August 4, 1919
DEAR MR. ARUNDALE,
I have read and re-read your kind letter for which I thank you. I am publishing the letter in Young India together with this reply.
Much as I should like to follow your advice, I feel that I am incompetent for the task set forth by you in your letter. I am fully aware of my limitations. My bent is not political but religious and I take part in politics because I feel that there is no department of life which can be divorced from religion and because politics touch the vital being of India almost at every point. It is therefore absolutely necessary that the political relations between Englishmen and ourselves should be put on a sound basis. I am endeavouring to the best of my ability to assist in the process. I do not take much interest in the reforms because they are in safe hands and because reforms cum Rowlatt legislation mean to my mind a stalemate. Rowlatt legislation represents a poisonous spirit. After all, the English civilians can, unless Indian opinion produces a healthy reaction upon them, reduce the reforms practically to a nullity. They distrust us and we distrust them. Each considers the other as his natural enemy. Hence the Rowlatt legislation. The Civil Service has devised the legislation to keep us down. In my opinion, that legislation is like the coil of the snake round the Indian body. The obstinacy of the Government in clinging to the hateful legislation in spite of the clearest possible demonstration they have had of public opinion against it makes me suspect the worst. With the views enunciated above, you will not wonder at my inability to interest myself in the reforms. Rowlatt legislation blocks the way. And my life is dedicated among other things to removing the block.
Let there be no mistake. Civil resistance has come to stay. It is an eternal doctrine of life which we follow consciously or unconsciously in many walks of life. It is the new and extended application of it which has caused misgivings and excitement. Its suspension is designed to demonstrate its true nature, and to throw the responsibility for the removal of the Rowlatt legislation on the Government as also the leaders (you among them) who have advised me to suspend it. But if within a reason¬able time the legislation is not removed, civil resistance will follow as surely as day follows night. No weapon in the Government armoury can either overcome or de¬stroy that eternal force. Indeed a time must come when civil resistance will be recognized as the most efficacious, if also the most harmless, remedy for securing redress of grievances.
You suggest the desirability of unity. I think unity of goal we have. But parties we shall always have and we may not find a common denominator for improvements. For some will want to go further than some others. I see no harm in a wholesome variety. What I would rid ourselves of is distrust of one another and imputation of motives. Our besetting sin is not our differences but our littleness. We wrangle over words, we fight often for shadow and lose the substance. As Mr. Gokhale used to say, our politics are a pastime of our leisure hours when they are not undertaken as a stepping stone to a carrier in life.
I would invite you and every editor to insist on introducing charity, seriousness and selflessness in our politics. And our disunion will not jar as it does today. It is not our differences that really matter. It is the meanness behind that is undoubtedly ugly.
The Punjab sentences are inextricably mixed up with the Rowlatt agitation. It is therefore as imperatively necessary to have them revised as it is to have the Act removed. I agree with you that the Press Act requires overhauling. The Government are actually promoting sedition by high-handed executive action. And I was sorry to learn that Lord Willingdon1 is reported to have taken the sole responsibility for the — in my opinion unwarranted—action2 against The Hindu and the Swadesha Mitran. By it, they have not lost in prestige or popularity. They have gained in both. Surely there are judges enough in the land who would convict where a journalist has overstepped the bounds of legitimate criticism and uttered sedition. I am not enamoured of the Declaration of Rights business. When we have changed the spirit of the English civilian, we shall have made considerable headway with the Dec¬laration of Rights. We must be honourable friends, or equally honourable enemies. We shall be neither, unless we are manly, fearless and independent. I would have us to treasure Lord Willingdon's advice and say "no" when we mean "no" without fear of consequences. This is unadulterated civil resistance. It is the way to friendliness and friendship. The other is the age-worn method of open violence on honourable lines in so far as violence can be allowed to be honourable. For me the roots of violence are in dishonour. I have therefore ventured to present to India the former, in its complete form called Satyagraha, whose roots are always in honour.
M. K. GANDHI
Young India, 6-8-1919