BROTHERS AND SISTERS,
Today I attended a meeting of the Trustees of the A. I. S. A. and naturally I had to speak for half an hour to the women. If I have the time—for I shall be finishing the speech in 15 minutes —I shall tell you about that today. Otherwise I shall do so tomorrow.
You will have seen in the papers today a report saying that Sardar Patel and I are going to Pilani. Why? For a change of air. It is a mere canard. I do not know what the Sardar has in mind but I certainly know that this is not the time to seek a change of air. The Sardar works all day long and rests at night and that is all the change of air he gets. The same applies to me. It is true that I am not so overworked because I do not have to run a government. But I receive many visitors and I get tired. Therefore I have to give myself rest. The air is quite congenial in Delhi at present and there is no need to go out for a change of air. What can Pilani offer? So far as I am concerned I have taken a pledge to do or die. I have not fulfilled that pledge. I cannot understand why newspapers publish such rumours. I can only conclude that a large part of what the newspapers put out consists of falsehoods. Then I came to know—though not from newspapers—that since we are going there certain directives have come from Jaipur about the quantity of sugar, wheat and other provisions that we shall be needing. Although we are only two persons to be provided for, a scarcity seems to have been created in the market. It is of course only hearsay. If true it reveals a shocking state of affairs that our movements should influence the market. It is as though we lived only in order to eat or that we had large retinues following us. This should not be so. The Sardar is a poor man, and so am I. It is true that he lives in a palatial house; so do I at present. Of course the best thing would have been for him and for me to live in a mud hut. Anyway, what I was trying to tell you is about the way rumours are spread. After all I am available here. They might have asked me if I planned to go to Pilani. I now have a telegram from the Associated Press in this connection which hurts me even more. The Sardar is always busy but they should have asked me whether we are going.
I have a letter from a friend from Sind. He has given his name but I shall not disclose it though he would not mind my doing so. I had told you about a letter from a doctor in Sind who had reported the hardships of the Sind Harijans.¹ The doctor has been arrested. Whether he was arrested because he wrote to me or for some other reason I do not know. Many persons who served Harijans have been arrested. This is the kind of thing that is happening in Sind. I admit that people are not being murdered, but as I told you yesterday this is worse than murder. When you murder a man he is dead and everyone then puts up with the fact, but to harass people and kill them by inches is much worse. A man was arrested and then released—maybe they will release others too. But it is bad to arrest people like this. I do not wish to make accusations against the Pakistan Government but I must warn them that if they keep arresting Harijan workers in this way it will be impossible for the workers to continue to stay in Sind. The same is true of Harijans. This sort of thing was common during the British rule. Must we continue the same practice?
I still have a few minutes, so I shall tell you about another matter, viz., about the women. The Kasturba Memorial Trust has been set up because there are 700,000 villages in India and women and children living in them must be served. But there is a larger issue confronting us; a large number of Hindu and Sikh women have been abducted by Muslims and an equally large number of Muslim women have been abducted by Hindus and Sikhs. Leave aside the question which community has abducted more women. In any case under each of the two Governments no less than 12,000 women and girls have been abducted. What is the Kasturba Trust to do? I shall do what lies in my power. One thing is obvious, that we cannot take up this work to advertise ourselves. Those who are public servants have to do the work of service. Once the work is over there is an end to it. It is of no importance whether the matter is reported in the newspapers or not. Again, we have to consider the various things that should be done for women. I can suggest a few things. Most women workers we have are from the cities. We could find a few in villages and even these had some connection with cities. I do not say that it is bad, that it is wrong to have anything to do with cities. But for the last 150 years the trend has been for cities to exist only to squeeze wealth out of the villages. They took raw material from the villages, carried on trade with foreign countries and made crores of rupees. This money did not go to the villagers, or only a very small fraction of it did. The bulk of it went to millionaires and the mill-owners. Towns exist to exploit the villages. The city culture does not therefore fit into the framework of villages. A woman worker from a town should not carry to the villages the atmosphere and the ways of towns. Maybe she has a lot of money and articles of luxury. Maybe she has a motor car, cosmetics, dresses of velvet and toothpastes, foreign or indigenous, tooth brushes, dainty shoes and sandals. If she takes all these things along with her, how can she serve the villages? If with these things she sets the standard for the villagers they will devour the villages. The cities should be for increasing the prosperity of the villages, for making money available to them for developing the village culture. But what is happening is the very opposite of this. I cannot explain to you everything. All I have to say is that the women workers who truly want to serve, not to exploit, must have a sense of propriety and take to the villages only the things that it would be appropriate to take. Such reforms as they wish to introduce must be in conformity with the genius of the villages. If that happens our seven lakh villages which today are in a sunken state can come up. The villages are not inhabited by uncivilized people with no art and nothing good to show in life. There is much beauty in the villages. There is much art and there are industries that the whole world knows about. Village crafts have been appreciated all over the world. Therefore the women workers who would serve villages must leave behind the things associated with city-life. They should take with them only what is good and moral. Then alone can they help in the uplift of the millions of our women and children. This much at any rate let us do.
Courtesy: All India Radio. Also Prarthana Pravachan—II, pp. 185-8
- 1. Vide pp. 168-9.
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