BROTHERS AND SISTERS,
Today only our old courteous friend has objected to the recitation from the Koran. Hence, I would discuss a pathetic letter from a Punjabi Hindu refugee. He has suffered a great deal in the Punjab. And he has objected to the recitation from the Koran. I do not know if that gentleman is present here. He mayor may not be here, but I cannot ignore his letter. It is a letter written with deep pain. He has put forth fairly good arguments in the letter. But then it is full of ignorance born out of his anger. Every line he has written expresses his anger. These days practically all my time is spent in listening to the tales of woe from the Hindu or Sikh refugees or the Muslims of Delhi who are in distress. I also feel the same distress in my heart and am equally hurt. But I would not be truly non-violent if I started shedding tears or became gloomy. If non-violence made me so very soft, I would be crying the whole time, and there would be no time left to worship God, and to eat and #sleep. But right from childhood, being a follower of non-violence, I have made it a habit of hardening my heart instead of shedding tears while hearing or seeing any tragedy, so that I would be able to face them. Have not our saints and sages taught us that one who is a worshipper of ahimsa should be softer than a flower and harder than a stone? I have tried to live according to this teaching. That is why when I receive complaints like those in this letter or hear the angry and sorrowful tales from the visitors coming to me, I steel my heart. That is the only way I can face the present situation. The letter has been written in the Urdu script and hence I asked Brajkishan to write for me the important points of the letter.
The first charge levelled against me is that I have broken a promise. The letter says: “Have you not said that even if there is a single individual in your prayer meeting objecting to the recitation from the Koran, you would respect his wish and cancel the prayer for the evening?” This is a half-truth which is more dangerous than a total lie. When I had first cancelled the prayer¹ because there was an objection, I had declared that I was cancelling the prayer for fear that the large numbers attending the prayer may start showing their anger against the objector and may even manhandle him. This was several months ago. Since then people have learnt the art of restraint. And, when people assured me that they would not have anger in their hearts nor any ill feeling for the objector I agreed to hold the public prayer. And, as far as I know, the result has been good. The behaviour of the persons who object is extremely courteous and apart from voicing their objection they create no obstruction in the prayer. Thus, I hope the writer of this letter will appreciate that I have not gone back on my word. And the result of continuing the prayer despite the protest has so far been good. I would like to assure you that as far as I know myself, in this long life of public service I have never been guilty of breaking a promise.
The second charge the writer of this letter has made against me is that while I have the recitation from the Koran and claim that all religions are equal, I do not have recitations from the Japji² and the Bible. This remark only betrays the ignorance of the writer. He is not aware of my statement in which I explained how the entire Bhajanavali was prepared.³ The Ashram Bhajanavali contains quite a few psalms from the Bible and bhajans from the Granthsaheb.
His third complaint is that many eminent Congress leaders have come away from West Punjab and other parts of West Pakistan; but having come to the Indian Union they do not share the trials and tribulations of other refugees. These leaders have acquired more spacious buildings than what they had occupied in Pakistan and are living in great comfort and luxury. These Congress leaders have completely isolated themselves from the refugees who have no houses to live in nor woollen clothes to protect themselves against winter. Many of the refugees do not even have a change of clothes, not to speak of the woollen clothes. They do not even get good food. If there is truth in this complaint, it is really shameful. In my prayer speeches I have denounced those well-to-do refugees who, instead of sharing the hardships of the poor refugees desert them and live in luxury. This is not religion but irreligion. The rich must share the joys and sorrows of their poor brethren.
Then that friend has taunted me that even though I intended going to Pakistan I have not yet gone. He wants to know why I am in Delhi. He asks me why I prefer to help my Muslim friends instead of going to Pakistan and help the Hindus and the Sikhs who are in distress. But the person who makes such a complaint does not realize that I cannot disregard my duty here in Delhi and go to Pakistan in the hope of helping the Hindus and the Sikhs there. I admit that I am a friend of the Muslims and others because I am equally a friend of the Hindus and the Sikhs. When I serve anyone, it is because I am inspired by the thought that he is a part not only of India or one particular religion but of the whole of humanity. The Hindu and Sikh refugees and others here have to prove by being friendly with the Muslims here that I need not stay on in Delhi any longer. Then I would rush to Pakistan with full confidence that my going there would not be in vain.
The person who has made these complaints has not spared even the Kasturba Fund. He asks how the Kasturba Fund is being utilized and why it could not be utilized for giving relief to the refugees. The first thing is that the Fund was raised for a particular purpose when I was in jail.⁴ In other words, the Fund was raised for the purpose of serving women and children in the villages of India. There is a Board of Trustees to look after its management. The ever-vigilant Thakkar Bapa⁵ is its Secretary. He keeps an account of every single pie. The accounts are open for the public to see. Hence, the Fund cannot be spent for the refugees as this friend suggests. And there is no need to do so. Money is being generously given for the relief of the refugees. Everybody knows about the generous response to my appeal⁶ for blankets. Sardar Patel has issued a special appeal. It has received, and is still receiving, whole-hearted public support.
The last complaint of the writer is that when Pakistan has put a ban on the slaughter of pigs why cannot India prohibit cow-slaughter? I am not aware about a legal ban on the slaughter of pigs in Pakistan. If the information given by this friend is correct, I am sorry about it. I know that Islam forbids the eating of pork. But even so, I do not think it is proper to stop the non-Muslims from eating pork.
Has not the Qaid-e-Azam proclaimed that Pakistan is not a theocratic State and religion would not be imposed by law? But, unfortunately, it is true that this claim is not always put into practice. Would India become a theocratic State and would the principles of Hinduism be imposed on non-Hindus? I hope not. If that happens India would cease to be a land of hope and promise. Then it would not be a country to which not only all the races of Asia and Africa but the whole world would look with hope. The world does not expect from Hindustan whether as Indian Union or Pakistan meanness and fanaticism. It expects greatness, goodness and generosity from Hindustan so that the whole world can learn a lesson and find light in the midst of the prevailing darkness.
I do not lag behind anyone in my devotion to and worship of the cow. But such feeling of worship and belief cannot be imposed on anybody by law. It can be created by increasing friendly relations and proper behaviour with the Muslims and all other non-Hindus. The Gujaratis and the Marwaris are supposed to be leading all others in the matter of protecting the cow. But they have forgotten the principles of Hinduism to such an extent that they would gladly impose restrictions on others while they may themselves ill-treat the cow and her progeny. Why are the cattle of India the most neglected lot in the whole world? As it is generally believed, why have these cattle become a burden on the land because of their extremely low yield of milk? As beasts of burden why are the bullocks treated so badly?
The pinjarapoles of India are not such that one can be proud of. A lot of money is spent on them but the cattle are hardly tended scientifically or intelligently. These pinjarapoles cannot give a new lease of life to India’s cattle. This can be done only by treating the cattle with sympathy and kindness. I claim that more than any other Hindu, I have saved a larger number of cows from the butcher’s knife without the assistance of law, because of my being able to cultivate friendship with the Muslims.
Prarthana Pravachan—II, pp. 40-5
- 1. On April 2, 1947, vide Vol. LXXXVII, pp. 189-90.
- 2. The opening part of the Guru Granthsaheb
- 3. Vide pp. 3-4, 363 and Vol. LXXV, pp. 280-2.
- 4. After Gandhiji’s release from Jail, a purse of Rs. 80 lakhs was presented to him on October 2, 1944 on behalf of the Trustees of the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Fund. Vide Vol. LXXVIII, pp. 149-51.
- 5. A. V. Thakkar (1869-1951); joined Servants of India Society in 1914; established Bhil Seva Sadan in 1922; Secretary, Harijan Sevak Sangh; President, Gujarat Antyaja Seva Mandal; Secretary, Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, 1944-51
- 6. Vide pp. 283-5.
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