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Mainstream, VOL LV No 41 New Delhi September 30, 2017

Gandhi for Today

Friday 29 September 2017

On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s one hundred and fortyeighth birth anniversary on October 2, 2017, we are reproducing the following excerpts from his writings and pronouncements. This is followed by a couple of articles on Gandhi and N.C.’s lecture on “Mahatma Gandhi—The Great Communicator”.

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The economic conflict which you envisage, is likely to make the Hindu-Muslim tension less acute. Even the end of the Hindu-Muslim conflict will not end all our troubles. What is happening is this. With the end of slavery and the dawn of independence, all the weaknesses of society are bound to come to the surface. I do not see any reason to be unnecessarily upset about. If we keep our balance at such a time, then every tangle will be solved. As far as the economic question is concerned, it has to be solved in any case. Today, there is gross economic inequality. The basis of socialism is economic equality. There can be no Ram Raj in the present state of iniquitous inequalities in which only a few roll in riches, while the masses do not get even enough to eat. I accepted the theory of socialism, even while I was in South Africa. My opposition to the socialists and the others consists in attacking violence as a means of effecting any lasting reform...

It can, however, be asked whether the present rajas and the others can be expected to become trustees of the poor. If they do not become trustees of their own accord, force of circumstances will compel the reform, unless they court utter destruction. When the panchayat raj is established, public opinion will do, what violence can never do. The present power of the zamindars, the capitalists and the rajas can hold sway only so long as the common people do not realise their own strength. If the people non-co-operate with the evil of zamindari or capitalism, it must die of inanition. In panchayat raj only the panchayat will be obeyed and the panchayat can only work through the law of their making.

[From the editorial “How to Combat Himsa”, written on May 25, 1947]

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I have been lately taken to task for daring to say what I have stated about Kashmir and the maharaja. Those who have done so have evidently failed to read my statement carefully. I have simply tendered advice which, I suppose, the lowliest can do. And to do so, sometimes, becomes a duty, as was the case with me. What was it for? It was, if accepted, designed to raise the maharaja in his own and the world’s esteem. His and his state’s is a most unenviable position today. He is a Hindu prince, having under his sway a very large majority of Muslims. The invaders have called their invasion a holy war for the defence of the Muslims reported to be ground down under Hindu misrule! Sheikh Abdullah Saheb was called by the ruler to his task at a most critical period. He is new to the task and deserves every encouragement, if he is considered fit by His Highness the Maharaja. It must be evident to the outsider, as it is to me, that Kashmir must be lost to the invaders, otherwise called the raiders, if Sheikh Abdullah Saheb’s effort to hold together the Muslims and the minority fails. And it would be a mistake to think that the Union army could do it. The army was sent in answer to the combined importunity of the Maharaja Saheb and the Sheikh Saheb, in order to help ward off the attack. Is it any wonder that I have advised the ruling authority to rise to the occasion and to become like the King of England and, therefore, use his rule and his Dogra army in strict accord with the advice of Sheikh Abdullah Saheb and his emergency Cabinet? The instrument of accession stands, as it is. It confers or reserves certain rights on or for the ruler. I, as a private individual, have ventured to advise that the ruler should waive or diminish the rights and perform the duty, pertaining to the office, of a Hindu prince. If I am wrong as to my facts, I should be corrected. If I err in my conception of Hinduism and of the duty of a Hindu prince, I am out of court. If Sheikh Abdullah Saheb is erring in the discharge of his duty as the chief of the Cabinet or as a devout Musalman, he should certainly step aside and give place to a better man. It is on the Kashmir soil, that Islam and Hinduism are being weighed now. If both pull their weight correctly and in the same direction, the chief actors will cover themselves with glory and nothing can move them from their joint credit. My sole hope and prayer is that Kashmir should become a beacon light to this benighted subcontinent.

So much for the Maharaja Saheb and the Sheikh Saheb. Will not the Government of Pakistan and the Government of the Indian Union close ranks and come to an amicable settlement with the assistance of impartial Indians? Or, has impartiality fled from India? I am sure, it has not.

[Text of a prayer speech read out in Delhi on December 29, 1947]

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Before I ever knew anything about politics in my early youth, I dreamt the dream of communal unity of the heart. I shall jump in the evening of my life like a child, to feel that the dream has been realised in this life. The wish for living the full span of life portrayed by the seers of old and which the seers permit us to set down at 125 years, will then revive. Who would not risk sacrificing his life for the realisation of such a dream? Then we shall have real swaraj. Then, though legally and geographically we may still be two states, in daily life no one will think that we were two separate states. The vista before me seems to me to be, as it must be to you, too glorious to be ture. And yet like a child in a famous picture, drawn by a famous painter, I shall not be happy, till I have got it. I live and I want to live for no lesser goal... I remember to have read, I forget now whether in the Delhi Fort or in the Agra Fort, when I visited them in 1896, a verse on one of the gates, which when translated reads thus: ‘If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.’... I should love to see that verse with justice inscribed on the gates of Pakistan at all the entrances. In such paradise, whether it is in the Indian Union or in Pakistan, there will be neither paupers, nor beggars, nor high, nor low, neither the millionaire employers, nor the half-starved employees, nor intoxicating drinks or drugs. There will be the same respect for women as vouchsafed to men, and the chastity and the purity of men and women will be jealously guarded. Where every woman, except one’s wife, will be treated by men of all religions, as mother, or sister, or daughter, according to her age. Where there will be no untouchability, and where there will be equal respect for all faiths. They will be all proudly, joyously and voluntarily bread labourers. I hope that everyone who listens to me or who reads these lines, will forgive me, if stretched on my bed and basking in the sun, inhaling the life-giving sunshine, I allow myself to indulge in this ecstasy.

[From the address at a prayer meeting during his last fast in Delhi, January 14, 1948]

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62