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Thursday, 22nd January, 1948

''Sin cannot stand by itself ''

Many a mickle makes a muckle, as the saying goes. Mahatma Gandhi set considerable store by the seemingly little things of life steadfast adherence to which make for lasting value and worth; they make the practitioner of them great, as well as rub off on those privileged to be associated with him or her. Just as he insisted on making the most of every scrap of paper by way of economy, and as he sternly demanded scrupulous cleanliness in every nook and corner of the places he stayed in, Bapu wanted consistent attention to be paid to punctuality. This, he maintained, was a virtue that led to orderliness and polite treatment of one''s fellow-beings, factors that made for proper and good social functioning. His schedules Bapu made with care, and he insisted on sticking to them with a martinet''s devotion.

So when, on Wednesday, work, which had to be done at a lesser pace because of his weakened condition, caused him to arrive a little beyond 5 p.m. for his evening meeting, he apologised, Forgive me for being late by 10 minutes. I am not well, and so could not be punctual. Later in the speech, he referred to the bomb incident at Tuesday''s meeting and said, I thought the explosion yesterday was a part of army practice. I came to know only later that it was a bomb that might have killed me. So, in fact, I displayed no bravery. If a bomb explodes in front of me, and if I am not scared and I succumb, only then you will be able to say that I died with a smile on my face. Today I do not yet deserve to be so praised. You should not have any kind of hatred against the person responsible for the bomb. Let us pray that God grants him good sense. Those who are behind him, or whose tool he is, should know that this sort of thing will not save Hinduism.

I have told the Inspector-General of Police not to harass the man. They should try to win him over. I cannot ask that he should be released because that is not my function. If he can realise that he has committed a crime against Hindiusm, against India, against the Muslims, and against the whole world, we should not be severe with him. We should pity him. If you whole-heartedly disapprove of his action, his heart will change, because in this world sin cannot stand by itself. Only God and His devotees can be self-sustained.

I pray to God to give us enough strength that we may maintain our self-possession. I want to go on uttering Sri Rama''s name even if there should be shooting taking place all around me. Yesterday an illiterate woman (Sylochana Devi), displayed courage in, having the culprit arrested. I admire her courage. It is my belief that, however illiterate or uneducated one may be, it does not matter so long as one has a stout heart. I must ask all the people to make their hearts the temple of God.

The doctors found Bapu to be making slow progress in his convalescence after the fast. Among them, Dr. B. C. Roy was of the definite view that Bapu had to move out of Delhi, if he was to have any worthwhile rest and be enabled to recoup his health. Dr. Roy advised the Mahatma to move to Sevagram in Wardhaganj, and for once Bapu was inclined to agree. He may have felt that the time had come for him to leave Delhi after all. News had reached Sevagram of Bapu''s coming there in the first week of February for an extended sojourn, taking place after a long absence of 17 months. The Ashram was the Mahatma''s beloved village home. Plans were being drawn up in Birla House for Gandhiji to reach that home on the 1st or the 2nd of February 1948. A schedule of activity in the Ashram was also being prepared. Important meetings of the Gandhi Seva Sangh were to be held there from the 3rd to the 5th of February. Other meetings were to follow on the 6th and the 7th. Congress president, Babu Rajendra Prasad, the party''s general secretary, Shankar Rao Deo, and Mr. B. G. Kher, Premier of the Bombay Province, were among those expected to attend these meetings. It looked like it was, after all, going to be a busman''s holiday for the saint when he was supposed to be convalescing in Sevagram!

In the days immediately after concluding his fast, Bapu had had to be carried in an arm-chair to the dais from where he presided over the evening prayer assembly. Today, leaning on the shoulders of Abha Gandhi and Manu Gandhi, he presented his familiar and simple, shining figure of hope again. He walked slowly to the meeting, acknowledging the devoirs of the crowd and their happy cheers.

In his speech, the Mahatma said, By the grace of God, I am, as you see, slowly recovering my strength. I hope that very soon I shall be as strong as ever. But it is all in the hands of God. Referring to his praise of Prime Minister Nehru''s offer to accommodate some refugees even in his own official residence, Bapuji said that someone had written to him that even if the Prime Minister, other Ministers and Government and Army officers spared such accommodation that could not contribute much towards alleviating the sufferings of the large numbers of refugees pouring into Delhi and India.

Replying to this well-taken point, Gandhiji said, I agree that only a few thousand refugees can be housed in this way. But that is not the important point. What is important is that leading men and officers of the country will have set an example. In England, if the King makes the smallest sacrifice, like say giving up a glass of wine, that gesture is greatly appreciated. Every civilised country appreciates such gestures. Such gestures by our leaders and officers will create a good impression among the refugees, and make them realise that the people are doing their best for them. It will make them try to face their difficulties bravely.