Nehru - Toward Freedom (1936).pdf

The average englishman did not believe in the bona

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The average Englishman did not believe in the bona fides of nonviolence; he thought that all this was camouflage, a cloak to cover some vast secret design which would burst out in violent upheaval one day. Nurtured from childhood in the widespread belief that the East is a mysterious place, and in its bazaars and narrow lanes secret conspiracies are being continually hatched, the Englishman can seldom think straight on matters relating to these lands of supposed mystery. He never makes an attempt to understand that somewhat obvious and very unmysterious person, the Easterner. He keeps well away from him, gets his ideas about him from tales abounding in spies and secret societies, and then allows his imagina tion to run riot. So it was in the Punjab early in April 1919, when a sudden fear overwhelmed the authorities and the English people gen erally, made them see danger everywhere, a widespread rising, a second mutiny with its frightful massacres, and, in a blind, instinctive attempt at self-preservation at any cost, led them to that frightfulness of which Jallianwala and the Crawling Lane of Amritsar have become symbols and bywords. The year 1921 was a year of great tension, and there was much to irritate and annoy and unnerve the official. What was actually hap pening was bad enough, but what was imagined was far worse. I re member an instance which illustrates this riot of the imagination. My sister Swarup's wedding, which was taking place at Allahabad, was fixed for May 10, 1921, the actual date having been calculated, as usual 70
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on such occasions, by a reference to the Samvat calendar, and an auspi cious day chosen. Gandhiji and a number of leading Congressmen, in cluding the AH brothers, had been invited, and, to suit their conveni ence, a meeting of the Congress Working Committee was fixed at Allahabad about that time. The local Congressmen wanted to profit by the presence of famous leaders from outside, and so they organized a district conference on a big scale, expecting a large number of peas ants from the surrounding rural areas. There was a great deal of bustle and excitement in Allahabad on account of these political gatherings. This had a remarkable effect on the nerves of some people. I learned one day through a barrister friend that many English people were thoroughly upset and expected some sudden upheaval in the city. They distrusted their Indian servants, and carried about revolvers in their pockets. It was even said privately that the Allahabad Fort was kept in readiness for the English colony to retire there in case of need. I was much surprised and could not make out why anyone should contemplate the possibility of a rising in the sleepy and peaceful city of Allahabad just when the very apostle of nonviolence was going to visit us.
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