|NEHRU'S STATEMENT AT ALLAHABAD TRIAL|
''I am making this statement not in order to defend myself against the various charges brought against me but to define my position and to state the motives which have induced me to act in the manner I have done. I have refused to plead guilty or not guilty and I have declined to participate in this trial by cross examination of witnesses or otherwise. I have done so because I do not recognise this Court as a court where justice is administered. I mean no disrespect to the presiding officer when I say that so far as political offences are concerned the courts in India merely register the decress of the executive. They are being used to-day even more than ever before to prop up the fabric of a government which has misgoverned India long enough and which has to resort to these tactics now in an attempt to restore a prestige which is gone for ever.
"I stand here charged with criminal intimidation and abetment of an attempt to extort. The warrant of my arrest bears also the familiar section 124 A, although I am not being tried for it to-day. I propose, however, to make a comprehensive statement. I cannot divide myself up into various compartments, one for picketting, another for sedition and yet another perhaps for volunteering. All my activities have but one end in view and that end I have striven to attain with all the strength and energy that is in me."
"Less than ten years ago, I returned from England after a lengthy stay there, I had passed through the usual course of public school and university. I had imbibed most of the prejudices of Harrow and Cambridge, and in my likes and dislikes I was perhaps more an Englishman than an Indian. I looked upon the world almost from an Englishman's standpoint. And so I returned to India as much prejudiced in favour of England and the English as it was possible for an Indian to be."
"To-day, ten years later, I stand here in the dock charged with two offences and with a third hovering in the background-an ex-convict who has been to jail once already for a political offence, and a rebel against the present system of government in India. That is the change which the years have wrought in me. It is not necessary for me to recite the reasons for this change. Every Indian knows them; every Indian has felt them and has hung his head in shame for them. And if he has retained a spark of the old fire in him, he has taken a solemn pledge to strive unceasingly for India's freedom, so that his countrymen may never again be subjected to the miseries and humiliations that are the lot of a subject people. To-day sedition against the present government in India has become the creed of the Indian people, preach and practise disaffection against the evil which it represents has become their chief occupation.
"I am charged with criminal intimidation and attempted extortion. I have wondered if these charges were seriously meant. The sections of the code which have been applied bear no relation to the facts even as disclosed by the prosecution evidence. I presume that the signal success that has attended our efforts in Allahabad has induced authorities to take some action against the picketters. If peaceful picketting for a lawful object is a crime then, indeed, I am guilty of having advised it and helped in it. But I have yet to learn that peaceful picketting has become an offeence even under the laws of British India. Our object in picketting was to make the cloth dealers adhere to the pledge they had jointly taken. Does anyone believe that we could achieve success in this by criminal intimidation and dextortion? All the world knows that our strength lies in the support of our people and the good will of our countrymen. Our weapons are not the old time ones of force and coercion. The weapons which our great leader has put in our hands are those of love and self-sacrifice. We suffer ourselves and by our suffering seek to convert our adversery.
"Criminal intimidation involves a threat of injury to a person or his property, and injury denotes harm "illegally" caused. So also extortion must include the putting of any person in fear of "injury" and thereby "dishonestly" inducing him to part with property. I have listened to the prosecution evidence with interest in order to find out on what ground these novel charges were based. What was the injury to any person or property that was threatened? What was the harm "illegally" caused? Where in lay the dishonesty of any of us? I have not heard a single allegation yet made, much less proved which suggests that we have caused injury to any person or property, caused any harm illegally or acted dishonestly. Not a single prosecution witness, including the police and the C.I.D. has made such an allegation. In the whole of Allahabad there was found no person of the thousands who must have witnessed the picketting, who could bring the charge of any intimidation against us or even a harsh word uttered by one of our picketters. No greater proof of our triumph can be given than this unsought testimony of the police and the C.I.D. Our picketting has been, I make bold to say, a model of its kind, perfectly peaceful, perfectly courteous relying on entreaties and exhortations and not even hinting at any force or intimidation. The cloth-dealers, who are alleged to have been intimidated by us are presumably the aggrieved party. But not one of them has complained.
"Ten months ago the cloth-dealers of Allahabad took a solemn pledge to refrain from purchasing foreign cloth, till the end of 1922. All the signatories to the pledge, and they included almost every cloth-merchant in the city, constituted themselves into an association styled the Vyapari Mandal and elected office-bearers and a committee. The first business of the Mandal was to lay down that every member who broke his pledge and purchased foreign cloth would have to pay a certain penalty and in case he refused to do this, picketting would be resorted to. The committee of the Mandal was to determine in each individual case how much foreign cloth had been brought and what the penalty was to be. On several occasions during the past year the Mandal committee considered such breaches of the pledge and imposed and received fines in accordance with their rules. Occasionally at their request picketting was also resorted to. Two months ago a large quantity of foreign cloth was purchased by some of the cloth dealers in Allahabad. This was in contravention of the pledge and the shops of some of these cloth-dealers were picketted. Later the committee of the Vyapari Mandal newly reconstituted assessed the fines on the merchants who had broken their pledges and themselves collected this money, which lies at the disposal of the Mandal. To the best of my knowledge to the gentlemen who have given evidence for the prosecution in this case are the members of the committee of the Mandal and as such they must have themselves helped in the assessment and collection of the fines.
"These are the facts relating to picketting in Allahabad. It is clear beyond doubt that there was neither any intimidation nor any attempt at extortion. The present prosecution is really an attempt to suppress lawful and peaceful picketting under cover of charges of intimidation and extortion. Picketting has been going on all over India for many months. It has taken place in many cities and bazars in the province. Here in this very city of Allahabad we have repeatedly resorted to it. And yet Government took no action against it as such. They knew, well that in India as in England peaceful picketting is no crime. Of course it is open to them by a stroke of the pen to make even peaceful picketting illegal. But whether they do so or not we shall nor gie it up. To entreat and exhort and advise others to follow a certain line of a action or to abstain from doing some thing is a right which we will not abandon, whatever the Government may do. We have few rights and privileges left in this country and even these are sought to be taken away. We have shown to the world how we value the right of free association, and we have continued our volunteers inspite of thousands of arrests and all
Government notifications to the contrary. We will not and we cannot submit to any restriction of our right of free speech. A quarter of a century ago, a great English judge stated in the House of Lords with reference to this right of speech. "A man has a right to say what he pleases, to induce, to exhort, to command, provided he does not slander or deceive or commit any other of the wrongs known to the law of which speech may be the medium. Unless he is thus shown to have abused his right, why is he to be called upon to excuse or justify himself because his words may interfere with some one else in his calling." This right of free speech we shall cling to, whatever the cost.
I am glad for many reasons that I am being tried for picketting. My trial will bring the question of the boycott of foreign cloth even more to the front and I am confident that when the people of Allahabad and the province realise the full significance of this boycott, they will discard all foeign cloth, treat it as unholy and the touch of it almost as a pollution. If they pondered over the evils and the misery and the poverty that foreign cloth has brought to this long-suffering country, perhaps they would feel some of the horror I feel at the thought of wearing it. They will not bring forth arguments that old clothes have to be worn out or that festivities require fine clothing. They would know that the salvation of India and our hungry million demanded the use of the charkha and the wearing of khaddar, and they would cast out all foreign cloth and consign them to the flames or to the dust bin. I pray that the cloth-merchants of Allahabad will adhere to their sacred pledges twice taken, and do their utmost to bring about a complete boycott of foreign cloth in this ancient and holy city. Some of these cloth-dealers have give evidence for the prosecution in this case. I have no grievance against them. I shall suffer most gladly any imprisonment that may be awarded to me if I know that thereby I have touched their hearts and won them over to the great cause. And I would appeal to the public of this city and province and earnestly requet them to do this much for their country-wear khaddar and ply the charkha.
My co-accused and I are charged with intimidation and extortion. I should like the police and Government officials to examine their own conscience, to search deep down into their own conscience, to search deep down into their hearts and say what many of them have done during the past year and a half. Intimidaton and terrorism, bribery and extortion, have been going on over the length and breadth of the province. And the persons guilty of them have not been Congressmen or our volunteers but the underlings of the Government who have indulged in them frequently with the knowledge and approval of their superiors. Yet they are not tried or punished. They are patted on the back and praised and promoted.
"My colleagues and I have seen and personally investigated acts of terrorism and inhumanity. We have seen how men and women have been subjected to the uttermost humiliation. We have seen how terror reigns in Sitapur. We have investigated the brutalities of Shoratgnaj and we know how hundreds of Ballia's gallant workers have been sent to jail for the sole offence of being Congress office-bearers or other principal workers of the Congress. And the poor down-trodden kisans with the haunted hopeless look in their eyes, working away like the beasts of the field from morning to nighfall so that others may enjoy the fruits of their labour. I need not refer to individual districts. Almost every one of them has the same sad and splendid tale to tell.
"Intimidation and terrorism have become the chief instruments of the Government. By these methods they seek to keep down people and to suppress their disaffection. Do they imagine that they will thus instil affection for themselves in the people or make them loyal instruments of their imperialism? Affection and loyalty are of the heart. They cannot be purchased in the market-place, much less can they be extorted at the point of the bayonet. Loyalty is a fine thing. But in India some words have lost their meaning and loyalty has come to be almost a synonym for treason to the motherland and a loyalist is he who is not loyal to his God or his country but merely hangs on to the coat tails of his alien master. To-day, however, we have rescued the word from the depths and in almost every jail in India will be found true loyalists who have put their cause and their faith and their country above everything else and have been true to them despite all consequences. To them has come the great call: they have seen the vision of freedom and they will not rest or turn away till they have achieved their hearts' desire. England is a mighty country with her armies and her navies, but to-day she is confronted with something that ismightier. Her armies and her navies have to face suffering and the self-sacrifice of a nation determined to be free and no man can doubt what the issue of such a struggle must be. We are fighting for our freedom, for the freedom of our country and faith. We desire to injure no nation or people. We wish to have no dominionover others. But we must be perfectly free in our own country. England has cruelly wronged us during the past 150 years or more. And even yet she has not repented and mended her ways. India gave her a chance a year and a half ago, but in the pride and arrogance of her physical might she has not taken it. The people of India have tried her and they have passed judgement and from that decreed there is no turning back. India will be free, of that there is no doubt but if England seeks the friendship of a free India she must repent and pruge herself of her many sins. So that she may be worthy of a place in the coming order of things.
I shall go to jail again most willingly and joyfully. Jail has, indeed become a heven for us a holy place of pilgrimage, since our saintly and beloved leader was sentenced. Big-bodied, great-hearted Shaukat Ali, bravest of the brave and his gallant brother are there and so are thousands of our coworkers. One feels almost lonely outside the jail, and selfishness prompts a quick return. Perhaps I shall be awarded a long term of imprisonment this time. Whether this is so or not, I shall go with the conviction that I shall come out to greet Swaraj in India.
I have said many hard things about the British Government. For one thing, however, I must offer it my grateful thanks. It has given us a chance of fighting in this most glorious of struggles. Surely few peoples have had such an opportunity given them. And the greater our suffereing, the more difficult the tests we have to pass, the more splendid will be the future of India. India has not survived through thousandes of years to go down now. India has not sent her noblest and best twenty five thousands of her sons, to the jail to give up the struggle. India's future is assured. Some of us, men and women of little faith, doubt and hesitate occasionally, but those who have vision can almost see the glory that will be India's.
I marvel at my good fortune. To serve India in the battle of freedom is honour enough. To serve her under a leader like Mahatma Gandhi is doubly fortune. But to suffer for the dear country! What greater good fortune could befall an Indian, unless it is death or the full realisation of our gloious dream?