"Where shall we stand when India is independent?" asked a friend
representing the landholders' interests, the other day during his
visit to Gandhiji.
"You will be as free as any scavenger," replied Gandhiji, but whether you will be able to retain all the privileges which you are enjoying under the British Government is a question you can answer for yourself."
"The landholders," resumed the friend, "derived their charter of rights and privileges from the Permanent Settlement of 1802, which was of the nature of a contract between the British and the Zamindars, but they are quite willing to negotiate an agreement with the leaders of the country on the future of their rights."
"Being a non-violent man by nature," replied Gandhiji, "I cannot countenance the usurpation of anybody's just rights. But some of the extraordinary privileges that pass muster under British rule are themselves in the nature of an usurpation. The history of British rule is a history of usurpation. Those who helped the British Government in this process got certain rights as a reward for their services. These cannot be insisted upon."
"Many ancient Zamindaris existed long before the advent of the British and were exercising sovereign power," rejoined the friend, "as a product of the indigenous social and economic system of long standing. Don't you think they have a title to continue their existence? They are trying their best to discharge a philanthropic function in the shape of founding educational and social institutions."
"Anything that is ancient and consistent with moral values has a title to be retained," answered Gandhiji. "Per contra anything that does not conform to moral values has to go. Wrong has no prescriptive right to exist merely because it is of a long standing. If those who are on your Zamindaris feel one with you and you with them, like members of a family, you have nothing to fear from anybody."