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Freedom Through Disobedience   By: (1870-1925)

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C. R. DAS President of the 37th Indian National Congress, Gaya, 1922.

Arka Publishing House, George Town, Madras. 1922

Imperial Book Depot, Delhi.

Printed at the Manoranjini Press, Sowcarpet, Madras.


The following is the full text of the Presidential Address of Desabhandhu C. R. Das at the thirty seventh session of the Indian National Congress held at Gaya on 26th December 1922:


As I stand before you to day, a sense of overwhelming loss overtakes me, and I can scarce give expression to what is uppermost in the minds of all and everyone of us. After a memorable battle which he gave to the Bureaucracy, Mahatma Gandhi has been seized and cast into prison; and we shall not have his guidance in the proceedings of the Congress this year. But there is inspiration for all of us in the last stand which he made in the citadel of the enemy, in the last defiance which he hurled at the agents of the Bureaucracy. To read a story equal in pathos, in dignity, and in sublimity you have to go back over two thousand years, when Jesus of Nazareth, "as one that perverted the people" stood to take his trial before a foreign tribunal.

"And Jesus stood before the Governor: and the Governor asked him saying, Art thou the king of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayƫst.

"And when he has accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.

"Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee?

"And he answered him too never a word; insomuch that the Governor marvelled greatly."

Mahatma Gandhi took a different course. He admitted that he was guilty, and he pointed out to the public Prosecutor, that his guilt was greater than he, the Prosecutor, had alleged; but he maintained that if he had offended against the law of Bureaucracy in so offending, he had obeyed the law of God. If I may hazard a guess, the Judge who tried him and who passed a sentence of imprisonment on him was filled with the same feeling of marvel as Pontius Pilate had been.

Great in taking decisions, great in executing them, Mahatma Gandhi was incomparably great in the last stand which he made on behalf of his country. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest men that the world has ever seen. The world hath need of him and if he is mocked and jeered at by "the people of importance," the "people with a stake in the country" Scribes and Pharisees of the days of Christ he will be gratefully remembered now and always by a nation which he led from victory to victory.


Gentlemen, the time is a critical one and it is important to seize upon the real issue which divides the people from the Bureaucracy and its Indian allies. During the period of repression which began about this time last year, it was this issue which pressed itself on our attention. This policy of repression was supported and in some cases instigated by the Moderate Leaders who are in the Executive Government. I do not charge those who supported the Government with dishonesty or want of patriotism. I say they were led away by the battle cry of Law and Order. And it is because I believe that there is a fundamental confusion of thought behind this attitude of mind that I propose to discuss this plea of Law and Order. "Law and Order" has indeed been the last refuge of Bureaucracies all over the world.

It has been gravely asserted not only by the Bureaucracy but also by its apologists, the Moderate Party, that a settled Government is the first necessity of any people and that the subject has no right to present his grievances except in a constitutional way, by which I understand in some way recognised by the constitution. If you cannot actively co operate in the maintenance of "the law of the land" they say, "it is your duty as a responsible citizen to obey it passively. Non resistance is the least that the Government is entitled to expect from you."

This is the whole political philosophy of the Bureaucracy the maintenance of law and order on the part of the Government, and an attitude of passive obedience and non resistance on the part of the subject... Continue reading book >>

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