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116. Bad news from Bihar
Fallen upon evil times as we are, we have to be thankful even for small mercies. Everybody heaved a sigh of relief when it was known that the Bakr Id had passed off quietly all over India. But the news from Bihar had set Gandhiji at war with himself. It was in Bihar that mass Satyagraha in India was born. It was in Bihar that his political career in India had practically commenced. And now it was the people of Bihar, for whom he had indefatigably laboured and who had showered upon him such love and affection —Bihar of Brijkishore Babu and Rajendra Babu—that had gone mad and besmirched the fair name of India. He had declared times without number that if the people of India should run amok against the English, they might find him dead. How could he be a witness to the same in regard to innocent Mussalmans who were after all our countrymen, our own kith and kin? "I went on spare, milkless diet, principally for reasons of health soon after coming to Calcutta. The happenings in the country induced me to prolong it. Now Bihar will send me to complete fast if things do not radically mend," he wrote in a letter to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur on Sunday the 4th. "There will be no time limit," he added. "Do not agitate yourself but be really glad that I feel I have the strength to go through the ordeal and live up to my creed." On the following day in a letter to Pandit Jawaharlal he wrote : "The news from Bihar has shaken me. My own duty seems to me to be clear. A deep bond unites me with Bihar. How can I forget that? If even half of what one hears is true, it shows that Bihar has forgotten humanity. To blame it all on the goondas would be an untruth. Although I have striven hard to avert a fast, I can do so no longer.... My inner voice tells me, 'You may not live to be a witness to this senseless slaughter. If people refuse to see what is clear as daylight and pay no heed to what you say, does it not mean that your day is over?' The logic of the argument is driving me irresistibly towards a fast. I, therefore, propose to issue a statement* that unless this orgy of madness ceases, I must go on a fast unto death. The fast may have to be delayed for some time. When you asked me at Delhi about it, I had replied that I was not thinking of it at the time. All that has now changed. You can strive with me, if you think differently. Whatever you say will carry weight with me. But knowing as you do my temperament, I am sure you will approve of my proposed step. In any event you will go on with your work without a moment's thought about my possible death and leave me in God's good care. No worry allowed." But neither Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru nor the Sardar to whom he had caused a copy of the letter to be sent tried to dissuade him. They understood better the magnitude of the stake. It was nothing less than India's independence.
Chaumuhani, 8-11-'46
Harijan, 17-11-1946

* The Statement follows immediately in the present volume under the caption 'To Bihar'.