After much travail, deep thought and considerable argument, Gandhiji
fixed the date of his departure for Bengal for the 28th of October.
"I do not know what I shall be able to do there," he remarked in the
course of an argument with a very esteemed friend, who made an
eleventh hour effort to dissuade him from setting out on such a long
journey just then. "All I know is that I won't be at peace with
myself unless I go there." He then went on to describe the "power of
thought". "There are two kinds of thought—idle and active. There may
be myriads of the former swarming in one's brain. They do not
count." He likened them to unfertilized ova in a spawn. "But one
pure, active thought, proceeding from the depth and endowed with
all the undivided intensity of one's being, becomes dynamic and
works like a fertilized ovum." He was averse to put a curb on the
spontaneous urge which he felt within him to go to the people of
Noakhali. Speaking before the evening prayer gathering on Sunday
last at New Delhi, Gandhiji said that he was leaving for Calcutta
the next morning. He did not know when God would bring him again to
Delhi. He wanted to go to Noakhali from Calcutta. It was a difficult
journey and he was in poor health. But one had to do one's duty and
trust in God to make the way smooth. It was not that God necessarily
and always removed hardships from one's path, but He did always
enable one to bear them.
He did not want anyone to come to the station, he continued. India had given him enough affection. It needed no further demonstration.
He was not going to Bengal to pass judgment on anybody. He was going there as a servant of the people and he would meet Hindus and Muslims alike. Some Muslims looked upon him as an enemy today. They had not done so always. But he did not mind their anger. Were not his own religionists angry with him at times? From the age of seventeen he had learnt the lesson that all mankind, be they of any nationality, colour or country were his own kith and kin. If they were God's servants, they had to become servants of all His creation.
It was in that capacity that he was going to Bengal. He would tell them that Hindus and Muslims could never be enemies, one of the other. They were born and brought up in India and they had to live and die in India. Change of religion could not alter that fundamental fact. If some people liked to believe that change of religion changed one's nationality also, even they need not become enemies.
Sufferings of women had always melted his heart. He wanted to go to Bengal and wipe their tears and put heart into them, if he could. In Calcutta he would try to see the Governor and the Prime Minister Mr. Suhrawardy and then proceed to Noakhali.
To make peace between quarrelling parties, the speaker said, had been his vocation from his early youth. Even while he practised as a lawyer, he tried to bring the contending parties together. Why could not the two communities be brought together? He was an optimist, he said.
From them he wanted only this help; that they should pray with him that this mutual slaughter might stop and the two communities might really become one at heart. Whether India was to become divided or remain one whole could not be decided by force. It had to be done through mutual understanding. Whether they decided to part or stay together, they must do so with goodwill and understanding.
He could never be party to anything which might mean humiliation or loss of self-respect for anyone. Therefore any peace to be substantial must be honourable, never at the cost of honour. In this he was only echoing the sentiment expressed to him by a prominent Muslim who had seen him. This friend had said: "We must reach our goal, whatever it might be Pakistan or undivided India— without bloodshed or fighting. I go so far as to say that if it cannot be reached except through bloodshed and fighting amongst ourselves, it is not worth reaching."
The Grim Resolve
"Why do you want to go to Noakhali? You did not go to Bombay, Ahmedabad or Chhapra, where things have happened that are infinitely worse than Noakhali. Would not your going there only add to the existing tension?" Was it because in these places it was the Muslims who had been the sufferers that he did not go there and would go to Noakhali because the sufferers there were Hindus? —he was asked by a Muslim friend the other day. Gandhiji's reply was that he made no distinction between Hindu and Muslim. He would certainly have gone straight to any of the places mentioned by the friend, if anything approaching what had happened at Noakhali had happened there and if he felt that he could do nothing without being on the spot. It was the cry of outraged womanhood that had peremptorily called him to Noakhali. He felt he would find his bearings only on seeing things for himself at Noakhali. His technique of non-violence was on trial. It remained to be seen how it would answer in the face of the present crisis. If it had no validity it were better that he himself should declare his insolvency. He was not going to leave Bengal until the last embers of the trouble were stamped out. "I may stay on here for a whole year or more. If necessary, I will die here. But I will not acquiesce in failure. If the only effect of my presence in the flesh is to make people look up to me in hope and expectation which I can do nothing to vindicate, it would be far better that my eyes were closed in death." He had mentally prepared himself, he added, for abstention from the Congress session, if necessary. He had similarly disengaged himself mentally from all his responsibilities in respect of Sevagram and Uruli—his latest love.