I shall not waste time in reading out her long note.¹ I was under the impression that people had understood me by now. But I find that we are not so fortunate. Irreligion is being practised in the name of religion. But we shall have to put up with irreligion. If the lady tries to interrupt, let no one harass her. Now she has gone a step further and writes to me that I should not even deliver my speech. She may say what she likes. The prayer will not stop nor will I desist from delivering my speech. If everyone starts behaving in this manner the administration of the country cannot function. You will please remain peaceful.
I see that you are all oppressed by the heat. But you have got to listen and I have got to speak. But I can speak to you only when you maintain quiet. This does not mean that you should not fan yourselves with a piece of paper or a handkerchief. Even though it is hot, I am getting some air. This girl is fanning me, how can I then stop you?² If all of you do the fanning yourselves, I would not say that it is the job of a woman. You can bring your own fans. A woman can also act like a man. If she does not become disheartened, woman is man’s ’better half’.
In the bhajan, the gopi says that hearing the flute she wants to go to the forest. But the bhajan is not meant only for women. We are all like gopis before God. God by Himself is neither male nor female. For Him there is no distinction of status, no distinction of birth. He can be described only as ’not this, not this’. God resides in the forest that is the heart and His flute is the voice within. We do not have to go to desolate forests. We have to hear the divine music that goes on in our own hearts. When each one of us starts hearing that sweet music, all would be well with India.
We heard this bhajan at an opportune moment. This lady tells me that I should retire to the forest for it is I who have spoilt Jinnah. But who am I to spoil him? If at all, I can only hope to transform him. I can do it not by force but by love. One can only destroy by force, by the atom bomb. The atom bomb has only wrought destruction. It has not drawn anyone to itself. If there is any real magnet in the world which can draw man to man, it is only love. I am witness to it. The lady says I should not read the Koran, should not speak at all, only retire to the forest. But even if I go to the forest you will drag me back. Men are created to live together. If I had learnt the art of living in a forest and drawing people there, I would not have had to make speeches or to say anything. I would have lived in solitude and silence and you would have done what I wanted. But God has not yet qualified me for that.
You may want to know what I talked³ with the Viceroy during my long session with him today and what I have brought from him. What could he give? He is helpless. He has nothing to take and nothing to give. He tells me that he is praying to God that every man in India, whether Hindu, Muslim or Sikh, should realize that he has not come here to rob the country or cause internal strife. He has come here only to leave, if possible after seeing peace established, if not, he will leave in any case. He says that the British would not remain in the country after August 15. He will stay on as the Governor-General only if we want him to do so. The Viceroy says that at present he has nothing more than Dominion Status to give. It would have been different if we had driven them out. But this, he says, is the best way if they are to leave as friends.
The Viceroy also told me that the British were leaving as friends because India did not try to drive them out by force. People did sabotage the railways, telegraph service, etc., in 1942. But they were only a few. The masses did not indulge in such activities. He told me that we behaved decently with them. We only asked them to quit, because we were pained that they had spread poison in the country. But, he said, the Congress did not give them poison. The Congress only resorted to non-co-operation and the British realized that they could not hold on except with the help of Martial Law, and so they had decided to leave.
Had our non-co-operation been perfect, the British would have left long ago and in a much better manner. The Congress had called upon the students, Government servants and soldiers to come out and join the movement. But they were weak; they could not leave their positions. But still we did not threaten to kill them or poison them. The British recognized this strength in us and so they are going. But the Viceroy says that the people still do not trust him. A journalist has written that the British had come here to rule and are now going away after dividing the country into two so that both the parts should fight and one or the other should seek the help of the British, and thus provide them the excuse for staying on.
This would mean betrayal and I hope the British will not betray us this time. Even if they do we should ourselves be brave. Why should the brave be afraid of betrayal? When the Viceroy talks to me with such honesty, why should I doubt his intentions? The Viceroy asked me if I at least trusted him. I told him that I would not have gone to him if I did not trust him. I told him I was truthful and honest.
I talked to the Viceroy in this vein and I also conveyed to him my pain at the division of the country into India and Pakistan. He then told me that it was not the doing of the British, that they had given what the Congress and the League had unitedly asked for. He said that the British could not leave at once because even dividing the effects of a small house took time and here it was the question of dividing a whole country. But I asked the Viceroy to relax. It would be better that we should attend to the task of division ourselves.
For the past two or three days I have been pleading with them that, now that they had got what they sought, even though it be a little less than expected, they should show what it is. Is it a rose in name only or does it also have the fragrance? Why not let us at least smell it? Tell us if there is place for the Sikhs and the Hindus in Pakistan. Or are they to be slaves? And do they intend to split up the N. W. F. P. by having a referendum there? Do they want to split up Baluchistan too?
Would they not show even now by their actions that though so long the Muslims had considered the Hindus their enemies they consider them so no longer? That they would not divide the Pathans, the Baluchis and also the Hindus? Will they not show that India will remain one even if we must divide the assets like brothers and that we will carry on our affairs without the British?
I shall not mind it if they abuse me for talking in this manner. Even yesterday abuse was hurled at me when someone exclaimed why I did not die. But let these people at least explain what is in their mind. Why do they not come to me even now? Why do they not come to you? Why do they not invite the Congressmen or the non-Congressmen to meet them? There was a time when they had forged an agreement between the Congress and the League. Why do they not forge a stronger and lasting agreement now?
Let us all try together to be friends and not enemies. The Viceroy by himself cannot achieve this. Nor can the Congress alone do it. We can become friends only by making united efforts.
Prarthana Pravachan—I, pp. 130-4
- 1. A lady had again objected to the verses from the Koran being recited at prayer.
- 2. There was laughter as the person wielding the fan was a man.
- 3. For Lord Mountbatten’s note of his interview with Gandhiji, vide Appendix IV.
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