Sanjeev Sabhlok's blog

Thoughts on economics and liberty

The touchstone of policy: Rajaji’s March 1959 essay where he erroneously links trusteeship with capitalism


WHAT was the reason for this flop ? The easiest way out would of course
be to shrug our shoulders and say that State policy is not authentic,
that you can’t always find where the mistake in the sum is, and hence
the reason why it didn’t ‘ come off ‘. But it is no good doing that, because
in most cases you can find the mistake, and if you can, it means you must.
—Adapted from Sergei Obraztsov’s My Profession

Socialism cannot produce wealth. It can only distribute what is produced. The prior problem in India now is not how to distribute, but how to make wealth. The question is, therefore, before any policy is adumbrated, whether it will help increase honest hard work which alone can make wealth. No other consideration is so urgent and so important as this. The problem of India is how to produce more. The answer to this must decide all policy, what should be done, how it should be done, and at what pace it should be done. I maintain that what Gandhiji called the doctrine of trusteeship is the best creed of distribution for our country and it stands the test of the question which I have said should command priority. Not intolerably high taxes, nor confiscation, nor egalitarianism can solve the problem of India.

A question may be asked whether there is any instance of a country whose well-to-do people have been practising such a difficult doctrine as the doctrine of trusteeship. This doctrine issues out of the inherent limitations on the personal value of worldly possessions and the faith most people in the world have about God and what God expects of man. You may clothe this faith in any form, but it is the sustaining core of human life. Although it is not generally realized, it is a fact that in America —from whom we have already borrowed over Rs. 400 crores and from whom we are going to borrow yet further huge sums, all to be repaid in dollars, i.e., in goods produced such as America would buy—the well-to-do believe in and practise this doctrine of using wealth to help others without being forced by the State to do it. This is being interpreted occasionally as aimlessness by cynics and sell-righteous critics of the American way of life. But it is really a case of the natural law of trusteeship solving the problem of the motive of lite. Dharma is not only an ethic, it is a law of nature.

So much and so well is the doctrine of trusteeship established in America without being given that name, that it has been generally acknowledged, even by adverse observers, that in that country in this materialistic age and under capitalism, better and more equable social conditions prevail than in many countries whose governments are declaredly egalitarian.

The lesson to be drawn from American life is, first, produce before you seek to distribute equally or unequally ; secondly, get the full value of your possessions by treating yourself as a trustee of your superfluous wealth for the benefit of others who evoke your compassion ; you are master of what you possess but your mastery is expressed altruistically. [Sanjeev: the problem with Rajaji is that he never read Adam Smith: the very POINT of the system of natural liberty is that you CAN’T prosper without helping others]

What is possible at the very high levels of wealth of American citizens is also possible at lower levels. The quality of it can be the same whatever be the measure or the total quantity. But if there is no wealth which overflows one’s own needs, mere socialism cannot create additional wealth. What creates wealth is hard toil, human labour with labour-saving gadgets if you have them, or can get them from somewhere without suicidal cost,—without them if you do not have them, and if especially there is an excess of population who can employ themselves in that labour.

The real problem in India is how to increase labour, chiefly bodily labour. In China they have no compunction in getting it done by compulsion. But even State compulsion cannot succeed unless supported by a revolutionary voluntary urge. It is no good ignoring this task and confusing or exciting people over the inequalities of possessions, or any other matter that diverts popular attention from the real task. Whatever policy is proposed in any field, be it education or land or industry, it should be such as will evoke the desire, or at least the willingness, to put forth more bodily work, and create fruitful opportunities for such work. This is the supreme touchstone. It is such policies that should really be called Left or Radical and advanced. Right and Left are wrongly understood by men whose eye is only on the impossible distribution of the inadequate wealth we have among an enormous population and who mistake confiscation and expropriation, and the ignoring of fundamental rights of individuals, as in themselves a praiseworthy advance towards progress.

A strong government and a loyal people no doubt make a good State. But a deaf government and a dumb people do not make democracy. Democracy is not just a statutory entity. A knitting together of people’s hearts makes democracy, the hearts being not of sheep but of men.

I have had forty years of contact with the saint who came to show a new way of life and an altogether new way of resistance against evil. The sieve of time has of course dropped many impressions and many details but what remains has by that process become all the clearer and firmer :

That happiness, either of the individual or of the body of thinking and feeling men and women called the nation, depends on character, not on material possessions or on the prospects of getting them later on.

Again, that reform must always come from within ; and that loyal devotion to God is the spring of all reform from within and compulsion or violence, of any sort, makes no reform.

The problem of national happiness consists in nothing so much as in a change of heart. That should be our real ten-year plan. It does not need any annual confirmation by parliamentary vote at budget time. It calls for a nation-wide movement, for it is based on something more than a majority vote, the nature of man, something permanent.
Happiness does not depend on competition either among ourselves or with other nations. We cannot `catch up’ when we are behind other nations by centuries. Indeed why should we catch up’ if our aim is not show but welfare and happiness ? And if catching up depends on external aid, it is a temptation and a trap ; we shall be entangled in a voluntary moral subjection worse than military occupation.

We have to conserve what we possess of virtues. We must keep off new attractions that do not add to, but undermine old virtues. The inner urges and the unquestioned religious convictions which form the framework of action are far more important and effective than laws and regulations which the State may seek to impose. Nothing should be done to sabotage those urges and those convictions that have issued out of age-long co-operation and experience and the climate of a particular national life. As in art, so also in government, the artist or the ruler must fully feel and put himself in harmony with one’s land and people. Then only can good results be achieved.

Today our rulers have strayed away from this axiom. They feel as if they belong to a higher race and have a mission to impose their convictions on the people. Their language is far too reminiscent of foreign autocracy. The musicians of India are even now in perfect tune with the land of their birth and its people. So the music of the musicians continues to give joy. In contrast with this, the disharmony of the Government is striking. The activities of the Government being in disharmony have brought into being a sense of uncertainty and insecurity and have destroyed initiative. They have created disincentives for work and thought, which alone add to national wealth. Men and women have come to look upon the State as they look upon the stars and planets whose decrees of fate decide and which they cannot hope to change.

Two things are essential, a movement to make all people work hard whatever their place or their job, and a movement to make the rich feel they are trustees of what they hold beyond what they need for themselves. These can be sought to be brought about by extreme compulsion, but by far the most efficient way is by a movement for voluntary acceptance of these essential and right conditions for progress and happiness. They are in the tradition of our people. They will preserve the graces of life and spread joy both spiritual and material.

Whatever the nature or the system of government may be, the two essentials—work and compassion—make for prosperity and true happiness. A BBC Panorama recently broadcast a lot of important facts about China. Human labour can hardly ever have been employed since the days of the Pyramids with such insect-like profusion as in modern China. ” Forty-five thousand Chinese, men and women, toil from sunrise to sunset on the building of a new dam, and they do it all without any kind of earth-moving machinery or equipment—in fact practically with bare hands,” said Mr. Richard Dimbleby in this BBC programme. ” Men and women are working like this all over China,” said Mr. Gerald Clark, London editor of the Montreal Star, in confirmation of Mr. Dimbleby’s statement.
” The same methods of mass, unskilled labour that are putting up these huge twentieth-century earthworks are being employed also in other aspects of the drive for more industrial power,” added Mr. Dimbleby.

What are we doing? We thirst and hunger for foreign exchange to import machinery and run family planning propaganda, and distribute contraceptives among girls who mix with ardent boys. Manual labour, the tortoise, wins the race in China against the hare, foreign machinery, in India. [Sanjeev: Obviously I have MANY significant issues with Rajaji’s vision – which is not founded on economic theory but on Gandhian confusion]

” The backyard blast furnace is really the symbol of modern China. It is her industrial revolution, the great leap forward into the twentieth century,” said Mr. Gerald Clark.

We in India are planning to invest astronomical figures of rupees in the founding of an atomic power station.

” The Chinese communist philosophy is ‘ Don’t wait for the big factories, use your millions, let industrialization rise in the cottage and the village workshop ‘,” said Mr. Dimbleby in this BBC Panorama. ” There are from 3 to 7 lakh backyard furnaces throughout China,” confirmed Mr. Gerald Clark.

” Thirty years ago it was Japan that sold cheap consumer goods to the world. Now China is competing with much lower prices, in the markets of South-East Asia,” said Mr. Richard Harris of the editorial staff of the London Times.

We are constantly and irrelevantly reminded that we are in the atomic age. What has the atom got to do with our progress ? Nothing. Our large population of two-handed human beings is relevant and that is either ignored or deemed to be a handicap. In China they use these hands.

May be, it is there done by compulsion and indoctrination. But that is not an essential. Our men can and must be made work-minded. Our rulers must be liberated from the machine obsession. [Sanjeev: I guess it was inevitable that Rajaji’s views were outclassed by the weird Indian model of socialism: he was simply too Gandhian] If together with this we have the doctrine of trusteeship, that is, of compassion and a sense of reality, we can solve the antinomy of individual and society. We can make a paradise of free men in India.

March 28, 1959

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Gandhiji’s answer to Marxism: Rajaji’s essay March 1959 in which he shows Nehru’s socialism is communism


I adhere to my doctrine of trusteeship in spite of the ridicule that has been poured upon it.

As the citizen’s duty of non-violent disobedience enunciated by Thoreau was the basis of the Gandhian struggle against foreign rule, the basis of the Gandhian answer to the modern challenge in the Welfare State is the duty of compassion.

The fulfilment of the citizen’s duty of disobedience led to freedom from foreign rule and the realization of India’s self. The fulfilment of the duty of compassion enunciated in the Upanishads and the Gita and reformulated by Gandhiji will lead to the liberty of the individual and freedom from totali¬tarian governance. A nation enjoying the blessings of minimum government and citizens fulfilling the law of compassion—this was Gandhiji’s answer to the challenge of Marxism.

The duty of compassion is based on religion and flows from an inescapable God-given urge leading to a true one-ness of all life. The identity of oneself with those around should be realized without any external compulsion, and without losing one’s own identity in the process.

As a result of the long continued impact of the baser elements of Western civilization, the glamour of the new and expanding knowledge of the physical world which came as a well-intentioned gift from the West and the onslaught of proselytizing propaganda, India has almost lost her religion. When faith is corrupted by doubts and undermined in the heart, the preservation of ritual does not make up for the loss. There is little of true religion left in the strata permeated by Western influence. But so far as the nation is concerned, it is not wholly lost. If the educated classes, the leaders of society, recover their souls there is time yet to recover lost ground ; and recovered life may even be stronger than the damaged previous possession. India can recover her faith in the values of spirit that her Rshis laid down for the people. It depends on whether the need is recognized by her leaders and the urgency of it realized. If this is done and the discipline of compassion becomes the way of life, we shall be enabled to present an answer to the challenge of the times so far as India is concerned and also set an example to the world.

Marxism, the communists claim, is the only answer to the challenge of the times. We are not prepared to accept that claim. Not only do we consider the violence that historically preceded that way of life, wherever it has been imposed, as a great evil, but we do not want the individual to become a lifeless screw in a vast machine called the State, and that too under continuing State-compulsion. The individual is the only reality. The State is a non-living entity. The Leviathan has no soul. If the individual is wiped out we reduce the nation to a soul-less existence.

It is claimed by ‘ socialists’ that theirs is the alternative answer to the challenge of the times. Reject Marxism, but accept ‘ socialism’ they say. But what is socialism but pure and simple State-compulsion ? In the result the individual dies in the one as in the other. Indeed it is an illusion that the two are different and that the one is an alternative to the other. That it is possible to establish ‘ socialism’ without the violence that accompanied communism but through democratic process does not make it different. Whether the individual is violently made to die, or accepts death without resistance, the resulting death is the same. The individual ceases to exist whether it is murder or suicide.

If we wish to retain the individual and attain the general welfare with his fullest co-operation, the only way is what religion has from time immemorial taught—the duty and discipline of compassion. The sharing of one’s goods with those around one, and of their joys and sorrows, can be done without handing over your soul to a lifeless machine, and as an activity that yields joy to the giver as well as the receiver. It is not necessary for a mother to die for a child to be born. The mother lives for the child she has given birth to without herself losing her life. So also can the individual live and ‘ die’ each moment for the community without losing his life, if the natural law of love and compassion were allowed to work. Compassion is a God-given endowment which makes each lite feel the pain of another and find the pleasure in relieving it as if it were its own pain relieved. It this urge that is in every heart is not killed but made into a way of life, it is the answer to the challenge of the times. The communists always called their way of lite socialism. The Congress’s socialist pattern and the Government’s plans to achieve that pattern may not be introduced with bloodshed but carried out through parliamentary sanction. But the end is the same—a soulless Leviathan taking possession of all personal lite and strangling it to death except for whatever lite is needed to work as a serf. Along with this, compassion itself is killed.

The socialism envisaged by the Government of India, if it is worked with energy and meets with no casualty by reason of corruption, mismanagement and bureaucratic wastefulness or for want of foreign aid, will lead to exactly the same nation-wide state of compulsion and serfdom as we condemn communism for. There is no socialist country in the world which has achieved its aim without wiping out the individual and atrophying the human mind, without converting the entire community into a body of slaves, without creating a privileged class to run the machine. India’s experiment even if successful will only end in that result.

The true alternative to the Marxian answer to the call of the times is not an illusory copy of it, or a preparation for surrendering to it, but something quite different in character and in its fundamental basis. The doctrine of trusteeship adumbrated by Gandhiji, namely, that rich people should hold their superfluous wealth as trustees for the poor and that this way of life should be inculcated by example as well as precept without compulsion or cruelty is the only true alternative to Marxism. It is entirely different in character from the Marxian solution. It is based on religion, the antithesis of which is the Marxian foundation.

Gandhiji had no time to expand and illustrate the way of life which he adumbrated. But he definitely put it forward as his alternative both to Marxism and socialism.

Indeed at the root of this doctrine of equal distribution must lie that of the trusteeship of the wealthy for superfluous wealth possessed by them. How is this to be brought about ? Nonviolently ? Or should the wealthy be dispossessed of then possessions ? To do this we would naturally have to resort to violence. This violent action cannot benefit society. Society will be the poorer, for it will lose the gifts of a man who knows how to accumulate wealth. Therefore the non-violent way is evidently superior. The rich man will he left in possession of his wealth, of which he will use what he reasonably requires for his personal needs and will act as a trustee for the remainder to be used for the society. In this argument honesty on the part of the trustee is assumed.

Those who own money now are asked to behave like the trustees holding their riches on behalf of the poor. You may say that trusteeship is a legal fiction. But, if people meditate over it constantly and try to act up to it, then life on earth would be governed far more by love than it is at present. Absolute trusteeship is an abstraction like Euclid’s definition of a point, and is equally unattainable. But if we strive for it, we shall be able to go further in realizing a state of equality on earth than by any other method.

Complete renunciation of one’s possessions is a thing which very few even among ordinary folk are capable of. All that can legitimately be expected of the wealthy class is that they should hold their riches and talents in trust and use them for the service of society. To insist on more would be to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.

It is not on mere authority that this solution is presented now. It is presented on its own merits for acceptance as a way of life which would be in accordance with the ancient dharma of our land and save the nation from chaos and oppression and loss of soul. It is a way of life, besides, that will give true happiness such as is not available otherwise.

It may seem that what is suggested is to hand over the whole problem to the sweet will and pleasure of the rich. It is not the case at all. When dharma is made to prevail over the land, misconduct invites the great and powerful sanction of social obloquy and personal unhappiness. It is the only non-violent way of reaching our goal. Any other would end in soul-killing compulsion. Any form of compulsion to produce the behaviour we seek to establish is not a way of life, but just prison discipline. A way of life must be voluntary and this means we should bring about a change of heart among people in general which is the function of a revival of religion in its true and substantial sense.

The question is whether we want a way of life or only prison discipline. We have seen prisons and know what they are like. No argument should be necessary to prefer that which alone can produce a way of life, viz., a revival of dharma and a re-installation of higher values, and in particular the revivification of love and compassion inherent in human nature which has only been suppressed and overwhelmed, not destroyed by the incrustation of so much that is contrary to it. The pain that one automatically feels at. the sight of another’s pain is an inescapable gift of God to the human soul, though the gift is in the nature of a pain and a burden. It is a natural urge that makes a person one with those around him. Out of this fundamental pain or urge issues the doctrine of holding the goods one holds as in trust for others also and not only for oneself. Such a trust is a joy and a privilege to the individual.

Compassion based on dharma is a noble urge different from the vulgarity of condescension. It is a way of life that forges a union. Co-operation is good, but it is only joint adventure. Compassion welds people into a single and indivisible entity. Unity with those around one, with individuated life for oneself, is the secret of healthy citizenship. The individual should live fully, eagerly and purposefully and not become just a bolt or a screw or a lifeless brick, lost in a machine or a masonry construction. If this is to be achieved, neither socialism nor Marxism is the way but only the dharma re-emphasized by Gandhiji.

To revive and strengthen religion and the consciousness of pious obligation would achieve general welfare and happiness preserving the spirit of industry as well as of brotherhood, without damaging the value of individual human personality or the graces of life. This is better than trying to achieve our object through the deadening influence of organizational compulsion even were it granted that it could achieve the goal.

What is recommended may seem to be a long road but shorter roads do not lead to the goal though they may give sadist satisfaction. The long road leads to the goal and as we go along it we find and give joy and betterment all along at every stage and what we do binds the people together as no compulsion can do, be it brute force or the coercion of status.

No doubt, the fanaticism brought about by bloodshed and cruelty can produce a new way of life without waiting long. But if we do not like this, there is no choice. If we do not want subterfuge, wide-spread discontent and corruption, and failure, we must go through the long road. Spurious imitations and eye-washes can be achieved easily but big things cannot be reached non-violently except through the long road. We must patiently work and attain the wide-spread spiritual conviction which is the essential basis and condition for making an ancient people accept a way of life not based on compulsion. We must put forth the stamina and personal conviction and the patience required for leading a religious and spiritual revolution. Fortunately the way of life we want is not wholly dissociated from the highest traditions of the land and the revolution we desire is only a re-assertion of the principles of religion this nation has always unquestioningly accepted. [Sanjeev: in a sense, my recent work on Ram rajya being capitalism proves this point, although I don’t come to it from any religious perspective]

March 14, 1959

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Retreat from Gandhism: Rajaji’s essay February 1958 chastising Nehru for socialist coercion


Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru is averse to revise the steps he has adumbrated as leading to what he calls socialism. He feels compelled to take these particular steps which he thinks he has pledged his party to.

The fundamental and fatal error in these ideas is a reliance on compulsion, a reliance on the coercion of new laws rather than on the people themselves. When the object is to produce a new way of life, it is necessary to bring about a change of heart and of culture among the people. If we desire the great mass of humankind who have lived and grown in India to adopt an altogether new way of life, we must have faith in the people. The means adopted for any end decide the quality of what we achieve. What is imposed by law cannot result in what is to be brought about by persuasion. A little alteration even in the arrangements of the elements that go to compose a substance makes nectar into poison. The policy of coercion now contemplated will make what can be life-giving nectar into poison.

Those who see the error, and wish it to be avoided, have not the courage even to say it aloud, much less to do anything to bring about a change of policy. Their affection for the leader that is guiding the policies of Government and their calculations as to personal losses and gains make them prefer to remain silent. The Prime Minister’s persistence, the irritation he shows at any opposition, overawes them into inaction. He sees their external submission and thinks he has persuaded them all to see that he is right, and is confirmed in his opinions and the correctness of the steps he is proposing. His advisers, even when they have grave doubts, are satisfied whispering privately to friends about them, but feel it safest to raise no adverse voice in council and to drift and await consequences.

We are offering tributes to the memory of the Father of our Freedom on the platform whereon his body was consigned to the flames, but allow his two main teachings to be forgotten and discarded. He preached all his life against coercion and compulsion. He preached against any kind of untruth. Yet the way in which certain fundamental Articles of the Constitution relating to property and occupation and compensation are administered is glaring untruth and make-believe. Compulsion and expropriation have become the warp and woof of the socialism we are weaving. This was not what Gandhiji was dreaming for the emancipated people of India. Policy has taken on the form of persistence of pride before which reason retreats.

The compulsion of Government has to be exercised on criminals and morally disturbing elements but it is not a way to bring about a change in the people’s way of life. What can be achieved only by a heart-change in the people cannot be brought about by coercion. If we do not know how to bring about a heart-change, it will not do to give way to impatience and resort to coercion. We shall that way fill the land with crime and evasion and be led into more and more coercion, for one fault leads to another and yet another.

The situation is grave. Those who believe in a Power above have to resign themselves and pray for light and courage to descend by a miracle. May be, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru himself may see light. Not only will a change of approach not lead to a ‘ betrayal of the nation’ but a fresh flood of loyalty and affection will be the reward.

February 9, 1959

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Violent Socialism: Essay by Rajaji, January 1959


IT is not only lathis and rifles that make violence. A show of rifles is as much violence as actual shooting. The violence of legislative compulsion on a submissive people is of the same quality as lathis and rifles, and the coercion exercised through it is even more effective and more lastingly harmful.

Democracy is said to be the voice of the people and therefore of God. These fine phrases serve to hide the coercion and many another fault. Democracy worked through the system of political party organizations, as it must necessarily be done when huge populations are to be governed, is very far from the voice of the people which is said to be the `voice of God ‘.

Everyone knows how the bosses come to a conclusion on the basis of their often faulty and biassed appraisement of what will please the greatest number and sustain them in power, and their decisions are imposed on the party, any dissenting minority in it being more or less suppressed at the altar of confidence in the leadership that serves to keep the party in power. Pomp and public splendour are called in to hypnotize an uninformed people.

The organization’s majority decision becomes the ‘ voice of God ‘. The process is the reverse of the ideal democracy wherein the voice of the people, whether it be that of God or not, must precede the decision of the leaders. We thus can easily see, if we care to observe, the clay feet of the golden idol set up for worship.

The machinery of the State is a perfected instrument for exercising violence without exposing it to the eye. And in a Welfare’ State, i.e. , in a State where private life and professions depend on the favours of officials, the processes of coercion are the worst conceivable.

The evolution of non-violence that was the dream of Gandhiji has been rudely stopped, and India goes the way of the other States of the world. With the goal of industrialization as conceived now by the Congress, the dream becomes more distant than ever. More and more centralization, more and more State control of everything, will be the history of ‘ democratic socialism ‘ in India.

Instead of training in self-reliance, all the education is the other way about. The training is to expect the Central Government at Delhi to help the smallest and remotest village, with tax-obtained money and subsidies of all kinds for every purpose. and to give grateful homage to the party in power.

There was more self-reliance in the days when the government was foreign and was just a law-and-order government. Today Government’s ambition is much greater but the way it has gone about the business has undermined initiative and self-reliance, in fact, undermined independence at the ‘ grass roots’ and made the people tamer than under foreign rule.

I am not saying anything remarkably new. What I say is worrying Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru’s mind, specially as he sees more and more of what has resulted from the policies adopted these dozen years, and more and more of what lies at the base of the human spirit.

But withdrawal is always the most difficult part of a battle. It looks easier to go forward than to confess or correct an error. What is wanted is a miracle of courage and a talent for orderly withdrawal, a withdrawal in which inevitable losses are bravely borne, but avoidable damage carefully saved to make room for a policy more consistent with non-violent socialism.

Gandhiji dreamed non-violence and he dreamed perfect social justice, and social welfare without coercion. How could social justice and social welfare be reached except through force ? His answer was it could and must be done through the spiritual education of the people, and he developed the doctrine of trustee¬ship for this purpose. He had hoped to make this the fundamental of the economic life of Free India through right education. Any object sought to be achieved in a hurry and without waiting for the necessary popular education must necessarily be achieved through coercion ; and the violence involved undermines and nullifies the object. The long way is the shortest cut.

We should realize that it makes little difference whether the Communist Party paints our house with communism or the Congress borrows from the communist his brush and paint and does the work with even less hesitation than the communist. The spirit and intent of Article 31 of the Constitution of India has been and is proposed to be violated in gigantic measure ; and the large volume of the open violation does not make it less of a violation, but indeed aggravates the offence. Instead of annulling Article 31, it is made a mockery of.

As-uric democracy is not the democracy that we want. We want satvic progress in individuals and non-violent socialism for the State. If this is not to be, and the present violent socialism is to be persisted in, we must take it that it is the Communist Party that rules India by laying down policies for the Congress to follow without themselves undertaking the risk or the blame. This subtle process by which what we are supposed to oppose is allowed silently to conquer our own spirit and replace our own personality must be resisted, if we desire to save India for non-violence.

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