BAPU DISCUSSION WITH HENGCHIH TAO

on

August 27.1938

GANDHIJI: I am exceedingly sorry to receive you when I am in distress. I may not break my silence even to speak to you. But of course you will say whatever you want to. You may speak, I may not.

Prof. Tao explained that he was &member of the People’s Council of Action of all China. This was a body of 140 or 150 drawn from all parties in China, under which the whole of China was united to meet Japanese aggression…, under one supreme military command of Chiang Kai-shek … Tao was happy that a Medical Mission from India was sailing to China as a token of India’s sympathy, and he asked Gandhiji if he had any suggestions to offer in order to fight the war to a successful conclusion.

G. I do not know that I can throw any light on the problem at the present moment. My method is so radical that it is wholly inapplicable to your struggle. You cannot all of a sudden change the course of the struggle. A nation in arms cannot all at once give up arms and accept non-violence as its weapon.

Prof. Tao saw The difficulty and explained that the Chinese had not even lime to think, the aggression was so sudden and so unprovoked. But he would like to discuss problems of national reconstructions. He had given up university work in order to take up peasants’ education and he was deeply interested in the Wardha Education Scheme. “What exactly is the core of the Scheme?” he asked.

G. The central fact is some village craft through which the whole of the man or the woman in the child can be drawn out.

“But there was the difficulty of teachers,” said Prof. Tao, and Gandhiji laughed. “We had the same difficulty. Would you have trained teachers to learn a craft or craftsmen to learn the art of teaching?” asked Prof. Tao.

G. The average educated man can be expected easily to master a craft. Our craftsmen will require much longer time to acquire the necessary general instruction than an educated man, say like you, can require to learn, say, carpentry.

“But,” said Prof. Tao, “our educated man is after fat jobs and money. How can he be interested in this?”

G. If the scheme is sound and appeals to the educated mind, it must prove attractive in itself and thus wean the educated youth from the lure of gold. It must fail, if it does not evoke sufficient patriotism from the educated youth. There is one advantage with us. Those who have received instruction through the Indian languages cannot enter colleges. It is just possible that they will find the scheme attractive.

Prof. Tao was deeply interested in our present political struggle. How were we going to acquire power at the centre?

G. If we are true to our salt in the seven provinces, the accession of strength that will come to us will put us on the way to power at the centre.

T. But the power is being felt everywhere, and the Congress prestige has risen. Has it not?

G. The Congress prestige has risen. The people have become conscious of their power and strength. The Government also recognize this. My fear is that this power may throw us off our balance.

Prof. Tao reverted to the question of mass education. He made an attempt to describe the Chinese system of “relay” teachers whereby each man or woman who had learnt something had to pass it on to the next one he or she came across. Even the child, the “little” teacher, had to share his or her learning with his illiterate parents, and the Chinese through this system were liquidating illiteracy and ignorance on a mass scale.

G. I have no doubt that it can. I would like you to write for me a short note on how the ‘relay” teachers and the “tittle” teachers are taught, how they teach and with what result.

Prof. Tao said he would gladly comply.

Prof. Tao would not go without a message from Gandhiji for the people of China. He explained that even a non-violent message would be welcome…. They were engaged in a war of self-defence, but in other respects they were observing nonviolence… On May 20 Chinese planes had flown over Japanese towns, and they might easily have spread death and destruction among the people of Japan in retaliation for the bombing of so many Chinese ports by Japan. But instead of raining bombs they rained handbills and leaflets showing the wrong of the war….

G. But the self-inflicted restraint won’t last when the real stress comes. The temptation will be irresistible. I shall not be surprised. It is inevitable. There is no love in war. We have got to come to the conclusion that either there is to be complete non-violence or undiluted violence. Is not this enough message?

Prof. Tao wondered if someday the Chinese might expect to have Gandhiji in their midst.

G. I almost came to your country when those who had invited me had to stop me from going owing to the disturbances that had taken place. I do want to see peace reigning in your land during my lifetime. Nothing will please me better than to visit your great country someday.

(In Harijan, Aug. 27, 1938, ibid, Vol. 67, pp. 250-52.)

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