Communal Violence Erupts
"You know, Hari, hatred and ill-will come easier to men than love and good fellowship. And so the foolish, unthinking Hindus and Muslims fell into the trap set by our rulers and forgot Gandhiji's message of love and brotherhood. They started fighting each other, and for the time being, our dream of freedom vanished.
Gandhiji's sorrow knew no, bounds when he saw the Hindus and Muslims fighting and shedding each other's blood. A riot had broken out in Delhi. Mahatmaji went there and decided to go on a fast for twenty-one days. He hoped, with prayer and fasting, to drive away hatred and purify people's hearts.
The first eleven days of the fast passed off well, but on the twelfth day the doctors declared that Gandhiji's life would be in danger unless he broke his fast at once. This news cast a gloom over the entire country. Friends and doctors tried their best to persuade him to give up the fast. That day happened to be his day of silence, and so he just wrote on a piece of paper, 'Trust in God: there is great virtue in prayer.' It was a night of terrible suspense and anxiety. People kept awake and prayed fervently for Gandhiji's life. And Hari, my child, God heard the prayers of the People, and the next morning Gandhiji's condition improved. After twenty-one days he broke his fast, and he looked very cheerful and happy.
It was a memorable day. His friends and companions woke up at four o'clock in the morning for special prayers. The fast was due to be broken at noon. Passages from the Holy Koran were first recited, and then a Christian friend sang a hymn. This was followed by readings from the Gita, and finally, Gandhiji broke his fast with a glass of orange juice. All the important leaders, Hindu as well as Muslim, Motilal Nehru, Chittaranjan Das, Maulana Azad, Maulana Shaukat Ali, Doctor Ansari, Maulana Mohammed Ali, Hakim Ajmal Khan, and Swami Shraddhanand, were present on the occasion and they took a pledge that they would work wholeheartedly for Hindu-Muslim unity. And for a long time, the effect of Gandhiji's fast continued to be felt and differences between the Hindus and the Muslims disappeared.
Gandhiji now found time to turn to the problem of untouchability. The situation in Travancore was very serious. The Brahmins there had denied even the use of certain roads to the untouchables. Gandhiji went there and decided once again to make use of the old weapon of satyagraha. Success was immediate and all the roads were thrown open to the untouchables.
In 1922 there was tension between the peasants of Kheda in Gujarat and the Government. Gandhiji saw that the Government were trying to oppress the peasants, and he sent Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to help them. The Sardar worked with tact and firmness. The Government found themselves in a difficult situation and the peasants won the day.
Unrest was growing apace in India, and the country rang with cries of 'Gandhiji ki jai'.28 People waited eagerly to court imprisonment or lay down their very lives for the sake of their country's freedom.
Tricolour Flag - The Official Flag of Congress
As early as 1921, Gandhiji had adopted the tricolour as the national flag of India; in 1930 the Congress accepted it officially. The saffron on the top stood for bravery, the white in the middle for purity, and the green at the bottom for peace, prosperity and happiness. The spinning wheel in the middle stood for the dignity of labour. Thus the tricolour became a sacred symbol for all classes of Indians, without distinction of caste or creed. And it has since been the duty of every Indian to honour and respect that flag.
I told you, Hari, that the country was restless with the desire to win freedom, but the British were again and again treating our demands with contempt. Gandhiji wanted once more to defy the law and start non-violent civil disobedience. But he was anxious that the law which he should decide to break should be one which meant particular hardship to the common people. And so, after long and careful thinking he chose the Salt Law.
Salt Law Is Broken
For you know, Hari, salt is something which the rich and the poor both need; and anyone can make salt from the seawater or from certain kinds of earth. But the Government had framed laws by which they alone could manufacture salt, and they had also fixed a fairly high rate of tax on its sale. Gandhiji felt that this tax was most unfair, and as it tended to raise the price of salt, it hit the poor people very hard. And so he decided to break the Salt Law. He announced his plan of marching to Dandi, and of breaking the unjust Salt Law there by manufacturing salt himself. Before starting on his famous march, he fasted and prayed, and then, accompanied by seventy-nine chosen companions, he set out on foot from the Sabarmati Ashram. Gandhiji led the procession, and his companions followed him in rows of three. Each one of these satyagrahis29carried a small bundle thrown across the shoulder by a stick. All along the route, men and women flocked to get a darshan30 of Mahatmaji. The streets were sprinkled with water, and flowers and coconuts were laid before him as a mark of the people's faith and esteem. And Gandhiji would stop on the way and make speeches or preach sermons to the people. And thus the march from Ahmedabad to the port of Dandi in Gujarat a distance of two hundred miles, which was begun on March 12, ended on April 5.
On the 6th of April at Dandi, Mahatmaji prepared the first illegal salt. This was a signal to the whole country, which seemed suddenly to be stirred up into new life. At very many places all over India, the Salt Law was peacefully and quietly broken, and salt was manufactured in defiance of the Government. The Government arrested the law-breakers and punished them at once and severely.
Arrested At Midnight
On the fourth of May, at dead of night, armed police surrounded Gandhiji's hut. Gandhiji and his satyagrahis were all fast asleep, when a British Police Officer flashed his torch on Gandhiji's face and asked, *Are you Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi?' Gandhiji, calm and undisturbed, simply said, 'Have you come to take me away? Will you be so good as to wait for a little while? I shall just have a wash and then go with you.' Gandhiji rinsed his mouth and washed, while the Police Officer stood by holding Gandhiji's small bundle in his hands. When Gandhiji had finished washing, he asked for a little more time so that he could say his prayers. And then Gandhiji and all his companions sang hymns and recited prayers. Each one came with folded hands and bowed before Gandhiji. One of the policemen picked up the two small khaddar bags in which Gandhiji's things were packed, and then Gandhiji walked to the police truck, followed by the constables and the police officers. Thus, the police came stealthily and quietly, like guilty criminals, in the dark, and took away our beloved Gandhiji."
"But, mother, why didn't he raise an alarm, so that people could have rushed in and rescued him from the police."
"My son, haven't I told you that Gandhiji never believed in resisting the police or the government by the violent means? That is why he could never think of raising an alarm or calling for help."
28. Victory to Gandhiji.
29. Nonviolent fighters
30. Glimpse of a great personage