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Men Without Violence

ISSUE:  Winter 1940

War without Violence.
By Krishnalal Shridharani. With an introduction by Oswald Garrison Villard. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company. $2.50. Gandhi Triumphant. By Haridas T. Muzumdar. New York: Universal Publishing Company. $1.00. Nehru, the Rising Star of India. By Anup Singh. With an introduction by Lin Yutang. New York: John Day Company. $1.75.

In “War without Violence,” Krishnalal Shridharani, a Hindu with intimate knowledge of Mahatma Gandhi’s religious, social, and political ideals and practices, has given us a sociological study of the importance of non-violent non-cooperation as a revolutionary weapon for social and political changes. The book is an important contribution in the field of sociology and political science. Even those who have no sympathy for Gandhi’s religious ideas will find it instructive and valuable.

In the first part of the book the author discusses the technique of Satyagraha, which may be interpreted as non-violent direct action. In the second part of the book, he describes how Gandhi has applied this technique in his relations with individuals, groups, and governments. In the third section he traces the doctrine to the teachings of the Vedas, the Upanishads, Jainism, Buddhism, and Christianity, as well as the precepts of Tolstoy, Thoreau, and Gandhi. Here it is well to add that Oswald Garrison Villard, in the introduction, describes the fundamental thesis of Satyagraha in the following way: “Gandhi has been putting into practice the teachings of Jesus, whose non-resistance was also the most dangerous resistance. ‘Resist not evil’ was the command, but by that was never meant that there should be no spiritual resistance or no resistance whatever.” In the concluding chapter the author tries to show that non-violent non-cooperation may become an aggressive direct action which may be a substitute for war. Of course, Mr. Shridharani makes it clear that the success of the movement depends largely upon trained leaders who can place spiritual and ethical values above material gain and also upon the adherence of the masses, who must be willing to suffer for an ideal rather than surrender. The ideas may be regarded as romantic, even fantastic, by many political realists who believe in war as the means of solving international difficulties; but “War without Violence” may supply food for thought for those who are convinced that the weapon of ideals is often stronger than guns and bombs in conquering and converting people.

In “Gandhi Triumphant,” Haridas T. Muzumdar presents the inside story of Mahatma Gandhi’s historic fast in March of this year, which was undertaken to induce the Thakor Saheb of llajkot, a minor Indian Prince, to agree to extend self-government to his subjects. The idea behind the move was that if a petty Indian Prince could be induced to make concessions to his subjects that led to constitutional government, a precedent for other Princes would be established.

By presenting confidential correspondence between the Thakor Saheb and the British Resident, the author proves that although the Prince made an agreement with the leaders of the All-India National Congress to grant concessions leading to self-government for his subjects, the British Resident opposed the move and forced the ruler to break his solemn promise. He further proves that although the British authorities in their official pronouncements favor constitutional advance in Indian States, in practice the British Resident secretly encourages the Princes to continue reactionary, autocratic, and undemocratic forms of government.

Mr. Muzumdar has reprinted three articles by Mr. Gandhi. They discuss relations between British India, Indian Princes, and the All-India National Congress. Mr. Gandhi holds that harmonious relations between Indian Princes and the Congress should exist, and urges that the Princes should voluntarily grant constitutional government to their subjects. “Gandhi Triumphant” is a helpful contribution to the study of the Indian Princes’ relations with the British authorities and the Indian nationalist movement.

America and other civilized countries should know something of Indian leaders other than Mahatma Gandhi. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru is undoubtedly one of the most important political leaders and trusted advisors of Mr. Gandhi. Unless the Indian nationalist movement takes a more radical turn tending to violent revolution, it is generally expected that Mr. Nehru may become the successor of Mr. Gandhi. From this point of view Mr. Nehru may be regarded as “The Rising Star of India.”

Dr. Anup Singh, author of “Nehru,” has written his book in a very simple style to popularize the personality of Nehru among the American public. However, he has written neither a full-sized biography of Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru nor a brief survey of the history of the Indian nationalist movement for the last quarter of a century during which Mr. Nehru has actually participated in Indian politics through the medium of the All-India National Congress. Dr. Singh has confined himself to the dominant notes in the Indian political drama in which Mr. Nehru figured prominently. He has also attempted to give an estimate of the evolution of the political ideals of Mr. Nehru and how they affect India’s struggle for freedom.

Mr. Nehru belongs to a wealthy non-orthodox Brahmin family with cosmopolitan traditions and outlook on life. In 1905, at the age of fourteen, he was sent to England to be educated at Harrow and Cambridge. After completing the study of law, he returned to India in 1912 and began his career as a barrister under the direction of his father, the late Pandit Moti Lai Nehru. During the World War he took part with his father and others in political agitation for home rule for India. It was in 1919, after the Amritsar Massacre, that Mr. Nehru joined the non-cooperation movement under the leadership of Mr. Gandhi. As a champion of Indian freedom he has been thrice honored by being elected President of the All-India National Congress. He has also served several prison terms on charges of sedition against British rule in India.

In 1925 Mr. Nehru traveled in England and spent some time in Geneva. Until then he had been an orthodox follower of Mr. Gandhi, following the cult of the spinning wheel, and had not shown much interest in world politics. During his stay in Europe, his social and international outlook was broadened by participation in various radical congresses. However, Mr. Nehru is not a social revolutionist but a social reformer who enjoys great popularity among the masses. He professes to be a socialist as well as a nationalist, working for a “united front of nationalists of all shades of opinion.” Therefore he often cooperates with Mr. Gandhi and the right wing of the Indian nationalists.

At one time Mr. Nehru’s conception of India’s foreign policy was influenced by the Communist-controlled Anti-Imperialist League. Although he is not officially connected with this organization, his foreign policies are still based upon ideological ardor against Fascism and Imperialism. As an anti-Fascist, he has tried to direct Indian foreign policy against Germany, Italy, and Japan. As an anti-imperialist he proposes that India should not fight for Britain unless she gives up her imperialism in India and other parts of the world.

Mr. Singh’s work, in spite of its limitations, will serve as a valuable aid to those who wish to understand Mr. Nehru’s ideas and ideals regarding India’s national aspirations and world politics.


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