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Sunday, 18th January, 1948

The Mahatma ends his fast

The difference between this latest fast undertaken by the Mahatma and many others which he had braved earlier was that he was much more at peace with himself and able to continue to speak without much difficulty as the days of the ordeal advanced and gathered in their number. Closing in as it were on the great final dissolution, Gandhiji''s spirit shone in a bright flame. Propped up on his bed, Bapu had told his Friday evening prayer audience in Hindi, ``I had not hoped to be able to speak to you today. But you will be glad to know that today by God''s grace I feel my voice to be stronger than it was yesterday. During all my previous fasts, I never felt as strong as I am feeling today on the fourth day. My hope is that if you will continue the yagna of self-purification, my strength to address you can remain to the very end. I am in no hurry at all. Hurry will not help us in our work. I feel an ineffable peace. I have no wish to live if I cannot see peace established all around me, in India as well as in Pakistan.''''

The doctors and his close associates tried their best to make him relax some conditions of the fast to try and help his failing physical systems. But Bapu showed them all his adamantine will. In a talk with Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Gandhiji flatly refused to take the latter''s advice to take some drops of sweet citrus juice with his position-nectar `diet'' of hot water.

On Saturday evening, Gandhiji spoke for three minutes from his bed to the audience after prayers and said, ``God''s mercy it is that, on this fifth day of my fast, I am able to speak a few words without feeling exhausted. I have dictated the message for today which Sushila Behn. Dr. (Sushila Nayyar) will read out to you.

In the pre-written portion of his address read out at the meeting, Bapu said: ``My fast should not be considered as a political move in any sense of the term. It is in obedience to the peremptory call of conscience and duty. It comes out of my felt agony. I call to witness all my numerous friends in Delhi. Their representatives meet me almost every day. Neither Rajas and Maharajas, nor Hindus and Sikhs, or any others would serve themselves or India as a whole, if at this sacred juncture they mislead me with a view to terminating my fast. Let them all know that I feel never so happy as when I am fasting for the spirit. This fast has brought me higher happiness than ever before. No one need disturb this happy state of mine, unless he can honestly claim that in his own journey he has turned deliberately away from Satin and moved towards God.''''

Gandhiji wanted seven conditions fulfilled before he would call off his ordeal of self-denial. Maulana Azad outlined them: Bapu wanted all Muslims to be able without fear to join in the normal celebrations of the fair of Khwaja Bhakhtiyar Saheb due shortly. Mosques in Delhi which had been converted into temples during the riots in Delhi had to be remade into mosques again. The predominantly Muslim areas of Karol Bagh, Subzi Mandi, and Paharganj had to be rendered completely safe for minorities to move about in peace again. Hindus should not object to the return to Delhiof those Muslims who had earlier been forced to leave for Pakistan. Muslims in India should be assured that they would be able to travel on the railways without any risk. Economic boycott of Muslims had to cease forthwith. And, finally, accommodation of non-Muslims in predominantly Muslim areas should be left entirely to the discretion of the residents in those areas.

On the sixth day of his fast today, Bapu was working from his bed from the earliest hours. He dictated an article for the Harijan in which again he expressed his foremost concern for communal unity to be shown; he wanted the Devanagari and Urdu scripts to be used together in India and said, ``I am writing this after prayer in the morning of the sixth day of my fast. Many painful memories come to my mind, but I do not like to recollect them.

There should be no squabble over Hindi and Urdu. Is there any Indian whose heart will not exult listening to ``Sare Jahanse Achcha Hindostan Hamara?'''' Should I regard these lines as Hindi, or Hindustani, or Urdu? Who can say that it is not the national language of India, or that it is not sweet and mature. We should forget our artificial quarrels and forget our internal jealousies.''''

All-community peace processions were marching in step through Delhi. Dr. Rajendra Prasad gave Gandhiji the written assurances he had wanted. At 12.40 p.m. the Mahatma yielded to the mounting force of the appeals to him, listened to prayers, and ended his ordeal by sipping some drops of diluted fruit juice offered to him by Maulana Azad.