'It is in vain to expect justice from a race
so blind and drunk with the arrogance of power'
St James's Place,
London SW1, 1920
My dear friend:
I have not written to you for a long time but you
have been as usual in my thought and speech. I am in very bad
health but the twin questions of the Punjab and the Khilafat*
absorb all my energies and emotions: but it is in vain to expect
justice from a race so blind and drunk with the arrogance of power,
the bitter prejudice of race and creed and colour, and betraying
such an abysmal ignorance of Indian conditions, opinions, sentiments,
and aspirations... The debate on the Punjab in the House of
Commons last week shattered the last remnants of my hope and faith
in British justice and goodwill towards the new vision of India...
The discussion in the house was lamentable and indeed tragic:
our friends revealed their ignorance, our enemies their insolence
and the combination is appalling and heartbreaking. Mr Montague
has proved a broken reed... I enclose a copy of my correspondence
with him on the subject of the outrages committed during (the)
Martial Law regime upon women as embodied in the Congress Sub-committee's
report and evidence. I naturally assume that no single statement
contained in the evidence has been accepted without the most rigorous
and persistent scrutiny but the general attempt seems to be to
discredit the Congress Sub-committee's findings and to shift responsibility
of an outrage which cannot be denied to Indian shoulder - The
Skin Game with a vengeance. Speaking at a mass meeting the other
day, I said that what we Indians demanded was reparation and not
revenge; that we had the spiritual force and vision that enabled
us to transcend hate and transmute bitterness into something that
might mean redemption both for ourselves and the British race:
but that freedom was the only true reparation for the agony and
shame of the Punjab.
Are you well? The specialists think that my heart
disease is in an advanced and dangerous state: but I cannot rest
till I stir the heart of the world to repentance over the tragedy
of martyred India...
With greetings to all my friends, I am, as ever,
your loyal and loving friend,
A letter to a daughter
*The campaign started by Indian Muslims in support of the Caliph of Turkey whose powers were severely curtailed by the Armistice of 1918. To demonstrate Hindu-Muslim unity, the
Congress decided to support the movement.
Excerpted from Sarojini Naidu: Selected Letters 1890s to 1940s, selected and edited by Makrand Paranjape, Kali for Women, 1996, Rs 400, with the publisher's permission. Readers interested in buying a copy of the
book may write to Kali for Women, B 1/8 Hauz Khas, New Delhi - 110 016.