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INDIA: The Gandhi Technique

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In a revival of the techniques of Gandhi that won India its independence, thousands of demonstrators last week began a nonviolent mass defiance campaign designed to oust the floundering Red government of Kerala (pop. 13.5 million), India’s only Communist-ruled state. Shops and factories closed and the docks of Cochin port were idle. In the streets of Trivandrum, Kerala’s capital, a 1½-mile-long procession waved black banners and chanted, “Red rule is killer’s rule!”

Behind the campaign was India’s powerful Congress Party, joined by local Socialists and Moslem groups, all sharing a long list of grievances against the two-year-old Communist regime, including “antidemocratic activities” and “misappropriation of funds.” The Roman Catholic Church, in this most Christian of India’s 14 states, was also aroused by a new state law giving the Communist government increased control over private schools.

Hoping to deny the Kerala government the money it needs to function, Congress pickets stood in front of tax collectors’ offices in nine cities, to prevent anyone from entering or leaving. First in action was the 45-year-old cleaning woman of Trivandrum’s district tax office, who threw herself in the dust before the entrance and lay there for 45 minutes before policewomen arrived to lead her away. Then 14 men pickets, sprawled in front of the building, were also dragged away by police. By the end of the first day of mass defiance, 215 demonstrators had been jailed. Against one crowd of 2,000 pickets in Ernakulam district, police tried flailing them with lathees, then opened fire, leaving five dead and 30 injured.

The Communists insisted they would not leave office until their term is up in 1962. But nervously, Kerala’s Communist Chief Minister E.M.S. Namboodiri-pad urged Prime Minister Nehru (“a good man”) to visit Kerala and see the dreadful things his Congress Party was doing. Said the local Congress leader, R. Sankaran: “We are prepared to discuss with the Communist government nothing but details of its resignation.”

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