Today is the' fourth day of Bapu's fast. He got up as usual at 3.30 a.m. for prayers. The song Charan Kamal Bandaun1 was sung. Bapu slept again at quarter to six and got up at six o'clock. He drank six ounces of hot water. He took massage, enema and bath etc. between 6 and 9.45 a.m. He slept for a while during the massage. He drank hot water again at 9.45 after which he slept again for 45 minutes. Today he is feeling weaker and has a lower blood pressure. The pulse is rapid and he feels giddy when he stands up. Drops of oil with garlic were put into his ears to relieve the queer sensation he felt. His voice has become very low. God alone knows when he will come out of this ordeal.
While in this state of health, Bapu issued a statement that nobody should rush to his bedside. Shri S. P. Abdulla of Noakhali arrived at 10.45 a.m.
Bapu said, "How wonderful! I was just wondering how I could arrange to meet him, when he has arrived of his own accord." Bapu talked to him for 5 or 7 minutes. He again started his work for the Harijanbandhu.
At 12 noon came a party of 35 goondas. Dr. Sinha was with us. He requested Bapu not to talk. Bapu stated that he would continue his talks in the fulfilment of his mission even up to his last breath. The 35 men confessed that they had committed murders and asking to be pardoned requested Bapu to terminate his fast. It is impossible to describe in words this wonderful sight. It could only be understood by those who actually saw it. It was a vivid picture of the victory that a small frail human being had been able to achieve, through sheer love, over goondas who always perpetrated inhuman crimes'. On one side was Bapu lying on his bed with his emaciated body, while opposite to him were ablebodied but shame-faced men requesting Bapu, with folded hands, to terminate his fast!
Bapu said, "This alone is not enough for the termination of the fast. All of you must go to the Muslims and offer your services to them. As the Muslims are a minority here they must be protected. I shall break my fast only when my mind tells me that you are protecting them, and that permanent peace has been established."
At 2 o'clock a leader of the goondas named . . . who had instigated riots in Barabazar, came to meet Bapu. He confessed all his crimes and promised to hand over all his weapons to Bapu. He posted two of his boys to guard each of the Muslim shops. Then at 3.30 p.m. came a third party. The leader of this party also confessed his crime and said, "Punish me. I and my whole party are ready to suffer any punishment that you may give, but please break your fast."
Bapu said, "My only punishment for you is that you should go to the Musalmans and serve them. I shall end my fast the moment I am convinced that your hearts are genuinely changed. But you have to work with speed, for I am impatient to go to the Punjab. My desire to live is due to my impatience to go to the Punjab. If you delay your mission, I shall not be able to sustain myself very long."
Sir Radhakrishnan arrived at 4 p.m. He bowed low before Bapu and took his leave after saying these few words, "May God give you life for the sake of the country." Many people kept coming for darshan up to 5 p.m. At 5.30 I received a note from Rajaji stating that there was peace in the city and that the atmosphere was full of joy. He would come to meet Bapu at night. Bapu was happy to read this note. After 5.40, he slept for a few minutes. He was extremely tired. At 6 p.m. Shri Surendra Mohan Ghosh, N. G. Chatterjee and Shaheed Saheb arrived with representatives of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. One of* the Sikhs said, "Kindly break your fast. We shall take the responsibility for whatever happens henceforth." All the others also promised in a like manner. Bapuji spoke for twenty-five minutes. He said, "I have had a passion for Hindu- Muslim unity since I was a child of twelve. This activity of mine is not of recent origin, it is for years that I have been doing.it. I worked at it even during my stay in England. How can I then give it up now? You might not be aware of it, but my grandson Kantilal has written to persuade me to take up the Constructive Programme.
He feels that I should not continue my work for unity any longer. I wrote to him just today that this work is not of recent origin, and that if I give it up now, I cannot possibly do any constructive work. You argue that these riots are not communal, but they are the work of goondas only. Are we not responsible for the existence of the goondas? They cannot come into being of their own accord. I had two goondas with me at Rajkot. I took them to South Africa. They were ultimately improved and saw their mistake and when they came to meet me again at Sabarmati, they told me that they were no longer goondas. Thus, we ourselves are the makers and redeemers of the goondas. They cannot do anything by themselves. You request me to break my fast because of your love for me. Even the rioters came to request me to pardon them. I want to end the fast as quickly as I can, not because I wish to prolong my life but because my heart is in the Punjab. Jawaharlal has sent me telegrams. But I have not the courage to go to the Punjab leaving Calcutta in the state as it is. I now ask you two questions: |M Are you in a position to assert- that there will never again be a recurrence of disturbance in Calcutta? (2) If there be disturbance again are you sure that you Would not come to report it to me, but that I shall only hear the news of the death of all of you? What I mean is that before the disturbance starts would you go and tell the rioters that they should kill you before they touch others? Failing this, I shall have to fast unto death as I had declared in Bihar. I do' not want to be deceived. If you are not honest in your intention to help me you will be driving me to death. I want your honest reply to this.”
Shaheed Saheb argued, "Suppose we die, why should there be any need for you to fast unto death? Is it proper that you should take such a vow?”
Bapu: "For the simple reason that it is the gentlemen goondas who are the real creators of trouble. A big city like Calcutta is bound to have many thieves and plunderers. God has not yet given me the power to win them over. But Hindu- Muslim unity has been my passion since my childhood. What I mean is that there should no longer be any more Hindu-Muslim riots in Calcutta in spite of the worst sort of situations in other parts of the world. I shall terminate my fast if all of you accept this responsibility and give it to me in writing.”
This long talk exhausted Bapu. He started uttering Rama, Rama. He was feeling giddy and extremely restless. Abhabahen and I had been supporting him. He tried to lie down one moment and got up the next. He kept counting the rosary. All the visitors went to another room to decide what they should do. The leaders among them were Rajaji, Kripalani, Prafullababu and Shaheed Saheb. After an hour's discussion Nirmalbabu was the first to come in. All the leaders had given in writing that peace would be preserved in Calcutta, and that they would take the responsibility if anything untoward were to happen. They were prepared to die before anyone else. The paper was signed among others by Shri N. C. Chatterji, Suhrawardy, Surendra Mohan Ghosh, Sharatchandra Bose, Sardar Niranjansinh, Devendra Nath Mukaiji and R. K. Zaidka. The following was the exact wording:
”We, the undersigned, promise to Gandhi that peace and quiet have been restored in Calcutta once again. We shall never again allow communal strife in the city. And shall strive unto death to prevent it.”
This document was signed by the above mentioned persons. After this, Bapu directed that we arrange a prayer. There was the usual prayer with the singing of the song: “ ” and the recitation of Ramanama. Shri Suhrawardy then offered Bapu a glass containing one ounce of sweet lemon juice exactly at 9.15 and having bowed down to him in the Hindu style burst into tears. Before drinking the juice, Bapu spoke a few words in Hindi. He said, "I want to say something to you before I break my fast, which I am doing, as I desire to do something for the Punjab also. This fast is being broken solely because of my trust in you. I have not taken any other factors into consideration. It would be extremely bad, if there is anything for which I shall have to repent later. Of course, I would like to live. Many people tell me that it is better that I live as they feel that I shall then be able to render greater service; I have enough vitality left to live and I” would live. I do not wish to be caught in a trap knowingly. I expect that all the Hindus and Musalmans who are present here would see that I have no occasion to fast again.” Rajaji asked me the very first day whether I had any hope when undertaking the fast. I replied that I would not be allowed to carry on the fast very long. It is three days now; it could as well have been thirty days!
”And still I want to warn you once again lest you sleep over today's decision. It will have its effect on Noakhali as well as on the Punjab. There are turbulent Muslims in Noakhali. If things take a nasty turn here, how can I stop them there? Calcutta is the key to the peace of the whole of Hindustan. You may earn wealth if you want; you may build mansions for yourselves if you like, but Calcutta should have no more disturbance even if the whole world were reduced to ashes. May God endow you with the ability to think wisely. These girls have just sung the couplet which prays to God to bestow on all the power to do the right thing.'2
When, after these words spoken in Hindi, Bapu started drinking the juice, all the people uttered simultaneously the name of Marayan. The atmosphere was at once filled with joy. I ran to phone the persons concerned, but I could not get my turn on the phone. It was after half an hour that I got a chance to use it; I communicated the good news to Manibahen Patel, Rajkumaribahen and others. Needless to say that all of them were most pleased to hear what I had to tell them.
Bapu said to Rajaji, ”I wish to start for the Punjab tomorrow.” Kripalani objected to his leaving so soon. Shaheed Saheb suggested a compromise, saying, ”How can you go away without attending a public prayer meeting? If we arrange one tomorrow people will crush you *with affection. Let us hold it the day after.”
At ten o'clock at night many persons came with their weapons - rifles, cartridges, bombs etc. Bapu looked at them with interest, and asked the owners if they were in the least sorry to surrender them? They replied that they were not.
Bapuji slept at 11.30 p.m. We heaved a sigh of relief at the dispersal of the dark clouds which had gathered during the seventy-three hours of the fast, and expressed our sincerest gratitude to God.