other, and seeking 
communal advantage even at the cost of the larger 
public good. 

I am totally unable to think along these or any 
other communal lines, and with all deference to 
Mr. Jinnah, may I suggest that such ideas are 
medieval and out of date. They bear no relation 
whatever to modetn conditions and modern prob- 
lems, which are essentially economic and political. 
Religion is both a personal matter and a bond of 
faith, but to stress religion in matters political and 
economic is obscurantism and leads to the avoid- 
ance of real issues. In what way are the interests 
of the Muslim peasant different from those of a 
Hindu peasant? Or those of a Muslim labourer 
of attisan or merchant or landlord or manufac- 
turer different from those of his Hindu prototype ? 
The ties that bind people are common economic 
interests, and, in the case of a subject country 
especially, a common national interest. Religious 
questions may arise and religious conflicts may take 
place, and they should be faced and settled. But the 
right way to deal with them is to limit their sphere 
of action and influence, and to prevent them from 
encroaching on politics and economics. To en- 
courage a communal consideration of political and 


THE CONGRESS AND MUSLIMS 153 


economic problems is to encourage reaction and 
go back to the Middle Ages. It is an impossible 
attempt for it ignores realities. 

The realities of today are poverty and hunger 
and unemployment and the conflict between British 
imperialism and Indian nationalism. How are these 
to be considered communally ? 

There are of course many groups and parties 
and odd individuals in the country today. But, 
historically speaking, the present contest lies be- 
tween imperialism and nationalism. All ‘third 
parties,’ middle and undecided groups, etc. have 
no real importance in this historic sense. They 
have consequently no great strength and they 
function only in elections and the like and fade 
away at other times. The Congress represents 
Indian nationalism and is thus charged with a 
historic destiny. Because of this, it is the only 
organisation which has developed a vast prestige 
in India and the strength and will to stand up 
against British imperialism. Thus, in the final 
analysis, there are only two forces in India today— 
British imperialism and the Congress representing 
Indian nationalism. There are other vital forces 
in the country, representing a new social outlook, 
but they are allied to the Congress. The communal 
groupings have no such real importance in spite 
of occasional importance being thrust upon them. 

Mr. Jinnah leads a party in the Legislative 
Assembly. The members of that party have shown 
the most remarkable independence of each other 
and of the party. Why is that so? Because no 


154 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


common principle or policy binds them and at the 
touch of any real problem they break apart. That 
must also be the inevitable fate of communal 
parties. 

There is no question of dictators and camp 
followers. The Congress is a democratic organisa- 
tion with its roots deep down in the Indian soil. 
Its doors ate open to every Indian who believes 
in independence. For it the dominant issue is that 
of independence to enable us to get rid of poverty 
and the exploitation of the people. It may make 
mistakes but it tries always to think in terms of the 
nation and in terms of national freedom, and deli- 
berately to avoid a narrower ot a communal out- 
look. 

What does the Muslim League stand for? 
Does it stand for the independence of India, for 
anti-imperialism ? I believe not. It represents a 
group of Muslims no doubt, highly estimable 
persons but functioning in the higher regions of 
the upper middle classes and having no contacts 
with the Muslim masses and few even with the 
Muslim lower middle class. May I suggest to Mr. 
Jinnah that I come into greater touch with the 
Muslim masses than most of the members of the 
Muslim League ? I know more about their hunger 
and poverty and misery than those who talk in 
terms of percentages and seats in the Councils and 
places in the State service. I have had vast Muslim 
audiences in the Punjab and elsewhere. They did 
not ask me about the communal problem or per- 
centages or separate electorates. They ‘were 


THE CONGRESS AND MUSLIMS 155 


intensely interested in the burden of land revenue 
or rent, of debt, of water rates, of unemployment, 
and the many other burdens they carry. 

As President of the Congress I have the honour 
and privilege to represent the innumerable Muslims 
throughout the country who have taken a valiant 
part in the struggle for freedom, who have suffered 
for the great cause of independence and who have 
stood shoulder to shoulder with others in our 
historic fight under the banner of the Congress. 
I represent the many brave Muslim comrades who 
still stand in the front ranks of our forces and who 
have been true to the Congress through the strain 
and stress of past years. I represent the hunger 
and poverty of the masses, Muslim as well as Hindu ; 
the demand for bread and land and work and relief 
from innumerable burdens which crush them ; 
the urge to freedom from an intolerable oppression. 
I represent all this because the Congress represents 
it, and I have been charged by the Congress to hold 
aloft its principles and the torch that it has lighted 
to bring hope and strength and brightness to the 
dark corners of our land and to the suffering hearts 
of our people. 

The Congress welcomes all coGperation; it 
has repeatedly stressed the need for a joint front 
against imperialism. It will codperate with pleasure 
with the Muslim League as with other organisations, 
but the basis of this codperation must be anti- 
imperialism and the good of the masses. In its 
opinion no pacts and compromises between hand- 
fuls of upper class people, and ignoring the interests 


156 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


of the masses, have any real or permanent value. 
It is with the masses that it deals for it is concerned 
above all with their interests. But it knows that 
the masses, Hindu and Muslim, care little for com- 
munal questions. ‘They demand urgently and in- 
sistently economic relief and, in order to obtain 
this, political freedom. On this broad basis there 
can be the fullest codperation between all elements 
in the country who seek the good of the people 
as a whole and their freedom from imperialism. 


January 10, 1937 


a 


For various reasons the problem of increasing 
the Muslim element in the Congress has recently 
received considerable attention. This has been 
so both on the side of prominent Congressmen, 
Hindu and Muslim alike, and on the part of others 
who, though sympathetic, have hesitated to join 
the Congress. There is no doubt about it that 
Muslim India is in a state of ferment today. The 
Muslim masses inevitably think more and more in 
terms of common economic problems and common 
burdens together with others. As a reaction to 
these new currents certain prominent Muslims, 
connected with communal organisations, have 
tried to dissuade Muslims from joining the Congress 
and have even hinted at dite consequences and 
catastrophes if this should happen. I have no desire 


THE CONGRESS AND MUSLIMS 157 


to enter into these controversies which tend to 
become personal and in which irrelevant issues are 
often raised. It is not therefore with a view to 
controversy that I issue this statement, but I do feel 
that clarity of ideas is desirable and the Congress 
position should be clearly understood. I find that 
even Congressmen sometimes fail to appreciate this 
and talk in terms of pacts and compromises with 
Muslims or other religious groups. 

The Congtess is a political organisation dealing 
also inevitably with economic problems, for these 
problems affect the masses of India more than 
anything else. ‘The objective of the Congress is 
political independence, that is, the capture of power 
by the people of India, irrespective of their religion. 
Every Indian of the hundreds of millions who 
inhabit this country must be a sharer in this power 
and must benefit by the new order that we sttive 
for. For ultimately it is this order, which removes 
our crushing poverty and unemployment, which 
we work for. Subjection and poverty are the 
common lot of Indians whatever their religion 
might be; freedom and economic and cultural 
betterment must also be the common lot of all of 
us. In the struggle to obtain this the Congress 
offers a common platform to all, and because it 
thinks in terms of the masses and their betterment, 
it goes to them, organises them, advises them, 
seeks strength and guidance from them. 

The Congress, being a political organisation, 
does not concern itself with religion or connected 
matters. But religion and culture being important 


158 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


matters in the life of many individuals, it is right 
that they should want to know how these are 
viewed by the Congress. Therefore the Congress 
declared at Karachi and subsequently, in the clearest 
language, that the fundamental and basic rights of 
all Indians must contain provisions for the free 
exercise of religion, for freedom of conscience, for 
the protection of the culture, language and script 
of minorities, and further that all citizens whatever 
their religion or caste or sex, were equal before the 
law and in regard to public employment, office, 
trade or calling. The franchise must be on the 
basis of universal adult suffrage. 

This assurance has been repeated in the Con- 
gress election manifesto and is the basis of all 
Congress policy. It applies to all majorities and 
minorities alike and it is unthinkable that the 
Congress will ever vary it. 

Having given this solemn assurance, the 
Congress has nothing further to do with religious 
or cultural matters and it pursues its political 
struggle. In this political struggle it has gained 
great power because millions of people have sided 
with it, approved of its programme, and looked to 
it for deliverance from their thraldom and misery. 
That programme was a common programme for all 
Indians whatever their religious persuasions may 
be. The development of the nationalist movement 
has crystallised power in two opposing ranks and 
we have in India today two dominating forces: 
Congress India, representing Indian nationalism, 
and British Imperialism. Ihave often been made to 


THE CONGRESS AND MUSLIMS 159 


say in the public press, owing to a mistranslation, 
that there were only two parties in India. ‘That is 
manifestly wrong for there may be, and are, any 
number of parties, big or small, important or 
confined to a handful. But what I have said, and 
what I think is true, is that there are two principal 
forces in India today, that of the Congress and that 
of imperialism. Others incline during a crisis to- 
wards the one or the other, or are mere lookers-on 
and do not count. We have had big crises and con- 
flicts in the past and, as is the way with nations and 
communities, we have gained strength and self- 
reliance thereby. Out of the fiery furnace of a 
nation’s suffering and conflict, the Congress has 
steeled itself and risen higher and higher, strong 
in the love and strength of our millions. Those 
who kept out of it and relied on the feeble prop 
of an alien and vanishing government, remain 
themselves feeble, without self-reliance or strength, 
unable to charge themselves with the energy of a 
nation on the move. 

Strength does not come to a nation or a com- 
munity from mere numbers, or special seats in the 
legislatures, or protection given by outsiders. It 
comes from within and from the codperation and 
goodwill of comrades in a common cause. The 
minorities in India will not flourish by being spoon- 
fed from above but by their own merits and 
strength. Can anyone imagine that any majority in 
India can crush the brave Sikhs, small as they are in 
numbers ? Only a lunatic can think that the Muslims 
can be dominated and coerced by any religious 


160 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


majority in India. 

The time has gone by when religious groups as 
such can take part in political or economic struggles. 
That may have been the case in medieval times. 
It is inconceivable today ; the lines of cleavage are 
different, they are economic. Therefore to think 
in terms of communal groups functioning politically 
is to think in terms of medievalism. And this is 
the reason why communal groups in India fail so 
dismally in the political field; they have and can 
have no common political or economic policy ; they 
split up and are usually dominated by reactionaries. 
Having no inner strength they look inevitably to 
favours from the imperialist masters. And what 
are those favours? <A few State jobs, a few seats 
in the legislatures. How does this affect the hunger 
of the millions or the unemployment of vast 
numbers ? 

Realisation of this is coming slowly to those 
who hoped for relief from their communal leaders 
and so they are turning more and more to the 
Congress, and thinking in terms of political and 
economic power. 

We talk of approaching the Muslim masses. 
That is no new programme for us although the 
stress may be new. ‘That is part of our principal 
programme of developing increasing contacts with 
the masses, whether they are Hindu or Muslim, 
Sikh or Christian or any others. The religion of 
all these is their personal matter which the Congress 
guarantees. But we think of them not as religious 
units but as suffering units of the hungry Indian 


THE CONGRESS AND MUSLIMS 161 


masses who cry loudly for succour. 

It must be remembered that the Congress has 
always had large numbers of Muslims in its fold, 
and larger numbers have sympathised with its 
activities. Some of the most eminent of our national 
leaders have been and are Muslims. But it is 
true that the Muslim masses have been largely neg- 
lected by us in recent years. We want to repair that 
omission and carry the message of the Congress 
to them. Why do others object to thisP If they 
disagree with the political or economic policy of 
the Congress, they are at perfect liberty to place 
their policy before the masses. But it is to the 
masses that the appeal must be made. 

This is important, the appeal to the masses. 
Our problems cannot be-solved, we hold, by a 
few people at the top. And that is why we have 
lost faith in the old style All Parties Conferences, 
in a few persons, representing communal organisa- 
tions with no common political background, meet- 
ing together and discussing and quarrelling. We 
have had enough experience of these in the past 
and that experience does not call for repetition. 
We are of course always willing to discuss our 
problems with all who earnestly desire their solu- 
tion, whether they agree with us or not. But the 
way to a solution is not through a so-called All 
Parties Conference. 

Those who talk of the Congress entering into 
a pact or alliance with Muslims or others fail to 
understand the Congress or the new forces that are 
moving our people. We have already made a great 


TI 


162 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


pact amongst ourselves, amongst all who desire 
national and economic freedom, to work together 
to this common end. The Muslims are in this 
pact just as the Hindus and Sikhs and so many 
Christians. They are there as Indians, and if they 
have problems inter se, as they must have occasional- 
ly, they will discuss them and decide them demo- 
ctatically within the great organisation which has 
come to represent to such a remarkable degree the 
will of the Indian people. Is it not better and 
more dignified to do this than to seek favours from 
and take deputations to, our alien rulers who 
dominate over us, and seek to play off one against 
the other ? 

When we have gained our freedom, that is 
the only possible and democratic way for us. And 
even now, in the course of our struggle for freedom, 
that is the only way. 

Some people suggest that semi-communal 
nationalist parties should be formed, like a Muslim 
Congress Party. That seems to me a wrong course 
and one which will encourage communalism and 
injure the larger cause. Our experience of the 
Nationalist Muslim Party in the past was not a 
happy one. Such half-way groupings confuse the 
issue and the masses are perplexed. Those who 
disagree with the Congress will of course form 
their groups and parties. But those who agree 
should not stand on the doorstep; they should enter 
the nation’s chamber and take full share in shaping 
the nation’s policy. There are many today who 
talk vaguely of being Congressmen and of being 


THE CONGRESS AND MUSLIMS 163 


in favour of independence. But they work through 
other and communal organisations and waste their 
strength thereby. 

The crisis deepens and the people of India will 
soon have to make many fateful decisions. Already 
these petty and unreal problems, communal and the 
like, shade off into the background, and the real 
issues, pregnant with destiny, overshadow India and 
the world. What will our answer be, whether we 
are Hindus or Muslims or Sikhs or Christians P 
Shall we stick to our little ways, lost in a wilderness 
of pettiness? Or will we, united and firm of 
purpose, take the shaping of events in our strong 
hands and make the history of our choice ? 


April 4, 1937 


HII 


I have read Mr. Jinnah’s latest statement with 
care. J agree with him that the Muslim League ts 
a political organisation and often acts on the politi- 
cal plane. But because it is confined toa religious 
group it is like others of its kind, essentially a 
religious or communal organisation. I can fully 
understand and appreciate a religious or cultural 
organisation acting on a religious or cultural plane 
only. Ican also understand a political organisation 
acting politically, whatever its view might be. But 
to mix the two is to create confusion and prevent 
the proper decision of any issue. Mr. Jinnah tells : 


~ 


164 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


us that the Muslim League is a political organisation 
and its policy and programme differ in vital respects 
from that of the Congress. The mere fact that a 
person is born to or professes the faith of Islam 
does not surely mean that he must also conform to 
the political policy and programme of the Muslim 
League. If he disagrees with that policy, as large 
numbers of Muslims do, he must inevitably seek 
some other political organisation whose policy and 
programme appeal to him. If he agrees with the 
Congress policy he will join it and function through 
it politically. That does not mean that he wants 
the disruption of Muslims. He is merely acting as 
politically thinking people act. Obviously there are 
great differences of political opinion cuter se among 
Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsees, etc. 
Among each of these religious groups one may 
find Congressmen, socialists, anti-socialists, com- 
munists, liberals, direct actionists, revolutionaries, 
moderates, extremists, believers in different kinds 
of economic theory, supporters of the Douglas 
Credit system or any other system. These cleavages 
of political and economic opinion are rightly repre- 
sented by political and economic parties in the 
public life of the country. But to form a religious or 
communal party, which also dabbles in political and 
economic matters, cuts across these real cleavages 
of opinion on live issues and thus is an unreal party 
in the political sense. Or else it partly represents, 
as the Muslim League or Hindu Sabha or Sikh 
League may claim to represent, a certain section of 
a religious group which holds by certain political 


THE CONGRESS AND MUSLIMS 165 


and economic theories. But even this it does not 
do with clarity and precision as it is always talking 
in terms of a religious group which, by its very 
nature, is a politically mixed one. 

I do not agree with the policy of the Libcral 
Party but I can understand it. It is a political party 
which bases its appeal on a certain political theory 
and its doors are open to all, Hindus or Muslims 
or others, who agree with that theory. Not so 
the Muslim League or the Hindu Sabha. 

Mr. Jinnah has failed to understand me if he 
thinks that Iam out to destroy other parties. But, 
because I believe in the Congress policy and pro- 
gramme, I try my hardest to push that forward and 
to convert all others, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, 
Sikhs, etc., to that viewpoint. Mr. Jinnah, or the 
Liberals, or any other individual or group, are 
perfectly entitled to push their policy forward in 
the same way. Why then does Mr. Jinnah object 
to my working amongst the Muslims for the spread 
of Congress ideals ? The objection is not political, 
it is communal, and hence the confusion of thought 
and action. When Mr. Jinnah talks of the Musal- 
mans, or warns them to do this or that, he is 
not speaking politically but communally. He 1s 
presuming that all Musalmans must inevitably think 
on the same political lines and these should be in 
accordance with the policy laid down by him and 
the Muslim League. Surely that is a large presump- 
tion. 

Mr. Jinnah thinks that the Congress policy is 
wrong and harmful. I think likewise of his policy. 


166 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


We differ. Let us agree to differ and work demo- 
ctatically for the spread of our respective view- 
points. I would gladly welcome Mr. Jinnah as the 
leader of a purely political party open to all 
denominations and with a defined policy. Political 
and economic issues will then be placed clearly 
before the country and the people of the country, 
who will ultimately decide these issues, will be 
enabled to think about them on right lines. To 
appeal to Musalmans or Hindus as religious groups 
on political matters is obviously the wrong thing. 
It is the medieval attitude, when politics and 
economics were in the background, and it cannot 
possibly fit in with the modern world. It is be- 
cause of this that I say that I find it difficult to 
think on communal lines. 

It is very unfair of Mr. Jinnah to say that the 
Congress considers it utter nonsense to safeguard 
the rights and interests of the minorities. The very 
reverse of this is true. In so far as religious and 
cultural and linguistic rights are concerned (and 
these are generally considered to be the basic 
minority rights) these have been amply safeguarded 
by the Congress as far as solemn declarations can 
safeguard them. There may be other questions 
which require consideration, and certainly occasions 
have arisen in the past and will arise in the future, 
in this imperfect world, when political adjustments 
are desirable in regard to minorities. The Congress 
is fully alive to this and is always ready, when 
such occasions offer themselves, to help in bringing 
about such an adjustment. But political adjust- 


THE CONGRESS AND MUSLIMS 167 


ments must be in consonance with a basic political 
policy. To have a relatively minor adjustment at 
the expense of fundamentals is not an adjustment ; 
it is the uprooting of the whole structure, a complete 
loss of equilibrium. 

The Congress does not and cannot accept the 
Communal Award because it is a negation of our 
fundamental principles of democracy and of a united 
India. It is incompatible with freedom. But Mr. 
Jinnah knows that the Congress policy is to get it 
altered in codperation with, and with the good- 
will of, the communities concerned. 

When Mr. Jinnah says, quite rightly, that the 
Muslim League differs in vital respects from the 
Congress in political matters, does he expect the 
Congress, including the Muslims who agree with the 
Congress, to give up its policy, in deference to the 
Muslim League, a policy which has been a beacon- 
light to us and to millions in this country these 
many years, and for which so many of us have gone 
repeatedly through the valley of the shadow? 
Mr. Jinnah knows that in the hour of our trial when 
we faced the might of a proud empire, many 
prominent leaders of the Muslim League sought 
alliance with the die-hard leaders of the Conservative 
Party in England, than whom there are no greater 
enemies of Indian freedom. Are we to submit to 
them now, we who have refused to submit to the 
embattled power of that Empire, and who prepare 
afresh for fresh trials and tribulations in the struggle 
for independence which has become the life-blood 
of all our activities ? 


168 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


Mr. Jinnah refers apparently to my faith in 
socialism. It is true that I desire to put an end 
to imperialism all over the world and I look for- 
watd to the establishment of a socialist State not 
only in India but elsewhere also. I believe in a 
world order based on the principles of socialism, and 
I am convinced that only thus will the distempers 
and miseries that afflict us find final burial. But the 
Congress is not committed to this creed or policy. 
Nevertheless the Congress thinks and acts in terms 
of the masses, Hindu or Muslim or other, seeks 
strength from them, and determines its policy with 
reference to them. ‘Therefore it considers that even 
political adjustments with minorities will have a 
surer and more real basis if the masses are enabled 
to have their say in the matter. 

Do I talk like a dictator or a sovereign autho- 
rity? Itis for others to judge. But may I venture to 
say that Mr. Jinnah when he objects to our carrying 
on our ordinary political work amongst Muslims, 
or issues mandates and warnings to Musalmans as 
a whole, regardless of their political opinions or 
affiliations, adopts an attitude which may, without 
impropriety, be called dictatorial ? 


May 2, 1937 


25 
BURMA AND CEYLON 


Burma has recently been politically separated 
from us and Ceylon has long functioned as a 
separate unit of the British Empire. But whatever 
the exigencies of British imperial policy might 
demand, India and Burma and Ceylon can never 
forget the cultural and commercial bonds that have 
tied them for thousands of years. The political 
shape of countries has changed repeatedly during 
this long span of years but our deep attachment 
has continued and will continue. It will continue, 
among other reasons, because today we have to 
face essentially the same problem and the same 
opponent. That opponent is British Imperialism 
and that problem is how to free our people. All 
over the world events are marching apace covering 
in a few short years the track of centuries, and 
imperialism, allying itself to fascism, struggles to 
maintain itself. But it struggles in vain, for the 
freedom of the peoples of India, Burma and Ceylon, 
as of the rest of the world, cannot long be delayed. 

In this struggle between the mighty forces of 
imperialism and nationalism and social freedom, 
British policy is ever trying to weaken us by intro- 


170 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


ducing fissiparous tendencies and by diverting our 
attention to minor conflicts which it encourages. 
We must beware of this and we must not permit 
ourselves to become tools of British imperialism. 
The separation of Burma has an inner and wider 
significance which must not be missed. It is in 
furtherance of British imperial preparations in the 
East for the world crisis which already overshadows 
the horizon. Burma has special importance because 
of its soil. A little beyond it, Singapore with its 
strategic position and powerful naval. base, com- 
mands the routes between the east and the west. 
Trincomalee in Ceylon bas developed into a naval 
and air base of the first importance. 

These are the dominating facts of the situation 
and behind and overshadowing them is the threat 
of world war. We must consider our smaller 
problems in relation to them. 

Both in Burma and Ceylon cries have been 
raised about Indians exploiting the people of the 
country. Curiously enough those who are telling 
us about this most frequently are representatives of 
British imperialism and British commerce who have 
exploited our countries systematically and pitilessly 
for generations and reduced our people to a state 
of appalling poverty. They want to preserve this 
monopoly of exploitation and because Indian busi- 
nessmen have entered into some competition with 
them in certain fields of activity, they have tried to 
embitter the relations of Indians with the Burmese 
and the Ceylonese. Conflicts are arising where 


BURMA AND CEYLON I7I 


none existed and tariffs and trade wars might 
naturally follow, as they are doing in the rest of 
the world. That would be the height of absurdity. 
If India put on a duty on coconuts from Ceylon, 
how would Ceylon fare? Ceylon’s trade with 
India is easily first on the list, so also Burma. Any 
trade conflicts between us would inevitably injure 
all concerned. 

But why should there be conflict ? Not only 
do we have our long cultural background to unite 
us, but our political and larger commercial interests 
do not clash. Labour interests also do not come 
into any teal conflict. It may be that certain trades 
come into occasional competition but they do not 
affect the larger interests much and such competi- 
tion is easily capable of adjustment. 

We want of course to protect our nationals 
wherever they might be. We want them to have 
fair play; we want the dignity of India to be 
respected in them even though they may be poor 
workers or coolies. We may not have the power 
to protect them effectively today, but we have the 
will and we shall soon have the power. But our 
conception of nationalism is not that of an aggres- 
sive tacialism ignoring and overriding others’ 
rights. We want peace and codperation with our 
neighbours for our mutual benefit and advantage. 
We want to encourage trade and contacts and are 
opposed to the erection of trade barriers, except 
when unavoidable circumstances may force us to 
do so. 

This general policy of peace and friendliness 


172 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


will govern our relations with all our neighbours 
and others who respect our rights and freedom. 
But Burma and Ceylon are more to us than neigh- 
bours ; they are bits of ourselves, almost bone of 
our bone, flesh of our flesh. How can we turn 
against each other, whatever happens? Let them 
realise that we in India will have nothing to do with 
the vicious propaganda that separates and embitters. 
We recognise fully that both Burma and Ceylon 
have their separate political entities and individuali- 
ties. They have both the right to fashion out their 
own path, and whatever this might be, they will 
have the goodwill of the people of India. And I 
hope that my countrymen will never permit or 
tolerate the exploitation by them of the peoples of 
Burma and Ceylon. We have had enough of ex- 
ploitation under British Imperialism. Let us all 
pull together and get rid of it. 

I trust that the Burmese and the Singhalese will 
approach these questions from this wider point of 
view, and recognise that there is no essential clash 
between Indian, Burmese and Singhalese interests. 
We have lived in amity in the past and we shall 
continue to do so. 

Six years ago I visited Ceylon and since then 
life has been hard on me, and it seems to me 
almost that an age has passed. But the memory 
of that visit is vivid in my mind and it freshens 
and delights me. How can I forget the love and 
welcome that I received from all classes of people 
in that island, whose beauty gripped my heart ? 


BURMA AND CEYLON 173 


I have never been to Burma. But I hope to 
repair that omission and, if the fates are kind to 
me, I shall go there in the course of the present year 
and pay my homage to the people of Burma. 


March 11, 1937 


| 26 
INDIA AND CHINA 


I am ashamed that physical illness should 
incapacitate me from keeping my promise and being 
present at Shantiniketan tomorrow for the inaugura- 
tion ceremony of the Chinese Hall. It has not been 
so usually with me, and so I gave my word gladly 
and with full confidence that I would join in this 
great ceremony, great in the memories of the long 
past that it invokes, great also in the promise of 
future comradeship and the forging of new links 
to bring China and India nearer to each other. 
What a long past that has been of friendly contacts 
and mutual influences, untroubled by political 
conflict and aggression! We have traded in 
ideas, in art, in culture, and grown richer in our 
own inheritance by the others’ offering. Political 
subjection came to both of us in varying forms, and 
stagnation and decay, and at the same time new 
forces and ideas from the West to wake us out 
of our torpor. We have been struggling to find a 
new equilibrium, to rid ourselves of the forces that 
throttle us, to give expressions to the new life 
that already pulsates through our veins. The 
whole world seeks that new equilibrium, but the 
forces of darkness are strong and in the name of 


INDIA AND CHINA 175 


fascism and imperialism and their allies seek to 
crush the spirit of man and all the art and culture 
that flow from it. But that spirit of man is not 
easily crushed ; it has survived many a barbarous 
onslaught ; it will triumph afresh. 

China and India, sister nations from the dawn 
of history, with their long tradition of culture and 
peaceful development of ideas, have to play a lead- 
ing part in this world drama, in which they them- 
selves are so deeply involved. And it is right 
that they should draw nearer to each*other, seek to 
understand each other afresh and draw strength 
from their past and present. All understanding to 
be real must be based on the cultural and ideological 
background of a country. I welcome, therefore, 
the inauguration of the Chinese Hall, situated most 
appropriately at Shantiniketan, and I trust that it 
will be a real meeting ground of the best in China 
and India. I must offer my grateful thanks to the 
Chinese scholars and friends who have made the 
building of this Hall with its library possible. I 
earnestly hope that this Hall will lead to ever 
widening contacts between the two countries, and 
that Chinese scholars will come to India and Indian 
scholars will visit China, and thus set up an ever- 
flowing stream of mutual understanding which will 
help us both in the solution of the problems that 
face us. 


April 13, 1937 


27 
FAREWELL TO BURMA 


What a magnificent welcome you have given 
me, men and women of Burma, Burmese and 
Indians alike!’ I came as a messenger of goodwill 
to you from the Indian National Congress and our 
people. I expected friendliness and goodwill in 
return. But the affection that you have showered 
on me in such abundant measure has overwhelmed 
me, and now that the time has come for me to 
bid you goodbye, I am sad at heart at leaving you 
and the many precious friends I have made here 
during these crowded thirteen days. This fair 
land is pleasant and beautiful, but pleasanter and 
more delightful are the people of this country, 
their bright young faces, their women with the 
laughter in their eyes. We in India who have res- 
ponsibility cast on us for the future of our unhappy 
millions have a heavy burden to carry and it is not 
always easy to put on a brave smile when so much 
suffering and misery and difficulty surround us. 
I came to you tired and weary in spirit, but your 
joyous enthusiasm removed that weariness and 
lightened the weight of the burdens that I have to 
catty. Your eyes told me, even more eloquently 
than your verbal assurances, of the comradeship 


FAREWELL TO BURMA 177 


that is ours. Who will dare to break that union, 
who will venture to tell us that we are apart from 
one another ? 

The separation of Burma has come. What of 
it? What difference can this little thing, imposed 
upon us by foreign will, make to us or to the bonds 
that unite us, bonds of the immemorial past that 
have sunk deep into our consciousness, bonds of 
the present, of mutual self-interest and a common 
struggle for freedom, shining bonds of the future 
with all its hope and promise for our peoples ? 
India, the ancient among nations, still lives and her 
youthful vitality in the present age has surprised 
the world. Even in her subjection and degrada- 
tion, she has produced great sons and daughters, 
and dear to her children is this old mother of theirs 
in spite of her failings and weaknesses. To Burma, 
her sister, she gave the most precious of her gifts 
two thousands years ago or more. Long ages after- 
wards, the chain of circumstance brought the same 
fate to us, the same subjection, and bound us closer 
together in sorrow and suffering. We shall come 
out of this valley of the shadow also together. 

Indians have come and settled down in Burma 
in large numbers and some are prosperous but many 
ate poor exploited workers and peasants whose 
lot is similar to that of the Burmese worker or 
peasant. Many an Indian has made this country 
his homeland, for others it is an adopted land. 
For both the prosperity of Burma spells happiness, 
the distress of Burma, misery and sorrow. More 
and more their interests are tied up with those 


178 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


of the children of the soil. How can differences of 
any moment arise between the two ? 

We in India claim that in all matters concern- 
ing us the interests of the people of India must be 
paramount and it is for them to decide ultimately 
what these interests are. So also in Burma. The 
interests of the Burmese masses must be paramount 
and it is for them to make final decisions regarding 
their interests. 

The world is in ferment today and vast prob- 
lems face all of us. There is a continuing crisis 
everywhere and catastrophe looms over the horizon. 
How shall we confront these problems, for we 
ignore them at our peril? Little men and little 
countries lose themselves in the petty things of life 
and are overwhelmed and swept away when the 
big things come. But the wise and the brave 
look further and deeper and prepare their country 
for a high destiny. That destiny calls to us; the 
future beckons to both India and Burma. Shall 
we not answer that call, marching in step together 
through the trials that may lie in store for us, 
strengthening and heartening each other, and 
winning freedom for our masses together ? 

And so fare you well, dear comrades of the 
past and of today. May good fortune be yours and 
may all of us have the courage and wisdom and 
perseverance which our countries demand of us. 


May 20, 1937 


28 
A QUESTION OF MANNERS 


For a variety of reasons I am considered ‘news’ 
by the world of journalism and ‘stories’ are fre- 
quently built up around me. To some extent of 
course all who dabble in public affairs, if they are 
prominently before the public eye, have a certain 
news value. And so I come in touch with large 
numbers of journalists and pressmen and I must 
say that I have always had the greatest courtesy 
and indulgence from them. Perhaps they found 
in me a kindred spirit, and indeed I feel a certain 
kinship with them, for I have something of the 
journalist in me. Here in Malaya, as elsewhere, 
I have found the same indulgence extended to me 
by the press. 

Some criticism has been addressed to me and 
sometimes what I have said or done has not been 
approved. I refer to this in no spirit of irritation, 
for I like criticism as it helps me to look at myself 
through others’ eyes, to consider a question from 
various viewpoints, to try to think straight in the 
tangled web of modern life. And if a newspaper 
will not criticise, who will? That surely is one 
of the principal functions of the public press, and 
the press of today has a tremendously important 


180 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


part to play in public affairs. 

I have been accused of a breach of etiquette, 
of a lack of good manners, of discourtesy to a host, 
of not behaving as I should have behaved. I am 
inevitably a partisan in such matters, and howso- 
evet I might try to consider them impersonally and 
objectively, my sub-conscious self would incline 
me to partiality. Still I examine my own behaviour 
and try to discipline my actions and spoken words. 
It would not be surprising if an unending succession 
of crowds and functions resulted in a tension of the 
nerves and this led me astray occasionally. I live 
a strange, abnormal life. 

How far have I been guilty of these various 
misdeeds ? I have wondered to what extent these 
accusations were due to the strange novelty to 
Malaya of what I did or said. Into the pleasant, 
though superficial, drawing-room atmosphere I 
came with the dust of the field and factory and 
matket place sticking to me, and my appearance 
of manners were not in keeping with the notions 
of the drawing room. Elsewhere the drawing 
room and country house have ceased to dominate 
the scene and the world of reality outside is con- 
tinually knocking at their doors and sometimes 
pushing itself in. J came to Malaya with no parti- 
cular intention of meeting crowds and addressing 
them, but rather for a pleasant and peaceful holiday 
in soothing tropical scenery. But the crowds 
came to me and enveloped me, and their shining 
eyes and abundant affection found, an echo in my 
heart, and I told them of what they yearned to 


A QUESTION OF MANNERS 181 


hear, of our struggle in India, of our hopes and 
fears, of the new strength and self-reliance that 
was ours, of our determination to put an end to 
poverty and unemployment, of the long night that 
must pass away before the coming dawn. 

The crowds that came had not been trained in 
the manners of the drawing room, and if the arrange- 
ments were not ample enough there was much 
pushing and disorder. And when I adopted other 
methods to end the confusion, some people thought 
that I was merely losing my temper. Much of the 
confusion was due to the fact that many could not 
see me. I mounted a table to enable these persons 
to see me. Or on other occasions I pushed my 
way through the crowd to ease the strain at a 
particular place where the pressure was great. 

I mention these trivial matters because the 
criticism of these throws a light on other and more 
important accusations. Something novel happened 
to which some of the journalists present were not 
accustomed ; they misinterpreted it or resented it. 

So also with my speeches. There was 
occasional misreporting as the reporter had ap- 
parently not understood my point. But that is a 
minor matter. The real thing was that my point of 
view was novel to many. They had probably heard 
of it but not appreciated it or attached importance 
to it. And now that it came pointedly and un- 
adorned they were taken aback. They asked me 
straight questions ; was I not to give them straight 
answets? That indeed would have been a dis- 
courtesy to them and to the public. 


182 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


In my speeches I tried to deal with the Indian 
problem as scientifically as was possible within 
the limits of the simple language to be used to large 
and mixed audiences. I should have liked my critics 
to point out where my argument went wrong. 
That would have been more helpful than a vague 
criticism or resentment. Are ‘we out to under- 
stand problems in order to solve them, or to 
run away from them because we do not like them ? 
I criticised the role of British Imperialism in India 
and I pointed out that Indian nationalism was 
struggling for independence. That is the very 
basis of our freedom struggle and it would be absurd 
for me to talk of India if I did not make this clear. 
People may differ from us; they have every right 
to do so. But the question is whether important 
and vital facts should be suppressed because they 
hurt the tender susceptibilities of the people in the 
drawing room. For my part I have no liking for 
the robots who have no will of their own and 
whose sole function is to echo the words of those in 
authority. Nor should constituted authority itself 
encourage them over much if it has vision and 
wants to keep in touch with reality. 

I am asked if I am anti-British, anti-this, anti- 
that—questions which show that the questioner 
is far from understanding the problems of our 
time. We have grown beyond this anti-stage, I 
hope, and think of our national and international 

roblems on broader and more fundamental lines. 
hy should I be anti-British, if by British is meant 
the British people? I owe a good deal to them 


A QUESTION OF MANNERS 183 


personally, I am attached to their language and 
literature, | have many friends among them. But 
I am against imperialism and empire, wherever they 
may exist, because I think they come in the way 
of the world’s progress. 

If we are not just satisfied with things as they 
are—and is there any intelligent or sensitive person 
who is?—then we must try to understand as 
dispassionately as possible the world’s problems 
and throw our weight on the side which seems to 
us to offer a solution. In Malaya with its abundant 
natural resources I have felt, strangely enough even 
more than elsewhere, the tragedy of the world. 
For Malaya came to represent to me for the moment 
the natural wealth of the world. With this great 
store that nature has provided us with, and with 
the enormous power to exploit these resources 
through science and industry, could we not make of 
this world of ours a paradise for all? And yet, 
in spite of all this present plenty and future pro- 
mise of far more, we quarrel over trifles, and man 
exploits man and nation exploits nation, and the 
fearful prospect of international catastrophe darkens 
our lives. But the day will come when we shall 
find the way out of this complicated maze and 
codéperate with each other to the common advan- 
tage and advancement of man. 


June 1, 1937 


29 


INDIANS AND CEYLONESE 
IN MALAYA 


A question has often been put to me as to the 
contacts that should exist between the Indians and 
Ceylonese in Malaya. An interview with me that 
has recently appeared in the press contains one or 
two statements in regard to this matter which are 
liable to create some misapprehension and so_ I 
should like to express myself clearly on this subject. 

Nationalist as I am in regard to Indian freedom, 
I do not look upon contacts with other peoples 
from a narrow nationalist viewpoint. My very 
nationalism is based on an internationalism, and I 
am very conscious of the fact that the modern 
world, with its science and world trade and swift 
methods of transport, is based on internationalism. 
No country or people can isolate themselves from 
the rest of the world, and if they attempt it, they 
do so at their peril and the attempt is bound to fail 
in the end. Ido not believe in a narrow autarchy. 
But the internationalism that I look forward to is 
not one of common subjection, imposed from 
above, but a union and a codperation of free nations 
for the common good. It is this kind of world 
order that will bring peace and progress to mankind. 


INDIANS AND CEYLONESE IN MALAYA 185 


Force of circumstances make us in India act 
and think on the nationalist plane. That is inevi- 
table for all Indians wherever they might live, for 
our primary objective must be national freedom. 
But I want them to develop at the same time the 
international habit of mind and to develop contacts 
with other countries and peoples. We have a big 
part to play in the future. Let us prepare ourselves 
for it. 

These contacts will inevitably be greater with 
those countries and peoples with whom we 
have common interests and whose world policy 
might ultimately coincide with ours. Thus I think 
that India and China have a great deal in common 
and their future codperation will not only be advan- 
tageous to both, but of benefit to the world at large. 

I have therefore urged upon Indians in Malaya 
to develop the closest coGperation with the Mala- 
yans and the Chinese as well as others living in this 
country. The Ceylonese are nearer to us in many 
ways than any other people outside India and it is 
only natural that our association with them should 
be close. I make no distinction in this matter 
between the Jaffna Tamils and the Singhalees or 
other Ceylonese. India has been a kind of elder 
sister to Ceylon for long ages past. 

This should be the general outlook of the 
Indians here. But it is obvious that codperation 
to develop on sound lines must be based on some 
common policy. A so-called codperation mainly 
thinking in terms of jobs or privileged positions 
for a few persons is not true codperation; it is nearly 


- 


186 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


allied to jobbery and I am not interested in it. 
Strength comes to a community from self-reliance 
and not from a few State jobs that might be given 
to it. Even the State jobs come ultimately more 
to those who have this strength and self-reliance. 

Codperation must also be both in ill-fortune 
and good fortune. To share in the good fortune 
and to exploit the other’s ill-fortune is not codpera- 
tion and does not enhance the good name of a 
community. 

If this basis for working together is accepted, 
and I do not'see how any person can reject it, then 
there should be no difficulty in the fullest codpera- 
tion. 

There seems to have been some argument as to 
whether Ceylon Tamils should be classed as Indians. 
Some such interpretation has apparently been given 
in Malaya. This seems to be wrong in fact and likely 
to create a split among the Ceylonese which is not 
desirable. It 1s obviously not true in the political 
sense ofthe word. Buta more important considera- 
tion is that such an interpretation will encourage 
a cleavage among the people of Ceylon and we 
should be no parties to this. We want the people 
of Ceylon to weld themselves into a strong unit, 
which will live in close co6peration and friendship 
with India. If the Ceylonese and Indians are to be 
classed together for any purpose we have no ob- 
jection. We would welcome this as we would 
welcome an even larger association. But let this 
be done in a straight way by calling them Indians 
and Ceylonese and not by way of subterfuge or 


INDIANS AND CEYLONESE IN MALAYA 187 


forced interpretation. 

In regard to the children of the soil, it is right 
that their interests should have precedence over 
others. But if Indians or others are born here and 
have made Malaya their permanent home, wh 
should they not be considered also as children of the 
soil P 


June 2, 1937 


30 
INDIAN LABOUR IN MALAYA 


Almost the first question put to me by journal- 
ists, on my landing in Malaya, was about Indian 
labour conditions here. Again and again this 
question was repeated. It was a pertinent question, 
for Indian labour has come here in large numbers 
and their present condition and future must demand 
the attention of the people of India and of the Malay 
Peninsula alike. I did not answer that question 
for I was not competent to do so. I had not seen 
these labour conditions for myself and I had not 
read much about them. Some officers of the 
Labour Department of Government met me in 
various places and I had every courtesy from them 
and offers to show me any place that I wished to see. 
They were good enough to send me some Govetn- 
ment publications and Mr. Srinivasa Sastri’s report 
on Indian labour conditions in Malaya. I am 
sorry that, owing to my heavy programme, I could 
not take advantage of those courteous and friendly 
offers, except to visit some labour lines in Singa- 
pore and Penang. Many of my countrymen here 
were also desirous that I should acquaint myself 
personally with labour conditions. 

The responsibility for not paying these per- 


INDIAN LABOUR IN MALAYA 189 


sonal visits of inspection is thus largely mine. The 
fault certainly is not of the Labour Department 
or of friends here, and I may not therefore speak 
with any authority about the actual conditions 
in which Indian labourers live. Nor indeed would 
I have been able to do so even if I had paid a few 
visits of inspection. ‘The problem is a much deeper 
one requiring careful study and it is this basic 
aspect that interests me especially. 

I had occasion to discuss labour questions with 
officers of the Labour Department and with others, 
and during my brief stay in Port Dickson I have 
tread some literature on the subject, including 
Mr. Sastri’s report and the Central Indian Associa- 
tion’s memorandum on it. I have also met a num- 
ber of Indian labourers and seen crowds of them at 
various meetings. 

All this would not entitle me to form final 
opinions about the living conditions and certain 
other specific problems discussed in the numerous 
reports. But behind these specific problems lie 
more important considerations about which even 
a newcomer and a layman may have something 
to say. 

The first line of enquiry that suggests itself 
to me when I consider labour conditions in any 
country is about labour organisations. Are there 
any trade unions or other worker’s organisations ? 
Are they more or less independent or are they of 
the kind that are called company unions? Are 
they strong enough to protect the interests of the 
workers ? What is the law on the subject ? 


- 


190 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


Through generations of conflict and suffering 
in the industrial countries of the West, labour has 
learnt this primary lesson: that only by organising 
itself and developing its own strength through 
unions, can it hope to safeguard its interests and 
advance them. It has to contend against the or- 
ganised power of the modern capitalist machine; 
it has to bargain with this power. What chance 
has poor labour got in this tussle unless it has unity 
and organisation at its back also P When we speak 
of aie unions we think invariably of worke1’s 
unions. But Chambers of Commerce and Plantet’s 
Associations and other employer’s organisations 
are as much trade unions as any labourers’ union. 
They have great financial resources at their back, 
intelligence and education, usually the support 
of the State, and the power to impose their own 
terms by threat of dismissal, involving starvation 
and misery. This has nothing to do with the merits 
or demerits of individual employers. It is a group 
or a class we have to consider which inevitably 
thinks in terms of that group’s advantage. The 
strongest of workers’ unions cannot face the em- 
ployers’ unions on equal terms. Unorganised 
workers are helpless before them. 

The State (speaking in terms of a capitalist 
State) may help the workers’ cause to some extent 
and protect their interests occasionally. But the 
State can seldom do much if the workers themselves 
are weak and disorganised. ‘The best of the State’s 
officers, who sincerely desire the betterment of 
labour, will be unable to meet or check the orga- 


INDIAN LABOUR IN MALAYA IOI 


nised might of the employers who often have a 
dominating influence over the State. Sometimes it 
may be said that these employers and financiers are, 
for all practical purposes, the State. But even apart 
from this direct control or influence, there are other 
indirect but equally important, influences at work. 
The high officials of the State belong to the same 
class or group, educationally, socially, culturally 
and economically, as the controllers of capital and 
labour, and inevitably it is easier for them to think 
in terms of that class. 

Long ago Disraeli wrote about the two worlds, 
the world of the rich and the world of the poor, 
and how they were entirely apart from one another, 
with next to nothing in common. He wrote 
about the English people in nineteenth century. 
How much more is that applicable today 
in other countries. And when one adds to this 
the difference of race and language and an entirely 
different cultural background, the distance separat- 
ing the two becomes vast. There may be sympathy 
and goodwill but it is difficult to understand even 
intellectually the other’s viewpoint. Far more 
difficult is it to have an emotional awareness of the 
other’s feelings, and it is only this that brings true 
understanding. 

Even if the efforts of the State are helpful, 
and they undoubtedly are so sometimes, they are 
of the benevolent parental type, which do not en- 
courage self-reliance and inner strength. To ad- 
vance a community, self-reliance must be en- 
couraged, and therefore an essential condition 


192 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


for the betterment of the workers is the promotion 
of trade unions’ and workers’ organisations. The 
State itself will be able to do more for labour then 
than otherwise. 

At ptesent, so far as I know, there is little in 
the nature of labour organisation in Malaya. I 
was told however, and I was glad to hear it, that the 
Labour Department would welcome the formation 
of trade unions. I was told so in the course of a 
discussion about the last year’s strike of Muni- 
cipal workers in Singapore. In this strike, I under- 
stand, that the Labour Department supported the 
strikers’ demand for a higher wage. The strike 
was partially successful and wages were increased 
though not to the level asked for. The Labour 
Department is still urging, I believe, that the full 
demand of the Municipal workers be agreed to. 

I hope therefore that every effort will be made 
to develop worker’s unions in Malaya. 

But what exactly are we driving at when we 
talk of labour and its future ? Is it just to maintain 
a large force of labour, with a certain minimum 
degree of security and comfort, ever supplying 
larger dividends to industry, but with no other 
vital change in their condition? Ordo we think 
in teims of raising them educationally, culturally 
and economically ever to higher levels, and making 
them true citizens of the country they live in and 
of the larger world? Surely only the second al- 
ternative is worth working for, and it is the only 
possible way if one takes a long view. The rapid 
and progressive growth of the machine technique 


INDIAN LABOUR IN MALAYA 193 


in industry, a growth which means ultimately 
greater production of wealth and higher standards 
for all, has strangely resulted in paralysing industry 
to some extent in the most highly developed in- 
dustrial countries of the world by increasing un- 
employment and lessening purchasing power. 
The growth of man must keep pace with the growth 
of the machine or else both will go under. 

So used were we in the past to a lack of the good 
things of life that we built up an economics of 
scarcity. When plenty came we thought and acted 
in the same way, and even went to the extent of des- 
troying large quantities of commodities and re- 
stricting production to fit in with our out-of-date 
economics. It was an astonishing spectacle only 
possible in our topsy-turvy world, and it was a 
foolish attempt, for we must live up to science 
and the machine and their inevitable consequences. 
Crisis came and slump and depression and we ima- 
gine now that we are out of the wood. But the 
conflict between an age of plenty and an economics 
of scarcity continues. 

A socialist has a clear and scientific way out 
of this muddle. He would introduce an economics 
of plenty to fit in with this age of plenty. He would 
encourage production to its furthest limit, and he 
would produce for consumption and not for pro- 
fit, and all the profits of industry would go to the 
community, ever raising its standards as the wealth 
of the country increases. There is no limit to this 
ptocess as there is no limit to the progress and 
advancement of man. Private monopoly would 


13 


194 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


be avoided and wages and salaries would be so 
adjusted as to give enough purchasing power 
to the community to consume all the goods 
produced. There can then be no unemployment 
and there can be no trade slump. 

But socialism is a far cry in Malaya today. 
Let us think in terms of an intelligent capitalism. 
How did President Roosevelt try to meet the crisis 
that was strangling the United States 2? In order 
to tevive a languishing trade and industry, he in- 
sisted on raising wages, shortening hours of work, 
and strengthened the trade unions and encouraged 
them to deal directly with the employers. The 
increased wages brought fresh purchasing power 
to the masses and business revived and the wheels 
of industry went round. For under modern 
conditions of mass production it is essential to have 
mass consumption. Without the latter the former 
cannot continue, and for mass consumption the 
masses must have the necessary purchasing power 
provided for them. And ultimately this leads 
to far greater profit to industry. 

In Malaya probably the labour population 
is never thought of as consumers. ‘To some extent 
this is true today owing to the nature of Malaya’s 
ptincipal industries and the lack of other industries. 
But a closer analysis would demonstrate that the 
wealth and prosperity of Malaya would increase 
greatly if the purchasing power of the masses was 
continually raised. 

Fortunately for Malaya, nature has blessed the 
country to an unusual degree and it has not suffered 


INDIAN LABOUR IN MALAYA 195 


so far from the ills that afflict the world. Why 
should it not utilise this natural wealth to raise all 
the people who live here to ever higher standards, 
educationally, culturally and in other ways ? Every 
investment of this kind pays itself back a hundred- 
fold in the fine human material that it produces. If 
England or France had the standards of life that 
prevail here and had these material resources, 
would they not use them to the fullest extent to 
raise the living standards of their masses, as well 
as their educational and cultural standards? A 
country is judged not by the few people at the top 
but by the masses at the bottom; a city is judged 
not by its few palaces but by its many slums. 
Therefore, I think that wages should be kept 
at as high a level as possible. A maintenance 
level is not enough. Labour is at least as important, 
if not more so, as capital in the development of in- 
dustry, and labour should share in the prosperity 
of industry, as it is made to suffer when industry 
languishes. In many countries industry is in a 
bad way and may find some difhiculty in raising 
labour’s standards. Not so in fortunate Malaya. 
Why then should not all the people who live in this 
country, and especially the labourers and workers, 
out of whose efforts wealth is created, benefit 
fully by this abundance ? It is bad business to divert 
the abundance to unspent surpluses and abnormal 
dividends. 
I do not know why the wage figure for 1928 
has been made into something like an ideal stand- 
ard for Indian labour. What mystic virtue attaches 


196 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


to that year or to that figure? Even the present 
conditions of industry patently permit a substan- 
tial increase. And I fail to see entirely why Indian 
labour should be paid less than Chinese or other 
labour. Apart from other and vital considerations 
which affect the Indian labourer and his present 
relatively low standard of living, there are national 
aspects of this question, and India must claim 
equality of status and wage with others. 

It is perfectly true that in India the wages 
are often lower (though not always so) than the 
wages paid here. There are obvious reasons for 
that but we need not go into them here. Why 
in any event should that be a measuring rod for 
wages here ? Why should we not take the standard 
of wages in England or America as a measure P 
And then it must be remembered that a person 
who leaves his home and goes to another country 
expects and needs more. 

These are general considerations which seem 
to me to apply to Indian labour here, apart from any 
particular aspects of the problem. But it would 
be highly desirable to have a close study and an 
economic survey made of the condition of Indian 
labourers. Such an enquiry would include family 
budgets and the whole question of indebtedness. 

Labour has always attached great importance 
to the number of hours of work. The whole - 
history of the labour movement all over the world 
is one long struggle to reduce hours of work. It is 
now well recognised that eight hours a day is the 
maximum desirable limit, and in some countries the 


INDIAN LABOUR IN MALAYA 197 


working day is smaller. I think it is eminently 
desirable to reduce the working day to eight hours 
in Malaya. 

If it is our purpose to raise the human material 
in the labour areas to higher levels, then education 
becomes a vital necessity. I feel that there is tre- 
mendous room for improvement in this respect 
and the fullest opportunities not only for primary 
but secondary education, should be provided for. 

It is our desire and settled policy in India to 
put an end to the drink evil. We are told, however, 
that the revenue from excise cannot easily be dis- 
pensed with and this excuse serves to continue 
a policy which saps the energy and vitality of the 
worker and impairs his efficiency. In Malaya 
at least this should be ‘no reason for continuing 
toddy shops. The fear that ‘Samsu’ brewing may 
spread may have some basis, but surely this is no 
reason why a present evil should be allowed to con- 
tinue. 

One other matter I should like to mention. 
I entirely agree with Mr. Sastri that the Kangani 
system of recruiting labour should go. I have 
heard much against it and nothing in its favour. 

There are many other matters connected 
with Indian labour in Malaya which interest me. 
But this note has already grown unconscionably 
long and I must not add to it. One thing, however, 
I should like to stress. A nationalist government 
in India would take the deepest interest in Indian 
labour abroad. It would be interested because 
it would like to protect the interests of its nationals. 


198 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


It would also be interested because it could not 
agree to any conditions or status which were dero- 
gatory to the dignity of the people of India. 


May 31, 1937 


31 
TO MY COUNTRYMEN IN MALAYA* 


During my brief stay in this green and pleasant 
land I have addressed many audiences and had my 
say about many matters. JI have discussed the pre- 
sent condition of India and what we are doing there 
and I have ventured to suggest what Indians in 
Malaya might do. Inevitably they have been 
vague suggestions and generalisations, for specific 
problems can only be dealt with in detail by a per- 
son more acquainted with them than I could claim 
to be. On the eve of my departure from Malaya, 
as the train is carrying us to Penang, I am attempting 
to put some of these suggestions into more definite 
shape. I have already written separately about 
Indian labour here and the desirability of close 
contacts between Indians and others. ° 

Indians here have three duties to face, three 
kinds of responsibilities to shoulder—their duty 
to India, their duty to Malaya, their duty to them- 
selves. The three are not mutually exclusive; 
they overlap and each helps the other. 

Their duty to India is to keep in intimate touch 


* First Published in ‘‘ The Indian,” Kuala Lumpur, 
Malaya. 


200 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


with current events there, to take living interest 
in our freedom struggle, and to help it in such 
ways as ate possible to them. Obviously they 
cannot do much from here, but for their own sakes 
they should try to swim in the current of national 
progress and derive strength and vitality from it. 
If they look forward, as they must, to share in the 
triumph when it comes, they must be prepared to 
catty some of the burdens also. Their future is 
after all intimately and irrevocably bound up with 
the future of India. On India’s freedom depends 
their status, the protection of their interests, and the 
place they occupy in the world. How can they 
help? Financially of course. Also by observing 
our national days, by using khaddar, by the display 
of our national flag at Indian functions. Khaddar 
is not an economic proposition in Malaya. It 
must cost more than other imported cloth or silk. 
But it has become the symbol of our freedom 
struggle and of our association with the masses, 
and those who use it consciously show their alle- 
giance to both these ideals of ours, which are in 
effect one. And if they pay a little more, let them 
remember that the money largely goes to poor 
Indian spinners and weavers. 

All Indians could and should do this, whether 
they ate local born or not. For the local born 
are as much children of India as others and India’s 
freedom must be as dear to them. 

Their duty to Malaya is to live in friendship 
and fullest codperation with the children of the soil, 
with the Chinese, and with all others who live here. 


LO MY COUNTRKYMEN IN MALAYA ZUL 


They must consider the interests of Malaya as their 
own, for Malaya has become their land by birth 
ot adoption, and must work for the progress of this 
country in every way. The people of the soil 
must feel that we come to codperate with them and 
not to injure their interests in any way. If India 
is their first love demanding allegiance and sacrifice 
for her cause, Malaya is dear to them also ; and in- 
deed the very love of India should lead them to 
friendship with these lands and their peoples with 
whom India has had such close contacts from the 
dawn of history, and whose interests are so nearly 
allied to hers. 

Lastly, their duty to themselves. My first 
reaction here was not a very favourable one. I 
found too many small Indian groups functioning 
separately. ‘There was no conflict between these 
groups but nevertheless, they weakened the commu- 
nity. Strength requires a larger unity comprising 
all these groups, all those who look to India as their 
common motherland. Therefore the primary need 
for Indians is to build up this larger unity organisa- 
tionally and to develop contacts—social, political, 
business—between Indians from all parts of our 
homeland. To the extent that they succeed in 
doing this will they be respected by others and have 
their voice heard in matters of importance. 

A larger number of Indians here belong to the 
labouring class and our future in Malaya is thus 
closely bound up with the future of Indian labour 
here. It is necessary therefore that middle class 
Indians should seek to serve the labouring masses 


202 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


in every way and remain in close touch with them, 
so that they may know their needs and wants and 
might help them in their struggle. I have suggested 
elsewhere the desirability of forming worket’s 
unions. In cities probably these would be more 
feasible to begin with than elsewhere. Far-sighted 
employers should welcome them for they can then 
deal with responsible organisations and bodies 
of labour rather than with a disorganised mass. 
Such trade unions necd not be confined to Indian 
workers only for the cause of labour is not racial. 
Racial or purely national unions are apt to be ex- 
ploited against cach other. Therefore, as far as 
possible, unions should comprise all the labour in 
an industry. 

It is the business of the State to provide free 
education and medical facilities for all. In a rich 
country like Malaya this is easily possible, but none 
the less conditions being what they are we must 
help ourselves where the State fails to perform its 
functions. For education is a vita] matter for a 
community and all its future depends on the human 
material it produces and trains. In this matter the 
Chinese in Malaya have set a fine example by putting 
up innumerable up-to-date schools. Why should 
not the Indians follow ? This is necessary from 
another point of view also. In the existing State 
schools the Indian languages are not taught, nor 
indeed has India any place in them. (For the 
moment I exclude the Tamil schools for Indian 
workers). This means that our boys and girls 
grow up cut off from India and denationalised to 


TO MY COUNTRYMEN IN MALAYA 203 


some extent. In our own schools there would 
be an important place for Hindustani, our national 
language, as well as for the mother tongue 
of the students. Such schools, I would suggest, 
should cater for all Indians and should not be 
confined to one provincial or religious group. 
We do not want sectarianism in our education. 
Indeed if our schools are good enough and attract 
non-Indians, I would welcome them. 

For the present when even good schools are 
lacking, to think in terms of colleges is premature. 
But obviously we cannot end the education of our 
children at the school stage. It surprises me how 
limited are the facilities for higher education in this 
country in spite of its wealth. There is not a single 
university and only one training college and one 
medical college. Some young men and women 
may go abroad for higher studies—to India or 
foreign countries. But it is absurd to expect any 
considerable number to be in a position to go to 
other countries. Thus in effect the people of the 
country, Indians as well as non-Indians, have no 
opportunities to pursue their studies further. 

Apart from general cultural education, tech- 
nical and scientific training is essential for a country 
with such large mineral and forest resources. Other- 
Wise it can only remain, as it is largely at present, 
a producer of raw material, and not one that makes 
the manufactured article. For expert work it will 
always have to seek people from abroad. This 
is a humiliating future for any country. 

This question of higher and technical education 


204 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


is of course one for all the people of Malaya. It 
is not confined to Indians. But Indians should 
think of it and should codperate with other commu- 
nities to remove this strange and surprising lack 
of the most essential condition of modern progress. 

Something that I feel should be done almost 
immediately is for Indians to open public libraries 
and reading rooms, providing Indian newspapers, 
journals and books. To begin with, reading rooms 
should be opened, as these are not costly, and gra- 
dually libraries should be built up around them. 
I am told that some of the Indian Associations 
get newspapers from India. This is not enough. 
The reading rooms should be open to the public, 
including non-Indians, who should be invited to 
interest themselves in Indian affairs. Such reading 
rooms and libraries would go some way to keep 
the Indian population of Malaya in touch with 
current events in India. 

There are, I believe, some Indian-owned 
newspapers in Malaya which give Indian news. 
Such newspapers are desirable both in the Indian 
languages and in English. Newspapers are the 
ears and voice of a community. Without them a 
community is deaf and dumb and consequently 
helpless and powerless. ‘Therefore, I hope that our 
countrymen will build up high class and secure 
newspapers and journals. 

I have recommended strongly that Indians 
hete should take to khaddar wearing. For this 
purpose khaddar depéts should be opened where 
good and reliable khadi can be obtained without 


TO MY COUNTRYMEN IN MALAYA 205 


intermediate profiteering. ‘The All-India Spinners’ 
Association or its branches should be consulted 
about this. These khaddar dep6éts might also stock 
other Indian goods. 

These are some suggestions which I make for 
the consideration of my countrymen and country- 
women here. I would add that in all these matters 
we expect Indian women to take a prominent part. 
Ours is not just a men’s movement in India. 
Women have played and are playinga brave and 
outstanding part in it. 

In ending this article I should like to remind 
all my countrymen that if they wish to share in the 
honour and privilege of being India’s children, 
they must be prepared to shoulder the responsibili- 
ties that always accompany privileges. Where- 
ever in this wide world there goes an Indian, there 
also goes a bit of India with him, and he may not 
forget this or ignore it. By his actions India will 
be judged. He has it in his power to some extent 
to bring credit or discredit to his country, honour 
or dishonour. Let him keep this in mind always 
and let him bear himself with dignity in good for- 
tune and ill fortune alike. India wants freedom 
and friendship with the world, and for that we 
labour; we are no humble suppliants for any body’s 
favour. We ate no citizens of a mean countty, 
but of a noble land with a great past and, let us 
hope, with a greater future. That future beckons 
to all of us. Who will not answer that call ? 


June 4, 1937 


32 
FAREWELL TO MALAYA 


For thirteen days I have wandered up and down 
the land of Malaya, enchanted by its beauty and 
charm. ‘The spell of the country held me in its 
grip, and though great crowds came to welcome 
me and I talked to them of many things, my mind 
could not get rid of that spell and my eyes were 
always seeking to take their fill of this green and 
pleasant land where it is always afternoon and the 
troubles and conflicts of the world seem far away. 
And now it is time for me to go back to my home- 
land to face the heavy tasks and shoulder the 
responsibility that fate and circumstance have cast 
upon me. I go with regret, but I carry back many 
treasures with me—the memory of this beautiful 
country so richly endowed by nature, and the far 
more precious memory of the love and affection 
that have been showered upon me in such abundant 
measure. To my own countrymen here of all 
classes, from the labourer in the field to the mer- 
chant or professional person, I find it difficult to 
express my gratitude. Between us there need be 
no formal and superficial expressions of thanks, 
but rather a deeper understanding of each other, 
and, I hope, a deeper appreciation of each other, 


FAREWELL TO MALAYA 207 


bound together as we are by the strong chain of 
common ideals and objectives. It was this great 
cause, which I represented to them, that brought 
them in their tens of thousands to welcome me and 
which evoked that tremendous enthusiasm which 
we have seen and felt. It is this cause for which 
we live and which we shall see triumph. But the 
welcome that I received came from others also, 
from the people of the country, the Malayans, and 
the people of China who live here in such large num- 
bets, and from the Ceylonese who are so near akin 
to us. To them all I am most grateful. From 
others I had every courtesy, from the press, 
from such government officials as I came in contact 
with, and from the police durin, my meetings 
and processions. I wish to express my gratitude 
to them. 

Icame here tired and I have hada strenuous 
time here, except for a brief spell of peace at Port 
Dickson. But this country and its generous and 
hospitable inhabitants have refreshed me and I 
go back rich in mind and fitter in body. This 
memory will endure for long and cheer me in the 
days to come. 

And so goodbye Malaya, or as I would prefer 
to have it, au revoir. 


June 4, 1937 


33 
BACK HOME 


It is good to come back home after six weeks of 
continuous wandering, good to see familiar sights, 
familiar faces, to rest for more than a day or two 
in the same place. Some have the wanderlust, 
and I have it mysclf in some measure, and I love 
to get out of the old rut and cross mountains and 
seas and make acquaintance with new countries, 
new people. And when one may not do this, 
as alas too often I may not, I give rein to my ima- 
gination and we take long and improbable journeys 
and seek adventure in distant countries. But the 
old rut calls us back and we return to the day’s 
routine. 

So I was back from Burma and Malaya. There 
wete numerous formidable files awaiting me, and 
a crowd of letters to answer, and questions and 
problems which a grest organisation has conti- 
nually to face. Pressmen surrounded me—what 
had I say to this or that ? Had I seen some state- 
ment or other ? Was Congress going to form 
ministries ? Andsooninterminably. Fortunately 
I knew little about these various statements and 
pronouncements .and I felt some difficulty in re- 
adjusting myself to the old world which I had 


BACK HOME 209 


left but six weeks before. Before my eyes floated 
still the Shwe Dagon pagoda glistening in the 
morning sunlight, and the palm trees swaying in 
the pleasant land of Malaya. 

Back to the files and the letters. A summer 
school has been raided and the lathi has felled down 
many people. The Jute strike is over but the griev- 
ances of the jute workers continue. The workers 
in a match factory of the Swedish Trust have been 
long on strike and are being ill-treated. The pro- 
blem of the detenus. A Congress committee has 
been suspended and protest and counter-protest 
have poured in. Appeals from district committees 
against certain orders of their provincial commit- 
tees. There is an interruption and fifty kisans 
appear on the scene full of their troubles. They 
cannot be ignored. 

Back again to the files. Should kisan organi- 
sations be started or should we concentrate on 
making kisans members of Congress committees 
What should be the relation between the Congress 
Committee and the Kisan Sabha P Am I in favour 
of functional repi.sentation ? Telegrams pour 
in protesting against the choice of a candidate to 
contest a by-election. A long distance trunk call 
on the telephone comes from South India. Vis1- 
tors, visitors with nothing worthwhile to say, 
wasting time. An occasional visitor who is 
interesting taking up more time. And all the 
while the Shwe Dagon pagoda floating in the air 
and the gem palace of Mandalay and laughing men 
and women in gay attire wandering by. 


14 


210 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


Back to work. Financial matters, confusing 
and troublesome. Cases of disciplinary action. 
Some hard ones but discipline has to be maintained 
in an organisation. Mass contacts, what progress 
is being made in the villages ? What with Muslims 
in towns and villages ? Letters in approval of our 
new activities, letters in criticism. Are the Con- 
gress members of the legislatures working in their 
constituencies carrying the message of the Con- 
gress P 

How hot it is, and the paper one writes on 
sticks to the hand: And how pleasant it was by the 
sea-side in Malaya with the tide lapping the beach 
and the palm trees and the graceful areca-nuts 
fringing the shore. 

A conference with colleagues in the ofhce. 
Cablegrams from abroad. Discussion on foreign 


affairs. Zanzibar-Indians overseas. Visitors, 
visitors—hell | Why will so many people come 
when there is so much to be done ? But some 


are old colleagues and though what they say may 
be unimportant, they are valued comrades and may 
not be ignored. Strangers come and who knows 
whether their business 1s important or not ?_ Pea- 
sants come and who can turn these helpless ones 
away without a word of cheer ? 

The situation on the Frontier—air-bombing 
and kidnappings, a curious mixture, and the larger 
question being somewhat hidden by communal 
feelings on either side. When will people behave 
like grown-ups ? How childish all this is and 
religion, as of old, warps the mind and confuses 


. BACK HOME 21f 


the issue. 

A note on Congress work in the Punjab, a 
complaint from Bombay which takes up time. 
Visitors asking me to visit their districts or attend 
conferences. 

Will the Congress accept ministries 2 When 
will the Working Committee meet to consider this 
question ? Wise people, knowing far more than 
I do, announce that the Committee is meeting 
within a few days. Evidently they imagine that our 
main preoccupation is to think about and discuss 
this question of ministries. They would be sur- 
prised to find how little this has to do with our 
work and how many other activities claim our 
attention. And those who question may be still 
further surprised if they had a glimpse into my 
mind. 

For my mind goes back over the heads of the 
Visitors and questioners and across the files to these 
six weeks that are gone past, recall days full of 
wandering in strange places, old world, and new, 
crowded days. And pictures of the past come up 
before me when the beautiful palace at Mandalay 
hummed with play and laughter, and behind this 
hid many an intrigue and cruelty, and the rapid 
decay of an order that had lived its time. That 
gem palace is empty today, shorn of its gems, and 
only ghosts and memories fill its deserted halls. 
The teak roofs and pillars stand as of old, but they 
ate dead wood and no more. The past they re- 
present is gone forever. 

But the Shwe Dagon pagoda still towers in 


212 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


all its strength and beauty over the city of Rangoon 
and gives its ageless message to all who come under 
its spell. It shines in the morning sunlight and 
glimmers as the evening shadows fall, and we creep 
away from Burma reverently with this image of the 
soul of a people impressed on our minds and hearts. 


June 19, 1937 


34 
THE PRINCES AND FEDERATION 


The constitutional deadlock that has arisen in 
India, immediately on the introduction of the new 
Constitution, has brought home to many the 
real significance of that constitution more than any 
amount of explanation and analysis. The Act 
may remain on the statute book yet awhile and 
shadow ministries function, backed by the British 
power. But all this is unreality, the land of ghosts 
and spooks. ‘The reality of today is British Im- 
petialism on the one side and Indian nationalism, 
as represented by the Congress, on the other. The 
Act has no place in the picture and so it is collapsing 
at the first touch. But we have to hasten this 
process at either end and so we must remémber 
that the Federal part of it still raises its ugly head 
in the mists of the future. The Congress has direct- 
ed us to fight this Federal structure and to prevent 
its introduction, for nothing is so bad in the Act 
as this Federal part. 

What of the Princes? We hear vague rumours 
of some agreeing and some doubting. These 
princes, or nearly all of them, have acted during 
the past years of national struggle as the close allies 
of British Imperialism. Consistently they have been 


214 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


unfriendly to the national movement. Are they 
going to register another unfriendly act by join- 
ing the Federation despite the unanimous oppo- 
sition of political India to this structure? ‘This 
will be a grave decision for them and they will thus 
align themselves even more than before in oppo- 
sition to the people of India. There is a great 
deal of talk of the independence of the States and of 
the special treaties and the like. But the thing that 
is going to count in the future is the treaty that the 
people of India make with others. The Act will 
go inevitably with all its hundreds of sections and 
its special powers and its Federation. And so I 
would ask the Princes to consider this matter 
from this point of view and not rush in where wiser 
people fear to tread. 


May 3, 1937 


35 


BOMBING AND KIDNAPPING 
ON THE FRONTIER 


Less than two months ago the British Govern- 
ment addressed a communication to the Spanish 
Government and the Insurgents in Spain asking 
both of them to refrain from bombing the civil 
population from the air. This remonstrance was 
sent to both the warring groups in Spain, but as a 
matter of fact the immediate occasion for it was the 
bombing of some of the towns in the Basque 
country, largely by German and Italian aeroplanes 
in the service of General Franco. For nearly a 
year, ever since the outbreak of the insurrection 
in Spain and its invasion by foreign forces, the 
world has been sickened by accounts of the bar- 
barities perpetrated by the fascist-military clique 
in that unhappy country. Even so the bombing 
of Guernica, an unfortified city, with incendiary 
bombs, the killing thereby of 800 civilians, and 
the destruction of a large part of the city came as 
a terrible shock to the peoples of the world. 

' The British Government sent a pious note of 
protest and remonstrance; that is its chief function 
now in foreign affairs. And yet, just then, that 
same British Government was indulging in bombing 


216 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


from the ait across the north-west frontier of India. 
It was a strange and significant coincidence demon- 
strating in a flash the true nature and hypocrisy of 
modern imperialism. 

How does the thing that is monstrous and 
horrible in Spain become justifiable in India or 
across her frontier? Whatever the so-called 
justification might be, frightfulness remains fright- 
fulness, and there are ceftain standards of con- 
duct which can only be ignored and set aside at 
peril to the civilisation and culture which the world 
has so painfully built up through long years of 
travail. All over the world people realise this 
and raise their voices against this new barbarism 
of bombing of civilians from the air. But fascism 
and imperialism, twin-brothers, are impervious 
to this widespread opinion, are wholly insensitive 
to the suffering of innocent human beings and to 
the crash of civilisation and the collapse of much 
that humanity cherishes. They carry on with 
their bombs from the ait and destroy or maim 
impartially man and woman, boy and girl, and the 
child at the breast. 

But humanity apart, let us examine this 
bombing business across the Frontier. ‘The Con- 
gress has condemned it, as every sensitive person 
needs must, and it has further condemned the 
real motive force behind it, the so-called Forward 
Policy at the Frontier. We are told, however, 
that the British Government indulged in this 
bombing in order to rescue and protect girls who 
had been kidnapped. It is strange that even the 


BOMBING AND KIDNAPPING ON THE FRONTIER 217 


kidnapping of girls should ft in with the Frontier 
policy of Government, just as communalism fits 
in with its larger Indian policy. Memories of how 
the kidnapping of missionaries in various parts 
of the world helped in spreading the empires of 
various imperialist powers come back to us. Do 
we see a like process in operation at the Frontier ? 

Now it is clear and beyond possibility of argu- 
ment that the kidnapping of girls is a barbarous 
and inhuman thing and we cannot tolerate it. A 
government that cannot prevent it demonstrates 
its OWn incompetence. But it is also clear to 
every tyro in politics that air-bombing and military 
expeditions do not materialise unless there are 
important reasons of policy behind them. What 
that policy in India has been and is, we all know. 
For generations past it has messed about the frontier, 
ostensibly trying to solve the problem, in effect 
worsening it. One may argue whether this failure 
is due to sheet incompetence, or to a desire not to 
solve the problem, so that it may continue as a 
constant irritant and an excuse for periodical fron- 
tier operations and their inevitable reactions on 
Indian politics, or to both. But almost everybody 
is agreed that British policy on the Frontier has 
been a complete failure. 

That is true on the face of it and yet that 1s 
too simple a statement to make, for the British 
people are no fools, and in framing their imperial 
policies they do not stop at the Frontier, they look 
far beyond it. In the old days they looked at the 
Tsar and his advancing empire; now the Tsar 


218 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


has gone past recall, but the same fascination forces 
them to look at the wide-flung Soviet territories 
which almost touch the frontiers of India. In 
this area of Central Asia they see threats to their 
Indian Empire, to the routes to India, to their world 
position. In the great crises that loom ahead, 
the Indian frontier and the adjoining countries 
may well have decisive importance. It is true that 
the Soviet Union desires peace more ardently 
than any other country in the world. It is also true 
that the Soviet Union has tried hard to make 
friends with England. Yet the inherent antagonisms 
of the two systems remain and may become even 
more evident when crisis comes. We have seen 
how official England, even at the cost of minor 
interests and prestige, has indirectly aided the 
insurgents in Spain and supported the Nazi policy 
in Europe. The true kinship of imperialism with 
fascism affected British foreign policy more than 
many other considerations. 

Thus the frontier of India and the lands beyond 
it are regarded by the Government as a probable 
theatre of war, and all their policy is directed to 
strengthening themselves there for war purposes. 
It is not a policy of pacification of and codperation 
with the frontier tribes. It is ultimately one of 
advancing and occupying more territory so as to 
remove the theatre of war a little further away 
from their present base. The military mind, 
ignoring political and psychological factors, thinks 
only in terms of extending the bounds of an empire 
and thus making it safer from attack. As a matter 


BOMBING AND KIDNAPPING ON THE FRONTIER 219 


of fact this process often ends in weakening a 
country or an empire. In India we have the mili- 
tary mind at work even in the civilian departments, 
for the civilian considers himself, and rightly, 
as much a member of a foreign army of occupation 
as the soldier. 

All this has led to the so-called ‘Forward 
Policy’ at the frontier and because of this every 
excuse is good enough to be utilized for a forward 
move. It is with this background that we must 
consider recent events on and across the frontier. 

This Forward Policy becomes an intense pre- 
paration for war, for the great war that is prophesied 
for the not distant future. Apart from our oppo- 
sition and strong objection to this Forward Policy 
in itself, we have to oppose it as such a preparation 
for wat. The Congress has declared itself against 
India’s participation in imperialist war and by that 
declaration and policy we must stand, not for 
quixotic reasons, but in the solid and permanent 
interests of the people of India and their freedom. 

This Forward Policy has another aspect, a 
communal one. Just as the canker of commu- 
nalism, fostered by imperialism, weakens and in- 
jures our public life and our struggle for freedom, 
so also the Forward Policy introduces that canker 
at the frontier and creates trouble between India 
and her neighbours. The policy of Britain at the 
Frontier has been alternately to bribe and terrorise 
the frontier tribes. ‘That is a foolish policy, fore- 
doomed to failure. That certainly can never be 
the policy of a free India towards them. The 


220 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


Congress has repeatedly declared that it has no 
quarrel whatsoever with our neighbours and that 
it desires to cultivate friendly and codperative 
relations with them. Thus the Forward Policy 
of the British Government comes into direct con- 
flict with our intentions and creates new problems 
which will be difficult of solution in the future. 
We must try to prevent that happening as far as we 
can, and this makes it necessary for us to hold 
hard to these fundamental principles of ours and not 
allow ourselves to be swept away by anything else. 

I am quite convinced that the trouble at the 
Frontier can be ended by a friendly approach on 
our part, if we were free to make that approach. 
One man alone, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, loved 
on either side of the Frontier, could settle it, but 
under the British dispensation, he may not even 
enter his province. But even apart from Khan 
Abdul Ghaffar Khan, I can say with confidence 
that any approach by the Congress would meet 
with success. The chiefs of the frontier tribes 
would realise soon enough that our interests and 
theirs were not in conflict and they would codperate 
with us in putting an end to the scandal of kid- 
nappings and raiding expeditions. They would 
realise also that any other course than this would 
imperil the freedom that they have got, for British 
imperialism is determined to march further and 
further in pursuance of its Forward Policy. They 
play into the hands of this imperialism by giving 
it pretexts for action, and they create an unfriendly 
feeling in India by being parties to kidnappings 


BOMBING AND KIDNAPPING ON THE FRONTIER 221 


and raids. 

Let us examine briefly the recent occurrences 
on the Frontier. A village girl of about 15 or 
16, Ram Kuar, apparently eloped with someone. 
This incident which was a purely local and personal 
affair and had no larger significance, suddenly 
assumed importance and excited communal passions 
in the neighbourhood. Candidates for municipal 
and Assembly elections exploited it, such is the 
vittue of communal electorates. The matter was 
clearly one to be settled privately or through a 
court in accordance with the wishes of the girl her- 
self. Neither Hinduism nor Islam profited or 
suffered by such an incident. A court intervened 
and it is interesting to note that the offence, for 
which the man who had accompanied Ram Kuar 
was ultimately sentenced, was based on the mino- 
rity of the girl, she being just under 16. It was 
not a case of forcible abduction. The girl made 
vatious contradictory statements, as almost any 
girl might have done under such extraordinary 
circumstances. 

Perhaps the incident might have ended there. 
But the Assembly elections gave it further life for 
the candidates made full use of it. This incident 
had nothing to do with Waziristan or the Frontier 
tribes. In Waziristan about that time some trouble 
had already started; this had no connection what- 
ever with Ram Kuar’s case. The Waziris were 
acting against the British Government for some 
reasons of their own. But the growth of communal 
passions, chiefly due to the propaganda about 


222 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


Ram Kuar’s case during the election campaign, 
affected the Waziris also and this produced un- 
fortunate results soon after the election was overt. 
Four Hindu girls were forcibly kidnapped by some 
Waziris aided by local bad characters, presumably 
to avenge Ram Kuar. This was followed later by 
many cases of dacoities. 

All this, as far as I can make out, is confined 
to Bannu district. It is worth noting that it was in 
this very district that Congress candidates fared 
badly during the Assembly elections. Where Con- 
gress is stronger no such thing has happened. 
Communalism and trouble go hand in band 

These kidnappings and dacoities had two 
obvious consequences. The small minority of 
Hindus living in the rural areas were naturally 
terrified and confounded. What frightened them 
most was the fact that, as a rule, their Muslim 
neighbours, who formed the large majority of the 
population did not help them or protect them. 
Worse even than the actual occurrences were the 
rumours that were spread. 

The second consequence was the advance of 
the Forward Policy. It had ample excuse now. 
Were they not going forward to punish those who 
kidnapped and committed dacoities on innocent 
and defenceless people ? And so, claiming to be 
protectors of the weak, they marched ahead to 
fulfil the plans of British Imperialism, and they 
bombed right and left with goodwill, and left a 
track of ruin and misery behind them. 

It is easy to understand the reaction of the 


BOMBING AND KIDNAPPING ON THE FRONTIER 223 


small minority of terrified Hindus. It is also easy 
to understand the anger of the hill tribes who saw 
this ruin and death surrounding them and to some 
extent connected it with the communal controversy. 
Nevertheless it was and is folly for both to think or 
act in terms of communalism for both are victims 
of that larger policy of imperialism which marches 
on regardless of human suffering. For the Hindus 
in the Frontier province to support imperialism and 
its policy is not only the height of folly and coward- 
ice but also to invite ruin for themselves. They 
cannot live and prosper in that province except 
in codperation with, and with the goodwill of, 
their neighbours. For their Muslim neighbours 
in these villages to look on while kidnapping and 
dacoity take place almost before their eyes is to 
degrade themselves before the world. That is not 
the way of neighbours. For the Frontier tribes to 
associate themselves in any way with kidnapping 
and raiding is to discredit themselves and to 
imperil their freedom. 

Our policy is clear. We cannot approve of 
the Forward Policy of Government, because that 
is a discredited policy, because it strikes at the very 
root of our strufgle for freedom, because it makes 
enemies of our friends, because it is a preparation 
for war, and because it is an imperialist policy. 
We can never tolerate the barbarity and inhumanity 
of bombing from the air. Our approach to the 
Frontier problem would be entirely different ; it 
would be based on friendship and codperation and 
respect for the freeom of others ; and an attempt 


224 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


to find an economic solution for their difficulties. 

But it is equally clear that we cannot tolerate 
kidnapping and dacoities and raids. Our sympathies 
must go out to those who suffer from these and it 
is our bounden duty to protect them. The surest 
protection, we feel, will come from a friendly 
approach and the removal of communal passions. 
Those who seek to feed these passions, either on the 
Hindu or the Muslim side, are friends of neither 
the Hindus nor the Muslims. The Congress has al- 
ready done good work in the Frontier province in 
this respect and it is to be noted that the recent 
trouble has been largely confined to Bannu district 
where unfortunately the Congress organisation is 
weak. Dr. Khan Sahib, the Congress leader in the 
Frontier province, has already given a straight and 
a brave lead and I trust that Hindus and Muslims 
alike will follow it. This is not a question of Hindu 
or Muslim, but of our dignity and good repute, 
our intelligence and good sense, to whatever 
religious faith we may belong, and of Indian free- 
dom itself. 


June 22, 1937 


36 


THE CONGRESS AND LABOUR AND 
PEASANT ORGANISATIONS 


Since my return from Burma and Malaya I 
have received many letters from Congress Com- 
mittees and Congressmen enquiring about the duty 
of Congressmen towards labour and peasant orga- 
nisations. Should these organisations be encourag- 
ed or not? And, if so, what form should they 
take, what relation, if any, should they bear to 
the Congress? These problems have arisen in 
many provinces and they require our serious consi- 
deration. Sometimes these problems are largely 
personal, sometimes they are mainly provincial, 
but behind them always there is the larger issue. 
In dealing with the local aspects of the problem, 
we must inevitably consider these peculiarities and 
even personalities. But we must be clear about the 
principles and the real issues before we lose our- 
selves in the forest of local detail. 

How has this problem arisen? Not surely 
just because of a few persons acting in a particular 
way, but because of the dynamics of the very 
struggle in which we are engaged. It is a sign 
of our growth and the rising consciousness of the 
masses. For that growth the National Congress 1s 


15 


226 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


mainly responsible and to it therefore must go the 
credit in a large measure for this new mass cons: 
ciousness. The Congress has worked for it and if 
success comes to it, Congressmen must not fight 
shy of this. Therefore this new development is 
to be welcomed even though it might bring some 
occasional complications with it. 

These complications are to some extent in- 
herent in the situation. The Congress is predo- 
minantly a political organisation representing the 
urge of all classes of Indians towards national 
freedom. A labour or peasant organisation is 
essentially a group or class organisation primarily 
interested in the welfare and advancement of that 
group or class. The Congress thinks and acts 
mainly on the political plane, the workers’ organisa- 
tion on the functional and economic plane. Yet the 
differences are not so greatas one would imagine 
and the development of our struggle and of politi- 
cal consciousness bring the two close to each other 
and they overlap to a considerable extent. The 
Congress because of its close touch with the masses, 
because indeed it is by far the biggest mass organisa- 
tion in the country, inevitably begins to think and 
act in terms of the economicigrievances and disabili- 
ties of the masses, that is the workers, peasants and 
others. The labour and peasant organisations are 
forced to the conclusion that economic disabilities 
cannot be removed to any large extent unless 
political freedom is achieved and power comes to 
the people as a whole. Thus the two overlap and 
the joint anti-imperialist front grows up. 


LABOUR AND PEASANT ORGANISATIONS 227 


In any country under alien domination the 
political aspect always overshadows other aspects. 
This in itself would make the Congress the dominant 
ofganisation in the country, but this predominance 
has been further intensified by the part that the 
Congress has played in recent years in our struggle 
for freedom. The Congress is thus today far and 
away the most powerful and the most widespread 
organisation in India; it has tremendous mass 
appeal and mass support; even the workers and 
peasants look up to it and are influenced by it far 
more than by their own class organisations. Other 
organisations are not even bad seconds. The 
Congress has obviously not achieved this mass 
influence and support by its political programme 
only. It has done so by its magnificent record of 
service and sacrifice, and by its direct approach 
to the masses and its increasing economic otienta- 
tion, which is understood by those masses more 
than the purely political objective. It is interesting 
to compare the organisational and basic strength 
of the Congress in various parts of India. This 
strength varies directly with this economic ofienta- 
tion and mass contacts. 

Thus from the point of view of our freedom 
struggle, both in its political and economic aspects, 
it is essential that the Congress should be streng- 
thened. Everything that weakens it, weakens that 
struggle, and weakens even the workers’ and 
peasants’ movements, for neither of these is strong 
enough to make much headway without Congress 
support. It is the realisation of this fact that has 


228 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


brought about the demand all over the country, 
and from all kinds of quarters, for a joint anti- 
imperialist front under Congress auspices. Indeed 
the Congress itself is increasingly considered this 
joint front. 

But in spite of all this the Congress remains, 
and has to remain, a national organisation and it 
cannot always represent the functional or class 
interests of the workers and peasants. It cannot 
function as a trade union or kisan sabha. In actual 
practice, where its contacts with the peasantry are 
considerable, it almost functions as a kisan sabha. 
The general tendency is for the Congress to develop 
into a predominantly peasant organisation and this 
process is likely to continue, but the leadership is 
bound to remain with the middle classes, chiefly the 
lower middle classes, so long as the Congress re- 
mains the National Congress and does not undergo 
a sea-change into something entirely different. 

But these are speculations about the future 
and it is the present that concerns us. The out- 
standing facts of the present are: (1) the Congress 
must be strengthened because it is the only organisa- 
tion which can lead us effectively to our goal; 
and (2) the rising consciousness of and ferment 
among the masses. If these two facts are correlated 
then we have a powerful movement which grows in 
strength and leads us to success. ‘This is the basic 
reason for and the razson d’etre of the emphasis that 
is being laid on mass contacts. And be it remem- 
bered that this applies to all—Hindu, Muslim, Sikh 
and Christian masses. The cleavages of religious 


LABOUR AND PEASANT ORGANISATIONS 229 


faith do not affect this programme at all. We 
talk loosely sometimes of Muslim mass contacts, 
but this is not a communal movement dealing with 
Muslims only. Our programme is identical in this 
respect for Muslim and Hindu or others ; only in 
otder to draw the attention of our workers to 
work amongst the Muslim masses have we talked 
of Muslim mass contacts. 

Contacts with the masses can be of two kinds : 
direct contacts by means of Congress members and 
village committees among the workers and peasants, 
and contacts with the workers’ and peasants’ orga- 
nisations. The first of course is essential and needs 
no argument. Without it the second does not 
come into the picture at all, for the second can 
only be a corollary to the first. If the Congress 
has not got direct and widespread and deep contacts 
with the masses, it is bound to be influenced far 
more by the middle classes and will thus move away 
to some extent from the mass outlook which it 
has been its consistent aim to develop. It must 
therefore be the aim of every Congressman, and 
mote specially those who have the interests of 
labour and the peasantry at heart, to develop these 
direct contacts by enrolling Congress members from 
the working classes and establishing village com- 
mittees. 

The second kind of contacts, that is some kind 
of organisational relation of the Congress with 
working class organisations, involving functional 
representation, has been discussed for some time 
past and is still being discussed. It involves a basic 


230 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


change in the Congress constitution and I do not 
know when, if ever, it will be given effect to. 
Personally Iam in favour of the principle being 
admitted and given effect to gradually as the U. P. 
Provincial Congress Committee has recommended. 
This will not make much difference to begin with, 
as the workers’ and peasants’ unions, which are 
properly organised and capable of taking advantage 
of Congress afhliation, are very limited in number ; 
and then the conditions for afhliation would be laid 
down by the Congress. But this question does not 
atise now as the Congress constitution does not 
permit such affiliation or any kind of functional 
representation. It is a debatable question and we 
need not consider it further here. But this I should 
like to emphasise again; that those who are in 
favour of this change cannot bring it about from 
outside pressute ; they can only do so by having 
a large enough Congress membership of workers 
and peasants who want such a change. If the 
outside pressure is at any time great enough to 
compel the Congress to bow to it against its own 
will, that will mean that the outside organisations 
are mote powerful than the Congress, and if so 
why affiliate? But this is a highly unlikely con- 
tingency. 

While it is true that this question is beyond 
our purview at present, we see something vaguely 
similar to it developing all over the country. This 
is the increasing co6peration in actual work be- 
tween local Congress Committees and working 
class organisations. Sometimes even joint informal 


LABOUR AND PEASANT ORGANISATIONS 231 


committees have been formed. Often enough the 
leading spirits of those local organisations are 
prominent Congressmen and so there is no difficulty 
in having this coGperation. Bvt there is something 
more in it than this common link; there is the 
demand for this coGperation and a realisation that 
it is highly necessary. 

Having laid so much stress on the importance 
of bringing in workers and peasants directly into the 
Congress, let us now consider the desirability of 
having separate working class organisations. There 
can be no doubt whatever that both industrial 
workers and peasants have, or ought to have, the 
inherent right to organise themselves. That is 
in the nature of a fundamental right which the 
Congress has repeatedly recognised. There is no 
room for argument about it. The Congress has 
gone a step further and encouraged, in theory at 
least, the formation of such unions. 

The case of industrial workers is clearer than 
that of the peasantry. It seems to me that any 
one interested in such labour must come to the 
conclusion that it is the bounden duty of the 
workers to organise themselves in trade unions, 
and for others to help them to do so. ‘The trade 
union movement is the inevitable counterpart of 
modern industry ; it must grow as industry grows. 
The Congress with all its mass contacts cannot 
function as a trade union, and the numerous 
workers’ problems and conflicts that arise can only 
be dealt with by a trade union. From the point 
of view of our larger freedom movement also 


232 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


the organisation of workers in trade unions is 
essential for such organised workers develop 
strength and momentum and a high degree of 
political consciousness. Therefore Congressmen 
should help in the organisation of trade unions, and 
help also, in so far as they can, in the day to day 
struggles of the workers. ‘There should be co- 
Operation between the local Congress Committee 
and the trade union. ‘The trade union is of course 
in no way within the Congress organisation, nor is 
it subject to official Congress control. But it must 
recognise that in political matters the lead of the 
Congress has to be followed and any other course 
will prove injurious to the freedom struggle 
and even to the workers’ movement. In economic 
matters and those relating to workers’ grievances, 
the union can have whatever programme it chooses, 
even, though this may be in advance of the Congress 
programme. Congressmen, in their individual 
capacities, can and should be members or friends 
of the union and as such will of course give it 
their advice. But a Congress Committee as such 
should not try to control a trade union. Recently 
a case came to my notice when the Congress Com- 
mittee tried to interfere with the elections to the 
executive committee of a labour union. This seems 
to me highly undesirable. It is unbecoming for a 
Congress Committee to do so and unfair to the 
union. It is bound to lead to conflict or to the 
conversion of the union into something which is 
not essentially a labour union. Congressmen, 
of course, who have served the cause of labour, 


LABOUR AND PEASANT ORGANISATIONS 233 


have every right to take part in the affairs of the 
union. 

Transport workers stand on exactly the same 
footing as other industrial workers and their orga- 
nisation in special unions is highly necessary. It is 
also desirable to organise separately and functionally 
those workers in cities who carry on particular 
professions and whose economic interests are allied, 
such as tonga-walas, thela-walas, ekka-walas, 
mallahs (fishermen and boatmen), stone-breakers, 

etty clerks, press workers, sweepers, and the like. 
All these should of course be brought directly into 
the Congress fold as primary members, but they 
have special problems of their own, and a functional 
organisation gives them strength and self-reliance. 
It is easier for them later on to take part in Congress 
work. ‘This of course presumes that Congressmen 
ate in intimate touch with their special organisa- 
tions and give them every help in time of need. 

Mixed labour unions and mazdur sabhas in a 
city, consisting of workers from various trades and 
businesses are usually not successful. ‘There is no 
functional unity amongst them, no common urge 
to codperation or action ; and if a political unity is 
desired the Congress is there to give it. 

The important problem of the peasantry 
remains, and this after all is the most important 
of our problems. In the term peasantry I include 
the peasant proprietors as well as the tenants, the 
petty zamindars of the Punjab and elsewhere, the 
kisans of the U. P. and Bihar, and the &rishaks 
of Bengal and Orissa. ‘The same method of treat- 


234 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


ment will not apply to all these; there will be 
variations. But for the moment I am dealing with 
the Congress approach to their special organisations. 

The Congress has fully recognised the right of 
the peasantry to organise themselves, and in theory 
the considerations I have advanced in favour of 
trade unions apply to them also. But there is a 
difference. It is relatively easy to organise factory 
workers and the like ; they are a closely-knit group, 
working shoulder to shoulder and obviously suffer- 
ing from common disabilities. It is far more 
dithcult to organise the peasantry, loosely scattered 
and thinking almost always in terms of the indi- 
vidual and not of the group. We have experienced 
all these difficultics in the course of our Congress 
work, and thus we find that while Congress influ- 
ence over the peasantry is very great, our organisa- 
tional strength among them is much less. Tens 
of millions look up to the Congress and own allegi- 
ance to it, but the actual membership is counted in 
hundreds of thousands only. 

Where Congress Committees are working 
effectively in village areas, an effective kisan organi- 
sation in the same area would largely overlap. 
There would be duplication of effort and waste 
ofenergy. The Congress itself is usually considered 
by the peasantry as their own organisation, and that 
is as it should be. Thus we find that in such areas 
separate kisan organisations have not grown up, 
although the kisan movement, as a part of the Con- 
gress and more ot less within its fold, is strong. 
Where, however, Congress Committees are not 


LABOUR AND PEASANT ORGANISATIONS 235 


functioning effectively in the villages, the gap is 
bound to be filled sooner or later by peasant orga- 
nisations. The important fact to be borne in mind 
is that there is deep ferment in the peasantry all 
over India and a powerful, though partly uncons- 
cious, desire on their part to do something to get 
rid of their many burdens, which have become 
quite unbearable. Fundamentally this is due to 
economic conditions, but also there is the fact that 
the political movement, under the leadership of the 
Congress, has raised mass consciousness and made 
them resent many things which they used to bear 
silently like dumb beasts. They have also hada 
glimmering of the effectiveness of organisation and 
united mass action. So they are expectant and if 
the Congress call does not reach their ears, some 
other will, and they will respond to it. But the 
call that will find echo in their hearts must deal 
with their own sufferings and the way to get rid 
of them. 

Because of this we find today all manner of 
strange people who have never had anything to do 
with the peasantry before, talking in terms of 
economic programmes and trying in their uncouth 
way to woo the peasantry. Even political re- 
actionaries of the deepest dye discuss unctuously 
agrarian programmes. Nothing will or can come 
of this, for far-reaching agrarian reform will never 
come out of political reaction. But this attitude of 
theirs shows us the way the wind blows. 

This wind is blowing to the villages and to 
the mud huts where dwell our poverty-stricken 


236 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


peasantry, and it is likely to become a hurricane 
if relief does not come to them soon. All our 
political problems and discussions are but the back- 
ground for ¢he outstanding and overwhelming 
problem of India—the land problem. 

The Congress has realised this in a large 
measure, and in spite of its political preoccupations 
it has laid down an agrarian programme. This 
programme, though it does not go to the root of 
the problem, is substantial and far-reaching and 
undoubtedly would bring relief to the peasantry. 
So far as I know, agrarian programmes drawn up 
by peasant organisations do not differ greatly from 
this. But the drawing up of a theoretical pro- 
gramme is not enough. It must be given the ful- 
lest publicity among the peasant masses and the 
organisation must teach the village. Further we 
must draw up definite schemes and proposals on 
the basis of this programme. ‘These proposals will 
vary in different parts of India as conditions differ. 
It is the business of Provincial Congress Com- 
mittees and Congress Assembly Parties to draw up 
these proposals. It is true that we may not be in 
a position to give effect to this full programme 
under present conditions. But we must be ready 
with it, to the smallest detail, so that when the time 
comes we can go ahead confidently and with spced. 

I have pointed out that present conditions in 
India and the very dynamics of the situation are 
leading to the organisation of the peasantry. The 
example of other countries points to the same 
conclusion. ‘Therefore it seems to me inevitable 


LABOUR AND PEASANT ORGANISATIONS 237 


that peasant organisations will grow up. Where 
the Congress is itself largely a peasant organisation 
separate kisan sabhas and the like will not function 
effectively as organisations, though they may offer 
occasional platforms for the ventilation of kisan 
grievances. Where Congress contacts with village 
folk are weak, the kisan organisation will develop 
mote. In any event the growth of peasant orga- 
nisations, weak or strong, will take place. What 
should be our attitude to them ? 

We cannot say that there should be no peasant 
orgamsations. That would be contrary to the 
declared Congress policy ; it would be wrong in 
principle, and it would come into conflict with that 
living movement and ferment that we see all around 
us. Nor can we say that a kisan sabha should be 
just a wing of the Congress, cach member of the 
sabha being also a primary member of the Congress. 
That would be an absurdity, for under those condi- 
tions it is hardly necessary to have a kisan sabha. 
It seems to me also out of the question to place 
peasant organisations in the same category as the 
All-India Spinners’ Association or the Village 
Industries Association. Such restrictions will not 
stop the growth of separate peasant organisations : 
they will only result in putting them outside the 
pale of the Congress and make them look upon it 
as a partly hostile body. 

It is important that there should be no thought 
of rivalry between the two for this will be injurious 
to both, more specially to the peasant organisation 
which is bound to be mauch weaker. If large num- 


238 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


bets of peasants ate direct members of the Congress 
and leading Congressmen are interested in the 
peasants’ grievances, there will be no rivalry and in 
effect, though not organisationally, the peasant 
organisation will be a kind of wing of the Congress. 

There are of course difficulties in such vague 
contacts and possibilities of friction. These difficul- 
ties are inherent in the situation and we have to 
face them. The more real our politics are, the 
more they deal with the problems of life and the 
many facets of a vast and complex and dynamic 
movement, the more we have to face fresh prob- 
lems and adjust ourselves to changing situations. 
For life itself is complex and everchanging. Any 
advice I may give today on this or any other subject 
may not hold good some time later for conditions 
may change. 

And then principles may be good but it is not 
always easy to apply them in practice. Thus we 
find today that sometimes the kisan sabha platform 
is used in opposition to the Congress. Sometimes 
political or communal reactionaries try to do so; 
more often, some Congressmen who do not ap- 
prove of the local Congress Committee or its office- 
bearers find the kisan sabha platform a convenient 
place from which to attack them. A rival Congress 
group thus may exploit another organisation to 
gain power in the Congress itself. ‘Thus the kisan 
sabha sometimes becomes a temporary home for 
the recalcitrants of the Congress, or even those 
against whom disciplinary action has been taken by 
Congress Committees. I have had reports of kisan 


LABOUR AND PEASANT ORGANISATIONS 239 


conferences being organised within a couple of 
miles of a District Political Conference, on the 
same day and at the same time. This was inten- 
tionally done to injure the Congress Conference 
and attract some people away from it. I have 
further had reports of processions organised to 
interfere with Congress Conferences, of slogans 
offensive to the Congress being shouted there, 
of Flag conflicts being deliberately engineered. 

This kind of thing is highly objectionable and 
all Congressmen must oppose this folly and this 
exploitation of the kisan movement in the interests. 
of particular groups and individuals. It does not 
injure the Congress ultimately, except in so far as 
it produces confusion in the minds of the unso- 
phisticated and simple-minded peasantry. It in- 
jures far more those who indulge in such practices. 
I have previously written about the Flag and I 
want to repeat that any attempt to dishonour the 
National Flag, by whomsoever committed, cannot 
be tolerated. We have no grievance against the 
Red Flag. For my part I like it and honour it as 
the symbol of the workers’ struggle and sacrifices. 
But it is grossly unfair to that Flag to treat it as a 
kind of rival of the National Flag. 

Nor can we tolerate direct attacks on the 
Congress and offensive slogans. Persons who 
indulge irr them do grave injury to the cause they 
claim to have at heart. This of course does not 
mean that criticism of Congress policy is not to 
take place. Full freedom of criticism is as the 
breath of life to living and growing organisations. 


240 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


All such incidents have a local significance and 
are usually connected with local affairs. They 
should be dealt with locally or, if necessary, refer- 
ence can be made to the A. I. C. C. office. When 
any Congressman indulges in persistent attacks 
on the Congress or in activity which is definitely 
harmful to Congress work and prestige, his case 
should be considered separately and referred to the 
P15 Ge Or we dG. G. 

But we ate concerned much more with the 
larger problem and we must not be led away from 
it by local peculiarities. ‘To face and solve that 
problem we must develop direct contacts with the 
peasantry. I think also that we should develop 
and maintain friendly and codperative relations with 
peasant organisations and Congressmen should be- 
long to them in large numbers. But we must 
avoid the development of any sense of rivalry 
between the two. The principles we follow are 
clear enough but the human factor is equally 
important, and if the latter functions properly, 
there should be a minimum of trouble and friction. 


June 28, 1937 


37 


NOTE ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL 
IMPASSE* 


On April 1st, 1937 Part IIT of the Act of 1935 
was put into operation, and Provincial Autonomy 
as envisaged in the new Constitution was inaugura- 
ted. The parties or groups controlling a majority 
in the Provincial Assemblies were then entitled to 
shoulder the responsibilities of government, in 
terms of the Act, in all the provinces. In six 
provinces the Congress Assembly Parties were in a 
clear majority over all other parties; in some provin- 
ces they were the largest single party. The six 
provinces where they were in a clear majority 
(Madras, U. P., Behar, Bombay, C. P. and Orissa) 
comprised two-thirds of British India’s population. 
The Congress was thus in a position to undertake, 
if it so chose, the formation of ministries in these 
six provinces. In most of the remaining provinces 
it could have done so by forming an alliance or 
coalition with another group. 

The question of office acceptance and formation 


*This is a joint note of Narendra Dev, K. T. Shah and 
Jawaharlal Nehru for the series issued by the National 
Publications Society. 


16 


242 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


of ministries had agitated the Congress for the past 
two years and a final decision had been repeatedly 
postponed. After the general elections had brought 
striking success to the Congress and the inaugura- 
tion of the new Constitution was imminent, the 
decision could no longer be delayed. The All- 
India Congress Committee therefore met for this 
purpose in Delhi in the third week of March 1937 
and finally decided to permit acceptance of office 
in the provinces where the Congress commanded a 
majority in the legislature, but they made this 
subject to a condition. Ministries were only to 
be formed by Congressmen if the leader of the 
Congress Party in the provincial legislature was 
satisfied, and was in a position to declare publicly, 
that the Governor would not use his special powers 
of interference, or set aside the advice of ministers 
in regard to their constitutional activities. The All- 
India Convention, consisting of Congress members 
of the various Provincial Assemblies and members 
of the All-India Congress Committee, accepted this 
decision of the All-India Congress Committee. 

In accordance with this direction the leaders 
of Congress Parties who were invited by Governors 
to form ministries asked for the necessary assur- 
ances, and these not having been given, the leaders 
expressed their inability to undertake the formation 
of ministries. 

The majority party having refused office, a 
deadlock ensued in these six provinces, and the 
Governors appointed ad-interim ministers who had 
no backing in the legislatures. The legislatures 


NOTE ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL IMPASSE 243 


themselves were not summoned as this would have 
inevitably led to the dismissal of the ad-interim 
ministries and a sharpening of the impasse. 

During the three months that followed many 
statements were issued on behalf of the Congress 
as well as of the British Government defending 
and justifying the position taken up by each. The 
controversy was often carried on in legal and consti- 
tutional terms but, in essence, the conflict went 
deeper and represented the antagonism between 
British Imperialism and the desire of the Indian 
people to be free. By asking for assurances from 
Governots not to use their special powers of inter- 
ference, the Congress wanted to develop a conven- 
tion that the ministers’ advice would prevail even 
as regards these special powers. It wanted a free 
hand in the provincial government within the limits 
of the Act. 

The Governors’ executive powers and func- 
tions, according to the Act, are of three kinds : 


(1) those to be exercised in the Governor’s 
sole discretion ; 
(ii) those in which he is to exercise his indi- 
vidual judgment ; and 
(ii1) those in which he must act upon the advice 
of his ministers. 


The assurances demanded by the Congress 
referred to the first two classes. In the first of these 
the Governor need not even refer to his ministers, 
if he so chooses, and can take decisions entirely 
on his own responsibility. In the second class fall 


244 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


certain obligations imposed upon the Governor in 
which he must exercise his individual judgment, 
but, before he does so, he is to consult his ministers. 
Should the advice of the ministers not be acceptable 
to him, he can disregard it. The list of matters 
in which the Governor is entitled to exercise his 
own judgment is formidable and imposing, and it 
was an appreciation of this fact that led the Con- 
gress to ask for assurances to avoid obstruction 
and continual deadlocks in the government of the 
province. 

It was stated on behalf of the British Govern- 
ment that such assurances could not be given 
without doing violence to the Act. The Congress 
leaders stated that, while they were entirely opposed 
to the Act as a whole, they did not contemplate 
amendments to the Act by demanding assurances. 
Such assurances could be given even within the 
terms of the Act. Where discretion was given to the 
Governor he could certainly exercise it in favour 
of the advice of the ministers, and he could give 
an assutance to this effect. The Governor was 
nowhere prohibited by the Act from exercising his 
discretion in accordance with his ministers’ advice. 

As the controversy took a legal turn, as to 
whether the assurances demanded could or could 
not be given under the Act, Mahatma Gandhi, 
on behalf of the Congress, proposed that the matter 
be referred to an impartial tribunal for decision. 
This offer was not accepted by the British Govern- 
ment. Nor was recourse had to Section 310 of the 
Act, which was framed especially to meet possible 


NOTE ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL IMPASSE 245 


difficulties during the transitional period. 


As the controversy proceeded there was a 
slight toning down by interpretations of the original 
demand for assurances on behalf of the Congress. 
The British Government also changed their ground 
by slow degrees and finally took up the position 
that, though a definite assurance in terms of the 
Congress resolution could not be given, the essence 
of Provincial Autonomy, as envisaged in the new 
Constitution, was the codperation of the Governor 
with his ministers. 

The position of the ad-interim ministries was 
becoming more and more difficult. They were 
highly unpopular and they had no sanction behind 
them except the will of the Governor. As they 
could not face the legislature, the legislature was not 
summoned in spite of repeated demands from the 
elected members. Provincial Autonomy seemed to 
be reduced to a farce. It was obvious that these 
conditions could not last much longer as the legis- 
latures had to be summoned within six months 
and the budget had to be passed. It was this 
deepening crisis which led to the largest advance 
on the part of the British Government, but this 
advance was accompanied by a broad hint from the 
Viceroy that if the Congress majorities persisted in 
their refusal to accept office, the Constitution would 
have to be suspended under section 93 of the Act 
in those provinces where the Congress commanded 
a majority. 

It was to consider this situation that the 
Working Committee of the Indian National Con- 


246 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


gress met and on July 7th, 1937 it decided to permit 
acceptance of cabinet responsibilities. It declared 
that while the declarations on behalf of the British 
Government exhibit a desire to make an approach 
to the Congress demand, they fall short of the assur- 
ances asked for in terms of the A.J. C.C. resolution. 
It stated further that it was unable to subscribe 
to the doctrine of partnership propounded in the 
aforesaid declarations, and that the proper descrip- 
tion of the existing relationship between the British 
Govetnment and the people of India is that of 
exploiter and exploited, and hence they have a 
different outlook upon almost everything of vital 
importance. Nevertheless the Committee felt that 
the situation created as a result of the circumstances 
and events that had occurred since the Congress 
demand was put forward, warranted the belief 
that it will not be easy for the Governors to use 
their special: powers. The Committee therefore 
resolved that Congressmen be permitted to accept 
office where they may be invited thereto. But it 
added that it wished to make it clear that office was 
to be accepted and utilised for the purpose of 
working in accordance with the lines laid down 
in the Congress election manifesto and to further in 
every way the Congress policy of combating the 
new Act on the one hand, and of prosecuting the 
constructive programme on the other. 

Within a few days of this resolution of the 
Working Committee, the leaders of Congress 
Parties in the six provinces were invited to form 
cabinets, and they accepted the invitation. The 


NOTE ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL IMPASSE 247 


constitutional deadlock thus ended. Congress 
cabinets have now been formed in Madras, United 
Provinces, Bombay, Behar, Central Provinces and 
Orissa. 


July, 1937 


38 
THE DECISION TO ACCEPT OFFICE 
I 


Soon after the conclusion of the Working 
Committee meeting, I wa. asked by over-eager 
pressmen for my opinion on the Working Commit- 
tee resolution on office acceptance. I told them 
that I could not say anything about it as members 
of the Working Committee do not discuss its 
resolutions. And then I added lightly that for a 
member of the Working Committee a resolution 
of the Committee must be right. For him, so long 
as he continued to be such a member, the Working 
Committee, like the king, could do no wrong. 

I feel, however, that I cannot dispose of this 
question in this light vein and that I should try to 
explain the significance of the resolution to my 
comrades of the Congress. For two or three years 
now the subject of office acceptance has roused 
fierce controversy in the country and individuals 
and groups have debated it and clung stoutly to 
their respective views. Those views remain much 
the same, but what lay behind these views? Few, 
I suppose, objected to office acceptance on principle, 
- and even those who thought in terms of revolu- 


i, 


THE DECISION TO ACCEPT OFFICE 249 


tionary changes did not consider that acceptance of 
office was inevitably and invariably a wrong step. 
They, and many with them, feared that acceptance 
involved a grave risk of our getting involved in 
petty reformist activities and forgetting for a while 
the main issue. They feared that the initiative 
would pass from the masses and our activities 
would be largely confined to the stuffy and limited 
sphere of the Council Chamber. It was this risk 
that induced the Congress, the A. I. C. C. and the 
Working Committee to emphasise repeatedly that 
"more important work lay outside the legislatures, 
in contact with the masses. If we remember that 
and our objective of independence always and work 
to that end, the risk lessens and we may even utilise 
the council chamber to this very end. 

I have no doubt that the Working Committee 
resolution passed at Wardha reflects the opinion 
of the majority of the Congress today. This opinion 
is in favour of acceptance of office but it is even 
morte strongly and unanimously in favour of the 
basic Congress policy of fighting the new Consti- 
tution and ending it. Acceptance of office may 
be a phase in our freedom struggle, but to end the 
Constitution and have a Constituent Assembly is 
Our main objective today as it was yesterday. Ac- 
ceptance of office does not mean by an iota accept- 
ance of the s/ave Constitution. It means a fight 
against the coming of the Federation by all means 
in our power, inside and outside the legislatures. 

All this the Working Committee resolution has 
emphasised and it has made clear again that we 


250 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


ate not going to be partners and codperators in the 
imperialist firm. The gulf between the British 
Empire and us cannot be bridged, our viewpoints 
and objectives are utterly different. Thus it is not 
to work the Constitution in the normal way that 
we go to the Assemblies or accept office. It is to 
try to prevent the Federation from materialising, 
and thereby to stultify the Constitution and prepare 
the ground for the Constituent Assembly and 
independence. It is further to strengthen the 
masses and wherever possible, in the narrow sphere 
of the Constitution, to give some relief to them. 
Let this be borne in mind by every Congressman. 

The last three months and more have shown 
that the Congress was not eager for office and the 
spoils thereof. Office was ours even without our 
asking for it, if only we could reconcile ourselves to 
the prospect. We looked upon this question always 
from the point of view of strengthening the people 
for the struggle for independence. We hesitated 
and tried to clear the way for our work and weighed 
the advantages and disadvantages. There can be 
no doubt that these three months have made the 
Congress position clearer and stronger, and if we 
accept office we do so for the longer purpose in 
view and we leave it when that purpose can be 
better served otherwise. 

The Working Committee resolution was inevit- 
able under the circumstances, and I trust that it will 
be loyally followed by all Congressmen. But to 
be loyal to the spirit underlying it, we must carry 
on our work outside the legislatures with even 


THE DECISION TO ACCEPT OFFICE 251 


greater energy. We must not lose our sense of 
perspective. Real strength even for our work in 
the legislatures, and much mote so for the struggles 
ahead, comes from outside. This is the significance 
of this resolution as of previous ones. 

We have taken a new step involving new 
responsibilities and some risks. But if we are 
true to our objectives and are ever vigilant, we 
shall overcome those risks and gain strength and 
power from this step also. Eternal vigilance is the 
price of liberty. 


July 10, 1937 
I 


The resolution of the Working Committee 
giving permission to accept office and the conse- 
quent formation of Congress ministries in six pro- 
vinces has created a new situation. Many Congress- 
men view this with a measure of apprehension, 
many others expect great things out of this change. 
Both these reactions are natural. We have swerved 
off to some extent from the path we have followed 
for so long and a feeling of hesitation in treading 
Over strange ground is inevitable. Some fear 
unknown pitfalls, others look forward to an easy 
march. But all of us, who have deemed it a 
privilege to serve our country and our people 
through the Congress, have loyally accepted the 
Working Committee decision, and in accordance 
with the traditions of our great organisation, kept 


252 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


faith with each other. 

If tried Congressmen feel hesitant on new 
ground, what of the masses? What do they think 
of this new orientation of our policy, what do they 
expect from the Congress now? Do any of them 
imagine that our struggle for freedom has ended 
because Congressmen occupy high offices? Do 
they think foolishly that Swaraj is at hand? They 
must be puzzled to see some of their old comrades 
who wete in prison with them but yesterday, sitting 
in the seats of the mighty in those imposing struc- 
tures which have been the citadels of British 
Imperialism. Red-liveried chaprasis hover about 
them and the enervating perfume of power sur- 
rounds them. What has happened to these com- 
rades of ours, they must wonder, what strange sea- 
change has transformed the convict of yesterday 
into the minister of today? Is it that they have 
forgotten and deserted us, poor starving folk, we 
who looked to them so hopefully for relief from 
misety ? Or are they going to lead us to a land 
overflowing with milk and honey, the happy land 
of our dreams, so different from our present lot ? 

Both these pictures would be wrong. We have 
not left them and we ate their comrades as of old. 
Though some of us may sit on chairs of state, the 
same khadi covers our bodies, the same thoughts 
fill our minds, the same goal calls to us insistently 
and drives us to action. But we are yet far from 
that goal and the power to mould our country’s 
destiny is not ours yet. There is no Swaraj or Con- 
gress taj, though Congressmen may be ministers. 


THE DECISION TO ACCEPT OFFICE 253 


And yet we have a new opportunity for serving 
and strengthening the masses and perhaps easing 
their many burdens a little. But even that service 
will depend on the attitude of the masses, on their 
organised strength and on their intelligent ap- 
preciation of what is happening. 

It is incumbent on us therefore to go to the 
masses and explain to them what has happened. 
The Working Committee resolution must be read 
out to them and all its implications fully explained. 
They must understand that while there is this great 
apparent change on the surface, the old conflict 
between imperialism and nationalism continues, and 
in this conflict strength comes to us from them and 
not from high office. And those of our comrades 
who are in office today, and who deserve every 
help and sympathy from us in the arduous and 
responsible work they have undertaken, will only 
work effectively if the masses are vigilant and press 
forward the Congress demands. 

I suggest therefore that meetings for this 
purpose be held all over India, in town and village, 
on a particular day, Sunday August ist, when 
the Working Committee resolution should be read 
out and explained and, while offering comradely 
greeting to the Congress ministers, we should 
pledge ourselves anew to independence and the 
removal of the poverty of our people. On that 
day also the Flag salutation ceremony should be 
solemnly performed everywhere. August ist is a 
special and significant day for us, a day long dedicat- 
ed to India’s freedom. On that day seventeen years 


254 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


ago the great Lokamanya passed away, and on that 
very day India launched the non-codperation move- 
ment and began wielding that weapon which has 
strengthened and vitalized our people so greatly. 
It is fitting, therefore, that this day be suitably cele- 
brated and we should remember the past and we 
should look to the future with the same determina- 
tion which has held us for so long. 

A change has come over our provincial govern- 
ments and though this change does not vitally 
affect the relation of Britain to India, it is right 
that it should affect all our own countrymen whether 
they are in Government service or not. It is time 
that every Indian came out on India’s side and 
codperated with the Congress in the high tasks that 
it has undertaken. I trust that as an earnest of this 
sympathy and goodwill every Indgn, who stands 
for India’s freedom, will wear khadi, the livery 
of our freedom, and will display and honour the 
National Flag. I trust also that the Police force, 
which has so long been hostile to our people, will 
think in terms of India now and not of alien 
masters, and will seek the codperation and goodwill 
of the masses. The Congress ministers, if they 
mean anything at all, mean that the interests of 
these masses will be dominant. 

August 1st should be observed not only in 
the provinces where there are Congress ministries 
but in other provinces also. In these other pro- 
vinces the resolutions to be passed will be suitably 
altered. 


July 20, 1937 


39 
SALARIES OF PUBLIC SERVANTS 


The advent of Congress ministries has made the 
question of reducing salaries of public servants 
a live issue. We see, on the one hand, Congress 
ministers taking only a fraction of the salaries 
of their predecessors and, on the other hand, most 
other public servants in high offices drawing enor- 
mous salaries. Even professors and vice-chancel- 
lors and other academic folk measure their love of 
learning and service to the community by the ex- 
orbitant salaries they get. In the Punjab we have 
seen the remarkable spectacle of the new legislators 
increasing their daily allowance to a record figure. 
The two pictures are striking enough and yet 
perhaps few persons appreciate the real difference. 
This difference is big enough in degree but it is 
bigger still in kind. 

The Karachi resolution on fundamental rights 
laid down that : “Expenditure and salaries of civil 
departments shall be largely reduced. No servant 
of the State, other than specially employed experts 
and the like, shall be paid above a certain figure, 
which should not ordinarily exceed Rs. 500 a 
month.” 

It will be noted that Rs. 500 is more or less the 


256 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


maximum salary. This does not necessarily mean 
that ministers or other high officers should in- 
vatiably get the maximum. The principles under- 
lying the Congress resolution are two : (1) salaries 
should be in keeping with the poverty of the country 
and they should therefore be as low as is compatible 
with efficiency ; (2) salaries should not be a measure 
of the dignity or importance of the office an indivi- 
dual holds but should be based on his needs. 

The first of these principles is generally re- 
cognised but the second, I am afraid, is not yet 
sufficiently appreciated. Sensitive people feel that 
there is a certain indecency in drawing laige salaries 
out of a poverty-stricken people, as in drawing 
large dividends out of the labour of ill-paid workers. 
The rea] fault and indecency lies in a system which 
permits and encourages this kind of thing. We 
have got so used to thinking in terms of measuring 
our importance and our progress in life in terms 
of income that it is difficult to think of other terms. 
And yet this is a false and pernicious standard and 
where money values prevail too much, men decay. 
But even in our money age we all know that the 
social and cultural value of a poor scientist or 
writer is often far greater than that of a rich business- 
man or a high official drawing a big salary. A 
taluqadar or big zamindar has a large income but 
it is a little difficult to find where his social value 
comes in; some people doubt if he has the slightest 
social value. 

We must, therefore, get tid of this idea of 
measuring people by their incomes and salaries. 


SALARIES OF PUBLIC SERVANTS 257 


Probably this standard of measurement, if inverted, 
would be a safer guide for us. The question 
involves big issues and a refashioning of our social 
order. As a socialist I would confidently point 
to the socialist solution of this as of other difficulties. 
But for the moment we are concerned with the 
salaries of public servants only. 

The Congress wants, in so far as it can, to 
apply this principle to public salaries. That is to 
say it wants to reduce them to reasonable limits, 
mote in keeping with Indian conditions, so as to 
lessen the tremendous gap between the official 
and the man in the field, and to give back, as much 
as possible, of the revenue of the country to the 
masses in the form of social and other services. 
It wants to end the practice of paying progressively 
mote to the higher officials. The office they 
hold should not determine the salary but the needs 
of the individual who holds it. An ideal system 
would require more or less the same payment for 
all services and all offices. But under present con- 
ditions this is not possible and variations must 
creep in. Still there is no obvious reason why a 
minister should be paid more than his secretary, 
simply because of his office. To some extent this 
may be occasionally necessary as the minister might 
have to shoulder additional responsibilities. But 
the principle we wish to adhere to is that a minister 
has no business to be paid more than his secretary 
simply because of his office. This would apply to 
other offices also. This does not mean that other 
salaries should also approximate to the maximum 


17 


258 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


fixed, but rather that all salaries should be on a 
lower scale, the maximum being touched only 
when obviously necessary. 

But there are patent difficulties in the way in 
suddenly upsetting the present system from top 
to bottom. Apart from the evil inheritance from 
the British Government, the social system, the 
habits of people and many other things come in 
the way. And we have to face suddenly so many 
complex problems which demand immediate con- 
sideration. We can therefore only set certain exam- 
ples before the public to begin with, but this ques- 
tion has a basic importance and must be dealt with 
fully before long. For the present we have pro- 
visionally fixed ministerial and other salaries roughly 
in accordance with the Karachi resolution. That 
is the maximum allowed, but this maximum need 
not be drawn as a matter of course. 

The question of allowance is intimately connec- 
ted with salaries. Certain offices necessitate some 
appurtenances for the sake of efficiency and rapidity 
of work. But allowances must not become 
additions to the salaries, else the whole purpose of 
having low salaries will be defeated. 

While on the one side we want to reduce 
salaries of the higher officers, we want also to 
provide for a living wage for all and to raise the 
standard of living of the masses. How far that is 
possible under the present system is another matter. 
The ideal we aim at is not to perpetuate poverty 
but to abolish it, and to raise the general standard 
as high as possible, so that everyone may participate 


SALARIES OF PUBLIC SERVANTS 259 


in the culture of the age. For this, great political 
and social changes will be necessary. Meanwhile we 
shall at least try to reduce the gap between the 
favoured few and the unfavoured millions. 

As soon as opportunity offers itself we shall 
consider the question of salaries and allowances, 
in consultation with the Congress ministers, so that 
we might give effect to the real spirit of the Karacht 
resolution and put an end to the notion that the 
worth of a man or his work is measured by the 
salary he gets. 


July 24, 1937 


40 
THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 
I 


We have had during recent months a revival 
of the old controversy between Hindi and Urdu, 
and high excitement has accompanied it and 
charges and counter-charges have been flung 
about. A subject eminently suited for calm and 
scholarly consideration and academic debate has 
been dragged down to the level of the market 
place and communal passions have centered round 
it. Inevitably, many of the champions who have 
entered the field of battle have little to do with 
scholarship or the love of a language for its own 
sake; they have been chiefly concerned with Govern- 
ment otders and court procedure. Those who 
love language as the embodiment of culture, of 
airy thought caught in the network of words and 
phrases, of ideas crystallized, of fine shades of mean- 
ing, of the music and rhythm that accompany it, 
of the fascinating history and associations of its 
words, of the picture of life in all its phases, those 
to whom a language is dear because of all this and 
mote, wondered at this vulgar argument and kept 
away from it. 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 261 


And yet we cannot keep away from it or ignore 
it, for the question of language is an important one 
for us. It is not important because of that cry of 
the ignorant that India is a babel of tongues with 
hundreds and hundreds of languages. India, as 
everyone who looks round him can see, has singu- 
larly few languages considering its vast size, and 
these are intimately allied to each other. India 
has also one dominant and widespread language 
which, with its variations, covers a vast area and 
numbers its votaries by the hundred million. Yet 
the problem remains and has to be faced. 

It has to be faced for the moment because of 
its communal and political implications. But that 
is a temporary matter and will pass. The real 
problem will remain: as to what policy we shall 
adopt in a scheme of general mass education and the 
cultural development of the people; how shall we 
promote the unity of India and yet preserve the 
rich diversity of our inheritance ? 

The question of language is ever one of great 
consequence for a people. Almost exactly three 
hundred years ago Milton, writing from Florence 
to a friend, emphasized this and said: “Nor is it 
to be considered of small consequence what 
language, pure or corrupt, a people has, or what is 
their customary degtee of propriety in speaking it 
eee for let the words of a country be in part 
unhandsome and offensive in themselves, in part 
debased by wear and wrongly uttered, and what 
do they declare, but, by no light indication, that the 
inhabitants of that country ate an indolent, idly- 


262 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


yawning race, with minds already long prepared 
for any amount of servilityy On the other hand 
we have never heard that any empire, any state, 
did not at least flourish in a middling degree as 
long as its own liking and care for its language 
lasted.” 


Il 


A living language is a throbbing, vital thing, 
ever changing, ever growing and mirroring the 
people who speak and write it. It has its roots in 
the masses, though its superstructure may represent 
the culture of a few. How then can we change it 
ot shape it to our liking by resolutions or orders 
from above ? And yet I find this widely prevalent 
notion that we can force a language to behave in a 
particular manner if we only will it so. It is true 
that under modern conditions with mass education 
and mass propaganda through the press, printed 
books, cinema and the radio, a language can be 
varied much more rapidly than in past times. 
And yet that variation is but the mirror of the rapid 
changes taking place among the people who use 
it. If a language loses touch with the people, 
it loses its vitality and becomes an artificial, lifeless 
thing, instead of the thing of life and strength and 
joy that it should be. Attempts to force the growth 
of a language in a particular direction are likely 
to end in distorting it and crushing its spirit. 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 263 
it 


What should be the policy of the State in 
regard to language? The Congress has briefly 
but clearly and definitely stated this in the resolution 
on Fundamental Rights: “The culture, language 
and script of the minorities and of the different 
linguistic areas shall be protected.” By this 
declaration the Congress is bound and no minority 
or linguistic group can require a wider assurance. 
Further the Congress has stated in its constitution, 
as well as in many resolutions, that while the 
common language of the country should be Hindus- 
tani, the provincial languages should be dominant 
in their respective areas. Adanguage cannot be 
imposed by resolution, and the Congress desite to 
develop a common language and carry on most of 
our work in the provincial languages would be 
pious wishes, ignored by the multitude, if they did 
not fit in with existing conditions and the needs of 
the situation. We have thus to see how far they so 
fit in. 


IV 


Our great provincial languages are no dialects 
or vernaculars as the ignorant sometimes call them. 
They are ancient languages with a rich inheritance, 
each spoken by many millions of persons, each tied 
up inextricably with the life and culture and ideas 
of the masses as well as of the upper classes. It 
is axiomatic that the masses can only grow educa- 


e 


264 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


tionally and culturally through the medium of 
their own language. Therefore it is inevitable 
that we lay stress on the provincial languages 
and carty on most of our work through them. 
The use of any other language will result in isolating 
the educated few from the masses and of retarding 
the growth of the people. Ever since the Congress 
took to the use of these provincial languages in 
cattying on its work, we developed contacts with 
the masses rapidly and the strength and prestige 
of the Congress increased all over the country. 
The Congress message reached the most distant 
hamlet and the political consciousness of the masses 
grew. Our system of education and public work 
must therefore be baged on the provincial languages. 

What are these languages ? Hindustani, of 
coutse, with its principal aspects of Hindi and Urdu, 
and its various dialects. Then there are Bengali, 
Marathi, and Gujrati, sister languages of Hindi 
and neatly allied to it. In the South there are 
Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Be- 
sides these there are Oriya, Assamese and Sindhi, 
and Punjabi and Pushtu in the North-West. These 
dozen languages cover the whole of India, and of 
these, Hindustani has the widest range and also 
claims a certain all-India character. 


Vv 
Without infringing in the least on the domain 


of the provincial languages, we must have a com- 
mon all-India medium of communication. Some 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 265 


people imagine that English might serve as such, 
and to some extent English has served as such for 
our upper classes and for all-India political pur- 
poses. But this is manifestly impossible if we think 
in terms of the masses. We cannot educate millions 
of people in a totally foreign tongue. English will 
inevitably remain an important language for us be- 
cause of our past associations and because of its 
present importance in the world. It will be the 
principal medium for us to communicate with the 
outside world, though I hope it will not be the only 
medium for this purpose. I think we should culti- 
vate other foreign languages also, such as French, 
German, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and 
Japanese. But English cannot develop into an 
all-India language, known by millions. 

The only possible all-India language is Hindus- 
tani. Already it is spoken by a hundred and 
twenty millions and partly understood by scores 
of millions of others. Even those who do not 
know it at all at present can learn it far more easily 
than a foreign language. Thete ate many common 
words in all the languages of India, but what is far 
more important is the common cultural back- 
ground of these languages, the similarity of ideas 
and the many linguistic affinities. This makes it 
relatively easy for an Indian to learn another Indian 
language. 

VI 


What is Hindustani? Vaguely we say that this 
word includes both Hindi and Urdu, as spoken 


266 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


and as written in the two scripts, and we endeavour 
to strike a golden mean between the two, and 
call this idea of ours Hindustani. Is this just an 
idea with no reality for its basis, or is it something 
mote ? 

There are many variations in Hindustani as 
spoken and written in various parts of northern 
and central India. Numerous dialects have arisen. 
But these are the inevitable consequences of want of 
education, and with mass education these dialects 
will tend to disappear and a certain standardisation 
will set in. 

There is the question of script. Devanagari 
and the Urdu script are utterly different from each 
other and there is no possibility of either of them 
assimilating the other. Therefore, wisely, we have 
agreed that both should have full play. This will be 
an additional burden on those who have to learn 
both and it will encourage separatism to some extent. 
But we have to put up with these disadvantages 
for any other course is not open to us. Both the 
scripts are part of the genius of our language and 
around them have gathered not only literatures 
peculiar to the scripts, but also a wall of sentiment 
which is solid and irremovable. What the distant 
future will bring to us I do not know, but for the 
present both must remain. 

The Latin script has been advocated as a solu- 
tion of some of our linguistic difficulties. It is 
cettainly more efficient than either Hindi or Urdu 
from the point of view of rapid work. In 
these days of the type-writer and duplicator and 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 267 


other mechanical devices, the Latin script has great 
advantages over the Indian scripts which cannot 
utilise fully these new devices. But in spite of these 
advantages I do not think there is the slightest 
chance of the Latin script replacing Devanagari 
or Urdu. ‘There is the wall of sentiment of course 
strengthened even more by the fact that the Latin 
sctipt is associated with our alien rulers. But 
there are more solid grounds also for its rejection. 
The scripts are essential parts of our literatures; 
without them we would be largely cut off from our 
old inheritance. 

It may be possible, however, to reform our 
scripts to some extent. We have at present, besides 
Hindi and Urdu, the Bengali, Marathi and Gujrati 
sctipts, each of these three being very nearly allied 
to Devanagari. It should be easily possible to 
have a common script for these four languages. 
This need not necessarily be Devanagari, exactly 
as it is written today, but a slight variation of It. 
The development of a common script for Hindi, 
Bengali, Gujrati and Marathi would be a definite 
gain and would bring the four languages much 
nearer to each other. 

I do not know how far it is possible for the 
Dravidian languages of the South to fit in with a 
notthern script, or to evolve a common script for 
themselves. Those who have studied this might 
enlighten us on this point. 

The Urdu script has to remain as it is, though 
some slight simplification of it might be attempted. 
It might easily absorb the Sindhi script which is 


268 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


very similar to it. 

Thus we ought to have later on two scripts : 
the composite Devanagari-Bengali-Marathi-Gujrati, 
and the Urdu, and also, if necessary, a southern 
script. No attempt must be made to suppress any 
one of these, unless there is a possibility by general 
agreement of those concerned to fit in the southern 
languages with a northern script, which is likely to 
be Hindi, or a slight variation of it. 


VII 


Let us consider Hindustani both as the mother 
tongue of the north and central India, and as an 
all-India language. The two aspects are different 
and must be dealt with separately. 

Hindi and Urdu are the two main aspects of 
this language. Obviously they have the same 
basis, the same grammar, the same fund of ordinary 
words to draw upon. They are in fact the same 
basic language. And yet the present differences 
ate considerable, and one is said to draw its ins- 
piration from Sanskrit and the other to some extent 
from Persian. To consider Hindi as the language 
of the Hindus and Urdu as that of the Muslims 
is absurd. Urdu, except for its script, is of the 
very ‘soil of India and has no place outside India. 
It is even today the home language of large num- 
bers of Hindus in the North. 

The coming of Muslim rulers to India brought 
Persian as a court language and, to the end of the 
Moghal period, Persian continued to be so used. 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 269 


The language of the people in north and central 
India continued to be Hindi throughout. Being a 
living language it absorbed a number of Persian 
words; Gujrati and Marathi did likewise. But 
essentially Hindi remained Hindi. A highly per- 
sianised form of Hindi developed round the Im- 
perial courts and this was called Rekhigz. The word 
Urdu seems to have come into use during the 
Moghal period in the camps of the Moghals, but 
it appears to have been used almost synonymously 
with Hindi. It did not signify even a variation 
of Hindi. Right up to the Revolt of 1857, Urdu 
meant Hindi, except in regard to script. As is 
well known some of the finest Hindi poets have been 
Muslims. Till this Revolt, and even for some 
time after, the usual term applied to the language 
was Hindi. This did not refer to the script but 
to the language, the language of Hind. Muslims 
who wrote in the Urdu script usually called the 
language Hindi. 

It was in the second half of the nineteenth 
century that the words Hindi and Urdu began to 
signify something different from each other. This 
sepatatism grew. Probably it was a reflex of the 
tising national consciousness which first affected 
the Hindus, who began to lay stress on purer 
Hindi and the Devanagari script. Nationalism was 
fot them inevitably at the beginning a form of 
Hindu nationalism. A little later the Muslims 
slowly developed their form of nationalism, which 
was Muslim nationalism, and they began to con- 
sider Urdu as their own particular preserve. Con- 


270 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


troversy centered round the scripts and the use of 
them in courts and public offices. Thus the growing 
sepatatism in language and the conflict of scripts 
was the outcome of the growth of political and 
national consciousness, which to begin with took 
a communal turn. As this nationalism became 
truly national, thinking in terms of India and not 
in those of a particular community, the desire to 
stop this separatist tendency in language grew 
with it, and intelligent people began to lay stress 
on the innumerable common features of Hindi and 
Urdu. There was talk of Hindustani not only 
as the language of northern and central India 
but as the national language of the whole country. 
But still, unfortunately, communalism is strong 
enough in India and so the separatist tendency 
persists along with the unifying tendency. This 
sepatatism in language is bound to disappear with 
the fuller development of nationalism. It is well 
to bear this in mind for only then shall we under- 
stand what the root cause of the evil is. Scratch 
a separatist in language and you will invariably 
find that he is a communalist, and very often a 
political reactionary. 


Vil 


Although the terms Hindi and Urdu were 
interchangeably used for a long time during the 
Moghal period, Urdu was applied more to the lan- 
guage of the mixed camps of the Moghals. Round 
about the court and camp many Persian words 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 271 


were current and these crept into the language. 
As one moves southwards, away from the centres 
of Moghal court life, Urdu merges into purer Hindi. 
Inevitably this influence of the courts affected the 
towns far more than the rural areas, and the towns 
of the north far more than the towns of central 
India. 

And this leads us to the real difference between 
Urdu and Hindi today—Urdu 1s the language of the 
towns and Hindi the language of the villages. Hindi 
is of course spoken also in the towns, but Urdu is 
almost entirely an urban language. The problem 
of bringing Urdu and Hindi nearer to each other 
thus becomes the much vaster problem of bring- 
ing the town and the village nearer to each other. 
Every other way will be a superficial way without 
lasting effect. Languages change organically when 
the people who speak them change. 


IX 


While Hindi and Urdu of ordinary household 
speech do not differ much from each other, the gulf 
between the literary languages has grown in recent 
years. In written literary productions it is for- 
midable, and this has led some people to believe 
that some evil-minded persons are the cause of it. 
That is a foolish fancy, though undoubtedly there are 
individuals who take delight in increasing separatist 
tendencies. But living languages do not function 
in this way, nor can they be twisted much by a few 
individuals. We have to look deeper for the causes 


272 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


of this apparent divergence. 

This divergence, though unfortunate in itself, 
is teally a sign of healthy growth. Both Hindi 
and Urdu, after a long period of stagnation, have 
woken up and are pushing ahead. They are 
struggling to give expression to new ideas, and 
leaving the old ruts for new forms of literary ex- 
pression. The vocabulary of each is poor as far 
as these new ideas are concerned, but each can 
draw on a rich source. This source is Sanskrit 
in the one case and Persian in the other, and hence 
as soon as we leave the ordinary language of the 
home or the market place and enter more abstract 
regions, the divergences grow. Literary societies, 
jealous of the purity of the language they use, 
carry this tendency to extreme limits, and then 
accuse each other of encouraging separatist tenden- 
cies. The beam in one’s own eye is not seen, 
the mote in the other’s eye is obvious enough. 

The immediate result of all this has been to 
increase the gulf between Hindi and Urdu and 
sometimes it almost appears that the two are destined 
to develop into separate languages. And yet this 
fear is unjustified and there is no reason for alarm. 
We must welcome the new life that is coursing 
through both Hindi and Urdu even though it 
might lead to a temporary widening of the gulf. 
Hindi and Urdu are both at present inadequate 
fot the proper expression of modern ideas, scientific, 
political, economic, commercial, and sometimes cul- 
tural, and they are both trying hard, and with suc- 
cess, to enrich themselves so as to meet the needs 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 273 


of a modetn community. Why should either be 
jealous of the other ? We want our language to be 
as tich as possible and this will not happen if we 
try to suppress either Hindi words or Urdu words 
because we feel that they do not fit in with our own 
particular backgrounds. We want both and we 
must accept both. We must realise that the growth 
of Hindi means the growth of Urdu and vice versa. 
The two will powerfully influence each other and 
the vocabulary and ideas of each will grow. But 
each must keep its doors and windows wide open 
for these words and ideas. Indeed I would like 
Hindi and Urdu to welcome and absorb words 
and ideas from foreign languages and make them 
their own. It is absurd to coin new words from the 
Sanskrit or Persian for well-known and commonly 
used words in English or French or other foreign 
languages. 

I have no doubt in my mind that Hindi and 
Urdu must come nearer to each other, and though 
they may wear different garbs, will be essentially 
one language. The forces favouring this uni- 
fication ate too strong to be resisted by individuals. 
We have nationalism and the widespread desire to 
have a united India, and this must triumph. But 
stronger than this is the effect of rapid communi- 
cations and transport and interchange of ideas and 
revolutionary changes going on in our political 
and social spheres. We cannot remain in our 
narrow grooves when the torrent of world change 
tushes past us. Education, when it spreads to the 

18 


274 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


masses, will also inevitably produce standardisation 
and unification. 


Xx 


We must not therefore look even upon the sepa- 
rate development of Hindi and Urdu with suspicion. 
The enthusiast for Urdu should welcome the 
new spirit that is animating Hindi and the lover of 
Hindi should equally appreciate the labours of those 
who seek to advance Urdu. They may work to- 
day along parallel lines somewhat separate from each 
other, but the two will coalesce. Nevertheless, 
though we tolerate willingly this existing separatism, 
we must help in the process of this unification. On 
what must this unity be based ? Surely on the 
masses. ‘The masses must be the common factor bet- 
ween Hindi and Urdu. Most of our present troubles 
are due to highly artificial literary languages cut off 
from the masses. When writers write, who do 
they write for ? Every writer must have, cons- 
ciously or sub-consciously, an audience in his mind, 
whom he is seeking to influence or convert to his 
viewpoint. Because of our vast illiteracy, that 
audience has unhappily been limited, but even so 
it is big enough and it will grow rapidly. I am 
no expert in this matter but my own impression is 
that the average writer in Hindi or Urdu does not 
seek to take advantage of even the existing audience. 
He thinks much more of the literary coteries in 
which he moves, and writes for them in the language 
that they have come to appreciate. His voice 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 275 


and his word do not reach the much larger 
public, and if they happen to reach this public, 
they are not understood. Is it surprising that Hindi 
and Urdu books have restricted sales ? Even our 
newspapers in Hindi and Urdu barely tap the great 
reading public because they too generally use the 
language of the literary coteries. 

Our writers therefore must think in terms of 
a mass audience and clientéle and must deliberately 
seek to write for them. This will result automati- 
cally in the simplification of language, and the 
stilted and flowery phrases and constructions, 
which are always signs of decadence in a language, 
will give place to words of strength and power. 
We have not yet fully recovered from the notion 
that culture and literary: attainments are the pro- 
ducts and accompaniments of courtly circles. If we 
think in this way we remain confined in narrow 
citcles and can find no entrance to the hearts and 
minds of the masses. Culture today must have 
a wider mass basis, and language, which is one of 
the embodiment of that culture, must also have 
that basis. 

This approach to the masses is not merely a 
question of simple words and phrases. It is equally 
a matter of ideas and of the inner content of those 
words and phrases. Language which is to make 
appeal to the masses must deal with the problems 
of those masses, with their joys and sorrows, 
their hopes and aspirations. It must represent and 
mirror the life of the people as a whole and not 
that of a small group at the top. Then only will it 


276 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


have its roots in the soil and find sustenance from 
It. 

This applies not only to Hindi and Urdu but 
to all our Indian languages. I know that in all 
of them these ideas are finding utterance and they 
are looking more and more towards the masses. 
This process must be accelerated and our writers 
should deliberately aim at encouraging it. 

It is also desirable, I think, for our languages 
to cultivate contacts with foreign literatures by 
means of translations of both the old classics and 
modern books. This will put us in touch with 
cultural and literary and social movements in other 
countries and will strengthen our own languages 
by the infusions of fresh ideas. 

I imagine that probably Bengali of all Indian 
languages, has gone furthest in developing contacts 
with the masses. Literary Bengali is not some- 
thing apart from and far removed from the life of 
the people of Bengal. The genius of one man, 
Rabindra Nath Tagore, has bridged that gap bet- 
ween the cultured few and the masses, and today 
his beautiful songs and poems ate heard even in the 
humblest hut. They have not only added to the 
wealth of Bengali literature but enriched the life of 
the people of Bengal, and made of their language 
a powerful medium of the finest literary expres- 
sion in the simplest terms. We cannot produce 
geniuses for the asking but we can all learn from 
this and shape our own course accordingly. In this 
connection I should also like to mention Gujrati. 
Iam told that Gandhiji’s simple and powerful 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 277 


language has had a great influence on modern 
Gujrati writing. 
XI 


Let us now consider the other aspect of 
Hindustani as an all-India language, bearing in 
mind that it is no rival to the great provincial lan- 
guages and there is no question of its encroaching 
on them. For the moment let us set aside the 
question of script, for both scripts must have 
full play. We cannot of course insist on every- 
one learning both scripts; that would be an intoler- 
able burden for the masses. The State should 
encoutage both scripts and leave the persons con- 
cerned, or their parents, to choose between the 
two. Let us therefore consider the content of the 
language apart from its script. 

Apart from its widespread range and domi- 
nance over India, Hindustani has certain other 
advantages as an all-India language. It is relatively 
easy to learn and its grammar is simple, except 
for the confusion of its genders. Can we simplify 
it still further P 

We have a temarkably successful experiment 
to guide us, that of Basie English. A number of 
scholars, after many years’ labour, have evolved 
a simplified form of English which is essentially 
English and indistinguishable from it, and yet which 
is astonishingly easy to learn. Grammar has almost 
disappeared except for a few simple rules and the 
basic vocabulary has been reduced to about 850 
words, excluding scientific, technical and commer- 


278 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


cial terms. This whole vocabulary and grammar 
can be put down on one sheet of paper and 
an intelligent person can learn it in two or three 
weeks. He will require practice of course in the 
use of the new language. 

This experiment must not be confused with the 
many previous attempts to evolve a common 
wotld language—Volapuk, Esperanto, etc. All 
such languages, though simple, were highly artificial 
and to learn them was an additional burden. The 
breath of life did not vitalize them and they could 
nevet become the languages of large numbers of 
people. Basic English, having all their advantages, 
does not suffer from this disadvantage, as it is a 
living language. Those who learn Basic English 
can not only have a simple and efficient means 
of communication with others, but they are already 
on the threshold of Standard English and can 
proceed further if they so wish. 

My enthusiasm for Basic English might lead 
to the query: Why not have this as an all-India 
language ? No, this cannot be, for the whole genius 
of this language is alien to our people and we 
would have to transplant them completely before 
we can impose this as an all-India language. The 
practical difficulties would also be far greater than 
in the case of Hindustani which is already so widely 
known all over India. 

But I think that where we teach English as a 
a foteign tongue, and we shall have to do this 
on an extensive scale, Basic English should be 
taught. Only those who wish to make a special 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 279 


study of the language, should proceed to Standard 
English. 


XI 


Can we evolve a Basic Hindustani after the 
fashion of Basic English P I think this is easily 
possible if our scholars will turn their minds to this 
end. The grammar should be as simple as possi- 
ble, almost non-existent, and yet it must not do 
violence to the existing grammar of the language. 
The essential thing to be borne in mind is that 
while this Basic language is complete in itself for 
the expression of all non-technical ideas, it is yet 
a stepping stone to the further study of the lan- 
guage. The vocabulary might consist of a thousand 
words or so, not chosen at random because they are 
common words in the Indian languages, but be- 
cause they form a complete whole and require no 
extraneous assistance for all ordinary speaking and 
writing. 

Such a Basic Hindustani should be the all-India 
language, and with a little effort from the State it will 
spread with extreme rapidity all over the country 
and will help in bringing about that national unity 
which we all desire. It will bring Hindi and Urdu 
closer together and will also help in developing an 
all-India linguistic unity. On that solid and 
common foundation even if variations grow ofr 
diversions occur, they will not lead to separatism. 
Those who wish to add to their knowledge of 
Hindustani can easily do so, those who are content 


280 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


with knowing Basic Hindustani only can yet take 
part in the larger life of the nation. 

I have said previously that we should not 
object to the development of Hindi or Urdu sepa- 
rately. The new words that come in from either 
direction will enrich our inheritance, if they are 
vital, living words forced on us by circumstances or 
coming up from the masses. But the formation of 
artificial words with no real sanction behind them 
has no such significance. To a large extent we 
have to form artificial words to meet the growing 
needs of our political, economic, scientific and 
commercial life. In the formation of such words we 
should try to avoid duplication and separatism. 
We should be bold enough, I think, to lift bodily 
foreign technical words, which have become current 
coin in many parts of the world, and to adopt them 
as Hindustani words. Indeed I should like them 
to be adopted by all the Indian languages. This 
will make it easier for our people to read technical 
and scientific works in various languages, Indian 
and foreign. Any other course will lead to chaos 
and confusion in the mind of the student who has 
to grapple with large numbers of technical terms, 
and who often has to read important books in other 
languages. An attempt to have a separate and 
distinct scientific vocabulary is to isolate and stultify 
our scientific growth and to put an intolerable 
burden on the teacher and taught alike. The 
public life and affairs of the world are already 
closely knit together and form a single whole. 
We should make it as easy as possible for our 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 281 


people to understand them and take part in them, 
and for foreigners to understand our public affairs. 

Many foreign words can and should thus 
be taken in, but many technical words will have to 
be taken from our own language also. It is 
desirable that linguistic and technical experts 
should make a list of such words for common use. 
This will not only bring about uniformity and pre- 
cision, in matters where variety and vagueness are 
highly undesirable but will also prevent the use of 
absurd phrases and expressions. Our journalist 
friends have a knack of translating literally foreign 
words and phrases without caring much for the 
meaning behind them, and then these loose words 
become current coin and produce confusion of 
thought. “Trade union’ has been translated some- 
times as vyapar sangh, a perfectly literal translation 
and yet as far removed from the truth as anything 
could be. But the choicest of the translations has 
been that of ‘Imperial preference’. This was called 
by an enterprising journalist shahi pasand. 


XIII 


What should then be the policy of the State in 
regard to language? The State has to decide this 
question in regard to its courts and offices, and 
education. 

The official language of. each province for 
affairs of State should be the language of the pro- 
vince. But everywhere Hindustani, as the All-India 
language, should be officially recognised, and docu- 


282 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


ments in it accepted in boththe Devanagari and 
Urdu scripts. In the Hindustani speaking provinces 
the two scripts must be officially recognised and it 
should be open to any person to address a court 
or an office in either script. The burden of supply- 
ing a copy in the other script should not be put 
upon him. The office or the court may occasional- 
ly use either script, but it would be absurd to 
enforce the rule that everything should be done in 
both scripts. The script that is mostly used in the 
area which the court or office serves will become 
the dominant script of that court or office. But 
official notifications should be issued in both scripts. 

State education must be governed by the rule 
that it should be given in the language of the student. 
Thus in each linguistic area the language of that 
area should be the medium of instruction. But 
I would go a step further. Wherever there are 
a sufficient number of people belonging to a lin- 
guistic group, even though they might be living 
in a different linguistic area, they can demand 
from the State that special provision be made for 
teaching them in their own language. This would 
depend of course on such students being easily 
accessible from a convenient centre, and it would 
apply to primary education and, perhaps, if the num- 
ber were large enough, to secondary education. 
Thus in Calcutta the medium of instruction would 
be Bengali. But thére are large numbers of people 
there whose mother tongues are Hindustani, Tamil, 
Telugu, Gujrati, etc. Each of these groups can 
claim from the State that their primary schools 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 283 


should be run in their own languages. How far 
it will be possible to extend this to a secondary 
education, I do not quite know. That would 
depend on the number of pupils concerned and 
other factors. These pupils would of course have 
to learn Bengali, the language of the linguistic 
area they live in, but this is likely to be done in the 
early secondary stage and after. 

In the Hindustani speaking provinces both 
Devanagari and Urdu scripts will be taught in the 
schools, the pupils or their parents choosing bet- 
ween them. In the primary stage only one script 
should be used but the learning of the other script 
should be encouraged in the secondary stage. 

In the non-Hindustani speaking provinces 
Basic Hindustani should be taught in the secondary 
stage, the script being left to the choice of the per- 
son concerned. 

University education should be in the language 
of the linguistic area, Hindustani (either script) 
and a foreign language being compulsory subjects. 
This complusion need not apply to technical schools 
and higher technical courses. Provision for teach- 
ing foreign languages as well as our classical 
languages should be made in our secondary schools 
but the subject should not be compulsory, except 
for certain courses, or for preparation for the 
university stage. 

Among the provincial languages I have men- 
tioned Pushtu and Punjabi. I think primary 
education should be given in these, but how far 
higher education can also be given through them 


284 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


is a doubtful matter requiring consideration, as they 
are not sufficiently advanced. Probably Hindustani 
will be the best medium for higher education in 
these areas. 


XIV 


I have, with great presumption, made various 
suggestions tanging from primary to university 
education. It will be easy to criticise what I have 
written and to point out the difficulties in the way, 
for I am no expert in education or in languages. 
But my very inexpertness is perhaps in my favour 
and I can consider the problem from a layman’s 
point of view and a detached outlook. Also I 
should like to make it clear that I am not discussing 
in this essay the important and difficult problem 
of education as a whole. I am only dealing with 
the language side of it. When we consider the 
whole subject of education we have to think in 
terms of the State and the society we ate aiming at; 
we have to train our people to that end; we have 
to decide what our citizens should be like and what 
their occupations should be; we have to fit in this 
education to their life and occupations; we have to 
produce harmony and equilibrium in their private 
and social and public life. We shall have to lay far 
greater stress on technical and scientific training 
if we ate to take our place in the modern world. 
All this and more we shall have to do, and in doing 
so we shall have to upset the present incompetent 
and inefficient and top-heavy system of education, 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 285 


and build anew on securer foundations. 

But for the moment let us confine ourselves 
to the question of language and arrive at some 
general agreement in regard to it. I have written 
this essay with a view to invite consideration of 
this problem from a wider angle. If we agree to 
the general principles I have discussed, the appli- 
cation of them in practice will not be difficult. 
We are not in a position to apply most of these 
principles today in spite of so-called provincial 
autonomy. We have no financial resources and 
our hands are tied up in a variety of ways. But 
to the extent we can put our principles into practice 
we should do so. 

It may be that there is general agreement in 
tegard to some of the suggestions I have made, 
and some disagreement in regard to others. Let 
us at least know where we agree; the points for 
discussion and debate will then be limited in number 
and we can consider them separately. 

I might add that my frequent references to 
linguistic areas and the language of the province, 
necessitate that provincial units should correspond 
with such language areas. 


XV 


To facilitate this consideration I give below 
some of my main suggestions : 

1. Our public work should be carried on 
and State education should be given in the language 
of each linguistic area. This language should be 


286 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


the dominant language in that area. These Indian 
languages to be recognised officially for this purpose 
ate : Hindustani (both Hindi and Urdu), Bengali, 
Gujrati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malay- 
alam, Oriya, Assamese, Sindhi and, to some extent, 
Pushtu and Punjabi. 

z. In the Hindustani speaking area both 
Hindi and Urdu, with their scripts, should be 
officially recognised. Public notifications should 
be issued in both scripts. Either script might be 
used by a person in addressing a court or a public 
office, and he should not be called upon to supply 
a copy in the other script. 

3. The medium of State instruction in the 
Hindustani area being Hindustani, both scripts 
will be recognised and used. Each pupil or his 
parents will make a choice of script. Pupils will 
not be compelled to learn both scripts but may 
be encouraged to do so in the secondary stage. 

4. Hindustani (both scripts) will be recog- 
nised as the all-India language. As such it will be 
open to any person throughout India to address 
a court or public office in Hindustani (either script) 
without any obligation to give a copy in another 
script or language. 

5. An attempt should be made to unify the 
Devanagari, Bengali, Gujrati and Marathi scripts 
and to produce a composite script suited to printing, 
typing and the use of modern mechanical devices. 

6. The Sindhi script should be absorbed in 
the Urdu script, which should be simplified, to the 
extent that is possible, and suited to printing, 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 287 


typing, etc. 

7. The possibility of approximating the 
southern scripts to Devanagari should be explored. 
If that is not considered feasible, then an attempt 
should be made to have a common script for the 
southern languages—Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and 
Malayalam. 

8. It is not possible for us to think in terms 
of the Latin script for our languages, for the present 
at least, in spite of various advantages which that 
sctipt possesses. We must thus have two scripts; 
the composite Devanagari—Bengali—Gujrati— 
Marathi; and the Urdu—Sindhi; and, if necessary, 
a script for the southern languages, unless this can 
be approximated to the first. 

9. The tendency for Hindi and Urdu in the 
Hindustani speaking area to diverge and develop 
separately need not be viewed with alarm, nor 
should any obstruction be placed in the develop- 
ment of either. This is to some extent natural 
as new and more abstruse ideas come into the 
language. The development of either will enrich 
the language. There is bound to be an adjustment 
later on as world forces and nationalism press in 
this direction, and mass education will bring a 
measure of standardisation and uniformity. 

1o. We should lay stress on the language 
(Hindi, Urdu, as well as the other Indian languages) 
looking to the masses and speaking in terms of them. 
Writers should write for the masses in simple 
language understood by them, and they should deal 
with problems affecting the masses. Courtly and 


288 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


affected style and flowery phrases should be dis- 
couraged and a simple vigorous style developed. 
Apart from its other advantages, this will also 
lead to uniformity between Hindi and Urdu. 

11. A Basic Hindustani should be evolved out 
of Hindustani on the lines of Basic English. 
This should be a simple language with very little 
grammar and a Soobuly of about a thousand 
wotds. It must be a complete language, good 
enough for all ordinary speech and writing, and 
yet within the framework of Hindustani, and a 
stepping stone for the further study of that language. 

12. Apart from Basic Hindustani, we should 
fix upon scientific, technical, political and commer- 
cial words to be used in Hindustani (both Hindi 
and Urdu) as well as, if possible, in other Indian 
languages. Where necessary, these words should 
be taken from forcign languages and bodily adopted. 
Lists of other words from out own languages 
should be made, so that in all technical and such 
like matters we might have a precise and uniform 
vocabulary. 

13. The policy governing State education 
should be that education is to be given in the lan- 
guage of the student. In each linguistic area 
education from the primary to the university stage 
will be given in the language of the province. Even 
within a linguistic area, if there are a sufficient num- 
ber of students whose mother tongue is some other 
Indian language, they will be entitled to receive 
primary education in their mother tongue, provided 
they are easily accessible from a convenient centre. 


THE QUESTION OF LANGUAGE 289 


It may also be possible, if the number is large 
enough, to give them secondary education in the 
mother tongue as well. But all such students 
will have to take, as a compulsory subject, the lan- 
guage of the linguistic area they live in. 

14. In the non-Hindustani speaking areas, 
Basic Hindustani should be taught in the secondary 
stage, the script being left to the choice of the person 
concerned. 

15. The medium of instruction for university 
education will be the language of the linguistic 
area. Hindustani (either script) and a foreign 
language should be compulsory subjects. This 
compulsion of learning additional languages need 
not apply to higher technical courses, though a 
knowledge of languages is desirable even there. 

16. Provision for teaching foreign languages, 
as well as our classical languages, should be made 
in our secondary schools but the subjects should 
not be compulsory, except for certain special 
coutses, of for preparation for the university stage. 

17. Translations should be made of a con- 
siderable number of classical and modern works 
in foreign literatures into the Indian languages, 
so that our languages might develop contacts 
with the cultural, literary and social movements 
in other countries, and gain strength thereby. 


July 25, 1937 


19 


41 
INDIAN TROOPS TO CHINA 


The despatch of Indian troops to Shanghai by 
the British Government is a matter of the gravest 
import and concern to India. This has been 
done in continuation of the old policy of using 
Indian troops abroad without any reference to the 
wishes of the Indian people. That policy has been 
condemned by the Congress which has declared 
emphatically that India cannot permit her armies 
and peoples to be exploited to her own disadvantage 
and for the benefit of British imperialism. 

It is stated that Indian troops have been 
sent to Shanghai to protect Indian interests there. 
What these Indian interests are few people seem 
to know and it is manifest that the interest to be 
protected are British imperial interests. And even 
if Indian interests have to be protected, it is for the 
Indian people to decide what steps should be taken. 
The sending of Indian troops therefore without the 
consent of the Indian people is thus an affront to 
India. Though by itself it might be a small matter 
it is a thin end of the wedge and might lead us to all 
manner of unforeseen entanglements. It might 
indeed lead us unwillingly to war. 

The Congress has repeatedly warned us of the 


INDIAN TROOPS TO CHINA 291 


danger of war and declared its opposition to the 
participation of India in any imperialist war. This 
was no empty warning but a declaration made 
after full consideration of the grave issues involved. 
By that declaration and warning the Congress 
stands. The world is drifting helplessly to a state 
of continuous conflict. The Spanish struggle has 
continued for over a year and there is no sign of 
its ending. The Sino-Japanese war, begun in the 
modern way without any declaration, but with 
bombs bringing destruction and death to thousands, 
may last, it is said, for years. Wars begin but do 
not end easily. They spread and consume other 
countries. This is the world prospect before us 
and the possibility of an international conflagration 
threatens to overwhelm humanity. How shall 
we face this crisis of history ? Not surely as camp 
followers of Imperialist Britain, being ordered 
about to fight her battles and preserve her interests. 

In our preoccupations with our provincial 
governments and our domestic problems, grave 
as they are, we may not forget this mighty thing 
that overshadows the world and might upset in 
one great sweep, all our schemes and planning. 
That is the inajor issue before India, as before all 
other countries, and in a decision as to how to face 
it the people of India will have their say and it is 
their wishes that must count. Congressmen must 
be vigilant to this end; not to be so is to invite 
disaster. 

Therefore India must protest against this 
despatch of troops to China. In the far-eastern 


292 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


conflict out sympathies are inevitably with China, 
and we wish her people success in maintaining 
their freedom against imperialist aggression. But 
in this international game we cannot allow our 
man power and resources to be used as pawns 
by others. Today we can protest only, but that 
protest will have the full strength of the Congress 
behind it if this policy continues. 


August 25, 1937 


42 


ZANZIBAR AND THE BOYCOTT OF 
CLOVES 


For some years past the problem of Indians 
settled in Zanzibar has been before the country. 
The British Government of the colony, supported 
by the Colonial Office in London, has been devising 
laws and regulations which crush Indian trade and 
will ruin the Indian community in Zanzibar. Our 
countrymen there refused to submit tamely to this 
process of squeezing out, and they protested with 
all their might. They looked to India for sympathy 
and help in their trials, and they did not look in 
vain. The people of India responded to that 
call and, at innumerable meetings, expressed their 
solidarity with their countrymen in Zanzibar. 
The Congress gave emphatic expression to this 
feeling and passed numerous resolutions in support 
of the cause of Indians in Zanzibar. Even the 
Government of India appeared to sympathise and 
considered the proposed legislation as a menace to 
Indian interests and a breach of previous agree- 
ments. But the wheels of the Imperial Govern- 
ment and the Colonial Office moved on, regardless 
of Indian interests, and the legislation was passed, 
with minor variations. 


294 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


Ruin faces the 15,000 Indians in Zanzibar and 
they have resolved not to submit to this usurpation 
of their tights. A month ago they started their 
campaign of passive resistance against these 
measures and they are carrying on their peaceful 
and gallant struggle. They have voluntarily gone 
out of the export trade in cloves in which they have 
been traditionally engaged. The Working Com- 
mittee of the Congress, at its last meeting, called 
upon the people of India to help their countrymen 
in every way and demanded an embargo on the 
entry of cloves into India. Further they asked the 
people to boycott cloves so long as this problem 
was not settled to the satisfaction of Indian interests. 
This was the least that our people could do to help 
our countrymen abroad in their hour of trial. 

The Government of India meanwhile has 
veered round from its old position and has become 
an apologist of the Colonial Office and a defender 
of the new legislation in Zanzibar which creates a 
clove monopoly. Probably it had to do so because 
of pressute from the Imperial Government, of 
which it is a subordinate branch. But it is sur- 
prising to find that certain elected members of the 
Central Assembly should have also forsaken the 
Zanzibar Indians and helped the Government in 
opposing the demand for an embargo. The argu- 
ments advanced by them showed an astonishing 
and pro-imperialist bent of mind. Those who 
oppose India’s struggle for freedom, thereby 
supporting British imperialism in India, usually 
support this imperialism abroad also, even at the 


ZANZIBAR AND THE BOYCOTT OF CLOVES 295 


cost of Indian interests. 

It is utterly wrong to say that our struggle in 
Zanzibar is to protect Indian vested interests as 
against the interests of the people of the country. 
The Congress holds by the principle that in every 
country the interests of the people of that country 
must be dominant and must have first considera- 
tion. Weapply that principle to India and therefore 
we cannot tolerate any foreign interests imposing 
their will on us. We apply it to other countries also, 
and we would willingly put an end to Indian 
interests there if they conflict with those of the 
people of the country. But we are not prepared 
to submit to, and we shall fight, any attempt to 
injure Indian interests for the advancement of 
British Imperialism. In Zanzibar, it is this im- 
pertialism that is functioning and it 1s 1n its interests 
that the changes have been made. An anti-Indian 
clove monopoly has been established to enrich the 
British monopolist at the expense of the Indian 
small trader. The Zanzibar Distillery, which is an 
imperialist British concern, is in a position to buy 
from the monopolist Association clove stems at 
half the rate that would otherwise have been obtain- 
able in a free foreign market. 

Secondly, it is notorious that Britain’s colonial 
administration, as that of India, is exceedingly 
expensive, extravagant and top-heavy. To keep 
this running and to find money for it, the people 
ate heavily taxed. The burden falls especially on 
the poor. In many African colonies the iniquitous 
‘hut-tax’ or a ‘poll-tax’ is imposed on the poorest 


296 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


to enable the administration to pay heavy salaries 
and allowances to its officials, who are usually 
Britishers. Sir George Maxwell, a distinguished 
public servant of Malaya, has recently pointed out 
the scandal of these expensive and over-staffed ad- 
ministrations run at the cost of impoverishing the 
already poor and of stinting the barest expenditure 
on public works, public health, education and other 
essential public services. He gives many startling 
figures from Malaya and Africa. One colony with 
a total population of 3001 (men, women and 
children) maintains a heavily paid Governor and 
Commandetr-in-Chief and a numerous staff of 
officials. But we need not cross the seas for such 
instances ; we have remarkable examples in our 
own country. 

Zanzibar has put up with such an expensive 
over-staffed British administration. Like Topsy, 
it “growed,” fattening on the prosperity of the 
clove trade, which had been built up by Indian 
industry. Every boom period was taken advantage 
of to add to the number or emoluments of the army 
of administrators. Then came the slump and it was 
not so easy for the unhappy country to shoulder 
this heavy burden. Instead of reducing the number 
of big officials and the amounts paid to them in 
salaries and allowances, and thus making the ad- 
ministration fit in to some extent with the necessities 
and realities, fresh sources of revenue, not for public 
works or education, but to keep the administration 
running in the old way, were anxiously sought after. 
Further taxation was out of the question. And so 


ZANZIBAR AND THE BOYCOTT OF CLOVES 297 


this device of collaring the profits of the clove 
trade and running the administration with their 
help. These profits, which would have been spread 
out overt a large number of traders, were diverted, 
by the creation of a monopoly, to the administrative 
machine as well as to British imperialist concerns. 
Recently, a new burden has been undertaken by the 
Zanzibar Government for the honour and glory 
of British Imperialism. The recurring cost of a 
Naval Coastal Defence Unit, or part of the cost, 
will fall on Zanzibar. 

Thirdly, the political rule of the British over the 
colonies is perpetuated by this strategy of creating 
conflict on other issues and of diverting the atten- 
tion of the Arab and African inhabitants from the 
fundamental anti-imperialist issue. Anti-Indian 
feelings are sought to be raised and the real im- 
perialist exploiter hides behind this screen and 
carries on merrily with his work of exploitation. 

This clove monopoly, it is obvious, has little 
to do with the interests of the African and srab 
growers of clove. The monopoly is bound to hurt 
them in the long run. A monopoly by an inde- 
pendent national State might have some virtue in it; 
a monopoly by a socialist State would inevitably 
benefit the growers as they would be the owners 
and beneficiaries of the monopoly. Buta monopoly 
by an Imperialist Government in a subject colonial 
country can only benefit that Government and the 
Imperialism it represents. 

The issue is thus quite clear for all who wish 
to understand it. The Zanzibar Indians are the 


298 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


victims of British imperialist policy, and their cause 
is the cause of all of us in India. For us it is a 
national question of grave import and no communal 
considerations affect it. Yet it is interesting to 
remember that the Indian merchants in Zanzibar, 
who are suffering from this new legislation and are 
fighting against it, are Muslims. Some of the 
Muslim members of the Central Assembly who have 
constituted themselves the guardians of Muslim 
interests, and who voted recently with the Govern- 
ment and against the interests of Zanzibar Indian 
Muslims, might well ponder over this fact. 

The problem has a larger significance for it 
affects all Indians overseas as well as the national 
status of India. India cannot tolerate the humillia- 
tion and injury of her children abroad, and when 
they call to us for succour, can we remain silent ? 
Wherever they live or carry on business, they are 
subjected to ignominy and discrimination, and 
constant conflicts arise. Today we cannot give 
them adequate and direct aid, but the time will 
come when the long arm of India will reach them 
and will be strong enough to protect them. But 
even today we are not so weak as to watch help- 
lessly the ruin of our countrymen. 

The result of this brave resistance of Zanzibar 
Indians will have far-reaching consequences. If 
they win, they will increase the status of India 
abroad and all our countrymen overseas will be 
stronger to face the difficulties that encompass them. 
If they lose, it is not they only that lose, but India 
loses, and all her children abroad, wherever they 


ZANZIBAR AND THE BOYCOTT OF CLOVES 299 


might be, will sink in their helplessness. Zanzibar 
Indians occupy a strategic position among overseas 
Indians in the British colonies. They are a strong 
community which has played and is playing a 
decisive role in the economic life of the country. 
It is not easy to ignore them or suppress them, 
and if we help them, they can win. 

What can we do to help them? We had asked 
for an official embargo on cloves, but the British 
Government, unhappily supported by some of our 
own countrymen, has refused to have this. Let 
us then have an unofhcial embargo and boycott 
cloves and stop their import into India. This is a 
big enough weapon to paralyse the clove business 
of Zanzibar for India is the biggest purchaser and 
consumer of cloves. Already, 1am happy to know, 
that merchants in Bombay and Calcutta, who deal 
in the import of cloves, have resolved not to import 
them in order to help our people in Zanzibar. Al- 
ready this has had a marked effect in Zanzibar 
where the price of cloves has fallen greatly and the 
Government there is gravely embarrassed. We must 
organise efhiciently this unofficial embargo and show 
to our alien government that the people of India 
can act effectively, despite its opposition. 

The Working Committee of the Congress has 
given the lead and I appeal to my countrymen to 
follow it. I appeal to the merchants not to import 
ot deal in cloves. I appeal to all consumers to give 
up the use of cloves till this struggle ends satis- 
factorily for us. It is a small sacrifice but the 
cause for which we work is a big one. And let 


300 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


us remember that meanwhile our countrymen in 
Zanzibar are bravely carrying on their campaign of 


passive resistance. 


August 28, 1937 


43 
THE ANDAMANS’ HUNGER-STRIKE 


I do not remember anything in recent years 
that has exercised the mind and moved the heart of 
India so much as the fate of the political prisoners 
in the Andamans consequent on their hunger-strike. 
The whole of the country has been deeply stirred 
and all manner of people, even outside the ranks of 
the politicians, have raised their voices in sympathy 
for human suffering and in protest against a grie- 
vous wrong. Everybody knows that this sympathy 
is not for violent activity, and most of us do not 
approve of the weapon of a hunger strike to right 
a wrong. And yet there is this enormous, deep 
and widespread feeling for our countrymen in the 
Andamans. Almost one can hear the heart of India 
beating and feel the pulse quickening at the thought 
of this grim tragedy that is being enacted. It is 
not so much the individuals that matter. It is as 
if a limb of the nation was in pain and the whole 
body suffered for it. 

And yet the Government of India has decreed 
that they are not prepared to give any consideration 
to the prisoners’ demands. Surely it would be a 
difficult task to find another instance where the 
Government of a country was so alien in thought 


302 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


and feeling and action to the people of that country. 
Even despots bow to popular will, but not so the 
Government of India under the new Constitution. 
The gap that separates the people of India from the 
British Government is unmeasurable and unbridg- 
able. Perhap even this tragedy that is being enacted 
before our eyes has served a good purpose if it 
makes us realise the true nature of this gap and of 
the illusion of power that the new Constitution is 
supposed to give us. 

The Provincial Governments, whose prisoners 
are in the Andamans, are powerless in the matter. 
Many of them, it is well known, have asked for the 
repattiation of these prisoners. But they ask in 
vain. This raises important constitutional issues, 
but morte important than this is the human issue, 
ovetriding political barriers. The humanity of 
India has been outraged and the British Government 
have dared to treat it as of no consequence. But 
India will remember this challenge and will give her 
answer. 


August 29, 1937 


44 
THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE 


The formation of Congress Ministries in six 
provinces has brought a breath of fresh air in the 
turgid and authoritarian atmosphere of India. New 
hopes have arisen, new visions full of promise float 
before the eyes of the masses. We breathe more 
freely for the moment at least. And yet our task is 
infinitely harder, more complex, and dangers and 
difficulties beset us at every s#p. We are apt to 
be misled by the illusion that we possess power, 
when the reality of power is not within our grasp. 
But the responsibility is ours in the eyes of the 
people and if we cannot discharge this to their 
satisfaction, if hopes are unfulfilled and visions 
unrealised, the burden of disillusion will also be 
ours. ‘The difficulty lies in the inherent contradic- 
tions of the situation, in the vastness of India’s 
problems demanding a far-reaching and _ radical 
remedy, which it is not in our power to give under 
present conditions. We have to keep the right 
perspective always before us, the objectives for 
which the Congress stands, the independence of 
India and the ending of the poverty of the people. 
We have at the same time to labour for smaller 
ends which bring some immediate relief to the 


304 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


masses. We have to act simultaneously on this 
double front. 

If we ate to achieve any success in this great 
enterprise, we must keep faith with our people, 
be frank with them, take them into our confidence, 
and tell them our difficulties and what we can hope 
to achieve and what we cannot, till greater power 
comes to us. We must examine the principles on 
which we stand, the anchor which holds us, for to 
forget them is to cast ourselves adrift on a sea 
of pettiness and trivial detail, with no lighthouse 
to guide us on our path. We dare not grow 
complacent. 


II 


All our activities must therefore be guided 
by the objective of Indian independence. No 
Congtessman, whether he is a Minister or a village 
worker, can afford to forget this for then he will 
lose the right perspective which is essential for all 
of us. To achieve this independence we have to 
get rid of the new Constitution, and so the Minister 
who functions under this very Constitution, will 
always think in terms of replacing this by another, 
framed by the Indian people, through a Constituent 
Assembly. That thought, though it might not 
materialise in action for some time, should govern 
his outlook. The next major step in that direction 
will come when the attempt is made to thrust 
Federation on us against our declared will. That 
attempt has to be combated, in the Assemblies as 


THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE 305 


well as outside, and we shall use all our strength 
to prevent this Federation from functioning. 

Those of us who have to shoulder the burden 
of directing national policy and giving a lead to our 
people, have to think in even wider terms and to 
look often beyond the frontiers of India. Our 
own problems have to be seen in relation to inter- 
national problems, the possibilities of great crises 
or wats. The Congress has laid down our policy 
in the event of such crises developing, and if we 
are to abide by that policy, as we must, we must 
evet keep itin mind. The recent despatch of Indian 
troops to Shanghai is a reminder of how our re- 
sources ate utilised for protecting imperialist 
interests. This exploitation of India will continue 
and grow unless we are vigilant. It might land us, 
almost unawares, in a war, not of our seeking, but 
in the interests of the very imperialism which we 
seek to remove from India. Congressmen must 
therefore not allow themselves to forget the inter- 
national implications of what happens in India. 
Our Ministries are not directly concerned with these 
larger events, but indirectly they may also come in 
contact with them and might be able to influence 
them. 


Ill 


The Congress has laid repeated stress on Civil 
Liberty and on the right of free expression of 
opinion, free association and combination, a free 
press, and freedom of conscience and religion. 


20 


306 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


We have condemned the use of emergency powers 
and otdinances and special legislation to oppress 
the Indian people, and have declared in our 
programme that we shall take all possible steps to 
end these powers and legislation. The acceptance 
of office in the Provinces does not vary this policy, 
and indeed much has already been done to give 
effect to it. Political prisoners have been released, 
the ban on numerous organisations removed, and 
press securities have been returned. It is true that 
something still remains to be done in this respect, 
but this is not because of any lack of desire to take 
further steps on the part of Congress Ministries, 
but because of extraneous difficulties. I trust that it 
will soon be possible to complete this task and 
to redeem our pledge in full by the repeal of all 
repressive and abnormal provincial legislation. 
Meanwhile the public should remember the peculiar 
difficulties under which the Congress Ministers have 
to function, and not be overeager to cast the blame 
on them for something for which they are not 
responsible. 

Civil Liberty is not merely for us an airy 
doctrine of a pious wish, but something which we 
consider essential for the orderly development and 
progress of a nation. It is the civilised approach 
to a problem about which people differ, the non- 
violent way of dealing with it. To crush a contrary 
opinion forcibly and allow it no expression, because 
we dislike it, is essentially of the same genus as 
cracking the skull of an opponent because we dis- 
approve of him. It does not even possess the virtue 


THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE "307 


of success. The man with the cracked skull might 
collapse and die, but the suppressed opinion or 
idea has no such sudden end and it survives and 
ptospers the more it is sought to be crushed with 
force. History is full of such examples. Long ex- 
perience has taught us that it is dangerous in the 
interest of truth to suppress opinions and ideas ; 
it has further taught us that it is foolish to imagine 
that we can do so. It is far easier to meet an evil 
in the open and to defeat it in fair combat in people’s 
minds, than to drive it underground and have 
no hold on it or proper approach to it. Evil 
flourishes far more in the shadows than in the light 
of day. 

But what is good and what is evil may itself 
be a doubtful matter, and who is then to decide ? 
Governments all over the world are not known to 
be particularly competent in giving such decisions, 
and official censors are not an attractive crowd. 
Yet governments have to shoulder a heavy res- 
ponsibility and they cannot discuss the philosophy 
of a question when action is demanded. In our 
imperfect world we have often to prefer a lesser 
evil to a greater one. 

For us it is not merely a matter of giving effect 
to a programme to which we have given adherence. 
Our entire approach to the question must be psy- 
chologically different. It cannot be the policeman’s 
approach which has been so characteristic of the 
British Government in India, the method of force 
and violence and coercion. Congress Ministries 
should avoid, as far as possible, all coercive proces- 


308 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


ses and should try to win over their critics by their 
actions and, where possible, by personal contacts. 
Even if they fail in converting the critic or the 
opponent, they will make him innocuous, and the 
public sympathy, which almost invariably goes to a 
victim of official action, will no longer be his. 
They will win the public to their side and thus 
create an atmosphere which is not favourable to 
wrong action. 

But in spite of this approach and this desire to 
avoid coercive action, occasions may arise when 
Congress Ministries cannot avoid taking some such 
action. No Government can tolerate the preaching 
of violence and communal strife, and if this unfor- 
tunately takes place, it has to be curbed by having 
recourse to the coercive processes of the ordinary 
law. We believe that there should be no police 
censorship or banning of books and newspapers and 
the largest freedom should be given to the expres- 
sion of opinions and ideas. The way we have been 
cut off from progressive literature from abroad by 
the policy of the British Government is a public 
scandal. We must get rid of these bans and censor- 
ships and nurture the free soil from which the life 
of the intellect can grow and the creative faculties 
can take shape. But still, it must be remembered, 
that there may be exceptional cases of books and 
newspapers which are so manifestly of an obscene 
character or promote violence or communal hatred 
and conflict, that some action to check them has to 


be taken. 


THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE 309 
IV 


A number of political prisoners, convicted for 
violent activities, have recently been released by the 
Congress Ministries after long terms in prison. They 
have been welcomed by the public and by Congress- 
men, and we have been asked if this welcome did 
not signify an approval of violence. That question 
reveals an ignorance of public psychology and of 
the minds of Congressmen. The public and Con- 
gressmen alike welcomed them because of the 
mantle of long suffering that they bore. How many 
of them had spent their entire youth in prison, how 
many had faced death without flinching? They 
had erred and pursued a wrong path, they had fol- 
lowed a policy injurious to the very cause they 
sought to serve, but they had paid for it in pain 
and torment and by long years in solitary cells. 
They had come to realise that the old policy of 
theirs was utterly wrong. And so the public wel- 
comed them and friendly faces greeted them wher- 
ever they went. Has this not got a lesson for 
governments who imagine that by suppressing a 
number of individuals they solve a problem? 
They succeed thereby in intensifying that very 
problem, and public sympathy, which might well 
have been against the individual’s deeds, turns 
to him because of his suffering. 


The problem of the political prisoners in the 
Andamans is with us today and we see the amazing 
folly of Government in pursuing a policy which is 
creating a frenzy of excitement among the public. 


310 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


Thus they intensify the very atmosphere which they 
seek to remove. 

The Congress Ministries have rightly followed 
a contrary policy because they try to move with 
public approval, and seek to win over these brave 
young men, and create an atmosphere favourable to 
the working of the Congress programme. In that 
favourable atmosphere even wrong tendencies will 
wilt and wither away. Everybody of any conse- 
quence in Indian politics knows that terrorism is a 
thing of the past in India. It would have vanished 
even earlier but for the policy of the British Govern- 
ment in Bengal. ‘Violence is not killed by violence, 
but by a different approach and by removing the 
causes which lead to it. 

On those comrades of ours, who have been 
teleased after one or two decade of prison life, 
rests a special responsibility to be loyal to Congress 
policy and to work for the fulfilment of the Congress 
programme. The foundation of that policy is non- 
violence and the noble structure of the Congress 
has been built on that firm foundation. It is 
necessaty that this should be remembered by all 
Congressmen, for it is even more important today 
than it has so far been. Loose talk encouraging 
violence and communal conflict is especially harmful 
at the present juncture and it might do grave injury 
to the Congress cause as well as embarrass the 
Congress Ministries. We are children no longer in 
politics ; we have grown to man’s estate and we 
have big work ahead, big conflicts to face, difficul- 
ties to overcome. Let us face them like men with 


THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE 311 


courage and dignity and discipline. Only through 
a great organisation, deriving its sanctions from the 
masses, can we face our problems, and great mass 
organisations are built up through peaceful methods. 


V 


The basic problems of India relate to the 
peasantry and the industrial workers, and of the 
two the agrarian problem is far the most important. 
The Congress Ministries have already begun to 
tackle this, and executive orders have been passed 
to bring some temporary relief to the masses. Even 
this little thing has brought joy and hope to our 
peasants and they are looking forward eagerly to 
the greater changes tocome. There is some danger 
in this eager expectation of the paradise to come, 
for there is no immediate paradise in prospect. 
The Congress Ministries, with the best will in the 
world, are incapable of changing the social order 
and the present economic system. They are bound 
down and restricted in a hundred ways and have to 
move in a narrow orbit. That indeed was, and is, 
a ptincipal reason for our opposition to the new 
Constitution. We must therefore be perfectly frank 
with our people and tell them what we can do and 
what we cannot do under present conditions. That 
very inability of ours becomes a powerful argument 
in favour of the vital change which will give us real 
power. 

But meanwhile we have to go as far as we 
possibly can to give relief to them. We must face 


312 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


this task courageously and not be afraid of vested 
interests and those who would obstruct us. The 
real measure of the success of Congress Ministries 
will be the change in the agrarian laws that they 
bring about and the relief they give to the peasantry. 
This change in the laws will come from the Legis- 
lature, but the value of that change will be enhanced 
if the Congress members of the Legislatures keep 
in close touch with their constituencies and inform 
the peasantry of their policies. Congress parties in 
the legislatures should also keep in touch with 
Congress Committees and with public opinion 
generally. By this frank approach they will get the 
friendly codperation of the public and will be in 
touch with the realities of the situation. The masses 
will thus also be trained and disciplined in the 
democratic method. 

A change in the land laws will bring some 
relief to out peasantry, but our objective is a much 
bigger one and for that the pre-requisite is the 
development of the organised strength of the 
peasantry. Only by their own strength can they 
ultimately progress or resist the inroads that vested 
interests might make on them. A boon given 
from above to a weak peasantry may be taken away 
later, and even a good law may have little value 
because it cannot be enforced. The proper organi- 
sation of the peasants in Congress Committees in 
villages thus becomes essential. 


THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE 313 
VI 


In regard to the industrial workers, the Cong- 
ress has not so far developed a detailed programme 
because the agrarian situation dominates the Indian 
scene. Some important principles have however 
been laid down in the Karachi resolution and in 
the Election Manifesto. Labour’s right to form 
unions and to strike has been recognised and 
the principle of the Living Wage approved of. 
The policy recently outlined by the Bombay 
Govetnment in respect of industrial workers has 
the general approval of the Working Committee. 
This policy is by no means a final policy or an 
ideal one. But it represents what can be attempted 
and done under present conditions and within a 
relatively short period of time. I have no doubt 
that if this programme is given effect to, it will 
bring telief to labour and, what is even more 
important, give it organisational strength. The 
vety basis of this programme and policy is the 
strengthening of workers’ organisations. The 
Bombay Government declare, in their statement 
on Labour Policy, that “‘they are convinced that 
no legislative programme can be a substitute for 
the organised strength of the working class, and till 
organisations of workers, run on genuine trade 
union lines, grow up, in the various fields of 
employment, no lasting good can accrue. Govern- 
ment ate therefore anxious to assist in removing 
real hindrances in the way of the growth of the 
organisation and to promote collective bargaining 


314 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


between the employers and the employees. Means 
will be devised to discourage victimization of 
wotkers for connection with a labour organisation 
and participation in legitimate trade union activity.” 

With regard to trade disputes, the Bombay 
Government propose legislation to ensure that 
“no reduction in wages or other change in the 
conditions of employment to the disadvantage of 
the workers should take place till they have had 
sufficient time and opportunity for having the facts 
and merits of the proposed change examined and 
all avenues of peaceful settlement of the dispute 
explored, either through the channel of voluntary 
negotiation, conciliation or arbitration, or by the 
machinery of the law. A corresponding obligation 
would rest on the workers in respect of demands 
on their behalf.”? This means that before a trade 
dispute develops into open conflict there must be an 
intermediate stage of negotiation or arbitration. It 
does not mean that there is compulsory arbitration 
ending in an award which is finally binding on all 
parties whether they accept it or not. 

Compulsory arbitration of this latter kind has 
always been opposed by labour for it strikes at the 
root of one of their most cherished rights—the 
right to strike. ‘They also fear, with considerable 
justification, that in such a compulsory proceeding 
in a capitalist country, the weight of the State is 
likely to be cast on the side of the employers. And 
so they would be tied hand and foot, unable to 
use the only weapon which they possess and which 
a century of hard struggle has given them. That 


THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE 315 


is not the present proposal for that would be con- 
trary to the Congress policy of recognising the 
workers’ tight to strike. That right to strike is 
fully maintained, but an intermediate stage is pro- 
vided for to explore avenues of settlement of the 
dispute. This policy, I am convinced, will be 
highly to the advantage of all concerned, and 
especially of labour. Our labour is weak and dis- 
organised and unable to stand up for its rights. 
The long record of sporadic strikes is a record of 
almost continuous failure. It is true that even 
unsuccessful strikes sometimes strengthen the labour 
movement, but the reverse is still more true, and 
the present feeble state of our labour movement 
bears witness to this. For years past labour has 
been fighting a constant rearguard action against 
wage-cuts, almost helpless to prevent them. If 
some such legislation, as is proposed in Bombay, 
had been in existence, it would have been far more 
dificult to reduce wages and labour would have 
been in a much better position to bargain on equal 
terms with the employer, with probably a friendly 
public opinion to back it. 

The strike is a powerful weapon, the only real 
weapon of labour. It has to be cherished and 
preserved and used in an organised and disciplined 
way with effect when necessity arises. To use it 
casually and sporadically is to blunt it and thus 
weaken labour itself. Behind the strike there must 
be a strong organisation and public opinion. ‘This 
organisation seldom develops if there are frequent 
partial and sporadic strikes which fail. 


316 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


Organisation therefore is the primary need of 
labour, and all who wish well for labour must 
help in the building up of strong trade unions. 
They must remember that any form of violence, 
whether during a strike or at other times, is injuri- 
ous to labour’s interests. It drives the State into 
the opposing ranks and provokes far greater vio- 
lence on the part of the State. It disorganises 
labour and irritates public opinion. In India it 
sometimes leads to communal violence which 
diverts attention immediately from labour’s de- 
mands. Labour, above everything, cannot afford 
to be communal or to encourage communalism. 


The recent strike in Cawnpore had many 
lessons to teach us. Much was made in the 
newspapers of the firing that took place there and 
I was even misreported as having said that I ap- 
proved of this firing. As a matter of fact I knew 
nothing of this firing at the time and I said so. 
Subsequently I found that this firing was a trivial 
and individual affair of little significance. An 
individual had fired in a moment of excitement, but 
had fortunately caused no great injury to anyone. 
But what is worth noting is that the occasional 
stone throwing from the crowd was indulged in 
largely by communal elements who were out for 
trouble. They did not want a settlement. Even 
when a settlement was arrived at, these communal 
elements tried their utmost to upset it and prevent 
the workers from returning to the mills. Fortu- 
nately their influence was not great and the workers’ 
leaders succeeded, after a hard night’s work, in 


THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE 317 


explaining the situation to the workers and getting 
them to resume work. This difficulty would not 
have arisen if the workers had been properly 
otganised in a trade union. 

The lesson is therefore : strengthen the orga- 
nisation and beware of communalism and violence. 

The workers and their leaders know well that 
the Congress Ministries are friendly to them and 
wish to help them in ever} possible way. Circums- 
tances beyond their control may prevent them 
today from going as far as they would like to. 
But, for the first time in its history, the workers’ 
movement has friendly Provincial Governments in 
six provinces, and the chance of remedying some 
of its ills and developing its strength and organisa- 
tion. They will injure their own cause by embar- 
rassing these Governments and withholding their 
codperation from them. 


Vil 


Questions have atisen as to the attitude of 
Congress Committees and Congressmen generally 
towards Congress Ministries and the Provincial 
Governments where they function. Are they to 
criticise publicly or only privately or say nothing 
at allP What should our public activities be now 
in these six provinces. 

It is manifest that the Congress is more import- 
ant than any ministry. Ministries may come or go, 
but the Congress goes on till it fulfils its historic mis- 
sion of achieving national independence for India. 


318 EIGHTEEN MONTHS IN INDIA 


That achievement will come, not through Ministries, 
but through the organised strength of the Indian 
people acting through the Congress. When that 
achievement comes in full measures the Congress 
might well cease to exist. Its task will be done. 
But till then it is the emblem of our strength and 
unity and national purpose, and we must strengthen 
it in every way. That strength comes from day 
to day service of the masses and by developing 
their initiative and habits of democratic discussion. 

It is patent that for a Congress Committee to 
condemn a Congress Ministry is both improper and 
absurd. It is as if one Congress Committee con- 
demned another. The Ministries, being the crea- 
tion of the Congress, can be ended at any time by 
the Congress. If they are not good enough, let 
us end them or mend them. If we are not prepared 
to do so, then let us put up with them. Therefore 
condemnation is out of the question. If we think 
at any time that they ought to go, then we should 
take the proper steps under our constitution to 
bring this about. 

On the other hand, for Congress Committees 
and Congressmen to become silent and tongue-tied 
spectators of the doings of Congress Governments 
would be equally absurd. Vital subjects, like the 
agrarian problem, will be considered by the Legis- 
latures, and all of us, are, or should be, interested 
in these. Congress Committees have every right 
to discuss them and.sénd their suggestions and 
recommendations and popular demands to the 
Provincial Congress Committee concerned. That 


THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE 319 


course should prove helpful both to the legislature 
and the P.C. C. Friendly criticism or suggestion 
should always be welcome; it is the friendliness 
and mode of approach that matter. Any attempt 
to embarrass the Congress Ministries and put difh- 
culties in their way will end in embarrassing our- 
selves. We are all soldiers in the same cause, com- 
rades in the same great enterprise, and whether we 
are Ministers or village workers, we should deal 
with each other in a spirit of codperation with a 
desire to help and not to hinder. But we have to be 
vigilant also and ever alert, and not permit com- 
placency to creep in, deadening our public activities 
and gradually crushing the spirit of our movement. 
It is that spirit that counts and the public activity 
that results from it, for only that can supply the 
driving force to carry us forward to our goal, and 
only on that can we base a structure of democratic 
freedom. ‘The small gains that may come to us 
will be of little consequence if they come at the cost 
of that spirit. 

We aim at national independence and a demo- 
cratic State. Democracy is freedom but it is also 
discipline, and we must therefore develop both 
the freedom and the discipline of democracy among 
our people. 


August 30, 1937