The war for the independence of the country was being fought from outside, under the command of Netaji Subhashchandra Bose. I was an ordinary soldier in his army. We faced the British force with weapons but could not succeed in the battlefield.
After I was released from the Red Fort, I got
an opportunity to stay with Gandhiji for more than a year... I watched him
very closely. I experienced that he staunchly practiced his principles of
truth and nonviolence, all his life. He firmly believed that to gain
something noble, the efforts made for achieving it should also be noble and
honest. He would dare risk anything for his principles. He would fearlessly
raise his voice against violence and tyranny, anywhere. In Noakhali, he went
to every place which was outraged.
He visited to village after village. He
witnessed the signs of monsterous acts wherever he went. He saw villages
engulfed by fire and the frightened people who had lost everything. Looking
at them one could discern their doubts about the security of their future,
but a glance at Gandhiji’s countenance would revive a smile on their
aggrieved faces. They would say unhesitantly that Bapu will put everything
right. Nobody can harm us now. Fearlessness would surround them. I had
watched the same thing happening in Bihar too. I feel that they would not
have felt so secure even if the biggest of the forces was sent to defend
them. Gandhiji’s arrival assured them totally.
I always wondered where did his strength come
from? How did he encourage those devastated and suppressed people to be
brave? How could he face the tyrant army alone and overcome it too? No doubt
it was the power of truth and non-violence, which the tyranny, injustice and
violence could not stand. Wherever he went, he would ask people to be brave.
The bravery helped the people get rid of the
fear of death forever. I have seen the soldiers being brave in the
battlefield, but this was a different kind of bravery Mahatmaji was teaching
them. He asked the people not to be afraid of death while facing the tyranny
and injustice and to refrain from killing anyone. This was the supreme kind
of bravery, I suppose.
I vividly remember that day in January 1948.
He had set about an indefinite fast to put an end to the brutality and
violence going on at Delhi. One day, I called on him with some of my
friends. He seemed in a joyous mood. Smiling at us, he said, “I am very
happy today, because even now I am struggling against injustice and tyranny.
I haven’t given up yet.” His condition became critical on the fourth day of
the fast. The doctors Warned that if he didn’t give up the fast within
twelve hours, it would be fatal for him. This panicked the people around him
and they started convincing him to give up the fast. He sent for me in the
evening and said, “Shahnawaz, you are Netaji’s soldier. You have been
associated with me for more than a year now. Don’t cheat, tell me sincerely
has the injustice and cruelty going on in Delhi stopped? I said, “No. The
people outside are shouting slogans, ‘let Gandhi die’.” There came a smile
on his face as soon as I said this. The words he uttered then were simply
great. He said, “If Gandhi’s principles die, consider him dead although
alive, but if his principles remain alive after his death, be sure that
Gandhi will live forever!!!