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Gandhiji Attends The Round Table Conference

"For eight months Gandhiji was in jail, and when he came out, the entire face of the country had changed. Gandhiji had such a hold over the people that the proud and arrogant British were compelled to come to terms with him.

The terms of the agreement required that a Round Table Conference should be held in England in order to discuss the future of India. The Congress nominated Gandhiji as their representative at the Conference. Gandhiji was conscious of the trust which his countrymen had placed in him, and his last words to them before he set sail for England were, 'I give you my solemn word that I shall not betray the trust which you have reposed in me.'

Gandhiji arrived in London on the twelfth of September 1932. The newspapers were full of news about him. Scores of pictures showing various sides of his life appeared in them. One of the papers, however, published a false picture showing him touching the feet of the Prince of Wales. Gandhiji smiled when he saw that picture, and said, "I would most gladly bow my head before the lowliest of my countrymen. I, would even pick up the dust from under the feet of the untouchables whom we have despised and oppressed for centuries past. But I will never touch the feet of the King of England, much less the Prince of Wales.'

The Conference lasted for some time and Gandhiji presented our case with great ability. In one of his speeches he told the Conference, 'I do not in any way wish to belittle the British in India. But I certainly want that England should look upon India as an equal and treat the people of India accordingly.'

Gandhiji Meets King

When the Conference ended, Their Majesties held a reception in honour of the delegates to the Conference. Everyone that went to the reception was dressed in his best suit of clothes, but Gandhiji appeared before the King of England, wearing a Khaddar dhoti, a pair of the plainest sandals, and an ordinary blanket. The simplicity and humility of his dress presented a striking contrast to the glory and pomp of the royal palace."

"Isn't it strange, mother, that even when he went to the royal palace, he should not have put on a proper suit of clothes?"

"You see, Hari, Gandhiji went to England as the spokesman of the poorest men and women of India, and it was right that he should appear like one of them. But the respect that he got did not depend upon his clothes, for the King was very attentive to him and talked to him for a long time.

In England he was the guest of an old friend of his, Miss Muriel Lister, and he continued to follow his daily routine exactly as he used to do in India. He would hold his prayer meetings, morning and evening, and would take long walks everyday. His simplicity and sincerity and warmth left a deep impression on the poorer people of England. In fact, that impression still remains in a very large measure.

Churchill Refuses To Meet Gandhiji

It is customary that when a person visits a new country or town, he calls on the important people of that place. And in accordance with this practice, Gandhiji wanted to call on Mr. Churchill. But Mr. Churchill refused to see him, saying, 'I am not prepared to meet that half-naked fakir of India as long as he does not learn how to dress properly.' Bapu was not upset by Mr. Churchill's rudeness but every Indian felt deeply grieved and angry at this insult to their beloved leader.

Calls Off The Civil Disobedience Movement

Gandhiji returned to India without having been able to bring about any understanding between England and India. On his way back, he stopped in Italy and saw the Italian dictator, Mussolini. He also visited the Pope's palace, the Vatican, and towards the end of December he reached Bombay. The Government had meanwhile resumed its repressive policy. Our leaders - Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and Sardar Patel - had been sent to prison, and no less than ninety thousand men and women were in jail. The British Government were trying every means of crushing the Congress. But their repressive policy had the very opposite effect on the people. They became all the more determined to win freedom for their country. Finally, Gandhiji was arrested and put in jail again. The Government had hoped that with Bapu in jail, the people would lose courage and become disunited. They did not know that the flame of patriotism Gandhiji had lighted burned steadily in every Indian heart, and that it was not possible to put it out by violence. No doubt, people had to face more severe hardships everyday, and Bapu could only show his anger and distress over the sufferings of his countrymen. When he saw no other way of stopping the highhandedness of the Government, he decided to fast unto death. The Government thereupon released him. As soon as Gandhiji came out of the jail, he called off the civil disobedience movement and devoted all his energies to the uplift of the Harijans."

"Why are the untouchables called Harijans, mother?"

"This name was given to them by Bapu. The word, 'Harijan' means the servant of God, and since the so-called untouchables work very hard and are therefore the best servants of God, Bapu preferred to call them Harijans rather than untouchables. Hari, my dear, you can see by this what a kind heart Bapu had!"