COURTS AND SCHOOLS
The Non-co-operation Committee has in the first stage, boycott of law-courts by lawyers and of Government schools and colleges by parents or scholars as the case may be. I know that it is only my reputation as a worker and fighter which has saved me from an open charge of lunacy for having given the advice about boycott of courts and schools.
I venture however to claim some method about my madness. It does not require much reflection to see that it is through courts that a government establishes its authority and it is through schools that it manufactures clerks and other employees. They are both healthy institutions when the government in charge of them is on the whole just. They are deathtraps when the government is unjust.
First as to Lawyers
No newspaper has combated my views on non-co-operation with so much pertinacity and ability to as the Allahabad Leader. It has ridiculed my views on lawyers expressed in my booklet Indian Home Rule, written by me in 1908. I adhere to the views then expressed. And if I find time I hope to elaborate them in these columns. But I refrain from so doing for the time being, as my special views have nothing to do with my advice on the necessity of lawyers suspending practice. I submit that national non-co-operation requires suspension of their practice by lawyers. Perhaps no one co-operates with a government more than lawyers through its law-courts. Lawyers interpret laws to the people and thus support authority. It is for that reason that they are styled officers of the court. They may be called honorary office-holders. It is said that it is the lawyers who have put up the most stubborn fight against the Government. This is no doubt partly true. But that does not undo the mischief that is inherent in the profession. So when the nation wishes to paralyze the Government, that profession, if it wishes to help the nation to bend the Government to its will, must suspend practice. But, say the critics, the Government will be too pleased, if the pleaders and barristers fell into the trap laid by me. I do not believe it. What is true in ordinary times is not true in extraordinary times. In normal times the Government may resent fierce criticism of their manners and methods by lawyers, but in the face of fierce action they would be loath to part with a single lawyer’s support through his practice in the courts.
Moreover, in my scheme, suspension does not mean stagnation. The lawyers are not to suspend practice and enjoy rest. They will be expected to induce their clients to boycott courts. They will improvise Arbitration Boards in order to settle disputes. A nation, that is bent on forcing justice from an unwilling government, has little time for engaging in mutual quarrels. This truth the lawyers will be expected to bring home to their clients. The readers may not know that many of the most noted lawyers of England suspended their work during the late war. The lawyers, then, upon temporarily leaving their profession, became whole-time workers instead of being workers only during their recreation hours. Real politics are not a game. The late Mr. Gokhale used to deplore that we had not gone beyond treating politics as a pastime. We have no notion as to how much the country has lost by reason of amateurs having managed its battles with a serious-minded, trained and wholetime-working bureaucracy.
The critics then argue that the lawyers will starve, if they leave their profession. This cannot be said of the Sinhas of the profession. They do at times suspend work for visiting Europe or otherwise. Of these who live from hand to mouth, if they are honest men, each local Khilafat Committee can pay them an honorarium against full-time service.
Lastly, for Mohammedan lawyers, it has been suggested that if they stop their practice, Hindus will take it up. I am hoping Hindus will at least show the negative courage of not touching their Muslim brethren’s clients, even if they do not suspend their own practice. But I am sure no religious minded Musalman will be found to say that they can carry on the fight only if the Hindus stand side by side with them in sacrifice. If the Hindus do as they must, it will be to their honour and for the common good of both. But the Musalmans must go forward whether the Hindus join them or not. If it is a matter of life and death with them, they must not count the cost. No cost is too heavy for the preservation of one’s honour, especially religious honour. Only they will sacrifice who cannot abstain. Forced sacrifice is no sacrifice. It will not last. A movement lacks sincerity when it is supported by unwilling workers under pressure. The Khilafat movement will become an irresistible force when every Musalman treats the peace terms as an individual wrong. No man waits for other’s help or sacrifice in matters of private personal wrong. He seeks help no doubt, but his battle against the wrong goes on whether he gains help or not. If he has justice on his side, the divine law is that he does get help. God is the help of the helpless. When the Pandava brothers were unable to help Draupadi, God came to the rescue and saved her honour. The Prophet was helped by God when he seemed to be forsaken by men.
Young India, 11-8-1920, pp. 4-5