3. 'A HIMALAYAN MISCALCULATION'
Almost immediately after
the Ahmedabad meeting I went to Nadiad. It was here that I first used the
expression 'Himalayan miscalculation', which obtained such a wide currency
afterwards. Even at Ahmedabad I had begun to have a dim perception of my
mistake. But when I reached Nadiad and saw the actual state of things there,
and heard reports about a large number of people from Kheda district having
been arrested, it suddenly dawned upon me that I had committed a grave
error in calling upon the people in the Kheda district and elsewhere to
launch upon civil disobedience prematurely, as it now seemed to me. I was
addressing a public meeting. My confession brought down upon me no small
amount of ridicule. But I have never regretted having made that confession.
For I have always held that it is only when one sees one's own mistakes
with a convex lens, and does just the reverse in the case of others, that
one is able to arrive at a just relative estimate of the two. I further
believe that a scrupulous and conscientious observance of this rule is
necessary for one who wants to be a Satyagrahi.
Let us now see what the Himalayan
miscalculation was. Before one can be fit for the practice of civil disobedience,
one must have rendered a willing and respectful obedience to the state
laws. For the most part we obey such laws out of fear of the penalty for
their breach, and this holds good particularly in respect of such laws
as do not involve a moral principal. For instance, an honest, respectable
man will not suddenly take to stealing, whether there is a law against
stealing or not, but this very man will not feel any remorse for failure
to observe the rule about carrying head-lights on bicycles after dark.
Indeed it is doubtful whether he would even accept advice kindly about
being more careful in this respect. But he would observe any obligatory
rule of this kind, if only to escape the inconvenience of facing a prosecution
for a breach of the rule. Such compliance is not, however, the willing
and spontaneous obedience that is required of a Satyagrahi. A Satyagrahi
obeys the laws of society intelligently and of his own free will, because
he considers it to be his sacred duty to do so. It is only when a person
has thus obeyed the laws of society scrupulously that he is in a position
to judge as to which particular rules are good and just, and which are
unjust and iniquitous. Only then does the right accrue to him of the civil
disobedience of certain laws in well-defined circumstances. My error lay
in my failure to observe this necessary limitation. I had called on the
people to launch upon civil disobedience before they had thus qualified
themselves for it, and this mistake seemed to me of Himalayan magnitude.
As soon as I entered the Kheda district, all the old recollections of the
Kheda Satyagraha struggle came back to me, and I wondered how I could have
failed to perceive what was so obvious. I realized that before a people
could be fit for offering civil disobedience, they should thoroughly understand
its deeper implications. That being so, before re-starting civil disobedience
on a mass scale, it would be necessary to create a band of well-tried,
pure-hearted volunteers who thoroughly understood the strict conditions
of Satyagraha. They could explain these to the people, and by sleepless
vigilance keep them on the right path.
With these thoughts filling
my mind I reached Bombay, raised a corps of Satyagrahi volunteers through
the Satyagraha Sabha there, and with their help commenced the work of educating
the people with regard to the meaning and inner significance of Satyagraha.
This was principally done by issuing leaflets of an educative character
bearing on the subject.
But whilst this work was going
on, I could see that it was a difficult task to interest the people in
the peaceful side of Satyagraha. The volunteers too failed to enlist themselves
in large numbers. Nor did all those who actually enlisted take anything
like a regular systematic training, and as the days passed by, the number
of fresh recruits began gradually to dwindle instead of to grow. I realized
that the progress of the training in civil disobedience was not going to
be as rapid as I had at first expected.