Friday, January 30, 2009

Hooliganism in Karnataka : Gandhiji

[ The correspondent had referred to a charity
show for Indians organized in Dharwad by a sympathetic(to non-cooperation movement) European lady. The original
idea of a play by Indian schoolgirls had been changed at the guardians' instance into a
programme of singing and recitations. During and after the entertainment a mob of
young men, instigated, the correspondent alleged, by non-co-operationists, had
stoned the organizers and guests. Source : Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi ]

The columns of Young India are open to all who have any
grievance against non-co-operators. ‘One who knows’ has sent to the
Editor a letter which I gladly publish. He has in a covering letter
giving his name pleaded for the publication of his letter. Such
pleading was unnecessary in connection with a matter of public
importance. If the facts related by the correspondent are true, they
reflect no credit on the young men of Dharwad. The correspondent
has connected the incident with non-co-operation. It is the fashion
nowadays to connect every incident of indecent behaviour with

non-co-operation. I wish that the incident had been brought to my
notice when I was at Dharwad. I would then have been able to,
investigate the matter and deal with it then. I may state that stones were
thrown at a meeting of Dharwad students that was held by me in the
open. One boy narrowly escaped being seriously hurt. And it was a
pleasure to watch the audience remaining unmoved in spite of the
stone-throwing. I was told too that stone-throwing at meetings was not
an unusual occurrence at Dharwad in connection with the
non-Brahmin movement. I state this fact only to show that Dharwad
enjoys the unenviable reputation for stone-throwing in a special
manner. I must therefore decline to connect the incident either with
non-co-operation or with any anti-European movement. Though the
correspondent’s letter is obscure on the point, it is evident from what
he says that resentment was felt at the idea of girls taking part in a
drama. The correspondent says that the drama was dropped “in the
nick of time at the desire of the guardians”. There must have been
persistence to provoke resentment.
But my position is clear. No amount of provocation could
possibly justify the hooliganism of the “mob of young men’. They
had no right to prevent the performance that was at last determined
upon, if the guardians of the girls did not mind it. The truest test of
democracy is in the ability of anyone to act as he likes, so long as he
does not injure the life or property of anyone else. It is impossible to
control public morals by hooliganism. Public opinion alone can keep
a society pure and healthy. If the young men of Dharwad did not like
a public exhibition of Dharwad girls on the stage, they should have
held public meetings and otherwise enlisted public opinion in their
favour. The movement of non-co-operation is intended to check all
such abuses. Non-co-operationists are undoubtedly expected, not only
to refrain from taking part in such violent scenes as are represented to
have taken place at Dharwad, but they are expected also to prevent
them on the part of others. The success of non-co-operation depends
upon the ability of non-co-operationists to control all forces of
violence. All may not take part in the programme of self-sacrifice but
all must recognize the necessity of non-violence in word and deed.
I am surprised that the correspondent in his covering letter
speaks of the hooliganism at Dharwad in the same breath as the
massacre of Jallianwala Bagh. He loses all sense of proportion when
he compares the cold-blooded and calculated butchery of innocent
men, who had given no provocation, with the undisciplined and
thoughtless demonstration of a “mob of young men”, who were

labouring under a fancied or real wrong. Both acts are worthy of
condemnation. But there is as much difference between the
programme of the Dharwad boys and the Dyerism at Amritsar as there
is between an attempt at simple hurt and a completed murder.
Young India, 1-12-1920

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