In February 1918 Germany had captured Zhytomyr, Estonia, Pskov, Narva and Kiev and won the war at Eastern front with signing of peace treaty with Russia on March 3, 1918. Berlin remained 450 miles from the nearest front, the German were in good battle order and Germany was close to winning the war with spring offensive. In May 1918 Ottomans had invaded Armenia and England was staring at defeat. Then Mohandas karamchand Gandhi issued appeal for enlistment of Indians for British Army. (It was strange act on behalf of Gandhi to solicit support for those who were oppressing India) Following is text of appeal issued by Gandhi for enlistment for British Army:
APPEAL FOR ENLISTMENT
NADIAD, June 22, 1918
LEAFLET NO. 11
SISTERS AND BROTHERS OF KHEDA DISTRICT:
You have just emerged successful from a glorious satyagraha campaign. You have, in the course of this struggle, given such evidence of fearlessness, tact and other virtues that I venture to advise and urge you to undertake a still greater campaign. You have successfully demonstrated how you can resist Government with civility, and how you can retain your self-respect without hurting theirs. I now place before you an opportunity of proving that you bear no hostility to Government despite your having given it a strenuous fight.
You are all lovers of swaraj; some of you are members of the Home Rule League. One meaning of Home Rule is that we should become partners in the Empire. Today we are a subject people. We do not enjoy all the rights of Englishmen. We are not today partners in the Empire as are Canada, South Africa and Australia. We are a dependency. We want the rights of Englishmen, and we aspire to be as much partners in the Empire as the Dominions overseas. We look forward to a time when we may aspire to the Viceregal office. To bring about such a state of things we should have the ability to defend ourselves, that is, the ability to bear arms and to use them. As long as we have to look to Englishmen for our defence, as long as we are not free from the fear of the military, so long we cannot be regarded as equal partners with Englishmen. It behoves us, therefore, to learn the use of arms and to acquire the ability to defend ourselves. If we want to learn the use of arms with the greatest possible despatch, it is our duty to enlist ourselves in the army.
There can be no friendship between the brave and the effeminate. We are regarded as a cowardly people. If we want to become free from that reproach, we should learn the use of arms. Partnership in the Empire is our definite goal. We should suffer to the utmost of our ability and even lay down our lives to defend the Empire. If the Empire perishes, with it perish our cherished aspirations. Hence the easiest and the straightest way to win swaraj is to participate in the defence of the Empire. It is not within our power to give much money. Moreover, it is not money that will win the war. Only an army inexhaustible in number can do it. That army India can supply. If the Empire wins mainly with the help of our army, it is obvious that we would secure the rights we want. Some will say that, if we do not secure those rights just now, we would be cheated of them afterwards. The strength we employ in defending the Empire now can secure those rights. Rights won by making an opportunity of the Empire’s weakness are likely to be lost when the Empire regains its strength. We shall not succeed in becoming partners in the Empire by trying to embarrass it.
Embarrassing it in its hour of crisis will not help us to secure the rights which we must win by serving it. To distrust the statesmen of the Empire is to distrust our own strength; it is a sign of our own weakness. We should not depend for our rights on the goodness or the weakness of the statesmen, we should depend on our fitness and our strength. The Native States are helping the Empire and they are getting their reward. The rich are rendering full financial assistance to the Government and they are likewise getting their reward. The assistance in neither case is rendered conditionally. The sepoys are rendering their services for their salt and for their livelihood. They get their livelihood, and prizes and honours in addition. All these classes are a part of us, but they cannot be regarded as lovers of swaraj, their goal is not swaraj. The help they render is not out of love for the country. If we seek to win swaraj in a spirit of hostility, it may well be that the Imperial statesmen will use these three forces against us and defeat us.
If we want swaraj, it is our duty to help the Empire and we shall undoubtedly get the reward of that help. If our motive is honest, the Government will behave honestly with us. Assuming for a moment that it will not do so, our honesty should make us confident of our success. It is no mark of greatness to be good only with the good. Greatness lies in returning good for evil. The Government does not give us commissions in the Army, it does not repeal the Arms Act; it does not open schools for military training. How can we then co-operate with it? These are valid objections. In not granting reforms in these matters, the Government is committing a serious blunder. The British have many acts of goodness to their credit. For these, God’s grace be with them. But the heinous sin perpetrated by the British administrators in the name of their people will, if they do not take care betimes, undo the effect of all these acts of goodness. If the worst happens to India, which God forbid, and she passes into the hands of some other nation, India’s piteous cry will make England hang her head in shame before the world, and a curse will descend upon her for having emasculated a nation of thirty crores. I believe the statesmen of England have realized this and have taken the warning, but they are unable to alter all of a sudden the situation created by themselves. Every Englishman upon entering India is trained to despise us, to regard himself as our superior and to keep himself aloof from us. They imbibe these ideas from the very atmosphere in which they move. Those at the higher levels of administration try to free themselves and their subordinates from this atmosphere but their effort does not bear immediate fruit. If there were no crisis for the Empire, we should be fighting against this domineering spirit. But to sit back at this crisis, waiting for commissions, etc., is like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. It may well be that, while we are waiting for commissions, the opportunity to help the Empire may slip away.
It is my firm belief that even if the Government desires to prevent us from enlisting in the army and rendering other help by refusing us commissions or by delay in granting them, it is our duty to insist upon joining the army. The Government at present wants half a million men for the army. They will certainly succeed in raising this number somehow. If we supply this number, the credit will be ours, we will be rendering a service and the reports that we often hear of improper methods adopted by recruiting agents will become things of the past. It is no small thing to have the whole work of recruiting in our hands. If the Government have no trust in us, if their intentions are not pure, they would not recruitment through us. The foregoing argument will show that by enlisting in the army we help the Empire, we qualify ourselves for swaraj, we learn to defend India and to a certain extent regain our lost manhood.
I admit it is because of my faith in the British people that I can advise as I am doing. I believe that, though this nation has done India much harm, it is to our advantage to retain connection with it. Their virtues seem to me to outweigh their vices. It is painful to remain in subjection to that nation. The British have the great vice of depriving a subject nation of its self-respect, but they have also the virtue of treating their equals with due respect and of loyalty towards them. We have seen that they have many times helped those groaning under the tyranny of others. As their partners, there is much we can receive and much that we can give and our connection with them based on that relationship is likely to benefit the world. If such was not my faith and if I thought it desirable to become absolutely independent of that nation, I would not only not advise co-operation but would on the contrary ask the people to beware, advising them to rebel, and paying the penalty for doing so. We are not in a position today to stand on our own feet unaided and alone. I believe that our good lies in becoming and remaining equal partners in the Empire and I have seen it throughout India that all those who demand swaraj are of the same view. I expect from Kheda and Gujarat not 500 or 700 recruits but thousands. If Gujarat wants to save herself from the reproach of effeminacy, she should be prepared to contribute thousands of sepoys. These must include the educated classes, the Patidars, the Dharalas, the Vagharis and I hope they all will fight side by side as comrades. Unless the educated classes or the elite of the community take the lead, it is idle to expect the other classes to come forward. I hope those among the educated classes who are above the prescribed age but who are able-bodied will be eligible to enlist themselves. Their services will be utilized, if not for actual fighting, for related purposes and for looking after the welfare of the sepoys. I hope also that those who have grown-up sons will not hesitate to send them as recruits. To sacrifice sons in the war ought to be a cause not of pain but of pleasure to brave men. Sacrifice of sons at this hour will be a sacrifice for swaraj. To the women, my request is that they should not be alarmed by this appeal but should welcome it. It contains the key to their protection and their honour.
There are 600 villages in Kheda district. Every village has on an average a population of over 1,000. If every village gave at least twenty men, Kheda district would be able to raise an army of 12,000 men. The population of the whole district is seven lakhs and this number will then work out at 1.7 per cent, a rate which is lower than the death rate. If we are not prepared to make even this sacrifice for the Empire, for the sake of swaraj, no wonder that we should be regarded unworthy of it. If every village gives at least twenty men, on their return from the war they will be the living bulwarks of their village. If they fall on the battle-field, they will immortalize themselves, their village and their country, and twenty fresh men will follow their example and offer themselves for national defense. If we mean to do this, we have no time to lose. I desire that the fittest and the strongest in every village should be selected and their names forwarded. I ask this of you, brothers and sisters. To explain things to you and to answer the many questions that may be raised, meetings will be held in important villages. Volunteers will also go round.
Messrs Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, Barrister-at-law, Krishnalal
Narasilal Desai, M.A.LL.B., Indulal Kanhaiyalal Yagnik, B.A.LL.B.,
Hariprasad Pitambardas Mehta, Manager of the Hitechchhu Press,
Pragji Khandubhai Desai, Mohanlal Kameshwar Pandya, B.Ag.,
Ganesh Vasudeo Mavlankar, M.A.LL.B., Kalidsas Jashkaran Zaveri,
B.A.LL.B., Fulchand Bapuji Shah, Gokuldas B. Talati, B.A.LL.B.,
Shivabhai Bhailal Patel, B.A.LL.B., Raojibhai Manibhai Patel and
others are cooperating.
MOHANDAS KARAMCHAND GANDHI [From Gujarati]
Mahadevbhaini Diary, Vol. IV
Source; Page 83 http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL017.PDF