Nehru’s Word: Civil liberties and Subhas Day
We have witnessed wanton suppression of civil liberties, with arrests of students activists engaged in non-violent protest, and critics of the government being called vultures
Circular on Civil Liberties
I am taking the liberty of addressing you on the subject of the suppression of civil liberties in India. This suppression has been progressively getting more widespread and intensive and has now become the normal feature of the administration.
As has been pointed out, at no time since the revolt of 1857 have civil liberties in India been suppressed to the extent they are today. It is manifest that real political life, and even social and personal life, are very seriously interfered with by this suppres- sion. Various political and other organisations have protested against this from time to time and it would be desirable for them to cooperate on this issue, even though they might differ on others, so that a joint fight might be put up on this vital question.
In America, England and France powerful civil liberties unions, of a purely non-party character, have been estabished toresist all such encroachments and their activities have borne substantial fruit. In India the necessity for such a joint effort embracing all groups and individuals, who believe in civil liberties, is obviously even more necessary than elsewhere.
I am addressing this letter to some friends who are not connected with the Congress organisation and I trust that it will be possible to build up, with their help and cooperation, a non-par- ty and non-sectarian union of the kind I have outlined above
The existence of civil liberties is generally considered to be essential for the development of every kind of national activity-political, cultural, social and economic. With their suppression all these activities suffer.
In countries with a democratic background the greatest value is therefore attached to civil liberty and people of the most diverse and mutually hostile opinions join together in a common attempt to protect this foundation of all liberty and activity.
They consider it their duty to resist even the suppression of any opinion or activity to which they arc personally opposed, for once the principle of such suppression is admitted it can be, and frequently has been, extended to all manner of other activities.
All-India Protest Day
It has been suggest- ed that a special day should be fixed for the all-India expression of our indignation and resentment against the arrest and detention of Mr. Subhas Bose. I gladly commend this suggestion to all Congressmen and others, and fix Sunday, May 10, for this purpose, when public meetings should be held all over the country, and resolutions passed on Mr. Subhas Bose’s arrest conveying the greetings of the people to our comrade.
Subhas Babu’s arrest is one of the latest and most significant instances of the widespread and intensive suppression of civil liberties in India.
It is desirable, therefore, that this wider aspect is also stressed, and the resolution passed by the Lucknow Congress on the suppression of civil liberties should be placed before the public and endorsed by them at all public meetings.
Civil liberties of the people are their fundamental right...People should be allowed to express their opinion by speech or writing.
If civil liberties are suppressed a nation loses all vitality and becomes impotent for anything substantial....
(Section I is from a circular letter dated 22 April,1936, published in The Hindu, 28 April, 1936. Section II is from a statement to the Press, Allahabad, 22 April 1936, published in The Hindu, 23 April 1936. Section III is from a speech on 10 th May 1936, which was observed as Subhas Day, delivered at Allahabad, and published in The Bombay Chronicle, 12 May 1936.)
(Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former Professor of History at JNU and former Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.)