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Indian Savants' Obsrvations on China

Mahatma Gandhi


July 24, 1924


The White Cross is an international anti-narcotic society whose headquarters are in Washington, It appears to have branches all over the world. Its letterhead contains distinguished names as trustees or standing council. Its executive secretary, Mr. Mckibben, writes long letter urging me to secure India’s cooperation in the White Cross crusade against opium. I cull the following passages from the letter;

"The people of China resisted its invasion in two wars and in 1906 took the first opportunity in a century and a half to gain deliverance by pulling up or ploughing under the poppy on millions of acres. So long and so binding had been their enslavement that it was predicted that at any attempt to take opium away the Chinese people would rise in insurrection. Spence, an English writer, said in 1882 that “revolution would result if the Chinese Government would undertake suppression of the growth of the poppy, the quiet seaports would be turned into hell, streets would run with blood: So far were these dire forecasts from coming true that no action of the Chinese Government was ever so popular as its determined and successful campaign for poppy destruction. It became a fervent, sweeping, religious movement. In a thousand cities and villages old smokers stacked up their pipes in piles as high as the houses as a burnt offering to Heaven. Jubilant processions, music and banners, voiced the general thanksgiving, while women wept tears of joy that the century-old curse was lifed.

Their rejoinings were short-lived. The British Government kept its promise to cease importing opium but, as has happened before and since, as you too well know, the Western world kept the word of promise to the ear but broke it to the heart. In place of opium there was poured upon devoted China a flood of morphine, heroin and cocaine, ten times worse. In this atrocity, I blush to say, the United States was a participant until a recent day. In consequence of chaotic conditions, military chieftains have now forced upon unwilling Chinese farmers, a renewal of poppy planting, excusing themselves because native opium is better than foreign morphine. Those who know China best believe that her fundamentally sound conscience will again respond when the nations give them support and will again rid their land of opium.

It Is universally recognized that no one nation can save itself. Opium products are so compact, so easily concealed and the wages of the traffic so enormous that, as long as the drugs are produced, they will find Their consumers. The American Congress has accordingly appealed to all nations to unite in suppressing the opium poppy and the cocaine shrub, reserving only such amounts as are considered necessary in medicine and science. A Conference has been agreed on to meet in Geneva in November 1924, to put into effect this proposal. This Conference will be vested with authority whereby it may, if it will, inaugurate measures that will deliver the world from the menace.


The question is now before the world, how may this Narcotic Conference be brought to act in the spirit as well in the letter of this mandate? Shall they meet the world’s hopes or blast them? To you, Sir, I need not name one all-powerful agency that may be invoked, namely, the power of public opinion, the focussing of the world's conscience and conviction upon the meetings of that Conference.


The organization of which I have the honour to be a representative, the White Cross International Anti-narcotic Society, is seeking a voicing of public opinion and conscience, focussing it upon the November Conference in a way to move them irresistibly to use the opportunity providentially in their hands and rid the world of its greatest physical menace.


The experience of China should convince India that fears which have sometimes been expressed of “Oriental revolt” against “deprivation of opium” will prove groundless in India as they did in China. It is perhaps not strange that some representatives of the British Government in India fear that India is so wedded to opium that “serious consequences would follow any attempt to take it away”. There is far less danger of this in India than in China. India has never become enslaved to the extent of China, even though its victims have largely been those on whom the whole future depends, namely the babies doped by their mothers day after day while the mothers are at work in the factories. Indian ladies, who are devoted Social workers, say this practice is well-nigh universal. If “revolt” is apprehended, it would seem to a friendly observer most likely to be a revolt of the people against a Governmental policy which poisons to death the babies in their mothers’ arms, or leaves them alive as if born old, pallid, emaciated, stunted, blasted in body and hopeless of future, the motive being that the Government might get the revenues ‘which it needs’.


The world can never be delivered until India saves herself by ceasing to poison her own oncoming generations and by ceasing to pour her opium into the veins of other nations. For the sake of India and of the world, we lay before Mr. Gandhi and the people of India this our request for expressions of their mind such as will convince the coming Opium Conference that India both seeks deliverance from her own opium enslavement and joins hands for the redemption of the world. ...


Furthermore, may we ask what is the wish of the people of India as to who shall be their representatives and spokesmen at the Opium Conference? In previous meetings, have the convictions of India been accurately voiced? Whether sent unofficially or, as would be more fitting, clothed with full powers of representation, we would suggest that India send some of her best sons to speak for her that the world may know her mind. If in any way our organization can assist in bringing before the Conference the expressions of Indian conviction, we shall be at your service.”

The White Cross may rely upon India’s cooperation in its noble work. The All India Congress Committee (A.1.C has only recently unanimously passed a resolution which places on record its emphatic condemnation of the opium policy of the Government of India. If every poppy plant were rooted out, there would be no protest in the land against the act. The people will certainly rejoice when the whole of the revenue from intoxicating drinks and drugs is stopped, their sale absolutely Prohibited except strictly as medicines to be sold by certificated chemists or druggists.

But unfortunately for us and the world, India’s opinion is today represented by a Government that does not represent its people. At the forthcoming convention, therefore, it will not be the people of India that will be represented, but it would be the foreign rule over India that will be represented, in the interests not so much of humanity as chiefly of its revenue. Whether it would serve any useful purpose to send an unofficial representative, such as Mr. Andrews,, truly representing the people, is to be considered by the A.I.C.C.

Let us. however, see what the goal of the humanitarian crusade is. Miss La Motte has shown by unchallengeable figures that the world’s production of opium is far in excess of ,its medical requirements and that so long as it continues, so long will the immoral and soul-destroying traffic in it continue in spite of efforts to the contrary. She has shown, too, that the Government of India is the greatest culprit in the matter. The goal cannot be reached till the Government of India honestly carries out the wish of the best mind of the world, immediately to reduce the cultivation of opium in its jurisdiction to the lowest term possible and without counting the cost. The Government of India alone has blocked the way and it is feared that it will do so again, And it will do so not because India wishes, but because she is helpless,

("War Against Opium”, published in Young India, July 24, 1924, Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Val. 24, pp. 428-30.)

May 13, 1927

There was persistent agitation against the dispatch of Indian troops from almost all the Indian public bodies. But I am sorry to have to confess that Indian public opinion is not powerful enough to carry in such matters weight with the Government. It has to be recognized that we are after all a fallen nation struggling to rise, and therefore beyond wishing nations like you all success in their endeavour to attain full freedom, we can do very little indeed to help.

(Letter to Chinese Students Association, May 13, 1927, ibid, Vol. 33, p. 316.)


August 5, 1927

The sadness of the reminder is heightened by the fact that our mercantile fleet may at any moment be turned into a fleet warring against our own liberty or against that of nations with which India has no quarrel and with whose aspirations India may even have every sympathy, as for instance, China. There is nothing to prevent the Government from commandeering any one of the ships belonging to the swadeshi companies for carrying soldiers to punish China for daring to fight for liberty.


(“Indian Shipping”, in Hindu, Aug. 5, 1927, ibid, Vol. 34, p. 279),


August 27.1938


GANDHIJI: I am exceedingly sorry to receive you when I am in distress. I may not break my silence even to speak to you. But of course you will say whatever you want to. You may speak, I may not.

Prof. Tao explained that he was &member of the People’s Council of Action of all China. This was a body of 140 or 150 drawn from all parties in China, under which the whole of China was united to meet Japanese aggression..., under one supreme military command of Chiang Kai-shek ... Tao was happy that a Medical Mission from India was sailing to China as a token of India’s sympathy, and he asked Gandhiji if he had any suggestions to offer in order to fight the war to a successful conclusion.

G. I do not know that I can throw any light on the problem at the present moment. My method is so radical that it is wholly inapplicable to your struggle. You cannot all of a sudden change the course of the struggle. A nation in arms cannot all at once give up arms and accept non-violence as its weapon.

Prof. Tao saw The difficulty and explained that the Chinese had not even lime to think, the aggression was so sudden and so unprovoked. But he would like to discuss problems of national reconstructions. He had given up university work in order to take up peasants’ education and he was deeply interested in the Wardha Education Scheme. “What exactly is the core of the Scheme?” he asked.

G. The central fact is some village craft through which the whole of the man or the woman in the child can be drawn out.

“But there was the difficulty of teachers,” said Prof. Tao, and Gandhiji laughed. “We had the same difficulty. Would you have trained teachers to learn a craft or craftsmen to learn the art of teaching?” asked Prof. Tao.

G. The average educated man can be expected easily to master a craft. Our craftsmen will require much longer time to acquire the necessary general instruction than an educated man, say like you, can require to learn, say, carpentry.

“But,” said Prof. Tao, “our educated man is after fat jobs and money. How can he be interested in this?”

G. If the scheme is sound and appeals to the educated mind, it must prove attractive in itself and thus wean the educated youth from the lure of gold. It must fail, if it does not evoke sufficient patriotism from the educated youth. There is one advantage with us. Those who have received instruction through the Indian languages cannot enter colleges. It is just possible that they will find the scheme attractive.

Prof. Tao was deeply interested in our present political struggle. How were we going to acquire power at the centre?

G. If we are true to our salt in the seven provinces, the accession of strength that will come to us will put us on the way to power at the centre.

T. But the power is being felt everywhere, and the Congress prestige has risen. Has it not?

G. The Congress prestige has risen. The people have become conscious of their power and strength. The Government also recognize this. My fear is that this power may throw us off our balance.

Prof. Tao reverted to the question of mass education. He made an attempt to describe the Chinese system of "relay" teachers whereby each man or woman who had learnt something had to pass it on to the next one he or she came across. Even the child, the “little” teacher, had to share his or her learning with his illiterate parents, and the Chinese through this system were liquidating illiteracy and ignorance on a mass scale.

G. I have no doubt that it can. I would like you to write for me a short note on how the ‘relay” teachers and the "tittle" teachers are taught, how they teach and with what result.

Prof. Tao said he would gladly comply.

Prof. Tao would not go without a message from Gandhiji for the people of China. He explained that even a non-violent message would be welcome.... They were engaged in a war of self-defence, but in other respects they were observing nonviolence... On May 20 Chinese planes had flown over Japanese towns, and they might easily have spread death and destruction among the people of Japan in retaliation for the bombing of so many Chinese ports by Japan. But instead of raining bombs they rained handbills and leaflets showing the wrong of the war....

G. But the self-inflicted restraint won’t last when the real stress comes. The temptation will be irresistible. I shall not be surprised. It is inevitable. There is no love in war. We have got to come to the conclusion that either there is to be complete non-violence or undiluted violence. Is not this enough message?

Prof. Tao wondered if someday the Chinese might expect to have Gandhiji in their midst.

G. I almost came to your country when those who had invited me had to stop me from going owing to the disturbances that had taken place. I do want to see peace reigning in your land during my lifetime. Nothing will please me better than to visit your great country someday.

(In Harijan, Aug. 27, 1938, ibid, Vol. 67, pp. 250-52.)

November 22-23, 1940

Just as you are engaged in a terrific life-and-death struggle, so are we. Yours is an ancient country and so is our and although yours is a much bigger country than ours, ours is not by any means a small country and there is much in common between you and us. Speaking personally, I may inform you that I was in touch with the Chinese colony in Johannesburg and gave them legal advice. They were a colony of 1,200 and I came in closest touch with everyone of them, and so the Chinese are not strangers to me by any means. Although you are engaged in a life-and-death struggle and so are we, the means we employ for regaining our freedom are different from the means you employ for retaining your freedom. This does not mean that want to criticize the means you have adopted. The remedy you employ in self-defence is an age-old one. I am employing a remedy which is unknown to the world on the political field. But since you have come all the way from China merely to reciprocate le good wishes that Pandit Jawaharlal carried there, the only service I can render in my humble way is to put forward before you and, through you, the Generalissimo, the new remedy I am applying. I found it in South Africa in 1906, when all my resources were exhausted, in order to combat difficulties which might have meant the death of the Indian community in the Transvaal if we lad not found this remedy. And since 1920, we have applied this remedy more or less successfully, perhaps with more success than otherwise, till at last the Congress has become a powerful body, and in a nutshell, it is this, viz., to be prepared to die as bravely as the bravest Chinese soldier, but without trying to kill your opponent or do the slightest harm to him, whether in offence or self-defence. If we succeed here in instilling into the mass mind bravery to die without killing, I think that not, only shall we have regained our liberty without violence but we shall have presented to the world a remedy to do away with all wars. If I have succeeded in giving you the kernel of the movement, I would ask you to watch this movement with interest and bless it on behalf of China. More I cannot say until we have regained our liberty with these absolutely peaceful means.

You will see that it is not without a purpose that I have taken up the wheel at the present moment when, ordinarily speaking, it would be discourtesy to a guest to keep spinning when he comes. But I have taken it up both to demonstrate the process and to show you how, externally speaking, I derive all the power of peace from the spinning-wheel. You will have noticed that the spinning-wheel finds a central place in our national flag, and it is the one thing which establishes a living relation and Identification with the masses of India.

Please carry my good wishes to the Generalissimo, to the Madame, his staff and all who are putting up a brave fight in self-defence and I wish you early peace.

(Talking to Tai Chi Tao, President of the Examination Yuan of the Chinese Government, Nov. 22-23, 1940, ibid, Vol. 73, pp. 190-91.)


October, 1941

If we cannot take the weavers in our fold nothing will get done. But we cannot go by mere faith. Today they are using mill yarn, We have to change this situation. We have to give them handspun yarn. My feeling is that the War is not going to end soon. No import of cloth will be possible. Prices of textiles will also rise. Only Indian mills will be manufacturing cloth for use in India. A time may come when they will not be able to supply all our requirement. Cloth in India will then become scarce. In China too such a situation had arisen. But the Chinese are a hard-working people. They started the charkha in every home and in their own way quickly solved the problem. Our method will be a little different but the effort required will be as much or more. A day may come when people will ask us for cloth. It would be a disgrace to tell them that we could not supply it.

(Speech at AISA Meeting, in Khadi Jagat (Hindi Journal), October, 1941, ibid, Vol. 74, p. 390.)


February 11,1942

Dearest friend,

            As you know I am living in a village out of touch with the outside world. I came to know of your arrival in my country side by side with the precious message from Pandit Nehru that you were coming to Wardha and to grace my cottage with your presence. And so I refrained from sending you a word of welcome. But to my great sorrow I have just learnt that you would not be able to come to Wardha and you would not think of letting me come to you. I must leave you to imagine my sorrow that although you are in my country I shall miss seeing you and your noble partner. We know each other through correspondence but much more through Jawaharlal Nehru. I have many ties with your country I know that your’s is a vaster country than mine. and I do not know that your’s is not a more ancient culture than ours. I know what it is to lose one’s liberty, having lost it for so many centuries. My whole heart goes out to you in your fight to preserve your own. May God crown your effort with success. The knowledge, that circumstances over which you and I have no control make it impossible for us to meet brings us closer in sprit.

(Letter to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Feb. 11, 1942, ibid, Vof. 75, pp. 306-307.)

February 13,1942

Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Delhi

It has caused me greatest grief to learn you and your partner cannot visit Sevagram where my wife and the little settlement were looking forward to receiving you. Failing this I would have gone anywhere to see you whilst you were on Indian soil. But I understand from Pandit Nehru that it could not be. I must be, satisfied with being in spirit with you. All good wishes for yourselves and your country follow you.

(Telegram to Chiang Kai-shek, Feb. 13, 1942, ibid, p. 313.)

June 10, 1942

I say that the British power in India should go today for the world peace, for China, for Russia and for the Allied cause....

QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT may not interfere with the movement of British troops, but it is sure to engage British attention. it would be wrong of them to reject my proposal and say India should remain a slave in order that Britain may win or be able to defend China. I cannot accept that degrading position. India free and independent will play a prominent part in defending China. Today I do not think she is rendering any real help to China. We have followed the non-embarrassment policy so far. We will follow it even now. But we cannot allow the British Government to exploit it in order to strengthen the stranglehold on India. And today It amounts to that. The way, for instance, in which thousands are being asked to vacate their homes with nowhere to go to, no lard to cultivate, no resources to fall back upon, is the reward of our non-embarrassment. This should be impossible in any free country. I cannot tolerate India submitting to this kind of treatment, It means greater degradation and servility, and when a whole nation accepts servility it means good-bye for ever to freedom....

I have waited long, and I can wait no longer. It is a terrible tragedy that 40 crores of people should have no say in this war. If we have the freedom to play our part we can arrest the march of Japan and save China.

            It is fear of the Japanese that makes him [Rajaji] tolerate the British rule. He would postpone the question of freedom until after the war. On the contrary I say that if the war is to be decisively won, India must be freed to play her part today. I find no flaw in my position. I have arrived at it after considerable debating within myself; I am doing nothing in hurry or anger. There is not the slightest room in me for accommodating the Japanese. No, I am sure that India's independence is not only essential for India, But for China and the Allied cause.

            India lying at the feet of Great Britain may mean China lying at the feet of Japan. I cannot help using this language. I feel it. You may think it starting and big. But why should it be starting? Think of 400 million people hungering for freedom. They want to be left alone. They are not savages. They have an ancient culture, ancient civilization, such variety and richness of languages. Britain should be ashamed of holding these people as slaves. You may say: "You deserve it" If you do, I will simply say it is not right for any nation to hold another in bondage.

            (Interview to Preston Grover, Wardha, June 10, 1942, ibid, Vol. 76, pp. 207-12.)


June 14, 1942

            Dear Generalissimo,

            I can never forget the five hours' close contact i had with you and your noble wife in Calcutta. I had always felt drawn towards you in your fight for freedom, and that contact and our conversation brought China and her problems still nearer to me. Long ago, between 1905 and 1913, when I in South Africa, I was in constant touch with the small Chinese colony in Johannesburg. I knew them first as clients and then as comrades in the Indian passive resistance struggle in South Africa. I came in touch with them in Mauritius also I learnt then to admire their thrift, industry, resourcefulness and internal unity. Later in India I had a very fine Chinese friend living with me for a few years and we all learnt to like him.

            I have thus felt greatly attracted towards your great country and, in common with my countrymen, our sympathy has gone out to you in your terrible struggle. Our mutual friend, jawaharlal Nehru, whose love of China is only excelled, if at all, by his love of his own country, has kept us in intimate touch with the developments of the like him.

            I have thus felt greatly attracted towards your great country and, in common with my countrymen, our sympathy has gone out to you in your terrible struggle. Our mutual friend, Jawaharlal Nehru, whose love of China is only excelled, if at all, by this love of his own country, has kept us in intimate touch with the developments of the Chinese struggle.

            Because of this feeling I have towards China and my earnest desire that our two great countries should come closer to one another and co-operate to their mutual advantage, I am anxious to explain to you that my appeal to the British power withdraw from India is not meant in any shape or form to weaken India's defence against the Japanese or embarrass you in your struggle. India must not submit to any aggressor or invader and must resist him. I would not be guilty of purchasing the freedom of my country at the cost of your country's freedom. That problem does not arise before me as I am clear that India cannot gain her freedom in this way, and a Japanese domination of either India or China would be equally injurious to the other country and to world peace. That domination must therefore be prevented and I should like India to play her natural and rightful part in this.

            I feel India cannot do so while she is in bondage. India has been a helpless witness of the withdrawals from Malaya, Singapore and Burma. We must learn the lesson from these tragic events and prevent by all means at our disposal a repetition of what befell these unfortunate countries. But unless we are free we can do nothing to prevent it, and the same process might well occur again, crippling India and China disastrously. I do not want a repetition of this tragic tale of woe.

            Our proferred help has repeatedly been rejected by the British Government and the recent failure of the Cripps Mission has left a deep wound which is still running. Out of that anguish has come the cry for immediate withdrawal of British power so that India can look after herself and help China to the best of her ability.

            I have told you of my faith in non-violence and of my belief in the effectiveness of this method if the whole nation could turn to it. That faith in it is as firm as ever. But I realize that India today as a whole has not that faith and belief, and the Government in free India would be formed from the various elements composing the nation.

            Today the whole of India is impotent and feels frustrated. The India army consists largely of people who have joined up because of economic pressure. They have no feeling of a cause to fight for, and in no sense are they a national army. Those of us who would fight for a cause, for India and China, with armed forces or with non-violence, cannot under the foreign heel, function as they want to. And yet our people know for certain that India free can play even a decisive part not only on her own behalf, but also on behalf, but also on behalf of China and world peace. Many like me feel that it is not proper or manly to remain in this helpless state and allow events to overwhelm us when a way to effective action can be opened to us. They feel, therefore, that every possible effort should be made to ensure independence and that freedom of action which is so urgently needed. This is the origin of my appeal to the British power to end immediately the unnatural connection between Britain and India.

            Unless we make the effort there is a grave danger of public feeling in India going into wrong and harmful channels. There is every likelihood of subterranean sympathy for Japan growing simply in order to weaken and oust British authority in India. This feeling may take the place of robust confidence in our ability never to look to outsiders for help in winning our freedom. We have to learn self-reliance and develop the strength to work out our own salvation. This is only possible if we make a determined effort to free ourselves from bondage. That freedom has become a present necessity to enable us to take our due place among the free nations of the world.

            To make it perfectly clear that we want to prevent in every way Japanese aggression, I would personally agree that the Allied Powers might, under treaty with us, keep their armed forces in India and use the country as a base for operations against the threatened Japanese attack.

            I need hardly give you my assurance that, as the author of the new move in India, I shall take no hasty actions. And whatever action I may recommend will be governed by the consideration that it should not injure China, or encourage Japanese aggression in India or China. I am trying to enlist world opinion in favour of a proposition which to me appears self-proved and which must lead to the strengthening of India's and China's defence. I am also educating public opinion in India and conferring with my colleagues. Needless to say, any movement against the British Government with which I may be connected will be essentially non-violent. I am straining every nerve to avoid a conflict with British authority. But if in the vindication of the freedom which has become an immediate desideratum, this becomes inevitable, I shall not hesitate to run any risk however great.

            Very soon you will have completed five years of war against Japanese aggression and invasion and all the sorrow and misery that these have brought to China. My heart goes out to the people of China in deep sympathy and in admiration for their heroic struggle and endless sacrifices in the cause of their country's freedom and integrity against tremendous odds. I am convinced that this heroism and sacrifice cannot be in vain; they must bear fruit. To you, to Madame Chiang and to the great people of China, I send my earnest and sincere wishes for your success. I look forward to the day when a free India and a free China will co-operate together in friendship and brotherhood for their own good and for the good of Asia and the world.

            In anticipation of your permission, I am taking liberty of publishing this letter in Harijan.

            (ibid, Vol. 76, pp. 223-26.)

July 15, 1942

            The Congress resolution itself hints at the possibility of a large number of Indians going over of the Japanese side if they effected a landing on the Indian shores-as we now know happened in Burma, Malaya and for aught I know Singapore too. i am of the opinion that this might have been prevented at least so far as Burma is concerned, if she had been made independent. But it was not done. We know the result. We are determined so far as it is humanly possible to secure our independence, so that no Indian worth the name would then think of going over to the Japanese side. It would then become as much India's interest as the Allies' interest to resist Japanese aggression with all her might.

            China never tried any experiment in non-violence. That the Chinese remained passive for some time is no proof that it was a non-violent attitude. For the first time in history non-violence instead of being confined to individuals, religious enthusiasts and mystics, has been brought down to the political field and been experimented on by vast masses of mankind. Just imagine, that instead of a few Indians, or even a millions, or even a million or so, all 400,000,000 Indians were non-violent, would Japan make any headway in India, unless they were intent upon exterminating all the four hundred million?

            If India were to listen to me, she would give non-violent help to \china. But I know that will not be. Free India would want to be militarist. She will then get all the material and men she needs-although it appears that China with her vast populations will not need men. Today unfree India cannot send a single person to China.  I go further-free India can even plead with Japan and Japan will have to listen.

            As we have said in our resolution all hopes have been dashed to pieces. The burden is shifted. But it is open to America, to Britain, to China and even to Russia to plead for India which is pining for freedom.

            (Interview with foreign correspondents, July 15,1942, in Harijan, July 26, 1942, ibid, pp. 299-303.)


July 26, 1942


I must confess at the outset that though I have no ill-will against you, I intensely dislike your attack upon China. From your lofty height you have descended to imperial ambition. You will fail to realize that ambition and may become the authors of the dismemberment of Asia, thus unwittingly preventing World Federation and brotherhood without which there can be no hope for humanity.

Ever since I was a lad of eighteen studying in London, over fifty years ago, I learnt, through the writing of the late Sir Edwin Arnold, to prize the many excellent qualities of your nation. I was thrilled when in South Africa I learnt of your brilliant victory over Russian arms. After my return to India from South Africa in 1915, I came in close touch with Japanese monks who lived as members of our Ashram from time to time. One of them became a valuable member of the Ashram in Sevagram, and his application to duty, his dignified bearing, his unfailing devotion to daily worship, affability, unrufflednsss under varying circumstances and his natural smile, which was positive evidence of his inner peace, had endeared him to all of us. And now that owing to your declaration of war against Great Britain he has been taken away from us, we miss him as a dear cc-worker. He has left behind him as a memory his daily prayer and his little drum, to the accompaniment of which we open our morning and evening prayers.

In the background of these pleasant recollections I grieve deeply as I contemplate what appears to me to be your unprovoked attack against China and, if reports are to be believed, your merciless devastation of that great and ancient land.

It was a worthy ambition of yours to take equal rank with the great powers of the world. Your aggression against China and your alliance with the Axis powers was surely an unwarranted excess of the ambition.

I should have thought that you would be proud of the fact that great and ancient people, whose old classical literature you have adopted as your own, are your neighbours. Your understanding of one another’s history, tradition, literature should bind. you as friends rather than make you the enemies you are today.

If I was a free man, and if you allowed me to come to your country, frail though I am, I would not mind risking my health, maybe my life, to come to your country to plead with you to desist from the wrong you are doing to China and the world and therefore to yourself.

But I enjoy no such freedom. And we are in the unique position of having to resist an imperialism that we detest no less than yours and Nazism. Our resistance to it does not mean harm to the British people. We seek to convert them. Ours is an unarmed revolt against British rule. An important party in the country is engaged in a deadly but friendly quarrel with the foreign rulers.

But in this they need no aid from foreign powers. You have been gravely misinformed, as I know you are, that we have chosen this particular moment to embarrass the Allies when your attack against India is imminent. If we wanted to turn Britain's difficulty into our opportunity we should have done it as soon as the war broke out nearly three years ago.

Our movement demanding the withdrawal of the British power from India should in no way be misunderstood. In fact if we are to believe your reported anxiety for the independence of India, a recognition that it-dependence by Britain should leave you no excuse for any attack on India. Moreover the reported profession sorts ill with your ruthless aggression again China.

I would ask you to make no mistake about the fact that you will be sadly disillusioned if you believe that you will receive a willing welcome from India. The end and aim of the movement for British withdrawal is to prepare India, by making her free for resisting all militarist and imperialist ambition, whether it is called British Imperialism, German Nazism, or your pattern. If we do not, we shall have been ignoble spectators of the militarization of the world in spite of our belief that in non-violence we have the only solvent of the militarist spirit and ambition. Personally I fear that without declaring the independence of India the Allied powers will not be able to beat the Axis combination which has raised violence to the dignity of a religion. The Allies cannot beat you and your partners unless they beat you in your ruthless and skilled warfare. If they copy it their declaration that they will save the world for democracy and individual freedom must come to naught. I feel that They can only gain strength to avoid copying your ruthlessness by declaring and recognizing now the freedom of India, and turning sullen India’s forced co-operation into freed India’s voluntary cooperation.

To Britain and the Allies we have appealed in the name of justice, in proof of their professions, and in their own self-interest. To you I appeal in the name of humanity. It is a marvel to me that you do not see that ruthless warfare is nobody's monopoly. If not the Allies some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. Even if you wilt leave no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride in a recital of cruel deeds however skillfully achieved.

Even if you win it will not prove that you were in the right; it will only prove that your power of destruction was greater. This applies obviously to the Allies too, unless they perform now the just and righteous act of freeing India as an earnest and promise of similarly freeing all other subject peoples in Asia and Africa.

Our appeal to Britain is coupled with the offer of free India’s willingness to let the Allies retain their troops in India. The offer is made in order to prove that we do not in any way mean to harm the Allied cause, and in order to prevent you from being misled into feeling that you have but to step into the country that Britain has vacated. Needless to repeat that if you cherish any such idea and will carry it out, we will not fail in resisting you with all the might that our country can muster. I address this appeal to you in the hope that our movement may even influence you and your partners in the right direction and deflect you and them from the course which is bound to end in your moral ruin and the reduction of human beings to robots.

The hope of your response to my appeal is much fainter than that of response from Britain. I know that the British are not devoid of a sense of justice and they know me. I do not know you enough to be able to judge. All I have read tells me that you listen to no appeal but to the sword. How I wish that you are cruelly misrepresented and that I shall touch the right chord in your heart! Anyway I have an undying faith in the responsiveness of human nature. On the strength of that is that faith which has prompted this appeal to you.

(Appeal to Japanese, being published by Japanese newspapers, Nichi Nichi, Yomiuri, Miyako in Harijan, July 26, 1942, ibid, pp. 309-12.)


September 10, 1442

The use of tea is said to have originated in China. It has a special use in that country. As a rule, one cannot rely on the purity of drinking-water in China and therefore it must be boiled before use to ensure safety. Some clever Chinaman discovered a grass called tea which when added to boiling water in a very small quantity gave it a golden colour.

(Gandhi thought, same like coffee and cocoa, tea was not required by human body.)

(“Ray to Health” Arogyani Chavi, in Gujarati original rendered into Hindi, then, English, Sept. 10, 1942, ibid, Vol. 77, p. 14.)

October 11, 1942

...[A century] ago, what is known as the Opium War took place between China and Great Britain. China did not wish to buy opium from India. But the English wanted to impose it on China. India was also to blame, in that several Indians had taken opium contracts in India. The trade paid well and the treasury received crores of rupees as opium revenue. This was obviously an immoral trade and yet it went on flourishing. Finally, as a result of a mighty agitation in England, it was stopped. A thing of this type, which simply ruins people, should not be tolerated for a single minute.

(October 11, 1942, ibid, p. 17.)


April 29, 1945

I long for the real friendship between China and India based not on economics or politics but on irresistibfe attraction. Then will follow real brotherhood of man.  

(Letter to Prof. Tan Yun-shan dated Mahabaleshwar April 29, 1945, ibid, Vol. 94, p. 199.)

November 5, 1947

I consider myself a Chinese.

(Gandhiji added, he was no stranger to the Chinese. He had lived among them in South Africa and many of them were in jail with him during the passive resistance movement there,)

India is a great friend of China. In Pandit Nehru, China has a guarantee of that friendship.

(Interview to Chinese delegation of ibid, Vol. 89, p, 476.)

*"Hengchih Tao was famous Chinese educationist Tao Xingzhi (or Spelled as HsingChih).- Editor


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© 1998 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi

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