Non-cooperation with Non-violence
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
August 12, 1920
What is this non-cooperation, about which you have heard much, and why do we want to offer this non-cooperation?
I have been told that non-cooperation is unconstitutional. I venture to deny that it is unconstitutional. On the contrary, I hold that non-cooperation is a just and religious doctrine; it is the inherent right of every human being and it is perfectly constitutional. A great lover of the British Empire has said that under the British constitution even a successful rebellion is perfectly constitutional and he quotes historical instances, which I cannot deny, in support of his claim. I don't claim any constitutionality for a rebellion successful or otherwise, so long as that rebellion means in the ordinary sense of the term, what it does mean, namely, wresting justice by violent means. On the contrary I have said it repeatedly to my countrymen that violence, whatever end it may serve in Europe, will never serve us in India.
I tell you that while my friend believes also in the doctrine of violence and has adopted the octrine of non-violence as a weapon of the weak, 1 believe in the doctrine of non-violence as a weapon of the strongest, 1 believe that a man is the strongest soldier for daring to die unarmed with his breast bare before the enemy. So much for the non-violent part of non-cooperation. I therefore, venture to suggest to my learned countrymen that so long as the doctrine of non-cooperation remains non-violent, so long there is nothing unconstitutional in that doctrine.
I ask further, is it unconstitutional for me to say to the British Government 'I refuse to serve you'? Is it unconstitutional for our worthy Chairman to return with every respect all the titles that he has ever held from the Government? Is it unconstitutional for any parent to withdraw his children from a Government or aided school? Is it unconstitutional for a lawyer to say 'I shall no longer support the arm of the law so long as that arm of law is used not to raise me but to debase me'? Is it unconstitutional for a civil servant or for a judge to say, 'I refuse to serve a Government which does not wish to respect the wishes of the whole people'?
I ask, is it unconstitutional for a policeman or for a soldier to tender his resignation when he knows that he is called to serve a Government which traduces his own countrymen? Is it unconstitutional for me to go to the agriculturist, and say to him 'it's not wise for you to pay any taxes, if these taxes are used by the Government not to raise you but to weaken you?' I hold and I venture to submit, that there is nothing unconstitutional in it. What is more, 1 have done every one of these things in my life and nobody has questioned the constitutional character of it.
I submit that in the whole plan of non-cooperation, there is nothing unconstitutional. But I do venture to suggest that it will be highly unconstitutional in the midst of this unconstitutional Govermnent, - in the midst of a nation which has built up its magnificent constitution, - for the people of India to become weak and to crawl on their belly - it will be highly unconstitutional for the people of India to pocket every insult that is offered to them; it is highly unconstitutional for the 70 millions of Mohammedans of India to submit to a violent wrong done to their religion; it is highly unconstitutional for the whole of India to sit still and cooperate with an unjust Government which has trodden under its feet the honour of the Puniab.
I say to my countrymen so long as you have a sense of honour and so long as you wish to remain the descendants and defenders Is of the noble traditions that have been handed to you for generations after generations; it is unconstitutional for you not to non-cooperate and unconstitutional for you to cooperate with a Government which has become so unjust as our Government has become. I'm not anti-English; I'm not anti-British; I'm not anti any Government; but I am anti-untruth - anti-humbug and anti-unjustice. So long as the Government spells iniustice, it may regard me as its enemy, implacable enemy.
Until we have wrung justice, and until we have wrung our self-respect from unwilling hands and from unwilling pens there can be no cooperation. Our Shastras say and I say so with the greatest deference to all the greatest religious preceptors of India but without fear of contradiction, that our Shastras teach us that there shall be no cooperation between injustice and justice, between an unjust man and a justice-loving man, between truth and untruth. Cooperation is a duty only so long as Government protects your honour, and non-cooperation is an equal duty when the Government instead of protecting robs you of your honour. That's the doctrine of non-cooperation.