Special session of the Congress 4-9 September 1920, Calcutta. Speech delivered by Gandhi in moving his resolution on non-co-operation :
"I am aware, more than aware of the grave responsibility that rests on my shoulders in being privileged to move this resolution before this great assembly. I am aware that my difficulties, as also yours, increase if you are able to adopt that resolution. I am also aware that the adoption of the resolution will mark a definite change in the policy which the country has hitherto followed for the vindication of the rights that belong to it and its honour. I am aware that the large number of our leaders who have given the time and attention to the affairs of our motherland, which I have not been able to give, are ranged against me. They think it a duty to resist the policy of revolutionizing the government policy at any cost. Knowing this I stand before you in fear of God and with a sense of duty to the country to put forward this resolution for your hearty acceptance.
"I ask you to dismiss me, for the time being from your con-sideration. I have been charged with saintliness and a desire for dictatorship. I venture to say that I do not stand before your either as a saint or a candidate for dictatorship. I stand before you to present to you the results of my many years' practical experience in non-co-operation. I deny the charge that it is a new thing in the country. It has been accepted at hundreds of meetings attended by thousands of men and has been placed in working order since the first of August by the Mussulmans, and many of the things in the programme are being enforced in a more or less intense form. I ask you again to dismiss personalities in the consideration of this important question, and bring to bear patient and calm judgement on it.
Training in Toleration
"But a mere acceptance of the resolution does not end the work. Every individual has to enforce the items of the resolution in so far as they apply to him. I beseech you to give me a patient hearing. I ask you neither to clap nor to hiss. I do not mind them so far as I am concerned, but clapping hinders the flow of thought, and hissing hinders the process of correspondence between a speaker and his audience. You will not hiss out of the stage any single speaker. For non-co-operation is a measure of discipline and sacrifice and it demands patience and respect for opposite views. And unless we are able to evolve a spirit of mutual toleration for diametrically opposite views, non-co-operation is an impossibility. I have learnt through bitter experience the one supreme lesson to conserve my anger, and as heat conserved is transmuted into energy, even so, our anger controlled can be transmuted into a power which can move the world. To those who have been attending the Congress, as brothers in arms, I ask what can be better discipline than that which we should exercise between ourselves ?
Congress and a Minority
"I have been told that I have been doing nothing but wreckage and that by bringing forward the resolution I am breaking up the political life of the country. The Congress is not a party organisation. It ought to provide a platform for all shades of opinion and a minority need not leave the organisation, but may look forward to translate itself into a majority, in course of time, if its opinion commended itself to the country. Only let no man in the name of the Congress advocate a policy which has been condemned by the Congress. And if you condemn my policy I shall not go away from the Congress, but shall plead with it to convert the minority into a majority.
Only one Remedy : Non-co-operation
"There are no two opinions as to the wrong done to the Khilafat. Mussulmans cannot remain as hunourable men and follow their prophet if they do not vindicate their honour at any cost. The Punjab has been cruelly, brutally treated, and inasmuch as one man in the Punjab was made to crawl on his belly, the whole of India crawled on her belly, and if we are worthy sons and daughters of India, we should be pledged to remove these wrongs. It is in order to remove these wrongs that the country is agitating itself. But we have not been able so far to bend the Government to our will. We cannot rest satisfied with a mere expression of angry feelings. You could not have heard a more passionate denunciation of the Punjab wrongs than in the pages of the presidential address. If the Congress cannot wring justice from unwilling hands how can it vindicate its existence and its honour ? How can it do so if it cannot enforce clear repentance, before receiving a single gift, however rich, from those bloodstained hands ? Is there any other way-but of non-co-operation-to get redress for these wrongs and uphold the honour and prestige of the Congress ?
Non-co-operation : the Best Scheme
"I have, therefore, placed before you my scheme of non-co-operation to achieve this end and want you to reject any other scheme, unless you have deliberately come to the conclusion that it is a better scheme than mine. If there is a sufficient response to my scheme, I make bold to reiterate my statement that you can gain Swarajya in the course of a year. Not the passing of the resolution will bring Swarajya, but the enforcement of the resolution from day to day in a progressive manner. This scheme has been prepared with due regard to the conditions in the country.
Extend the Spirit of Sacrifice
"There is another remedy before the country, and that is drawing of the sword. If that was possible India would not have listened to the gospel of non-co-operation. I want to suggest to you that even if you want to arrest injustice by methods of violence, discipline and self-sacrifice are necessary. I have not known of a war gained by a rabble, but I have known of war gained by disciplined armies and if you want to give battle to the British Government and to the combined power of Europe, we must train ourselves in discipline and self-sacrifice. I confess I have become impatient. I have seen that we deserve Swarajya today, but we have not got the spirit of national sacrifice. We have evolved this spirit in domestic affairs, and I have come to ask you to extend it to other affairs.
Essentials of Success
"I have been travelling from one end of the country to the other to see whether the country has evolved the national spirit, whether at the altar of the nation it is ready to dedicate its riches, children, its all, if it was ready to make the initiatory sacrifice. Is the country ready ? Are parents ready to sacrifice literary education of their children for the sake of the country ? The schools and colleges are really a factory for turning out clerks for Government. If the parents are not ready for the sacrifice, if the title-holders are not ready, Swarajya is very nearly an impossibility. No nation being under another nation can accept gifts and kick at the responsibility attaching to those gifts, imposed by the conquering nation. Immediately the conquered country realized instinctively that any gift which might come to it is not for the benefit of the conquered, but for the benefit of the conqueror, that moment it should reject every form of voluntary assistance to it. These are the fundamental essentials of success in the struggle for the independence of the country whether within the Empire of without the Empire.
Honour above Everything
"I hold a real substantial unity between Hindus and Mussulmans infinitely superior to British connection and if I had to make a choice between that unity and British connection, I would have the first and reject the other. If I had to choose between the honour of the Punjab, anarchy, neglect of education, shutting out of all legislative activity and British connection, I would choose the honour of the Punjab and all it meant, even anarchy, shutting out of all schools etc. without the slightest hesitation.
"If you have the same feeling burning in you as in me for the honour of Islam and the Punjab then you will unreservedly accept my resolution.
Boycott of Councils
"I now come to the burning topic, viz., the boycott of the Councils. Sharpest differences of opinion existed regarding this, and if the house has to divide on it, it must divide. If it must divide you will consider that it must divide on one issue viz., whether Swarajya has to be gained through the Councils or without the Councils. If we utterly distrust the British Government and we know that they are utterly unrepentantóhow can you believe that the Councils will lead to Swarajya and not tighten the British hold on India ?
Boycott of Foreign Goods
"I now come to Swadeshi. The boycott of foreign goods is included in the resolution. You have got here, I confess, an anomaly for which I am not originally responsible. But I have consented to it. I will not go into the history of how it found a place in the resolution, of which the essence is discipline and self-sacrifice. Swadeshi means permanent boycott of foreign goods. It is, therefore, a matter of redundancy. But I have taken it in, because I could not reject it as a matter of conscience. I know, however, it is a physical impossibility. So long as we have to depend on foreign countries even for pins and needles figurative and literal both we cannot bring about a complete boycott of foreign goods. I do not hesitate to say this clause mars the musical harmony, if I may claim it without vanity, of the programme. I feel that these words do mar the symmetry of the programme as for its workability.
"I again ask you not to be influenced by personality. Reject out of your consideration any service that I have done. I do not claim, for a moment, that whatever programme I place before the country will be infallible. Two things only I claimólaborious industry, and unflinching determination to bring it about. You may take only these things from me and bring them to bear on any programme that you adopt."
Speech Replying to Objections on the Resolution
*"I know that I have got to perform a duty by you and answer some of the many objections that have been raised against the points in the proposition. You have now listened to all speeches but one, with respectful attention. I am exceedingly sorry that you refused to hear Mr. Jamnadas Dwarakadas.
"At the same time I am here to tell you that with all my anxi-to be convinced of any error of judgment or otherwise that I have committed, I stand unconvinced. It has been suggested by Mr. Jinnah and Mr. Das that this programme is impracticable. Is it not capable of being practised ? I venture to suggest to you that it is capable of being practised today by everyone who is affected by the several items. There is the introduction of the word "gradual" and Mr. Das has very properly laid emphasis upon that word in order to show that it is in recognition of the impracticable nature of at least two items, those relating to schools and law-courts. I respectfully differ from him. The in-troduction of that adjective is a concession to our weakness and recognition of our unreadiness. I admit that with the introduc-tion of the adjective, these two items may be absolutely whitt-led down. It would depend largely upon the sense of indignation that has really fired the nation and it will still more largely depend upon the work that may be put into the programme by real workers. You may depend upon it that so long as the Non-co-operation Committee started by the Central Khilafat Committee is in existence, so long will you find these items, and many more, continuously placed before you for acceptance. I have not the slightest doubt, even with the experience of only one and a half months behind me, that we shall have a fairly good response from the country.
"In my humble opinion the item of boycott of foreign goods is a practical impossibility as other items are undoubtedly not. I have given you my reasons for accepting this item in my programme though in theory this is sound. I was most anxious to place before the nation only those things which the nation, if it was willing and ready, could put into practice today.
Courts and Schools in Wartime
"Let me not conceal one great fact from you. I do suggest to you that if you want to carry out the programme of non-co-operation as sketched by me it is expected of you that you will withdraw your children from schools tomorrow and lawyers will suspend their practice from tomorrow. But, as I have said, if you have not the ability, if you have not immediate readiness, the introduction of the adjective gives you thinking time. I declined to accept the interpretation that some in the audience placed upon these two items, when they questioned that they are to withdraw their children only when national schools are ready, and that lawyers should suspend practice when arbitration courts are established. That in my opinion is buildings before founda-tion. I cannot put a handsome pile of building or even erect a straw cottage without having children to educate. When a nation is at war, whether non-violent or violent, it is an indispensable condition that it stops its schools and law-courts. I have gone through two wars myself. In them schools remained in suspended animation and the law-courts were also closed, rather because litigants had no time to think of their private quarrels and parents came to the conclusion that the best education that their children could receive at such a critical tiem in their history was that they should understand that it was better for them to have their education suspended for a time. These two items are, undoubtedly, tests of our feelings in the matter and if the nation feels, it will act up to these two things.
Notice to British Government
"Much has been made of want of notice and, if facts were as they are supposed to be, I think, it would be a sound argument. If I were making a new demand for Swaraj, the argument will be final. But I have said that without Swaraj it would be impossible to prevent repetition of wrongs such as have been inflicted in the Punjab and therefore in this programme Swaraj is no independent new demand but has been made a demand because in the opinion of the Congress it is necessary, in order to guard against future contingency, to have Swaraj. In my humble opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong in it. But I go forward. Both Messrs Jinnah and Malaviya have accepted Mr. Pal's programme. You will find therein that some of the items are to be enforced from tomorrow and what the amendment states is that the other items will be reduced to practice later on and that while the mission is conducting its affairs, some operation of non-co-operation programme is to be enforced from the population of India. I think the Congress may well hold that notice sufficient for its purpose without, in any way, damaging the prestige of the whole nation which are convertible terms.
Obstruction in Councils
"I must confess that I have not yet heard a single argument in favour of going to Councils. All the argument that has up to now been advanced is, seeing that we have done something through these Councils during 35 years, seeing that the reformed Council is in response to our agitationówhich I admitóand that seeing that there is greater scope for obstruction as we can command a majority by influencing votersówhich too I admitówe may be able by going to Councils to paralyse Government, or the administration, as the case may be. In my humble opinion, as a student of English history, I have found, and it is a practical maxim adopted in English public life, that every institution thrives on obstruction. I assure you that Government will not be pleased to see Nationalists outside the Councils. It is my firm opinion that the services public-men want to render can be rendered outside the Councils rather than inside and such services will be infinitely greater than the services they render in the Councils.
Lokamanya and Councils
"What is the secret of the great power of the late and the only Lokamanya of the country ? Do you suppose that if he had gone to the Council he would have exercised the unrivalled influence that he exercised over all the millions of India ? You have had evidence given before you in connection with his opinion. I am exceedingly sorry that you had not evidence brought before you as to what he considered in connection with the programme. But as the matter has been brought before you, it has become my painful duty to give you evidence, that is in my possession. I happened at his wish to wait upon him in company with Mr. Shaukat Ali a fortnight before his demise and he said : "I personally believe that it will be better to go to Councils and obstruct where it was necessary and co-operate where also it was necessary." But when Mr. Shaukat Ali told him "What about your promise to Mussulmans in Delhi ?", at which he immediately added, "Oh, yes, if the Mussulmans do the things." He laid emphasis on it and did not merely speak of the boycott of Councils. He said : "I give you my word that my party will stand with you."
Where is the Repentance ?
"What do these Councils mean ? Do you believe that by going to the Council and engaging in debates there, you can produce a direct impression upon British ministers and secure a revision of the Turkish Terms and repentance on account of the Punjab affair ? Our revered brother and leader Pandit Malaviya has said that very soon all that the Congress Sub-committee asked for will be granted, because some or most of the officers are already gone or will be presently going and in April even the Viceroy will have gone. I respectfully suggest that it is not what I, at least, intended when I put my pen to that report. I said emphatically, even at our discussion, that the dismissal of the officers be based upon their incapacity and the atrocity that they were guilty of and not by efflux of time and that the Viceroy should be compulsorily retired if he does not tender his resignation before his time. It does not serve my purpose when the Viceroy goes by efflux of time; and so also the officers. I want a repentant clean heart, a change of heart and I miss any repentance, any change of heart and the hand of fellowship which I had thought was extended at the time of the Amritsar Congress-and that is my reason for having then suggested co-operation with Government, but having found out afterwards that there was no redress of the Khilafat and the Punjab wrongs, the painful revelation has dawned on me that the British ministers or the Government of India never meant well by the people of India. Instead of repentance, a challenge is given to India that if you want to be ruled by British, the price is terrorism. Therefore, I want to make this party of terrorists, a present of these law-courts, a present of the education of my children if I cannot bring them into national schools.
"But I certainly decline to wait for establishment of these schools. Necessity is the mother of invention. When there are children without schools, I promise that our revered leader Pandit Malaviya will himself go from place to place and collect subscriptions for opening national schools. I do not want to starve the Indian mind. I want every Indian to be educated along proper lines, educated to understand the dignity of his nation and not receive the education that makes him a slave.
Boycott : A Double-edged Sword
"There are many other points but I would reiterate two things. The public will not understand our fine distinctions. It will mean that non-co-operation must commence at the top, viz., in a body miscalled representative body, namely, the reformed Council, and, if the best mind of the country refuses to associate with that Government, I promise that the Government's eyes will be opened. The condition is that those who refrain will not go to sleep, but move from one end of the country to the other and bring every grievance to the notice not of Government but of the public and, if my programme is carried out, the Congress will be going on growing from year to year and give public expression to those grievances, so that the volume of wrong, ever increasing as it rolls, will inflame the great nation and enable it to harbour, to conserve all its anger and its heat and transmute it into irresistible energy.
Mussulmans' Deadly Resolve
"Please recognize one fundamental settled fact, that the Muslim League has passed a resolution that they are going to boycott Councils entirely. Do you believe that one fourth of our body may pull one way and three fourths in another way ? If these were running along parallel lines I can understand it, but here they will be pulling in opposite ways and is it right they should do so ? Can Hindus gain anything even by a policy of obstruction, if every believer in Islam boycotts the Councils, as he could boycott sin ? That is the religious position in Islam. They consider it is sinful for them to go to the Councils and take the oath of allegiance. Let not "practical" India and "prac-tical" politicians who gather here from year to year forget this settled fact. If they believe that they will be able to change the Mussulman mind and that those resolutions of the Mussulmans are mere pious wishes then certainly the arguments that I have now advanced fall to pieces. But it you believe that Mussulmans are in earnest, that they feel the wrong, and as time goes on, the wrong instead of dying out and being forgotton, will gather force day after day, then you will understand that as time goes forward, the energy of Mussulmans will increase whether Hindus help them or do not help them. That is the choice that lies before the whole of this national assembly. I therefore, respectfully submit to you that I have not embarked upon this thing without careful thought and it is not a matter of pleasure or joy to me to put myself, a humble, single individual, always liable to err, against the best leaders of the country. But here it is a matter of duty. Whereas I see clearly before me that if we want Hindu-Muslim unity and want it to endure for ever, there is no escape for us but a complete association with the Mussulmans so long as they remain on the right path and adopt honourable means and do not over-reach themselves in forming their demands and so long as they do not resort to violence.
Conscience v. Personal relationship
"My business is finished now that I have placed every argument in a dispassionate manner and not as an advocate, and I assure you I have endeavoured to place the whole argument pure and simple as a judge. I owe a great deal to Pandit Malaviya. The relations that subsist between him and me, the country does not know. I would give my life to placate him, to please him and follow him at a respectful distance. But when it becomes a matter of sacred duty and conviction I hold that I am absolved from any obligation to follow him. I know that he absolves me from any such obligation of following him and if I, who venerate him, adopt a course different from his, you will understand that I am absolutely serious and sincere when I ask everyone in this pandal to use his own individual judgment and not to be carried away in the slightest degree by my personality. Finally, if you pass this resolution, you will do so with your eyes open. If you think everyone of you individually has the capacity and willingness to offer this small measure of sacrifice in the name of the nation, and for the sake of securing lasting friendship with Mussulmans you will not hesitate to adopt the resolution, but if you cannot satisfy these conditions you will not hesitate to reject it."
(From DAY-TO-DAY WITH GANDHI-II, pages 220-231, available previously on Internet at http://web.mahatma.org.in)
available previously on Internet at : http://web.mahatma.org.in/books/showbook.jsp?id=221&link=og&book=og0009&lang=en&cat=books