Q. We agree that intrinsically a movement for reducing the share of
the owner from half to a third of the crop is justified. But could
not the present Tebhaga Movement in Bengal be postponed until
such time as when the affected persons can be smoothly absorbed in
other occupations according to some long-term plan sponsored by the
We know you have said that the only way to effect such a radical transformation in society is through nonviolence. But interested parties will sleep over that portion of your advice and parade your moral support to their demand and carry on the Movement in their own violent way. Hence is it not wrong for you to lend support to the Movement under the present circumstances when there is every chance of the entire middle class of Bengal being completely ruined as a result? The common villager will also suffer no less because he will also be deprived of the services now being rendered to the village economy by them.
A. In reply, Gandhiji uttered the warning that he only dealt with principles as he knew them. He had not studied the local question. Therefore, the questioner ran the risk of his ignorance causing injustice.
He felt that the question betrayed exaggeration on the part of the questioner. There was no ruin impending for the landlord. His land was not being confiscated. His portion, which he could take even if he was in Timbuctoo, was merely to be reduced from 50% to 33%. He could see no ruin in the proposal. He was afraid they were too much obsessed by the communal question. They should rise above it and examine every problem strictly on merits. Then they would never go wrong. Therefore they should accept the moral principle underlying the demand for reduction of the owner's share and work for solid amendments in which they were likely to succeed. Let them not face confiscation rather than moderate reduction. Let them remember that for years past India had lived through confiscation. Industry after industry had been ruined and both the artisans as well as the farmers of India had been progressively reduced to poverty.
If the desired change were brought about through non-violent means, the world would not be deprived of the talents of the classes, but then the latter would not exercise them at the expenses of the labourers. In the nonviolent order of the future, the land would belong to the State, for had it not been said sab hi bhumi Gopalakv ( सभी भूमि गोपाल की । ) ? Under such dispensation, there would be no waste of talents and labour. This would be impossible through violent means. It was therefore a truism to say that the utter ruin of the land-owners brought about through violence would also involve the ruin of the labourers in the end. If the land-owners, therefore, acted wisely, no party would lose.
Some women workers who earn part of their living by weaving mats were advised -by you the other day to work on co-operative principles. Bengal's agriculture has been reduced to an uneconomic proposition through extreme fragmentation of holdings. Would you advise farmers also to adopt co-operative methods?
If so, how are they to effect this under the present system of land-ownership ? Should the State make the necessary changes in the law? If the State is not ready, but the people so desire, how are they to work through their own organizations to this end?
A. Replying to the first part of the question, Gandhiji said that he had no doubt that the system of cooperation was far more necessary for the agriculturists than for the mat weavers. The land as he maintained belonged to the State; therefore, it yielded the largest return when it was worked co-operatively.
Let it be remembered that co-operation should be based on strict non-violence. There was no such thing as success of violent co-operation. Hitler was a forcible example of the latter. He also talked vainly of co-operation which was forced upon the people and everyone knew where German had been led as a result.
Gandhiji concluded by saying that it would be a sad thing if India also tried to build up the new society based on co-operation by means of violence. Good brought about through force destroyed individuality. Only when the change was effected through the persuasive power of nonviolent non-co-operation, i.e. love, could the foundation of individuality be preserved and real, abiding progress be assured for the world.