XXXII. THAT MEMORABLE
So I went to the Commissioner Mr. Griffith's office.
All about the staircase leading to the office I saw
soldiers armed from top to toe, as though for military
action. The verandah was all astir. When I was admitted
to the office, I saw Mr. Bowring sitting with Mr.
I described to the Commissioner the scenes I had
witnessed. He replied briefly: 'I did not want the
procession to proceed to the Fort, as a disturbance was
inevitable there. And as I saw that the people would not
listen to persuasion, I could not help ordering the
mounted police to charge through the crowd.'
'But,' said I, 'you knew what the consequences must
be. The horses were bound to trample on the people. I
think it was quite unnecessary to send that contingent of
'You cannot judge that,' said Mr. Griffith. 'We police
officers know better than you the effect of your teaching
on the people. If we did not start with drastic measures,
the situation would pass out of our hands. I tell you
that the people are sure to go out of your control.
Disobedience of law will quickly appeal to them; it is
beyond them to understand the duty of keeping peaceful. I
have no doubt about your intentions, but the people will
not understand them. They will follow their natural
'It is there that I join issue with you,' I replied.
'The people are not by nature violent but peaceful.'
And thus we argued at length. Ultimately Mr. Griffith
said, 'But suppose you were convinced that your teaching
had been lost on the people, what would you do?'
'I should suspend civil disobedience if I were so
'What do you mean? You told Mr. Bowring that you would
proceed to the Punjab the moment you were released.'
'Yes, I wanted to do so by the next available train.
But it is out of the question today.'
'If you will be patient, the conviction is sure to
grow on you. Do you know what is happening in Ahmedabad?
And what has happened in Amritsar? People have everywhere
gone nearly mad. I am not yet in possession of all the
facts. The telegraph wires have been cut in some places.
I put it to you that the responsibility for all these
disturbances lies on you.'
'I assure you I should readily take it upon myself
wherever I discovered it. But I should be deeply pained
and surprised, if I found that there were disturbances in
Ahmedabad. I cannot answer for Amritsar. I have never
been there, no one knows me there. But even about the
Punjab I am certain of this much that, had not the Punjab
Government prevented my entry into the Punjab, I should
have been considerably helpful in keeping the peace
there. By preventing me they gave the people unnecessary
And so we argued on and on. It was impossible for us
to agree. I told him that I intended to address a meeting
on Chaupati and to ask the people to keep the peace, and
took leave of him. The meeting was held on the Chaupati
sands. I spoke at length on the duty of non-violence and
on the limitations of Satyagraha, and said: 'Satyagraha
is essentially a weapon of the truthful. A Satyagrahi is
pledged to non- violence, and, unless people observe it
in thought, word and deed, I cannot offer mass
Anasuyabehn, too, had received news of disturbances in
Ahmedabad. Some one had spread a rumour that she also had
been arrested. The mill- hands had gone mad over her
rumoured arrest, struck work and committed acts of
violence, and a sergeant had been done to death.
I proceeded to Ahmedabad. I learnt that an attempt had
been made to pull up the rails near the Nadiad railway
station, that a Government officer had been murdered in
Viramgam, and that Ahmedabad was under martial law. The
people were terror-striken. They had indulged in acts of
violence and were being made to pay for them with
A police officer was waiting at the station to escort
me to Mr. Pratt, the Commissioner. I found him in a state
of rage. I spoke to him gently, and expressed my regret
for the disturbances. I suggested that martial law was
unnecessary, and declared my readiness to co-operate in
all efforts to restore peace. I asked for permission to
hold a public meeting on the grounds of the Sabarmati
Ashram. The proposal appealed to him, and the meeting was
held, I think, on Sunday, the 13th of April, and martial
law was withdrawn the same day or the day after.
Addressing the meeting, I tried to bring home to the
people the sense of their wrong, declared a penitential
fast of three days for myself, appealed to the people to
go on a similar fast for a day, and suggested to those
who had been guilty of acts of violence to confess their
I saw my duty as clear as daylight. It was unbearable
for me to find that the labourers, amongst whom I had
spent a good deal of my time, whom I had served, and from
whom I had expected better things, had taken part in the
riots, and I felt I was a sharer in their guilt.
Just as I suggested to the people to confess their
guilt, I suggested to the Government to condone the
crimes. Neither accepted my suggestion.
The late Sir Ramanbhai and other citizens of Ahmedabad
came to me with an appeal to suspend Satyagraha. The
appeal was needless, for I had already made up my mind to
suspend Satyagraha so long as people had not learnt the
lesson of peace. The friends went away happy.
There were, however, others who were unhappy over the
decision. They felt that, if I expected peace everywhere
and regarded it as a condition precedent to launching
Satyagraha, mass Satyagraha would be an impossibility. I
was sorry to disagree with them. If those amongst whom I
worked, and whom I expected to be prepared for
non-violence and self-suffering, could not be
non-violent, Satyagraha was certainly impossible. I was
firmly of opinion that those who wanted to lead the
people to Satyagraha ought to be able to keep the people
within the limited non-violence expected of them. I hold
the same opinion even today.