GANDHI IN ACTION network

the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar, Professor, Editor and Linguist

Gandhi International Study and Research Institute, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229

E-mail- dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net;

dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com                                    

Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India

 

Quetta and Mahatma Gandhi 

 

 

I am very glad that you have gone to Quetta. Derive the fullest benefit from the air there. Walk as much as you can. Describe to me the scenery and the climate of the place. 1 When a man is down, he prays to God to lift him up. He is the Help of the helpless, says a Tamil proverb. The appalling disaster2 in Quetta paralyses one. It baffles all attempt at reconstruction. The whole truth about the disaster will perhaps never be known. The dead cannot be recalled to life. 2 All differences vanish in the midst of the awful calamity in Quetta2 following almost in the wake of Bihar. I got the enclosed from Hyderabad today to which I sent a reply3, copy of which is also enclosed herewith. Hardly had I sent the reply when the voice within told me that I must enforce in my own action what I had advised Shri Jairamdas and Prof. Kripalani both Congress secretaries. Hence this private approach to the highest authority. If I am permitted, I should love to proceed to Quetta myself and do whatever is possible. My submission is that a small relief committee should be formed comprising all sections to concert measures of relief. In my opinion it is necessary to take the public into confidence about everything that may be done regarding alleviation of distress. Will you please put this before His Excellency and if possible wire reply as to permission for me to proceed to Quetta? If the permission is granted, it should include sufficient members to enable me to do effective work. 3 

I understand what you say. I only want to know what is possible under the present circumstances. What should we do to bring about the adoption of a monetary policy that would be in the interest of the country? I leave aside the argument that we should go on doing our best. Doing one’s best is not enough when a cloud is actually threatening. How much do you think the efforts of the people of Quetta must have availed against the recent earthquake there? According to me, a political earthquake is going on in the country just now and we seem helpless against it. 4 As regards Quetta, what can we do now? They are sending out everybody, and so the question of going there doesn’t arise. Wherever the injured or those rendered homeless go, they are helped by the people. What more could we do? Yesterday I received a wire similar to the one received by Rajendrababu. The only thing for us now to do is to keep silent. 5

This time you have punished me severely. I waited and waited for your letter and was always disappointed. A man does not die by desiring to die. Come here after you have done with Kashmir. I shall assign you work. Let us wait and see. No one is allowed to go to Quetta. 6 The few lines that I wrote inviting the people to prayer and repentance on the Quetta disaster have given rise to some private correspondence. One of the correspondents asks: At the time of the Bihar quake you had no hesitation in saying that it was to be taken by savarna Hindus as a fit punishment for the sin of untouchability. For what sin must the more terrible quake of Quetta be? The writer had the right to put the question. What I said about Bihar was deliberately said even as the lines on Quetta were deliberately written. This call to prayer is a definite yearning of the soul. Prayer is a sign of repentance, a desire to beocme better, purer. A man of prayer regards what are known as physical calamities as divine chastisement. It is a chastisement alike for individuals and for natioins. All chastisements do not equally startle people. Some affect only individuals, some others affect groups or nations only mildly. Disasters like Quetta stun us. Familiarity with ordinary everyday calamities breeds contempt for them. If earthquakes were a daily occurrence, we would take no notice of them.

Even this Quetta one has not caused in us the same disturbance that the Bihar one did. But it is the universal experience that every calamity brings a sensible man down on his knees. He thinks that it is God’s answer to his sins and that he must henceforth behave better. His sins have left him hopelessly weak, and in his weakness he cries out to God for help. Thus have millions of human beings used their personal calamities for self-improvement. Nations too have been known to invoke the assistance of God when calamities have overtaken them. They have abased themselves before God and appointed days of humiliation, prayer and purification. I have suggested nothing new or original. In these days of fashionable disbelief, it does need some courage to call men and women to repentance. But I can claim no credit for courage. For my weaknesses or idiosyncrasies are well-known. If I had known Quetta, as I know Bihar and Biharis, I would certainly have mentioned the sins of Quetta, though they might be no more its specialities than untouchability was Bihar’s. But we all—the rulers and the ruled— know that we have many sins, personal and national, to answer for. The call is to all these to repentance, prayer and humiliation. True prayer is not a prelude to inaction. It is a spur to ceaseless, selfless action. Purification is never for the selfishly idle, it accrues only to the selflessly industrious. 7 

I have suggested nothing new or original. In these days of fashionable disbelief, it does need some courage to call men and women to repentance. But I can claim no credit for courage. For my weaknesses or idiosyncrasies are well-known. If I had known Quetta, as I know Bihar and Biharis, I would certainly have mentioned the sins of Quetta, though they might be no more its specialities than untouchability was Bihar’s. But we all—the rulers and the ruled know that we have many sins, personal and national, to answer for. The call is to all these to repentance, prayer and humiliation. True prayer is not a prelude to inaction. It is a spur to ceaseless, selfless action. Purification is never for the selfishly idle, it accrues only to the selflessly industrious. 8

As to Quetta relief I have asked you to reserve for the time being what you collect. Later on I shall be able to guide you. The relief will last for some time. Of course this advice has force so long as you have no definite idea about its direction. Immediately you know where you would like to spend your donation, you will not hesitate to do so.  VISITOR: But why prayer, and not service? Would not service be the most effective form of prayer?

GANDHIJI: Indeed if service was open to us. But there are vast masses of people who have no power to render any tangible service to the survivors. Rather than talk about this grim visitation, they should cast the searchlight inwards and purify themselves. Prayer is a call to self-purification. But is not prayer by itself ineffective without acts of service? I do not mean outward demonstration of prayer. I mean selfintrospection and self-purification which is essential for us all. If we were engaged in service all our waking hours, I should have to say nothing. But we are not so engaged. And when we are not so engaged, God’s name, taken with a view to self-purification, is not taken in vain. I see it. So far as some of the survivors—both our own people and tommies who did rescue work for the first two days—are concerned, I am afraid they badly need to pray. For the moment when the calamity occurs we are stunned, we make professions of prayer and brotherhood of man, but the very next moment we forget that there was a calamity. Our acquisitive and depredatory instincts get possession of us, with the result, we are none the better for the earthquake. 9

Though the spectre of stricken Quetta haunts me still, I have neither compunction nor hesitation in asking the benevolent to respond quickly to the appeal for the Harijan Wells Fund published in these columns. Quetta has the whole world at its back. Harijans have only a few to help them. Not one sufferer from the Quetta disaster has to languish for thirst or to be obliged to drink filthy water which people would not have their cattle to drink. We may not lose the sense of proportion in the face of overwhelming disasters. Not even the gaieties of people have been stopped except perhaps in some cases for a solitary moment. Must the burden of the Quetta grief fall on the already bruised shoulder of the Harijan? Donors would be guilty of misappropriation before God’s court, if they were to divert what they had intended for giving clean drinkingwater to Harijans or begrudge Harijans because the unexpected call of Quetta has come. The proper way is to revise the budget of personal expenses, not that of charities, least of the penetential which the Harijan Wells Fund is. It was not without purpose or experience that the appeal for prayer was made. Heart-felt prayer steadies one’s nerves, humbles one and clearly shows one the next step. Let the readers study the Punjab report on the drinking needs of the Harijans of that land of five mighty rivers. Is it not a shame that the rich people of the Punjab cannot provide clean water for Harijans? The appeal for a paltry lakh of rupees should be speedily oversubscribed. 10

The clothes you have for Quetta relief, may be sent to Dr. Gopichand1 for the refugees in the Punjab, unless of course there are refugees in Simla itself, in which case you can distribute your clothes among them. Only I fancy that in Simla you will have the most wellto- do refugees, whereas in Lahore the poorest must have congregated. 11 Did I ever ask you to go to Quetta and advise the Baluchistan Congress about constructive work? Maulvi Abdus Samad is the President or Secretary. I promised that I would ask you to proceed there and give a few days. I have the notion that I sent you a hurried line about this. But as you make no reference to the matter, I wonder what happened. 12

Pandit Malaviyaji had told me specifically that I must visit Uttarkashi once. He himself was to take me along. But that was not to be. Now it occurred to me that I might visit the holy places which Malaviyaji described to me. For I do not at all hope to live for 125 years. Nor do I have that desire. I hope and trust that God will take me away while I am clinging to the aims and principles to which I have been devoted and before anything ugly happens to the country. Then Mirabehn is there. However, the weather there is not favourable at present and so I have postponed my going. Now I will come to the main thing. When people learnt that I was going on a pilgrimage to Uttarkashi they imagined that I must be having differences with the leaders and that that was why I was retiring to the Himalayas. Yes, it is true I had difference of opinion with the leaders concerning the present situation because it seemed to me that the Ramarajya of my dreams was not materializing. But I do not worry because I have developed detachment and I am doing what I have been doing all along and what I feel is true. I do not worry if anyone is not convinced by what I say.

I will tell the world from the house-tops what is true. Since the people have agreed to be governed by the leaders, the latter should fulfil their obligations towards the former. It is a rule of democracy that the leaders cannot impose on the people what they do not want. I have forebodings that the future of India will be something different from the people’s conception of it. I am therefore very much worried. Sometimes I wonder whether during the last thirty years I have not taken the country in the wrong direction. However, as I have confessed time and again, our non-violence was not that of the brave. As there was no other alternative we adopted it. Had it not been so we would not have been indulging in perfidious mass murders to solve mutual quarrels among brothers. Our struggle was only ‘passive resistance.’ Our struggle was based on the non-violence of the weak. Even then a great power had to leave the country. If I alone can adopt non-violence of the brave I can show to the world what splendid results it can bring about. 13

 

References:

 

  1. Letter to Vidya Hingorani, July 2, 1932
  2. Harijan, 8-6-1935
  3. Letter to Private Secretary to Viceroy, June 6, 1935
  4. Letter to Purushottamds Thakurdas, June 7, 1935
  5. Letter to Vallabhabhai Patel, June 9, 1935
  6. Letter to Brijkrishna Chandiwala, June 9, 1935
  7. Harijan, 15-6-1935  
  8. Harijan, 15-6-1935 
  9. Harijan, 22-6-1935
  10. Harijan, 22-6-1935 
  11. Letter to Amrit Kaur, July 4, 1935
  12. Letter to N. R. Malkan, August 4, 1941
  13. Bihar Pachhi Dilhi, pp. 296

 

 

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