Violence, Non-Violence And Congress Government

The resort to police firing by Congress Government and the declared faith of the Congress organisation in non-violence, which is being affirmed with embarrassing reiteration by Gandhiji in recent statements, present together a perplexing phenomenon to the public. The Bombay Government, according to their own account, were not able to control a worker's demonstration which failed to attract labour to its cause, without resort firing. The Madras Government according report in the Times of India, had recourse to the same weapon in controlling an anti-Hindi meeting in Ettiyapuram, even though the anti-Hindi agitation is represented by that Government to be a factious agitation which is now fizzling out. The only difference between Madras and Bombay is that in Bombay there were a number of injuries and two deaths as the result of police firing while in Madras there were no casualties. To cover the changed situation Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel has redefined non-violence. From what we can understand of his statement on the subject Congress Government can only give up the weapon of firing if political agitators abandon violence first. There is no difference between this attitude of the prominent Congress leader and that of the British politician-official of the Montagu Chelmsford period. Mr. Patel has probably forgotten that in the days of civil disobedience even a lathi charge was regarded as an indefensible use of force against unarmed crowds. And then it was just the same defence of police violence which he uses now that he resented that the crowds had not observed non-violent principles. There is some excuse for Sardar Vallabhbhai's line of reasoning in the change that has occurred in his own position from irreconcilable agitator to controller of eight provincial Governments; and we are prepared to make due allowance for this. What we cannot understand is the attitude of widely differing sections of the nationalist press. Like the British statesman on Federation, the Bombay Chronicle which ridicules his advice, solemnly asks the Bombay opposition not to condemn the Trades Disputes Bill until it has actually been worked. The Congress Socialist has swallowed all its differences with Mr. Patel and now earnestly rebukes the strike organisers for not ensuring that the movement was completely non-violent and that it was not prevented from growing into an anti-Congress demonstration. One would infer from this attitude on the part of a labour journal that the strikers were from the outset a violent undisciplined crowd. This is not borne out by the reports of the demonstration, which, after all, are more convincing if in his signed article he had told his readers how a demonstration against a measure sponsored by a Congress Government could be run on pro-Congress lines-particularly when the difference between Labour and Congress was as fundamental as it was on the Trades Disputes Bill The Only conclusion one can draw from the attitude of the Congress Socialist is that on this occasion it has proved more Congress than Socialist. Congressmen we are afraid, do not adequately appreciate the seriousness of the position. Non-violence which may be a virtue if self-assumed, comes very near an evil when it is insisted on as a preliminary to peaceful settlement of political disputes. A non-violent politician is more likely to be driven to a state of panic by stray instances of mob-violence than a politician who does not look for cherubic virtues in his people. What is a matter for sympathy in a private individual becomes a fearful thing in a man in control of the Government machinery.

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