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Wednesday, 21st January, 1948

High praise for Nehru''s leadership

Right after his fast, the Mahatma strove quickly to come back to his packed routine and catch up with items fallen behind due to it. Constructive work to improve India''s villages was his foremost concern as important as the yearning for lasting communal peace. In a note on the 20th on Kasturba Fortnight, Bapu said It has been decided to celebrate the fortnight from February 22 to March 9, when we should explain the aims and activities of the Trust in the villages; provide information about our work so far; make special efforts to enlist women from rural areas for training in midwifery, basic education, and to work as gram sevikas; and collect funds from local sources in the districts and provinces in addition to the grant sanctioned according to the budget for the year 1948.

``The Kasturba Trust''s activities are neither given publicity, nor has any pamphlet been printed about it. I do not care really for such things. Moreover, work in rural areas cannot be done in that way. Those who are interested in our work can get to know about it from our annual reports. The programme chalked out for the Fortnight is quite good.''

Many circles in India and in Pakistan were agog, some with concern and some with secret delight, over reports of a deeply growing rift between Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India, and his home-spunly wise and strong Deputy, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Anxious to reassure the people, at Tuesday''s prayer meeting Gandhiji said,If you read carefuly what Sardar Patel has said in Bombay, you will realise that there is no rift between him and Pandit Nehru. They may talk in different ways, but they do the same thing. They cannot be enemies of the Muslims. I have no doubt that whoever is an enemy of the Muslims is also an enemy of India. I therefore, ask for your categorical assurance that irrespective of any injustice perpetrated here or elsewhere, you are not going to seek revenge, but leave the matter to be dealt with by the Government.''

Gandhiji had a plan to visit Pakistan to extend his healing mission there. I might go to Pakistan,'' he said, and added, but I shall do so only when that Government there invites me as a friend of the Muslims, as well as of the Hindus and the Sikhs. The doctors insist I must first recoup from the effects of my fast. For another fifteen days, I cannot go anywhere or eat anything solid. I can only take liquid diet which may be milk or fruit-juice. Milk can sustain a man all his life.''

Revealing his great admiration for the selflessness of Prime Minister Nehru, Bapu said, Panditji is a man who will do anything for the suffering people. If there is only one bed available, he will offer it to a refugee to sleep on, and himself go without sleep. He says there is no room left in his house, and still he says that he will spare one or two rooms for refugees! If other Ministers as well as officers follow his example, no one will be left unhappy. I congratulate him, and I congratulate you, the people, on possessing such a jewel.''Gandhiji''s sang froidin getting the people swiftly to resume their seats and to listen to him continuing his speech had probably saved his life, and the lives of others. It was learnt much later that the bomb exploded by the Punjabi refugee youth had been intended to create a confusion in the meeting, and enable assassins to close in on the dais and bomb it from close quarters.

The incident, though, made hardly any difference to Bapu''s normal mood and assiduous application to tasks in hand. This Wednesday morning saw him at his desk from very early in his wonted manner. There were so many letters to write and dictate. To C. Rajagopalachariar, he said, From calm, I have entered storm. Thank God I have fairly learnt to face either with indifference.'' To Ms. Khurshed Naorojee in Jullunder, Your hope has been fulfilled. I am drinking not merely water which I was taking when on fast, but also sweet fruit juices, clear vegetable soup, and milk. Though, or because I am taking these substantial things, the zone of calm has been left for that of storm.''

A group of Sikhs led by Giani Kartar Singh came and met Bapuji and told him of continuing atrocities on Sikhs in Pakistan. Gandhiji gave them his convinced nostrum of the ages for the malady: non-violence is the only answer to violence. Kartar Singh protested, ``Afflicted men cannot be balanced men. Everyone cannot be a Mahatma Gandhi.'' Bapu replied calmly, Mahatma Gandhi is neither an angel nor a devil. He is a man like any of you. It can do no good to dwell on who has killed more people, and where. This is not a small matter. I assure you that I shall do all that I can. For, I have to do or die. You know what happened yesterday. As for me, I know that if there is work that God wants me to do here, then I must do it.''