21st January, 1948
praise for Nehru''s leadership
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.
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
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.''
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.
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.''