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gandhi_collected works vol 23

gandhi_collected works vol 23

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Published by: Nrusimha ( नृसिंह ) on Jan 23, 2009
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VOL. 23 : 6 APRIL, 1921 - 21 JULY, 1921

Despite the mission of Sir Benjamin Robertson, the South Afri- can Commissions1 has delivered an adverse finding. Commissions, Lord Morley2 has often said, serve no useful purpose. They raise false hopes, and, for the time being, divert public attention from matters they are appointed to deal with. They give time for passions to cool down. But they rarely do justice. Indeed, it is notorious that Com- missions avoid abstract justice. They offer, or effect, com-promises. But the South African Commission has offered, or effected, no compromise. It has delivered the Indian in the hands of his white rival in trade. It has reaffirmed the principle of white supremacy, as Mr. Andrews so often puts it. The principle has almost become a passion and a religion. In 1901, the late Sir Pherozeshah3

rated me for \u2018wasting my time,\u2019 as he put it, on South Africa. During the satya- graha campaign, he was the last, as he said himself; to be enthused. And when he was enthused, it was not the justice of the cause (which he never doubted) but it was the incarceration4 of Mrs. Gandhi which roused his chivalrous spirit, and threw him into the struggle. He used to say that I should return to India and work for the freedom of the whole of India, rather than for a handful of Indians in South Africa.

I thought then, as I think even now, that whilst the un-crowned king of the Presidency of Bombay was right about concentrating on India\u2019s freedom, he was wrong in thinking that I should have withdrawn from South Africa. We dare not neglect our countrymen abroad. The battle of India\u2019s freedom involves the protection of the rights of the least of our countrymen, no matter where they might be situated. But at the present moment, I must invite our countrymen in South Africa to carry on their battle bravely and single-handed, and help us here in the best way they can. India\u2019s fate must be decided

1 The Africa Enquiry Commission appointed by the Union Government of
South Africa which sat from March to July 1920. It was assisted by Sir Benjamin
Robertson on behalf of the Government of India.
2 John Morley, Viscount Morley of Blackburn (1838-1923); Secretary of State
for India, 1905-10
3Sir Pherozeshah Mehta
4In South Africa in 1913;v i d e \u201cLetter to Clement Doke\u201d, 24-9-1913.
one way or the other (and so far as I know only one way) during this
year. We shall be better able to protect them then, than now.

The South African problem bears the same character as the pro- blem at home. We too are fighting the religion of white supre-macy. The refusal to recognize the Muslim claim, the encircling of the Arabs, the negotiations with the Ameer1, the refusal to stop the pensions of Sir Michael O\u2019Dwyer and General Dyer, and frankly to dismiss men who maltreated the Punjabis in 1919, are symptoms of the same disease. Either that supremacy must go in its entirety, or those of us who recognize the tubercular nature of the disease must perish in the attempt to combat it. The Government of India can, if they wish, put up an energetic and open fight against the proposed breach of faith which the Commission implies. The spirit of the settlement of 1918 was that the position of the Indian all over South Africa must be levelled up, not a single right then existing should be in any way endangered. The Commission has not only put itsimpri-

maturon the encroachments already made on existing rights, but it

has itself suggested further and egregious curtailment thereof. Be- tween free nations such an authoritative pronouncement would lead to open rupture. The Report of the Commission can only spur my non- co-operation spirit to further effort.


A friend from South Africa writes to say that several Europeans there are prepared to help the struggle for swaraj, but they want to be assured on certain points. As the points raised are of general im- portance, I gladly deal with them here.

1. Does Mr. Gandhi\u2019s swaraj mean sovereign independence, or full responsible
Government within the Empire on the Dominion lines?

I should certainly be satisfied with full responsible Government on Dominion lines if the Khilafat and the Punjab wrongs are redressed. India cannot remain within the Empire if the latter cannot redress the two wrongs; for full responsible Government will have no meaning for India, if she cannot refuse to give pensions to officers who have wronged her, or if she cannot secure a settlement of the Khilafat terms. England then becomes an \u2018enemy country\u2019 for India.

1The King of Afghanistan. The negotiations ultimately led to the signing of
the Anglo-Afghan Treaty on November 22, 1921.
VOL. 23 : 6 APRIL, 1921 - 21 JULY, 1921
2. Do the Muslims claim Palestine, or will they restore it to the Jews who are
the original owners?

The Muslims claim Palestine as an integral part of Jazi- rat-ul-Arab. They are bound to retain its custody, as an injunction of the Prophet. But that does not mean that the Jews and the Christians cannot freely go to Palestine, or even reside there and own property. What non-Muslims cannot do is to acquire sovereign jurisdiction. The Jews cannot receive sovereign rights in a place which has been held for centuries by Muslim powers by right of religious conquest. The Muslim soldiers did not shed their blood in the late War for the purpose of surrendering Palestine out of Muslim control. I would like my Jewish friends to impartially consider the position of the seventy million Muslims of India. As a free nation, can they tolerate what they must regard as a treacherous disposal of their sacred possession?


I think the duty of non-co-operators is clear regarding Lord Reading. Whilst we may not take part in any demonstrations of welcome, we may not also undertake, or countenance, any counter demonstration. We have no quarrel with Englishmen, or even with officials as such. We seek to, and we must, destroy the system they are called upon to administer, because we regard it as wholly evil in its totality. We must dissociate ourselves from individual officials, who, like Sir Michael O\u2019Dwyer and General Dyer, have wronged India, and have been untrue to her salt. Lord Reading has a golden opportunity. He belongs to a race which has a fine imagination. He knows what a \u2018pariah\u2019 means and how he feels If he examines the non-co-ope- rators\u2019 case with impartiality, and if he fails in his advocacy of her claims, he must himself become a non-co-operator. He may not ask them to forgive, where there is no frank and full repentance. Nor must he ask the Muslims to give up their just claims or the Hindus to sell their fellow-country men. Lastly, His Excellency may not ask India to postpone the attainment of her birthright, whether for the sake of Lancashire or any other consideration. His Lordship therefore will have [to] have an exceptionally strong will to resist an environment which is almost wholly antagonistic to the Indian case. Non-co-ope- rators must do nothing to add to his diffi-culties. We must give His Excellency the fullest credit for meaning to do well. But I would also warn them against building hopes on Lord Reading doing anything. This is a battle of self-help and self-reliance. We must create the envi-

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