TRANSCRIPTS (of the speeches) THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Moments That Made History
There is no salvation for India
The speech from which these excerpts are taken, delivered 4 February 1916, at Benares Hindu University, illustrates Gandhi’s early thoughts in India’s need to gain independence from British rule. His beliefs led to his repeated imprisonment before independence was finally achieved in 1947. This, together with his self-sacrificing lifestyle, work for religious unity and championing of the rights of the poor, earned him the title ‘Mahatma’ – or, ‘great soul’.
Biography in brief: Born 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, India, Gandhi studied law in England and once qualified, worked in India and South Africa, where he remained for 20 years. Returning to India during World War 1, he then entered politics. “There is no salvation for India” is a plea for India to retrieve its own language, culture and independence after many years of British rule. Gandhi’s campaign for passive resistance led to him imprisonment. He was involved in negotiations leading to independence in 1947, and assassinated 30 January 1948, in Delhi, India.
“I have turned the searchlight all over, and as you have given me the privilege of speaking to you, I am laying my heart bare. Surely we must set these things right in our progress towards self-government. I now introduce you to another scene. His Highness the Maharaja who presided yesterday over our deliberations spoke about the poverty of India. Other speakers laid great stress upon it. But what did we witness in the great pandal in which the foundation ceremony was performed by the Viceroy? Certainly a most gorgeous show, an exhibition of jewellery, which made a splendid feast for the eyes of the greatest jeweller who chose to come from Paris. I compare with the richly bedecked noble men the millions of the poor.
And I feel like saying to these noble men, ‘There is no salvation for India unless you strip yourselves of this jewellery and hold it in trust for your countrymen in India.’ I am sure it is not the desire of the King-Emperor or Lord Hardinge that in order to show the truest loyalty to our King-Emperor, it is necessary for us to ransack our jewellery boxes and to appear bedecked from top to toe. I would undertake, at the peril of my life, to bring to you a message from King George himself that he expect nothing of the kind…
I honour the anarchist for his love of the country. I honour him for his bravery in being willing to die for his country; but I ask him – is killing honourable? Is the dagger of an assassin a fit precursor of an honourable death? I deny it. There is no warrant for such methods in any scriptures. If I found it necessary for the salvation of India that the English should retire, that they should be driven out, I would not hesitate to declare that they would have to go, and I hope I would be prepared to die in defence of that belief. That would, in my opinion, be an honourable death. The bomb-thrower creates secret plots, is afraid to come out into the open, and when caught pays the penalty of misdirected zeal…
Just think out for yourselves, if a man who was good yesterday has become bad after having come in contact with me, is he responsible that he has deteriorated or am I? The atmosphere of sycophancy and falsity that surrounds them on their coming to India demoralizes them, as it would many of us. It is well to take the blame sometimes. If we are to receive self-government, we shall have to take it. We shall never be granted self-government. Look at the history of the British Empire and the British nation; freedom loving as it is, it will not be a party to give freedom to a people who will not take it themselves.”