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This is 125th year of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth. Mahatma’s contribution to promotion of communal harmony is most significant in modern India. This contribution is neither merely academic nor only as political activist but much more than that he laid down his life for his cause. Also, the Mahatma wrote and spoke profusely on this problem. We can hardly think of any individual in modern India who wrote and spoke on this problem as much as the Mahatma did. His writings and speeches on this problem run into hundreds of pages. Mahatma wrote and spoke on this problem from all possible angles.
It is possible to differ from him in many respects on this issue, but that is different thing. But we can hardly doubt his sincerity. Even his opponents do not doubt it. Also, he and Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad showed convincingly that being religious does not mean being communal. Both of them were profoundly religious and yet as much secular. Mahatma Gandhi and Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad rooted secularism in indigenous religio-cultural practices. For them it was not an alien and western concept. Mahatma Gandhi proudly described himself as being a sanatani Hindu and yet he remained secular.
He was always greatly disturbed whenever communal violence broke out. He did not simply show his annoyance by merely verbally condemning it. He rushed to the site of the massacre and threw himself into it and tried to pursue the culprits to stop ghastly killings. He often undertook fast unto death to bring moral pressure on the killers. Be it Navakhali, be it great killings of Calcutta or killings in Delhi, the Mahatma rushed to the scene to save the situation and did save it.
One can argue that Gandhiji great failure was his inability to stop partition of the country. Well, he may have his share of this failure but it will be quite unfair to blame only the Mahatma for this. The forces leading to partition were too complex and no one individual can be blamed for it. The failure had to be shared by entire leadership of the Congress. No single individual could have stopped the partition. If one gives deep thought to the whole question it will not be to difficult to see that blame goes more on those leaders of the Congress who wee quite anxious to come to power and we all that the Mahatma was not in that game. The historians and scholars of partition have written enough in this respect and we need go into that controversy here.
The centre for Study of Society and secularism thought that it should bring at a selection Mahatma Gandhi’s writings on Communal problem. We have chosen here what was most relevant in today’s context. We hope these selected writings on communalism and communal harmony will be useful to our readers. That will serve our purpose.
Asghar Ali Engineer
Bombay, 30th September 1994