42. ITS RISING TIDE
I must not devote any
more chapters here to a description of the further progress of Khadi. It
would be outside the scope of these chapters to give a history of my various
activities after they came before the public eye, and I must not attempt
it, if only because to do so would require a treatise on the subject. My
object in writing these chapters is simply to describe how certain things,
as it were spontaneously, presented themselves to me in the course of my
experiments with truth.
To resume, then, the story
of the non-co-operation movement. Whilst the powerful Khilafat agitation
set up by the Ali Brothers was in full progress, I had long discussions
on the subject with the late Maulana Abdul Bari and the other Ulema,
especially with regard to the extent to which a Musalman could observe
the rule of non-violence. In the end they all agreed that Islam did not
forbid its followers from following non-violence as a policy, and further,
that while they were pledged to that policy, they were bound faithfully
to carry it out. At last the non-co-operation resolution was moved in the
Khilafat conference, and carried after prolonged deliberations. I have
a vivid recollection how once at Allahabad a committee sat all night deliberating
upon the subject. In the beginning the late Hakim Saheb was sceptical as
to the practicability of non-violent non-co-operation. But after his scepticism
was overcome he threw himself into it heart and soul, and his help proved
invaluable to the movement.
Next, the non-co-operation resolution
was moved by me at the Gujarat political conference that was held shortly
afterwards. The preliminary contention raised by the opposition was that
it was not competent to a provincial conference to adopt a resolution in
advance of the Congress. As against this, I suggested that the restriction
could apply only to a backward movement; but as for going forward, the
subordinate organizations were not only fully competent, but were in duty
bound to do so, if they had in them the necessary grit and confidence.
No permission, I argued, was needed to try to enhance the prestige of the
parent institution, provided one did it at one's own risk. The proposition
was then discussed on its merits, the debate being marked by its keenness
no less than the atmosphere of 'sweet reasonableness' in which it was conducted.
On the ballot being taken, the resolution was declared carried by an overwhelming
majority. The successful passage of the resolution was due not a little
to the personality of Sjt. Vallabhbhai and Abbas Tyabji. The latter was
the president, and his leanings were all in favour of the non-co-operation
The All-India Congress Committee
resolved to hold a special session of the Congress in September 1920 at
Calcutta to deliberate on this question. Preparations were made for it
on a large scale. Lala Lajpat Rai was elected President. Congress and Khilafat
specials were run to Calcutta from Bombay. At Calcutta there was a mammoth
gathering of delegates and visitors.
At the request of Maulana Shaukat
Ali, I prepared a draft of the non-co-operation resolution in the train.
Up to this time I had more or less avoided the use of the word non-violent
in my drafts. I invariably made use of this word in my speeches. My vocabulary
on the subject was still in process of formation. I found that I could
not bring home my meaning to purely Moslem audiences with the help of the
Samskrit equivalent for non-violent. I therefore asked Maulana Abul Kalam
Azad to give me some other equivalent for it. He suggested the word ba-aman;
similarly for non-co-operation he suggested the phrase tark-i-mavalat.
Thus, while I was still busy
devising suitable Hindi, Gujarati, and Urdu phraseology for non-co-operation,
I was called upon to frame the non-co-operation resolution for that eventful
Congress. In the original draft the word 'non-violent' had been left out
by me. I had handed over the draft to Maulana Shaukat Ali who was travelling
in the same compartment, without noticing the omission. During the night
I discovered the error. In the morning I sent Mahadev with the message
that the omission should be made good before the draft was sent to the
press. But I have an impression that the draft was printed before the insertion
could be made. The Subjects Committee was to have met the same evening.
I had therefore to make the necessary correction in the printed copies
of the draft. I afterwards saw that there would have been great difficulty,
had I not been ready with my draft.
None the less, my plight was
pitiable indeed. I was absolutely at sea as to who would support the resolution
and who would oppose it. Nor had I any idea as to the attitude that Lalaji
would adopt. I only saw an imposing phalanx of veteran warriors assembled
for the fray at Calcutta, Dr. Besant, Pandit Malaviyaji, Sjt. Vijayaraghavachari,
Pandit Motilalji, and the Deshabandhu being some of them.
In my resolution, non-co-operation
was postulated only with a view to obtaining redress of the Punjab and
the Khilafat wrongs. That, however, did not appeal to Sjt. Vijayaraghavachari.
'If non-co-operation was to be declared, why should it be with reference
to particular wrongs? The absence of Swaraj was the biggest wrong that
the country was labouring under; it should be against that that non-co-operation
should be directed,' he argued. Pandit Motilalji also wanted the demand
for Swaraj to be included in the resolution. I readily accepted the suggestion,
and incorporated the demand for Swaraj in my resolution, which was passed
after an exhaustive, serious, and somewhat stormy discussion.
Motilalji was the first to join
the movement. I still remember the sweet discussion that I had with him
on the resolution. He suggested some changes in its phraseology, which
I adopted. He undertook to win the Deshabandhu for the movement. The Deshabandhu's
heart was inclined towards it, but he felt sceptical as to the capacity
of the people to carry out the programme. It was only at the Nagpur Congress
he and Lalaji accepted it whole-heartedly.
I felt the loss of the late
Lokamanya very deeply at the special session. It has been my firm faith
to this day that had the Lokamanya been then alive, he would have given
his benedictions to me on that occasion. But even if it had been otherwise,
and he had opposed the movement, I should still have esteemed his opposition
as a privilege and an education for myself. We had our differences of opinion
always, but they never led to bitterness. He always allowed me to believe
that the ties between us were of the closest. Even as I write these lines,
the circumstances of his death stand forth vividly before my mind's eye.
It was about the hour of midnight, when Patwardhan, who was then working
with me, conveyed over the telephone the news of his death. I was at that
time surrounded by my companions. Spontaneously the exclamation escaped
my lips, 'My strongest bulwark is gone.' The non-co-operation movement
was then in full swing, and I was eagerly looking forward to encouragement
and inspiration from him. What his attitude would have been with regard
to the final phase of non-co-operation will always be a matter of speculation,
and an idle one at that. But this much is certain--that the deep void left
by his death weighed heavily upon everyone present at Calcutta. Everyone
felt the absence of his counsels in that hour of crisis in the nation's