Taraknath Das and Leo Tolstoy

In 1908 Taraknath Das wrote an appeal to Leo Tolstoy, who was renowned not only as a literary figure but as a moral voice for oppressed peoples, urging him to publicize British tyranny in India. The response was not exactly as Das desired, for Tolstoy argued instead that “If the Hindoos have been enslaved by violence it is because they themselves have lived by violence, live by violence, and do not recognize the eternal law of love, inherent in humanity.” Both Tolstoy’s response and a further reply by Das were serialized in the Twentieth Century Magazine, and the entire exchange has been re-published. Where Das believed that passive resistance was futile against such manifest tyranny as he saw in British India, another compatriot, Mahatma Gandhi, shared Tolstoy’s ideals and engaged in a correspondence with the Russian writer until the latter’s death in 1910.