A century ago, in March 1922, Mahatma Gandhi was arrested. He was accused of sedition because of three articles published in his weekly magazine, Young India. In the first he had written: “The British Empire, built on the systematic exploitation of the physically weaker races of the earth and on a deployment of brute force, cannot last, if there is a just God who rules the universe.” In the third article he openly proclaimed, “We want to overthrow the Government. We want to compel its submission to the people’s will.”
Gandhi was tried on March 18. Before the judge he declared himself a “weaver and farmer,” guilty of having instigated “non-co-operation” with the British government and to have fomented disaffection because “the government established by law in British India is constituted for the exploitation of the masses. […] I have no doubt whatsoever that England will have to answer, if there is a God above, for this crime against humanity, which is perhaps unequalled in history […] I am endeavoring to show to my countrymen that violent non-co-operation only multiplies evil, and that as evil can only be sustained by violence, withdrawal of the support of evil requires complete abstention from violence.” Therefore, he asked the judge for the maximum sentence for the crime, or – if he agreed with him – to resign from office.
It was not difficult for the magistrate to prove that the bloody events of the previous months in Chauri Chaura and Bombay called into question the responsibility of the accused. Therefore, he sentenced him to six years in prison. However, he added that he saw in Gandhi “a man of high ideals and noble life, declaring himself sorry that such a man had made it impossible for the government to let him go free.” This was Gandhi’s last trial. After 1922, he was arrested many more times, but a trial never followed. This was “the great trial.”