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INDIA: The End of Soul Force

2 minute read

Soul force, a made-in-India device for nonviolent resistance to authority, is a dangerous weapon which, like poison gas, can blow back in the faces of those who use it. Last week India’s Prime Minister Nehru decided that India had been soul-forced enough for the time being. Reliance on soul force, or satyagraha, had resulted in 22 deaths on the border of Goa, but it had neither led the Portuguese to give up their tiny 400-year-old colony, nor bestirred the Goans to do anything about their own liberation.

Besides, soul force had become too catchy. Across the border in Pakistan, 15,000 Moslems were planning to march in satyagraha fashion against Kashmir this month, in protest against India’s occupation. And every local disgruntled Indian seemed to be threatening to use satyagraha as a weapon against Nehru’s government: Socialists protesting the Congress Party’s corruption, right-wingers protesting the Congress Party’s socialism Communists protesting against anybody and everything. On a flying tour of Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states, Nehru was shocked to discover “fissiparous tendencies” among rebellious students, Sikhs Moslems and militant groups of all kinds here were other “fissiparous tendencies” among India’s millions who speak Telegu Malayalam and Tamil, who are raising a Babel cry for linguistic states of their own, and threaten to use soul force.

The old Gandhian ideal of satyagraha invoked the power of souls when souls were pure, but today’s soul force rioting often stirred up by Communist agitators, is really only mass hooliganism. Addressing a crowd of 200,000 in Bihar, amid unprecedented booing, Nehru told students, “In Russia, I saw tremendous progress through discipline and hard work. But you want only chaos and confusion. You cannot even dream of how you would be dealt with in Russia.”

Last week the time had come to assert the ascendancy of police force over soul force. First Nehru ordered that there be no more satyagraha against Goa. “As a government,” he said, “we obviously cannot have satyagraha against another government. Governments do not do that sort of thing.” Then, exerting all the strength of his prestige and popularity, Nehru compelled the Congress Party executive to reverse its Goa resolution of last July and vote, ruefully but unanimously, to renounce satyagraha as a method of political action, “whether undertaken individually or collectively.”

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