BROTHERS AND SISTERS,
Is there anybody in the meeting who is against the recitation from the Koran?¹
I shall respect your opposition, though I know that the rest of the people would be disappointed that the prayers will not take place.² With my unflinching faith in non-violence, I can do nothing else. Even so I cannot help saying that you should not disregard the opinion of such a big majority which does not agree with you. From that point of view your behaviour is improper. From what I am going to say later you must realize that the intolerance that you have shown under somebody’s instigation is the evidence of petulance and anger prevalent all over the country today, which has provoked Mr. Churchill to say many bitter things about India. Let me explain to you in Hindustani Mr. Churchill’s speech a summary of which has been sent by Reuter and published in the newspapers this morning:³
The fearful massacres which are occurring in India are no surprise to me. We are, of course, only at the beginning of these horrors and butcheries, perpetrated upon one another, with the ferocity of cannibals, by the races gifted with capacities for the highest culture, and who had for generations dwelt, side by side, in general peace, under the broad, tolerant and impartial rule of the British Crown and Parliament. I cannot but doubt, that the future will witness a vast abridgment of the population throughout what has for sixty or seventy years been the most peaceful part of the world and that, at the same time, will come a retrogression of civilization throughout these enormous regions, constituting one of the most melancholy tragedies which Asia has ever known.
You are all aware that Mr. Churchill is a great man. He belongs to the blue blood of England. Marlborough family is very famous in British history. Mr. Churchill took the helm when Great Britain was in great danger after the Second World War started. No doubt he saved the British Empire from a great danger at the time. It would be wrong to argue that Great Britain could not have won without the help of the United States or other Allied nations. Who else except a man of Mr. Churchill’s sharp political diplomacy could have brought all the friendly nations together? Great Britain acknowledged the services of Mr. Churchill who in those days preserved the honour of that country. But after winning the War the nation did not hesitate to choose the Labour Government in order to recover from the terrible loss of life and property which the British Isles had undergone during the War. The British people saw the signs of the times and decided in favour of voluntary abdication from power to end the Empire and establishing instead the imperceptible rule of hearts. India has been divided and then both the countries have voluntarily announced their decision to join the British Commonwealth. The honourable step of granting independence to India was taken by all the parties representing the entire British nation. Mr. Churchill and his party were also in line with others. It may be a different thing that the future may or may not justify this step of the British people. And this has nothing to do with my suggestion that because Mr. Churchill has been a party to the transfer of power, he is expected not to say or do anything which would deprive this measure of its value. There is no doubt that in modern history there is no instance which can be compared with the transfer of power by the British. I am reminded of the sacrifice of Priyadarshi Ashoka. But Ashoka is incomparable and, moreover, he does not belong to modern history. That is why I was pained to read the Reuter’s despatch of Mr. Churchill’s speech. I take it for granted that this renowned news agency has not misreported Mr. Churchill’s speech. By his speech Mr. Churchill has harmed his country which he has greatly served. If he knew that India would be reduced to such a terrible state after freeing itself from the rule of the British Empire, did he, for a moment take the trouble of thinking that the entire responsibility for it lies with the builders of the British Empire and not with those “races” which, in Mr. Churchill’s opinion, are capable of giving birth to the greatest civilization? In my view, Mr. Churchill has been too hasty in his sweeping generalization. India’s population is several millions. Out of these a few lakhs have taken to the path of barbarism. But these people hardly count. With confidence I invite Mr. Churchill to come to India and study the situation himself. But he must come not as a representative of his Party with fixed opinions, but as an impartial Englishman who values the prestige of his country more than any Party’s and intends to help the British Government in making this task a grand success. This unique step of Great Britain would be judged from its consequences. The vivisection of India unwittingly invited the two parts of the country to fight each other. Granting freedom separately to the two parts seems like a blot on the graceful gift of freedom. It is no use saying that either side is free to come out of the British Commonwealth. This is easier said than done. I do not wish to say anything more on that account. What I have said is enough to show why Mr. Churchill should have been more careful while speaking on this subject. He has run down his colleagues without even studying the situation.
Many of you have given ground to Mr. Churchill for making such remarks. You still have sufficient time to reform your ways and prove Mr. Churchill’s prediction wrong. I know nobody listens to me these days. Had it not been so, and had the people continued to listen to me as they did before the negotiations for freedom started, there never would have been that show of barbarism which Mr. Churchill has described with such relish and gross exaggeration. And also you would have been well on the way to solving your economic and other domestic problems.
Prarthana Pravachan-I, pp. 356-9
- 1. Two persons raised their hands.
- 2. The Hindustan Times, 29-9-1947, reports that the prayer was however held after the speech “inside Gandhiji’s room with only members of his party”.
- 3. The paragraph from Winston Churchill’s speech of September 27, is reproduced from Mahatma, Vol. VIII, p. 138.
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