Gandhi’s brand of non-violence was nothing but a big farce and semi-moral mumbo-jumbo.
Let me pose a hypothetical but highly plausible and realistic scenario before you. Suppose you are a law-abiding citizen living in some town or village with your wife, grown-up daughters and aged parents. Having been busy earning a livelihood, you have never taken part in any political or communal activity and you have no enemies in sight. One fine night, the communal atmosphere in the town/village suddenly takes a turn for the worse over one of the myriad reasons that have been precipitating riots in this country for centuries. You are worried but go to sleep nevertheless.
Non-violence can not protect you from violence
You are suddenly and rudely woken up by loud noises. Your main door is being banged. Jolted out of your sleep, a shiver is sent down your spine as their religious slogans fall into your ears. There is a violent mob at your doorsteps, obviously armed to the teeth, trying to break the door. They are shouting abuses with religious slurs and are threatening to abduct your wife and daughters and gang-rape them right before your eyes. It needs no imagination that the mob would also loot and set fire to your house built with your lifetime’s savings and, in the process, murder you and your parents.
It can be safely presumed that being the law-abiding citizen that you are; you have no illegal weapons of any type in your house, perhaps not even a stick (lathi) if you are an urban household. You would ring up the PCR and if your call gets through at all amidst that turmoil, fervently plead with them. They promise to do something but you know it well that your door might not hold out by the time they arrive as there are scores of such calls. You are not even thinking of confronting them boldly and doing something fancy bare-handed, as you are not Bruce Lee.
So, what are your prospects? Take my word; they are as bad as they could get. In desperation, you decide to lose all your self-respect. You fall at the feet of the mob, crying that you are a staunch believer in non-violence; you have never killed even a rat with your hands, and have no enemies anywhere! You beg them to spare your family for God’s sake. But they would abuse you for belonging to the religion that you were born in and kick you instead. Your wife and daughters would be gang-raped before you and mutilated. Then you and your parents would be tortured and murdered. Once they have looted your house for whatever it was worth, it will be set ablaze.
Gandhi gave no ‘acceptable advice’ to save you from violence
Scary? But, take my word; this is not the product of my feverish imagination. Similar incidents have happened thousands of times in hundreds of communal riots across the country and many of them have been recorded by witnesses and described in graphic detail in numerous works on riots.
Now, please sift through every single line that Gandhi himself has written. Do you find any ‘acceptable advice’ from him as to what exactly you are supposed to do when faced with such a situation with the imminent prospects of murder, robbery, rape and rapine? Try it. I have done the exercise over the years reading every word and I have found none! Whatever advice he gave, as we shall see a little later, was simply absurd.
Could Gandhi mitigate violence in India even slightly?
Let me ask a simple question. Could Gandhi’s supposedly charismatic preaching of his version of non-violence produce even the slightest effect towards mitigating the severity and brutality of the innumerable communal riots that took place during his lifetime? The answer is a resounding no!
Let me quote none other than Dr B. R. Ambedkar on this. In his famous book, ‘Pakistan or the Partition of India’, Dr Ambedkar writes at length on ‘The Riot-Torn History of Hindu-Muslim Relations, 1920-1940’ (Chapter VII, Part IV) where he discusses almost every major riot that took place in India in this period. He comments, “These were the years during which Mr Gandhi laboured so hard to bring about Hindu-Muslim unity. The relationship is well described in the Annual Reports on the affairs of India submitted year by year to Parliament by the Government of India under the old Government of India Act. (The series is known as ‘India in 1920’ etc.) It is on these reports that I have drawn for the facts recorded below.”
“Such barbaric mutual violence shows an utter lack of unity…Placed side by side with the frantic efforts made by Mr Gandhi to bring about Hindu-Muslim unity, the record makes the most painful and heart-rending reading. It would not be much exaggeration to say that it is a record of twenty years of civil war between the Hindus and the Muslims in India, interrupted by brief intervals of armed peace…These acts of barbarism against women, committed without remorse, without shame and without condemnation by their fellow brethren show the depth of the antagonism which divided the two communities.”
The simple, undeniable, unsavoury fact is that Gandhi’s idealistic posturing of decades notwithstanding, he could neither prevent partition nor the partition riots nor could he mitigate their ferocity. According to the British historian John Vincent, Gandhi was responsible for the ‘shedding of innocent blood during the partition massacres’, and B. R. Nanda’s defence that Hindu-Muslim conflict existed even before his advent, is puerile. If Gandhi knew that Hindus and Muslims have irreconcilable differences, why did he persist in holding out his unrealistic demands and positions?
Gandhi’s hypocrisy exposed in the face of Moplah atrocities
The Moplah rebellion fully exposed the hypocrisy of Gandhi and Congress. As pointed out by the great historian Dr R. C. Majumdar in ‘Struggle for Freedom’, Gandhi went to the length of placing the Khilafat problem on the same level of political importance as the Home Rule for India! Not surprisingly, he was elected the President of the All-India Khilafat Conference on November 24, 1919!
As the official reports ‘India in 1921-22’ and the ‘India Annual Register’ state, “The main brunt of Moplah ferocity was borne, not by the government, but the luckless Hindus who constituted the majority of the population…massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages upon women, pillage, arson and destruction—in short, all the accompaniments of brutal and unrestrained barbarism—were perpetrated freely until such time as troops could be hurried to the task of restoring order throughout a difficult and extensive tract of country.”
The terrible outrages upon the Hindus as described above have been corroborated by the illustrious lawyer, jurist, activist, and politician Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair (president of the Indian National Congress in 1897) in his well-researched work ‘Gandhi and Anarchy’ published just a year later in 1922. As he informs, the memorial of the women of Malabar to Lady Reading spoke of the most unimaginable atrocities that would make any human cringe with revulsion and fill his heart with horror. The harrowing tale narrated by the women of Malabar is confirmed in toto by Resolution VI in the Proceedings of the Conference at Calicut presided over by the Zamorin, the king of Kozhikode. Two reports (dated Sept. 07 and Dec. 06, 1921) of the TOI also corroborated them in graphic detail.
As Dr. R. C. Majumdar points out, the Congress leaders at first disbelieved the stories, but when hundreds of Hindu refugees arriving at Calicut confirmed the most terrible stories of barbarous and fanatical cruelty, a wave of horror swept those Hindus who were not blinded by Gandhi’s ideas of Hindu-Muslim unity at any cost. He further says that not only Gandhi failed to condemn them, rather he lauded them by calling them ‘brave God-fearing Moplahs’ who were ‘fighting for what they consider as religion, and in a manner which they consider as religious’.
When truth could not be suppressed any longer, and came out with all its naked hideousness, Gandhi tried to conciliate Hindu opinion with various explanations, denials, and censure of authorities. A resolution passed by the Congress at Ahmedabad ‘deplored the acts done by certain Moplahs by way of forcible conversions and destruction of life and property’. It also castigated the government for not taking the help of Maulana Yaqub Hassan in controlling the situation and not allowing Gandhi to proceed to Malabar. This could well qualify for the award of ‘most immoral and hypocritical whitewashing of the century’! They meant to say as if Gandhi’s going there would have controlled the situation magically—in any case, the hoax was finally busted a quarter of a century later in the Noakhali riots.
Gandhi’s failure in the ‘horror unlimited’ that Was Noakhali riots
Readers are advised to read what Rabindranath Dutta, a 92-year-old survivor of the ‘Great Calcutta Killings’ had told journalist Abhijit Majumder, on video recording on August 16, 2022, the 75th anniversary of that Black Day. Fully prepared and organized mobs of sword-wielding Islamists killed nearly 10,000 Hindus in three days and wounded some 15,000. Dutta told that naked, butchered bodies of Hindu women were hung from hooks at beef shops in Raja Bazar, Calcutta. Amongst the hundreds of Hindu women raped, Victoria College girls were raped and killed, and their bodies were tied to hostel windows.
Gandhi went to Noakhali alright and camped there for four months. For optics, he camped in a half-burnt house for some time, organized prayer meetings, met local Muslim leaders, and tried to win their confidence. The brutal question is did it have the slightest effect on the degree and extent of communal violence and atrocities? Did it result in changing the cruel heart of a single rioter? There is no statistically verifiable evidence at all.
A confused pseudo-moral-religious narrative
Gandhi’s concept of non-violence was nothing but a mumbo-jumbo of semi-moral, semi-religious stuff. When Hindu scriptures speak of non-violence or ‘ahimsa’, they only intend to say that if you are capable of committing violence to torment others weaker than you, you must desist from it because it is ‘dharma’. It is a proscriptive concept that addresses the potential perpetrator of violence and not the victim.
Taken as such, there was no need to re-sell it as it has been so elaborately propounded in scores of profound ancient works. Yet, he did and misled millions. His frequent references to the Bhagwad Gita in support of his version of non-violence were confusing because in Gita (2: 31-38), Bhagwan Shri Krishna clearly exhorted Arjun to fight to defend and uphold dharma. His clear advice (11:34) was, “slay them without being disturbed.”
His advice to the Jews being massacred in Germany that “suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy” was outrageous, to say the least. Jewish-American journalist Louis Fischer, the author of The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, asked him: “You mean that the Jews should have committed collective suicide?” Gandhi responded: “Yes, that would have been heroism.” He added the semi-religious mumbo-jumbo for good measure, “But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant.” Omigosh!
In his speech at the prayer meeting (April 6, 1947, quoted in vol. 94 of The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi), he said, “We should dispassionately think where we are drifting. Hindus should not harbour anger in their hearts against Muslims even if the latter wanted to destroy them. Even if the Muslims want to kill us all we should face death bravely. If they established their rule after killing Hindus we would be ushering in a new world by sacrificing our lives.” If this is not outrageously absurd, I do not know what else could be more absurd in the world!