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Chapter 15: We Are the Only Alternative

This is absolutely violent. He said to his wife, “I am not going to see his face again in my life. And remember..” The custom in India is that when the father dies, the eldest son sets fire to his funeral pyre. So Gandhi made it clear to all his sons, wife, friends, followers, that in no case should Haridas be allowed to start the fire at the funeral. He even managed to dominate after death! Certainly his mind must have been really full of hate.

It happened only once.. Where I used to live in Jabalpur, there is a junction railway station, Katni, a hundred miles away, where - just by chance - Gandhi was traveling in one train and Haridas was traveling in another train from another direction. Both trains had to wait at Katni for another train from a third direction to arrive.

Haridas, seeing that his father, his mother, were in the train, rushed just to have a look at the old man - he was never revengeful - and to see his mother. As Haridas came close, Gandhi closed the door, closed the windows, and told Kasturba, Haridas’ mother - who was really crying, because she wanted to see Haridas, just to see him! - told her, “If you want to see him, then go with him. Just as I have abandoned him, you are also abandoned.”

Haridas is standing outside the compartment - windows closed, door closed - Kasturba is crying, and Gandhi will not allow her even to see her son’s face.

Do you think this is nonviolence, compassion, love?

Gandhi had said to an American journalist, Louis Fisher.because Fisher had asked him, “You are against violence. If India becomes independent, what will happen to the biggest army in the world?” - which was in India. “What will happen to your air force, your navy and all your war weapons?” - a relevant question.

Gandhi said, “I will dissolve all armies, send them to the farms to work there, and I will drown all the weapons in the ocean. My country is going to be absolutely nonviolent.” India became independent. The army was not dissolved; the question was not even raised. On the contrary, India and Pakistan started a war. The three war planes - the first to go over the Pakistan borders to bomb citizens - were blessed by Gandhi. This is a strange kind of nonviolence.

When India was under British rule, nonviolence was a good policy because India could not have managed any armed revolution against the British - that was impossible. The only way was what Gandhi did: “Fill the prisons. Go and declare to the prison authorities, ‘We are for independence. If you want to imprison us, imprison us.’”

Now, India is a vast country. Today its population is eight hundred million. Where can you find so many prisons?

And Gandhi insisted that no freedom fighter do anything which could provoke and give an excuse to the British government to be violent. “Don’t throw a stone at a police station. Don’t burn a train, don’t dynamite a bridge, because anything done by you will be enough excuse for the British government to kill thousands of people. And we will not be able to stand before the world to say that we are nonviolent and nonviolent people are being killed who have not done any harm. Then we will not be able to gain the sympathy of the whole world.”

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