The Story of Gandhi
Fearing some disturbance, he had set up some armed guards near and about he camp of Gandhiji, When Gandhiji knew this, he at once issued instructions to remove them. 'God is my guard.' He said.
This made a deep impression on the mind of the brave Pathans. They said, 'Here, at last, is a man who has complete faith in God!'
Gandhiji toured the whole area and delivered there his message of Truth and Non-violence.
At that time in India, there were many princely states. The rulers of these states, backed by the British Government ruled autocratically. The ruler of Rajkot had entered into a certain agreement with Sardar Patel and then backed out. This gave rise to an agitation in Rajkot. Kasturba hailed from Rajkot, so she went there to take part in it. She was at once arrested. Now the movement gained momentum. Gandhiji was not keeping well at the time, yet he went to Rajkot and tried to persuade the ruler to honour the agreement, but the ruler refused. So Gandhiji went on fast unto death. His condition became serious. At last the Viceroy interfered. A new agreement was reached and Gandhiji ended his fast.
But the ruler broke his promise. Not only that, he sent men to break Gandhiji's prayer meetings. However, Gandhiji's fearlessness and patience turned these hooligans into friends. That evening Gandhiji returned to his place with his hands on the shoulders of these gangsters.
In 1939 a war broke out between England and Germany. It turned into a second world war. Britain declared India to be at war on their side.
Gandhiji was against taking part in war, yet the Congress decided to help the Government, if the country was made free. But the Government was totally indifferent towards India's aspirations. So Gandhiji organized Individual Civil Disobedience against the Government. Sri Vinoba Bhave was the first to launch this Satyagraha. Others followed and within a short time, thirty thousand Satyagrahis were in jail. Still Gandhiji was free.
In 1940, Gandhiji and Kasturba paid a visit to the Shantiniketan Ashram of Rabindranath Tagore, the great poet. They were received with great love and devotion. The poet himself offered him `malachandan' and said: `Gandhi Maharaj, you belong to us because you belong to the whole world.'
Gandhiji said: `Gurudev, I have come here to seek your blessings.'
At the time of departure, next day, the poet put a sealed letter in Gandhiji's hands. Gandhiji read it on the way. In it the poet wrote that he put the whole Vishwabharati institution in Gandhiji's hands. Gandhiji sent a reply that he accepted it.
The poet was now free from his anxieties about Vishwabharati.
After independence, the Government of India under instructions from Gandhiji, accepted the responsibility of Vishwabharati.
The world war was no more confined to the West. Japan had jumped in, on Germany's side and swept through Malaya and Burma and might even invade India. Winston Churchill was then the Prime Minister of Britain. He hated Gandhiji and ridiculed him as a `half-naked Fakir'. He had announced that he was not there to liquidate the British Empire by making India free. Yet the war forced him to seek some settlement with India. He sent one of his Cabinet Minister Sir Stafford Cripps to India for negotiations.
Cripps met Gandhiji and showed him his plan. Gandhiji saw through the game. He told him straightway: `If this is what you have to offer, catch the first plane homeward!'
Nobody liked Cripps plan, so he returned.
Now Gandhiji was convinced that the British won't leave unless they were kicked out of the country. He drafted a resolution which is known as `Quit India Resolution'. The Congress Committee met in Bombay, on August 8, 1942, under the Presidentship of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. It passed this resolution and declared that the British rule in India must end at once.
The same day, Gandhiji, addressing a mammoth public meeting said: `I have pledged the Congress and the Congress has pledged herself that she will do or die.'
The Government arrested Gandhiji and other leaders overnight before they could start a mass struggle on non-violent lines. The people were left leaderless. They took up the `Do or Die' mantra. Even those who had no faith in non-violence joined them. There was a great outburst of violence everywhere. The Government let loose a reign of terror. Guns were freely used. The demonstrators were savagely and mercilessly beaten and flogged to create an atmosphere of fear.
In four months, the police opened fire 470 times and the military 68 times. Over 60000 persons were arrested.
Gandhiji was kept in the Aga Khan Palace at Poona, with Kasturba and Mahadev Bhai Desai, his secretary. After a few days, Mahadev Bhai died of a heart attack. Gandhiji was full of sorrow. He said: `This sacrifice will hasten the day of India's deliverance.'
The Government blamed Gandhiji for the widespread violence in the country. They didn't see their own doings and responsibility in it. They said, `Gandhiji had invited violence.' Gandhiji wrote to the Viceroy about this untruth, but he got no reply. At last he began a 21-day fast `as an appeal to God' on February 18, 1943. On the seventh day, Gandhiji's health took a serious turn. The doctors feared that he might die. Many prominent Englishmen appealed to the Government in England to release Gandhiji and save his life, but Churchill bluntly said:`No.'
It was a great ordeal, but Gandhiji survived the fast.
After some time, Kasturba fell ill. Twice she had a heart attack. At last, keeping her head in the lap of Gandhiji she breathed her last at the age of 75 on February 22, 1944. She married Gandhiji when she was thirteen. Gandhiji too was of the same age and was still a student in High school. Sixty two years of their married life now came to an end. She was cremated in the compound of Aga Khan's Palace. Her Samadhi stands there today along with that of Mahadevbhai.
Kasturba had courted jail several times. She presented an ideal of Indian womanhood.
A few weeks later, Gandhiji was seriously ill. Now the Government released him. On May 6, 1944, ended his last imprisonment. On the whole, Gandhiji spent in jail 249 days in South Africa and 2089 days in India.
As soon as he recovered, Gandhiji started his work. All through his life he had worked for Hindu-Muslim unity, yet the same question harassed him still. The Muslim League was the most powerful organisation of the Muslims and Mr. Jinnah was its President. Like Gandhiji, he was also a Gujarati, so Gandhiji wrote him a letter in Gujarati addressing him as `Brother Jinnah' and signing the letter as `your brother Gandhi'. In the letter he said: `Let us meet wherever you wish. Do not regard me as an enemy of Islam or of Indian Muslims. I have always been a servant and friend to you and mankind. Do not disappoint me.'
Thus Gandhiji took the initiative to come to a compromise with Mr. Jinnah. Mr. Jinnah asked Gandhiji to first accept that the Congress represented only the Hindus and the League was the sole representative of the Muslims. Gandhiji pointed out that the fact was otherwise. The Congress represented the whole country. A holy Muslim like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was its President.
Mr. Jinnah further insisted that the Muslims formed a separate nation and as such there should be a separate Muslim state called `Pakistan' cut out of the existing India.
At the end of the second world war Britain went to polls. Defeating Mr. Churchill's party, the labour party came to power and Mr. Atlee became the Prime Minister. He announced to withdraw the British Rule from India and sent in March 1946 a Cabinet Mission to India to study the situation.
At the first opportunity, the Mission contacted Gandhiji, who was staying at the time in the Bhangi Colony of Delhi.
Once a foreign correspondent asked him: `What would you do if you were made a dictator of India for one day?' Gandhiji replied: `I would not accept it in the first place, but if I did become a dictator for one day, I would spend that day in cleaning the hovels of the Harijans in Delhi!' This shows how deep were Gandhiji's feelings for Harijans.
The Cabinet Minister tried to arrive at a solution of the Hindu-Muslim problem. The Congress was willing to adjust, but Mr. Jinnah was adamant. He insisted on the partition of the country.
Now the Viceroy announced the formation of an Interim National Government to replace his Executive Council. But the league refused to join it. So the Viceroy formed the Interim Government on September 2, 1946 with himself as the President and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as the Vice-President.
In protest, the Muslim League had observed a Direct Action Day in August. They called it Jihad. Riots broke out on that day in Calcutta. More than 5000 persons were killed and more than 15000 were injured. This caused a dangerous reaction. After two three months, the Hindus went mad in Calcutta. Then there were widespread communal rioting by Muslims in Noakhali with murder, arson, looting, forced conversions, forced marriages and abduction. There were similar riots in Bihar. Thousands of Muslims were killed and many more thousands were injured. Thus the hatred entered the countryside. It seemed as if the whole country was on the verge of a civil war.
Gandhiji left all work and went to Noakhali. He walked from village to village and house to house carrying his message of peace. The atmosphere of Noakhali was simply poisonous. The Muslims looked upon him with suspicion and distrust. But Gandhiji was fearless. He said: `I would rather die at the hands of an assassin than return from Bengal defeated.'
Amtus Salam was a Muslim lady. She was a staunch follower of Gandhiji. Gandhiji had posted her in a village of Noakhali to strive for peace in the area, but she found the Muslims not cooperative enough. So she went on fast. When Gandhiji went to that village, it was the twenty-fifth day of her fast. The Muslims of the village welcomed Gandhiji and requested him to persuade her to give up her fast. They promised to keep peace and signed a pledge to that effect. Gandhiji accepted their word and warned them that if they failed to keep their pledge, he himself will go on fast. At last Amtus Salam broke her fast by taking orange-juice at Gandhiji's hands. Things were altogether different in that area after that.
Manuben attended to Gandhiji's needs in this march. One day, she suddenly remembered a Dhun she had heard sung in a Vaishnav Temple in Porbandar and she sang it:
"Ishwar Allah Tere nam! Sabko Sanmati de Bhagwan!" [Thy name is Ishwar and Allah. May you grant right understanding to all!]
Gandhiji liked this Dhun (tune) very much. He said to Manuben that it was a sign of God's Power that she was spontaneously inspired to sing that Dhun that day. This Dhun was daily sung thereafter during their pilgrimage. Today it is sung all over India.