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39. The Words Will Resound Forever
The war for the independence of the country was being fought from outside, under the command of Netaji Subhashchandra Bose. I was an ordinary soldier in his army. We faced the British force with weapons but could not succeed in the battlefield.
After I was released from the Red Fort, I got an opportunity to stay with Gandhiji for more than a year... I watched him very closely. I experienced that he staunchly practiced his principles of truth and nonviolence, all his life. He firmly believed that to gain something noble, the efforts made for achieving it should also be noble and honest. He would dare risk anything for his principles. He would fearlessly raise his voice against violence and tyranny, anywhere. In Noakhali, he went to every place which was outraged.
He visited to village after village. He witnessed the signs of monsterous acts wherever he went. He saw villages engulfed by fire and the frightened people who had lost everything. Looking at them one could discern their doubts about the security of their future, but a glance at Gandhiji’s countenance would revive a smile on their aggrieved faces. They would say unhesitantly that Bapu will put everything right. Nobody can harm us now. Fearlessness would surround them. I had watched the same thing happening in Bihar too. I feel that they would not have felt so secure even if the biggest of the forces was sent to defend them. Gandhiji’s arrival assured them totally.
I always wondered where did his strength come from? How did he encourage those devastated and suppressed people to be brave? How could he face the tyrant army alone and overcome it too? No doubt it was the power of truth and non-violence, which the tyranny, injustice and violence could not stand. Wherever he went, he would ask people to be brave.
The bravery helped the people get rid of the fear of death forever. I have seen the soldiers being brave in the battlefield, but this was a different kind of bravery Mahatmaji was teaching them. He asked the people not to be afraid of death while facing the tyranny and injustice and to refrain from killing anyone. This was the supreme kind of bravery, I suppose.
I vividly remember that day in January 1948. He had set about an indefinite fast to put an end to the brutality and violence going on at Delhi. One day, I called on him with some of my friends. He seemed in a joyous mood. Smiling at us, he said, “I am very happy today, because even now I am struggling against injustice and tyranny. I haven’t given up yet.” His condition became critical on the fourth day of the fast. The doctors Warned that if he didn’t give up the fast within twelve hours, it would be fatal for him. This panicked the people around him and they started convincing him to give up the fast. He sent for me in the evening and said, “Shahnawaz, you are Netaji’s soldier. You have been associated with me for more than a year now. Don’t cheat, tell me sincerely has the injustice and cruelty going on in Delhi stopped? I said, “No. The people outside are shouting slogans, ‘let Gandhi die’.” There came a smile on his face as soon as I said this. The words he uttered then were simply great. He said, “If Gandhi’s principles die, consider him dead although alive, but if his principles remain alive after his death, be sure that Gandhi will live forever!!!