M A H A T M A
LIFE OF GANDHI 1869-1948

Chapter 13: India Liberated, 1947-1948

Commentary

Reel 30

Sequence 1 In a fresh effort to avert the vivisection of India, Gandhi wrote to Mountbatten, "It would be a blunder for the British to be a party in any way to the division of India... If it has to come, let it come after the British withdrawal...
"If you are not to leave a legacy of chaos behind, leave the Government of the whole of India to a party of your choice... "

2 The impending division of India was a deep source of agony to Gandhi's tormented soul. Ploughing his lonely furrow, he mused in a low tone, "Let posterity know that Gandhi was not a party to India's vivisection." He remained on the periphery during the last stage of the negotiations.. .

3 On June 3, Mountbatten secured the consent of the Congress and the League leaders to the British Government plan of setting up two independent Dominions on August 15, 1947.. .

4 The Congress Working Committee disliked the partition of India but it "could not let India bleed continuously" and accepted the plan ...

5 An emergency meeting of the All-India Congress Committee was convened on June 14, to ratify the decision to establish a strong Government and arrest chaos. . .

6 Gandhi was steadfastly opposed to the division of India and yet he urged the members to support the decision with full faith in their leaders.. . Appealing for communal unity, he said, "The plan puts both Hinduism and Islam on trial. .. " and concluded, "Make India a land where there will be no discrimination and no inequalities..." The Working Committee resolution was adopted, 157 voting for and 29 against.. .

7 Giving his definitive summing up on socialism suited to Indian conditions, Gandhi wrote, "Even as members of the individual body are equal, so are the members of society. This is socialism. .. "

8 He stressed its purity. "Truth and Ahimsa must incarnate in socialism which is as pure as crystal and requires crystallike men to achieve it."

9 India was moving into a new orbit out of subjection.. . The Constituent Assembly adopted the banner under which the struggle for freedom had been fought.. . The spinning wheel was replaced by the evermoving wheel of the Divine Law of Love symbolising the dynamism and permanence of Indian culture...

10 The sands of time were running out. . . While the work of partition was proceeding at break-neck speed, Gandhi was in Calcutta dispelling hate with love.

11 The midnight of August 14, 1947 symbolised the rebirth of a nation after the slumber of centuries and a long struggle for self-determination ...
India emerged from subjection to freedom... A new hope came into being; a long-cherished vision materialised as the ancient land took its rightful place in the community of the world ...
The Constituent Assembly paid a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, the architect of Indian freedom, and assumed power for the governance of India ...
Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister, said with moving eloquence, (his voice). .. "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge ... At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom ... It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.. .

12 "The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye ... That may be beyond us, but so long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over..."

13 On August 15, the appointed day, people gathered to welcome the dawn of a new age and witnessed the peaceful transfer of power.. .
Lord Mountbatten became the first Governor-General of the Dominion by the will of the sovereign people of India...

14 After hoisting the national flag, the first servant of the Indian people addressed from the ramparts of the Red Fort the half a million gathered below. "On this day our first thoughts go to the Father of our nation, who held aloft the torch of freedom and lighted up the darkness that surrounded us..."
Paying tribute to the unknown soldiers of freedom, he urged the people to look to the future with faith and confidence.
Concluding he observed, "To the nations and peoples of the world, we send greetings ... And to India our much-loved motherland, the ancient, eternal and ever-new, we pay our reverent homage. .. "

15 As a result of Gandhi's healing presence in Calcutta, stirring scenes of Hindu-Muslim fraternisation were witnessed; but for him, it was a day of prayer and deep heart-searching...

16 With the departure of British Army contingents from India's shores, ended the 190 year old British domination over India.. .
Gandhi praised the British withdrawal as "the noblest act of the British nation. .. "

17 The time of rejoicing was brief.. .The rumblings of communal frenzy could be heard in the distance... A vast region was churning with hate ... Minorities were tyrannised and persecuted. .. Millions of men, women and children uprooted from their settled homes and cut off from their old moorings migrated on dimension unprecedented in recorded history and trekked their way to safety.
Migration was not a matter of personal choice for the migrants but was forced on them by hate of man. The refugees rolled on in a two way stream across the border.
Shocked by the events, the Indian Prime Minister tried his best to bring speedy relief to the refugees .. .

Reel 31

Sequences 1 The continuing tension agonized Gandhi. Before leaving Calcutta for Delhi, on being approached for a message, he wrote in Bengali, "My life is my message."

2 In Delhi, Gandhi saw ruptured human relationship... He planted himself, alone, amidst the raging torrent ... and listened to the tales of woe of the embittered and the uprooted ...

3 On his 78th birthday Gandhi invoked the aid of the all embracing Power to take him away from the vale of tears rather than make him a helpless witness to the butchery of men and cried in a prayerful tone, "Not my will but Thine alone shall prevail".

4 In October 1947, events took a grave turn.. .
On the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir delaying its decision about accession to either the Dominion of India or Pakistan, freebooters from the North West and Punjab invaded the State with the connivance and material support of the Pakistan Government to force accession by sword ...
The raiders, well armed and well equipped, sacked and looted towns and villages, put many inhabitants to death and spread a reign of terror.. . Under the guidance of the National Conference, the people of the valley defended their soil and their common heritage with courage and unity. . . The invader was almost on the doorsteps of Srinagar ...On October 26, the State acceded to the Indian Union with the express consent of the people and sought military aid against the wanton aggression ... Indian troops were flown in and stemmed the tide of invasion ...
Kashmir occupied Gandhi's thoughts ... Though he did distinguish between an aggressor and a defender, sending troops to Kashmir was not his way. The case of the defenders, he felt, was so manifestly just that if the people had resisted the unprovoked invasion non-violently, it would have won the admiration of the world.

5 At the moment of crisis, on Gandhi's initiative, the first session of the All India Congress Committee after the attainment of freedom declared its faith ... "India as a nation is bound together by indissoluble cultural and historical links. . It is also a land of many religions and many races, and must remain so. ..Our aim has been to develop this great country as a democratic secular state ... "

6 Values were changing fast under the impact of events... For Gandhi, political independence had little value if it did not herald the era of the common man ... He was uncompromisingly opposed to the mania of mass-production by the sacrifice of human values ...
Gandhi denounced the craze for pomp and pageantry ...after independence... and did not see any merit in hiding poverty. "India", he maintained, "Possesses only her moral capital which increases with the spending. .. " Distressed at the rise of military expenditure in independent India, Gandhi painfully observed, "India's destiny lies along the bloodless way of peace ...The hope lingers in me that India might still lead the way towards world-federation ...
"To have a warless world, the economy of the participating nations must be free from all exploitation."

7 Communal harmony and the secular state were in great jeopardy... Sporadic violence in Delhi continued ...
In the face of the moral challenge, Gandhi was groping for light.. .
Out of the depths of anguish came the decision to fast unto death to purge the city of Delhi of the communal virus and lay his head on God's lap ...On January 13, 1948 he began the fast, and passed from tumult into peace. He gave vent to his feeling. ''Death for me would be a glorious deliverance rather than that I should be a helpless witness to the destruction of India. .. "
As the leaden hours crept by and drop by drop strength ebbed out of the frail body on the fasting bed, a deep heart-searching was set in amongst all concerned...
The fast terminated with reunion of hearts of all communities brought about by an awakened sense of duty on January 18.. .

8 Showering benediction on Prime Minister Nehru who had been fasting in sympathy, Gandhi wrote, "Give up your fast... May you live long and continue to be the jewel of India... "

9 Though feeble yet vibrant, Gandhi continued his after-prayer talk ... (his voice and the sound of the bomb explosion)

10 The explosion was from a bomb thrown by a Hindu refugee to kill Gandhi ...

11 Gandhi remained unruffled ... (his voice "Listen ! Listen ! Listen everybody... ")

12 Relying on God, he refused to accept any kind of human protection ...

13 Discussing the question of the reconstitution of provinces on a linguistic basis, Gandhi observed, "Cultural autonomy had been our watchword ... But such re-distribution should not militate against the organic unity of India ... Autonomy did not and should not mean disruption. .. "

14 Surveying the political scene, in a tone of infinite sadness, he remarked, "I have to find peace in the midst of turmoil, light in the midst of darkness, hope in despair... "

15 Giving a moral orientation to the Indian National Congress, Gandhi suggested in a draft constitution that it should transform itself into a ... Lok Sevak Sangh striving for the social, economic and moral independence of the country in terms of its seven hundred thousand villages ...