Mahatma Gandhi at Beliaghata Event Summary
13 August - In Calcutta (Sodepur Beliaghata); leaves Sodepur at2.30 p.m. by car and reaches thehouse Hydari Manzil2 , selected for his stay in Beliaghata, a predominantly Muslim area.
It was a very shabby house without any sort of facility. It was open on all sides, thus being easy of access to outsiders. The doors and windows were broken. There was only one latrine which was used by hundreds of people, including a number of volunteers, policemen and visitors. Every inch of the place was covered with dust. In addition, rain had made the passages muddy. Bleaching powder having been profusely sprinkled, the acrid smell caused great discomfort. There was only one usable room where everybody and everything had to be accommodated, including Bapu himself, his luggage and guests.
Hindu demonstrators raise black flags and ask him why he is not going to Hindu quarters to save them. Many demonstrators heckle him and Suhrawardy to their faces. Gandhi tells Nirmal Bose such boldness is to be admired.
Manu Gandhi records -
The youths were excited. They said to Bapu, "Why have you come here? The slight suffering on the part of the Muslims has caused you to hasten to their succour. Where were you when we suffered?" But they did not prevent Bapu from entering the house. Shaheed Saheb, who came later on, was stopped at the door. It was feared that he might be killed. Bapu sent Nirmalbabu and others to bring a few representatives of the rioting mobs to meet him. When they came inside, the rest of the mob remained calm.
Suhrawardy was then allowed to enter the house. Bapu had the following conversation with the excited youths who had come inside.
Question: “Why was there no one to protect the Hindus in the Muslim locality during last year's riots in Calcutta on the 16th of August? And you have come here to save the Muslims when there is only a small scuffle of four days' duration!”
the Mohammedans. But what is the use of avenging past wrongs? I was on my way to Noakhali. But now I shall manage the affairs of Noakhali from here. I have not come for the good of Muslims alone. I want to serve everybody, for I am a friend of all men. Those who kill and burn prove unfaithful to their own religion. It is you who can save me. And if I am to be killed it is you who can kill me. After all, I am old now. I have very few days to live. I have done a lot of work. I have come to make you understand my point of view if I can. But within my heart I feel that I am the servant of both communities. I am a Bania. I am doing my business. I have warned Hindus of Bihar that a repetition of the former happenings would cost me my life. In coming here I have obtained the permission to say that they (Muslims) will have to murder me first before they start a riot in Noakhali. Why don't you try to understand that my responsibility concerning Noakhali is now being shouldered by Shaheed Saheb and his men, and persons like Ghulam Sarwar4 ? Is this a small matter? This is what I call my business.”
The youths (greatly excited) :“We do not want to take lessons in Himsa and Ahimsa from you. Better leave this place. We shall never allow any Muslim to come here.”
Bapu: “This means that you do not want my interference. But if you help me and allow me to do my work, you will find a new situation wherein Hindus will be able to go safely where they cannot go today. What do you gain by harping on the events of August 16th, 1946, and becoming permanent enemies?”
To this, an eighteen year old boy : “History has not proved that two widely differing communities have been able to exist amicably, side by side. I have noticed sincechildhood that the Hindus and Muslims have always been fighting.”
Bapu: “You are not older than I. I have seen a number ofinstances where Hindu boys called Musulmans by the fond term, chacha. Persons of both communities participate in each other's auspicious ceremonies and carry on friendly business and social dealings. Besides, you want to force me to leave this place. I never submit to force of any kind whatsoever! It is not in my nature. You can stop me doing my work. You can imprison me if you like, or kill me. I shall not call in the help of the military of pray to be spared. You say that I am an enemy of the Hindus, but this does not affect me as long as my soul is witness to my worthy motives. How can I then accept that I am the enemy of Hindus? If you can convince me that I have made a mistake in coming here, I shall immediately leave this place. Can't you understand that being a Hindu by religion, deed and name, I cannot possibly be an enemy of my own community? This is sheer narrow-mindedness on your part.”
One does not know how, but the utterance of these two sentences had a magic effect and all the young boys were satisfied. Then, the same youths volunteered to keep watch over Baputhroughout the night.
The boys: “God knows, the old man is a wizard; everybody is won over by him. He is never vanquished.”
Prayers were held inside the house at 9 p.m. Bapu was extremely tired, and so were we.
5Abha and I were very hungry as well, but there was nothing to eat. Bapu said that we should not eat anything at so late an hour. But hunger got the better of us and we ate something at 10 p.m.
Bapu retired at 11 p.m. We had fixed up an old four-legged charpoy for him, and spread our own bedding on the floor. Bapusaid: "How can I sleep on a bed, while you sleep on the floor? Spread my bedding also on the floor." We therefore spread his bedding too on the floor. Shri Suhrawardy decided that he would not sleep here tonight. He had some work to do. He said he would join us from the following night. Some of the Sodepur people wanted to stay on to help Bapu. He refused, saying that the greatesthelp they could render was to carry out their duties in their own place properly. Bapu had not eaten anything since I p.m., nor had he taken any rest. He went to sleep at 11.30 p.m.
N. C. Chatterjee6 of the Hindu Mahasabha, AcharyaKripalani7 , Renuka Ray8 ,Surendramohan Ghose9, TusharKanti Ghosh10 , call. Packed prayer meeting. Scenes of camaraderie witnessed in parts of Calcutta, with Hindus and Muslims embracing each other.
Gandhi is driven by Suhrawardy11 in a closed car, sitting between two or three passengers for privacy to observe the emotional scenes
- Visits Marwari Club12 - says to them 'Tomorrow we will be free from bondage to the British, but from midnight tonight Hindustan will be broken into two pieces. So tomorrow will be both a day of happiness and of sorrow'
Manu Gandhi records -
On the return journey Bapuwas perturbed. He protested, "I spend only half an hour walking, and I have wasted an hour in a car to reach the place and return. How can I afford to waste time like this? It is bad business. It is past ten now. When will the girls eat?" Suhrawardy replied, "It is not very late; it is just ten o'clock." Bapu: "It may be early for you, but for me it is like midnight."
We returned home at 10.45 p.m. and Bapu retired at 11. He was worried because we remained hungry till so late. People disturbed us throughout the night. They kept coming in great numbers as the following day was the 15th of August. The whole city was being decorated with flags and the noise of the bustle reached our ears from all sides.
Today Bapuji got up at 2 a.m. A number ofMusulmans, who had decided to break their Roza only after obtaining a darshan of the Father of the Nation who had brought freedom, were waiting outside. There were Hindus also.
Gandhi on a one day fast, his characterestic way of marking India's independence. At an
interview with students in Beliaghata, he says we had two States now, each of which had both Hindu and Muslim citizens and, by that fact, the two-nation theory had ended. When the day's Hindu- Muslim fraternization is referred to, he says 'I am not lifted off my feet by these celebrations'. There is a great rush of visitors and the prayer meeting has a massive attendance. Gandhi refers to riots in Lahore and floods in Chittagong - both places now being in Pakistan. Nature did not respect political divisions or the creed of persons, he says. A professor asks what scientists should do if free India ordered them to produce atom bombs. He replies 'Resist them unto death.' Manu continues : Bapu could not do any work today. He had to go out every half an hour. Thousands of people kept coming for his darshan, and they said that all this was due to the great Gandhi!
The (new) Ministers of West Bengal came to pay their respects to Bapu. Bapu said to them, 'Today, you have worn on your head a crown of thorns. The seat of power is a nasty thing. You have toremain ever wakeful on that seat. You have to be more truthful, more non-violent, more humbleand more forebearing. You were put to the test during the British regime. But in a way it was no test at all. Now there will be no end to your being tested. Do not fall prey to the lure of wealth. May God help you! You are there to serve the villages and the poor.' The atmosphere of Calcutta had changed in two hours. Men and women were seen going roundhand in hand, shouting, "Hindu- Muslim Bhai Bhai."
Bapuji allowed us to witness the celebrations, but he himself did not go. People of both communities visited each other's places of worship. There was a terrible rush at the evening prayer at 5.30 p.m. Bapu's car passed through the crowd with great difficulty, and he encountered still greater difficulty in reaching the dais. In his after-prayer speech Bapu said:
"Today is the first day of freedom and Rajaji has become the Governor. People thought that the Governor's house was their own property and so they occupied thewhole of it. It is a good thing that the people are aware that all have equal right to enter the house. But it is painful that they seem to think that now that the British have gone away, they are free to do what they like and break and destroy things. I hope no one will indulge in such barbarous behaviour. If we can show the same degree of unity which we had shown during the days of the Khilafat agitation, we shall be drinking cups of nectar in place of those of poison which we had to drink till now."
p.m. Bapu met Prafullababu13and yielded to Shaheed Saheb's pressure to go for a drive. He wanted to show Bapuji the illuminations and the atmosphere of unity in the city. Everyone recognized Bapu's car. When it passed through a Muslim locality it was surrounded by people who greeted him with "Jai Hind". Small children shook hands with him, and many a people sprinkled him with scent and rose water.
Bapu returned from a drive around the city at a quarter to ten. He was extremely tired. After doing some work, he went to bed at 10-30 p.m.
16 August - In Calcutta (Beliaghata); the new Governor, C. Rajagopalachari pays a visit and congratulates him on the miracle he has wrought. Gandhi says he is not yet satisfied that the so-called miracle is an abiding one. Manu writes :
We had prayers as usual at 3.30 a.m. Then, Bapu read his post and wrote his replies. We started for a walk on the street at 6.30 a.m. Even his walk served the purpose of imparting some practical lessons to our people. Thousands had assembled to obtain his darshan before he set off. Bapu made them sit down in front of the door and explained to them that the great noise they made was unbearable. This made them silent. Bapu had started out for his walk with bare feet. He thought that those people who made the streets dirty by spitting everywhere would stop doing so if he went out unshod. It certainly had some effect as people stopped making the streets quite as dirty as formerly. Bapu remarked, "I am glad that people have learnt these two lessons from me."
Bapu took his massage after the walk ; this was followed by a bath and his morning meal at 9 a.m. as usual.
The most important person to meet Bapu today was Rajaji. The first thing he did afterbeing sworn-in14 as theGovernor was to come to Bapu for an interview at 11.30 a.m. Formerly, it was Bapu who had to go to the Governor! It made history as it was the first time that a Governor had come to interview Bapu! Both the old men looked very happy. In spite of the dirtiness of the yard, Rajaji had removed his slippers outside, and had crossed the verandah etc. with bare feet to enter Bapu's room. All the visitors came with shoes on right up to Bapu's room. But not so Rajaji. He remained with Bapu for nearly an hour.
There was a series of deputations to meet Bapu between 12.30 and 5 p.m. There were discussions about communal unity and relief work. Bapu went to the prayer meeting at 5.30 p.m. Shaheed Saheb was the first to speak. He said, "We have to thank Allah or Ishwar and the great Mahatma, for the peace we have had here for the last two or three days."
This was followed by Bapu's speech. He too appealed for unity and said that if permanent peace could be established there, it would have its effect all over India. Some people had stolen things from Government House. Referring to this he said, "It is said about our country that there was no need in olden times to lock anything or any house. There were no thefts committed in Ramarajya. We were such an honest people in those days. Such incidents are a matter of shame to our great country. I would request those who have stolen that they should return the stolen articles."
Bapu took his usual walk afterprayers.
Rev. John Kellas15 of the Scottish Church College came to meet him and asked, "What is the relation between a nation and religion?" Bapu replied, "A nation does not belong to any particular religion or sect. It should be absolutely independent of either religion or sect. Every person should be free to follow the religion of his choice." Bapu went to bed at 10.30p.m.
The morning programme was gone through as usual, after which Bapu spent his time in meeting workers, advising people, and writing articles for Harijan, this being the last day for dispatching the material.
Shaheed Suhrawardy was the first to speak at the prayer meeting which was held today at Nankudanga. It was a vast assemblage of people. Shaheed Saheb said: "During the riots Hindus and Musulmans could not pass through each other's localities even in motor vehicles. But, today, even a small child can walk without fear wherever it likes. Remember that we owe all this to Gandhi."
Referring to his place of residence Bapuji said, "People now seem to think that they are not bound to obey any one's orders. People who visit my place of residence indulge in shouting and abusing the police. The latter fold their hands in return. The police are no doubt our servants, but they receive orders only from the Government, not from private individuals. If each one of us start to order the police they will be crushed. If we continue to behave in this unruly manner, we shall surely lose our freedom. You are free to complain if the police try to rule instead of serving. But it is their duty to arrest all those who commit crimes. I have, therefore, requested the Government to withdraw the police force. It is really painful that they should have to listen to your abuse for our sake. Now it is in your hands to kill us or save us. I do not deny your love for me. But I am afraid it may prove to be merely an effervescence similar to that of a soda water bottle. All things are good within their proper limits."
The prayer grounds were covered with mud. Shaheed Suhrawardy was carried to the car, but Bapu walked. His legs were covered with the mud by the time he reached the car. We got back from the prayer meeting at 9 p.m. Bapu went to bed at 10 p.m. after an hour's discussion with Shaheed Suhrawardy.
18 August - In Calcutta (Beliaghata):
it is the festival of Id. Congress workers from Khulna, now in East Pakistan call. They had hoisted the tri-colour on 15 August thinking Khulna will go to India but the Boundary Commission awarded it to East Pakistan. What is to be done to the hoisted tri colour, they ask. It is Gandhi's day of silence and so he writes : 'There can be no two opinions, the Union Flag must go, Pakistan's must be hoisted without demur and with joy if possible. Award is award, good or bad'. Visits Baranagore where stray acts against Muslims had been reported. Manu writes :
Muslim women who resided in the market area were waiting for Bapu's darshan. So, our motorpassed through that locality. We returned to Beliaghata at 4 p.m. Bapu did his spinning and drank milk. He then went to the prayer meeting. Today being Id, Musulmans called on Bapu in great numbers and he gave each of them some fruit.
The prayer was held at the "Mohammedan Sports" maidan. There was an assemblage of four to five lakh people. Bapu reached the pulpit with great difficulty. He nearly slipped twice on his way. His face expressed joy when he saw the mammoth gathering of Hindus and Muslims. Our car took half an hour to pass through the gate ; ordinarily this would have required only a couple of minutes. People were eager to touch Bapu'sfeet. Poor Shaheed Saheb was wet with perspiration. His wrist watchwas broken. He made his speech as usual. He said, "Id is usually a day of joy for Musulmans. But today it is much more so, for it is for the first time, after nearly a year of fighting, that Hindus and Muslims - not only men but women also - have been able to sit together without any fear. All this is due to the infinite mercy of Allah and the good work of our beloved Bapu."
Bapu spoke : "It is my foremost duty to extend Id greetings to all the Muslim brethren here. There was a time when both communities met to offer Id greetings ; but I must admit that I am witnessing such a sight today for the first time after a good many years. My heart leaps with joy when I see here volunteers of the Muslim League, the National Guard and Congress working together. We have tomake this unity a lasting one. Now we have, ourselves, to do the work which the English had been doing for us. I shall never forget what I have seen here today."
Visits Kachrapada where, too, stray acts of violence against Muslims have taken place. Manu records -
We started for Kachrapada at 12 o'clock and reached there at 2 p.m. It was with great difficulty that the crowds were persuaded to preserve silence. The Muslims of this place complained that the Hindus were harassing them. The population consisted of twenty- five thousand Hindus and eight thousand Muslims. Most of the Hindus are Biharis. Addressing the meeting Bapu said, "Biharisrespect my word. Are they going mad today? Those who form a majority of the population must be very careful." Suhrawardy said, "This tri-colour flag is the greatest thing. Be you Hindu or Muslim, it is the only flag you can fly." He also laid great emphasis on unity.
Gandhi addressing a peace meeting on Id, 18 August, 1947 at Mohammedan Sportings Ground galleries. A wood engraving by Somnath Hore in the same year, presented to the present Governor of West Bengal.
At last the two communities agreed to unite, and the crowd started out in a joint procession with the National Flag.
We left the place at 3.30 p.m. and drove home-wards. But our car was stopped at different places on the way and we did not reach the prayer meeting till 7 p.m., which was very late.
Bapu expressed the same views at the prayer meeting as he had done at the Kachrapadameeting. He added, "The custom of not playing music in front of Masjids was introduced during the British regime. We must stick to the same custom until Jawahar or Liaquat Ali introduce some other custom. We should, therefore, stop playing music before Masjids if the Muslims feel offended by it."
After returning from prayers at 9 p.m. Bapu did his spinning and drank milk. He went to bed at 11 p.m.
The morning programme took its usual course from 3.30 a.m. Interviews started immediately after Bapu's bath. Rajaji came at 11.30 a.m. Bapu had an hour's talkwith him. There was a Press conference at 3.30 p.m. Someone asked, "It is rumoured that Shrimati Chandralekha Pandit16 is to be sent as ambassador to the U.S.A. What can a girl of eighteen do as ambassador?"
Bapu replied, "This question is an attack on Jawahar. I can give a fitting reply, but I do not want to enter into political questions now. I am at the moment concerned with the Hindu-Muslim problem; you may ask me any question relating to it."
Bapu spoke in this strain for half an hour. He took fruit and milk after returning from the Press conference. It was now time to attend the prayer meeting which was to be held in the open area surrounded by Canning Street, Pollock Street, Muraghihata and Kolutola. Bapu was so seated that he had a Temple on one side, a Masjid on another and a Church on the third side.
It was at this place that the rioting had started on 16th August 1946 and it was here also that Hindu-Muslim unity had been established on 15th August 1947. There was a vast gathering. According to local calculation there were not less than seven lakh people. There was great noise. When the prayer was concluded with the recitation of Ramanamathe people clapped. Bapureprimanded them and said, "Prayer is neither a dramatic performance nor a cinema show or an exhibition. It is a means of remembering God. You should therefore never clap at prayer time."
He added, "I now wish to go to Noakhali. I offer you my heartiest congratulations for the unity you have achieved here. Yet, I do not want you to lapse into relaxation. You must all remain alert and spread the atmosphere of peace everywhere by setting up peace committees in different areas."
Speaking about the flag he said, "I would fly both the flags, for we have become friends now. Look at the U.S.A. and Great Britain. They are friends and they fly their flags jointly and observe joint celebrations." Regarding cow protection he said, "There is no greater admirer of the cow than I am. Newspapers report Shri Dalmia17 to have said that the Union Government could stop beef-eating by legislation. But it cannot do so. It is a lessersin to kill a cow and eat her than to ill-treat and under-feed her as we are doing; I would even go to the length of saying that the former course may prove to be the more merciful. If, instead of passing a law to stop cow slaughter, we learn the method of cow breeding, we shall see that cow slaughter will stop of its own accord."
We returned from the prayer at 9 p.m. Bapu had a long discussion with the Bengal Ministers. He started for his walk at ten o'clock and went to bed at 10.30 p.m. A phone message fromMridulabahen18 stated that the Calcutta happenings had had a salutary effect on Bihar. Bapu was greatly pleased to hear this.
- Women's meeting at University; Manu records -
At 3 o'clock Bapu went to the women's meeting at the University. There was too much noise. Bapuwaited for three quarters of an hour, but all attempts to induce silence failed. He then started to speak : "I have attended many women's meetings, but today there has been too much noise. I am a mere servant. I was ordered to attend a women's meeting and so have I come. I want to go back as early as I can."
22 August - In Calcutta (Beliaghata) : Bengal Ministers call at 10.00 a.m. - Advises workers of Bengal Chemicals not to go on strike - Discussions with Members of the Kasturba Trust; Manu records -
This discussion went on up to 4 p.m. Bapuji then started spinning. He talked to visitors while doing so. The prayer meeting was held at DeshbandhuPark at 5 a.m. Shaheed Suhrawardy once again appealed for unity and exhorted Muslims to work under the tri-colour flag. He appealed to the people to contribute to the Relief Fund.
Bapu asked the audience to join in repeating Ramanama and to clap to its rhythm. He said, "That will give us new strength. How nice it looks when soldiers march in step! I am opposed to military power, for it results in killing human beings. There is only one way to vanquish military power and obtain peace, and it is this."
Bapu then expressed his intense feelings regarding communal unity, with special reference to the riots in the Punjab. We returned home at 7 p.m. Baputook some fruit and milk and then had a short talk with theMinisters of Bengal. After this, he went for an evening walk and retired at 10 p.m.
Got up at 3.30 a.m. as usual. Bapu wrote some letters after morning prayers. We then started for a walk. Bapu said, "I like walking outside with bare feet. It reminds me of the Noakhali pilgrimage." After the walk Bapuhad his massage and bath, andwrote for the Harijan. He observed silence while writing with the purpose of being able to work undisturbed. Except for an interval of half an hour for eating and an equal time for rest, he worked up to 2 p.m. Interviews started at 2 p.m.
Bapu's interviews lasted up to 5. The interviewers were mostly workers.
The prayer meeting was held at "Woodlands" the residence of the Maharaja of Cooch BeharBapu spoke on unity and added, "Hindus should not object to the shouting of "Allah-o¬Akbar", nor should the Muslims object to "VandeMataram". The two slogans are, however, somewhat different. "Allah-o¬Akbar" means "God is great". What does it matter if the slogan is in Arabic? Is it sinful because it is in a foreign language? And "VandeMataram" means, 'I bow to our beloved Mother India'. Is anything wrong in this? But these days our minds are much confused. If your hearts are one, I suggest that Musulmans should be free to worship Mother Kali, and Hindus should go to the Masjid with equal freedom."
- Maharaja Patiala calls; Manu writes:
After prayers at 3.30 a.m. Bapuji wrote for Harijan. He did not go out for a walk as it was raining. He requested the readers to express their opinion as to whether Harijan should be continued or discontinued. He took his walk indoors. There was no space for all of us to walk together. I sat on a wooden seat while he walked. Bapu asked me, "Why are you idle today?" I said, "What do you mean, Bapu?" He asked, "Why are you not walking? Are you going to sit in a chair after I leave? I can judge others from your case, for you have been with me in this Great Sacrifice. The Sacrifice that was started at Noakhali has not ended because we have left the place. You may have your own reasons for avoiding a walk, but how can you break your own rule? There is no meaning in doing things for fear ofmy displeasure. Am I to suppose that other workers too are working because of fear of me? What I see of you today makes me afraid that all my workers will occupy chairs!"
I understood Bapu's agony. Many times he attached high importance to very small matters. Bapuji was having his bath while ShrimatiJuthika Roy sang her sweet devotional songs outside his bathroom. He was highly pleased. How precious was time for him!
He could not spare special time to hear her sing, so he requested her to do so while he bathed. He could hear her well.
It was ten in the morning. Someone had phoned the Home Minister, Annada Chaudhuri that Bapu had been 'shot'! He ran to us, scared. He told Bapu about it. Bapu laughed, amused, and said, "Whence can I have the rare fortune of being killed with a bullet?"
Prayers were held at the Monument at 5 p.m. Prior to prayers, Bapu was presented with an Address in a silver casket. He immediately auctioned the casket for the Harijan Fund.
Having looked into some correspondence after the morning prayer Bapuji slept for a while. It was raining and he had to walk inside the house. Visitors started coming after the massage and bath. But Bapu was observing silence. He wrote a good many letters and slept for an hour in the afternoon. This was real rest after much fatigue. He went to the prayer meeting at Howrah Maidan at 5 p.m. Shaheed Saheb in his speech laid emphasis on communal unity and said, "I have no doubt in my mind, that if it had not been for Bapu's presence here, Howrah would have been burnt to ashes. Let no one feel excited over the happenings in the Punjab. If you preserve peace here, Punjab will revert to peace of its own accord. Mahatmaji has sanctified our atmosphere. May Allah preserve this sanctity. "Jai Hind"."
Having discussed communal unity, Bapu said, "A few persons from the Punjab came to me and told me that Jawaharlal had gone there. They pressed me also to go there. I told them that I would go only when I would feel like doing it, completing my work here. I have served the Punjab well. I do not belong to Gujarat alone but to each and every province.
The people were standing in silence in pouring rain to hear Bapu. He asked their pardon and said, "That you have chosen to stand in such heavy rains showsthe intensity of your regard for me. I feel ashamed of sitting in comfort whilst you are being drenched. I am convinced that true love never harms any one. I request you to kindly forgive me."
Bapu did his spinning after returning from the prayer meeting. He discussed the Punjab situation with some Muslim leaders. He took his walk at ten and went to bed at 10-30 p.m.
Last night Bapu did not sleep properly. He woke at 1 o'clock and put on the light. This woke me up. Bapuji asked me to go to sleep and himself started dealing with arrears of work. He worked up to 1.30 a.m. and then lay down. I pressed his legs, back and head. Bapu said, "I am very much dejected. How can I convince others if I cannot convince my own people? But one who has dedicated his all to God should not worry. This shows that perhaps I have not got complete faith in God. If I can develop that faith, if I can be "sthitapradna", I shall simply dance with joy. I have been striving for it but it demands patience."
Bapuji slept at 2. a.m. and woke up again at 3.30 a.m. for prayers. He did not sleep again after prayers but started to work. He went for a walk to the HarijanColony. Having returned from there at 8.30 he took his massage and bath. Interviews started at 9.45.
- visitsTuberculosisHospital at Jadavpur; Manu records -
It being impossible to visit each patient individually, we visited only those who were serious. A few patients who could walk had assembled in a corner. Bapu gave them a common message: "May God save you."
On returning home, Bapuwrote some important letters. He took half an hour's walk at 10 p.m. Being extremely tired, he took milk and fruit.
As usual woke up at 3.30 a.m. After prayers Bapu began writing letters. He found time for writing only in the morning. The rest of the day he was busy meeting visitors. This left him no time either for reading or writing. Between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Bapufollowed his daily routine of interviews, rest, meal, application of mud-plaster, and spinning. Prayers were held at 5 p.m. at the Khidirpur grounds. Khidirpur is a labour area.
Addressing them, Bapu said, "Labourers must not fight among
themselves. Worshipping an idol or repeating the Namaz is a personal affair. There should be no distinction made, on a communal basis in payment of wages. Greater skill would earn more. But I would like the employer to be himself a labourer, and a trustee of labourers. This is my ideal."
Shaheed Suhrawardy spoke about communal unity and appealed to all the people to work under one flag. Accepting the responsibility for the insanitary conditions prevailing in the labourarea, he said, "This filth has been here for years. It was my duty to remove it during my Premiership. But I am sorry to say that Hindu- Muslim riots broke out within two months of my being installed as Premier. I could do nothing. But you must have patience. Things will be all right soon." As this was a predominantly Muslim area he explained the importance of the slogan "Jai Hind".
We returned home at 9 p.m. Bapu took some rest, ate fruit and milk, had a walk, discussed certain matters with Shaheed Suhrawardy and went to bed at 10.30 p.m.
Prayer at 3.30 a.m. Bapuwrote articles for Harifan and dictated some letters. He wrote a long letter to Jawaharlalji. He went for a walk at 7 a.m. During his meal he had letters read aloud to him and dictated replies to them. He took some rest. It was past noon by this time. He then had a discussion with Suhrawardy. Representatives of various bodies came for interviews one after another. Today's prayer meeting was held at the Science College.
Bapu addressed the boys and girls as follows: "My association with students goes back to several years when none of you had been born. HenceI am no stranger to you. Your Vice-Chancellor had complained to me that you are undisciplined. It is a good thing to accept some one's control willingly. Every oneshould accept his teacher's control. Far from being degrading, it will lead to self-restraint. He is no student who does not practise self- discipline."
Bapu requested Suhrawardy to abstain from making a speech today, as the students were in an excitable frame of mind. We returned home at 9 p.m. Bapuwrote out his lecture and had a discussion with Shaheed Saheb. He took a walk at ten and went to bed aft 10.30 p.m.
Bapu woke up today at 2.30 a.m. He started on his writing atonce, as work had accumulated. The rest proceeded according to routine from 3.30 onwards. It included interviews, writing, rest etc. between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Today's prayer meeting was held at 5 p.m. at Tollygunge. 'VandeMataram' was sung at the end of the prayer.
Bapu spoke a great deal about communal unity also. Some Christians who came to meet Bapu asked, "The Hindus will stay in Hindustan and the Muslims will go to Pakistan. But what about us?"
Bapu said in reply, "You would never ask such a question if you thought of yourselves as part of the four hundred million Hindustanis." We returned home at 9.45. p.m. As Bapu had not found any time during the day, he did his spinning nowHe then took a walk and went to bed at 10.30 p.m.
After prayers, Bapu wrote for Harijan. He went for a walk at 6.30 a.m. and then had his massage, bath etc. as usual, and talked to Mr. Horace Alexander19 while taking his meal. After he left at 12 noon, Bapu began his silence and busied himself with writing for Harijantill 3 p.m. with some rest in the middle. There were three to five interviewers.
The prayer meeting was held at 5 p.m. at Balasore, which is sixteen miles from Calcutta.
- Randolph Churchill20 ,son of Winston Churchill, calls. The Ruling Chief of Ran gpur in Orissa calls and asks if the new Indian State would stand by the Princes after accession. Gandhi says the new Union will give the Princes 'full support in vindicating the liberty of their subjects'
Prayer and other routine matters were observed from 3.30 a.m. onwards. Bapu carried on his daily work in spite of his cold. He has decided to go to Noakhali. He discussed the matter with Shri Charubabu Choudhari21 and Pyarelalji22 who had come to meet him..
There were visitors continuously from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. He went to the Grand Hotel at 3.30 p.m. The tradition of the Hotel had so far been that no Indian could enter its precincts
felicitatory message; things suddenly take a turn for the worse; Manu records-
Bapu had thought of going to Noakhali this month. But he had to postpone his departure because of the outbreak of communal riots in Calcutta. He had stayed at Beliaghata in Calcutta and had established peace in the riot- affected city. One does not know if Bapuhas to face any further test. Since the time Bapuji plunged into the problem of communal riots everyone was expecting him to undertake a fast at any moment. During the massacre in Bihar it was expected every day that Bapuwould go on a fast. But God's ways are different to that of man. Bapu was spared the ordeal of a fast in Bihar. But the fasting came when it was least expected; the test of Bapu's Truth was established at the beginning of this month; he succeeded so well that here has not been any further communal riot in Calcutta since then, due, of course, to the penance of the great saint.
Manu records further -
A wounded man came here tonight. He had fallen down from a tram and had been injured. But people beat him and forced him to state that he had been assaulted by Musulmans. Some boys brought him here in procession at 10 p.m. Bapuji was sleeping. I woke up due to the noise and went outside. Abhaben was already there at the door trying to pacify the crowd. I joined her in pacifying them and said, "Your noisy demonstration is painful both to the wounded man and Bapuji. Besides, we cannot hear what you have to say. You may, therefore, select two representatives from amongst you to explain matters to Abhaben, who being a Bengali will understand you fully. And then we shall communicate your message to Gandhi."
But it was impossible to check the boys.
It was 10 o'clock at night. There were only three of us in the whole building - Bapuji, Abhaben, and myself. Shaheed Suhrawardy had gone out. Pyarelalji, Nirmalbabu, and Charubabu - who had come to request Bapu to go to Noakhali - had also gone out. We were busy preparing for our trip to Noakhali, the following morning. But what was proposed by man was to be disposed by God.
The boys soon increased in numbers. They started breaking things. Stones were hurled at lamps and window panes, shattering them to pieces, there were two Musulmans in the house who were our hosts. The boys wanted to catch and kill them. They were running helter-skelter.
Bapuji had a very bad cold, and he was also observing silence. He got up and came out. Abhabenand I were surrounded by the crowd. But a few among them, kindly disposed, suggested that we go inside the house. They were trying to save us from the anger of the crowd. Bapuji in the meantime arrived at the door and we immediately went to him.
Bisenbhai23 was with us. The crowd mistook him for a Musulman and tried to assault him. The boys in the meantime saw Bapuji ; this added to their excitement. They began to shout even more loudly than before. Bapuji broke his silence and shouted thrice: "What is all this? Kill me, kill me I say ; why don't you kill me?" with these words he tried to rush amidst the crowd. We stood in his way to stop him going. In the meantime one of the Musulmans staying in the house ran and stood behind Bapu. Seeing him one or two boys threw brick¬bats at him. Fortunately, they didnot hit anyone; otherwise the hands of Hindu boys might have shed Bapu's blood. When I consider how Bapu ultimately met his death at the hands of a Hindu, I feel that this incident was an indication.
Bapu said with a voice full of extreme grief, "My God is asking me 'where are you?' I am extremely grieved. Is this the peace you have preserved from the 15th of August?"
Some of the military force arrived, and dispersed the unruly boys. Tear gas was used outside the building. We went inside at about half past twelve. Bapujicalled Pyarelal and Charubabu. He said to them, "How can I go to Noakhali tomorrow? Do you think it proper that I should do so now? I do not know what God wills me to do . But, now, going to Noakhali is out of the question."
In the meanwhile Ministers, including Prafullababu and Annadababu, arrived. They told Bapu that they were going to arrest the Hindu Mahasabhaites.
Bapu said, "You should not arrest them. Throw the responsibility on their heads. Ask them what they want, peace or riots. Tell them that you want their help. See what reply they give."
The Ministers went away after being thus advised. It was 12.30 at night, still people were shouting outside and asked where 'the ruffian' Suhrawardy was hiding. It was not until 1.30 a.m. that the disturbance subsided.
All this happened at night. We had no idea as to what would happen the following day, for we were all very anxious regarding the repercussions of the previous night's incident.
He went for a walk at 7 a.m. The military was posted again, but the people allowed us to walk in peace. After the walk Bapu took his massage and bath. The news of the previous night's incidents had spread ; people began to flock to our residence. A chain of interviews started. Bapuji looked extremely grieved and serious. He received a telegram from Jawaharlal to which he replied that he could not start immediately owing to the previous night's happenings. They were discussed with different visitors. At 1.45 p.m. Bapuji lay down to rest with a mud-plaster on his abdomen. He, however, received news that there had been an outbreak of riots all over the city including crowded localities like Badabazar andBowbazar. News poured in every ten minutes, adding greatly to Bapu's mental disturbance. Ordinarily, he took oranges or some other fruit every day at 2 p.m. But when he heard this disturbing news he refused to take anything. A few Musulmans who had returned to Beliaghata were attacked, and Nirmalbabu rushed to their help. He made arrangements to remove the Muslims to the Mohammedan area in a truck driven by his driver. Someone threw a bomb — from above — on the truck as it passedand two persons were killed. When Bapu heard this he expressed his desire to see the victims. Abhabenhad gone to the city to meet her uncle. The riots had started after her departure. She had not returned even at 2 p.m. Bapu was naturally very anxious about her. He wrote a note to me as follows:
"You should remain at home. I shall go to see the victims with a few others." I refused to remain behind. Bapuji, Nirmalbabu,
Shailenbhai24 and I then left the house. It was an awful sight to see blood gushing out of the chests of the victims. Their bodies were covered with flies. Their eyeballs had been cut through. They seemed to be labourers.
A four anna piece was lying near one of them. It had obviously fallen out of the waist band of his torn dhoti. We could not bear the sight of extreme grief on Bapu'sface. He was deeply pained at the plight of these innocent men. I could bear the sight of the dead bodies, but I could not bear the pitiable sight of Bapu's face. We returned home after seeing those two dead bodies. Shri SailenChatterjee asked Bapu what the latter proposed doing and whether he would undertake a fast. Bapuwrote in reply, "You have guessed correctly. I am praying within myself. We have to see whether I receive any light by tonight."
Shaheed Saheb, N. C. Chatterjee and many others came while we were praying. All of them reported on the condition pertaining in the city. They were of the unanimous opinion that the Hindus had gone mad. But the Muslims too were making preparations for retaliation on a large scale, though they had not, as yet, broken the peace so far. One Marwari gentleman asked if his community could be of any service.
Bapu replied, "As long as I myself do not take any step, I have no right to tender any sort of advice to others." When I asked him what he would eat he wrote in reply, "It is impossible for me to eat anything in this condition of grief. Even my eating in the morning was a mistake. There is no end to human folly. That is why man has to suffer." After the visitors had departed, Bapu took a stroll. Then, he took some hot water with glucose. He did not eat anything. Then came the statements. Shri Shyamaprasad Mukherji also issued his statement. Rajaji came at 10 p.m. He left at 12 midnight, after a closed-door discussion25
Gandhiji: "At least I won't be a living witness of it. I shall have done my duty. More is not given to a man to do."
In the draft Gandhiji had reserved to himself the liberty to add sour lime juice to water during the fast to make the water drinkable. He had developed a queer allergy to plain water ever since his first fourteen days' fast in South Africa. It brought on nausea.
Rajaji: "Why add sour lime juice to water if you are to put yourself entirely in God's hands?"
Gandhiji: "You are right. I allowed it out of weakness. It jarred on me even as I wrote it. A Satyagrahi must hope to survive his conditional fast only by the timely fulfillment of the terms of his fast." And so the portion referring to the sour lime juice was scored out and the unadulterated venture of faith commenced. It was past eleven when Rajaji left with the final statement. It was released to the Press the same night. In a supplementary statement to the Press, Rajaji said that if trouble had not broken out in Calcutta, Gandhiji would have gone to the Punjab. It was in their hands to send him to the Punjab. "The women and children of the Punjab are eagerly looking forward to his presence in their midst and to the healing influence of his word and spirit. Let us send him with the laurels of victory round his aged brow to that afflicted Province."
with Bapuji and a few others. Abhaben and I considered the possible result of these deliberations when we were overcome by sleep. When Rajaji left at midnight, Bapuji woke us and said, "You should not prepare any food for me from tomorrow onwards." Being aroused from sleep we looked at him in consternation. We did not immediately understand what he meant. I then asked, "But why Bapuji?" Bapu replied, "I am starting my fast tomorrow." Abhaben asked, "For how many days?" Bapu replied, "There is no fixed limit ; fasting will continue until peace is established. I shall take nothing but water. I may use soda-bi-carb or lemon, if necessary. I shall succeed or I shall die. I cannot but die if peace is not to come."
- fast continues; the riots cool down; Manu writes -
Shaheed Saheb issued a statement addressed to the Muslim population of East Bengal appealing to them to remain peaceful. He made a similar appeal to the Muslims of West Bengal. Rajaji said in his statement, "I have failed in dissuading Bapu from undertaking the fast. But I may assure you that if you can preserve peace he intends going to the Punjab. The women and children of that province are longing for his darshan. It depends on you whether or not he goes there. We must save Bapu from this fast."
Volunteers of the Peace Brigade circled the city throughout the night. News kept coming that the city was still ablaze. Nirmalbabu had gone to the house ofSaratbabu.
Bapu got up at 8 a.m. Then he took his massage, bath etc. Dr. Dinshaw Mehta27 examined him. Heart beats were missing at intervals. Dr. Mehta told Bapu that he should drink more than four bottles of water. (Each bottle was of one pound). Bapu said, "Let me see how much I can drink. If only the name of Rama were to possess my mind, there will be no necessity for any effort on my part. I am extremely calm today. I would have had no sleep if it were not so." There were heavy rains as if Nature too was shedding tears ;everything was full of sorrow. Having finished his bath by 10.30 a.m. Bapu took his usual seat in the room. He took eight ounces of plain hot water and took a long time to drink it. Nirmalbabureturned from Saratbabu's house. He brought the news "The disturbance was started by the Sikhs and the Biharis. Bengalis joined them subsequently. Plundering is still going on on an extensive scale. They have burnt a Muslim hotel at the Sealdahstation." Saratbabu thinks that there is a particular set of people who are behind all this. He has even got their names. The Hindus stabbed Sachin Mitra28 to death when he went to establish peace. Many others have also been wounded.
Bapuji finished drinking his water at 12.30 p.m. taking an hour to do so. He directed that either Abha or I should remain nearby to render him ready service. (We had, of course, arranged our turns for being in attendance). It seems Bapuji has now started feeling weak. His voice has become very low. He examined ShyamaprasadMukherji's statement at 1 p.m. Then having rested up to 1.30 p.m. he took 8 ounces of hot water. Bisenbhai brought news that shooting and plundering were the order of the day in Zachariah Street. What could be done? The military, who had entered the Masjid, were harassing the people. Bapuji sent Bisenbhai. We had no provisions in our house.
Biamma who had undertaken to supply us everything, had arranged to send us the stores, but as shooting was going on on the Sealdah Bridge, the car bringing the provisions had to go back.
We read a few letters to Bapuji at 2 p.m. We could hear the sound of frequent shooting in the afternoon.
Bapu: “What can we do now?”
Saratbabu: “Are you allowed to speak?”
Bapu: “I must speak when necessary. Rajaji argued with me for two hours, but he did not succeed. Being extremely intelligent, he advanced a number of arguments. But my mind refused to accept any of them. Rajaji ultimately sent a telegram to Jawaharlal. I told him that I could not leave Bengal in its present condition.”
It was 5.15 now and Prafullababu came with other members of the Ministry. Saratbabu then rose to take his leave promising to do his best to maintain peace and look after the volunteers.
Bapu: “I had myself sent back the military from here. But, unfortunately, it has come back to protect Suhrawardy, as he is afraid. It was God's kindness that he was absent on Monday, the 3 1st. I cannot say what would have happened if he were here. He had gone home to make preparationsfor the Noakhali tour. But now you better leave, lest these Ministers get cross with you as well as with me. I too might have lost my life on the 31st!”
Prafullababu: “I have nothing to say regarding your having started the fast from yesterday. But it would have been better if you had informed us and shown us your statement before you sent it to the Press.”
Bapu: “I too think that you ought to have been informed before publishing it in the Press. But I saw that things were terrible. I was considering what my duty should be. Rajaji came. He sat for two hours. He is a learned and kind person. But none of his arguments appealed to me. When I undertook a fast in the Yeravda Prison, Devadas and Lakshmi wept like children, but their tears had no effect on me. If I had given in I would have failed in my duty. I drank water by means of a tube at 5.30. If I do not take water I would not last long. I want to live for a week or so to see peace established. If, however, nothing happens within a week I see no chance of peace ever returning to Calcutta, and I do not wish to live to be a witness to such a state of affairs. It would be better if God took me away within this period.”
In the morning Bapu told Dr. Dinshaw Mehta: "I passed the night without any trouble. I can drink water also. I am enjoying greater peace of mind during this fast than I ever did during preceding ones. I do not feel any impatience regarding the termination of my fast. If this condition continues, I hope to be able to sustain myself even for a month, in spite of the weakening of the body."
Dr. Mehta interpreted this in a different light and said, "Yes, there would be no difficulty if you continue drinking water as at present."
Bapu said, "What I mean is something else. I feel that God is with me. What would He have me do? And if His name fills my mindI would not require even water."
Nirmalbabu had arrived in the meanwhile. He described the situation in the city. Bapu went for his massage at 6.15. Dr. Mehta examined him. The blood pressure was 98/154. The heart beats were the same as yesterday. Massage was finished at 8 o'clock . He took his Bengali lesson and slept for a while during the massage. He finished his bath at 10 a.m. and went to his usual seat. He seemed to feel weak while walking.
Someone brought the news that looting continued up to midnight after which there had been peace. Bapu said, "If looting continued throughout the day what more could they do after midnight? Must not goondas too have some sleep?" He then warned both of us again, saying, "I depend exclusively on you two. I can of course do without you, but now that you are here, I rely upon you. If you fall sick, it will mean my death."
Mridulaben phoned from Bihar at 9 a.m. She enquired about Bapu'shealth, and informed us that the fast was having a very good effect on Bihar. Bapu did not have a shave today. He said he would have one only after the termination of his fast.
Referring to his twenty-one days' fast in the Aga Khan Palace, Bapu said, "I wanted to survive that fast, which was directed against the despotism of Linlithgow. Regarding this fast, I do not care whether I live or die. Of course I hope that peace is established and that I may be able to live. But this fast will not go beyond ten days. There shall either be peace within that period or else I shall die. I know, from personal experience of a number ofinstances where ruffians have been converted to peaceful ways. I am a person who has had occasion to live amongst ruffians."
Bapuji drank eight ounces of hot water at 10.15 a.m. Shri Tushar Kanti Ghose brought news that the atmosphere in the city was improving. He said, "We should like to snap your photo, which will help us a good deal in our work for peace."
Bapu said, "I do not want to terminate my fast by making use of my picture in this way. The fast should end only when the people are convinced that what they have been doing is wrong."
We could hear the noise of a procession. A Muslim gentleman came and said that bullets fired from the Hospital at 9 o'clock had wounded four persons and killed four or five others. He requested Bapu to send his men to inquire into the matter.
Bapu said, "Am I not doing my best to stop the riots? That is why I have undertaken this fast."
The Muslim gentleman said, "God forbid that anything should happen to you. If so, a great catastrophe will befall us."
Bapu said, "You need not explain all this to me."
While Bapu was sitting up at a quarter to five, he asked, "What tree is this?"
I replied, "It is a litchi tree." "Is there no neem tree here?"
Abhaben replied, "Oh, yes, we have got one." Bapu said, "You should both eat neem leaves. Ba survived because she ate those leaves. I was her doctor in South Africa. There was no one else. I used to pluck neem leaves, extract the juice, and make Ba drink it. On the thirteenth day Ba told me that she was feeling hungry and would like to eat something. I gave her fruit. Gradually I started giving her banana and groundnut cake. She ate them. I then took her to Cape Town."
The talk concerning Ba continued for some time. Bapu has been feeling the loss of Ba very much! This is his first fast after her death. One or two persons suggested that they would like to stay with Bapu in order to render him service whenever he required it. Bapu said, "You need not stay here to serve my body. If you really wish to serve me, you should go to the areas where riots are going on and try to establish peace. That would indeed be realservice in my opinion."
A joint procession of both Hindus and Muslims started from Beliaghata at 6.30. The processionists rushed inside to have Bapu's darshan. He said, "I shall stand in front of the window while you pass by if you preserve complete silence and do not shoutslogans." The leaders of the procession said, "We cannot take that responsibility. It will be troublesome for Gandhi if someone shouts a slogan." Hence two Hindu and one Muslim leaders of the procession came in to meet Bapu. The Muslim friend was weeping. He said, "Please give up your fast. We were with you in the Khilafat fight. I take the responsibility of seeing that no Muslim in this locality creates any disturbance."