On 31 August,1947, in Calcutta(now Kolkata) a Hindu youth was attacked by Muslims. Retaliatory violence followed and spread. By dusk on 1 September more than 50 people lay dead. That night, Gandhi who was 77 with deteriorating health decided to go on a fast. “But how can you fast against the goondas(hooligans)?”, asked one of his friends.
Gandhi’s answer was as follows: “I know I shall be able to tackle the violence in Punjab too if I can control Calcutta. But if I falter now, the conflagration may spread and soon. I can see clearly, two or three(foreign) powers will be upon us and this will end our short-lived dream of independence.”
“But if you die the conflagration will be worse,” replied the friend.
“At least I wont be there to witness it,” said Gandhi. “I shall have done my bit”.
Gandhi, a man and an ideal, for the nation at the time, began his fast on September 2, 1947. By the next day Hindu and Muslim goondas were coming to him and laying down their arms. Mixed processions for communal harmony took place. A deputation of prominent politicians representing Congress, Muslim League and the locally influential Hindu Mahasaba assured Gandhi that there would be no further rioting. The Mahatma now broke his fast, which had lasted three days.
The peace held, prompting Lord Mountbatten to remark furiously that one unarmed man had been more effective than 50,00 troops in Punjab.
And when Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by the saffron obsessed ignoramus, Nobel winner and Oscar award winner George Bernard Shaw wrote, “It shows you how dangerous it is to be good.”
Before writing any further, I must admit that the above anecdotes is borrowed from the scholarly work of Ramachandra Guha titled “India after Gandhi”.
On a day when the bush medium is buzzing about the greatness of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his follies, there is a tendency to forget the struggles of a man who bartered freedom from the fathers of colonialism to a nation of 33 million people.
Winston Churchill one of the most famous prime ministers of Britain said, “It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the king-emperor.” Though the statements reflects poorly on Churchill even after 82 years of his utterance, it is a testament to the non-violent battles of a man, who enjoyed not more than six months of independence.
In this six months of complete anarchy in the nation due to widespread revolts with blood flowing on both sides of the Radcliffe line, Gandhi was fighting for peace. It is indeed sad to note that a part of the population of our nation has been actively involved in defaming him for the ‘mistakes’ he has committed, despite the countless lives that was saved due to his acclaimed method of ‘non-violence’ during the freedom struggle.
Yes, there will always be difference of opinion about the effectiveness of one’s method. There will also be conspiracy theories about a man who is esteemed all across the globe. There will also be accusations of displaying ‘bias’ to a particular section of the population. In our secular, socialist, democratic republic we will be forgiven for calling Gandhi names.
On an ending note, to mark the greatness of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee declined to award a Nobel peace prize in the year 1948 on the ground that “there was no suitable living candidate.” On 15 June 2007, United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution declaring October 2, as “The International Day for Non-Violence.”
To a country which is threatening to tear itself into pieces on the lines of religion, language and other ideologies, it is time to pause and look at the messages of peace, harmony, non-violence and concern for the down-trodden. For a population of 1.2 billion peace, harmony and others might be hard to achieve. But, it will depend on whom we learn our lessons from. Will we learn our lessons from a few ‘doctors’ who never miss an opportunity to agitate the fleeting peace in the region, or from a man, who was a victim of such agitation.
Here is how Albert Einstein, probably the greatest scientist of the 20th century responded to the news of Gandhi’s assassination. He said, “Everyone concerned in the better future of mankind must be deeply moved by the tragic death of Mahatma Gandhi. He died as the victim of his own principles, the principle of nonviolence. He died because in time of disorder and general irritation in his country, he refused armed protection for himself. It was his unshakable belief that the use of force is an evil in itself, that therefore it must be avoided by those who are striving for supreme justice to his belief. With his belief in his heart and mind, he has led a great nation on to its liberation. He has demonstrated that a powerful human following can be assembled no only through the cunning game of the usual political manoeuvres and trickeries but through the cogent example of morally superior conduct of life.”
At last, “Hey Ram”.
Author: Akram Mohammed