Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338
NON-PAYMENT OF TAXES
The idea of non-payment of taxes is in the air. The Andhras have made us more familiar with the cry than any other part of India. Whilst the Congress has given provincial autonomy to every province, I have ventured to warn the provinces against embarking upon a non-payment campaign till I had tried the experiment myself in some area under my own supervision. I abide by that warning. I must also draw attention to the fact that we are not to start offensive civil disobedience till the 31st instant, or if it is sooner, till the Malaviya Conference Committee knows the result of its negotiations and knows that the proposed Round Table Conference is not to come off. Therefore, any suspension of taxes at the present moment can only be regarded as temporary holding back pending the result of the negotiations carried on by that Committee. But 31st January will be soon upon us. And it is necessary to consider the question of non-payment of taxes in all its bearings. On this subject a friend who is in deep sympathy with the national movement, and who is a fairly accurate student of it, thus expresses his apprehensions: I have often thought to what extent the non-violent non-co-operation movement transgresses the religious limits, when it embarks on civil disobedience in the form of non-payment of taxes. I look upon the non-violent non-co-operation as essentially a spiritual movement. I know Mr. Gandhi does not think it otherwise.
Will not the programme of the non-payment of taxes transgress the religious limit and lead to violence and bring into the movement people who are not as yet saturated with the principle of non-violence? Is not Mr. Gandhi holding out, however unconsciously, material bait for his spiritual movement by which he means to conquer the Government? Recent events have shown that the temper of violence and the belief in violence are not eliminated from our character in the mass. And, therefore, it would be a leap in the dark fraught with disastrous consequences to carry out the programme of civil disobedience in the form of non-payment of taxes. I am, therefore, most anxious that Mr. Gandhi should not begin civil disobedience in this form as yet. The validity of the objection lies in the statement that the non-payment campaign will bring into the movement people who are not as yet saturated with the principle of non-violence. This is very true, and because it is true, non-payment does “hold out material bait”. It follows, therefore, that we must not resort to non-payment because of the possibility of a ready response. The readiness is a fatal temptation. Such non-payment will not be civil or non-violent, but it will be criminal or fraught with the greatest possibility of violence.
Let us remember the experience of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru when the peasants, after they had taken the pledge of non-violence, told him that if he advised them to do violence, they would be certainly ready to do so. Not until the peasantry is trained to understand the reason and the virtue of civil non-payment and is prepared to look with calm resignation upon the confiscation (which can only be temporary) of their holdings and the forced sale of their cattle and other belongings, may they be advised to withhold payment of taxes. They must be told what happened in holy Palestine. The Arabs who were fined were surrounded by soldiers. Aeroplanes were hovering overhead. And the sturdy men were dispossessed of their cattle. The latter were impounded and left without fodder and even water. When the Arabs, stupefied and rendered helpless, brought the fine and additional penalty, as if to mock them, they had their dead and dying cattle returned to them. Worse things can and certainly will happen in India. Are the Indian peasantry prepared to remain absolutely non-violent, and see their cattle taken away from them to die of hunger and thirst? I know that such things have already happened in Andhra Desh. If the peasantry in general knowingly and deliberately remains peaceful even in such trying circumstances, they are nearly ready for non-payment.
I say “nearly ready”, for non-payment is intended to transfer the power from the bureaucracy into our hands. It is, therefore, not enough that the peasantry remains non-violent. Non-violence is certainly nine-tenths of the battle, but it is not all. The peasantry may remain non-violent, but may not treat the untouchables as their brethren; they may not regard Hindus, Mussulmans, Christians, Jews, Parsis, as the case may be, their brethren; they may not have learnt the economic and the moral value of the charkha and the khaddar. If they have not, they cannot gain swaraj. They will not do all these things after swaraj, if they will not do them now. They must be taught to know that the practice of these national virtues means swaraj. Thus civil non-payment of taxes is a privilege capable of being exercised only after rigorous training. And even a civil disobedience is difficult in the case of a habitual offender against the laws of the State, so is Civil non-payment difficult for those who nave hitherto been in the habit of withholding payment of taxes on the slightest pretext. Civil non-payment of taxes is indeed the last stage in non-co-operation.
We must not resort to it till we have tried the other forms of civil disobedience. And it will be the height of unwisdom to experiment with non-payment in large or many areas in the beginning stages. I hear the talk even of refusing payment of rent to zemindars. It must not be forgotten that we are not non-co-operating with zemindars, whether Indian or foreign. We are engaged in a fight with one big zemindar the bureaucracy which has made of us and the zemindars themselves serfs. We must try to bring round the zemindars to our side, and isolate the big zemindar. But if they will not come to us, we must be patient with them. We may not even proclaim a social boycott against them. That is to say, we may not refuse social service such as dhobi, barber, etc., to them. In areas under permanent settlement, therefore, there can be no non-payment campaign except in respect of cusses that might be payable directly to the Government. But the mention of zemindars merely shows the difficulties that beset us in the pursuit of no-tax campaign. All things considered, therefore, it is my deliberate opinion that the no-tax movement for the objects of the Congress should be for the time being left to me; meanwhile, workers can develop their own districts along constructive lines. They can discover various other methods of offering mass civil disobedience, and then, as the people become purified and enlightened, lead them on to non-payment. As for the Andhras, where preparations on an intensive scale have already been made, I do not wish to damp the ardour of the worker. If they are satisfied that the people in the selected areas fulfil all the tests laid down at Delhi, and that they are capable of endless suffering without retaliation, I have nothing to say but to pronounce “God bless the brave Andhras”. They must know the responsibility will be entirely theirs for any mishap that may occur. They will not be blamed by anybody if they do not take up the no-tax movement.