5th January, 1948.
desideratum for a free India
the refugees of the Wavell Canteen camp for its being run so well,
Gandhiji had yet given them an important lesson applicable to many
sections of the whole of the Indian population: I know the sufferings
that you have had to bear. Some of you come from well-to-do homes.
You must not hope to get here the comforts you had in the past. You
must adapt yourselves to the new situation, and try with patient labour
to improve your conditions. Bapu remarked that Indian having been
enslaved for long, the people had not learnt the virtue of adaptability.
He added, Now that we are free, I hope our refugee brothers and
sisters will learn something from their sufferings, and make this
an ideal camp. The hymn sung in today''s prayer wants us to surrender
to God all that we possess, and take back only the barest minimum
for our needs. If well act in conformity with this hymn, our hearts
will be filled with deep inner joy.
Winter rains were
coming off and on in gusts. These spells of rain saw Gandhiji use
for protection a broad, woven hat with a chin-strap, acquired during
his peregrinations for peace in Noakhali. Gandhiji had explained its
novel type,It is a beautiful thing that was given to me when I
was touring Noakhali, when it was very hot. The people there put it
on also when it rains. There, Muslims who work in the fields and Hindus
who are in business, all use this umbrella. The Muslims of Noakhali
understood I had gone there to give them solace and they gave me the
gift of this umbrella in return. Thus did the Mahatma cherish the
head-gear both for its utility, and for the sentimental associations
it brought to perennial flower in his mind. It had rained on Sunday
evening. People could not come in large numbers to Bapu''s prayer meeting.
In his room in Birla house, Bapu was told that it might not be advisable
to start the session in a hurry. But he insisted with wonted firmness,
No matter how small the audience, it is my duty to be present.
he said, ``I thank you for coming in spite of the rain, and it gives
me satisfaction that there are so many here. It shows that you are
keen on the prayer. With apprehensions of an Indo-Pak war thickening
the air, the Mahatma referred to India''s moving the United Nations
on the Kashmir issue, and said, You may ask if I approve of the
Government of India''s approaching the U.N. I both approve, and do
not approve, of what they did. It is to avoid the possibility of war
that the Government has taken this step. Whether they are right in
doing so or not, God alone knows.
If I had had my
way, I would have invited Pakistan''s representatives to India, and
we should have met, discussed the matter, and worked out some settlement.
The two Dominions should come together with God as their witness,
and find a settlement. If India and Pakistan do so, the Big Powers
in the UNO will certainly have to endorse it.Deploring some incidents
in Delhi where people had tried to take the law into their own hands
and move forcibly into empty houses, Bapu stressed responsible behaviour
by citizens at all times as a prime desideratum for the proper functioning
of free India. He said, Today the Government is our own. But if
we defy our own Government, and defy the police, that Government is
not likely to last for long. It is still worse that such things should
happen in the capital city of India where there are so many ambassadors
of countries from all over the world. Do we want to show them such
a spectacle?'''' The law-breakers had thrown a cordon of women and children
as a shield to prevent the police from reaching the real miscreants
and dealing with them properly. Commenting on that action, the Mahatma
said, ``It is all the more regrettable that women and children were
used in that manner, exposing them to danger. This is an inhuman practice.
It is like Muslim rulers keeping a herd of cows in the vanguard of
their armies, to make sure that their Hindu opponents could not fight
and attack them through the collection of cows. It was uncivilised,
barbaric behaviour. It is even more barbaric to put women and children
in front to provide against a police lathi charge. This is abuse of
womanhood itself. I must humbly ask the people not to behave in this
way. Otherwise, apart from a war between India and Pakistan, we in
India may kill ourselves in mutual strife. We may lose Delhi and make
ourselves the laughing stock of the world. If we want to keep India
a free country, we must stop the things that are at present going
on.''''Monday, the day of silence, was again here. Gandhiji prayed,
and wrote, and spun on the Charkha. To Vijaya M. Pancholi, he said
in a pre-dawn letter, If the mind is cheerful, there is no danger
of the body''s getting ill. It is now time for prayer, and therefore
I must stop here. To Nrisimha Prasad Bhatt, a long-time Gandhian
follower, he wrote, I got today your letter of the 1st. Your birthday
falls on the 7th. Now tell me how my blessings in writing to you can
reach you in time. Even a telegram may not do so. These days it takes
even a telegram four days to get across! You, of course, have my blessings
in spirit, because it is my own work that you are doing.