15th January, 1948
yourselves, to benefit India''
one of the closest associates of the Mahatma, explained why he would
not try to dissuade Bapu to give up his fast. Rajagopalachari said,
I really do not see why we, old people, should continue to live
if we are useless. People like me who have grown up to an advanced
age feel that if we cannot influence society, it is better that we
It is not in
a figurative sense that Gandhiji says that there is no friend like
death. Death saves us from all trouble and pain. He has chosen a traditionally
honoured method of dying. At the same time, he gives the people a
chance. He has said, I shall fast and die, unless you show me a
change of heart.
Early on the morning
of the second day of his fast, Gandhiji said in a piece dictated in
Gujarati, Today is the last day for posting matter for this week''s
Harijan. So I think it proper to address a few words to the people
of Gujarat. I do not consider this an ordinary fast. I have undertaken
it after much reflection. Yet, reflection alone has not impelled it,
it is God who rules over our reason. There is no anger of any kind
behind my fast, nor the slightest tinge of impatience.
to be considered is what each Indian can do. If we do not accept partition
in our hearts, that is if we do not consider Hindus and Muslims to
be separate peoples, we shall have to admit that Delhi is no longer
the capital of India as we had visualised it. It is this city which
was Indraprastha, which was Hastinapur. It is the heart of India.
It would be the limit of foolishness to regard it as belonging only
to the Hindus or the Sikhs. This is the literal truth. All Hindus,
Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians, and Jews and others who people
this country from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, and from Karachi to Dibrugarh
in Assam, and who have lovingly and in a spirit of service adopted
it as their own dear motherland have an equal right to it. No one
can say that it has place only for the majority, and that the minority
should be oppressed and
dishonoured. Whoever serves it with the purest devotion must have
the first right over it. Therefore anyone who seeks to drive out the
Muslims is Delhi''s enemy number one, and India''s enemy number one.
Every Indian should do his bit to ward off this catastrophe. For this,
everyone should be pure.
He who is pure
will also be wise. He will observe no distinctions between religion
and religion, between caste and caste, between touchable and untouchable.
He will concede to women the same rights he claims for men. If need
be, he will sacrifice his own life, but never kill another person.
If he is a Sikh, he will, as taught by the Gurus, be as heroic as
one lakh and a quarter of men, and will not yield an inch. Such
an Indian will not ask what his duty in the present hour is.
In a letter to
his son, Devadas Gandhi, on the Makara Sankranti day, Bapu said, Rama,
who has prompted me to go on fast, will bid me to give it up if He
wants me to. In the meantime all of us should have faith that it is
equally well whether Sri Rama preserves my life or ends it. I have
only one prayer:''O Rama, give me strength during the fast so that
desire to live will not tempt me into ending it prematurely.
The leaders were
all there in Birla House, desperately anxious to see that a tragedy
did not occur as the culmination of Mahatmaji''s fast. Prime Minister
Nehru, Deputy-Premier Sardar Patel, the Finance Minister, R. K. Shanmukham
Chetti, the Education Minister Maulana Azad, and the Transport Minister
John Matthai, all conferred together and met the Mahatma. The Finance
Minister was at hand since Bapu wanted the money dues that Pakistan
was claiming from India to be paid forthwith, as one of his terms
for breaking his fast.
to his prayer meeting on the evening of the 14th, and told his listeners
after prayer, I have no such attachment for life that I must live
under any circumstances. Whether I die or live is wholly in the hands
of God. There are many who say that I should give up the fast, and
all will be well. But how can I give it up? God inspired it, and He
alone may terminate it. This fast is for self-purification. You must
have God enthroned where Satan today sits in our hearts. There must
be indication of this change.
On the third day of his
fast, Bapu had turned much weaker. Still he insisted on speaking to his prayer
audience this evening. He spoke to the people by using a microphone placed
close to him as he lay on his bed on the verandah, his breath coming harsh
and laboured. Bapuji said,"I thought that if you hear my voice you would
feel assured. My request is that each one of you should examine your own self
and purify yourself. If people in large numbers purify themselves, India will
benefit, and may be I shall be able to give up my fast. Let no one be concerned
about me. You must give thought only to the country and to the people''s welfare.
In the end, all who are born have to die. Why then should we fear death or
grieve over it?"