Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338
The women of Calcutta have obstructed the gentlemen of Calcutta by trying to sell khadi and a telegram in the newspapers has announced that they have been consequently arrested. The company includes the devoted partner of the President elect, his widowed sister and his niece. I had hoped that in the initial stages, at any rate, women would be spared the honour of going to jail. They were not to become aggressive civil resisters. But the Bengal Government, in their impartial zeal to make no distinction even of sex, has conferred the honour upon three women of Calcutta. I hope that the whole country will welcome this innovation. The women of India should have as much share in winning swaraj as men. Probably in this peaceful struggle woman can outdistance man by many a mile. We know that she is any day superior to man in her religious devotion. Silent and dignified suffering is the badge of her sex. And now that the Government of Bengal has dragged the woman into the line of fire, I hope that the women all over India will take up the challenge and organize themselves. In any case, they were bound, when a sufficient number of men had been removed, for the honour of their sex to step into their places. But now let it be side by side with men in sharing the hardships of jail life.
God will protect their honour. When, as if to mock man, her natural protectors became helpless to prevent Draupadi from being denuded of her last piece of cloth, the power of her own virtue preserved her honour. And so will it be to the end of time. Even the weakest physically have been given the ability to protect their own honour. Let it be man’s privilege to protect woman, but let no woman of India feel helpless in the absence of man or in the event of his failing to perform the sacred duty of protecting her. One who knows how to die need never fear any harm to her or his honour. I would suggest to the women of India quietly but without loss of time to collect names of those who are ready to enter the line of fire. Let them send their offer to the women of Bengal and let the latter feel that their sisters elsewhere are ready to follow their noble example. It is likely that there will not be many forthcoming to brave the risks of a jail life and all it must mean to women. The nation will have no cause to be ashamed if only a few offer themselves for sacrifice in the first instance. Men’s duty is clear. We must not lose our heads. Excitement will not protect our women or our country. We have asked Government neither to spare women nor children. It certainly did not in the Punjab during those martial law days. I consider it decidedly more civilized that the officials in Calcutta should under a legal pretence arrest our sisters in Calcutta for what they consider is a crime than that a Bosworth Smith in the Punjab should spit upon, swear at and otherwise humiliate the women of Manianwala.
We did not offer our women to be insulted thus wise. But we do offer our women for imprisonment if they will arrest them in the prosecution of public service. We must not expect the Government to look on with indifference whilst the women are spreading the gospel of swadeshi and undermining the very basis of its existence its traffic in foreign cloth and the consequent ability to exploit India’s resources. If, therefore, we men allow our sisters to take part in the swadeshi agitation, we must concede the right of the Government to imprison them equally with men. We must, therefore, control our anger. It will be cowardly to challenge a duel and then swear at the adversary for taking up the challenge. Men must fill the jails. Men must prove to the Government that the awakening is not confined to a few men but it has permeated the masses, that the spirit of non-violence possesses not merely a select number but that it possesses the best part of India. We must show by our conduct that the sudden eruption was an exception and not a symptom of a general disease. And now, when the cause for irritation is almost the greatest, is the time for showing the greatest forbearance and self-restraint.
I modify the adjective by using an adverb before it. For, I do not think that the greatest irritation has yet been offered. I can conceive occasions which may cause irritation to the straining point. If we are to gain freedom and vindicate the honour of the Khilafat and the Punjab, we must pay a much higher price and not lose equanimity in the midst of the greatest possible irritation. Let us prepare for the worst and give credit to the Government for decency by expecting the least. Let us acknowledge frankly that in most cases they are obeying the laws of war by being courteous. If they handcuffed Pir Badshah Mian and Dr. Suresh Banerjee, they have not done so in the case of the Ali Brothers, Lala Lajpat Rai, Maulana Mohiuddin or Pandit Motilal Nehru. Nor would I quarrel with handcuffing if they imposed it on all. It is a jail regulation to handcuff a prisoner. I should certainly have loved to travel to Allahabad to see Pandit Motilal Nehru and his son being handcuffed together and made to walk to their destination. I would have loved to watch the radiant smiles on their faces in the consciousness of their handcuffs hastening the advent of swaraj.
But the Government did not provide any such treat. What I do not expect, what I do not want for the sake of man’s dignity, is a repetition of the petty and degrading insults of the Punjab or the unthinkable inhumanities of the Moplahs death wagon. But non-co-operators have stipulated for no such immunity. We have conceived the possibility of the worst happening and under a full sense of our responsibility pledged ourselves to remain non-violent. Swaraj is within our grasp; let it not step away from us by self-forgetfulness. With leaders in jails, there should be hartals wherever the Prince goes. No meetings are necessary to organize them. The people have sufficient training for spontaneous action. Let the Government realize that it was not force but willing response that brought about hartals. There must be nowhere any unauthorized or ill-conceived civil disobedience.
Every forward step must be taken with the greatest deliberation and calmness. The people can discuss things in their own homes. The merchants meet a thousand times for business. They may easily discuss and decide matters arising out of the situation as it develop hourly. But whilst I would like hartals to follow the Prince, I would take no risk of violence and would not countenance the slightest exercise of force or threat of it. Absence of prescribed hartal would somewhat discredit us, but an outbreak of violence would retard our progress and may even indefinitely postpone swaraj. I hope, too, that every vacancy in the ranks of delegates will be filled and that there will be a full attendance at the Congress of members who will have made up their minds as to what they want and how they will have it. Whilst this was being printed, advice was received that the three ladies were discharged after a few hours’ detention. Nevertheless, I allow the writing to go to the public as the argument holds good in the main. I observe, too, that the ladies have been discharged with a caution.