Post Prayer Speech 1947-11-28

By Mahatma Gandhi BROTHERS AND SISTERS, You know that today is Guru Nanak’s birthday. Someone had sent an invitation to me also but at that time I had told him that I should be excused. But today Baba Bachittar Singh came to me and insisted that I should go. He came to me at 10 […]

By

Mahatma Gandhi

BROTHERS AND SISTERS,

You know that today is Guru Nanak’s birthday. Someone had sent an invitation to me also but at that time I had told him that I should be excused. But today Baba Bachittar Singh came to me and insisted that I should go. He came to me at 10 o’clock and we had to go in an hour’s time. I then decided that I should go. Although I have done nothing from my side, my Sikh friends are angry with me today. Of course I have tried to push a bitter pill down their throat. But that is how things go on in the world. The Baba insisted on my going there all the same. He said there must be thousands of Sikh men and women—and some of them must be really in distress—who are eager to hear me. I agreed and told him that he should take me with him at 11 o’clock. He came at 11 a.m. with Sheikh Abdullah. He was also to be taken there. I asked him how Sheikh Abdullah could come there since the Sikhs and the Muslims could not bear to look at one another. But he said that Sheikh Abdullah had done one great thing. He had kept the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims united in Kashmir and created a situation in which they would wish to live and die together. So I thought that Sheikh Abdullah too should go with us, and we took him along. I was very glad about it. There were thousands of Sikh men and women. I spoke but little; but Sheikh Abdullah spoke fairly at length, and people heard him with attention. There was no trace of disapproval even in their eyes, then where was the question of their creating noise? After all, we had been invited there. And then the Sikhs are a brave community, so it all turned out well. I felt I should pass on this little information to you.

I have received a letter from Bengal. It is from the Muslim Chamber of Commerce. I cannot reply to that letter; but I have thought about it and also enquired from Ghanshyamdas if he knew anything about it. He told me that the Muslim Chamber of Commerce wants to have dealings with the Government and wants to correspond with it. But the Government belongs to everyone, whether he be Hindu, Muslim or Parsi. Then, how can the Muslims, Hindus, Parsis and the Englishmen have separate Chambers of Commerce? Hence the Government has refused to recognize it. That gentleman says in his letter that it is indeed strange that while the Marwari and the European Chambers of Commerce are allowed to exist, only the Muslim Chamber is not being granted the permission. I could appreciate his point and it pained me. If the Government does not wish to have any dealings with the Muslim Chamber of Commerce, it cannot have anything to do with the Marwari Chamber of Commerce and should not have anything to do with the European Chamber of Commerce, either. All these existed till now and the European Chamber of Commerce came into being because Europeans were in power and since we were being ruled by them the Viceroy used to be its President. And since he had to go to Calcutta during Christmas, he used to deliver long speeches there. But now that practice cannot be continued. How can the Europeans, Muslims and Marwaris have separate Chambers of Commerce? There can be only one Indian Chamber of Commerce. If the Hindus, Muslims and Parsis start having their separate Chambers of Commerce, what is the use of India’s independence? Especially the Europeans should yield now. They should not do anything by remaining in isolation. They should refuse to have any special privileges, and insist on having the same rights as others. That would become a great hallmark of India’s independence. The European Chamber of Commerce used to invite the Viceroy every year. But, in my view, they cannot invite our Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister or even Lord Mountbatten. Lord Mountbatten can certainly go and meet them as a European. But the Chamber as such cannot invite him. I am a small man, but I have no doubt about my opinion. Similarly, the Marwari Chamber of Commerce cannot invite anybody from the Government. It can invite anyone as a Marwari, but not on behalf of the Chamber. They all exist because India exists. Even the Muslims cannot live here as a separate community. Let them live here as Indians. In the same manner, all Sikhs, Hindus and Europeans can live here only as Indians. They can all stay here as loyal citizens of India, and in no other capacity. Hence I thought that I should convey to them this important point. It is better that they hear my voice before they receive what I write from here. If the Muslims insist on having a separate existence politically and otherwise, then that wish cannot be granted. The Europeans can live here as Christians and practise the wonderful things in Christianity. This, after all, is their social or religious sphere. But as far as administration and politics are concerned, they must all be treated on an equal basis. Similarly, trade also belongs to everybody. If the Marwaris, Gujaratis, Punjabis want to have their exclusive shares, what would remain for India? We cannot carry on our work in this manner.

I forgot to mention one thing, which I should not have forgotten. I had mentioned it at the meeting of the Sikhs. But here too there are Sikhs and also Hindus. And what applies to one also applies to the other. Then I would say that we must regard today as the New Year day for the Sikhs. Hence, from today, the Sikhs have a duty to consider all the rest as their brethren. Guru Nanak taught no other thing. He even went to Mecca and has written quite a lot [about communal harmony]. There are many such references in the Guru Granthsaheb. What did Guru Govind do ? Many Muslims were his disciples and he even killed some people to accommodate them and protect them. He never killed anyone just for the sake of saving a Sikh. He did wield the sword, but he had accepted certain restrictions for its use. Thus, the Muslims may have done anything, but we do not have to imitate them. Let us all remain good and do our duty. When I went to address the meeting of the Sikhs today, I was pained that I did not find a single Muslim on the road. What would be more shameful for us than the fact that not a single Muslim could be found in Chandni Chowk? I found the area crowded with men and unending rows of cars. But there was no Muslim among them. The only Muslim, Sheikh Abdullah, was seated next to me. How can we succeed in these circumstances?

A gentleman writes to me about the renovation of the Somnath temple¹. This needs money and the Provisional Government at Junagadh,, formed by Shamaldas Gandhi, has sanctioned Rs. 50,000 for it. One lakh is promised from Jamnagar. When the Sardar came here I asked him whether even though he was in the Government, he would acquiesce in its giving as much money as it liked for Hinduism from its treasury. After all, we have formed the Government for all. It is a ’secular’ government, that is, it is not a theocratic government, rather, it does not belong to any particular religion. Hence it cannot spend money on the basis of communities. For it, the only thing that matters is that all are Indians. Individuals can follow their own religions. I have my religion and you have yours to follow.

Another gentleman has written well in a note. He says that it would be gross adharma if either the Junagadh Government or the Union Government gives money for the renovation of the Somnath temple. I think he has made an absolutely correct point. I then asked the Sardar if that was true. He said that that was not possible so long as he was alive. He said not a single pie could be taken out from the treasury of Junagadh for the renovation of the Somnath temple. If he was not going to do it, he said, what could poor Shamaldas do alone? There were enough number of Hindus who could donate money for the Somnath temple. If they became miserly and did not part with money, let the temple remain in its present state. There were already a lakh and a half rupees and Jamsaheb had already given a lakh. They would be able to manage for more.

I have learnt one thing more. You must have known that the Muslims in Pakistan have abducted our young girls. Attempts are being made and must be made to rescue them. Let us try to get back every abducted girl who is still alive there. If these girls have been raped, have they lost everything by it? At least, I do not think so. I had even talked about it yesterday. Coercion cannot make one change his religion. But I hear that there is some talk of making some payment to reclaim these girls. Some hoodlums come forward to bring back the girls if they are paid Rs. 1,000 per girl. Has this thing become a business then? If somebody kidnapped one of these three girls with me and then demanded at least a hundred if not a thousand rupees, I would tell him that he had better kill the girl. My daughter would return if God wished to save her. Why should he bargain with me for her? Not only did he abduct the girl but he also indulged in bullying. Having abandoned his own religion he had come to bully me because she was my daughter. I would refuse to give him even a cowrie. Similarly no parent should make such bargains for his daughter. They must think that their daughters are with God and God is everywhere. If a girl loses her husband, where would she go? It is of course a different matter if the girl wants to come over from there and we give her the fare if she does not have it. But if a hoodlum comes and demands ransom money, his demand just cannot be accepted. I give such instances from there and also from here, because on our side too we have done such things and abducted Muslim girls. Would our Government indulge in such meanness? Should the East Punjab Government or the Union Government ask Jinnah Saheb to pay one lakh rupees for the return of Muslim girls in its custody? I would not give a single cowrie to the Government. How could it demand money as a reward for such abominable deeds? The Government should admit its mistake, make a solemn promise never to repeat it and return the girl along with a compensation. We are not going to achieve anything if we ourselves do not become pure and brave.

I had discussed Kathiawar yesterday. I told you whatever I had read in the Pakistani newspapers and subsequently heard from some Hindus. But today I consulted the Sardar when he came to me. I told him that when he went there he had made big speeches assuring that no one would touch a single Muslim boy or girl there, but then I heard that Muslims were being looted and beaten up, their property was burnt and their young girls kidnapped. He said that as far as he was aware, certainly not a single Muslim was killed nor a single Muslim house looted or burnt. All these things happened there in the chaos prevailing before he visited the place. There were some cases of looting and probably one house was burnt. But as for killing and abducting, these two things did not take place there even then. An agent of the central Government or some Commissioner was always present there. He had been ordered to see that such things were not allowed. He had been instructed to have perfect bandobast so that nobody even touched any Muslim, let alone robbing or killing. Subsequently, no such thing happened. I asked the Sardar if I could mention the thing in the prayer meeting in the evening. He said I could certainly do so. He said that if something had happened there, he would have pursued the matter. He also said that the Hindu Congressmen there at great risk to their lives saved the Muslims and their property. No hooliganism could persist there. The Sardar said that as long as he was there and was in charge of the Home Department, he would not allow such a thing to happen. I was very happy to hear all that and asked his permission to refer to it in public. He said that I could gladly do so and also mention his name. I was so happy that yesterday I had talked about it and today itself I got this information.

[From Hindi]
Prarthana Pravachan—II, pp. 131-8

Notes

  • 1. Which was desecrated and destroyed by Mahmood Gazni during his invasion in 1025 A. D.

Notes

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