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Monday, 19th January, 1948

Bringing peace to Delhi

Prior to persuading Bapu to give up his fast on the 18th, the Congress president, Babu Rajendra Prasad, had narrated how top leaders of the communities had assembled the previous night at Prasad''s residence to sign an earnest declaration for amity to be established in Delhi and elsewhere. The last signatures on it were inscribed on the 18th morning. All those who signed were confident that they could, in exactly the truthful manner beseeched by the Mahatma, assure him that conditions had been created for him to give up the fast. Dr. Prasad said that he had signed thedocument as Congress president. The Chief Commissioner of Delhi, Mr. Khurshid, and M. S. Randhawa, the Deputy Commissioner, had signed on behalf of the city''s administration. Thus it happened that the three most important communities had attested the document. Deshbandhu Gupta, who spoke after Rajendra Prasad, reported moving scenes of fraternisation between Hindus and Muslims all over Delhi. In Sabzimandi, for instance, a procession of 150 Muslims had been greeted in the morning with Hindus offering them embraces, fruits, and refreshment.

Touched by the assurances given to him and signs of the city''s people mending themselves to be friendly and responsible, Gandhiji was yet cautious. In a voice rendered low by his physical condition above which his spirit in rejoicing soared, Bapu said, I am happy to hear what you tell me. But if this declaration means that you will safeguard Delhi alone, and what happens outside Delhi is no concern over yours, you will be committing a grave error, and it will be foolishness for me to break my fast. I understand that the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh and the Hindu Mahasabha are among the signatories to the declaration. It will amount to breach of faith by them if they hold themselves responsible only for peace in Delhi, and not in other places. I have been observing that this sort of deception is practised in the country these days on a large scale. If those who have assembled here, who constitute the cream among men, cannot make the whole of India understand that Hindus, Muslims, and the followers of other religions, are all brothers, it bodes ill for both India and Pakistan. What will be our fate if we continue to quarrel with one another? Muslim refugees in Pakistan are suffering acute hardships, and so are the Hindu refugees here. But there are good men as well as bad men in all communities. Taking into consideration all the implications, if you ask me to break my fast, I shall abide by your wish.

Ganesh Datt, on behalf of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, reiterated the unanimous appeal that Bapuji should break his fast in view of the assurances given to him. Zaheed Hussain, Pakistan''s High Commissioner in India, for whom the Mahatama had a special affection, said that he had come to tell Gandhiji how deeply concerned people in Pakistan were about his health: it was their deeply felt heart''s desire that he should end his fast. If there was anything to be done to hasten that happy culmination, he and the people of Pakistan would gladly do it, Zaheed assured the Mahatma. Listening patiently to all the sincere appealers who stood before him with folded hands and moist, prayerful eyes, Gandhiji relented, and said, I shall break my fast. Let God''s will prevail. Recitations of holy passages from Hindu, Islamic, Parsi, and Buddhist scriptures then followed. A Christian hymn was melodiously sung. Next a bhajan was rendered. And then it was Ram Dhun, such a perennial favourite of Bapu''s. Then the Mahatma sipped the fruit juice offered to him. It was an auspicious day, being Guru Gobind Singh''s birthday, and Gandhiji, soon after breaking his fast, dictated this message for the occasion: The Sikhs have shown true courage in eschewing anger. This is true teaching of Guru Gobind Singh Maharaj. That one single Sikh is equal to one and a half lakhs of people bears this very meaning. Victory to the Sikhs!