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Thursday, 15th January, 1948

''Purify yourselves, to benefit India''

Rajaji, 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 pass on.

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.

What remains 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.

Gandhiji walked 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?"