On his 140th anniversary, as the nation remembers her Father of Nation, we try to take out a few leafs from his life just before and after Independence. His contribution post independence seem much bigger than his role as the Indian leader of Independence.
Wherever Gandhi went, it was said, there was the capital of India. Its capital this new Year’s Day was a tiny Bengali village of Srirampur where the Mahatma lay under his mudpacks, exercising his authority over an enormous continent without the benefit of radio, electricity or running water, thirty miles by foot from the nearest telephone and telegraph line.
March 24th, 1947
Lord Mount Batten, the 20th and the last viceroy arrived in India, not to rule India but to free it from the British rule. But His arrival to India will not be considered complete unless he meets the India herself – embodied as the Mahatma.
July – August 1947 – Punjab
Punjab was burning. The top Indian leaders – Nehru, Patel, Jinnah (It was still India remember) and the entire British machinery including the governor of Punjab, underestimated the trouble ahead on one hand and over-estimated their own capacity to control it – The result was perhaps the greatest bloodshed in the history of mankind, often considered greater than the two world wars.
Mount Batten, tried one of the most brilliant strategy, worthy of his abilities – He employed special task force consisting of 55,000 Gorkhas to control Punjab. The other major constituent of India Army – Hindu, Muslims and Sikhs can’t be relied upon to separate themselves from the sentiments of the region they were supposed to control. However, even Mountbatten was not impressed with the outcome of his attempt – Which was simply – nothing.
The only Indian leader, who foresaw the awful tragedy in its exact magnitude and tried hard to prevent it, even at the unreasonable costs, was Mahatma Gandhi. And no body was listening to him in the summer of 1947.
Ironically, ill-informed generations continued to hold him responsible for partition, who tried his best to avert it.
July – August 1947 – Bengal
The failure at Punjab was not baffling for the viceroy, but Bengal was Nightmare. Neither, the government was left with any troop to control Bengal (with extremely sensitive communal history) nor could they really dare to.The memories and the wounds of Direct Action day by Muslim league in 1946 were still fresh and a revenge appeared eminent. To quote Lord Mount Batten’s own memory –
If trouble ever started in Calcutta, the blood that would have flowed there would have made anything that happened in the Punjab look like a bed of roses. Only a miracle could save Bengal
Mount Batten turned to Mahatma. Viceroy suggested
You will be my one man Boundary force
So, while the entire troop of 55,000 man guarded the western front of the nation, Mahatma was the one man army for the eastern front.
August 13th 1947 – Calcutta
Hindus, at Calcutta, called Gandhi – “Traitors to Hindus” and they shouted at him – “Go Save Hindus and not Muslims”. They hurled stones and bottles at him. Gandhi suggested:
ForYou wish to do me ill and so I am coming to you.
Gandhi asked Hindus to guard Muslims in Calcutta in exchanges to Noakhli Muslims pledge to protect Hindu’s There. Can any body imagine? The Hunters are given moral responsibility of protecting their own victims from themselves. And what’s the guarantee? Gandhi’s own life. If any one fails him – He would go to fast on to death. So the Bengal mantra was three pointers:
Hindus will protect Muslims in Calcutta instead of attacking them.
Muslims in exchange will pledge safety of Hindu’s in Noakhali.
Because the two wont trust each other – Gandhi is the gurantee. If any one breaks the promise he will bear the moral responsibility for Gandhi’s fast on to death.
August 14th 1947 – The Shattered Dream, Lahore, New Delhi
The dream of the father of the nation as well as millions of others were shattered for ever. India was no more one; will never be one again. People continued to be butchered in what was now the new born Pakistan and the province of Punjab was burning.
Lahore: Water in Hindu and Sikh areas were cut. Those daring to go out in search of water were mercilessly butchered. And the Indian Prime Minister was perplexed – Can we even pretend to rejoice? Yes his will be one of the most historically brilliant speeches tonight.
New Delhi: Over half a million people attended the Independence day ceremony on Aug 15, 1947 against the expectation of 30,000.
August 15th, 1947
India is a free nation Now. We celebrated our Independence just as the stroke of the midnight. But we paid a heavy price – Not just be lost part of the precious motherland; we lost the trust in mankind. For Bapu and millions of other freedom was incomplete.
Bapu will never return to Sabarmati Ashram. On the eve of Dandi March he had pledged to return only after attaining full freedom. Divided India was not the independence of his dream.
August 15th, 1947 – Punjab, Lahore
We paid a heavy price for more anyone who saw Punjab and Lahore on the day of independence never forgot the horror in his life. For them the day was the day of terror.
Punjab – People were not just being killed, they were being roasted like pigs. Even the dead bodies were not spared and mutilation continued.
Lahore – The gurudwara next to Shah Alimi gate was set on fire and Sikhs were roasted alive inside. Human values at touched the absolute bottom.
August 15th, 1947 – Calcutta
The city of Mount Battens nightmare, the city that was about to burst three days ago, the city that has history of communal violence, the city that has actually witnessed the direct action day a year before and the city whom only a miracle could save – was saved. And the guarantee was one man – Mahatma Gandhi
Bengal proved to be the silver lining – Hindu and Muslims extremists put aside their dagger to hold the national flag. Muslims opened the mosques to Hindus and Hindus welcomed Muslims to their sacred Kali mandir and they together shared sweets. It appeared to be a different India.
On August 15th, 1947, If there was a place that was truly independent of hatred, If there was a true India somewhere– It was where Mahatma was – Calcutta.
At the stroke of the midnight, when India woke to light and freedom, Gandhi ji was sleeping more than a thousand km away from the lime light – In the Hydari House, Calcutta.
Mahatma, the unarmed prophet on non violence did a miracle in the meanest situation whereas a troop of heavily armed soldiers guided by the viceroy, the governor and the commander in chief of Indian armed forces. More than a dozen of districts in Punjab were literally on flame. This was perhaps one of the biggest achievement on man can think for without weapon and violence.
August 31st, 1947 – Calcutta
The spell of peace cast by Mahatma over Calcutta was finally broken. The loads of dead bodies crossing Punjab border brought the grief’s, the shock, the terror and anger to Calcutta. And that was natural. Gandhi’s appeal fell def on the ears this time. And he had no option but to resort to his earlier pledge – The Fast on to death the most terrible and the most effective weapon in the hand of Mahatama.
September 1st-4th, 1947 – Calcutta
Gandhiji announced is fast. On the next day, the doctor discovered that one of every four hear bit is missing. On second day the rioters in Calcutta were talking about Gandhiji’s physical condition and medical reports. By third day he was so weak that people began to fear worst. Not only the city but whole nation turned toward Hydari House.
The rioters surrendered their weapons and pledged to protect them whom they were terrorising. Calm had returned to the city and Gandhi ji ended his 73 hrs fast on Sep 4th, 2009.
To save Gandhi, Calcutta saved itself. The reasoning returned and talisman appeared to have broken continued.
Mahatma now decided to visit Punjab. Something, he could never accomplish.
September 1947, New Delhi
Delhi got the sour taste of violence on September the 3rd, 1947 and it didn’t take long for situation to go worst. Gandhi ji visited various refugee camps to talks sense with the rioters. But it was hard to reason; even for Gandhiji. People shouted – Gandhi Murdabad.
For the first time in years Gandhi couldn’t complete his prayers. He was silenced. What Britishers couldn’t manage in India and South Africa, His own country men achieved. Gandhi’s struggle continued …
Jan 13-18, 1947, New Delhi
Gandhiji went on his last fast on to death. It was for the peace of India and its honour. For Bapu, the fast was a prayer to God. It is often linked with his emphasis on Indian government’s commitment of certain sum to Pakistan as per partition terms.
His fast almost always was the topic of discussion among Indians. This time, however, it was different. People were not talking about ways to save Mahatma. It was more to about getting rid of him. Or this is what appeared in the beginning when a group of refugee demonstrated out side Birla House shouting – Let Gandhi Die.
Jan 14th 1948
Gandhiji condition worsened and it appeared after all New Delhi might really let Gandhi die. Prayers came from unexpected corners. Mosques in Pakistan prayed for the well being of 78 years old staunch Hindu. Muslims from Pakistan wrote letter urging him to end his first. In exchange they offered even to return back to India.
Jan 18th 1948
A crown of Hundred thousand people, ten thousand times more than those who shouted Let Gandhi Die, came out in a procession to save their father. Reasons had finally returned. Gandhiji ended his final fast. Three hours later he was back on his charkha for he believed
Bread obtained without labour is a stolen bread.
Jan 30th 1948
The Hindustan standard editorial printed a single paragraph –
Gandhiji has been killed by his own people for whose redemption he lived. This second crucifixion in the history of the world has been enacted on a Friday – the same day Jesus was done to death one thousand nine hundred and fifteen years ago. Father forgive us.
Jawahar Lal Nehru in his remarkable address to nation said
the light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere. I do not know what to tell you and how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more.The light has gone out, I said, and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for these many years will illumine this country for many more years, and a thousand years later, that light will be seen in this country and the world will see it and it will give solace to innumerable hearts
…the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light
The end of Gandhi’s mortal existence was indeed the beginning of a new era. An era not without Gandhi. With Gandhi ended the seemingly endless phase of mindless violence on both sides of border. It appears people all of a sudden realised the loss they just incurred. As Hindustan said “Father forgive Us”, people of India realized their own responsibility in the death of their father. It was a death that Mr Mountbatten always cherished and dreamt for. Above all the tribute paid to the father by their sons was incomparable – A total cease of violence – what Bapu lived for.