Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338
THE PEN OR THE SWORD
In Lahore on the Mall there is a statue of John Lawrence with a defiant look in the face with the pen in the right hand and the sword in the left. The writing underneath is, “Will you have the pen or the sword?” As a work of art it is said to be very good. But it has always been a matter of offence to the citizens of Lahore. They neither want the pen nor the sword imposed upon them. The statue is municipal property. It was put up in the early eighties when the sense of self-respect was not so keen as now, though I understand that even when it was put up, some of the citizens keenly felt the indignity. Recently the Lahore Municipality passed a resolution by a majority vote ordering removal of the statue to the Town Hall building pending final disposal. The resolution was sent in due course to the Government as all resolutions are. Three Or four days after, an engineer was sent by the Municipality to see how the statue could be removed. Without any notice to the Municipality, the Deputy Commissioner sent a party of police to turn away the engineer and his men. And when the Municipality wanted to know why and how this undue interference took place, the Commissioner issued the following orders.
It is clear that the Deputy Commissioner was guilty of assault in having sent the police to turn out the engineer who was doing his legal duty. The Commissioner’s order is an illustration of the meaning of the pen. The Commissioner’s pen is just as much an outrage as the Deputy Commissioner’s sword. The commissioner, because he has the sword, has arrogated to himself judicial powers which do not belong to him. Whether the Municipality has or has not the power to dispose of its own property is purely for a court of law to decide. And what right has the Commissioner to impute malice to the Municipality? The fact is that the Commissioner cannot tolerate the disappearance from a fashionable quarter of Lahore of the spirit that the statue represents. So he has not hesitated to dictate the law to the Municipality. Thus what was but an ordinary incident in the affairs of a Municipality which has responded to the new awakening has become a matter of the highest public importance. The citizens, the rate payers of Lahore must by public meetings support the councilors who have been instrumental in passing the resolution. The councilors must take prompt action and give notice, if they have not already done so, that unless Government show good reason to the contrary, the Municipality must do its duty and remove the statue.
The Commissioner has unintentionally given a golden opportunity to the civil resisters of Lahore to try civil resistance in the cleanest and the most intensive manner. If the Government defy the Municipality and use its brute force to prevent removal of the statue, the civil resisters can, after due notice to the Government, proceed to the site with the intention of removing the statue and themselves for arrest or being shot if the Government so wishes. But this last step can only be taken by disciplined people. It can only be taken when Lahorians are ready to act as one man. There should be no crowds gathering. Only a few individuals can go at a time, say five, of whom one will become the spokesman. They must not bluster, must not argue but simply court arrest. For the immediate object would be not the removal of the statue but inviting arrest. Removal must be the result, if enough men and women offer themselves as sacrifice. There must be a perfect spirit of non-violence prevailing among the people in order to ensure the success of such civil disobedience. Whilst I point out the drastic remedy of civil disobedience, I must warn the citizens of Lahore against adopting the advice without the greatest deliberation.
My own experience of a Lahore crowd is that it does not think. It knows no discipline. The volunteers must work methodically amongst the people to create an atmosphere of peace and discipline. I was grieved to notice, that at the Convocation meeting organized on the 9th instant by the National Board of Education several people had entered Bradlaugh Hall without tickets and without permission. This is not merely uncivil but criminal disobedience. For they entered by force where they knew their force would not be resisted by force. Such men are unfit for civil disobedience which presupposes a scrupulous and willing observance of all laws which do not hurt the moral sense. Obedience to laws of voluntary associations as the rule of the managers of the Convocation is only the first step to voluntary and ungrudging obedience to the laws imposed by the state. Thoughtless disobedience means disruption of society. The first thing therefore for those who aspire after civil disobedience is to learn the art of willingly obeying laws of voluntary associations such as congresses, conferences and other bodies and similarly obeying the state laws whether they like them or not. Civil disobedience is not a state of lawlessness and licence, but presupposes a law-abiding spirit combined with self-restraint.