Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338
STATEMENT ON OPIUM POLICY
Mr. C. F. Andrews has shown me a paragraph in his writings in Young India regarding the opium policy of the Government of India. In that paragraph he quotes Mr. Campbell, the Government representative at the Geneva Conference held in May 1923.2 Mr. Campbell is reported to have stated that “from the beginning India had handled the opium question with perfect honesty of purpose, and not even its most ardent opponents including Mr. Gandhi had ever made any reproach in that respect”. The statement Mr. Andrews has shown me was written whilst I was a prisoner in the Yeravda Jail. Mr. Andrews tells me that, knowing my views in the matter of opium, he did not hesitate to contradict Mr. Campbell’s charge against me, but in view of the importance of the matter, he wants me to state my position clearly regarding the opium policy of the Government of India.
I do so gladly. I confess that my study of the opium question is very cursory, but the campaign against drink that was taken up in 1921 with such great enthusiasm and even fierceness was a campaign not merely against the drink curse but against all intoxicating drugs. It is true that opium was not specifically mentioned, nor was opium dens picketed, except perhaps in Assam; but those who know anything of the history of the anti-drink campaign, know that sustained agitation was led against all manner of intoxicants not excluding even tea. During my travels in Assam, Mr. Phookan, the Assam non-cooperation leader, told me that the campaign had come to the Assamese as a blessing, because more than any other part of India Assam had a very large number of its population addicted to opium in a variety of ways. The campaign, however, Mr. Phookan said, had brought about a wholesale reform, and thousands had vowed never to touch opium. I should have thought that the severe condemnation that I have repeatedly expressed of the liquor policy of the Government would include condemnation of the whole of its policy regarding intoxicating drinks and drugs and that no separate condemnation was needed regarding opium, ganja, etc. If there was no ruinous and growing expenditure on an army kept not for the sake of preventing encroachments from without, but for suppressing Indian discontent due to the exploitation of India for the sake of Great Britain, there would be no revenue needed from immoral sources. In saying that India (meaning the Government of India) has handled the opium question with perfect honesty of purpose, Mr. Campbell evidently forgets that, in the interest of revenue, opium was imposed upon China by force of arms.