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Young India on the “Volcano”

The well known writer in the “Young India” who often calls himself M.D. has poured down encomiums upon a man whose head has already turned on account of the “fame thrust upon him” by peculiar circumstances. Mr. M.D. writing under the caption “From Tamil Nad,” has let himself loose in unreservedly praising the Sirdar of Bardoli fame. It is nothing but an irony of circumstances that has led a person “who for the first time visits the province without Gandhiji,” wield his mighty pen in writing upon the tour of another “first visitor to the province”. We would not have referred to Mr. M.D’s hymns of praise, had it not been for the pleasure that he seems to take in attacking the Non-brahmin movement in general, and the Self-respect movement in particular.

Mr. M.D. exults in pointing out that the Sirdar “saw and conquered” the people. “He (Patel) went to Pudupalayam and spent a day there before the Conference.” Indeed, Pudupalayam (2), is the lever of the Sirdar’s movement in the South, and the centre of his recent activity. It is the place where the Sirdar had his first lessons on the affairs in South India. A day in Pudupalayam is enough. Is it not?

The next day emerged the great Sirdar, like a heaven-kissing mountain, with a profound knowledge of the affairs in the South. There dawned upon him the effulgent light. Pudupalayam was the bhodi-tree of the Bardoli hero. His programme was published in the press. The body-guards girded themselves. Flags and festoons began to fly in the air. Day and night played the drums and bands. The march began. And the Chota Gandhi took the lead. The hero got upon the platforms amidst the blessings of the face-born. There flowed from his mouth what? Torrents of vigorous words upon the “evils of communalism”. He said his “patriotic” head was reeling under the pains of the communal atmosphere. His “nationalistic” bent of mind would not tolerate the Self-respect movement. Swaraj is in sight, but the “communalists” are a hindrance. Swaraj-ki-jai! The body-guards echo the cry, with a glow of smile.

But unhappily, the wind does not blow the same way. If some of his audiences, as at Kumbakonam, Trichinopoly, Virudunagar and Tiruppur show signs of dissatisfaction or disapproval, then the Sirdar would immediately say, “What? Have you settled the Land Revenue Problem? Create Bardolis and you will have Swaraj.” The tutors behind him would cry, “Bardoli-Ki-jai!” The bands are at once set playing, and the procession starts with the hero in the centre, and the “spotless Brahmin” serenely seated by his side. And there is the inevitable M.D. to write in the Young India of what Mr. Patel, “saw and conquered.”

Let us turn our attention to the next remark of Mr. M.D. He says, “He (Mr. Patel) did not go there (Pudupalayam) to understand the Brahman Non-brahman problem from an interested quarter, as some Non-brahman papers foolishly said, (Mark the words!) but he went to see the people among whom he has found ‘work cut out’ for himself.” In the first place, let the writer be patient enough to be told that almost all the Non-brahmin papers in the presidency are published in the respective vernaculars of the province, of which neither the venerable writer nor his Bardoli Hero has got any idea. Then how is it, we wish to know, that the Sirdar and his worshipper pretend to know or “understand,” as they put it, the Brahmin Non-Brahmin problem? Whether the Non-Brahmin papers said “foolishly” or not, it ever remains a truth that the Sirdar has erred, most egregiously erred in having blurted out some nonsense about a movement which he has the least opportunity to understand. That is a mistake which M.D. is more unpardonably guilty of.

The “volcano covered with ice”, as M.D. likes to call the Victor at Bardoli, has vomited worse things when he has committed himself to the dangerous task of vilifying the Self-respect movement. The volcano has emitted not merely “burning lava” but also deadly poison which was administered by the vipers around him. “You hear of Self-respect movements,” pours the volcano, “Well then I tell you, propaganda of hatred is no movement of self-respect. Any movement, that makes you out to be a backward community and therefore must be helped by favours, is no movement of self-respect but a movement of self-degradation.” Evidently the volcano seems to be of a philosophical mettle. The high sounding philosophy it emits is superb as regards the magnanimity behind it.

But the economist who talks, in season and out of season, of the Land Revenue problem, which seems to be a masterpiece in his political feats ought to know that it is the unanimous decision of all economists that infant industries ought to be a protected from foreign competition. He should exercise his power of thinking and see that a similar protection to the depressed communities is also urgently needed. Just as protection is necessary until the industries of a country are competent to compete with foreign imports, so also protection in the shape of communal representation is absolutely necessary until the depressed communities feel the competence to compete with the foreign imports who are enjoying the sweets of office. This elementary principle of economics is too hard to enter the Brahmin tutored brain of Mr. Patel, who proudly assumes the role of an extraordinary expert in the question of Land Revenue Settlement.That is why he unwittingly rushes with the remark, that the Self-respect movement is a job-hunting one.

If the Indian National Congress fights for National Self-respect, the Self-respect movement only fights for individual Self-respect. Which is more urgent may be a matter of difference in opinion, but it does not justify a person like Mr. Patel to utter whatever he likes of a movement which is solely and wholeheartedly devoted to the problem of social reform. Mr. M.D. or his hero talking of the Self-respect movement is just like the Sankarachari talking of the British Museum. A movement which aims at the destruction of caste in particular is bound to be “a movement of hatred” to the monopolist section. And so it is no wonder the Sirdar has repeated the same sentiment which is highly glorified by the little Boswell.

A movement which has successfully destroyed priesthood, in all its varieties, a movement which by inducing hundreds of inter-caste marriages, has dealt the final blow to the shameful system of caste, a movement which has lifted up the depressed communities, both socially and politically, a movement which has successfully stopped the increase of young widows, a movement which has brought both the sexes of humanity on the same level, a movement which is in short, striving to root out the age long evils hurled upon society in the names of god and religion this movement is ungratefully termed by that immature thinker, as one of “self-degradation”. We are painful to record that such irresponsible statements from individuals of the type of the Sirdar, are apt to be used by the monopolists to work ruin upon the dumb millions of the country. Even as Mr. Gandhi’s Imaginary Varnashrama gave a standing ground for the monopolists to cruelly prey upon the masses, the recent effusions of Mr. Patel and the consequent eulogy of his Boswell are bound to work greater mischief to the cause of reform, than what they are themselves individually capable of. We are sorry to inform them, that if the Sirdar and his admirer fail to repair the mischief set afoot, they alone will be held responsible for inflicting a serious injury to the cause of Social Reconstruction in India in particular and the progress of humanity in general.

- Revolt, 22 September 1929

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