Thursday, 27 September 2012

Ahmedabad Trial of 1922

The Ahmedabad Trial of 1922 of Gandhi concerned, the writing of two articles in his paper 'Young India'. The prosecution alleged that he had incited violence in the articles, and was responsible for the violence that occurred in Chauri Chaura (Feb 1922) and at the visit of 
Prince of Wales to India in 1921. 

Gandhi was tried under Sec 124A of the Indian Penal Code which relates to Sedition. It is the same article under which Bal Ganagadhar Tilak was sentenced in 1916 (for speeches which were said to incite disaffection against the Government). 

Mahatma Gandhi said during the famous Ahmedabad trial in 1922: Section 124 A under which I am happily charged is perhaps the prince among the   political sections of the IPC designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen. Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by the law. He also asserted that What in law is a deliberate crime appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen,” and finally, to preach disaffection towards the existing system of Government has become almost a passion with me.” 

For details on the proceedings of the 1922 trial read below, else not required for exam.

On 29th September 1922, Gandhi published under his own name an article in his paper "Young India".  Among the most serious features of the seditious incitements of the Ali Brothers was their attempt to tamper with the loyalty of the Indian troops.  Gandhi wrote in his article that "he was not prepared for the revelation of such hopeless ignorance on the part of the Governor of Bombay.  It is evident that he has not followed the course of Indian history during the past twelve months.  He evidently does not know that the National Congress began to tamper with the loyalty of the sepoy in September last year; that the Central Khilafat Committee began it earlier, and that he himself began it earlier still."  "I have no hesitation in saying," Gandhi proceeded, "that it is sinful for anyone, either soldiers or civilian, to serve this Government which has proved treacherous to the Mussalmans of India, and which has been guilty of the inhumanities of the Panjab.  I have said this from many a platform in the presence of sepoys".  "I shall not hesitate (when the time is ripe), at the peril of being shot, to ask the Indian sepoy individually to leave his service and become a weaver. 

Gandhi wrote and published another article in his paper in which he answered Lord Reading, the Viceroy, who had, in a public speech, said that he felt perplexed and puzzled by the activities of a section of the Indian community.  Lord Reading had stated: "I ask myself what purpose is served by flagrant breaches of the law for the purpose of challenging the Government and in order to compel arrest?"  Gandhi's answer was: "We seek arrest because the so-called freedom is slavery.  We are challenging the might of this Government because we consider its activity to be wholly evil.  We want to overthrow the Government. We want to compel its submission to the people's will.  We desire to show that the Government exists to serve the people, not the people the Government.  "In a third article, he wrote: "No empire intoxicated with the red wine of power and plunder of weaker races has yet lived long in this world, and this 'British Empire " which is based upon organised exploitation of physically weaker races of the earth, and upon a continuous exhibition of brute force, cannot live, if there is a just God ruling the universe." .

Gandhi was booked under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code for spreading disaffection against the Government. He and his co-accused Shankarlal Banker, the printer of "Young India ", both pleaded guilty. The prosecution stressed the fact that the articles were not isolated instances, but formed part of a regular campaign to spread disaffection, openly and systematically, to render Government impossible and so to overthrow it...that a campaign of this nature must, if unchecked, necessarily lead to happenings such as had taken place in Bombay and Chauri Chaura rioting, murder and destruction of property, involving numerous persons in misery and misfortune. Gandhi said, "I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible for me to dissociate myself from the diabolical crimes of Chauri Chaura or the mad outrages of Bombay....I wanted to avoid violence.  Non-violence is the first article of my faith.  It is the last article of my faith.  But I had to make my choice.  I had either to submit to a system which I considered has done an irreparable harm to my country, or incur the risk of the mad fury of my people bursting forth when they understood the truth from my lips.  I know that my people have sometimes gone mad.  I am deeply sorry for it; and I am, therefore, here to submit not to a light penalty but to the highest penalty.  The only course open to you, Mr. Judge, is, as I am just going to say in my statement, either to resign your post or inflict on me the severest penalty."

The judge. Mr. Broomfield, then proceeded to pronounce sentence.  He said: "Mr. Gandhi, you have made my task easy in one way by pleading guilty to the charge....But having regard to the nature of your political teaching and the nature of many of those to whom it was addressed, how you can have continued to believe that violence and anarchy would not be the inevitable consequence, it passes my capacity to understand....I am trying to balance what is due to you against what appears to me to be necessary in the interest of the public; and I propose, in passing sentence, to follow the precedent of the case, in many respects similar to this case, that was decided some twelve years ago, the case of Mr. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, under the same 

section.  The sentence that was passed upon him as it finally stood, was a sentence of simple imprisonment for six years.  You will not consider it unreasonable, I think, that you should be classed with Mr. Tilak; and that is the sentence two years' simple imprisonment on each count of the charge, six years in all, which I feel it my duty to pass upon you. "The Judge added, "if the course of events in India should make it possible for Government  to reduce the period and release you, nobody would be better pleased than I".


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