LIFE OF GANDHI 1869-1948
English version, abridged (2hrs 16min)
Traversed by green and fertile hills,... blossoming trees bright with orchard gleams ... and fields of waving corn, ... touched by the golden rays in the East, ... India is bounded on three sides by the palm-clad seashores... chanting to the tune of the ocean-waves.
On the West coast, the sea of Oman splashes against the solid rocks of the city of Porbandar in Saurashtra. Porbandar has been mainly a commercial town. The town was the ancestral home of the Gandhis who belonged to the Vaishnav cult. It was here that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on the morning of October 2, 1869. Uttamchand Gandhi, Mohan's grandfather, was the Diwan of Porbandar. Karamchand Gandhi - Mohan's father - succeeded Uttamchand as Diwan. Karamchand, like his father, was a man of principle, and loved virtue more than wealth.
Mohan's mother, Putlibai, was deeply religious and had a strong personality. She would take the hardest vows without flinching. Her influence, more than any other, moulded the character of Mohan. At the age of six, Mohan was sent to school close to his house. As a student, he was mediocre but punctual. While he was very gentle and playful, he was obstinate. In this small room, his books and his lessons were his sole companions. In the Gandhi family, the Tulsi Ramayana was recited regularly. Mohan was taught by Rambha, his nurse, to repeat the name of Rama, as a remedy for his fear of ghosts. That laid the foundation of his deep devotion to Rama.
Mohan was only seven when his father left the service of the Porbandar State and moved with his family to Rajkot. Karamchand Gandhi was soon appointed the Diwan of the State. Mohan and his brother Karsandas were admitted to the primary school. Once, an itinerant show-man came to their place. One of the pictures he showed was of Shravana carrying his blind parents on a pilgrimage. The picture left, on Mohan's mind, an indelible impression of a son's devotion to his parents. Just about this time, he happened to see the play 'Harishchandra' which inspired him to follow Truth and go through all ordeals for its sake. At the early age of thirteen, Mohan was married to Kasturbai of the same age at Porbandar. Soon he assumed the authority of a husband.
In 1887, Mohandas Gandhi passed the Matriculation Examination from the Ahmedabad center; ... and joined the Samaldas College at Bhavnagar but at the end of the first term, he left the college to proceed to England to study Law. Laxmidas, his brother, arranged for funds to send him abroad. Mother consented only after Mohandas took an oath not to touch wine, women and meat. This oath saved him from many pitfalls in London. At the age of eighteen, he sailed from Bombay on September 4, 1888 despite stiff resistance from caste elders to his going overseas. Mohandas Gandhi joined the Inner Temple to qualify as a Barrister on November 6, 1888. Informing his brother about his admission, he wrote that it filled his heart with joy and that he did not need meat or liquor in spite of bitter cold. He joined the London Vegetarian Society, came in contact with many interesting persons, began his own experiments in dietetics ... and contributed articles on Hindu customs and diet to the society's magazine. Alcohol, he described as an enemy of mankind and a curse of civilization.
Towards the end of 1889, Mohandas read the Bhagawad Gita for the first time in Arnold's translation, "The Song Celestial", along with the original. The verse in the second chapter teaching that renunciation is the highest form of religion impressed him deeply. The Gita gave him the light he needed and opened to him a new way of life. At the instance of a friend, Mohandas read the Bible. He liked the New Testament and the "Sermon On The Mount" went straight to his heart. This reading whetted his appetite for studying the lives of great religious teachers and he acquainted himself with the principal religions of the world. M. K. Gandhi passed his examination with credit and was called to the Bar on June 10, 1891.
His three years' stay in England was eventful as those were the years of great intellectual activity and freedom of thought and speech. The sea was stormy on July 5, when Barrister Mohandas Gandhi landed at Bombay. The joy of home-coming was turned into boundless grief for him. She, whom he was so eager to meet, his beloved mother, had passed away.
To establish legal practice, gain experience of courts and study Indian Law, Barrister Gandhi applied for admission as an advocate to the Bombay High Court.
In April 1893, Gandhi set forth for South Africa to appear in a law-suit on behalf of an Indian firm on a years' contract. After a month's journey, he landed at Durban. The racial discrimination in the society startled him and cut him to the quick. When the "Coolie-Barrister, "as he was called, appeared in the Durban Court, he was ordered to remove his turban. Gandhi felt insulted, demurred and left. The press described him as an "Unwelcome Visitor".
After a year's stay, while about to leave for India, at a farewell party, he learned that the South African Government was to introduce a bill to disfranchise Indians. He said, "The bill is the first nail into our coffin." He took up the cause of his disinherited countrymen. Thus began the long battle against race-prejudice. South Africa became the land of his adoption. Along with his colleagues, Gandhi founded the "Natal Indian Congress" to remove the hardships of the Indians and to promote harmony between them and the Europeans. Then followed years of hard work and organising, with all the force and energy at his command.
The Indians commissioned Gandhi to lay their grievances before public men and public bodies in India. On June 5, 1896, he sailed home carrying great responsibilities at the young age of twenty-six. Gandhi visited the principal centres of political life in India. He met great Indian leaders. Justice Ranade listened to him with attention. The man who could effectively guide him was Sir Phirozshah Mehta who met him as a loving father. Sir Phirozshah seemed to him like the Himalayas. He met Lokmanya Tilak who promised him every help. The Lokmanya, he thought was like the ocean. Gopal Krishna Gokhale invited him to his bosom like the river Ganga.
In response to an urgent cable from Natal, Gandhi left India with Kasturbai on November 28, 1896. On reaching the port of Durban, the ship was put in quarantine because of the white residents' agitation for the repatriation of the Indians. After twenty-three days of quarantine, when Gandhi landed, some European youngsters pelted him with stones, snatched away his turban and kicked him. Even then his heart did not arraign his assailants.
Though he declined to prosecute them, the incident fanned the flame of prejudice against the Indians. In this little house in Durban, a period of introspection dawned in Gandhi's life. He developed a passion for self-help and simplicity. He longed for humanitarian service and worked in a hospital.
On the outbreak of the Boer War between the Dutch settlers and the British in 1899, Gandhi's loyalty to the Empire drove him to side with the British, though his sympathies were with the Boers. He organised an Indian Ambulance Corps and left for the front. They worked under the fire of enemy guns and carried wounded soldiers to hospitals through heat and dust. The humble work of the "Sons of the Empire" was applauded and they were awarded the 'War Medal'.
On the eve of Gandhi's departure for India after six years' stay in South Africa, the Indians bathed him with the nectar of love and presented him with an address and costly gifts. On his return to India in 1901, Gandhi reached Calcutta to pay his first visit to the Indian National Congress, moved a resolution on the conditions of the Indians in South Africa and pleaded for India's active sympathy. There was no limit to insanitation in the Congress camp. He gave the volunteers object lessons in sweeping and scavenging.
Before settling down, Gandhi made an extensive tour of India. To acquaint himself with the hardships of the passenge-s he travelled third-class. Gandhi informed Gokhale that he had opened an office in Bombay. Just when he seemed to be settling down, he received an unexpected cable from South Africa and returned to Natal at the call of his countrymen. Realising that he must remain in Transvaal and fight the battle through, he set up his office in Johannesburg. He was enrolled as an attorney of the Supreme Court. Gandhi felt the need of a journal specially devoted to the cause of the Indians. In June, 1903, the weekly "Indian Opinion" was launched in four languages. Week after week, Gandhi poured out his soul in its columns. Convinced that the life of labour is a life worth living, Gandhi bought a fruit orchard at Phoenix. He formed a nucleus of settlement which led a Spartan life. The colony was self-supporting and the material requirements of life were reduced to a minimum ...
During the Zulu rebellion in 1906 Gandhi was appointed Sergeant-Major in the Indian Stretcher Bearer Corps. He and his men did hard self-sacrificing work, carrying the injured up and down the hills and nursing the wounded Zulu rebels. This mission of mercy eased Gandhi's conscience. Long tracks to the hamlets of the suffering tribesmen afforded ample opportunity to Gandhi for self-analysis. He clearly saw that an aspirant after a life devoted to service must accept poverty as a constant companion and observe celibacy for one cannot follow both the flesh and the spirit. He sealed his 'Brahmacharya' with a vow for life.
On return from the war, Gandhi was dismayed to find that the Transvaal Government had introduced an ordinance compelling all Asians to take out a certificate of registration. Condemning this 'Black Act', Gandhi observed that it was not merely abominable but a crime against humanity. The Indian community was fiercely indignant. On September 11, 1906 Gandhi took the pledge at a mass meeting with God as witness, "I shall die but not submit to the Anti-Asiatic Law". Since that day, Gandhi's Life story has mainly been the history of Satyagraha.
Emphasising the moral basis of the impending struggle, Gandhi gave a signal for the passive resistance movement. Attorney Gandhi, Honorary Secretary of British Indian Association of Transvaal, stood in the dock, considering the role of a political prisoner far more honourable than that of a lawyer.
On January 10, 1908, Gandhi entered the prison gate for the first time for civil disobedience. On reading Socrates, he felt that Indians should learn to live and die like Socrates, the great Satyagrahi. After about a fortnight, the prison gates were opened for Gandhi and his colleagues, consequent upon the Smuts-Gandhi settlement, which proposed the acceptance of voluntary registration by the Indians and the repeal of the Black Act by the Government. True to his pledge to take out the first certificate, Gandhi gave his fingerprints from the sick bed.
General Smuts played foul and did not repeal the Black Act. The Indian community was thrown into a turmoil. The struggle was resumed with a bon-fire of certificates, and the resolve to court wholesale imprisonment was a challenge to the Government. The fearless fighters had full faith in the righteousness of their cause and in God. The movement was in full swing. Gandhi was sentenced to two months' hard labour.
The struggle continued with unabated vigour. The passive resisters showed magnificent courage by seeking imprisonment again and again. On February 25, 1909 Gandhi was reimprisoned.
While on deputation in England, Gandhi acquainted Count Leo Tolstoy who had long been interested in India with the civil disobedience movement in Transvaal which, if successful, was likely to serve as an example to the down-trodden millions in India and the world. In his reply to Gandhi, Tolstoy expressed the liveliest sympathy for the fight between gentleness and brutality, between humility and love on one side and conceit and violence on the other. Rev. Doke's biography of Gandhi gave Tolstoy an opportunity to understand him better. Two months before his death, the Russian sage wrote to Gandhi that non-resistance is nothing else but the discipline of love undeformed by false interpretations. Passive-resistance in Transvaal seemed to him the most fundamental work in which not only the Christians but all the peoples of the world must participate. Gandhi's dream of developing a community of Satyagrahis living a new and simple life in rural surroundings took final shape on a farm near Johannesburg named after Tolstoy.
On the passing of the Immigration Bill, a fresh grievance arose and Gandhi said, "Once more into the breach my friends". In October 1913 hundreds of Indians - men and women with children in their arms, thronged Newcastle to march to Transvaal as a protest against the 3 Pound tax levied on their freedom. They possessed no worldly goods. They had only the sky as their roof but they had great faith in their leader who shared their daily hardships, nursed the sick and fed the hungry. The soldiers of 'Satyagraha' offered prayers and began the epic march in the name of God. Gandhi was arrested three times in four days but the march continued proclaiming the grim tenacity and stern determination of the marchers.
Gandhi was sentenced to twelve months' rigorous imprisonment on four counts. On the triumphant end of the Satyagraha struggle Gandhi observed, "Satyagraha is a priceless weapon and those who wield it are strangers to disappointment or defeat". Gandhi felt that his mission in South Africa was over; he had spent twenty-one years there sharing to the full the joys and sorrows of human experience and had realised his vocation in life.
He sailed for England on July 18, 1914 along with Kasturbai on his way back to India. Gandhi and Kasturbai were given an imposing reception at the quay when they landed at Bombay on January 9, 1915. Gandhi bound himself by a promise to Gokhale not to express any opinion on public questions until he had gained sufficient experience in India ... and proceeded to Kathiawad to meet relatives and friends.
He received a warm welcome. People spontaneously addressed him as Mahatma - the Great Soul. On their arrival at Shantiniketan to meet the Phoenix family, Gandhi and Kasturbai were honoured in the traditional manner. Delighted with the artistic atmosphere of the Ashram, Gandhi hoped that through her oriental culture, India would establish friendly relations with the eastern and the western worlds. But on February 19, it was immersed in grief at the news of Gokhale's sudden death. Gandhi bemoaned "I set out to find a true hero and found only one in India".
Seeking his own hermitage in an atmosphere of renunciation and service, Gandhi founded the Satyagraha Ashram at Kochrab near Ahmedabad on May 25, with twenty-five inmates bound by vows of truth and celibacy, non-violence and non-possession, swadeshi, Khadi and the removal of untouchability.
In 1917, Gandhi found a congenial task in the service of the oppressed peasants on the indigo plantation of Champaran in north Bihar. His arrival for investigation into their grievances roused new hopes in the peasants and they thronged to him to tell their woes. The compulsory growing of indigo was abolished on the recommendation of the Inquiry Committee. The century-old stain of indigo was washed away, ... and the country had its first object lesson in individual civil disobedience.
In the middle of 1917, on the outbreak of the plague in Kochrab village, Gandhi shifted his ashram to the bank of the river Sabarmati. As evening fell, the inmates congregated to pay their respect to the different faiths of the world at the sanctuary. In this community where work was prayer and prayer love, Gandhi's personality was fully reflected.
Gandhi arrived in Bombay for medical treatment as hard work coupled with uncooked food had ruined his health. His refusal to take medicine and the vow not to take milk came in the way of his recovery. He yielded to Kasturbai's suggestion that he should take goats' milk. During the convalescent period at Mani Bhavan, he learnt and practiced spinning and the wheel hummed merrily in his room spinning peace, goodwill and love in every revolution.
On his sick-bed, Gandhi was roused by the publication of the notorious Rowlatt Bills in February, 1919 which sought to crush the civic rights of Indians and to gag the voice of revolt ... A wave of anger greeted the Bills all over India. Describing them as aggravated symptoms of a deepseated disease in the ruling class, Gandhi informed the Viceroy about his desire to offer civil disobedience in protest. In spite of the united opposition of all elected Indian members, on March 18, the black Bills were pushed through and became law.
At Gandhi's call, the country observed April 6 as a day of humiliation and prayer. The country was astir. There was an orgy of arrests and convictions. On Sunday April 13, Brigadier General Dyer marched with his armed force through the tortuous, torried streets and mazy lanes of Amritsar. He entered Jallianwala Bagh in the heart of the city by the narrow entrance with a firm determination "to do all men to death". Debouching from the passage, he ordered the troops to fire upon the seething mass of humanity gathered for a peaceful meeting. The firing continued till the ammunition was exhausted killing 375 and injuring over a thousand helpless men and women. The massacre and the terrible indignity of the martial law inflicting the humiliating punishment of making people crawl on their bellies and the public flogging of innocent victims shocked Gandhi.
When the terror-stricken people indulged in violence it suddenly dawned on him that it was a "Himalayan miscalculation" on his part to have called upon his countrymen to launch the civil disobedience movement prematurely and he suspended the Satyagraha on April 18. The Amritsar Congress, held in December, 1919 under the presidentship of Motilal Nehru, adopted Gandhi's gospel of 'Swaraj through Swadeshi' and his plea for the revival of the age old cottage industries as India's prosperity was founded on the plough and the spinning-wheel.
The slogan "Mahatma Gandhi Ki Jai" began to dominate the Indian political horizon. "The spinning wheel", Gandhi said, "is a national necessity. Not on the clatter of arms but on the reintroduction of the spinning wheel depends the economic and moral regeneration of India
Gandhi identified himself with the Muslims when they launched the Khilafat agitation against the unjust peace-terms imposed on Turkey by Britain. The Khilafat movement adopted Gandhi's doctrine of non-violent non-co-operation as an infallible remedy. In pursuance of the resolve, Gandhi reiterated that non-co-operation would be inaugurated on the first of August.
At 12:40 in the night that very day, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak - Gandhi's strongest bulwark - passed away. Lamenting his death. Gandhi observed, "A giant among men has fallen ... He will go down to the generations yet unborn as the maker of modern India ..." "No man had preached the gospel of Swaraj with the consistency and insistence of the Lokmanya."
Swaraj was very much in the air and in people's thought when in December 1920, the Nagpur session of the Congress unanimously approved Gandhi's resolution on the attainment of Swaraj by legitimate and peaceful means within one year and the constitution as revised by him turning the Congress into a mass organisation. Thus began the Gandhi era in Congress politics.
While touring the country incessantly and tirelessly, Gandhi did not lose sight of India's gravest problem - poverty. "India as a nation" he observed "can live and die only for the spinning wheel And at Gandhi's suggestion, the spinning wheel found a place in the Swaraj-flag with a white, green and red background symbolising peace, purity and the unity of all faiths in India. Thus was born a flag for the non-violent revolt in 1921 representing an ideal to live for and die for.
On July 31, he inaugurated the campaign for the boycott of foreign cloth by kindling an immense bonfire in Bombay not out of racial hatred but as a sign of India's determination to break with the past. To Gandhi the outward fire was a symbol of the inner fire which would burn up all weaknesses of the head and the heart... The bonfire spread all over the land. Gandhi went from village to village and from town to town ...
Here in Madurai, he decided to discard his cap and vest realising that the millions were too poor to replace the discarded foreign clothes. On the morning of September 21, his head was shaved and he wrapped a piece of Khaddar around his loins. Thus he resolutely took to the loin-cloth. Great events seemed imminent.
The revolution seemed to be smouldering everywhere ready to burst into flames when the Indian National Congress met at Ahmedabad in December 1921. The Congress again proclaimed its faith in civil disobedience as a weapon equally effective and more human than armed rebellion and delegated its powers to Gandhi as its sole executive authority.
Gandhi informed the Viceroy that Bardoli Taluka in Gujarat was to be the first unit of non-violent mass revolt, but on February 5, 1922, on the outbreak of violence at Chauri Chaura in the district of Gorakhpur, taking the sins of the people upon himself, Gandhi made a confession "God spoke clearly through Chauri Chaura... mob-violence even in answer to grave provocation is a bad augury..." He suspended the intended mass civil disobedience in Bardoli and imposed on himself a five day fast as a penance. On March 10, when Gandhi was about to retire, the police party arrived in the ashram to arrest him. The Ashram inmates joined in his last prayer and bowed to him. Blessing them, Gandhi took their leave. At noon March 18, the great trial began at Circuit House, Ahmedabad. When a frail, serene indomitable figure entered, the entire court rose in an act of spontaneous homage.
Gandhi was indicted on three seditious articles published in Young India. The first two contained the declaration of fight to the finish and preached disaffection towards the Government. In the third, challenging the power-intoxicated British Empire surviving on the exploitation of the weaker races, Gandhi had argued, "How can there be any compromise whilst the British lion continues to shake his gory claws in our face?" Accused Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, aged 53, describing himself as a farmer and weaver by profession, spoke in his own defence and pleaded guilty to the charge. "I hold it to be a virtue to be disaffected towards a government which, in its totality, has done more harm to India than any other system ... "...I do not ask for mercy. I am to invite and cheerfully submit to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me. The most epic event of modern times ended quickly. Gandhi was sentenced to six years' simple imprisonment.
Gandhi saw that the prison system was almost devoid of humanity. He was kept in solitary confinement. The jail manual was applied to him rigorously. He was subjected to search daily before lock-up. His resistance as a Satyagrahi ceased and obedience was resumed as a prisoner though he respectfully declined to be humiliated. Twenty two months of the prison life had an adverse effect on Gandhi's health. On the night of January 12, 1924, amidst a violent thunderstorm, state prisoner Gandhi was operated upon in the Sassoon Hospital, Poona ... The electric light fused during the operation ... The appendectomy had to be finished by the light of a hurricane lamp. On February 4, the Government remitted the unexpired portion of Gandhi's sentence and released him unconditionally
The thirty-ninth session of the Indian National Congress was held at Belgaum on December 26, 1924, with Gandhi as the President. He induced the Congress to accept the spinning franchise, making labour in the form of a contribution of self-spun yarn, as an alternative to four-anna membership. His concluding remarks were "Satyagraha is search for Truth ... Like Swaraj it is our birth right."
Gandhi regarded untouchability as a fiendish sin. "Anything that is prejudicial to the welfare of the nation is untouchable but no human being can be so. On the expiry of his Presidential term, Gandhi took a vow of a year's political silence and immobility, for he believed that silence was the language of cosmic adoration. The year of silence gave Gandhi's body time to rest.
The peasants of Bardoli Taluka in Gujarat, who were lifted into a mood of sacrifice by the spark of Gandhism, launched a struggle against the oppressive increase of revenue under the guidance of Vallabhbhai Patel, spontaneously called Sardar - the leader.
People, driven by the nationalist spirit that was awakened in the country, greeted the Simon Commission with black flags and angry shouts of "Go Back". The commission was touring India in connection with constitutional reforms.
In an anti-Simon demonstration in Punjab, the veteran leader Lala Lajpat Rai was struck on the chest. He died soon afterwards. Gandhi's tribute was "Men like Lalaji cannot die so long as the sun shines in the Indian sky."
The Calcutta Congress was held in December 1928 under the Presidentship of Motilal Nehru. Representing the younger generation, Jawaharlal Nehru and Subash Chandra Bose opposed the all-parties' report supporting Dominion status. Effecting a compromise, Gandhi moved a resolution that gave a year's grace to the Government for granting Dominion Status and warned, "In the event of its non-acceptance by December 31, 1929 the Congress will declare complete Independence as its goal."
Political tension was mounting. A rude awakening came on April 8, when Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt dropped two bombs in the Central Assembly as a protest on behalf of those who had no other means left to give expression to their heartrending agony.
Gandhi hailed the young President-elect of the Congress, "Jawaharlal is pure as the crystal, he is truthful beyond suspicion…The nation is safe in his hands." The forty-fifth session of the Indian National Congress met on the banks of the Ravi on the outskirts of Lahore. Motilal Nehru handed over charge of the Congress Presidentship to Jawaharlal. Son followed father and declared himself a socialist and a republican.
At the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1929, as the old year yielded place to the new, Gandhi's historic resolution on independence and the action to be taken was passed. The flag of Indian independence was unfurled amidst deafening shouts of 'Inquilab Zindabad'' - long live revolution ... India's cry for independence resounded all over the world ...
To give a start to the campaign, January 26, 1930, was observed as Independence Day. The celebration gave the necessary impetus to Gandhi convincing him that time was ripe for action. He published an eleven-point manifesto stressing that total prohibition, reduction of the land-revenue and the military expenditure and abolition of the salt-tax were the vital needs of the people. "Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life," wrote Gandhi. In a letter to the Viceroy, he announced his intention "If my letter makes no appeal to your heart, on the eleventh day of this month, I shall proceed to disregard the provisions of the salt law."
On receiving a 'no' from the Viceroy, Gandhi exclaimed, "On bended knees I asked for bread and I received stone instead... " Gandhi resolved that he would himself perform the first act of civil disobedience by taking salt illegally from the sea with select Ashram inmates for whom non-violence was an article of faith.
On the eve of the historic salt march, Gandhi touched the tender chords of the people's hearts when he said, "these may be the last words of my life on the sacred banks of the Sabarmati... We have resolved to utilize all our resources in the pursuit of an exclusively non-violent struggle. . .Women can stand shoulder to shoulder with men in this movement." Hoping that the stream of civil resisters would flow unbroken, he gave the instruction, "after I have broken the law wherever possible, civil disobedience of salt laws should be started by manufacturing, purchasing and selling contraband salt."
On March 12, with the coming of daylight, India's soul was awake... More and more eager and throbbing crowds collected. The long awaited hour arrived and he was there. The great march for liberty began. Gandhi started on his 241-mile-long trek from the Ashram to Dandi, a village on the sea-coast along with his chosen band of seventy-eight Ashram inmates, symbols of the national determination with a strong resolve and undaunted look...
The soldiers of freedom marched all along the distance of thirteen miles to Aslali, the first halt. The villagers gave a ceremonial reception to the Satyagrahis on the outskirts of the village. After the day's march through heat and dust, Gandhi and his followers entered the village dharmashala for the night's rest. In the evening the prayer meeting was held in the village. Gandhi explained his mission, "the soldiers of the first batch had burnt their boats the moment the march began" ... He added that he would not return to the Ashram until the salt act was repealed and Swaraj won.
Next morning, the people of Aslali saw Gandhi stride away with his pilgrim band to the next stage in the journey to the sea. Daily, Gandhi tramped about ten miles... On the way he spoke on his familiar themes beseeching the people to abjure alcohol, abandon child-marriage, and when the signal came, to break the salt law ... As the procession marched through village after village, people followed the fortunes of this marching column from day to day and the temperature of the country went up ... Truth was once again on the march ... Never was the wave of patriotism so powerful in the hearts of Indians, as it was on this great occasion ...
The eyes of the world were focussed on Gandhi and on Dandi a small village on the seashore in Gujarat, which was preparing to receive streams of men and women. After a two hundred and forty-one mile long trek lasting for twenty-four days, the pilgrims reached the promised land on the morning of April 5... Sarojini Naidu received Gandhi and his followers on the outskirts of the village... After relaxing for a few hours, he set out to prepare the people for the war against the salt tax that was to begin next morning. He issued a warning. "Those who fear the Government will leave... only those who are prepared for jail-going and for receiving bullets should accompany me tomorrow morning..." The leader and his followers bathed in the sea. After the dip into the sea, walking at a slow pace in solemnity, Gandhi picked up a lump of natural salt on the seashore and the nefarious monopoly was broken ! This was the signal for which the nation had been long waiting... The act performed, India had its cue... It seemed as though a spring had been suddenly released all over the country.
Due to the abounding enthusiasm of the people, this programme spread like a prairie fire... Most striking was the part of women in the national struggle. In the hour of trial they came out in large numbers from the seclusion of their homes and threw themselves into the struggle... Nowhere had a law been more peacefully and yet more defiantly disobeyed ... All honour to the people who were fighting this unequal battle with bravery and a firm determination to go through the brutalities and tortures perpetrated on them ... There were numerous prosecutions, more numerous arrests, far more numerous detentions, forcible seizures of salt and brutal and savage assaults on the people.... and yet there was unbreakable peace everywhere and greater determination to prosecute the campaign. The war against the salt tax continued.
In a mango-grove at Karadi - a village near Dandi, Gandhi set up his camp. He sensed that the time had come for greater acts of rebellion. In a draft letter to the Viceroy, he announced his intention to raid the Dharasana salt depot-"It would be cowardly on my part not to invite you to disclose to the full the leonine paws of authority and to give the victims an opportunity for greater and greater suffering."
At dead of night on May 4, a sudden tramping of feet was heard, disturbing the quiet repose of the camp. A party of armed constables entered Gandhi's shack to arrest him under Regulation XXV of 1827. His message to the nation was "India's self respect is symbolised, as it were, in a handful of salt in the Satyagrahi's hand. Let the fist holding it, therefore, be broken but let there be no voluntary surrender of the salt... I would like our people to make the highest sacrifice of gaining life by losing it... ." The state prisoner was taken to his old quarters in the Yeravada Central Jail and was detained without trial under the most arbitrary law.
Here was India being governed forcibly under an absolute dictatorship... The bureaucracy were for more and more ruthless measures...
The boycott of foreign cloth and picketing of liquorshops was intensified. The peasantry were in fine mettle and the no-tax campaign was started ... The events had given the people confidence in their national strength and stamina ... India was in full revolt... Scores of members resigned from the legislature... The Congress Committees were declared illegal ... the police began mass arrests... The leadership of the campaign passed from one person to another in quick succession, India became a vast prison house and yet the government failed to bend the people. Hundreds laid down their lives at the altar of freedom. It was a gruelling battle and it went on for months ...
With the viceroy's consent, Tej Bahadur Sapru and M. R. Jayakar went to Gandhi in the Yeravada Prison for peace parleys. On Gandhi saying that Congress President Jawaharlal Nehru's must be the final voice, the Nehrus, Motilal and Jawaharlal, were brought to Yeravada from the Naini prison to confer with him. On his unconditional release on January 26, 1931, the anniversary of Independence Day, Gandhi remarked, "I am hankering after peace if it can be had with honour", and hurried to Allahabad, the home of Motilal Nehru, who was mortally ill. Motilal Nehru passed away on February 6. With mingled pride and grief, Gandhi paid his tribute, "The pyre is being dedicated at the altar of the nation."
He came to Delhi for an interview with Lord Irwin and stayed at Dr. Ansari's house. On February 17, the half-naked fakir, as Winston Churchill called Gandhi, went to the Viceroy's House to parley with "the representative of the King Emperor". On his return from the Viceroy's House, he used to explain every point that arose in the discussion to the members of the Working Committee, which was constantly in session ... After eight meetings spread over three weeks, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed on March 5, 1931. The settlement was 'provisional' and 'conditional'. The vital question of the objective of independence remained. .. "It is not wise to say which is the victorious party" remarked Gandhi.
The prison gates opened ... Thousands of civil disobedience prisoners were discharged and welcomed by the people. In the third week of March, Gandhi and his colleagues were given a reception the like of which Bombay had seldom witnessed ... Jawaharlal Nehru exhorted the citizens to keep up the spirit of the Independence pledge and assured them, 'Our ideal is unchanged". Gandhi stressed the importance of compromise. "A new age has now begun ... For full twelve months we have developed a war mentality. Now we have to sing a completely different tune... The Satyagrahi while he is ready to fight must be equally eager for peace. The essential condition of compromise is that there should be nothing humiliating and nothing panicky about it..." He declared that he did not conceive of any Swaraj in which the workers and the peasants had no hand in the administration of the state.
Despite Gandhi's desperate pleading, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were executed on the eve of the Karachi Congress. The Karachi Congress convened under the shadow of Bhagat Singh's execution truly represented the temper of the country at the moment... As Gandhi arrived, the demonstrators greeted him with black flags and shouts of "Down with Gandhism", and "Long live Bhagat Singh". Gandhi received them sweetly and smilingly accepted the black flowers and their indignation completely subsided. The Congress had a strong contingent of "Khudai Khidmatgars"-servants of God. They had played a conspicuous part in the civil disobedience movement in the Frontier Province under the leadership of Abdul Gaffar Khan called Frontier Gandhi. At the Congress, the awakened spirit of the people was very much in evidence .... It adopted a charter of fundamental rights embodying Gandhi's eleven points and a few more introduced by Jawaharlal Nehru enumerating civic liberties, universal adult suffrage, free and compulsory education, and nationalization of key industries and stressed the secular character of the state. Thus, the Congress took a step in the socialist direction to lessen the burden of the poor... . The Congress session marked the pinnacle of Gandhi's popularity and prestige with the people... . The Congress ratified the Gandhi-Irwin agreement and appointed Gandhi as the sole Congress representative at the Round Table Conference.
The colours of the national flag were changed at Gandhi's instance... . White, green and red were replaced by saffron, standing for courage and sacrifice, white for truth and peace, green for faith and strength; the spinning wheel represented the hope of the masses ... . Gandhi reached Bombay on August 29 to catch the boat in time .... A special passport was issued to enable him to "make a dash for London". The Indian plenipotentiary arrived not for waging a battle of diplomacy but for embarking on his mission of asserting the right of the Indian people to be masters of their destiny and cultivating friendship with the world. Accompanying Gandhi were two fellow-delegates, Sarojini Naidu and Madan Mohan Malaviya.
At noon on August 29, the "Rajputana" steamed out.... Jawaharlal Nehru watched the ship that carried the sole representative of one-fifth of the human race to the Arabian sea and the far west... . Gandhi was in the best of spirits during the voyage.... Riding the pitching seas like a veteran mariner, he selected for himself a corner on the second-class deck where he spent most of the day and the whole of the night under the canopy of the starlit sky... . The quaint traveller carried the scantiest of luggage and scrupulously observed his daily routine on board the ship ...
After a weary voyage of 1660 miles, daylight broke over the rock-crested shores of Aden. Gandhi steered the 'Rajputana' into the first port of call. "I hope I do not capsize the boat", he remarked as he turned the wheel ... . A big welcome awaited Gandhi at Aden ... . He arrived at the citizens' meeting to receive an address of welcome and a purse.
In his first public speech outside the Indian subcontinent since 1914, he declared that India did not stand for isolated independence. "One-fifth of the human race, becoming free through non-violence and truth can be a great force of service to the whole of mankind. ... " He extolled the simple way of life associated with the Caliphs and told the Arabs to help solve the Hindu-Muslim problem.
As the ship was gliding through the Suez, messages of welcome from the Egyptians poured in .... On crossing the Egyptian waters, Madam Zaglul Pasha sent the "great leader of great India" her best wishes for the success of the Indian cause. Gandhi had, in his loyal secretary Mahadev Desai an assistant who not merely relieved him of much of his routine work but put his keen intellect and tireless capacity for work at his disposal. Mahadev's devotion to Gandhi was complete and Gandhi's affection for him deep and unbounded.
On the misty cold morning of September 11, S.S. Rajputana anchored at Marseilles. When the "spiritual ambassador of India" alighted on the soil of war-weary Europe, he was hailed with shouts of "Vive la Gandhi".
At Folkstone, on September 12, Britons gathered to greet the "Guest of the nation". Gandhi landed on British soil, with thoughts of the hard task ahead. "I am here to vindicate the honour of India and to uphold truth as I see it, for I believe it is the keystone of life. ... " Gandhi had accepted Muriel Lester's invitation to stay at Kingsley Hall, a centre dedicated to the slums of London .... The members of every section of Bow assembled outside Kingsley Hall to welcome Gandhi .... The Pearly King accompanied by his son and daughter came to pay respects to the distinguished visitor in his domain. Gandhi greeted the costermonger royalties who offered him their best oranges. (Gandhi's voice) "Thank you; why take only one. I take two .... Still ?"
At the Federal Structure Committee of the Round Table Conference, held at St. James's Palace, the voice of resurgent India spoke through Gandhi. "The goal of absolute Independence remains intact". Gandhi stressed the need of adult suffrage and racial equality and advocated an honourable partnership between India and Britain. "The nation that does not control its defence forces and external policy", asserted Gandhi, "is hardly a responsible nation". He struck a note of warning. "A nation of 350 million people needs simply a will of its own to say 'no' and that nation is today learning to say 'no'."
To create greater understanding about India's case, Gandhi spent more time in meeting leading celebrities and visiting interesting places. In this centre of the British textile industry, the Mayor of Darwen welcomed the most uncompromising advocate of the boycott of foreign cloth. Asking the workers not to attribute their miseries to India, Gandhi poured out his heart to them. "I would be a false friend if I were not frank with you". He pointedly asked the operatives, "Do you want Lancashire's prosperity to be built upon the ruin of the Indian artisan? Their spontaneous reaction was, "We know each other now". Gandhi expressed his gratefulness, "I shall treasure the memory of these days to the end of my earthly existence." In a recorded talk Gandhi sought to prove the existence of the benevolent power - God. (His voice) "I do dimly perceive that, whilst everything around me is ever changing, ever dying, there is underlying all that change, a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves and recreates. That informing power or spirit is God ... . For I see that in the midst of death life persists; in the midst of untruth, truth persists; in the midst of darkness, light persists. Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. Faith transcends reason. ... " Being His Majesty's guest, Gandhi felt morally bound to accept the invitation to attend his reception. He went to Buckingham Palace in his usual dress. The Round Table Conference was completely abortive ... Every divisive tendency in India was encouraged. .. The conference concluded on December 1.
Gandhi's twelve-week stay at East London, which afforded him an opportunity to see "the best side of human nature" and lent support to his belief "that at bottom there was neither East nor West", came to an end. (his voice) "Whatever the result of the mission that brought me to London, I know that I shall carry with me the pleasantest memories of my stay in the midst of the poor people of East London." On December 5, 1931, Gandhi left Britain "Without any disappointment". The call from India was peremptory. Gandhi boarded the channel boat to the French coast on the way home leaving behind seeds of goodwill and mutual understanding ...
Gandhi came to Geneva to spend a few days with Romain Rolland - the sage of Villeneuve. At a meeting in Geneva, he pointed out, (his voice) "My speeches at the Round Table Conference are all officially reported. Meanwhile, I must ask you to believe me when I say that I have never made a statement of this description, that the masses of India, if it became necessary, would resort to violence. Call that as you like; it is complete independence that we want."
After five days' stay in Switzerland, Gandhi left for Italy ... During his three days' stay in Rome, he had a packed schedule ... On December 14, Gandhi boarded S.S. Pilsna at Brindisi en route to India ... .
On December 28, two days after the arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi reached the shores of India ... Gandhi was unprepared on landing to find intensified repression and special ordinances in operation ... The truce had been done to death ... The die seemed to be cast ... Bombay staged a magnificent welcome to Gandhi ... Thousands turned out en masse to greet him .... The streets were lined with greatly excited crowds. ... National flags fluttered everywhere and banners and arches adorned the whole of the long route to Mani Bhavan.
Gandhi encamped on the terrace of Mani Bhavan and acquainted himself with the situation. He found things blacker than he had imagined. On receiving a stiff reply from the Viceroy, Gandhi had no choice left but to resort to Civil Disobedience ...
He prepared to go to jail ... . The Government instantly struck back and when the whole nation was asleep, Gandhi was put under arrest at 3 a.m. on Monday January 4-his weekly day of silence in the tent on the terrace of Mani Bhavan ... . After the prayers, he was taken away and was once again interned in the Yeravada Jail "during the pleasure of the Government".
Week after week, news of black repression all over the country trickled in to Gandhi cribbed in the prison yard ... But, as conveyed in his letter to the Secretary of State for India, what filled his mind-above all, was the contemplated separate electorate for the Depressed Classes under the new constitution.
On August 17, 1932, the British Premier's Communal Award confirmed Gandhi's fear of "a perpetual bar sinister", which separated the "untouchables" from the Hindu fold. Gandhi felt impelled by a voice from within to offer resistance with the whole of his being. He informed Ramsay MacDonald that he would fast unto death, from the noon of September 20, if the decision was not abandoned. In a yard of the gaunt, gray prison at Yeravada, the fateful hour approached ... The jail bell struck twelve and with last stroke, Gandhi commenced his vow of extreme self-sacrifice …
"To do away with all those social inequalities between man and man", exhorted Poet Tagore, "let us join the Mahatma in his noble task of removing the burden of ages upon those who have been stigmatized for the accident of thair birth." Irrational curbs cramping national life showed signs of tottering. . .Temples after temples were opened to the "untouchables". What social reformers could not do for decades was thus achieved in a few days.. .
On the fifth day of the fast, the caste Hindus and the Depressed Class leaders in consultation with Gandhi, signed the pact accepting joint electorates. The Yeravada Pact nullified the British Premier's decision. Gandhi broke his fast of six days and five hours.. .
Naming the untouchables as 'Harijans' - God's own people - Gandhi began conducting the weekly 'Harijan', from the prison which brought about a renaissance of faith and hope for millions.. . On July 31, Gandhi disbanded the eighteen-year old Sabarmati Ashram as a gesture of sympathy with those who had lost property in the freedom struggle. He made it over to the Harijan cause and shifted his headquarters to Wardha - the geographical centre of India.
On November 7, 1933, Gandhi started from Wardha on an all-India tour for the uplift of the downtrodden Harijans and to restore equality between man and man ... Gandhi was on the move addressing meetings, opening wells and temples for the Harijans ... Coins and jewellery poured in ... His reaction was, "I want your hearts also with your money. .. " Gandhi's whirlwind Harijan tour of the country ended at Banaras on July 29, 1934.
The outstanding event of the forty-ninth session of the Congress held under the Presidentship of Rajendra Prasad at Abdul Gaffar Nagar, Bombay, was Gandhi's retirement from the Congress for having failed to persuade it to change its creed from "peaceful and legitimate" to "truthful and non-violent" methods. On October 28, 1934, the Congress reiterated its confidence in Gandhi's leadership, while reluctantly accepting his decision ... Gandhi justified his physical severance from the Congress. "For me to dominate the Congress in spite of fundamental differences is almost a species of violence which I must refrain from ... "No leader can give a good account of himself if his lead is not faithfully, ungrudgingly and intelligently followed ... "Henceforward, my interest in the Congress will be confined to watching from a distance, enforcement of principles for which it stands.. . "I would love to serve the Congress in my own humble manner whether I am in or outside it."
Realising that revivification of the villages, which were perpetually exploited, was a necessity if India was to exist and a remedy for its progressive poverty, Gandhi took his abode in the Ashram at Wardha. Distressed at the penetration of the machines in the villages, Gandhi observed, "From time immemorial, the villages of India have been pounding their own paddy... "Unpolished rice and hand-ground whole wheat-flour apart from being nutritious also provide employment in the rural areas.. . "We have suffered the village oilman to be driven to extinction and we eat adulterated oils... we mistake the shadow for the substance preferring bone-white sugar to rich, brown jaggery. ... " His plea was that mechanisation is good where hands are too few... but an evil where there are more hands than are required for the work as is the case in India. . .
The remedy suggested by him was the protection of the village-industries, the village-crafts and the workers behind them from the crushing competition of power-driven machinery.. . Gandhi believed that "If the village perishes, India will perish. .. " Being convinced that the real India dwelt in her villages, Gandhi tramped to Segaon-later called Sevagram-a decadent village five miles from Wardha on June 16, 1936 to attain self-realisation through the service of the village-folk in steadfast faith ... Sevagram Ashram was but an experiment in truth and non-violence. Gandhi lived here with Kasturbai as a villager of his dream. The simple life was his chosen way ...
To promote contact with the villagers, the first village session of the Congress, according to Gandhi's conception, was held at Faizpur under the Presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru in December, 1936... Vast unsophisticated crowds thronged Tilaknagar - the bamboo village... All arrangements were befitting the village life.. . Though Gandhi took no part in the Congress debates, opening the Khadi and Village Industries Exhibition, he said, "It is not enough that one wears khadi if he surrounds himself with videshi - things foreign in everything else... Khadi means the truest swadeshi spirit. "Indian economic independence is not a product of industrialisation but economic uplift of every individual by his or her conscious effort... "Real socialism has been handed down to us by our ancestors who taught, "All land belongs to God". "Like the earth, we of it also belong to God and hence we must feel like one and not create boundary walls.. .
Gandhi realized that in the long run the future depended on the village school. He expounded the theory of education through vocation which would promote the real, disciplined development of the mind by drawing out the best in the child and yet keeping him rooted in the soil with a glorious vision of the future ... He wanted education to be based on village occupations and easily accessible to all.. . Though education was to be based on a craft, Gandhi insisted that the child's intellect and heart were to be trained as much as his hands ...
In February, 1937, on the Congress securing signal success at the polls, Gandhi advised the Congress majorities in seven provinces to form cabinets to hasten the march towards independence.. . " He insisted that "the ministers dare not live in a style and in a manner out of all correspondence with their electors" and exhorted them to eradicate red-tape and to conduct themselves with ability, integrity and impartiality.. . The fifty-first session of the Congress met on the bank of the river Tapti at Haripura in rural surroundings under the stewardship of Subhash Chandra Bose - the youngest President - in February, 1938.
After hoisting the National flag President Bose said, (His voice) ... "Our struggle is no doubt a non-violent struggle ... But even a non-violent struggle demands an army, an organisation and a machinery ... ." "India is going to be free and that we who live to-day are going to play a part in making India free ... ." "There is no power on earth that can keep India in slavery anymore ..." "Let us strive for India's freedom ... Vande Mataram ... . "
At last the long apprehended war between England and Germany broke out... Flouting Indian opinion, the British Government declared India a belligerent country and promulgated ordinances, which affected the Indian people vitally ...
Making a fervent appeal to India to adopt non-violence as her creed and preserve man's dignity, Gandhi wrote, "Defence of India by the present method has been necessary because she is an appendage of Britain. Free India can have no enemy.. . "It is better for India to discard violence altogether even for defending her borders. . . For India to enter into the race for armaments is to court suicide. "With the loss of India to non-violence, the last hope of the world will be gone. .. "
For a while to pass beyond the darkness that enveloped the destiny of the world, Gandhi and Kasturbai visited Shantiniketan at Poet Tagore's invitation in February, 1940... Notwithstanding his ill health, Tagore came to the mango-grove to express his love and reverence for Gandhi ... The Poet welcomed Gandhi as one of their own and as "one belonging to all humanity..."
Events were moving with their own momentum ... Since India was to continue under the imperial domain, positive action became inevitable ... The Congress, at its annual session held at Ramgarh, in March 1940, under the Presidentship of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, placed full responsibility for conducting the civil disobedience campaign on Gandhi. Stressing the need of discipline, Gandhi said, "The essence of Satyagraha is not to shout slogans but to carry out in letter and spirit the word of your chosen general ... "
Reluctant to carry the policy of non-embarassment to the point of self-extinction, Gandhi decided to launch individual Satyagraha as a moral protest against war.. . He chose to keep himself out and selected Vinoba Bhave as the first Satyagrahi to preach publicly non-co-operation in the war-effort.. . The theatre of the war came nearer India.. . Civil disobedience prisoners were set free in December, 1941...
The nearness of war became a challenge to Gandhi and a test of faith ... He resumed the weeklies to disseminate his view that "all war is immoral". Just then, Sir Stafford Cripps came to India with the proposals of the British War Cabinet on self-government for discussion with representative Indians.. . On March 27, Gandhi arrived in New Delhi as Cripps was anxious to meet him ... Strongly disapproving the indefinite and innumerable partitions involved in the proposals, Gandhi asked, "Why did you come if this is what you have to offer?" Characterizing the offer as a "post-dated cheque", Gandhi soon left for Sevagram.. . The proposals were rejected by every single party and group in India. The Cripps Mission failed. The prospect of freedom receded into some dim and distant future.. .
Inaction at the critical stage became intolerable for Gandhi who was convinced that India's real safety lay in orderly and timely British withdrawal.. . Expressing the prevailing mood of the people, Gandhi urged passionately, "Leave India to God and if that be too much, leave her to anarchy..." India stood in peril of invasion ... The Quit India campaign began to take shape in Gandhi's mind ...
Accepting Gandhi's view that India's bondage enfeebled her for her own defence, the Congress Working Committee proclaimed to the country that British rule in India must end ... Only the glow of freedom would enable the people's united will to resist aggression ... The leaders assembled in Bombay on the eve of the All India Congress Committee meeting which had been summoned to endorse the Quit India Resolution ...
On August 7, 1942, the sullen passivity of the people was converted into a spirit of non-submission and resistance... They assembled at the Gowalia Tank maidan and awaited the final call for India's deliverance ... Opening the proceedings of the historic session, President Azad explained that the Quit India proposal meant, "Withdraw as masters" and pointed out, "power when it comes, will belong to the whole people of India, .. " Moving the Quit India Resolution, Jawaharlal Nehru affirmed that its conception was not narrow nationalism and in no sense a threat but an offer of co-operation of a free India ... Seconding the resolution, Sardar Patel declared, "To rouse the people to a supreme effort, it must dawn on them that this is a people's war..." Amid deafening applause, the Quit India Resolution representing the voice of the oppressed people was carried with overwhelming majority, only thirteen voting against... Outlining his plan of action, Gandhi spoke for two hours. He declared that he would try for an honourable settlement before commencing the actual struggle ... Concluding Gandhi said, "Here is a dictum for the non-violent soldier of freedom - Do or Die'."
A few hours later in the early morning of August 9, Gandhi was removed from the scene of action and immured along with his party behind the barbed wire isolation of the Aga Khan Palace Detention Camp at Poona ...
Members of the Working Committee were picked off and detained in the Fort of Chand Bibi at Ahmednagar... India's national pride rose in revolt. . Patriotic urge to action moved the people ... It was a spontaneous mass upheaval ... The temper of the people rose and so did the temper of the alien Government ...
Six days after the internment, Gandhi's Secretary, Mahadev Desai, died suddenly in detention. He served his Master to the last.. . In detention, Gandhi spent some time teaching his seventy four year old wife ... But it did not last long... Kasturbai's health deteriorated fast ... She died as a prisoner on February 22, 1944 ... Thus ended the sixty-two year old companionship of Gandhi and Kasturbai ... Gandhi's constant companion in all his life's struggle was cremated under his very eyes.. .
On May 6, 1944, India heaved a sigh of relief on Gandhi's sudden and unconditional release on medical grounds... On May 11, Gandhi once again arrived at Juhu to sojourn at Gandhi Gram and entered on a fortnight's silence to ensure uninterrupted rest.
Every evening, people of all shades crowded on the beach to attend Gandhi's congregational prayer which he considered to be the greatest binding force maintaining the oneness of the human family.. . (Prayer Music)
At a special request, Gandhi gave autographs in ten scripts-Devnagri, Roman, Gujarati, Persian, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Telugu, Bengali, and Oriya ... ''If only I had the time", he remarked, "I have energy enough to learn more Indian languages..."
He went to Jinnah's house on September 9, 1944 "as a seeker of light for establishing living peace... The eighteen day-talks never converged but ran a parallel course and broke down. The cleavage was on the cardinal issue of the two-nation theory.. . Gandhi had no sense of disappointment or despondency though the talks did not prove fruitful.. .
On Gandhi's 75th birthday, Sevagram Ashram bore a festive appearance ... Greetings poured in on October 2, from all over the world ... Albert Einstein asserted, "Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth. ... "
In August 1945, the horror of the Atom Bomb was loosed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ... The Second World War was over.. . Drawing a moral from the supreme tragedy of the atom-bomb, Gandhi reiterated his faith in nonviolence. "The atom-bomb has deadened the finest feeling that has sustained mankind for ages. It will not be destroyed by counter-bombs even as violence cannot be by counter-violence".
In December 1945, when the country was busy preparing for the general elections, Gandhi set out on his tour of Bengal, ravaged by famine and cyclone. His mind was filled with the grim spectre. People crowded the canal bank to narrate their tales of woes to Gandhi ... He prescribed to them the spinning-wheel, the symbol of the constructive programme, as a panacea.
Gandhi arrived at Madras in January 1946 to attend the silver jubilee celebrations of the Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha. He presided over its convocation and distributed certificates to successful candidates. . . He observed, "It is your dharma to learn Hindustani for the sake of India's swaraj and for the good and welfare of the people of India..."
A special train carried Gandhi to Madurai ... He was on a pilgrimage in the cause of untouchability ... On February 3, Gandhi visited the ancient Meenakshi temple at Madurai which was thrown open to the untouchables as a result of his long crusade against untouchability ... He was glad that the desire which he had entertained for years was fulfilled at last.. .
The British Labour Government's delegation consisting of Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. A. V. Alexander arrived in India in March, 1946 to discuss terms for the transfer of power. The Cabinet Mission began its work by interviewing leading representatives of the main political parties. Interviews followed interviews to arrive at the greatest common measure of agreement among the different parties ... Gandhi came to Delhi to meet the British Delegation at the request of Lord Pethick-Lawrence, and lived at the sweepers' slum ...
Gandhi remained in touch with the Mission during the progress of the constitutional negotiation. Simla was fixed as the venue for further talks. Abul Kalam Azad ... Jawaharlal Nehru ... Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan ... and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel arrived in the first week of May to represent the Congress viewpoint in the conference. Gandhi accepted the delicate role of adviser to the Cabinet Mission and came to Simla having full faith in the Mission's intention ...
The pourparlers continued at the Viceregal Lodge but the conference could not achieve an agreement between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League and broke up on May 12.. . After the failure of the Simla Conference, the Cabinet Mission set forth its own plan on May 16, rejecting the partition of India on defence, economic and administrative grounds.. . As the crux of the solution, they recommended a united India and the setting up of an Interim Government to be followed by the Constituent Assembly ...
Gandhi compared the Mission's plan to a promissory note ... Despite some vital defects, he saw in it the germs of the realisation of his ideal of 'a land without sorrow and suffering' provided it was genuine and appealed to the people to think of the country and not of their petty selves, groups or communities ...
A call by the Muslim League to observe August 16, 1946 as "Direct Action Day" to protest against the proposed formation of the Interim Government let loose an orgy of violence at Calcutta ... Madness seized a section of humanity which killed, maimed, and burnt... The fury spread burning its way into Noakhali and Tripura - rural areas of East Bengal.. .
Gandhi explained their duty to the Ashram inmates. "We should have rushed into the blaze and offered the purest sacrifice to quench the flames of the conflagration." With these words he took their leave and left for Delhi .
After prolonged controversy, the Interim Government came into being with Jawaharlal Nehru as the de facto Prime Minister on September 2, 1946.. .
Pouring out his soul's agony over the dark happenings in the country, Gandhi bemoaned, "The springs of life in India appear to be dry today.. . "The cry of blood for blood is barbarous.. . "Independence of India is today at stake in Bengal and Bihar... Unless I can stem the violence, life has no attraction for me. .. "
The cry of outraged womanhood called him to Bengal and he came to wipe their tears and put heart into them ... Gandhi was on the way to Noakhali "in search of the divine in the maddened man ... . " The pilgrim of peace arrived in Noakhali to venture in faith ... In Gandhi's presence fear fled and the hold of fanatical terror loosened ... Noakhali became to him the nodal point governing the future course of events for the whole of India ...
On December 27, Jawaharlal Nehru came to Shrirampur, to seek Gandhi's advice on important political matters ... During Nehru's sojourn, Gandhi explained to him the technique of non-violence he was pursuing in Noakhali ... Getting fresh inspiration from Gandhi, Nehru remarked, "I feel a little younger and stronger after meeting this young man of seventy-seven".
Tireless in his pursuit of communal harmony, the pilgrim progressed making his way through the inaccessible delta of the Ganga ... (Bhajan: "Ekla Chalo") If they answer not thy call, walk alone If they do not hold up the light when the night is troubled with storm, with the thunder-flame of pain, ignite thine own heart and let it burn alone ...
While Gandhi's mind was full of the dark implications of the madness which had wrought desolation and destruction in Bihar, he received an invitation from Lord Mountbatten, the new Viceroy of India, to meet him. . .
Gandhi soon arrived in New Delhi and lived amidst the sweepers' slums.. . In the Viceregal gardens, he met Lord and Lady Mountbatten ... The Viceroy declared that his mission was to transfer power to Indian hands.. . Gandhi made it clear that he was opposed to any division of India ...
The Purana Qila in Delhi was stirred into new life when the Inter-Asian Relations Conference held its first session here in the last week of March 1947.. . It was an impressive gathering symbolising the political renaissance of Asia bringing together nearly 250 delegates from twenty-two Asian countries ...
Sarojini Naidu welcomed Gandhi to the conference (her voice) ". .. And now I am going to request the Father of our Nation, the apostle of love and truth and non-violence to give us benediction. .. " (Gandhi's voice). .. "Madam President and Friends, West is today pining for wisdom ... West today is despairing of multiplication of atom bombs, because a multiplication of atom bombs means utter destruction, not merely of the West, but it will be destruction of the world ... If you want to give a message again to the West, it must be a message of love, it must be a message of truth. .. " The impending division of India was a deep source of agony to Gandhi's tormented soul. Ploughing his lonely furrow, he mused in a low tone, "Let posterity know that Gandhi was not a party to India's vivisection."
On June 3, Mountbatten secured the consent of the Congress and the League leaders to the British Government plan of setting up two independent Dominions on August 15, 1947.. . The Congress Working Committee disliked the partition of India but it "could not let India bleed continuously" and accepted the plan ... Gandhi was steadfastly opposed to the division of India and yet he urged the members to support the decision with full faith in their leaders.. . The Working Committee resolution was adopted, 157 voting for and 29 against.. .
India was moving into a new orbit out of subjection.. . The Constituent Assembly adopted the banner under which the struggle for freedom had been fought.. . The spinning wheel was replaced by the evermoving wheel of the Divine Law of Love symbolising the dynamism and permanence of Indian culture... While the work of partition was proceeding at break-neck speed, Gandhi was in Calcutta dispelling hate with love. The midnight of August 14, 1947 symbolised the rebirth of a nation after the slumber of centuries and a long struggle for self-determination ...
The Constituent Assembly paid a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, the architect of Indian freedom, and assumed power for the governance of India ... Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister, said with moving eloquence, (his voice). .. "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge ... At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom ...
On August 15, the appointed day, people gathered to welcome the dawn of a new age and witnessed the peaceful transfer of power.. . Lord Mountbatten became the first Governor-General of the Dominion by the will of the sovereign people of India... After hoisting the national flag, the first servant of the Indian people addressed from the ramparts of the Red Fort the half a million gathered below. "On this day our first thoughts go to the Father of our nation, who held aloft the torch of freedom and lighted up the darkness that surrounded us..."
The rumblings of communal frenzy could be heard in the distance... A vast region was churning with hate ... Minorities were tyrannised and persecuted. .. Millions of men, women and children uprooted from their settled homes and cut off from their old moorings migrated on dimension unprecedented in recorded history and trekked their way to safety.
In October 1947, events took a grave turn.. . On the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir delaying its decision about accession to either the Dominion of India or Pakistan, freebooters from the North West and Punjab invaded the State with the connivance and material support of the Pakistan Government to force accession by the sword ... The raiders, well armed and well equipped, sacked and looted towns and villages, put many inhabitants to death and spread a reign of terror.. . On October 26, the State acceded to the Indian Union with the express consent of the people and sought military aid against the wanton aggression ... Indian troops were flown in and stemmed the tide of invasion ...
Communal harmony and the secular state were in great jeopardy... Out of the depths of anguish came the decision to fast unto death to purge the city of Delhi of the communal virus and lay his head on God's lap ... He gave vent to his feeling. ''Death for me would be a glorious deliverance rather than that I should be a helpless witness to the destruction of India. .. " As the leaden hours crept by and drop by drop strength ebbed out of the frail body on the fasting bed, a deep heart-searching set in amongst all concerned... The fast terminated with the reunion of hearts of all communities brought about by an awakened sense of duty on January 18.. . Though feeble yet vibrant, Gandhi continued his after-prayer talk ... (his voice and the sound of the bomb explosion)
The explosion was from a bomb thrown by a Hindu refugee to kill Gandhi ... Gandhi remained unruffled ... (his voice "Listen ! Listen ! Listen everybody... ") Relying on God, he refused to accept any kind of human protection ...
Discussing the question of the reconstitution of provinces on a linguistic basis, Gandhi observed, "Cultural autonomy had been our watchword ... But such re-distribution should not militate against the organic unity of India ... Autonomy did not and should not mean disruption. .. " Giving a moral orientation to the Indian National Congress, Gandhi suggested in a draft constitution that it should transform itself into a ... Lok Sevak Sangh striving for the social, economic and moral independence of the country in terms of its seven hundred thousand villages ...
On Friday, January 30, Gandhi asked for pending letters, "I must reply to them today, for tomorrow I may never be. .. " During his conversation with Sardar Patel at 4-30 Gandhi had his usual evening meal.. . It was getting near prayer time. .. "I hate being late," Gandhi averred, and rose to go to the prayer ground... At the sunset-hour, with thoughts of prayer in his mind, Gandhi walked along to seek communion with God who had illumined his path all through life till his progress was interrupted ...
The perverse assassin of the ages came with his unholy design and accomplished the foul deed. (three shots fired) Nathuram Godse lodged hot lead in the soft flesh of the man who had known no enemy.. .
Choked with emotion, Jawaharlal Nehru said, (his voice) ... ... The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere. .. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more ... The light has gone out, I said, and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that illumined this country for these many years, will illumine this country for many more years... '
The United Nations Organization lowered its flag.. . People of all races felt as one human-family in mourning ... This man of divine mission laid down his life for the reconciliation of all men in brotherhood and love, became enshrined in millions and millions of hearts.. . and shone like a beacon for the whole world ... He was perhaps the greatest symbol of the India of the past and of the India of the future... He was the Victorious One in death as in life ... His legacy is courage, his banner truth, his weapon love... The best prayer that can be offered is to obey the mandates of the Master and to follow the path for which he lived and died ...
On January 31, as the setting sun looked on with a red glance, Gandhi's body was laid on a sandal wood pyre at Rajghat.. . A tiny flame was kindling in each of those million hearts ... (Raghupati Raghav Rajaram)