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Tuesday, 13th January, 1948.

Fasting his last resort

Well did the Mahatma understand that in a nascent democracy miracles of responsibility by one and all could not at once and automatically be seen. He pointed out in a letter to a correspondent, ``The first days of democracy show discordant notes which will jar on the ear, and give you many headaches. If democracy is to live in spite of such discordant notes, a sweet concord has to rise out of the discordance. Discordance, too, is a necessary lesson.

Yet he could not help feeling dismay and horror at even Congressmen in many parts of the country lapsing - like Lucifer falling from heaven - into the worst conditions of irresponsible behaviour and defiance of constituted authority. This disappointment of his was shared by many people in the country who too maintained and cherished high values of social conduct. In his evening prayer meeting on Sunday, Bapu had referred to letters written to him by two such exemplars, and said, ''Both say that, after August 15, all fear has gone from peoples minds. The British, who were feared, are gone. There is no fear of punishment, or fear of God in people''s minds now. Those of robust health do nothing but what will further their own self-interest. Feeling free, they lose all self-control! One of the correspondents bewails the fact that all the sacrifices undertaken to make India free have brought us to this pass.

He says, ''The larger the number of people we return to the Legislative Assemblies, the greater the amount there is of filth. My correspondent suggests that we should reduce the number of MLAs because, in any case, they do not represent the people, and go into the Assemblies only to serve their own self-interest.

At his writing-desk early on Monday morning, Bapu said in a piece on horse-racing, A correspondent from Madras writes a pathetic letter on betting at race-courses. If betting goes, horse-racing would fall flat. It is wholly unnecessary for the sake of love of horses to have races and all their attendant excitement. They pander to the vices of humanity, and cause a waste of good cultivable soil and good money. Who has not witnessed, as I have, the ruin of fine men caused by gambling at the races? It is time for us to leave alone the vices of the West, and to adopt only the best that it has to give to us.

Trouble was brewing on a financial issue between India and Pakistan. The latter was claiming some crores of Rupees from India as part of a financial settlement agreed upon between the two nations as a consequence of Partition. India''s Deputy Prime Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, had stated publicly that this issue of payment of funds could not be considered apart from Kashmir, where Pakistan had been financing, equipping, and officering too, raids on the State which had legally acceded to India. Obviously the Sardar felt that whatever money India made over to Pakistan would be indirectly used to finance the raids! What sense could that make? The Mahatma met Patel and they had discussions on this matter and on others.

Bapu felt so strongly on the issue and related ones, that he announced at his prayer meeting on the 12th evening, the starting of an indefinite fast. Gandhiji told the audience,One can fast as a penance for a wrong done. There is also a fast by a votary of non-violence by way of protest against some wrong done by society. Such an occasion has come my way. When I came to Delhi last, I observed gloom on every face, and even the Sardar, whom humour and joy never desert, was gloomy. Soon I saw that I had to be in Delhi, and do or die here. I yearn for heart friendship between Hindus and Sikhs, and the Muslims. Today it is non- existent. This is a state which no Indian patriot worthy of the name can contemplate with equanimity. Though the voice within me has been beckoning for a long time, I have been shutting my ears to it lest it be the voice of Satan, which otherwise I call my weakness. I never like to feel resourceless; a satyagrahi should never feel so. Fasting is his last resort in place of the sword. I have no answer to give to my Muslim friends. My impotence has been gnawing at me from day to day. It will go immediately my fast is undertaken. No man, if he is pure has anything more precious to give than his life. I hope I have that purity in me to justify my step. I ask all of you to bless my effort.