It is amazing to note that Mahadevbhai regularly wrote his day-to-day diary despite his busiest routine with Gandhiji. Gandhiji and Mahadev Desai had such an inseparable relation that they were like two bodies with one soul. Hence, Mahadev Desai's Diary means a record of Gandhiji's activities.
"Shri Mahadev was Gandliiji's beloved secretary. He died very prematurely while in prison along with Gandhiji. His diary is as important as any diary kept by Gandhiji himself. He was like Lakshman to Shri Ramachandra; a spare body for one soul, so today."
Some of the important features of this volume are as follows :
1. Ahmadabad mill workers' strike and Gandhiji's fast.
2. Kaira Satyagraha struggle.
3. Satyagraha against the Rowlett Bills.
4. The philosophy of Satyagraha and Ahimsa (Non-violence).
5. Thoreau’s Civil-Disobedience.
6. Recruiting campaign by a votary of non-violence.
7. Vinoba's historical letter to Gandhiji.
The diary begins with the time when the Champaran fight, as well as the work of the Inquiry Committee was over, the recommendations of the Committee were to be implemented through legislation, and Bapuji had begun to do some constructive work among the riots there in order to keep up their awakening and increase their strength. There are, therefore, a few letters in it which give some idea of this constructive work of Bapuji in Champaran. For the history and understanding of the fight, however, one must go through Sri Rajendrababu's book 'Satyagraha in Champaran.' Even before his work in Champaran was completely over, and when his presence there was still needed, though not constantly as the situation had to that ex-tent improved, two big activities fell into Gandhiji's hands. In quick succession he had to wage two fights, one for getting an increase in the workers' wages in the mills in Ahmadabad owing to the rise in prices and the other, for securing suspension of land revenue in the Kaira District where the crops had failed. We have with us authentic accounts of both these fights in Sri Shankarlal Parikh's book "Khedani Ladat" ( 'The Kaira Satya-graha" ) and in another book by Mahadevbhai himself "Ek Dharmayuddha" ( 'A Holy war' ). But for the first time some letters appear in this diary that shed a new light on the fights and clearly show how Bapuji's mind was then working.
About the mill-workers' strike, the-then Collector of Ahmadabad frankly expresses to Bapu himself his admiration of the way in which the strike was conducted. He says, "This is the first time in my life when I see a fight between employers and workers carried on with. so much love and regard for each other." (p. 52 ).
This distinguishing feature of the fight is clearly evidenced in Gandhiji's letters to mill-owners and to Sri Ambalal Sarabhai specially ( pp. 5 and 55 ). It is in this diary, moreover, that the reader gets a clearer idea of the significance of his fast during the mill-workers' strike. He writes, "The Ahmadabad strike provided the richest lessons of life. The power of love was never as effectively demonstrated to me as it was during the lock-out ............Those four days were to me days of peace, blessing and spiritual uplift. There never was the slightest desire to eat during those days." (p. 78 ).
And in another letter, "I consider the fast as my greatest achievement in life. I had an experience of supernal serenity while it lasted." (p. 92 ).
In his morning prayer sermon at the Ashram, he explained very tersely the necessity of his fast as well as the flaw underlying the act. But to know them well and clearly it is best to let the reader go through pp. 64 to 69 in the text itself. In a letter to his son Devdas he avers, "It is not difficult to understand the real import of my refusal to accept, for more than one day only, the increase of 35% which we had demanded. It would have been totally unbecoming for me to stretch my point any further. The millowners even now believe that they have given the increment because of my fast and not because of the strikers. It would have been nothing but extortion from the mill-owners, if I had demanded anything more under that situation. The fact that when I was in the position of getting the maximum from them I asked for the minimum, shows only my desire to be on the square and my humility and perception of right action. Had I not gone on a fast, the workers were certain to fall from their vow and the strike would have fizzled out. It was only the fast that sustained them. Under these circumstances demanding the minimum was the only right course in order to see that the workers' vow was kept. Only the letter of such a vow should be maintained in such a situation. That was done. The flaws, moreover, that had crept into my vow were diminished, materially diminished, by asking for the minimum. ( p. 92 ).
The Punjab atrocities, Hunter Committee's Report, and the injustice done to the Muslim community in the matter of the Khilafat shook the faith of Gandhiji in the bonfires of the British Government, and he gave a clarion call for total non-co-operation with the Government.
Gandhiji's whirlwind tours his fiery speeches for non-co-operation, and his sincere efforts to take up the cause of the Khilafat are some of the main items of this Volume. Gandhiji's evidence before Hunter Inquiry Committee explains in detail the Satyagraha Philosophy and the practical feasibility of non-co-operation. Here Gandhiji has claimed himself as a 'practical idealist'.
Owing to the novelty of the method, the people were imbued during the period, with an extraordinary vitality. Before we could gain independence, we have offered three mighty fights : This non-co-operation struggle of 1920-21, civil disobedience fight from 1933 to 1934, and the 'Quit India' fight of 1942 and after. All the three of them were momentous struggles, but the first fight of 1920-21 has a special significance of its own, owing to the fact that that was the first time when a method of fighting,. original and very novel, not only in the annals of India but in those of the world, was adopted. Gandhiji was usually the very embodiment of gentleness in heart and hand.
But on the occasion of a fight he used to be so possessed with Lord Shiva's all-devastating intensity of purpose and reckless disregard of his very life that everyone who heard or saw him used to catch the contagion of his fiery spirit. "The sun never sets on the British Empire", that was what the Imperialists used to proclaim; and the Empire had dug its roots so deep into our mind that there was a class of educated men among us-and Gandhiji himself once belonged to that class-which believed that the country's progress was never more phenomenal than under the British regime. But Gandhiji knocked the bottom out of that overwhelming prestige of the mighty .British Empire by one single ,word 'Satanic'. How could the people, after this telling epithet, retain any respect or awe or fear of Government officers and the police ? There remained in the country none as poor as to do reverence to these Government officers. Openly and loudly, the whole mass of Indian humanity including women and children, began to cry out,. "We don't want this Government." In his charming language-Mahadevbhai gives us in this Diary how Gandhiji performed this miracle of bringing about such a sweeping revolution in a country as vast as India.
Hardly any other Indian might have rendered the British Empire as valuable services as Gandhiji had. Twice in South. Africa he had raised, under his personal leadership, Ambulance Corps made up exclusively of Indians in order to serve disabled soldiers in the Boer and Zulu wars. Though his Ambulance Corps were not expected to go to the actual front and face a hail of shots, Gandhiji had many a time freely risked his own life and those of his men by taking them right to the hottest front and bringing the wounded soldiers from there to a place of safety.
When the 1st World War of 1914-18 broke out, Gandhiji was in England. There also he had formed a Red Cross made up of Indians. Owing to the extremely heavy work of organizing the Corps, he had caught pleurisy there during the bitter cold of those days. Again, during same war, he had taken up the work of recruitment for the Army in the Kaira District in 1917. The severe strain which he put himself to at that time in scouring the whole district had brought him dysentery of such a severe form that it looked for some days that he would not survive the attack. He had, till then, the faith that the retention of British connection was a sine qua non for India's progress. It was this deep faith which had impelled him to serve the Empire with such costly zeal.
But even during this period of single-hearted loyalty for them. British Empire, he had not failed to offer grim fights against some of the injustices inflicted on India by the Empire. Over and above, the world-famous South Africa Satyagraha, he had offered in India, non-violent fights to stop the indentured labor system, the indigo exaction in Champaran, the revenue enforcement in Kaira and the imposition of the Rowlett Act.
Then happened two big events which shook his loyalty to its roots,-the Punjab atrocities and the injustice dealt to the Muslim community in the matter of the Khilafat. All the same he curbed his urge for resistance and kept patience till, for the Punjab atrocities, the Report of the Disorders Inquiry Committee appointed by the Government, and for the Khilafat, the final answer of the British Cabinet, was not out. Upton these last blows he had remained so loyal that, supporting the main resolution at the Amritsar Congress held in December 1919, he had declared that the Montfort Reforms must be accepted unconditionally and the Government given unstinted cooperation in implementing the Reforms. Tilak Maharaj had sponsored an amendment in favor of 'Responsive Co-operation'.
At the Subjects Committee meeting Gandhiji had then taken off his cap on the dais itself, fallen at the feet of Tilak Maharaj and entreated him to accept the original resolution and with-draw his amendment. Fortunately, a compromise with Tilak Maharaj had averted the need for taking votes in the open session. Big ever since then the Congress had come completely under the sway of Gandhiji.
The year of 1920-21 was the period of great awakening in the suppressed, dumbfounded and, totally disarmed people of India, through Gandhiji's unique method of non-violent non-co operation, adopted against the mighty ;:I. British Empire, on a nation-wide scale for freedom. During this period Gandhiji was on his hurricane tours throughout the length and breadth of India to explain the potentialities of total non-co-operation with the rulers, to prepare the masses for launching the movement in a non-violent .1,,.r way. In the mammoth meetings, bonfires . of foreign clothes were lighted everywhere as a token of pledging for Swedish. Widespread arrests and repressions were carried out throughout the country to suppress this awakening. But the spirit of the nation emerged in flying colors and the annual session of the Indian National Congress was duly held and attended by the people defying all the fury of repression.
The concluding part of this diary deals with a period when Gandhiji was released from jail and the atmosphere in India was surcharged with high hopes of next step towards independence.
The first part begins on 27-10-1920 and ends in June 1921, the second covers a period of 10 days, viz., from d. 18-1-1924 to d. 27-1-1924. There is thus a time-gap of about 2 years and a half.
As regards the first part, the last Editor of M. D's Diaries, Naraharibhai Parikh, has given in his preface to the second volume of this series such a vivid and thoughtful picture of the non-co-operation struggle waged in 1921, that there is no need here to add anything to his observations. But the gap that follows needs clarification. This intervening period also may be divided into 2 parts, the period before Gandhiji was sent to jail, I. e., between July 1921 and March 1922, and the period during his confinement in sail, I. e. from March 1922 to January 1924.
During the first period, the seeds of non-violent non-co-operation he had shown at the Congress session of Nagpur and earlier had yielded a rich crop. As this volume also shows, he made a hurricane tour all over India and visited various places and regions, such as Bombay, Poona, Aligarh, U. P., Bengal, Assam, Madras, South India, the Punjab etc. to explain, to spread, and to get implemented his message of non-violent non-co-operation. Monster meetings were held and bonfires of foreign cloth were lighted not only in leading cities but in towns and villages also.
The next session of the Congress was to be held at Ahmadabad in December 1921. The Government's earliest reaction was that of ridiculing the movement, as it had imagined that the bonfires etc. were only passing shows. But as time passed and there was not only no abatement but a more glowing flare-up, it grew alarmed. It saw that Gandhiji's entirely fearless speeches had begun to spread a sense of hatred and disgust towards it among the masses. But in view of the novel character of the agitation, viz., through non-violence, it was annoyed and per-flexed at first, but finally it took up arms against the Congress. Maulana Mohammad Ali was arrested at Voltaire when he was travelling with Gandhiji from Madras to Calcutta. Maulana Shaukat Ali was the next victim of repression. Gandhiji was given an order not to visit Malabar. Lala Lajpatrai, Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru and many other distinguished leaders were clapped in jail. Even Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, the President Elect, was not spared. The Congress session was held at Ahmadabad never the less and all this fury of repression failed to suppress the rising spirit of the nation.
The Congress decided to make the whole region of Bardo I Taluka the arena for offering mass civil disobedience. Gandhiji gave an ultimatum to the Viceroy and the movement, as admitted by Sir George Lloyd, the then Governor of Bombay, came to `within an inch of success.' But as the fight was rushing on towards its climax, there was a sudden jolt-of a sad event which seemed to Gandhiji the forbidding finger of God. People at Chauri Chaura ( a small town in U. P. 1 lost their sanity at Government persecution and they reacted by burning Police Stations and killing policemen. Though this happened in U. P., far away from Bardoli in Gujarat, it was the third outbreak of violence during that year in India.. As Gandhiji believed that if mass civil disobedience were started in Bardoli, the steam created by its heat might burst into violence at other places also, though it might remain quite controlled and guided in Bardoli Taluka itself. When, therefore people were at the height of sanguine expectations he cried a sudden halt and decided not to start mass civil disobedience in Bardoli Taluka.
The flood-tide began to ebb and a sense of frustration and despair began to overtake the people.
The Government was but waiting for its chance.
On March 10, 1922 Gandhiji was arrested on the charge of sedition for his 3 articles, (1) Tempering with Loyalty, (2) The Puzzle and its Solution and (3) Shaking the Manes ( or the British Lion ). He was hauled up before the District Judge, Mr. Broomfield. The case has been regarded by some as the re-enactment of the scene of that famous trial before Pilate-though with some differences. Gandhiji said that he had to choose between submission to a system that had done irreparable harm to India or incur the risk of the outburst of mad fury by the people and that he would take that risk again if he was set free. "I am here, therefore, to invite and submit to the highest penalty for what, in law, is a deliberate crime and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen. The only course opens to you, Mr. Judge, is either to resign your post or inflict on me the severest penalty, if you believe that the system and law you are assisting are good for the people." The judge was very courteous and sentenced him to 6 years' imprisonment on the analogy of Gandhiji's distinguished compatriot, Loka-manya Tilak.
This period was to end on March 17, 1928, but within two years, an entirely unexpected event happened which revealed the Hidden Hand behind all events, for it changed, suddenly again, the course of history.
During this year of rest Gandhi gave personal attention to the Ashram activities and thought deeply over non-violence, triple constructive programme of Khadi. Hindu Muslim Unity and the removal of untouchability. He granted interview to some outstanding personalities.
That release was, in fact, the most important event since the political recession begun in 1922. What high expectations were aroused in the hope of, and at, his release are best expressed by Lala Lajpatrai-'The Lion of the Punjab', who was himself one of India's tallest leaders : "What shall I say ? Come out quickly. 'We are building upon the hope of your out ark leading us once again. We have been like child .n without a Master in your absence. We have been little babies fighting amongst one another." (Day-To-Day with Gandhi Vol. : III, P. 305).
But Gandhiji, as was his wont, would not give any opinion, much less any political lead, before knowing at first-hand the reasons that had prompted the Swarajists to break away from the boycotts of councils etc. of 1921.
Though his views regarding these boycotts had remained unchanged during his jail-period, he had. to face a fait accompli, inasmuch as the Swarajists had already secured at the go canada Congress in 1923 a firm foothold for their programme.
His parleys with the Swarajist leaders, Motilal Nehru and C. R. Das, gave him no new light, but he saw that it was unwise, if not impossible, in the then prevailing darkness and gloom to take up arms against the Swarajists and make the Congress revert to its pristine boycotts. Gandhiji and the other two leaders issued separate statements in which they agreed to differ. But he did pour oil on the waters by asking his No-changer followers to give up their hostile attitude and con-centrate on the constructive programme.
All the same the rift in the Congress only widened; this came out at the Ahmadabad meeting of the All-India Congress Committee held on June 27, 28 and 29th. Gandhiji proposed a punitive clause (in his spinning franchise resolution) for a Congressman elected to any office who failed to contribute 2000 yards of yarn. The clause created a sharp reaction by the Swarajists who walked out in protest. Gandhiji took the novel step of rescinding the clause on the ground that those who had walked out would have voted against it.
But the worst was yet to come. His resolution condemning Gopinath Sasha for murdering an Englishman, while appreciating his 'misguided love', was stoutly opposed by C. R. Das. "Not that he (Das) did not swear by non-violence, but he would change the emphasis on different clauses considerably. Gandhi was disappointed to find some of his dearest and closest followers voting against the resolution" ("History of the Congress" by Dr. B. P. Sitaramayya, p. 4b4).
He broke down in public (one of the rarest occasions of his life) and then gave vent to his anguish in two articles, "Defeat ted and Humbled" (App. 1-2) and "The All India Congress Committee" (App. 1-3).
But after that event, (though it may not be because of it) Gandhiji saw like a flash the real need of the times, viz., unity even at the cost of his beloved non-co-operation programme. cardinal. faith in non violence or love was probably the hidden source of this new light. What was 'fundamental' at the Jehu parley was sacrificed for the sake of this greater principle. He saw that there was far more non-co-operation among our-selves than against the Government.
Hence, his offer of the olive branch to the Swarajists. He 'woos' the Swarajist leaders : Pandit Motilal Nehru and Das : at Calcutta and signs forthwith even against the pleadings of his Bengali No-changer friends-"The Joint Statement" issued by the three leaders. (App. V-1). All the boycotts except that of foreign cloth are thereby suspended. The Swarajists thus be-come full-fledged Congress representatives in the legislatures, in return for which all Congressmen-pro-changers and No-changers-gars-are required to wear only Khadi on public occasions and contribute for Congress membership 2000 yards of yarn. This spinning franchise was in way a 'revolutionary change', but the Swarajists agreed to it in view of their gain of the support of the Congress and Gandhiji.
Gandhiji now concentrates on unity all around-not only in the Congress ranks but between all political parties. He appeals to the Moderates, to Mrs. Besant's party, and to all others to come on a 'common platform' to work out his triple programme of Hindu-Muslim Unity, removal of untouchability by Hindus, and spread of spinning and Khadi. This book ends before the period which can show how far he succeeded in this last move. His two articles, 'The Law of Love' ( App. V-2 ) and 'The Realities' ( App. II-1 ) show this new attitude very clearly. He states in the latter, "Non-violence is more important than moon-co-operation and the latter without the former is a sin."
This cardinal principle of non-violence probably explains as nothing else does his attitude towards the Muslims. Let him explain it himself. In his talk with Sri Rajagopalachari, he says, "That question ( of H. M. unity ) is by its very nature such as does not admit of 'responsive co-operation.' All matters of love are unilateral contracts. If one of the parties fulfils all the conditions, it is sufficient. There is no spirit of bargaining." ( p. 18 ).
The main events of this period are follows :
• The All Parties' Conference held at Bombay.
• Gandhi accepts the crown of thorns, the President ship of the Indian National Congress as well as the President ship of Gujarat State's peoples' Conference.
• The Belgaum Congress Session.
• Gandhi's tour through-out India to implement his triple programme of Hindu-Muslim unity, spread of Khadi and removal of untouchability.
• The statement on the problem of Kohat riots.
He was, on the contrary, perhaps more unhappy in 1925 than ever before in his life. This may appear a too sweeping state-mint, but a hurried glance on his career will justify it. He did go through dark periods in South Africa ; he was stoned by Europeans, he was beaten black and blue by Pathans, and he had to pass through a seemingly hopeless and interminable struggle. But he knew where he was and his colleagues backed him, on the whole, through thick and thin.
Then after his return to India, with the one exception of a serious but very temporary check after the Punjab and Ahmeda-bad riots, he met with one victory after another-Champaran, labor strike in Ahmadabad, Kaira Satyagrah, unanimous acceptance by the Nagpur Congress of his scheme in every detail and the glorious year 1921. And before he could feel the impact of his halt at Bardoli in 1922, the Government providentially intervened to give him a much needed rest and total ignorance of conditions in India. It whisked him into jail at the right moment.
It was only after he came out in 1924 and started to gather the lost threads that he began to realize the gravity of the situation in India. But even then he had hopes of a revival. His eyes really opened only in June 1924 at Ahmadabad, 'when he saw how far dearest and most stalwart colleagues had moved away from him.
But he possessed a sixth sense that told him what to do and when. He scrapped his beloved non-co-operation programme and wooed the Swarajists by issuing the Joint Statement with Das and Nehru. This might be a soothing balm, but there was a new aggravation-the dissatisfaction of his No-changer friends -of Rajagopalachari, his staunchest colleague, specially.
The fourth volume ends there. The prelude was necessary to show the background of the picture-but not his troubles. At the very beginning of this volume, in a letter to Lala Lajpat Rai, he complains, "The situation is as complex as it possibly can be. And the worst of it is that though everybody looks to me to find a solution, I seem to fit in nowhere. My plan seems to so many of my educated countrymen to be hopelessly impracticable, whereas to me it seems to be the only practical plan before the country." ( p. 19 ).
And yet he persists, because he sees harmony as the one need of the perilous hour. The All Parties' Conference held at Bombay was his next step. It was an attempt to bring all the political parties of India back to the Congress-fold for a common programme acceptable to all.
And what is the outcome ? The sponsor's dearest lieutenant would naturally take the rosiest view and yet even he, Mahadevbhai, admits : "The immediate object ... to raise a ( Common ) public protest ( against the Bengal Ordinance which had clapped so many Swarajists in jail ) had been gained. The far-reaching and comprehensive object has not been achieved", though he hopes that the success of the limited object will lead to the greater.
That was the situation when he became the President. His feelings are given in an undertone remark to Mahadevbhai : "My state is that of an arjakta ( a Jain nun ). Before she is initiated, she is taken out in a gala procession and adorned with the costliest attire and jewels-but because she is to leave the world as a recluse. My President ship also seems to be a step to turn me out of political life." ( p. 264 )
Why then, with this full knowledge, did he accept the post at all ? Because, perhaps, like Pitt the Elder, he thought he alone could save the country and nobody else could. And if he himself did not feel so, his friends, including Swarajists, did. "I am bent upon freeing India from any yoke whatsoever ( not merely the British ) Swaraj will come not by the acquisition of authority by a few, but by the acquisition by all of a capacity to resist authority when it is abused," he says to Louis Fischer who adds "(Gandhi admitted ) fundamental differences with the mind of educated India', nevertheless he was persuaded to accept the Presidency as his friends argued that his aloofness would split the Congress" ( Mahatma Gandhi by Louis Fischer ).
That settled the matter and 1925 sees a Congress President more hard-working than any that preceded or followed him. His acceptance of the President ship of the Gujarat States' People's Conference was an additional burden, but only a corollary, a very part of his work as Congress President.
To implement his three point programme of Hindu-Muslim-'unity, spread of Khadi and the spinning wheel, and removal of untouchability by Hindus, he tours ceaselessly from one end of India to another, right through the year. It is difficult, for these who were not eye-witnesses, to assess today the value of his Herculean labor in those distressing times. He sees national schools and colleges thinning and then disappearing ( letter to Sarojini Naidu, dot. 2. 3. 1925, Vol. VI) and that in his own pro-Vince, Gujarat also. His personal popularity among the masses seems to have waned at places. "As if to let the witnesses of a situation more depressing than at Bardoli, we went to Bhuvasan." says Mahadevbhai ( p. 226 ). His attempts at pushing his triple programme meets with varying, even dubious success, though he says, "I often wish I had better continued to remain in jail.' ( p. 271 ) He had the titanic courage, to hope till hope creates, from its own wreck the thing it contemplates."
The main emphasis of Gandhi during this period rests on the triple constructive programme of Hindu-Muslim unity, spread of Khadi and the removal of untouchability.
Gandhi's speeches, during this non-stop tour programme, generally occupying 22 hours in a day silently effected a social and psychological revolution in India. Here he addresses the masses, the Hindus, the Harijans, the women, the lawyers, the municipal corporations and pushes everyone towards the path of duty, morality, truth and non-violence.
The political situation is stagnant, if not deteriorating still further.
But the Diary has the relieving feature of revealing the inner man in Mahatma Gandhi, in greater detail and variety perhaps, than during the rush and bustle of his fighting days. Not with-standing the stillness of political activity outside and his chagrin at the sight of Hindu-Muslim ill-feelings and riots, he is, if possible, more active than at other times, more determined to regain the lost ground and make his influence more pervasive, `like waves of the sea silently creeping into the land through inlets and creeks.' Somebody has rightly said that Gandhi is more dangerous when he retires, than when he is fighting in the open arena. Whoever can stop him from carrying on his propaganda for the spinning wheel, for cow-protection, and against the evil drink or untouchability ? But that makes him more than ever before the soul of India, captive but unconquered. And what tremendous work he was doing during this 'retires. mint' from active politics. A single quotation from this Diary, an account of a single day's work, as given by Mahadevbhai is a sufficient indication. The reader will forgive its length for the sake of its vivid portraiture :
"Only today's itinerary, (probably d. 18.3.25) given by way of a specimen will show what kind of a tour this one in South India was. Early at 4.30 a. m. • meeting at Paarur ; then to Always by car, 3 meetings there ; then at 11 a. m. by train to Trichur; meeting with the Maharaja, procession, and 2 meetings there; start for Pal hat at 3 p. m. by a motor-ride along the roughest possible hilly road; an extremely ill-organized public meeting there, owing to the jostle of the crowds it was 8 p. m. when Gandhiji could reach the rostrum; torrential rain; women's meeting at 9 p. m.; theological debate of pundits from 10 p.m. 1 a. m.; visit of the Shabari Ashram of Krishnaswamy her at 2 a. m.; rest at the station at last at 2. 30 a. m. This is wan the relentlessly non-stop programme of 22 hours in one day.
You But there were many such in the Southern tour." (p. 128)
And Mahadevbhai, the loving secretary, repeats his protest twice or thrice in this book.
That Gandhiji had no illusions about the intensity of the his c darkness that enveloped him is evidenced by his letter to offer Maulana Mohammad Ali :
"Before you wrote to me, I had realized your position. Such Gang must be the lot of genuine workers. We were doing little when=' we were swimming with the tide. We have to exert ourselves, I"' F' only when we swim against it. Now we shall know whether we Gonad have strength. It is a child's play for a soldier to fight against a Vent I foe, however formidable. But not many can stand demoralize- book tion, distrust, indiscipline and want of faith, among their own 1-1( ranks. You and I have to face that fact. (p. 313).
But what was his psychic reaction to the situation ?
"I have such deep faith in God that I am sitting quiet now in inspire the assurance that when the hour strikes, He will shake everyone •,p out of his slumber" ( p. 274 ). By the way, should this not serve people us as a tonic in these days of party break-ups, floor cross- of In sings, graft, strikes etc ? And this faith and assurance was herald based on no under-estimate of the opponent's strength.
"The age of speaking, book-writing, is gone and the age of the Pre action has come. You have to give battle not to a race of useless speakers, but of born workers, a race that has known not what women it is to yield, a race of inflexible determination as well as some rights 1 of the finest soldiers of the world." ( p. 288 ) Verily, Gandhiji share. never stinted in his chivalrous tribute to the opponent where Any it was due.
scatter, And he had no illusions either, about the way in which a helpless, unarmed, disorganized, multi-lingual, multi-religious, elevation and multi-cultural country could pit itself against that mighty power.
This volume contains novel incidents, remarkable expressions and beautiful pictures of men and things. Some of the touching features of this volume are :
• A glimpse of real Bengal.
• Gandhi's meeting with Bododa.
• The sad demise of Deshbandhu C.R. Das.
• Gandhi's choice of Sri Sen Gupta, both as the Mayor of Calcutta and the leader of the Swaraj party and a storm of protests from European and Indian Quarters.
• Gandhi's impressive speeches before Englishmen, Y.M.C.A., Anglo-Indians and others.
• The famous session of the Congress at Kanpur. • Vinoba's most elevating discourse on the Gita.
This volume-a further report of Gandhiji's tour in 1925-is replete with novel incidents, remarkable expressions, and beautiful pictures of men and things.
For instance, the following flash in the darkness that continues to prevail, or rather to deepen in India. Besides a schism even in the Swaraj party, communal tension continues to grow worse. But where lesser men would quail, Gandhiji upholds the torch of faith with a tenacity all ‘his own. In his Convocation Address as the Chancellor of the Gujarat Vidyapith, Gandhiji says :
"Let us not lose ourselves in the darkness of despair that has spread all around us. Let us not look at the sky outside for the sight of the warming rays of hope, but go into ourselves in search of them." ( pp. 287 ).
But this is overstepping the chronological order. The eyes of India are at present focused on Bangla Desh and it is a noteworthy co-incidence that, in order that the reader may have a glimpse of real Bengal, the book begins with Bengal and is largely devoted to it.
There is first of all the happy picture of Miyajan, a Muslim star-spinner of Khadi Pratishthan, an organization serving the people 85% of whom are Muslims, though 2/3rds of its workers are Hindus. And does not the spectacle of Bharat forgetting the fact that there had been 3 waves of exclusively Hindu refugees and supporting the Government on its open-door policy today to accommodate, at considerable cost to herself, Bengali refugees of all communities, support Gandhiji's follow-wing view ?
"Hindus have absorbed Spanish, Italians, and Huns...... It ( pollution ) is a later growth We were not exclusive. Hinduism's beauty is that it is not a missionary religion counting heads like Islam or Christianity. It has carried on absorption un-consciously. It has followed a sort of natural accretion". ( pp. 20 ).
Gandhiji had the satisfaction to see that Khadi was in greater vogue among the women of Bengal than among those of any other Indian Province and that though the pariah was very much in evidence there, all of the women removed their veils before Gandhiji and a large number even before his party.
But in contrast with these pleasing sights, Mahadevbhai saw palaces surrounded by hutments, where dwelt the masses `through whose sweating toil these palaces have reared their proud heads, but who do not, get even one full meal a day' ( pp. 30 ). The book gives further some old figures, which are worth remembering even now- so long as India remains a poor country. Lord Curzon put the average annual income of India at Rs. 33 and Dr. Dadabhai Naoroji at Rs. 23. When to this fact not materially changed even now is added the great gulf between the rich and the poor in India, one cannot fail to realize the propriety of Gandhiji's advocacy of Khadi.
The first unforgettable picture in this book from Mahadev-bhai's facile pen is Gandhiji's meeting with the aged Baroda, Poet Rabindranath Tagore's elder brother. Here is a bit in it that reveals Gandhiji's trait. Gandhiji got down from the chair and squatted on the floor, out of respect for Baroda. Baroda : 'Do please take the chair.'
Gandhiji : "Whatever I may be in the eyes of others, I must stop here at least, throw aside my Mahatma ship."-as he did earlier before the Grand old Man of India, Dadabhai Naoroji.
The next incident ( pp. 45 ) is here reproduced from Louis Fischer's book on 'Mahatma Gandhi.'
"Wherever he went, he was besieged by hordes His deification had commenced. "I have expressed my strongest disapproval of this idolatry," said Gandhi ( But ) Intellectuals too were not immune. One day Gandhiji's train stopped with a jerk. A lawyer had fallen out of the train, head first. When picked up, he was unhurt. He ascribed it to being the Mahatma's fellow traveler. 'Then you should not have fallen out at all !' Gandhi laughed. But the wit was lost on the devout."
A tribute paid in a chat is more natural than a eulogy on a platform. Hence the following appreciation of Gandhiji's intelligence and draftsmanship by Sri C. R. Das, one of India's foremost lawyers, is worth bringing out :
"What would have taken me 3 days to write, he finished in 15 minutes !" ( pp. 48 ).
Some of the remarkable issues discussed in this volume are the problems of rabid dogs, explained in the series entitled is this humanity?'. Vinoba's discourses on the Gita and Gandhi's discourses on the Bible along with the biographies of Tukaram and Bhagat.
That article ( as well as the whole book ) shows what his meaning of 'rest' imposed upon him by 'the elaborate instructions' of his doctor is. He must take rest indeed, but also give 'personal attention' to the Ashram in order to perform a necessarily long-delayed duty. A very simple statement that, but it means looking after a whole colony of inmates - men, women, and children, teachers and taught, masters and assistants. nurses and patients. And mostly he was himself the doctor of all the patients. That meant an effort to harmonize varied, often conflicting tastes, abilities, accomplishments etc. And it is Gandhiji who wants to look after the Ashram, i.e. one who cannot feel happy unless he goes into the minutest details of everything he handles, of the work done and to be done, of the management of all the departments, of the school, of the individual aspirations and joys and sorrows of the boys and girls etc. etc.
As if that is not enough work for his 'rest period,' he wants to put the affairs of the All-India Spinners Association on a sound basis, which, he himself says, requires 'constant supervision and attention to details.'
'He is a work-worm then,' somebody may coin the word and dismiss him. Let him pause before he denounces. That article shows with what balanced judgment he sacrifices what is dearest to his heart. It is best to quote those concluding portions as they give a good glimpse of the Inner Man in Gandhiji.
"But whether the Fund ( Deshbandhu Memorial Fund, for his favorite cause, Khadi, be it remembered ) is collected or not ( in the absence of his tours ), the decision is made. Man Proposes, God disposes."*
This from one who lived a whole life of Herculean efforts and starry successes. The tours through Bihar, Maharashtra, Assam and Southern Peninsula have, therefore, to be can-celled. He explains the reason:
"My unexpected fast of seven days upset the man-made apple-cart. The Ancient of Days has asserted Himself once more and without warning set aside the whole plan. The friends ( in Bihar etc. ) will appreciate my difficulty."
After this perfect resignation to the Divine Will, he goes on :
"For me this year of grace is both an indulgence and self-denial. It is an indulgence because I hope to fulfill the long cherished desire of being in the midst of boys and girls ( they are the first ) and the fellow-workers of the Ashram. It is a self-denial, because it was a pleasure to me to be with so many friends in the different provinces and be the recipient of the affection of the masses between whom and myself there is a bond which defies description but is never the less felt alike by them and me. I see in the fellowship with them the God I adore. I derive from that fellowship all my consolation, all my hope and all the sustained power I possess. If I had not realized that bond in South Africa now fully thirty years ago life would not be worth living for me. But I know that whether I live in the Ashram or whether in their midst, I work for them, think of them and pray for them. I want to live only for them and so for myself" ( p. 368-69 ).
Who can deny that Gandhiji was a Bhatia-( devotee ) within and a man of action without ?
Lest anybody hastily concludes that Gandhiji was a party-san who ignored, if not disliked, the rich, let him remember that the rich also always crowded round him and helped him with head, heart and hand ( donations ), and that he advised them to be 'trustees' of their property.
This long preface of the Preface was necessary in order to remove some unjust apprehensions of Gandhiji's spiritual stature. He was the Gita's Yogi who saw God in everybody and everything.
Thus Gandhiji confines himself to his Ashram and his 'town, Ahmadabad, during the whole period the book covers. There is no breath-taking, dynamic 'action' and so no spectacular achievement, but he withdraws into the solitude of his heart and struggles on that plain against the dark forces that always surge round the truth-seeker ( even Jesus and the Buddha are not spared ) and that have to be fought and conquered by God's grace.
But he cannot help throwing glances on the outer world, as he knows that all is one within and without and that his 'within' means not only his mind and other inward implements, but also the two activities noted above. Hence, he expresses in his usual vigorous and terse way his reactions to the case of the untouchable in Madras who is acquitted on merely technical grounds of the offence of entering a Hindu temple. As everybody can profit from its perusal, let me quote a small paragraph.
"It is a curious situation. We resent, and properly, the -treatment meted out to our countrymen in South Africa. We are impatient to establish Swaraj. But we, Hindus, refuse to see the incongruity in treating a fifth of our own co-religionists as worse than dogs. For dogs are not untouchables. Some now-a-days even keep them as drawing-room pets."
The sad news of sudden murder of Swami Shraddhanandaji just at the outset casts a shadow of deep sorrow on the atmosphere of whole country. Gandhi while appreciating the martyr spirit of the Swami says with deep concern that 'the problem of Hindu Muslim unity has passed out of human hands and that god has taken it into His own.'
Gandhi devotes his main energy on the advocacy of Khadi from different angles. He maintains that Khadi not only provides bread to the poor, but it safeguards the honor of women and brings communal unity also.
This was one of the few cases of right man doing the right thing at the right time. Extraneous circumstances as well as his intense intellectual conviction and unquenchable faith led him inevitably to the advocacy of Khadi, it seems.
Without any pleading on his part and on its own initiative, the 1926 Congress, which Gandhiji attended when he emerged from his self-imposed silence and solitude, passed almost unanimously a resolution that required every Congress office-holder to wear Khadi habitually in place of the former concession to him to wear it on formal occasions of Congress meetings- Perhaps he thought it was then his bounden duty as well as the right moment to spread his favorite gospel of Khadi. Perhaps the gruesome murder of Swami Shraddha-nandaji on the eve of the Congress showed him more clearly than ever before that communal tensions had reached a stage beyond his or human control. He must therefore serve the cause of unity only by his silent prayers to God and divertion of his energies to Khadi, so that it might ultimately bring about unity through the co-operation of both Hindus and Muslims that it inevitably required.
Let it be noted in parenthesis here that his reaction to the news of the murder of Swami Shraddhanandaji on 23-12-1926 anticipated so-to-say by 21 years his own state when he himself was shot dead on 30-1-1948. In his speech on Shraddhanandaji's murder at the All India Congress Committee he said :
"Death is certain for everybody, but rare is the man who is blessed with a death like this glorious death will create a far deeper effect than his death from ordinary illness might have. I have not sent a single wire or letter of condolence to Sri Indra. I could not tell him anything but this : "The death your father has met with is one of supernal bliss." ( P. 28 )
And later on : "You may now have understood why I called Rashid my brother. For myself, I do not consider him even an offender. The real culprits are my-self, Lalaji, Malaviyaji, Ali Brothers. The Gita says, m:rz4 rill 3-7n-a ( Equal-minded-nests is yoga-Gita 11-48 ). It says : "Don't differentiate between man and man, between a Brahmin and a Candela ( lowest in the social scale ), between an elephant and a cow." ( Gita V-18 ). That is why I said that Rashid was my brother and that he was not even a culprit. ( P. 38 ) ( This was not the empty boast of a braggart. Gandhiji did forgive his assailant, Mir Alma who had nearly fatally wounded him in South Africa ).
To resume the thread, he begins a tour because, "After keeping aloof for a year, I can no longer hold myself back and I want to roam all over India ( for Khadi )" ( P. 71 ). And he got with compound interest what he yearned for, says M.D. : "It has been a very strenuous time, what with noisy crowds and motor journeys over bad roads and what with friends' anxiety to cover as many places as possible in the shortest possible time. At Daltonganj the villagers from the hillside had come from distances of 20 to 30 miles and mustered in their thousands. One speech or one speaker could not reach them at a time ( there were no loud-speakers then ), so Gandhiji first addressed the people in front, then those in the rear and then on the side." ( P. 97-98 )
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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