Extracts from the Delhi Diary
10th September 1947
Is it not our shame as a nation that there should be any refugee problem at all? Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah, Liaquatsaheb and other Pakistan leaders have proclaimed in common with Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel that the minorities will be treated in the respective dominions with the same consideration as the majorities. Was this said by each to tickle the world with sweet words, or was it meant to show to the world that we mean what we say and that we will die in the attempt to redeem the world. If so, why are the Hindus and Sikhs and the proud Amils and Bhaibunds driven to leave Pakistan which is their home? What has happened in Quetta, Nawabshah and Karachi? The tales one hears and reads from western Pakistan are heart-breaking. It will not do for either party to plead helplessness and say it is all the work of goondas. Each dominion is bound to take full responsibility for the acts of those who live in either dominion. ‘Theirs is not to reason why; theirs but to do and die.’ No longer do we work willy-nilly under the crushing weight of imperialism. But this does not mean that there will now be no rule of law if we are to face the world squarely in the face. Are the Union ministers to declare their bankruptcy and shamelessly own to the world that the people of Delhi or the refugees will not cheerfully and voluntarily obey the rule of law? I would like the ministers to break in the attempt to wean the people from their madness rather than bend.
12th September 1947
Anger breeds revenge and the spirit of revenge is to-day responsible for all the horrible happenings here and elsewhere. What good will it to do the Muslims to avenge the happenings in Delhi or for the Sikhs and the Hindus to avenge cruelties on our co-religionists in the Frontier and West Punjab? If a man or a group of men go mad, should everyone follow suit? I warn the Hindus and Sikhs that by killing and loot and arson they are destroying their own religions. I claim to be a student of religion and I know that no religion teaches madness. Islam is no exception. I implore you all to stop your insane actions at once. Let not future generations say that we lost the sweet bread of freedom because we could not digest it. Remember that unless we stop this madness the name of India will be mud in the eyes of the world.
15th September 1947
During the night as I heard what should have been the soothing sound of gentle life-giving rain, my mind went out to the thousands of refugees lying about in the open camps in Delhi. I was sleeping snugly in a veranda protecting me on all sides. But for the cruel hand of man against his brother, these thousands of men, women and children would not be shelter-less and in many cases foodless. In some places they could not but be in knee-deep water. Was it all inevitable? The answer from within was an emphatic No. Was this the first fruit of freedom, just a month-old baby? These thoughts have haunted me throughout these last twenty hours. My silence has been a blessing. It has made me inquire within. Have citizens of Delhi gone mad? Have they no humanity left in them? Have love of the country and its freedom no appeal for them? I must be pardoned for putting the first blame on the Hindus and Sikhs. Could they not be men enough to stem the tide of hatred? I would urge the Muslims of Delhi to shed all fear, trust God and discover all the arms in their possession which the Hindus and Sikhs fear they have. Not that the former too do not have any. The question is one of degree. Either the minority rely upon God and His creature man to do the right thing, or rely upon their firearms to defend themselves against those whom they must not trust.
My advice is precise and firm. Its soundness is manifest. Trust your Government to defend every citizen against wrong-doers, however well armed they may be. Further, trust it to demand and get damages for every member of the community wrongfully dispossessed. All that neither Government can do is to resurrect the dead. The people of Delhi will make it difficult to demand justice from the Pakistan Government. Those who seek justice must do justice, must have clean hands. Let the Hindus and Sikhs take the right step and invite the Muslims who have been driven out of their homes to return. If they can take this courageous step worthy from every point of view, they immediately reduce the refugee problem to its simplest terms. They will command recognition from Pakistan, nay from the whole world. They will save Delhi and India from disgrace and ruin. For me, transfer of millions of Hindus and Sikhs and Muslims is unthinkable. It is wrong. The wrong of Pakistan will be undone by the right of a resolute non-transfer of population. I hope I shall have the courage to stand by it, even though mine may be a solitary voice in its favour.
19th September 1947
I visited the Hindu pocket in Kucha Tarachand surrounded on all sides by Muslims. The spokesman recited in highly exaggerated language the woes of the Hindus and ended by saying that the whole of the locality should be denuded of all the Muslims who were mostly Leaguers and who had carried on a wild agitation against the Hindus. He maintained that the Hindus should do exactly as the Muslims in Pakistan were reported to be doing.
I replied that I could not associate myself with the contention that India should drive out all its Muslim population to Pakistan as the Muslims of Pakistan were driving out all non-Muslims. Two wrongs cannot make one right. I therefore invited my audience to listen to my advice and act bravely and fearlessly and be proud to live in the midst of a large Muslim population.
I then went to the Anathalaya in Pataudi House and advised the responsible parties to bring back the orphans who had been removed out of fright. I was told that there was a shower of bullets from the adjoining Muslim houses killing one child and wounding another. This was about the 7th of September. Maulana Ahmad Said and other Muslim friends who were accompanying me said that the neighbouring Muslims would see to it that no harm befell the inmates. The next place was near the house of Shri Bhargava who is the sole Hindu living in the midst of Muslims. It was packed with Muslims. I hope that the Muslims will fulfil my dream as a lad of twelve that the Hindus, Muslims and the other Indians will live together as brothers and friends. And finally I ask you to join me in a prayer that God will fulfil that dream, or take me away and save me from witnessing the awful tragedy of one part of India being inhabited by the Muslims only and the other part by the Hindus.
21st September 1947
I am not going to argue with this objector. I realize the anger that rages in people’s hearts to-day. The atmosphere is so surcharged that I think it right to respect even one objector, but by no means does this mean that I give up God or His worship in my heart. Prayer demands a pure atmosphere. One thing that everyone should take to heart from such objections is that those who are anxious to serve must have endless patience and tolerance. One must never seek to impose one’s views on others.
The Hindus greet me with Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai, but they little know that to-day there can be no victory for me, nor do I wish to live if the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs cannot live at peace with one another. I am doing my level best to drive home the truth that there is strength in unity and weakness in disunion. Just as a tree that does not bear fruit withers, so also will my body be useless if my service cannot bear the expected fruit. Whilst this is true, it is equally true that one is bound to work without attachment to fruit. Detachment is more fruitful than attachment. I am merely explaining the logic of facts. A body that has outlived its usefulness will perish giving place to a new one. The soul is imperishable and continues to take on new forms for working out its salvation through acts of service.
23rd September 1947
I am told that there are still left over 18,000 Hindus and Sikhs in Rawalpindi and 30,000 in the Wah Camp. I will repeat my advice that they should all be prepared to die rather than leave their homes. The art of dying bravely and with honour does not need any special training, save a living faith in God. Then there will be no abductions and no forcible conversions. I know that you are anxious I should go to the Punjab at the earliest moment. I want to do so. But if I failed in Delhi, it is impossible for me to succeed in Pakistan. For I want to go to all the parts and provinces of Pakistan under the protection of no escort save God. I will go as a friend of the Muslims as of others. My life will be at their disposal. I hope that I may cheerfully die at the hands of anyone who chooses to take my life. Then I will have done as I have advised all to do.
26th September 1947
There was a time when India listened to me. To-day I am a back number. I have been told I have no place in the new order, where we want machines, navy, air force and what not. I can never be a party to that. If you can have the courage to say that you will retain freedom with the help of the same force with which you have won it, I am your man. My physical incapacity and my depression will vanish in a moment. The Muslims are reported to have said hanske liya Pakistan, larke lenge Hindustan. If I had my way, I would never let them have it by force of arms. Some dream of converting the whole of India to Islam. That will never happen through war. Pakistan can never destroy Hinduism. The Hindus alone can destroy themselves and their faith. Similarly, if Islam is destroyed, it will be destroyed by the Muslims in Pakistan, not by the Hindus in Hindustan.
3rd October 1947
To-day I am getting news of satyagraha being started in many places. Often I wonder whether the so-called satyagraha is not really duragraha. Whether it is strikes in mills or railways or post offices or movement in some of the states, it seems as if it is a question of seizing power. A virulent poison is leaving society to-day and every opportunity for attaining their object is seized by those who do not stop to consider that means and ends are convertible terms.
I would like to refer to the fact that I am even getting letters asking me to bless people’s work or the starting of movements. In my opinion every good work carries within it its own blessings and does not need mine or anyone’s backing. A good man who was doing good work and who came to me understood my proposition at once. Truth is always self-evident and it is everyone’s duty to abide by it all costs. But those who resort to satyagraha should search their hearts and find out whether it is Truth they are seeking. If not, then insistence becomes a mockery. I affirm that those who are seeking to get what is not in reality theirs cannot possibly abide by ahimsa, and Truth cannot be found without it.
7th October 1947
Many people come and talk to me and leave literature with me to the effect that the popular ministers are acting in an autocratic fashion like their British predecessors. I have not talked to the ministers in this connection. But I am quite clear that nothing for which you have criticized the British Government shall happen in the regime of responsible ministries. Under the British rule the Viceroy could issue ordinances for making laws and executing them. There was hue and cry against the combination of judicial and executive functions. Nothing has happened since to warrant a change in the opinion. There should be no ordinance rule. Your legislative assemblies should be your only law-makers. Ministers are liable to be changed at will. Their acts should be subject to review by the courts. They should do all in their power to make justice cheap, expeditious and incorruptible. For that purpose Panchayat Raj has been suggested. It is not possible for a high court to reach lakhs and lakhs of people. Only extraordinary situations require emergency legislation. Legislative assemblies, even though the procedure may entail some delay, must not be superseded by the executive. I have no concrete example in mind. I have based my remarks upon the correspondence I have received from various provinces. Therefore, while I appeal to the people not to take the law into their own hands, I appeal to the ministers to beware of lapsing into the old ways which they have condemned.
20th October 1947
It is my painful duty to draw attention to another menace, if it be one. A Britisher writes in an open letter: ‘To whom it may concern’:
‘Several of us are living in a lonely spot in a disturbed area. We are pure British and for years we have devoted ourselves at great personal sacrifice to the welfare of the people of this country…..We now find that a secret word has gone out that all the British left in India are to be murdered. I read in the newspapers Pandit Nehru’s assurance that the Government will protect the persons and property of all loyal citizens of the State. But there is no protection for persons living in little country places or almost none. None at all for us. It is a physical impossibility.’
There is much else in this open letter which can be quoted with advantage. I have reproduced enough to warn us of the lurking danger. Of course, it may be only a scare and there may be nothing beyond it. There may be no secret circular.
There is, however, prudence in not disregarding such warnings. I am hoping that the writer’s fears are wholly groundless. I agree with him that all promise of protection by authority in isolated places is vain. It simply cannot be done, no matter how efficient the military and police machine may be, which, it must be admitted it is not at present. Protection must come first from within, i.e. from rock-like faith in God and secondly from the goodwill of the neighbouring population. If neither is present, the best and the safest way is to leave India’s inhospitable shore. Things have not come to such a pass. The duty of all of us is to regard with special attention all the Britishers who choose to remain in India as its faithful servants. They must be free from every kind of insult or disregard. The Press and public bodies have to be circumspect in this as in many other respects if we are to render a good account of ourselves as a free and self-respecting nation. Those who respect themselves cannot make god the claim if they will not respect their neighbours however few of insignificant they may be.
21st October 1947
I have heard of another sad incident. It is not a communal murder. The victim is a Hindu government officer. A soldier shot him dead, because he would not act as he was directed. This tendency to use a gun on the slightest pretext is a grave portent. There are barbarous people in the world, to whom life has no value. They shoot dead human beings as they would shoot down birds or beasts. Is free India to be in this category? Man has not the power to create life, hence he has no right to take it. Yet the Muslims murder the Hindus and Sikhs and vice versa. When this cruel game is finished, the blood lust is bound to result in the Muslims slaughtering the Muslims, and the Hindus and Sikhs slaughtering themselves. I hope they will never reach that savage state. That is their fate unless both the states pull themselves together and set things right before it is too late.
30th October 1947
This evening when as usual before the prayer meeting the audience was asked if there was any objector to the Koran verses being recited as part of the prayer, one member spoke up and persisted in his objection. Gandhiji had made it clear that if there was such object on, he would neither have public prayer nor the after-prayer speech on current events. Consequently, he sent word that there would be neither prayer nor speech before the public. But the gathering would not disperse without seeing Gandhiji. He, therefore, went to the rostrum and said a few words on the reason for abstention and the working of ahimsa as he understood it.
It is unseemly for anyone to object to the prayer, especially when it is on a private lawn. Nevertheless, my ahimsa warns me against disregarding even one objector when an overwhelming majority are likely to overawe one person into silence. It would be otherwise if the whole audience objected. It would then be my duty to have the prayer even at the risk of being molested. There is also the further consideration that the majority should not be disappointed for the sake of one objector. The remedy is simple. If the majority restrain themselves and entertain no anger against, or evil design on, the solitary objector, it will be my duty to hold the prayer. The possibility, however, is that if the whole audience is non-violent in intention and action, the objector will restrain himself. Such I hold to be the working of non-violence. I further hold that truth and non-violence are not the monopoly of a few adepts. All universal rules of conduct known as God’s commandments are simple and easy to understand and carry out if the will is there. They only appear to be difficult because of the inertia which governs mankind. Man is a progressive being. There is nothing at a standstill in nature. Only God is motionless for He was, is, and will be the same yesterday, to-day and to-morrow, and yet is ever moving. We need not, however, worry ourselves over the attributes of God. We have to realize that we are ever progressing. Hence, I hold that if mankind is to live, it has to come growingly under the sway of truth and non-violence. It is in view of these two fundamental rules of conduct that I and you have to work and live.
3rd November 1947
If two quantities of poison mix together, who will decide which was first on the field, and if such a decision could be arrived at, what end would it serve? We know this, however, that a virus has spread throughout the western Pakistan area and that it has not as yet been recognized as such by the powers that be. So far as the Union is concerned, it has been confined to a small part of it. Would to God that the virus would remain under isolation and control! There would then be cause for every hope that it would be expelled in due time and that soon from both parts.
In view of the fact that Dr. Rajendraprasad has called a meeting of the Premiers or their representatives and others to help and advise him in the matter of food control, I feel that I should devote this evening to that very important question. Nothing that I have heard during these days has moved me from the stand I have taken up from the beginning, that the control should be entirely removed at the earliest moment possible, certainly not later than six months hence. Not a day passes but letters and wires come to me, some from important persons, declaring emphatically that both the controls should be removed. I propose to omit the other, i.e. cloth control, for the time being.
Control gives rise to fraud, suppression of truth, intensification of the black market and to artificial scarcity. Above all, it unmans the people and deprives them of initiative, it undoes the teaching of self-help they have been learning for a generation. It makes them spoon-fed. This is a tragedy next only, if indeed not equal, to the fratricide on a vast scale and the insane exchange of population resulting in unnecessary deaths, starvation and want of proper residence and clothing more poignant for the coming inclement weather. The second is certainly more spectacular. We dare not forget the first because it is not spectacular.
This food control is one of the vicious legacies of the last world war. Control then was probably inevitable because a very large quantity of cereals and other foodstuffs were exported outside. This unnatural export was bound to create a man-made scarcity and lead to rationing in spite of its many drawbacks. Now there need be no export which we cannot avoid if we wish to. We would help the starving parts of the world, if we do not expect outside help for India in the way of food.
I have seen during my lifetime covering two generations several God-sent famines, but have no recollection of an occasion when rationing was even thought of.
To-day, thank God, the monsoons have not failed us. There is, therefore, no real scarcity of food. There are enough cereals, pulses and oil seeds in the villages of India. The artificial control of prices, the growers do not, cannot understand. They, therefore, refuse willingly to part with their stock at a price much lower than they command in the open market. This naked fact needs no demonstration. It does not require statistics or desk-work civilians buried in their red-tape files to produce elaborate reports and essays to prove that there is scarcity. It is to be holed that no one will frighten us by trotting out before us the bogey of over-population.
13th November 1947
Freedom without equality for all, irrespective of race or religion, is not worth having for the Congress. In other words, the Congress and any government representative of the Congress must remain a purely democratic, popular body, leaving every individual to follow that form of religion which best appeals to him without any interference from the state. There is so much in common between people living in the same state under the same flag owing undivided allegiance to it. There is so much in common between man and man that it is a marvel that there can be any quarrel on the ground of religion. Any creed or dogma which coerces others into following one uniform practice is a religion only in name, for a religion worth the name does not admit of any coercion. Anything that is done under coercion has only a short lease of life. It is bound to die. It must be a matter of pride to you, whether you are four-anna Congress members or not, that you have in your midst an institution without a rival which disdains to become a theocratic state, and which always believes and lives up to the belief that the state of your conception must be a secular, democratic state having perfect harmony between the different units composing the state. When I think of the plight of the Muslims in the Union, how in many places life has become difficult for them and how there is a continuing exodus of the Muslims from the Union, I wonder whether the people who are responsible for creating such a state of things could ever become a credit to the Congress. I therefore hope that during the year which has just commenced, the Hindus and Sikhs will so behave as to enable every Muslim, whether a boy or a girl, to feel that he or she is as safe and free as the tallest Hindu or Sikh.
14th November, 1947
I am taking the bhajan of the evening as my text for my discourse. When I was fasting in the Aga Khan Palace which was converted into a prison to accommodate Devi Sarojini Naidu, Mirabehn, Mahadevbhai and myself, this bhajan gripped me. I do not wish to go into the causes of the fast. Its relevance simply is that I was sustained throughout the twenty-one days not by the quantity of water I drank, or for some days by the quantity of orange juice I took, or by the extraordinary medical care and attention I was receiving, but by enthroning in my heart God whom I know as Rama. I was so much enamoured of the lines of the bhajan, but whose words I had then forgotten, that I asked my associates to send a telegram for the exact words of the bhajan. To my joy I received the full text of the bhajan in the reply telegram. Its refrain is that Ramanama is everything, and that before it the other gods are of no consequences. I wish to recall this instructive episode from my life in order to emphasize to my audience the fact that the momentous session of the A.I.C.C. which is to meet in New Delhi to-morrow, i.e. Saturday, should carry on their deliberations with God in their hearts. This they are bound to do as they are representative of Congressmen, and as such they would not be worth their chiefs. The Congressmen, had God in their hearts instead of Satan.
16th November 1947
It is the fashion nowadays to use the word satyagraha for any kind of resistance, armed or otherwise. This looseness harms the community and degrades satyagraha. If, therefore, you understand all the implications of satyagraha and know that the living God of Truth and Love is with the satyagrahi, you will have no hesitation in believing that it is invincible. I am sorry to say what I do about the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. I would be glad to find that I am wrong. I have seen the chief of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh. I have attended a meeting of the members of the R.S.S. Since then I have been upbraided for having gone to the meeting and have had many letters of complaints about the organization.
17th November 1947
A man becomes what he thinks’. Says an upnishad mantra. Experience of wise men testifies to the truth of the aphorism. The world will thus become what its wise men think. An idle thought is no thought. It would be a serious mistake to say that the world will become as the unthinking multitude act. They will not think. Independence should mean democracy. Democracy demands that every citizen has the opportunity of receiving wisdom as distinguished from a knowledge of facts so-called. South Africa has many wise men and women as it has also many able soldiers who are equally able farmers. It will be a tragedy for the world if they do not rise superior to their debilitating surroundings and give a proper lead to their country on this vexed and vexing problem of White supremacy. Is it not by this time a played-out game?
I must keep you for a moment over the much-debated question of control. Must the voice of the people be drowned by the noise of the pundits who claim to know all about the virtue of controls? Would that our ministers who are drawn from the people and are of the people listened to the voice of the people rather than of the controllers of the red tape which, they know, did them infinite harm when they were in the wilderness! The pundits then ruled with a vengeance. Must they do so even now? Will not the people have any opportunity of committing mistakes and learning by them? Do the ministers not know that they have the power to resume control wherever necessary, if decontrol is found to have been harmful to the people, in any instance out of the samples, by no means exhaustive, that I am giving below? The list before me confounds my simple mind. There may be virtue in some of them. All I contend is that the science, if it is one, of controls requires a dispassionate examination and then education of the people in the secret of controls in general or specified controls. Without examining the merits of the list I have received I pick out a few of the samples given to me: Control on Exchange, Investment, Capital Issues, Opening branches of Banks and their investments, Insurance investments, All Import and Export of every kind of commodity, Cereals, Sugar, Gur, Cane and Syrup, Vanaspati, Textiles, including Woolens, Power Alcohols, Petrol and Kerosene, Paper, Cement, Steel, Mica, Manganese, Coal, Transport, Installation of Plant, Machinery, Factories, Distribution of cars in certain provinces and Tea plantation.
21st November 1947
A member of the audience asks me: What is a Hindu? What is the origin of the word? Is there any Hinduism?
These are pertinent questions for the time. I am no historian, I lay claim to no learning. But I have read in an authentic book on Hinduism that the word ‘Hindu’ did not occur in the Vedas but when Alexander the Great invaded India, the inhabitants of the country to the east of the Sindhu, which is known by the English-speaking Indians as Indus, were described as Hindus. The letter ‘S’ had become ‘H’ in Greek. The religion of these inhabitants became Hinduism and as they knew it, it was a most tolerant religion. It gave shelter to the early Christians who had fled from persecution, also to the Jews known as Heni-Israel, as also to the Parsis. I am proud to belong to that Hinduism which is all-inclusive, and which stands for tolerance. Aryan scholars swear by what they call the Vedic religion and Hindustan is otherwise known as Aryavarta. I have no such aspiration. Hindustan of my conception is all-sufficing for me. It certainly includes the Vedas, but it includes also much more. I can detect no inconsistency in declaring that I can, without in any way whatsoever impairing the dignity of Hinduism, pay equal homage to the best of Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. Such Hinduism will live as long as the sun shines. Tulsidas has summed it up in one doha: ‘The root of religion is embedded in Mercy, whereas egotism is rooted in love of the body. Tulsi says that Mercy should never be abandoned, even though the body perishes.’
Finally I feel bound to refer to a case of persecution of the Roman Catholics near Gurgaon, which was brought to my notice. The village in question where it took place is known as Kanhai, about twenty-five miles from Delhi. One of my visitors was an Indian Roman Catholic chaplain and the other was a catechist belonging to a village. They produced to me a letter from the Roman Catholics in the village relating the story of persecution at the hands of the Hindus. This was curious enough in urdu. I understand that the inhabitants of that part of the country, whether they are Hindus or others, can only speak Hindustani and write in the urdu script. The informants told me that the Roman Catholics there had been threatened if they did not remove themselves from their village. I hope that it was an idle threat and that these Christian brothers and sisters will be left to follow their own faith and avocation without let or hindrance. Surely, they are not less entitled to their freedom than they were under the British regime, now that there is freedom from political bondage. That freedom can never be confined to the Hindus only in the Union and the Muslims only in Pakistan. I have in one of my speeches already told you that when the mad fury against the Muslims has abated, it is likely to be vented on others; but when I made the remark I was not prepared for such an early verification of my forebodings. The fury against the Muslims has not yet completely abated. So far as I know, these Christians are utterly inoffensive. It is suggested that their offence consists in being Christians, more so because they eat beef and pork. As a matter of curiosity I asked the chaplain whether there was any truth in the remark, and I was told that these Roman Catholics, of their own accord, have abjured beef and pork not only now, but long ago. If this kind of unreasoning prejudice persist, the future for independent India is dismal. The chaplain himself has recently had his bicycle taken away from him when he was at Rewari, and narrowly escaped death. Is this agony to end only with the extinction of all the non-Hindus and non-Sikhs?
I have no desire to live to witness such a dissolution of India, and I would ask you to join me in the wish and prayer that good sense will return to the Hindus and Sikhs of the Union.
24th December 1947
To-morrow, Christian Day, is a festival for the Christians as Deepavali is for the Hindus. I do not think that either festival is meant for indulgence in drinks, dances and merry-making. These are holy days making one examine oneself and do better next year. I offer greetings to all Christian friends in India and outside and hope that they will enforce in their own lives the teachings of Jesus Christ. I warn the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs against entertaining any ill-will towards the Christians, who are a minority in India. Nor should they entertain any wish about converting them to Hinduism, Islam or Sikhism. I do not believe in such conversions. I want the Christians to be good Christians, the Muslims to be good Muslims, the Sikhs to be good Sikhs and the Hindus to be good Hindus under all circumstances. That to me is real conversion.
I have seen in the newspapers that in view of the fact that State patronage to Christianity or any other religion will not be given, 75 per cent of the churches in India will have to be closed down. Religion can never be served through money. The Christians should rejoice that an artificial prop is being removed. God is Omnipresent. Our bodies are the real temples rather than buildings of stone. The best place for congregational worship for any religion in my opinion is in the open with the sky above as the canopy and mother earth below for the floor. Every individual is the protector of his own religion against the whole world.
27th December 1947
The Panchayat should now see to cattle improvement. They should show steady increase in the milk yield. Our cattle have become burden on the land for want of care. It is gross ignorance to blame the Muslims for cow slaughter. I hold that it is the Hindus who kill the cattle by inches through ill-treatment. Slow death by torture is far worse than outright killing. The Panchayat should also see to an increase in the quantity of foodstuff grown in their village. That is to be accomplished by properly manuring the soil. The Compost Conference recently held in Delhi under the inspiration of Shrimati Mirabehn has told us how the excreta of animals and human beings mixed with rubbish can be turned into valuable manure. This manure increases the fertility of the soil. Then they must see to the cleanliness of their village and its inhabitants. They must be clean and healthy in body and mind.
I hope that they will have no cinema house. People say that the cinema can be a potent means of education. That may come true some day, but at the moment I see how much harm the cinema is doing.
6th January 1948
With reference to the news from Bombay that dock labourers and others are thinking of going on strike, I appeal to all concerned, whether they belong to the Congress, the Socialist Party – if the latter can be counted apart from the Congress – or the Communist Party to desist. This is no time for strikes. Such strikes are harmful to all concerned and to the country as a whole.
7th January 1948
I have received a note in which the writer says he has undertaken a fast which will be continued. I consider the fast to be wrong. I am of the opinion that during my lifetime those who undertake such fasts should consult me.
I have seen in the newspapers that the students in Delhi propose to organize a strike on the 9th instant. I told them yesterday that this is no time for strikes. Strikes by students I consider generally to be wrong. I have conducted many strikes during my life, more or less successfully. But I can tell you that all strikes are not right and certainly not non-violent. If the students will listen to me, they will give up the idea of the proposed strike.
12th January 1948
One fasts for health’s sake under laws governing health, fasts as a penance for a wrong done and felt as such. In these fasts, the fasting one need not believe in ahimsa. There is, however, a fast which a votary of non-violence sometimes feels impelled to undertake by way of protest against some wrong done by society and this he does when he as a votary of ahimsa has no other remedy left. Such an occasion has come my way.
When on September 9th I returned to Delhi from Calcutta, it was to proceed to the west of Punjab. But that was not to be. Gay Delhi looked a city of the dead. As I alighted from the train I observed gloom on every face I saw. Even the Sardar, whom humour and the joy that humour gives never desert, was no exception this time. The cause of it I did not know. He was on the platform to receive me. He lost no time in giving me the sad news of the disturbances that had taken place in the Metropolis of the Union. At once I saw that I had to be in Delhi and ‘do or die’. There is apparent calm brought about by prompt military and police action. But there is storm within the breast. It may burst forth any day. This I count as no fulfillment of the vow to ‘do’ which I alone can keep me from death, and incomparable friends. I yearn for heart friendship between the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. I subsisted between them the other day. To-day it is non-existent. It is a state that no Indian patriot worthy of the name can contemplate with equanimity. Though the Voice within has been beckoning for a long time, I have been shutting my ears to it, lest it may be the voice of Satan, otherwise called my weakness. I never like to feel resource-less; a satyagrahi never should. Fasting is his last resort in the place of the sword – his or other’s. I have no answer to return to the Muslim friends who see me from day to day as to what they should do. My impotence has been gnawing at me of late. It will go immediately the fast is undertaken. I have been brooding over it for the last three days. The final conclusion has flashed upon me and it makes me happy. No man, if he is pure, has anything more precious to give than his life. I hope and pray that I have that purity in me to justify the step.
I ask you all to bless the effort and to pray for me and with me. The fast begins from the first meal to-morrow. The period id indefinite and I may drink water with or without salts and sour limes. It will end when and if I am satisfied that there is a reunion of hearts of all the communities brought about without any outside pressure, and from an awakened sense of duty. The reward will be the regaining of India’s dwindling prestige and her fast-fading sovereignty over the heart of Asia and thereby, the world. I flatter myself with the belief that the loss of her soul by India will mean the loss of the hope of the aching, storm-tossed and hungry world. Let no friend, or foe, if there be one, be angry with me. There are friends who do not believe in the method of the fast for the reclamation of the human mind. They will bear with me and extend me the same liberty of action that they claim for themselves. With God as my supreme and sole counselor, I felt that I must take the decision without any other adviser. If I have made a mistake and discover it, I shall have no hesitation in proclaiming it from the house-top and retracting my faulty step. There is little chance of my making such a discovery. If there is clear indication, as I claim there is, of the inner voice, it will not be gainsaid. I plead for all absence of argument and inevitable endorsement of the step. If the whole of India responds or at least Delhi does, the fast might be soon ended.
But whether it ends soon or late or never, let there be no softness in dealing with what may be termed as a crisis. Critics have regarded some of my previous fasts as coercive and held that on merits the verdict would have gone against my stand but for the pressure exercised by the fasts. What value can an adverse verdict have when the purpose is demonstrably sound? A pure fast, like duty, is its own reward. I do not embark upon it for the sake of the result it may bring. I do so because I must. Hence, I urge everybody dispassionately to examine the purpose and let me die, if I must, in peace which I hope is ensured. Death for me would be a glorious deliverance rather than that I should be a helpless witness of the destruction of India, Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam. That destruction is certain if Pakistan ensures no equality of status and security of life and property for all professing the various faiths of the world and if India copies her. Only then Islam dies in the two Indians, not in the world. But Hinduism and Sikhism have no world outside India. Those who differ from me will be honoured by me for their resistance however implacable. Let my fast quicken conscience, not deaden it. Just contemplate the rot that has set in in beloved India and you will rejoice to think that there is an humble son of hers who is strong enough and possibly pure enough to take the happy step. If he is neither, he is a burden on earth. The sooner he disappears and clears the Indian atmosphere of the burden the better for him and all concerned.
I would beg of all friends not to rush to Birla House nor try to dissuade me or be anxious for me. I am in God’s hands. Rather, they should turn the searchlights inwards, for this is essentially a testing time for all of us. Those who remain at their post of duty and perform it diligently and well, now more so than hitherto, will help me and the cause in every ways. The fast is a process of self-purification.
13th January 1948
I must warn you against being surprised that I have walked to the prayer ground as usual. A fast weakens nobody during the first twenty-four hours after a meal. It generally does good to those who fast occasionally for twenty-four hours.
Tomorrow it may be difficult for me to walk the prayer ground. But if you are eager to attend the prayers all the same, you can come and the girls will recite the prayers with you even though I am not present.
You ask me whom I consider blameworthy for the fast. I blame no individual or community. I do believe, however, that if the Hindus and Sikhs insist on turning out the Muslims from Delhi, they will be betraying India and their own faiths. And that hurts me.
If Delhi becomes peaceful in the real sense of the term, I will then break the fast. Delhi is the Capital of India. The ruin or downfall of Delhi I would regard as the ruin of India and Pakistan. I want Delhi to be safe for all Muslims, even for one like Shaheed Suhrawardy, who is looked upon as the chief of goondas. Let all proved goondas be rounded up. But I am witness to the fact that Shaheedsaheb has worked for peace in Calcutta in all sincerity. He has pulled out the Muslims from Hindus’ houses which they had forcibly occupied. He is living with me. He will willingly join the prayer, but I will not expose him to the risk of being insulted. I want him, as I do every Muslim, to feel as safe in Delhi as tallest of you.
I do not mind how long it takes for real peace to be established. Whether it takes one day or one month, it is immaterial. No one should say or do anything to lure me into giving up my fast prematurely. The object should not be to save my life. It should be to save India and her honour. I shall feel happy and proud when I see that India’s place is not lowered as it has become by the recent happenings which I have no wish to recall.
14th January 1948
I have come to the prayer meeting in spite of the doctor’s objections. But from to-morrow I shall probably not be able to walk to the prayer ground. I have the strength to-day and I use it though the doctors have advised me to conserve it. I am in God’s hands. If He wants me to live I shall not die. I do not want my faith in God to weaken.
Before I ever knew anything of 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 realized in this life. The wish for living the full span of life, portrayed by the seers of old and which they permit us to set down at 125 years, will then revive. Who would not risk sacrificing his life for the realization of such a dream? Then we shall have a real Swaraj. Then, though legally and geographically we may still be two states, in daily life no one will think that we were separate states. The vista before me seems to me to be, as it must be to you, too glorious to be true. 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 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. A goal ceases to be one, when it is reached. The nearest approach is always possible. What I have said holds good irrespective of whether others do it or not. It is open to every individual to purify himself or herself so as to render him or her fit for that land of promise. I remember to have read, I forget whether in the Delhi Fort or the Agra Fort, when I visited them in 1896, a verse on one of the gates, which when translated reads: ‘If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.’ That fort with all its magnificence at its best, was no paradise in my estimation.
But 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 Union or in Pakistan, there will be neither paupers nor beggars, nor high or low, neither millionaire employers nor half-starved employees, nor intoxicating drinks or drugs. There will be the same respect for women as vouchsafed to men, and the chastity and 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, 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 everyone who listens to me or reads these lines will forgive me if stretched on my bed and basking in the sun, inhaling life-giving sunshine, I allow myself to indulge in this ecstasy. Let this assure the doubters and sceptics that I have not the slightest desire that the fast should be ended as quickly as possible. It matters little if the ecstatic wishes of a fool like me are never realized and the fast is never broken. I am content to wait as long as it may be necessary, but it will hurt me to think that people have acted merely in order to save me. I claim that God has inspired this fast and it will be broken only when and if He wishes it. No human agency has ever been known to thwart, nor will it ever thwart the Divine Will.
16th January 1948
I did not expect I would be able to speak to you to-day but you will be pleased to learn that if anything, my voice is less feeble to-day than yesterday. I cannot explain it except for the grace of God. I have never felt so well on the fourth day of a fast in the past. If all of you continue to participate in the process of self-purification, I shall probably have the strength to speak to you till the end. I am in no hurry to break the fast. Hurry would spoil matters. I do not want anyone to come and tell me that things have been set right while the process is incomplete. If Delhi becomes peaceful in the real sense of the term, it will have its repercussions all over the country. I have no wish to live unless peace reigns in the two Dominions.
It is never a light matter for any responsible Cabinet to alter a deliberate, settled policy. Yet our Cabinet, responsible in every sense of the term, has with equal deliberation yet promptness un-settled their settled fact. They deserve the warmest thanks from the whole country, from Kashmir to Cape Comorin and from Karachi to the Assam frontier. And I know that all the nations of the earth will proclaim this gesture as one which only a large-hearted Cabinet like ours could rise to. This is no policy of appeasement of the Muslims. This is a policy, if you like, of self-appeasement. No Cabinet worthy of being representative of a large mass of mankind can afford to take any step merely because it is likely to win the hasty applause of an unthinking public. In the midst of insanity, should not our best representatives retain sanity and bravely prevent a wreck of the ship of state under their management? What, then, was the actuating motive? It was my fast. It changed the whole outlook. Without the fast, they could not go beyond what the law permitted and required them to do. But the present gesture on the part of the Government of India is one of unmixed goodwill. It has put the Pakistan Government on its honour. It ought to lead to an honourable settlement not only of the Kashmir question but of all differences between the two Dominions. Friendship should replace the present enmity. Demands of equity supersede the letter of the law. There is a homely maxim of law which has been in practice for centuries in England that when common law seems to fail, equity comes to the rescue. Not long ago there were even separate courts for the administration of law and equity. Considered in this setting, there is no room for questioning the utter justice of this act of the Union Government. If we want a precedent, there is a striking one at our disposal in the form of what is popularly known as the MacDonald Award. That award was really the unanimous judgment of not only the members of the Second Round Table Conference. It was undone overnight as a result of the fast undertaken in the Yeravda prison.
I have been asked to end the fast because of this great act of the Union Government. I wish I could persuade myself to do so. I know that the medical friends who, of their own volition and at considerable sacrifice, meticulously examine me from day to day are getting more and more anxious as the fast is prolonged. Because of defective kidney function they dread not so much my instantaneous collapse as permanent after-effects of any further prolongation. I did not embark upon the fast after consultation with medical men, be they however able. My sole guide, even dictator, was God, the Infallible and Omnipotent. If He has any further use for this frail body of mine, He will keep it in spite of the prognostications of medical men and women. I am in His hands. Therefore, I hope you will believe me when I say that I dread neither death nor permanent injury, even if I survive. But I do feel that this warning of medical friends should, if the country has any use for me, hurry the people up to close their ranks. And like brave men and women, that we ought to be under hard-earned freedom, we should trust even those whom we may suspect as our enemies. Brave people disdain distrust. The letter of my vow will be satisfied if the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs of Delhi bring about a unison, which not even a conflagration around them in all the other parts of India or Pakistan will be strong enough to break. Happily, the people in both the Dominions, seem to have instinctively realized that the fittest answer to the fast should be a complete friendship between the two Dominions, such that members of all communities should be able to go to either Dominion without the slightest fear of molestation. Self-purification demands nothing less. It will be wrong for the rest of the two Dominions to put a heavy strain upon Delhi. After all, the inhabitants of the Union are not superhuman. In the name of the people, our Government has taken a liberal step without counting the cost. What will be Pakistan’s counter gesture? The ways are many if there is the will. Is it there?
17th January 1948
I repeat what I have said before – nothing is to be done under pressure of the fast. I have observed before that things done under pressure of a fast have been undone after the fast is over. If any such thing happens, it would be a tragedy of the highest degree. There is no occasion for it at any time. What a spiritual fast does expect is cleansing of the heart. The cleansing, if it is honest, does not cease to be when the cause which induced it ceases. The cleansing of a wall seen in the form of a whitewash does not cease when the dear one has come and gone. This material cleansing is bound to require renovation after some time. Cleansing of the heart once achieved only dies with one’s death. Apart from this legitimate and laudable pressure, the fast has no other function which can be described as proper.
18th January 1948
I embarked on the fast in the name of Truth whose familiar name is God. Without living Truth God is nowhere. In the name of God we have indulged in lies, massacres of people, without caring whether they were innocent or guilty, men or women, children or infants. We have indulged in abductions, forcible conversions and we have done all this shamelessly. I am not aware if anybody has done these things in the name of Truth. With that same name on my lips I have broken the fast. The agony of our people was unbearable. Rashtrapati Dr. Rajendrababu brought over a hundred people representing the Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, representatives of the Hindu Mahasbha, the Rashtriya Swayam –sevak Sangh and representatives of refugees from the Punjab, the Frontier Province and Sind. In this very representative company were present Zahid Hussainsaheb, the High Commissioner for Pakistan, the Chief Commissioner of Delhi and the Deputy Commissioner, General Shah Nawazkhan, representing the Azad Hind Fouj (I.N.A). Pandit Nehru, sitting like a statue, was of course there, as also Maulanassaheb. Dr. Rajendrababu read a document in Hindustani signed by these representatives, asking me not to put any further strain on them and end the agony by breaking the fast. Telegrams after telegrams have come from Pakistan and the Indian Union urging me to do the same. I could not resist the counsel of all these friends. I could not disbelieve their pledge that come what may, there would be complete friendship between the Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and Jews, a friendship not to be broken. To break that friendship would be to break the nation.
As I write, comforting telegrams are deluging me. How I wish that God will keep me fit enough and sane enough to render the service of humanity that lies in front of me! If the solemn pledge made to-day is fulfilled. I assure you that it will revive with redoubled force my intense wish and prayer before God that I should be enabled to live the full span of life doing service of humanity till the last moment. That span according to learned opinion is at least one hundred and twenty-five years, some say one hundred and thirty-three. The letter of my vow has been fulfilled early, beyond expectation, through the great goodwill of all the citizens of Delhi, including the Hindu Mahasabha leaders and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. The result could not be otherwise when I find that thousands of refugees and others have been fasting since yesterday. Signed assurances of heart friendship have been pouring in upon me from thousands. Telegraphic blessings have come from all over the world. Can there be a better sign of God’s hand in this act of mine? But beyond the letter of fulfillment of my solemn vow lies its spirit without which the letter killeth. The spirit of the vow is sincere friendship between the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs of the Union and a similar friendship in Pakistan. If the first is assured, the second must follow, as sure as day follows night. If there is darkness in the Union, it would be folly to expect light in Pakistan. But if the night in the Union is dispelled beyond the shadow of a doubt, it cannot be otherwise in Pakistan, nor are signs wanting in that direction. Numerous messages have come from Pakistan, not one of dissent. May God, who is Truth, guide us as He has visibly guided us during all these six days.
19th January 1948
In this age of senseless imitation my warning is that it would be foolish for anybody to embark on such a fast expecting identical results in an identically short space of time. If anyone does, he will face severe disappointment and will discredit what is a hoary and infallible institution. Two serve qualifications are necessary – a living faith in God and a felt peremptory call from Him. I am tempted to add a third, but it is superfluous. A peremptory call from God within presupposes the rightness, timeliness, and propriety of the cause for which the fast is taken. It follows that a long previous preparation is required. Let no one, therefore, lightly embark on such a fast.
21st January 1948
I am going to speak about yesterday’s bomb explosion. I have been receiving anxious inquiries and praise for being unruffled at the accident. I thought it was military practice and therefore nothing to worry about. I did not realize until after the prayers that it was a bomb explosion and that the bomb was meant against me. God only knows how I would have behaved in front of a bomb aimed at me and exploding. Therefore, I deserve no praise. I would deserve a certificate only if I fell as a result of such an explosion and yet retained a smile on my face and no malice against the doer. What I want to say is that no one should look down upon the misguided youth who threw the bomb. He probably looks upon me as an enemy of Hinduism. After all, has not the Gita said that whenever there is an evil-minded person damaging religion, God sends someone to put an end to his life? That celebrated verse has a special meaning. The youth should realize that those who differ from him are not necessarily evil. The evil has no life apart from the toleration of good people. No one should believe that he or she is so perfect that he or she was sent by God to punish evil doers, as the accused seems to flatter himself he is.
26th January 1948
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 to-day? 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 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.1
1. Extracts from Delhi Diary (Prayer Speeches from 10.9.47 to 30.1.48), by M. K. Gandhi, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, March 1948. Pp.4, 7-8, 15-16, 22-3, 27-8, 33-4, 40-1, 58-9, 70-1, 101-3, 123-4, 133-5, 168-70, 174-5, 178-9, 193-4, 195-6, 281-2, 289-90, 314, 316, 330-3, 335, 336, 338, 339, 341-3, 348-52, 356-8, 359-60, 365-6, 380-1.