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Why Gandhi’s Silence on Partition?
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
This is my personal interpretation of Mahatma Gandhi’s response to the Partition based on the consideration of his words and deeds at different times.
Gandhi had earlier said that India could be partitioned only over his dead body. The Partition occurred but Gandhi remained alive. When skeptics taunted Gandhi about this his former secretary and biographer, Peareylal, recorded that Gandhi would angrily lash out at his critics and say should he kill himself just to satisfy others? Even Gandhi’s most trenchant critics cannot deny his courage. He was not afraid of death. Then why did he not redeem his pledge?
This view is reinforced by earlier events. When the Congress Working Committee (CWC) was to pass its formal resolution to accept Partition on June 3, 1947 Gandhi observed his day of silence. Why?
On June 2, one day before the Partition resolution was to be passed by the CWC, Lord Mountbatten visited Gandhi to seek reassurance that Gandhi would not create hurdles. “Mr Gandhi,” Lord Mountbatten asked. “I hope you will not oppose my (Mountbatten Plan to partition India ) plan?” Gandhi on his day of silence wrote on a scrap of paper: “Have I ever opposed you?”
After the Partition Gandhi’s actions revealed his resolve to keep trying for total Indo-Pakistan reconciliation. He went on a fast to compel the Indian government to pay Pakistan adequate compensation. This strengthened his credibility with Pakistan . It pleased Mountbatten. But Gandhi’s subsequent actions could not have pleased British authorities.
Gandhi wrote to Jinnah seeking permission to settle down in Pakistan in order to work for Indo-Pakistan unity. Jinnah concurred. He invited Gandhi to Karachi . Gandhi sought permission to settle down in Lahore with 50 Punjabi refugee families then settled in Delhi ’s Purana Quila camp. One member of the Punjabi families that had volunteered to accompany Gandhi in his march to Lahore was historian KK Khullar, then 16 years old. The plan to start the march on February 14, 1948 was finalized. On January 30th Nathuram Godse killed Gandhi.
Gandhi’s judgment may be questioned. His integrity was unimpeachable. He never wavered in his commitment to the agenda of uniting Hindus and Muslims even after Pakistan had been formed. In the end he was defeated. The forces arraigned against him were too powerful. But has his agenda been defeated? This scribe believes that history’s final verdict on that is still not out.
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05/12/2014 16:27 PM