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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 6, January 31, 2015 - Republic Day Special

Glorious Dust

(Editorial, Pakistan Times, January 31, 1948)

Saturday 31 January 2015

January 30 this year marks the sixtyseventh anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. To mark the occasion we are reproducing the following editorial that appeared in Pakistan Times (January 31, 1948). This was perhaps the best tribute to Gandhiji after his demise written anywhere in the subcontinent. (The writer was one of Pakistan’s most respected and best journalists, Mazhar Ali Khan.) Reproduction of this editorial is warranted in view of the anti-Pakistan sentiments being whipped up against the backdrop of the wave of jingoism sweeping the country following the seizure of power in South Block by a new dispensation eight months ago.

Mahatma Gandhi is dead. The world has been deprived of the sight and sound of his frail body and aged voice—the body and voice that had in the last few months almost lost, for a large section of mankind, their personal and emphemeral character and become timeless symbols of compassionate love and fearless rectitude. As the man who first ploughed the arid wastes of Indian politics in the pre-nationalist period, the man who husbanded the seeds and saplings, only recently come to fruit and flower, of the freedom of Indian peoples, Gandhi’s name had passed into history long before the present and the greatest chapter in his life commenced. It was he who lighted the path, for Muslim and Hindus alike, during our earlier travels towards the goal of national liberation. In later days our ways parted for reasons unnecessary to recount, but the nature of our national objectives remained identical—the attainment of full and unfettered freedom for all the great peoples of the Indian sub-continent. During this period, Gandhiji’s politics were not our politics. We have differed often and sometimes violently with what he said and did. We have occasionally spoken in bitterness and written in anger. And now the wheel has come full circle and our paths converged again. For in these last momentous days Gandhi, the politician, gave place to the infinitely greater Gandhi, the man. He saw, as few of us can fail to see, that spread out underneath the present political contours of India and Pakistan is one vast immensity of unhappiness and fear and suffering, and he strove as few of us have had the courage to strive to press back the dimensions of this suffering into circumscription and confine. He saw, as few of us can fail to see, that the present bloodshed and savagery are the beginnings of an unholy assault, not only on our freedom newly-won, but also on our culture and civilisation inherited from our remote ancestors, and he fought as few of us have had the courage to fight against the frenzied onslaught. And now he is gone.

There have been great heroes in history who lived and fought and died to preserve their own people from dangers that threatened and from enemies lying in wait. It would be hard to name any who had fallen fighting his own people to preserve the honour of a people not his own. No greater sacrifice could be rendered by a member of one people to another and no greater tribute could be paid to the supremacy of fundamental human values as opposed to passing factional squabbles. And there could be no rebuttal more convincing to the popular prejudice that brands large sections of humanity as completely good or evil, as wholly moral or immoral. There is little hope for the world, however, if it has no other use for the noblest of deaths except to make it serve as proof of so obvious a thesis.

The greatest living Indian has fallen to the bullet of an unknown assassin. The most effective rational voice in the vast Indian Dominion has been brutally silenced. The best-loved and most venerated political leader and moral evangelist of a near sub-continent, the idol of millions, has been publicly murdered. In India and Pakistan today every heart and every conscience should be searched to assess how far every heart and every conscience is answerable for this most fearful of tragedies. The poor idiot or maniac who committed the crime was certainly not the only man responsible. Who had fed his mind with such fell hate for the weary old man seeking to purge men’s hearts with love? What nefarious potion made him flex his muscles to lay violent hands on the apostle of non-violence? The answer is obvious. Every man who has thought and felt and spoke and acted as Gandhiji’s assassin did, was his accomplice. Every violent word, deed, and thought went into the composition of the mind that conceived and the arm that executed the terrible deed.

Will this crime be the last? We do not know. Who can compute the amount of misery brought into the world since the day when heads began to roll and blood began to flow in the laughing countryside of the Punjab and on the time-hallowed pavements of Delhi and Ajmer? One should have thought that the people of this sub-continent had reached by now the surfeit of sorrow and the limit of pain. One should have thought that, however great the grip of fanatics and reactionaries on the mainsprings of popular thought and action, the common people would have, on account of the immeasurable losses and privations they have undergone, managed to disengage themselves by now from this deadly grip and be their normal selves. It has not been so.

The people of India, and indirectly the people of Pakistan, for he was trying to befriend both, have added to their other losses the most grievous loss of all—the loss of Gandhi. Let us hope that this most precious sacrifice to the demons of hate will placate them at last, and the death of one will yet save the lives of millions for whom this life was given. Once, the Hindus and Muslims of undivided India mingled their blood, to fight for freedom under Gandhi’s banner during the Khilafat days; let us hope they will now mingle their tears over his glorious dust, to retain their peaceful freedom under the independent flags of India and Pakistan.