Bomb At The Prayer
Speaking after prayers on Wednesday evening, Gandhi referred to the previous day's bomb explosion in the Birla House compound. He had been receiving anxious enquiries and praise for being unruffled at the accident. He thought that it was military practice and, therefore, nothing to worry about. He had not realized till after the prayers that it was a bomb explosion and that the bomb was meant against him. God only knew how he would have behaved in front of a bomb aimed at him and exploding. Therefore, he deserved no praise. He would deserve a certificate only if he fell as a result of such an explosion and yet retained a smile on his face and no malice against the doer. What he wanted to say was that no one should look down upon the misguided youth who had thrown the bomb. He probably looked upon Gandhiji as an enemy of Hinduism. After all, has not the Gita said that whenever there was an evil-minded person damaging religion, God sent someone to put an end to his life? That celebrated verse has a special meaning. The youth should realize that those who differed from him were not necessarily evil. The evil had no life apart from the toleration of good people. No one should believe that he or she was so perfect that he or she was sent by God to punish evil-doers, as the accused seemed to flatter himself he was.
He (Gandhiji) had heard that the youth had without permission occupied a masjid for lack of other accommodation and now that the police were getting all mosques evacuated, he resented the act. It was a wrong thing on his part to have occupied the masjid in the first place and it was doubly wrong to defy the authorities, who asked him to vacate it.
To those who were at the back of the youth, he would appeal to desist from such activity. That was not the way to save Hinduism. Hinduism could be saved only by Gandhiji's method. Gandhiji had practised Hinduism from early childhood. His nurse had taught him to invoke Rama when he feared evil spirits. Later on he had come in contact with Christians, Muslims and others and, after making a fair study of other religions, had stuck to Hinduism. He was as firm in his faith today as in his early childhood. He believed God would make him an instrument of saving the religion that he loved, cherished and practised. In any case, one had to have constant practice and acquaintance with the fundamentals of religion before being qualified for becoming God's instrument.
Pity The Bomb Thrower
He had told the Inspector General of Police also, not to harass him in any way. They should try to win him over and convert him to right thinking and doing. He hoped that the youth and his guides would realize their error. For, it was a wrong done to Hinduism and the country. At the same time Gandhiji warned his hearers against being angry with the accused. He did not know that he was doing anything wrong. They should pity him. If they harboured resentment against Gandhiji's fast and had still pledged themselves to maintain peace in order to save an old servant of the nation, the guilt was theirs, not that of the young man who had thrown the bomb. If, on the other hand, they had signed the Peace Pledge whole-heartedly, persons like the young man were ultimately bound to come to their way of thinking.
Gandhiji said that he expected the audience to go on with the prayers in spite of bomb explosions or a shower of bullets. He was glad to learn that a poor unlettered woman was the cause of the arrest of the miscreant. If the heart was sound, if there was right thought, lack of letters was not of any consequence. He congratulated the unlettered sister on her simple bravery.
Poverty No Shame
A difficulty to which his attention was drawn was that while the Congress had been in the wilderness it had set before the people the ideal of service, self-denial and simplicity. In those days it was difficult to collect even a lakh of rupees. Today, the Congress Government was in charge of crores of rupees and could raise as much as it liked. Were they to spend it as if there was no change from foreign rule to indigenous rule? Some people seemed to think that India's leaders and ambassadors must live and spend money in a style befitting their independent status and vie with independent America and England in stylishness. They thought that such expenditure was necessary in order to uphold India's prestige in foreign countries. Gandhiji did not think so. There was no merit in hiding our poverty. India's status in the world depended upon her moral supremacy which her passive resistance had brought her. In this she had no rival as yet, for the other nations, great or small, were proud of their armaments and military valour. That was their capital. India possessed only her moral capital, which increased with the spending. On any other condition the Congress claims to revolutionize values, when they came into power, would be forfeited. People criticized the Ministers for accepting high salaries and not bringing the artificial British standard down to the natural Indian standard. These critics knew nothing of the private life of their Ministers. But the fashion was for Congressmen and others to expect high emoluments wholly out of keeping with what one was making out of office.
One who managed to live on Rs. 150 per month would not hesitate to demand and expect Rs. 500. Such persons felt that they would not be appreciated unless they demanded high salaries and lived in the old Civil Service style and dressed up as such. That was not the way to serve India. They should not forget that a man's value did not depend upon the amount of money that he earned. The process of self-purification, which they all must share, demanded right thought and action.
How to Deal with Traitors
Gandhiji had received a telegram from Meerut. It said that they had no ill feelings against the Nationalist Muslims, but they did not believe that those League Muslims who, until yesterday, had been collecting arms and even now intended to help Pakistan, could ever be loyal to the Union. He (Gandhiji) would have to repent if he put his trust in them. They also said that religion and politics were quite separate and non-violence could never work in politics.
It was rather late in the day to tell him, he said, that non-violence could not work in politics. In politics they could not begin with distrust. Those in charge of the Government were men of great courage and self-sacrifice. They would deal with traitors when the occasion came. Traitors might be found in any community and not only among the Muslims. They had decided to live with the Muslims as brothers and he wanted them to stick to their resolve. All Leaguers were not bad. They should report against those who indulged in questionable activities and let the Government deal with them as severely as it liked. They must on no account take the law into their own hands. That would be barbarous.
Birla House, New Delhi, 23-1-'48
This day, 26th January, is Independence Day. This observance was quite appropriate when we were fighting for independence we had not seen nor handled. Now! We have handled it and we seem to be disillusioned. At least I am, even if you are not.
What are we celebrating today? Surely not our disillusionment. We are entitled to celebrate the hope that the worst is over and that we are on the road to showing the lowliest of the villager that it means his freedom from serfdom, and that he is no longer a serf born to serve the cities and towns of India but that he is destined to exploit the city dwellers for the advertisement of the finished fruits of well thought out labours, that he is the salt of the Indian earth, that it means also equality of all classes and creeds, never the domination and superiority of the major community over a minor, however insignificant it may be in number or influence. Let us not defer the hope and make the heart sick. Yet what are the strikes and a variety of lawlessness but a deferring of the hope? These are symptoms of our sickness and weakness. Let labour realize its dignity and strength. Capital has neither dignity nor strength compared to labour. These the man in the street also has. In a well-ordered democratic society there is no room, no occasion for lawlessness or strikes. In such a society there are ample lawful means for vindicating justice. Violence, veiled or unveiled, must be taboo. Strikes in Cawnpore, coal mines or elsewhere mean material loss to the whole society not excluding the strikers themselves. I need not be reminded that this declamation does not lie well in the mouth of one like me who has been responsible for so many successful strikes. If there be such critics they ought not to forget that then there was neither independence nor the kind of legislation we have now. I wonder if we can remain free from the fever of power politics or the bid for power which afflicts the political world, the East and the West. Before leaving this topic of the day, let us permit ourselves to hope that though geographically and politically India is divided into two, at heart we shall ever be friends and brothers helping and respecting one another and be one for the outside world.
Urs At Mehrauli
Gandhiji described his morning visit to the Dargah Sharif at Mehrauli. The urs had attracted a large concourse of Muslims and what gladdened Gandhiji was to find an equal number of Hindus and Sikhs. Due to some wild and misleading rumours, however, the attendance of Muslims was thinner than in the previous years. It was a matter of shame that man should have to be afraid of man. Gandhiji was also distressed to see the costly marble trellis damaged. It was no answer to say that similar or worse things had happened in Pakistan. Had we fallen so low as to stoop to such acts of vandalism? Granting that such incidents had occurred on a larger scale in Pakistan, it would be improper to institute comparisons in evil doing. Even if the whole world did wrong, should we do likewise? If today Gandhiji took to evil courses, would it not distress them? For him it would be worse than death. Similarly, they had reason to feel ashamed at the damage done to the Dajrgah. The friend in charge had related to the audience the history of the shrine and Gandhiji felt that it behoved them all to show to such a holy place the veneration due to it.
Satyagraha in South Africa
Gandhiji referred to the Satyagraha launched by the Indian community in South Africa. Indians in South Africa were not permitted free entry into the various provinces. In defence of their honour as men and women, the Satyagrahis had marched to Volkurst and then motored to Johannesburg where they held a meeting. This was a courageous step and if the people as a whole became Satyagrahis in the right spirit, victory was sure to crown their efforts. In the question of the march the Government had shown a degree of tolerance and not effected any arrests. But with the progress of the movement, it was feared that arrests would follow. So long, however, as the movement was conducted peacefully, there was no reason for the Government to resort to persecution. Why should whites consider it infra dig to talk matters over with non-whites? Gandhiji suggested that the authorities should contact the Satyagraha leaders and satisfy their reasonable demands. Today, India and Pakistan, just become new Dominions, were entitled to expect friendly treatment from sister Dominions of the Commonwealth. But if the South African Government still treated Indians as inferiors on the score of colour, he had no hesitation in declaring that they would be putting themselves in the wrong. It was unthinkable that Dominions should quarrel among themselves.
Gandhiji next spoke of a deputation of about forty refugees from Bannu, who had called on him in the afternoon. Poor men, they were in an afflicted state and he prized their darshan. As he had other engagements, they were good enough at his request to have their statements recorded by Shri Brijkrishna. One of them, however, exclaimed that they owed their miseries to him and angrily asked him to leave them alone and retire to the Himalayas. Gandhiji asked him at whose bidding he should go. Some were annoyed and a few went to the length of abusing him, while many eulogized his efforts. The only course, therefore, open to him was to follow the dictates of God who spoke to men in the inmost chamber of the heart. There were women too in the company. He regarded them as his brothers or sisters. God was our one true friend. We were entirely in His hands. He would not care to go and enjoy the peace of the mountains but would be content with what peace he could extract from the surrounding turmoil. He, therefore, preferred to stay in their midst, adding that if they all went to the Himalayas, he might follow them as their servant.
Proceeding Gandhiji referred to the complaints brought to him that the refugees, though provided with food, shelter and clothing, were averse to any work. If a man was in distress, the key to his happiness lay in labour. God did not create man to eat, drink and make merry. The Gita taught that one should perform yajna (bread labour) and partake of the fruits of that labour. Millionaires who ate without work were parasites. Even they should eat by the sweat of their brow or should go without food. The only permissible exception was the disabled for whom society provided. There was a variety of work for the refugees to do, such as maintaining sanitation including cleaning of latrines, spinning and other crafts. They should learn to make the best of the situation in which they found themselves.
Gandhiji then spoke about peasants. If he had his say, our Governor-General and our Premier would be drawn from the Kisans. In his childhood he had learnt from school books that the Kisans were heirs to the kingdom of the earth. This applied to those who laboured on the land and ate from what they produced. Such Kisans to be worthy of high offices might be illiterate provided they had robust common sense, great personal bravery, unimpeachable integrity and patriotism above suspicion. As real producers of wealth, they were verily the masters while we had enslaved them. It had been suggested to Gandhiji that the higher secretariat posts should also be manned by Kisans. He would endorse this suggestion provided they were suitable and had knowledge of the work expected of them. When Kisans of this type were forthcoming, he would publicly ask ministers and others to make room for them.