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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 6 New Delhi January 30, 2016

Gandhi for Today

Saturday 30 January 2016


January 30 this year marks the sixtyeighth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s martrydom. On this occasion we remember him by reproducing some of his writings and utterances in the last phase of his life that remain highly relevant today.

Gandhi for Today

Shaheed Saheb Suhrawardy and I are living together in a Muslim manzil in Beliaghata where the Muslims have been reported to be sufferers. We occupied the house on Wednesday, the 13th instant, and on the 14th it seemed as if there never had been bad blood between the Hindus and the Muslims. In their thousands, they began to embrace one another and they began to pass freely through places which were considered to be points of danger by one party or the other. Indeed, the Hindus were taken to masjids by their Muslim brethren and the Muslims were taken by their Hindu brethren to mandirs. And both with one voice shouted ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Hindu-Muslims! Be One’. As I have said above, we are living in a Muslim’s house and the Muslim volunteers are attending to our comforts with the greatest attention. The Muslim volunteers do the cooking. Many were eager to come from the Khadi Pratisthan for attendance, but I prevented them. I was determined that we should be fully satisfied with whatever the Muslim brothers and sisters were able to give for our creature comforts and I must say that the determination has resulted in unmixed good. Here in the compound, numberless Hindus and Muslims continue to stream in shouting favourtie slogans. One might almost say that the joy of fraternisation is leaping up from hour to hour.

Is this to be called a miracle or an accident. By whatever name it may be described, it is quite clear that all the credit that is given to me from all sides is quite undeserved; nor can it be said to be deserved by Shaheed Saheb. This sudden upheaval is not the work of one or two men. We are toys in the hands of God. He makes us dance to His tune. The utmost, therefore, that a man can do is to refrain from interfering with the dance and that he should tender full obedience to his Maker’s will. Thus considered, it can be said that, in this miracle, He has used us two as His instruments and as for myself I only ask whether the dream of my youth is to be realised in the evening of my life.

For those who have full faith in God, this is neither a miracle nor an accident. A chain of events can be clearly seen to show that the two were being prepared, unconsciously to them-selves, for fraternisation. In this process, our advent on the scene enabled the onlooker to give us credit for the consummation of the happy event.

Be that as it may, the delirious happenings remind me of the early days of the Khilafat movement. The fraternisation then burst on the public as a new experience. Moreover, we had then Khilafat and swaraj as our twin goals. Today, we have nothing of the kind. We have drunk the poison of mutual hatred and so this nectar of fraternisation tastes all the sweeter, and the sweetness should never wear out.

In the present exuberance one hears also the cry of ‘Long Live Hindustan and Pakistan’ from the joint throats of the Hindus and the Muslims. I think, it is quite proper. Whatever was the cause for the agreement, the three parties accepted Pakistan. If then the two are not enemies, one of the other, and here evidently they are not, surely there is nothing wrong in the above cry. Indeed, if the two have become friends, not to wish long life to both the states would probably be an act of disloyalty.

[Text of an editorial “Miracle or Accident”
written in Calcutta on August 16, 1947]

I am sorry that today being my silence day, I cannot speak to you. I have, therefore, to write out what I wish to say to you. I have been speaking every day about the vital duty of the Hindus in West Bengal, who are the majority community, towards their Muslim brethren. This duty they will perform truly, if the Hindus are able to forget the past. We know how all over the world, the enemies have become fast friends. The example of the Britons and the Boers who fought one another strenuously, becoming friends, we all know. There is much greater reason, why the Hindus and the Muslims should become friends. We cannot do that, if we are not great enough to shed all malice.

This evening I wish to devote to Sylhet. I have received frantic telegrams from Sylhet about the serious riots that have broken out there. The cause of the riots is not known. I am indeed sorry that I am unable to go just now to Sylhet, nor am I vain enough to think that my presence there would immediately abate the mob fury. I know, too, that one should not without peremptory cause abandon his present duty, however humble it may be, in favour of one which may appear to be higher. To adopt the Salvation Army language, we are all soldiers of God to fight the battle of right against wrong, by means which are strictly non-violent and truthful. As His soldiers, ours is ‘not to reason why’, ours is ‘but to do and die’.

Though, therefore, I am unable to respond to the urgent call of the sufferers of Sylhet, I can appeal, not in vain, to the authorities in East Bengal in general and Sylhet in particular, to put forth their best effort on behalf of the sufferers and deal sternly with the recalcitrants. Now that there is peace between the Hindus and the Musalmans, I am sure, the authorities do not relish these ugly outbreaks. It would be wrong and misleading to underestimate the trouble by calling it the work of the goondas. The minorities must be made to realise that they are as much valued citizens of the state they live in, as the majority. Let the Chief Minister of the two divisions of Bengal meet often enough and jointly devise means to preserve peace in the two states and to find enough healthy food and clothing for the inhabitants and enough work for the masses in East Bengal and in West Bengal. When the masses, Hindu and Muslim, see their chiefs acting together and working together honestly, courageously and without intermission, the masses living in the two states will take the cue from the leaders and act accordingly. To the sufferers, I would advise bravely to face the future and never to give way to panic. Such disturbances do happen in the lifetime of a people. Manliness demands that there should be no weakness shown in facing them. Weakness aggravates the mischief, courage abates it.

[Message written in English to be read out at a prayer meeting in Calcutta on August 25, 1947]

Today, Bawa Bachittar Singh Saheb came to me in the morning and insisted that I should attend the Guru Nanak’s birthday celebration. He told me that probably over a lakh of men and women had assembled there, and that most of them would be sufferers from Western Pakistan. I hesitated because I felt that many Sikhs had been displeased with me. Bawa Bachittar Singh Saheb nevertheless insisted and said that I would say my say before the meeting. I yielded and felt that even as a mother often gives bitter pills to her children, I would take the liberty of saying things which might appear to be bitter. In reality and in effect, they are meant for your good. My mother often used to administer bitter drugs, but I could not feel elsewhere the comfort that her lap provided for me. Whatever I have said to you up to now, I do not regret. I have said those things as your sincere friend and servant. I have with me Sardar Datar Singh’s daughter. You perhaps know him. He has lost his all in the West Punjab. He was the owner of large tracts of land and of several hundred fine cattle. He has lost many relatives and dear friends in Montgomery, but indeed I am glad to be able to tell you that he has not shed a single tear over the misfortune, nor has he felt any bitterness towards the Muslims. I would like you all to follow his example. The Sikh friends have told me that one Sikh is considered equal to 1,25,000 men. Where is that bravery today? Have things come to such a pass that a minority of Muslims cannot live in your midst with perfect safety?

I am free to admit that the mischief commenced in Pakistan, but the Hindus and the Muslims of East Punjab and the neighbouring districts have not been behindhand in copying the mischief. The difference is that the Hindus have not the courage of the Sikhs, who know how to use the sword.

You see Sheikh Abdullah Saheb with me. I was disinclined to bring him with me, for I know that there is a great gulf between the Hindus and the Sikhs on the one side, and the Muslims on the other. But the Sheikh Saheb, known as the Lion of Kashmir, although a pucca Muslim, has won the hearts of both, by making them forget that there is any difference between the three. He had not been embittered. Even though in Jammu, recently, the Muslims were killed by the Hindus and the Sikhs, he went to Jammu and invited the evil-doers to forget the past and repent over the evil they had done. The Hindus and the Sikhs of Jammu listened to him. Now the Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs of Kashmir and Jammu are fighting together to defend the beautiful valley of Kashmir. I am glad, therefore, that you are receiving the two of us with cordiality.

Let this auspicious day mark the beginning of a new chapter in your life. Let the disgrace of driving out the Muslims from Delhi cease from today. I found to my shame that, as our motor-car was passing through the Chandni Chowk, which used to be filled with the Hindus, the Sikhs and the Muslims, I did not notice a single Muslim passer-by. Surely, we have not come to such a pass as to be afraid of the minority of the Muslims, scattered throughout the Union. If there are any traitors in their midst, our Government is strong enough to deal with them. We must be ashamed of hurting children, women or old men. Every man must be considered innocent before he is found guilty by a properly constituted court of law.

I fervently hope that such misdeeds will become now a thing of the past. The kirpan is a symbol of sanctity to be exhibited and to be used in defence of the helpless and the innocent. The tenth and the last guru of the Sikhs, undoubtedly, wielded the sword, but never, so far as I know, at the expense of the weak. He had imposed many restraints upon himself. He had many reputed Muslim disciples. So had the other gurus, beginning with Nanak Saheb. Your bravery will be testified, when all those who belong to different faiths, including Muslims, become your sincere friends.

Intoxicating drinks and drugs, dancing, debauchery and the vices to which many of us become addicted, are not for the followers of the gurus and the Granth Saheb. With the Granth Saheb as my witness, I ask you to make the resolution that you will keep your hearts clean and you will find that all other communities will follow you.

[Excerpts from a speech before a gathering of Sikhs in Delhi on Guru Nanak’s birthday on November 28, 1947]

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 the 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]

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 true. 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. Let the seekers from Pakistan help me to come as near the goal as it is humanly possible... 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....

[Excerpts from a prayer speech at Delhi on January 14, 1948 while on his last fast]

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