Post Prayer Speech 1947-11-19

By Mahatma Gandhi BROTHERS AND SISTERS, Last evening I referred to the main Resolution on Hindu-Muslim relations passed by the A. I. C. C. But unfortunately today itself I have to cite an instance to show how that Resolution is being rendered futile in Delhi. I had never imagined that on the very evening when […]

By

Mahatma Gandhi

BROTHERS AND SISTERS,

Last evening I referred to the main Resolution on Hindu-Muslim relations passed by the A. I. C. C. But unfortunately today itself I have to cite an instance to show how that Resolution is being rendered futile in Delhi. I had never imagined that on the very evening when I was expressing my doubt about the behaviour of the public, that doubt would be proved right in the heart of old Delhi. I was told last night that a large crowd of Hindus and Sikhs had gathered in front of a Muslim’s shop in Chandni Chowk. Though the shop belonged to a Muslim, the owner had abandoned it and gone away. The shop had been given to a refugee on condition that he would give it up when the owner returned. Fortunately, the owner of the shop has returned. He did not want to give up his business for good. The officer in charge of the allotment came to the refugee and asked him to vacate the shop. The refugee hesitated at first, but then agreed to vacate it when the owner came to take possession in the evening. When the officer went again in the evening he found that instead of vacating the shop the occupant had informed his friends who had collected there to overawe whoever [forced them] to vacate it. The few constables at Chandni Chowk could not control the crowd, and they sent for more help. The police or, may be, military arrived and fired in the air. The crowd dispersed in panic, but a pedestrian was stabbed in the bargain. Fortunately the wound did not prove to be fatal. But this demonstration of the trouble-makers had a strange result. That shop was not vacated. I do not know if the order of that officer was defied or the shop has ultimately been vacated. Nevertheless, I do hope that the Government will not fail to punish the culprit if it has to retain its true authority under our precious freedom. Otherwise, the Government will have no authority at all. I am told that the crowd of Hindus and Sikhs was not less than two thousand.

I have understated the news that was given to me. If there is room for correction and if it is brought to my notice I will gladly let you know about it.

This is not the only thing. In other parts of Delhi, too, attempts are being made to drive the Muslims out of their houses, so that the Hindu and the Sikh refugees could be accommodated there. The Sikhs go about brandishing their swords and threaten the Muslims with dire consequences if they refuse to give up their houses. I am also told that the Sikhs drink liquor, the consequences of which can be well imagined. They dance about with their naked swords and scare away the pedestrians. I am also informed that according to custom Muslims do not sell kababs ¹ and other meat preparations in Chandni Chowk and nearby areas. But the Sikhs and perhaps other refugees, too, freely sell these forbidden things there. This hurts the feelings of the Hindus in that locality. The nuisance has grown to such an extent that people cannot easily pass through the crowded Chandni Chowk. They are afraid of being insulted. I appeal to my refugee friends that they should not indulge in such things for their own sake and for the sake of the country.

As for the kirpans, the Sikhs have been forbidden by law to carry kirpans larger than the prescribed size. While this law is in force, many Sikh friends come to me with a request that I should try to have this restriction withdrawn. They told me about the judgement passed by the Privy Council several years ago which permitted the Sikhs to carry kirpans of any size. I have not read that judgement. I think the judges have interpreted kirpan to mean sword of any size. The then Punjab Government, in order to carry out the Privy Council’s decision, declared that everyone was free to keep a sword. That is why in the Punjab men carry swords of any size they choose.

I have no sympathy with the Punjab Government or the Sikhs in this matter. Some Sikh friends have brought to my notice certain portions from the Granthsaheb which support my view that the kirpan is not a weapon to be used to attack the innocent. Only the Sikhs abiding by the tenets of the Granthsaheb can use the kirpan for the protection of innocent women, children and old and helpless people. That is the reason why one Sikh is regarded equal to one-and-a-quarter lakh opponents. That is why any Sikh who takes intoxicants, who gambles, or is prey to other vices, has no right to keep a kirpan which is a symbol of purity and restraint and which is to be used only on particular occasions in a prescribed manner.

In my view, it is not only futile but also harmful to seek the help of the now defunct judgement of the Privy Council to justify the indiscriminate use of the kirpan. We have just freed ourselves from foreign rule. It is highly improper to do away with all necessary restrictions in our state of freedom, because, without those restrictions, society cannot make progress. Hence, I would tell my Sikh friends that they should not bring the great Sikh religion into disrepute by using the kirpan for doubtful purposes. Let them not destroy a religion which has been shaped by a number of martyrs in whose martyrdom the world takes great pride.

I wish to draw your attention to another thing. I have been informed about a refugee camp where the army has been accused of rude behaviour. The entire life of the camp should be a model from the point of view of inner and outer cleanliness. To preserve such cleanliness [the police and the army] should vie with each other. Hence I hope that the information I have received does not apply to these protectors of law and order, and that it is only an exception. The army and the police should be the first to experience the glow and excitement of freedom. Let not the people get a chance to say that good behaviour can be expected of them only under strict discipline imposed on them from above. They have to establish through correct behaviour that they too can become good and ideal citizens of India. If these protectors of law disregard law itself, it would be difficult to carry on administration at all. And it would be all the more difficult to implement the Resolutions of the All-India Congress Committee.

After presenting the gloomy side of the picture, I would now like to present the bright side also. I have just heard an eye-witness account of great valour which I am going to narrate to you.

Mir Maqbool Sherwani was a young brave leader of the National Conference at Baramula. He had just entered his thirtieth year. On learning that he was an important leader of the National Conference the invaders tied him to two poles near the Nishat Talkies. They first beat him up and then told him that he should give up the National Conference and its leader Sheikh Abdullah, the lion of Kashmir. They told Sherwani that he should swear loyalty to the Provisional Government of Azad Kashmir which had its headquarters at Palundry.

Sherwani refused to give up the National Conference under pressure. He made it clear to the assailants that the Sheikh was the head of the Kashmir Government, that the Indian army had already reached Kashmir and, before long, would repel the assailants.

On hearing this, the assailants were enraged and were in panic. They riddled his body with fourteen bullets. They cut his nose and disfigured his face and pasted a notice on his body: “This man is a traitor. His name is Sherwani. All traitors would be treated in the same way.”

But within 48 hours of this ruthless murder and bloodshed, Sherwani’s prophecy came true. The invaders fled from Baramula in panic and the Indian army chased them away.

Anybody, whether Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or anyone else, would be proud of such martyrdom.

A friend of mine has related an instance of a proud moment whose lustre would not fade even in the most painful situation and an instance of friendship which proves its worth in the moment of greatest trial. It is the story of Narayan Singh, a Sikh ex-officer. He has lost enormous property in West Punjab. Now he is in Delhi. He has nothing left, which means that he would be compelled to beg or to let death claim him. He met an old friend who he did not want to suffer on his account because he was not bothered by his own misfortune. The Sikh officer was very happy to meet Ali Shah, his old friend and colleague. Ali Shah too has lost his entire property, but not because of communal frenzy but because of some other misfortune. He too is a courageous man like Narayan Singh and both of them are proud of their friendship. When they met after a separation of twenty-five years, they were so happy that they forgot their misfortune.

[From Hindi]
Prarthana Pravachan—II, pp. 93-8

Notes

  • 1. Meat cutlets

Notes

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