Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

The Re-birth of Non-co-operation

By B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya

If, on the morrow of the Coconada Congress of 1923 December, any one had predicted that in five years, the political stalwarts of India would be fed up with Councils, the prophecy would have been laughed at, much in the same manner as people would have laughed at a prophecy in 1669 that one day India would be importing 70 crores’ worth of foreign cloth, or equally at the prophecy today that one of these days, if we leave things alone, shiploads of wheat and paddy would be imported into India. But political prophecies are apt to be discredited as the fond imaginations of political speculators, until the hard facts of experience come down upon mankind like a bolt from the blue and carry conviction with fatal accuracy. Where was the glee on the 1st of January 1929, which had been seen on the countenances of reactionary politicians five years previously, when they discovered that councils were after all the mighty maelstroms which would draw into their eddies the toughest of political straws that might be floating about them? When time after time, Nationalists and Swarajists alike walked into Government lobbies and voted promiscuously with the reactionaries upon Bills and Resolutions, when Congressmen in Councils were divided amongst themselves and allowed themselves to be diverted from the path of duty from, various considerations, it was clear that the political team could be brought together or kept together only under the impulse of a full self-government and not in the midst of bureaucratic blandishments and official lures. Non-co-operation through Councils,’ ‘bearding the lion in his own den,’ ‘capturing seats of power in the very citadels of bureaucracy’, all these have become mere rhodomontade, and the hollowness of the claims indicated by them has been made evident by the sense of helplessness displayed by those very claimants in the cold shade of reason and experience.

When Gandhi was summoned from his ‘den’ and asked to shoulder the responsibility of running the Congress in Calcutta last December, he could have dictated his own terms and reverted to his orthodox formulae, but his forbearance and love for his antagonists made him singularly free from all vindictiveness, wholly conciliatory in victory, moderate to a degree in tone, and businesslike in settlement from beginning to end. The younger men he could not alienate; the older he could not leave behind. He had therefore to effect compromises in his own faith, and hit upon a half-way halting place between Dominion Status and Independence, between boycott of British goods and khaddar, between Non-co-operation in Councils and Non-co-operation through and through. While therefore commending the Nehru Report, Gandhi lent the name of the Congress to the carrying on of propaganda in favour of Independence. Softening the sting of the boycott of British goods, he hit upon the happy thought of boycott of all foreign cloth through khaddar. And finally, while not tabooing council-entry, he enjoined it on all councilors that they should help the constructive programme from that vantage ground. Thus did he pave the way for a programme of Non-co-operation pure and undefiled, a programme which may, as the Calcutta Congress has stated in so many words, lead up to the non-payment of taxes.

Non-payment of taxes is a serious matter. It is easy to fly a foot and come down a yard. Nor would Government be soft and tender to those that raised the banner of revolt against their authority. That is why Gandhi is touring the country from end to end. At Pedanandipadu in Guntur District, the historic Firka round which the fight of 1922 should have concentrated itself, he has once again stated that if they meant to prepare themselves for the coming fight in 1930, fifty per-cent of the people should wear khaddar manufactured in its own area, and likewise fifty per-cent should give up untouchability and drink. It was the neglect of these elementary injunctions last time that compelled a retracing of our steps.1 They were the essence of the Delhi conditions of mass civil disobedience. They cannot be ignored next year, as they could not be ignored ten years ago.

But then people ask: "Is not all this the old story once again, the same old twice-told tale of sorrow and suffering, of defeat and shame?" There is no such thing as failure in life, for every failure is a step to success. Success is merely the summation of a series of failures. But this philosophy apart, there is the supreme fact that the Non-co-operation movement of 1921 was not a failure. It had roused mass consciousness and diverted it from those channels of rude activity which a sudden awakening is bound to betray people into. Too much was demanded of the people at the very first effort. No crop could be harvested from out of seed-beds. The seed-beds may have been tilled and manured, watered and weeded; but the seedlings, in order to bear fruit, must be transplanted. This is an elementary proposition of life, of agriculture, of the villages. Every rustic knows it, but we who are sophisticated by western education, know it not. In 1920 and 1921, we did but prepare the seed-bed. Now is the time to transplant. Let us pass through the process. The weeds have been removed. Council-entry came in only as the growth of a weed in the midst of a flourishing growth of the paddy plant. People mistook the weed for the fruit-bearing plant. They must discover their own folly. They have had time and opportunities for doing it. Now they stand disillusioned. They must leave affairs into the hands of revolutionaries. Of this latter class, there are two groups–the violent and the non-violent. The activities and ideals of the first, they do not countenance. Those of the second remain the pis aller of the council-entrants of the Congress. Indeed they are the culmination of the Simon Boycott, which is but a phase of Non-co-operation.

The prospects of Non-co-operation are bright from the standpoint, even of Government. What are the alternatives before them? Soviet Russia, Bolshevic money, Direct Action, strikes and all that they mean–disorder, violence, bloodshed, not to mention disorganisation of industry. All this is on one side, and in the open. It must be admitted by Government, for we are but speaking in their language. On the other, you have secret societies, bombs and revolvers, assassinations and anarchy; in a word, the unconcealed cult of unmitigated violence which Government fears and people abominate. Surely, Government can make no choice between these two. They must hitch their wagon then to the star of Moderate politics, but where is this commodity, this organism, this organisation? It is dead as Dodo or a door mat. It is dead and buried seven fathoms deep beneath the surface of Liberalism. It is Liberalism and the Liberals that have made the Simon Boycott a real success. Were it not so, the authorities would today not be owning the success of the boycotters. Liberals being no longer friends of Government, and the veil that marks them off from the Non-co-operators being altogether thin, Government cannot look to them for support. Direct Action is anathema, and open anarchy means bloodshed. Liberalism of the old-world type is impotent, even if it is surviving in a nook there or a corner here. The only upholders of Law and Order–those that swear by non-violence in their very disobedience of Laws–those that are the best friends of Government, under the very banner of their civil revolution, are the non-violent Non-co-operators. Day by day the strength of Government on the plane of force is increasing. Aeroplanes are a new factor in putting down revolution, decimating whole villages and population. Government are strongest on the plane of brute force. On the legal or the constitutional plane, they are less so, but they are utterly frail, weak and helpless on the moral plane–the plane of Non-co-operation. On this plane we are impregnable. Right, justice, equity and morality are on our side. On the constitutional plane, we are less strong. On the plane of force, we are weakest. Let us therefore revive Non-co-operation and silently work the end of autocracy in India. When the self-consciousness of the people is roused, when their desire for Swaraj is kindled, their deserts dare not be challenged by anyone. Revolution alone can bring emancipation to India, and that revolution which the Congress has all along encouraged, fostered and worked for, is the revolution of non-violent Non-co-operation. It is necessarily slow in its processes, but is inoffensive, unchallengeable and sure in its march. History may not exactly repeat itself, but the broad outlines of the processes by which India is destined to come by her freedom are already visible in the political horizon. We already catch glimpses of the heliocentric course of Indian politics in which the self-luminary planets of a revived faith in khaddar, of communal unity, of the removal of untouchability, the abolition of drink and the development of panchayats, revolve round the Sun of Gandhi, and in which the Councils are but a satellite like the moon around the earth, wanting in self-luminousness and playing but a nocturnal part in the ‘akasa’ of life.

1Or was it due to lack of leadership? (Ed. ‘Triveni’)

Help me keep this site Ad-Free

For over a decade, this site has never bothered you with ads. I want to keep it that way. But I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased truth, wisdom and knowledge.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: