Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338
SCHOOLMASTERS AND LAWYERS
I hope you have by this time been able to consult friends who were led to modify, at Delhi, the Congress resolution regarding the Triple Boycott. What final decision have you come to? Are you going to preach them over again in the same form? As to the boycott of Councils, I may not say anything; the leaders of the Swaraj Party might have clearly lain before you facts and arguments. The work they are doing and are likely to do is before you. As to the boycott of schools and colleges, it has, if I may say from my own experience, completely failed. I may refer to my own case. Here there are two full-fledged high schools, attended by more than 500 pupils each, while the National High School has barely 30 boys on the roll. We have tried all possible ways and means for canvassing boys, but have failed. I have been convinced that people are not prepared for this boycott. As to the third boycott, there were only a very few lawyers who gave up their practice. Now almost all have rejoined. The number of court-going people never diminished. The Lavad Courts established by national workers never thrived and have since died. These courts, having had no power to enforce their decisions, and the people being not trained to submit, cannot be expected to attain any palpable success. Under these circumstances what are we-who boycotted our further education and prospects at the clarion call of the Congress to sacrifice for the sake of the country only one year to do? We have sacrificed not only one year but three. We established national schools for the people and the people heed them not.
The sacrifice of the workers is not appreciated. Are not the national schools with such poor attendance a useless waste of the public money, energy and life? Does it not mean that our efforts and plans are premature? Our sacrifice gives no satisfaction to ourselves too. It is often a hindrance to patriotism or national enthusiasm. Khaddar is dearer than mill cloth and our means are poor. Though elected delegates to the Congress, we cannot attend or have to refuse the seat, for want of the necessary money required for travelling and other expenses. We have to earn money not for luxury but as a necessity. But our ways are blocked by the Congress. I have a family to support and a delicate constitution, and hence cannot bear the hardship of village propaganda. The Congress has practically no work at present. What I think is that the Congress should arrange for the maintenance of workers and admit only those whom it can support. It should give permission to all others to follow their own pursuits patriotically and be soldiers of the Militia (irregular army), ready at the country’s call whenever required. Such people will enter Government and semi-Government schools and teach their prescribed books and lessons with a patriotic angle of vision. They will join the Bar and show to the people at every step what a waste of time and money the Courts are.
They will enter the military and refuse to fire on their own brethren. And so on. I know not what you intend to do after your recovery. In the meanwhile I seek your advice. I think that I am doing no better service to the people and to the country by remaining the headmaster of the national school here, which is not appreciated and supported by the public. May I complete my law education and join the Bar and do what humble services I can to the Motherland? Will you advise the Congress to remove these boycotts and devise some other ways and means for attaining freedom? Or are you going to take up these boycotts in right earnest again? May we wait? PS. It is no question of conscience and religion. I took at Non-co-operation only as a means. The foregoing letter sums up succinctly the argument advanced by my correspondents and visitors against the boycott of schools and law-courts. As usual the sting is in the tail. The Postscript yields the secret of unbelief in the boycott. One need not regard everything as a matter of conscience or religion to be able to stick to it through thick and thin. Even one’s means may be so vital that giving them up may mean death. Lungs are the means whereby we breathe and sustain life. They are not life. But their destruction is destruction of life itself.
No one questions that non-co-operation is a means. The question is: Is non-co-operation as conceived in 1920 the only means of reaching our goal? The Congress decided that it was. But the Congress merely represents the opinion of the delegates for the time being. Some of us evidently consider that it was a mistake to think that it was the only means. Some others think that it was one of the means and many more should have been adopted at the same time. Yet others, through they disbelieved in it. Adopted it out of regard for the decision of the majority and because they think that the decisions of the Congress have a mandatory character and bind the minority whether in matters of principle or detail. Yet others adhere to the opinion formed by them 1920 that non-co-operation as then conceived is the only means for achieving our goal. I belong to the last category and it will be my humble duty from time to time to show why it is the only means. My correspondent evidently belongs to the opposite school. I have repeatedly observed that no school of thought can claim a monopoly of right judgment.
We are all liable to err and are often obliged to revise our judgments. In a vast country like this, there must be room for all schools of honest thought. And the least, therefore, that we owe to ourselves as to others is to try to understand the opponent’s view-points and, if we cannot accept it, respect it as fully as we would expect him to respect ours. It is one of the indispensable tests of a healthy public life and, therefore, fitness for swaraj. If we have no charity and no tolerance, we shall never settle our differences amicably and must therefore always submit to the arbitrament of a third party, i.e., to foreign domination. I invite the reader, then, to share with me the respect that is due to the view set forth by my correspondent and, if he belongs to the correspondent’s school of thought, bear with me even though I cannot see eye to eye with him. In my opinion, the boycott of schools and law-courts has been both a failure and a success. It has been largely, not wholly, a failure in those schools and law-courts have not been effectively or even appreciably deserted. But it has been a success in that the halo surrounding Government schools and law-courts has disappeared. People believe, much more now than they did before, in the necessity of independent national schools and settlement of disputes by Panchayat. Lawyers and Government schoolmasters have lost much of the artificial prestige they enjoyed five years ago.
I count these as no small gains. Let me not be misunderstood. I do not undervalue the sacrifices and devotion to the country of schoolmasters and lawyers. Dadabhai and Gokhale were school-masters. Pherozeshah Mehta and Badruddin Tyabji were lawyers. But I would not have even these distinguished countrymen of ours to claim the exclusive monopoly of wisdom or ability to guide. The spinner, the weaver, the farmer, the artisan, the trader have just as much right to shape the destiny of the country as the members of the so-called liberal professions. As the latter have represented the arm of authority, we have been awed by them and to that extent they have accustomed us to think that we can satisfy our wants only through the Government instead of teaching us that the Government is a creation of the people and merely an instrument for giving effect to their will.
This false prestige of privileged classes has suffered a shock from which I hope it will never recover. That national schools and Panchayat have not flourished, as they might have, is due to a variety of causes, some avoidable and others unavoidable. We have been new to the work and therefore we have not known how to go about it. For me, therefore, the poverty of results is not a cause for disappointment but for greater and more enlightened effort. Our failures we can convert into so many steps to success. The village work frightens us. We who are town-bred find it trying to take to the village life. Our bodies in many cases do not respond to the hard life. But it is a difficulty which we have to face boldly, even heroically, if our desire is to establish swaraj for the people, not substitute one class rule by another, which may be even worse. Hitherto the villagers have died in their thousands so that we might live. Now we might have to die so that they may live. The difference will be fundamental. The former have died unknowingly and involuntarily. Their enforced sacrifice has degraded us. If now we die knowingly and willingly, our sacrifice will ennoble us and the whole nation. Let us not flinch from the necessary sacrifice, if we will live as an independent, self-respecting nation. The difficulty with the non-co-operating lawyers is greater still.
They have unfortunately been used to a highly artificial life totally out of harmony with their national surroundings. I regard it as a crime that any lawyer or doctor should charge or get, say Rs. 1,000 per day or for that matter even Rs. 100 per day. It is no answer to the indictment that it is the monied men who pay and there can be no harm, but it may be all to the good if lawyers take money from the rich people and use a part for the public good. If the profession was disinterested and charged only enough for maintenance, the monied men would also have to revise their budget. As it is, we seem to be moving in a vicious circle. If under swaraj we shall have to make the town life correspond to the village life, we shall be bound to simplify the town mode of life. The beginning has to be made now. Why should lawyers feel as utterly helpless as they seem to do now? Is starvation the only alternative if they cannot resume practice? Is it impossible for a resourceful lawyer to turn his attention to weaving or any other honourable toil?
It is difficult for me to advise non-co-operating lawyers and schoolmasters. If they believe in the boycott, they should face all difficulties and continue the boycott. If they do not believe in it, they can, without any disgrace attaching to their action, rejoin the profession. As I do not believe in the mandate theory, I do not consider it to be obligatory on any schoolmaster or lawyer to refrain from rejoining Government schools or law-courts because of the continuance of the boycott resolution. I would still advocate the retention of the boycott, to be worked out not by propaganda for emptying Government schools and courts (that was done and had to be done during 1920 and 1921), but by the constructive method of establishing and popularizing national schools and Panchayat.