BROTHERS AND SISTERS,
Will you fulfil the primary condition that you will not harbour any feeling of anger or revenge against the persons who are raising the objection and sit in silence and concentration till the end of the prayer?¹
I have received a letter from a Sikh friend. He has said that he always attends the prayer meeting and likes doing so. He appreciates the spirit of tolerance in the prayer, especially my comments about the Granthsaheb, Sukhmani², Japji, etc. He writes to say that if I select some portions from the Sikh scriptures included in the Bhajanavali and have a daily recitation of them during the prayer, it will have a great effect on the Sikhs. He feels that he can say this on behalf of the entire Sikh community. He says that he is ready to read out those selected passages to me. I agree with his suggestion. But I would take a decision only after I have heard some bhajans from that friend. He must get an appointment from Brajkishan for that purpose.
I had once stated that cotton, calico, needles, etc., should be made available to the refugees so that they can make their own quilts.³ Thereby we can save millions of rupees and the refugees can easily have something to cover themselves. In response to my appeal the cotton merchants of Bombay have written to me that they are ready to supply these items. In this way, the refugees will rise in their own eyes and will learn the first lesson of healthy co-operation. The number of textile mills in Delhi itself is by no means small. There are quite a few mills in the city. Still, I welcome this gift from Bombay, because I do not want to place any unnecessary burden on voluntary donors. The larger the number of persons willing to give charity, the better will it be for the refugees and the country. Hence, I hope that the cotton merchants of Bombay would quickly send as many bales as they can. Such co-operation from the rich would lessen the burden of the Government. Now that we are a free nation, every individual can willingly participate in the activities of the Government of the country, provided he fulfils his duties by realizing the full responsibilities of the citizen of an independent country.
I have no doubt that when the bales of cotton arrive I will be able to persuade the mill-owners to supply enough chintz for quilts. The talk about bales of cotton reminds me of cloth-control. In my opinion, it is possible and also easy for the people of India to manufacture enough khadi by hand. The only condition is that sufficient cotton should be available in the country. I do not know if there ever was a famine of cotton in the country. We can never have scarcity of cotton, because we always produce more cotton than the country needs. Tens of thousands of bales of cotton are being exported from the country. Still, there is never a shortage of cotton for the textile mills of the country. I have already drawn your attention to the fact that it is possible to have within the country all the implements necessary for carding, spinning and weaving by hand. At the same time, there are also people in large numbers wanting to work. Hence, I can only say that it is nothing but inertia which makes people think that there is scarcity of cloth in the country. Today nobody in the country wants cloth-control-neither the mills, nor the mill-hands nor the buying public. Controls are increasing the band of lazy people and thus ruining the country. Such people, for want of any work, are a constant source of mischief.
If the refugees are determined to occupy themselves in useful work, they would first make their own quilts, and then all— women and men—would spend their time in ginning, carding, spinning, weaving, etc. The energy generated by the co-operative effort of so many lakhs of refugees would electrify the country. They would inspire the people to spend all their spare time in growing more food and producing khadi in their own homes. Let it be remembered that if the cotton, instead of being packed into bales, is directly made available to the spinners one process would be saved. The cotton would not be damaged, carding would become easy and the seeds would be saved for the villages.
Lady Mountbatten had come to meet me. She has become an angel of mercy. She keeps visiting both the Dominions,⁴ meets the refugees in different camps, looks up the sick and distressed people and tries to console them as much as she can. When she paid a visit to the Kurukshetra camp, people asked her when I was expected to go there. All of them were so keen to see me that Lady Mountbatten was convinced that I should undoubtedly go there. I assured her that she was justified in anticipating my visit. To tell you the truth, I have made arrangements to visit Panipat, where both the Hindus and the Muslims are anxious to see me. I had decided to combine the visits to Kurukshetra and Panipat. But now I have come to know that I cannot combine the two. Hence, it has become necessary to postpone my visit to Kurukshetra until after the forthcoming meeting of the A. I. C. C.⁵ Nonetheless, it has been suggested that even though it is difficult to arrange for loudspeakers in a sprawling camp like Kurukshetra, it should not be difficult to talk to them over the radio, provided the necessary speakers are installed in the camp. If such an arrangement is made, I would be able to speak to them on Tuesday or Wednesday⁶ and would go and see them later. In the mean time, I hope to complete my visit to the Panipat camp.
Prarthana Pravachan—II, pp. 57-60
- 1. The people, including four objectors, unanimously assured Gandhiji that they would observe silence and the prayer was held without any obstruction.
- 2. A part of the Granthsaheb
- 3. Vide p. 329.
- 4. As Chairman of the United Council for Relief and Welfare
- 5. Scheduled to be held on November 15 and 16
- 6. Vide Vol. XC, pp. 15-8.
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