MAHATMA GANDHI MEDIA AND RESEARCH SERVICE

MAHATMA - Life of Gandhi, 1869-1948

Chapter 11, Hour Of Destiny, 1944-1946, 20min 16sec, Reel 26, 27

The atom bomb could not explode Gandhi's faith in non-violence which he considered to be the mightiest force in the world. The film narrates the story of the visit of the British Cabinet Mission to India for working out the details of the transfer of power. Just when Gandhi brought his people to the very gates of liberty, communal frenzy darkened the horizon. Gandhi's search of the divine in the maddened man is depicted with all its pathos and poignancy.

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Commentary

Reel 26

 

Sequence 01 On Gandhi's 75th birthday, Sevagram Ashram bore a festive appearance ... Greetings poured in on October 2, from all over the world ... Albert Einstein asserted, "Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth. ... "

 

2 Accepting a cheque for eighty lakhs of rupees for the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, Gandhi suggested that the memorial should take the form of a movement for the education and economic betterment of women and children in the rural areas in India ...

 

3 The war was drawing to a close ... The members of the Congress Working Committee were released ... They journeyed to Simla at Lord Wavell's invitation to attend a conference of India's outstanding politicians and party leaders for considering constitutional changes in India. . .

Though Gandhi was not a delegate, he came to Simla as an observer in response to the Viceroy's persistent request ...

On June 25 the invitees assembled at Simla.. .

Vindicating its claim to be a truly national organisation, the Congress did not subscribe to communal parity. . . On this rock the conference foundered on July 14 ...

Gandhi wrote to Lord Wavell, "I must not hide from you the suspicion that the deeper cause is, perhaps, the reluctance of the official world to part with power ...

 

4 Gandhi recorded his convictions on the draft United Nations Charter. "The exploitation and domination of one nation over another can have no place in a world striving to put an end to all war... "The peace must be just and neither punitive nor vindictive."

 

5 In August 1945, the horror of the Atom Bomb was loosed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ... The Second World War was over.. . Drawing a moral from the supreme tragedy of the atom-bomb, Gandhi reiterated his faith in nonviolence. "The atom-bomb has deadened the finest feeling that has sustained mankind for ages. It will not be destroyed by counter-bombs even as violence cannot be by counter-violence".

 

6 In December 1945, when the country was busy preparing for the general elections, Gandhi set out on his tour of Bengal, ravaged by famine and cyclone. His mind was filled with the grim spectre.

 

7 People crowded the canal bank to narrate their tales of woes to Gandhi ...

He prescribed to them the spinning-wheel, the symbol of the constructive programme, as a panacea.

 

8 Gandhi arrived at Madras in January 1946 to attend the silver jubilee celebrations of the Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha.

He presided over its convocation and distributed certificates to successful candidates. . .

He observed, "It is your dharma to learn Hindustani for the sake of India's swaraj and for the good and welfare of the people of India..."

Throughout his sojourn in Madras, Gandhi harped on the need for a national language to achieve unity.

"Only that language," he asserted, "which the people of the country will themselves adopt can become the national language."

 

9 In between the heavy round of, engagements, Gandhi laid the foundation stone of the Harijan Industrial School in true mason's style ... and visited the Constructive Programme exhibition ...

He reiterated that swaraj could be achieved if people accepted the constructive programme.

 

10 A special train carried Gandhi to Madurai ... He was on a pilgrimage in the cause of untouchability ...

On the way, he addressed the people from the coach and asked for their prayers and blessings for his mission.

 

11 On February 3, Gandhi visited the ancient Meenakshi temple at Madurai which was thrown open to the untouchables as a result of his long crusade against untouchability ...

He was glad that the desire which he had entertained for years was fulfilled at last.. .

 

12 Crowds continued to surge at all the stoppages during the journey to Palni ...

Unstintedly, they poured their coppers into Gandhi's beggar's bowl in the service of the Harijans.

 

13 At the vast meeting held at Palni under the shadow of the temple, strongly condemning the ulcer of untouchability that pervaded national life, Gandhi argued, "Why should we not all be children of one Indian family, and, further, of one human family?

"When untouchability is rooted out, no one will consider himself superior to any other..."

 

14 On February 10, 1946 the weekly "Harijan" was revived after a lapse of three years and a half ...

 

15 "It is the fashion", wrote Gandhi, "to blame nature for famine. Scarcity of rain is by no means a monopoly of India ...

"Everything possible should be done to draw water from the bowels of the earth ... and food should be grown on all cultivable areas... Dealers must not hoard, nor speculate. . .

"Cloth famine can be averted by telling the millions to spin and weave in their own villages..."

 

16 Gandhi subscribed to the view that all ailments are due to the violation of nature's laws and that return to nature is the road to health ...

He opened the Nature Cure Clinic at Uruli Kanchan, a village near Poona and examined the patients.. .

His prescriptions emphasized use of the five elements of nature-earth, water, air, sun and sky, for he believed that in simple natural remedies lies the villager's hope.

Gandhi's outlook on nature cure was essentially spiritual.

 

Reel 27

 

Sequence 1 It was India's hour of destiny.. .

The British Labour Government's delegation consisting of Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. A. V. Alexander arrived in India in March, 1946 to discuss terms for the transfer of power.

 

2 The Cabinet Mission began its work by interviewing leading representatives of the main political parties. Interviews followed interviews to arrive at the greatest common measure of agreement among the different parties ...

 

3 Gandhi came to Delhi to meet the British Delegation at the request of Lord Pethick-Lawrence, and lived at the sweepers' slum ...

 

4 Day after day and week after week, the representatives of India poured in to meet Gandhi, and the obscure little sweepers' colony became the venue of many important meetings ...

 

5 Gandhi remained in touch with the Mission during the progress of the constitutional negotiation. He declared that he was opposed to the two-nation theory and made it clear that he was speaking entirely for himself ...

 

6 In a discourse Gandhi said, "There is little doubt that India is about to reach her cherished goal of political independence ... Let the entrance be prayerful ...

 

7 "Independence of my dream", wrote Gandhi, "means the kingdom of God on Earth. .. "

"In concrete terms, independence should be political, economic and moral, standing for the removal of the control of the British army, freedom from the capitalists and capital ensuring equality between the humblest and the tallest and freedom from armed defence forces. .. "

Free India, he hoped, would continue her non-violent policy and deliver the earth from the burden that was crushing her...

8 Simla was fixed as the venue for further talks. Abul Kalam Azad ... Jawaharlal Nehru ... Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan ... and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel arrived in the first week of May to represent the Congress viewpoint in the conference.

Gandhi accepted the delicate role of adviser to the Cabinet Mission and came to Simla having full faith in the Mission's intention ...

 

9 The pourparlers continued at the Viceregal Lodge but the conference could not achieve an agreement between the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League and broke up on May 12.. .

 

10 After the failure of the Simla Conference, the Cabinet Mission set forth its own plan on May 16, rejecting the partition of India on defence, economic and administrative grounds.. .

As the crux of the solution, they recommended a united India and the setting up of an Interim Government to be followed by the Constituent Assembly ...

 

11 Gandhi compared the Mission's plan to a promissory note ... Despite some vital defects, he saw in it the germs of the realisation of his ideal of 'a land without sorrow and suffering' provided it was genuine and appealed to the people to think of the country and not of their petty selves, groups or communities ... .

 

12 A meeting of the All India Congress Committee was held in July to consider and ratify the Working Committee decision "that the Congress should join the proposed Constituent Assembly, with a view to framing the constitution of a free, united and democratic India".

Gandhi came to guide the Committee's deliberations.

President Jawaharlal Nehru urged the people to be united and strong so as to be prepared to face the new problems arising out of the ending of the foreign regime ... .

Persuading the Congress to join the Constituent Assembly, Gandhi asserted, "It should be a challenge to combat and not a ground for rejection. .. "

 

13 Giving a picture of Independent India of his conception, Gandhi wrote, "Every village will have to be a republic or 'Panchayat' having full powers... In this non-violent society, life will not be a pyramid but an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual always ready to perish for the village. .. "

He made it clear that in such a society, every religion would have its full and equal place ... .

 

14 A call by the Muslim League to observe August 16, 1946 as the "Direct Action Day" to protest against the proposed formation of the Interim Government let loose an orgy of violence at Calcutta ...

Madness seized a section of humanity which killed, maimed, and burnt... The fury spread burning its way into Noakhali and Tripura-rural areas of East Bengal.. .

Then began an increasing migration of refugees.. .

Communal hatred spread to adjoining Bihar and other parts of the country.. .

 

15 Gandhi explained their duty to the Ashram inmates. "We should have rushed into the blaze and offered the purest sacrifice to quench the flames of the conflagration." With these words he took their leave and left for Delhi .

 

16 After prolonged controversy, the Interim Government came into being with Jawaharlal Nehru as the de facto Prime Minister on September 2, 1946.. . The Ministers and the members of the Working Committee assembled at the sweepers' slum to seek guidance from Gandhi ...

 

17 Greeting the new Government, Gandhi described the day as a step towards full independence and fervently hoped that the salt-tax would be annulled, that the ministers would live and die for communal unity, and lead India on the road to truth and purity, and that the people would cooperate with them in this endeavour...

 

18 Pouring out his soul's agony over the dark happenings in the country, Gandhi bemoaned, "The springs of life in India appear to be dry today.. . "The cry of blood for blood is barbarous.. . "Independence of India is today at stake in Bengal and Bihar... Unless I can stem the violence, life has no attraction for me. .. "

 

19 The cry of outraged womanhood called him to Bengal and he came to wipe their tears and put heart into them ...

 

 

20 Gandhi was on the way to Noakhali "in search of the divine in the maddened man ... . " His mission was to establish heart unity between the sister communities for he regarded all mankind as his kith and kin and dreaded the consequences of the bisection of India ... . To justify his inheritance man had to return good for evil, he declared and added, "Love and tolerance between the unlike are greater virtues than between the likes ... ."