One fasts for health's sake under laws governing health or fasts as a penance for a wrong done and felt as such. In these fasts, the fasting one need not believe in Ahimsa. There is, however, a fast which a votary of non-violence sometimes feels impelled to undertake by way of protest against some wrong done by society and this he does when he, as a votary of Ahimsa, has no other remedy left.
Such an occasion
has come my way. When on September 9, I returned to Delhi from
Calcutta, I was to proceed to West Punjab. But that was not to be.
Delhi looked a city of the dead. As I alighted from the train I
observed gloom on every face. I saw that even the Sardar, whom
humour and the joy that humour gives never desert, was no exception
The cause of it I
did not know. He was on the platform to receive me. He lost no time
in giving me the sad news of the disturbances that had taken place
in the metropolis of the Union. At once I saw that I had to be in
Delhi and do or die.
There is apparent
calm brought about by prompt military and police action. But there
is storm within the breast. It may burst forth any day. This I count
as no fulfillment of the vow to "do" which alone can keep me from
death, the incomparable friend. I yearn for hearty friendship
between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. It subsisted between them the
other day. Today it is non-existent. It is a state that no Indian
patriot worthy of the name can contemplate with equanimity.
Though the voice
within has been beckoning for a long time, I have been shutting my
ears to it lest it might be the voice of Satan, otherwise called my
weakness. I never like to feel resourceless; a satyagrahi never
should. Fasting is his last resort in the place of the sword—his or
I have no answer
to return to the Muslim friends who see me from day to day as to
what they should do. My impotence has been gnawing at me of late. It
will go immediately the fast is undertaken. I have been brooding
over it for the last three days. The final conclusion has flashed
upon me and it makes me happy. No man, if he is pure, has anything
more precious to give than his life. I hope and pray that I have
that purity in me to justify the step. I ask you all to bless the
effort and to pray for me and with me.
The fast begins
from the first meal tomorrow (Tuesday). The period is indefinite and
I may drink water with or without salts and sour limes. It will end
when and if I am satisfied that there is a reunion of hearts of all
communities brought about without any outside pressure but from an
awakened sense of duty.
The reward will be
the regaining of India's dwindling prestige and her fast-fading
sovereignty over the heart of Asia and there through the world. I
flatter myself with the belief that the loss of her soul by India
will mean the loss of the hope of the aching, storm-tossed and
hungry world. Let no friend or foe, if there be one, be angry with
me. There are friends who do not believe in the method of the fast
for reclamation of the human mind. They will bear with me and extend
to me the same liberty of action that they claim for themselves.
With God as my
supreme and sole counselor, I felt that I must take the decision
without any other advise. If I have made a mistake and discover it,
I shall have no hesitation in proclaiming it from the house-top and
retracing my faulty step. There is little chance of my making such a
discovery. If there is a clear indication, as I claim there is, of
the Inner Voice, it will not be gainsaid. I plead for all absence of
argument and inevitable endorsement of the step. If the whole of
India responds or at least Delhi does, the fast might be soon ended.
But whether it
ends soon or late or never, let there be no softness in dealing with
what may be termed as a crisis. Critics have regarded some of my
previous fasts as coercive and held that on merits the verdict would
have gone against my stand but for the pressure exercised by the fasts.
What value can an adverse verdict have when the purpose is demonstrably sound? A pure
fast, like duty, is its own reward. I do not embark upon it for the
sake of the result it may bring. I do so because I must. Hence I
urge everybody dispassionately to examine the purpose and let me
die, if I must, in peace which I hope is ensured. Death for me would
be a glorious deliverance rather than that I should be a helpless
witness of the destruction of India, Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam.
That destruction is certain if Pakistan does not ensure equality of
status and security of life and property for all professing the
various faiths of the world and if India copies her. Only then Islam
dies in the two Indias, not in the world. But Hinduism and Sikhism
have no world outside India. Those who differ from me will be
honoured by me for their resistance however implacable. Let my fast
quicken conscience, not deaden it.
Just contemplate the rot that has set in in beloved India and you will rejoice to
think that there is a humble son of hers who is strong enough and
possibly pure enough to take the happy step. If he is neither, he is
a burden on earth. The sooner he disappears and clears the Indian
atmosphere of the burden, the better for him and all concerned.
I would beg of all friends not to rush to Birla House nor try to dissuade me or be
anxious for me. I am in God's hands. Rather they should turn the
searchlight inwards, for this is essentially a testing-time for all
of us. Those who remain at their posts of duty and perform it
diligently and well, now more so than hitherto, will help me and the
cause in every way. The fast is a process of self-purification.