Citizens for Justice and Peace


08, May 2017

Posted at December 26,

From Banyan Tree

On His Conviction for Sedition: A selection from GandhiÂ’s closing
statement to the judge on March 23, 1922

Text from pp. 87-88 in LAW, A Treasury of Art and Literature,
edited by Sara Robbins, published by Beaux Arts Editions,1990 (ISBN

Mohandas K. Gandhi

On His Conviction for Sedition:

owe it perhaps to the Indian public and to the public in England to placate
which this prosecution is mainly taken up that I should explain why from a
stanch loyalist and cooperator I have become an uncompromising
disaffectionist and non-cooperator. To the court too I should say why I
plead guilty to the charge of promoting disaffection toward the government
established by law in India.

My public life
began in 1893 in South Africa in troubled weather. My first contact
with British authority in that country was not of a happy character.
I discovered that as a man and as an Indian I had no rights. More
correctly, I discovered that I had no rights as a man because I was
an Indian.

But I was not
baffled. I thought that this treatment of Indians was an excrescence
upon a system that was intrinsically and mainly good. I gave the
government my voluntary and hearty cooperation, criticizing it
freely where I felt it was faulty but never wishing its destruction.

* *

I came reluctantly
to the conclusion that the British connection had made India more
helpless than she ever was before, politically and economically. A
disarmed India has no power of resistance against any aggressor if
she wanted to engage in an armed conflict with him. So much is this
the case that some of our best men consider that India must take
generations before she can achieve the Dominion status. She has
become so poor that she has little power of resisting famines.
Before the British advent, India spun and wove in her millions of
cottages just the supplement she needed for adding to her meager
agricultural resources. This cottage industry, so vital for IndiaÂ’s
existence, has been ruined by incredibly heartless and inhuman
processes as described by English witnesses. Little do town dwellers
know how the semi-starved masses of India are slowly sinking to
lifelessness. Little do they know that their miserable comfort
represents the brokerage they get for the work they do for the
foreign exploiter, that the profits and the brokerage get sucked
from the masses. Little do they realize that the government
established by law in British India is carried on for the
exploitation of the masses. No sophistry, no jugglery in figures can
explain away the evidence that the skeletons in many villages
present to the naked eye. I have no doubt whatsoever that both
England and the town dwellers of India will have to answer, if there
is a God above, for this crime against humanity, which is perhaps
unequaled in history. The law itself in this country has been used
to serve the foreign exploiter. My unbiased examination of the
Punjab Martial Law cases has led me to believe that ninety-five per
cent of the convictions were wholly bad. My experience of political
cases in India leads me to the conclusion that in nine out of every
ten the condemned men were totally innocent. Their crime consisted
in the love of their country. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred
justice has been denied to Indians as against Europeans in the
courts of India.This is not an exaggerated picture. It is the
experience of almost every Indian who has had anything to do with
such cases. In my opinion the administration of the law is thus
prostituted consciously or unconsciously for the benefit of the

The greatest
misfortune is that Englishmen and their Indian associates in the
administration of the country do not know that they are engaged in
the crime I have attempted to describe. I am satisfied that many
Englishmen and Indian officials honestly believe that they are
administering one of the best systems devised in the world and that
India is making steady though slow progress. They do not know that a
subtle but effective system of terrorism and an organized display of
force on the one hand, and the deprivation of all powers of
retaliation or self-defense on the other, have emasculated the
people and induced in them the habit of simulation. This awful habit
has added to the ignorance and the self-deception of the
administrators. Section 124-A, under which I am happily charged, is
perhaps the prince among the political sections of the Indian Penal
Code designed to suppress the liberty of the citizens. Affection
cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has an
affection(sic) for a person or system, one should be free to give
the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not
contemplate, promote or incite to violence. But the section under
which Mr.Banker [a colleague in non-violence] and I are charged is
one under which mere promotion of disaffection is a crime. I have
studied some of the cases tried under it, and I know that some of
the most loved of IndiaÂ’s patriots have been convicted under it. I
consider it a privilege, therefore, to be charged under that
section. I have endeavored to give in their briefest outline the
reasons for my disaffection. I have no personal ill will against any
single administrator, much less can I have any disaffection toward
the KingÂ’s person. But I hold it to be a virtue to be disaffected
toward a government which in its totality has done more harm to
India than any previous system. India is less manly under the
British rule than she ever was before. Holding such a belief, I
consider it to be a sin to have affection for the system. And it has
been a precious privilege for me to be able to write what I have in
the various articles tendered in evidence against me.

In fact, I believe
that I have tendered a service to India and England by showing in
non-cooperation the way out of the unnatural state in which both are
living. In my humble opinion, non-cooperation with evil is as much a
duty as is cooperation with good. But in the past, non-cooperation
has been deliberately expressed in violence to the evildoer. I am
endeavoring to show to my countrymen that violent non-cooperation
only multiplies evil and that as evil can only be sustained by
violence, withdrawal of support for evil requires complete
abstention from violence. Non-violence implies voluntary submission
to the penalty of non-cooperation with evil. I am here, therefore,
to invite and submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be
inflicted upon me for what in law is a deliberate crime and what
appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen. The only course
open to you, the judge, is either to resign your post, and thus
dissociate yourself from evil if you feel that the law you are
called upon to administer is an evil and that in reality I am
innocent, or to inflict upon me the severest penalty if you believe
that the system and the law you are assisting to administer are good
for the people of this country and that my activity is therefore
injurious to the public weal.







Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Go to Top