Lahore, Thursday, November 24, 1921

BENGAL GOVERNMENT AND VOLUNTEERS

THE Bengal Government has by its action in regard to certain volunteer organisations placed itself in exactly the position the Bombay Government found itself after it had taken ill-advised action against the Ali brothers and others. The action of the latter was immediately challenged by a number of prominent Indians, including almost all the foremost leaders of the non-co-operation movement headed by Mahatma Gandhi himself, whose example was speedily followed by hundreds of persons in all parts of the country. The action of the former has similarly been challenged by no less than a thousand nationalists of Bengal who have not only condemned it as uncalled for and unjustifiable, but have also invited others to follow their example. It is true that technically they have not violated the Bengal Government’s order. That order only declared three specific organisations and other organisations already existing to be unlawful. The body of which these thousand persons have enrolled themselves as members is, on the other hand, a new organisation which just because it did not exist at the time when the order was issued is unaffected by it. But in essence, it belongs exactly to the category to which the proscribed bodies belong, and the Bengal Government is just as much under a moral obligation to treat this new body as an unlawful association, whether under the order already issued or by a fresh order, as the Bombay Government was under a moral obligation to proceed against the signatories to the Bombay manifesto. Yet this is precisely what the Bengal Government can’t do. If it were to take this step, it would be literally playing into the hands of the signatories to the manifesto and others of their way of thinking. They have convinced themselves that imprisonment is the gateway to freedom.

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