Young India, May 29, 1924
My claim to Hinduism has been rejected by some, because I believe and advocate non-violence in its extreme form. They say that I am a Christian in disguise. I have been even seriously told that I am distorting the meaning of the Gita, when I ascribe to that great poem the teaching of unadulterated non-violence. Some of my Hindu friends tell me that killing is a duty enjoined by the Gita under certain circumstances. A very learned shastri only the other day scornfully rejected my interpretation of the Gita and said that there was no warrant for the opinion held by some commentators that the Gita represented the eternal duel between the forces of evil within us without hesitation, without tenderness.
I state these opinions against non-violence in detail, because it is necessary to understand them, if we would understand the solution I have to offer.
What I see around me today is, therefore, a reaction against the spread of non-violence. I feel the wave of violence coming. The Hindu-Muslim tension is an acute phase of this tiredness.
I must be dismissed out of consideration. My religion is a matter solely between my Maker and myself. If I am a Hindu, I cannot cease to be one even though I may be disowned by the whole of the Hindu population. I do however suggest that non-violence is the end of all religions.
But I have never presented to India that extreme form of non-violence, if only because I do not regard myself fit enough to redeliver that ancient message. Though my intellect has fully understood and grasped it, it has not as yet become part of my whole being. My strength lies in my asking people to do nothing that I have not tried repeatedly in my own life. I am then asking my countrymen today to adopt non-violence as their final creed, only for the purpose of regulating the relations between the different races, and for the purpose of attaining Swaraj.
Hindus and Mussulmans, Christians, Sikhs and Parsis must not settle their differences by resort to violence, and the means for the attainment of Swaraj must be non-violent. This I venture to place [or put] before India, not as a weapon of weak, but of the strong.
Hindus and Mussulmans prate about no compulsion in religion. What is it but compulsion, if Hindus will kill a Mussulman for saving a cow? It is like wanting to convert a Mussulman to Hinduism by force.
And similarly what is it but compulsion, if Mussulmans seek to prevent by force Hindus from playing music before mosques? Virtues lies in being absorbed in one’s prayers in the presence of din and noise.
We shall both be voted irreligious savages by posterity if we continue to make a futile attempt to compel one another to respect our religious wishes.
Again a nation of three hundred million people should be ashamed to have to resort to force to bring book one hundred thousand Englishmen. To convert them, or, if you will, even to drive them out of the country, we need, not force of arms but force of will. If we have not the latter, we shall never get the former. If we develop the force of will we shall find that we do not need the force of arms.
Acceptance of non-violence, therefore, for the purpose mentioned by me, is the most natural and the most necessary condition of our national existence. It will teach us to husband our corporate physical strength for a better purpose, instead of dissipating it, as now, in a useless fratricidal strife, in which each party is exhausted after the effort. And every armed rebellion must be an insane act unless it is backed by the nation. But almost any item of non-co-operation fully backed by the nation can achieve the aim without shedding a single drop of blood.