Post Prayer Speech 1947-06-10

By Mahatma Gandhi BROTHERS AND SISTERS, Whatever I have said in connection with the decision of Bengal, I have not levelled allegations against any party. I have only repeated what I have heard. Who would not be happy if Bengal was spared partition and could remain one undivided whole? But I cannot join hands with […]

By

Mahatma Gandhi

BROTHERS AND SISTERS,

Whatever I have said in connection with the decision of Bengal, I have not levelled allegations against any party. I have only repeated what I have heard. Who would not be happy if Bengal was spared partition and could remain one undivided whole? But I cannot join hands with anyone who talks of preserving unity through falsehood, fraud and bribery. Nothing need be said if no Bengali—either Hindu or Muslim — has done it. Why should anyone wear the cap if it does not fit?

But people do entertain suspicion that something wrong is being perpetrated in Bengal. Those who told me this also gave me their names and addresses. But I do not think it proper to disclose those here. If they have been telling me falsehoods, it is bad and they should be punished. But who am I to punish anybody? I have not the power to punish anyone.

But I have one great thing with me and that is public opinion. Public opinion has tremendous power. In our country the significance of this expression has not yet been fully realized. In the English language, however, the expression has a forceful connotation. Even the king is helpless in the face of what the English call ’public opinion’. Even the redoubtable Mr. Churchill, scion of a great family, a powerful orator and erudite scholar —certainly not an ignoramus like me—could not save his office in spite of all his achievements. It only means that public opinion in England is highly awake, no one can do anything in opposition to it.

In India public opinion is not as vigilant as in England. Had it been so a worthless fellow like me would not have presumed to become a mahatma. And even after I became a Mahatma everything that I did would not have been put up with. As it is, in India anyone who is called a mahatma ceases to be answerable to the public, whatever—right or wrong—he might do.

Tolstoy had been a great warrior, but when he realized that war was not a good thing he gave up his life in trying to put an end to war. He has said that the greatest power on earth is public opinion and it is generated by truth and nonviolence.

That is what I am trying to do. But nothing is going to come of my efforts unless public opinion in India is informed with courage and truthfulness.

But that is not the case today. The impression I have is that we do not want the Dominion Status that is to be granted to us on August 15. The reason is the public opinion that has been forming over the years in favour of complete independence. This talk of Dominion Status pricks the country. The feeling is justified and yet not quite right. It is not right because we are not aware of the potentialities of Dominion Status. First, with the coming of Dominion Status the British will quit India in two months. Secondly, we can shake off the Dominion Status whenever we want. Of course if we persist in our madness others are hardly to blame. Anyway, to return to the subject of public opinion, if it stays vigilant all will be well. If through public opinion, without any bribery, without any corrupt methods being adopted, Bengal decides to remain one, then it is well and good. But we have been cowards and slaves so long that we are unable to resist the temptation to do ignoble acts.

But if one has not acted wickedly and still people level charges against one, why should one feel unhappy? For instance, there are many high-placed officers who do not become corrupt, who remain clean; and yet allegations of corruption are made against them. This does not perturb them. If someone calls me a wicked and corrupt man, do I have to weep? Do I become wicked merely because someone calls me so? I do admit that false allegations are sometimes made against people out of malice and cowardice. We should not talk ill of anyone.

We should see good points of people. If we want to be free let us not find fault with others, let us look at their better side and try to encourage them.

I now assume that the division of India is a fact and the Congress has been forced to accept it. But if the partition cannot make us happy, why should it make us unhappy? Only we should not let our hearts be sundered. We must save our hearts from being fragmented. Otherwise Jinnah Saheb’s claim that we are two nations will stand vindicated. I have never believed in it. When we are descended from the same ancestors, can our nationality change simply from our changing our religion? When Sind, the Punjab and maybe the Frontier Province too go to Pakistan will they no more belong to us? I for one do not regard even Britain as an alien country, why should I then regard Pakistan as another nation?

It may be said that I belong to India and in India to the Bombay Presidency, there again to Gujarat, in Gujarat, particularly to Kathiawar, where again to a small town of Porbandar. But because I belong to Porbandar I also belong to the whole of India, that is, I am also a Punjabi and if I go to the Punjab I shall live there regarding it as my home and if I am killed I shall accept death.

I am happy that Jinnah Saheb has said that Pakistan will not belong to an emperor, but that it will belong to the people and the minorities too will get a square deal there. I would only like to add that he should put into practice what he says. He should also impress this upon his followers and tell them to forget all talk of war.

We too will not think of suppressing the minorities in our part of the land. Even the handful of Parsis in India shall be our co-sharers. It would be bad if the Hindus and Muslims joined hands and threatened to annihilate the Parsis saying they were drink-addicts. The Parsis are my friends and I tell them that if they do not give up drinking they will kill themselves. But we shall not kill them. In the same manner Hindus and Sikhs should be protected in the Punjab. The Muslims should treat them kindly and in a brotherly way and reassure them. If the Muslims start tyrannizing over them, the Hindus and Sikhs should tell them, without fear of death, that they will not accept Islam under duress nor partake of [beef]1. The Hindus should not think that they have become a new community which cannot accommodate Muslims. We are in a majority in this part of India. We must enlighten the majority and work with courage. Courage does not reside in the sword. We will become truthful, we will become servants of God and, if need be, we will lay down our lives. When we do this India and Pakistan will not be two separate entities and the artificial partition would become meaningless. If we fight among ourselves the charge of our being two nations will be proved. Let us all therefore pray to God that although India and Pakistan have become separate nations our hearts may not be divided.

[From Hindi]
Prarthana Pravachan—I, pp. 142-6

Notes

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