systemhalted by Palak Mathur

Speech of Mahatma Gandhi at a Prayer Meeting

Location: NEW DELHI,
Date: December 6, 1947

Brothers and Sisters,

You heard the bhajan and the Ramdhun sung by Subbulakshmi. She is new to Delhi. Usually she gives music recitals. One ought to lose oneself while singing bhajans and Ramdhun. Today you must have realized why people are so keen to hear her. She has a melodious voice. I welcomed her message offering to come and sing here.

Today I do not wish to take more than 15 minutes. Yesterday I took 25 minutes which was too long. I am ashamed of it. I must train myself to finish within 15 minutes. Today I intend to take only 15 minutes and leave out what cannot be covered within that time. I had a letter from a friend yesterday. I have only been able to read a part of it. I have another letter today which I have not been able to go through. I must ask to be excused. The letter which I have read in part says that I am too simple a man, that I do not know how the world’s affairs are run and am apt to be deceived. The correspondent also explains the nature of the deception and cautions me to be careful. He asks me to see what is happening in Pakistan and suggests that we should do the same here. That we should take revenge I do not agree. We cannot burn the houses of the Muslims. However humble those houses may be they are as dear to their owners as the palaces of millionaires may be to them. It is in these houses that they live. When a Muslim has to go to Pakistan he suffers.

The correspondent asks when the displaced Hindus and Sikhs can go back to their homes. I may inform him that so long as they do not go back I shall not rest. It is a different thing if they die before
that happens. So long as there is a single Hindu or Sikh left who does not get his house back, I shall not rest. Yes, one may not ask that the house that has been burnt should be restored to its former state. No government can do that, not even the Government of India. I shall say that the Hindus and Sikhs should go to Model Town and stay there. The Lahore Hindus and Sikhs can ask the Pakistan Government to return them their houses and their land just as they are. All that they should ask is that the Muslims who have occupied their properties should be made to vacate them. We cannot ask them to raise houses on the land. They should merely return the land. Those who are now in the Indian Union should become truthful and decent. We must not imitate Pakistan. If they cut off their noses we can’t do the same. I shall further say to the correspondent that if we have made a mistake we must rectify it. Everyone makes mistakes. Only, one must not repeat them. Man is liable to err, even as he has the potentiality to do good. Once he rectifies his mistakes, he can only do good. If we stick to our dharma it is not necessary to advertise it to the world. I have had to write on what happened to Kathiawar Muslims. I did the right thing. It is good to tell the Hindus there about it. It is good to tell the Government. It is our right. When we agreed to the formation of Pakistan we had not bargained for the houses of Hindus and Sikhs being burnt in Pakistan and their being driven out of the country. If mistakes have been made they must be rectified. Of course they can say that we should also rectify our own mistakes. They may say that the Muslims who had gone to Pakistan were driven out of India and that they should be taken back. If that is done the displaced Hindus and Sikhs could go back to Pakistan and the displaced Muslims in Pakistan could come back to India. This will be good both for India and Pakistan. If not, then both the countries will fall in the eyes of the world. We have always conducted ourselves honourably. We won our freedom honourably. It is not I who say it. It is not Hindus and Muslims who say it. It is the whole world that says that we have attained our freedom by honourable means. We should preserve it by honourable means and not by resorting to rowdyism. Rowdyism could be the way to lose our freedom. If we keep our conduct and our behaviour clean the world will see that we have made amends for our former mistakes. What is the world going to do about Pakistan — you may ask. I shall say that the world does not have to do anything or say anything. Pakistan has to cleanse itself.

I am reminded that the Resolution1 passed by the A. I. C. C. had my support and that I am responsible for its being passed. I am however told that people do not want it. Displaced Hindus and Sikhs do not want to go back to Pakistan. I do not say that they should go back as beggars. True, they have come away from Pakistan because they were helpless. But they must go back with dignity. The Pakistan Muslims should tell them that they have changed for the better and now invite them to go back. Similarly we should tell the Muslims who have gone away that their houses and their land are as they had left behind and that they should come and occupy them. If we get over our madness and behave as gentlemen, things will be all right. Where is the deception here? I do not deceive anyone. The world should not look for deception here. The A. I. C. C. has passed the Resolution that the displaced Hindus and Sikhs should all go back to their homes and land in Lyallpur and they should be invited to do so with love. Our Sikh brethren used to be farmers there. They have to go there in any case. This is my dream. I wish to live to see this dream realized. If it is not the will of God that this dream be realized, He will take me away. That is why I am staying on in Delhi. If I cannot do this here, where else can I do anything? If only Pakistan would mend its ways, confess its errors and assure us that it would behave decently, all would be well and we could live as good neighbours. There is no reason why we should remain enemies of each other. Enmity cannot be our dharma. I have concluded within ten minutes today.

[From Hindi]
Courtesy: All India Radio. Also Prarthana Pravachan—II, pp. 175-8