The Gandhi-King Community

For Global Peace with Social Justice in a Sustainable Environment

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229

E-mail- dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net;

dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com

Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

 

Sir Ernest Hotson and Mahatma Gandhi  

 

Sir John Ernest Buttery Hotson (17 March 1877 – 13 May 1944) was an administrator in India. He was born in Glasgow to Hamilton and Margaret (Maggie) Hotson, he was educated at Edinburgh Academy (1889–1895) and Magdalena college, Oxford, graduating BA in 1899 and MA (1905). He immediately joined the Indian Civil Service, being appointed Superintendent of Managed Estates in Kathiawar. His entire career was devoted to the administration of the province known as the Bombay Presidency. Subsequent positions included Under-Secretary to the Government of Bombay, 1907; Collector, 1920; Secretary of the Political Department, 1922; Chief Secretary to the Government, 1924 Member of the Executive Council of Bombay, 1926–31; and rising to become Home Member and Acting Governor of Bombay, 1931. He was appointed OBI on 3 June 1918, Companion.

The worst feature of the attempted assassination of Sir Ernest Hotson the Acting Governor of the Bombay Presidency was, that the act was done by a student of the College which had invited His Excellency when as its honoured guest he was being shown round the College premises. It was as though a host was injuring his guest under his own roof. The canon recognized throughout the world is that the deadliest enemy when he is under one’s roof as guest is entitled to protection from all harm. The act of the student was therefore essentially foul play without a single redeeming feature. For the Acting Governor it was a providential escape, and it was fortunate for India and more so for the student world. I tender my congratulations to Sir Ernest Hotson as also to the nation. It would be well if the believers in violence will take a lesson from this happy tragedy happy because no one has suffered but the assailant. Has he suffered, is he suffering, or is he deluding himself with the belief that he is a hero?

Let this event be a warning for the students. After all a school or a college is a sanctuary where there should be nothing that is base or unholy. Schools and colleges are factories for the making of character. Parents send their boys and girls to them so that they may become good men and women It would. be an evil day for the nation, if every student is suspected as a would be assassin capable of any treachery. The Bhagat Singh worship has done and is doing incalculable harm to the country. Bhagat Singh’s character about which I had heard so much from reliable sources, the intimate connection I had with the attempts that were being made to secure commutation of the death sentence carried me away and identified me with the cautious and balanced resolution passed at Karachi. I regret to observe that the caution has been thrown to the winds. The deed itself is being worshipped as if it was worthy of emulation. The result is goondaism and degradation wherever this mad worship is being performed. The Congress is a power in the land, but I warn Congressmen that it will soon lose all its charm if they betray their trust and encourage the Bhagat Singh cult whether in thought, word or deed. If the majority does not believe in the Congress policy of non-violence and truth, let them have the first article altered. Let us understand the distinction between policy and creed.

A policy may be changed, a creed cannot. But either is as good as the other whilst it is held. Those therefore who hold non-violence only as a policy may not, without exposing themselves to the charge of dishonorable conduct, use the Congress membership as a cover for violence? I cannot get rid of the conviction, that the greatest obstacle to our progress towards swaraj is our want of faith in our policy. Let this fortunate failure of attempted assassination open our eyes. ‘But look at the Governor’s black record. Does not the doer himself say he shot because of the Sholapur deeds, because he superseded an Indian and became Acting Governor?’ some hasty youths or even grown-up people will argue. My answer is: We knew all this when in 1920 we settled the Congress policy of non-violence and truth. There were, within our knowledge at the time, deeds much blacker than his worst enemies have imputed to Sir Ernest Hotson.

The Congress deliberately and after full debate came to the conclusion in 1920, that the answer to the vile and violent deeds of the Government was not greater violence on our part, but that it was profitable for us to answer violence with non-violence and vileness with truth. The Congress saw further, that the worst administrators were not bad inherently, but that they were a fruit of the system of which they were willing or unwilling victims. We saw too that the system corrupted even the best from among ourselves. And so we evolved a policy of non-violent action that should destroy the system. Ten years’ experience has shown that the policy of non-violence and truth though followed half-heartedly has answered phenomenally well, and that we are very near the harbour. The record of Sir Ernest Hotson, however bad it may be, is wholly irrelevant and can in no way extenuate, much less excuse the double crime of attempted assassination and treachery. The reported hostile demonstration by some students has made the ugly affair uglier still. I hope that the students and the teachers throughout India will seriously bestir themselves and put the educational house in order. And in my opinion it is the peremptory duty of the forthcoming meeting of the All-India Congress Committee to condemn the treacherous outrage and reiterate its policy in unequivocal terms one word to the Government and the administrators.

Retribution and repression will not do. These violent outbreaks are portents. They may judge those who are immediately guilty. But they can deal with the disease only by dealing with the cause. If they have neither the will nor the courage to do so, let them leave the rest to the nation. It has progressed past repression and retribution. It will deal with violence in its own ranks in its own way. Any Government action in excess of the demands of the common law will simply intensify the madness, and make the task of believers in non-violence more difficult than it already is.

 

Reference:

Young India, 30-7-1931

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