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From the Archives: ‘Treat bomb-thrower with pity’, says Mahatma Gandhi

Sep 30, 2023 09:28 AM IST

Hinduism could be saved only by Gandhiji's method. Gandhiji had practised Hinduism from early childhood.

Mahatma Gandhi in his post-prayer speech last evening referred to Tuesday's bomb explosion incident and appealed to the people to treat the young man who had thrown the bomb with compassion and pray that he might see the light of reason.

Mahatma Gandhi said no one should look down upon the misguided youth who had thrown the bomb,(Wikipedia) PREMIUM
Mahatma Gandhi said no one should look down upon the misguided youth who had thrown the bomb,(Wikipedia)

"The young man probably looked upon me as an enemy of Hinduism. Throwing a bomb at me and thereby killing me is not the way to save Hinduism. Hinduism can be saved only by my method," declared Gandhiji.

Gandhi said he had been receiving anxious inquiries and praise for being unruffled the incident. He thought that it was military practice and therefore nothing to worry about. He had not realised till after the prayers that it was a bomb explosion and that the bomb was meant against him. God only knew how he would have behaved in front of (a) bomb aimed at him and exploding. Therefore, he deserved no praise. He would deserve a certificate only if he fell as a result of such an explosion and yet retained (a) smile on his face and no malice against the doer.

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'Misguided youth'

What he wanted to say was that no one should look down upon the misguided youth who had thrown the bomb, who probably looked upon Gandhiji as an enemy of Hinduism. After all, had not the Gita said that whenever there was an evil-minded person damaging religion, God sent someone to put an end to his life? That celebrated verse had a special meaning.

The youth should realise that those who differed from him were not necessarily evil. The evil had no life apart from the toleration of good people. No one should believe that he or she was so perfect that he or she was sent by God to punish evil-doers, as the accused seemed to flatter himself he was.

Gandhiji had heard that the youth had without permission occupied a masjid for lack of other accommodation and now that the police were getting all mosques evacuated, he resented the act. It was a wrong thing on his part to have occupied the masjid in the first place and it was doubly wrong to defy the authorities, when they asked him to vacate it.

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'Desist from such activity'

To those who were at the back of the youth, he would appeal to desist from such activity. That was not the way to save Hinduism. Hinduism could be saved only by Gandhiji's method. Gandhiji had practised Hinduism from early childhood. His nurse had taught him to invoke Ram when he feared evil spirits. Later on, he had come in contact with Christians, Muslims and others, and after making a fair study of other religions, had stuck to Hinduism.

He was as firm in his faith today as in his early childhood. He believed God would make him an instrument of saving the religion that he loved, cherished and practised. In any case, one had to have constant practice and acquaintance with the fundamentals of religion before being qualified for becoming God's instrument.

Continuing, Gandhiji said some Sikh friends came and said that he (Gandhiji) should not think that the Sikhs had anything to do with the deed. He knew the youth was not Sikh. But what did it matter whether he was a Sikh or a Hindu or a Muslim? He wished well to all perpetrators. He had told the Inspector-General of Police also not to harass him in any way, they should try to win him over and convert him to right thinking and doing.

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'Wrong Done To Hinduism'

He hoped that the youth and his guides would realise their error. For, it was a wrong done to Hinduism and the country. At the same time, Gandhiji warned his hearers against being angry with the accused. He did not know that he was doing anything wrong. They should pity him.

If they harboured resentment against Gandhiji's fast and had still pledged themselves to maintain peace in order to save an old servant of the nation, the guilt was theirs, not that of the young man who had thrown the bomb. If, on the other hand, they had signed the peace pledge wholeheartedly, persons like the young man were ultimately bound to come to their way of thinking.

Gandhiji said he expected the audience to go on with the prayers in spite of bomb explosions or a shower of bullets. He was glad to learn that a poor unlettered woman was the cause of the arrest of the miscreant. If the heart was sound, if there was right thought, lack of letters was not of any consequence. He congratulated the unlettered sister on her simple bravery.

Referring to a note that he had received from Bahawalpur sufferers, Gandhiji said he had not forgotten them. Even today he had received telegram from the Nawab Saheb of Bahawalpur saying that he was doing everything possible for the welfare of non-Muslims in his State. He (Gandhiji) was pursuing the matter in his own way.

Woes of Sindhi Sikh refugees

Gandhiji narrated a telegram that he had received from Sindhi Sikh refugees at Bombay. They said 15,000 Sikhs scattered about in Sindh were in danger of extermination. Their life, religion and culture were in danger. Arrangements should be made for their speedy evacuation. Gandhiji could never tolerate the extermination of Sikhs and would do for them all that was possible for one man to do. Pandit Nehru's government was also fully alive to its responsibility.

He called upon the Sindh government and the Pakistan government to reassure the Sikh residents there that they would protect them with their own lives. If they could not guarantee their protection, they should gather them in one place and make arrangements for their speedy and safe evacuation.

Sikhs were a brave community. They should know that everyone's honour and religion were safe only in his own hands. No one else could rob one of these. Parsi friends of his had gone to Sindh that day.

Gandhiji then referred to a letter he had received during his fast. The author of the letter had stated that while Gandhiji was in jail in 1942, the country had somewhat taken to violence.

If Gandhiji died of the fast, there would be such a violent upsurge in the country that it would stagger humanity. Therefore, the writer had argued that for the sake of humanity he should give up his fast. Gandhij said while it was true that the people had resorted to violence when he was locked up in jail, he did not think that his death under a fast should have the feared result.

But he had rehearsed before embarking on the fast the possibility of wide fratricide. The Yadavas had destroyed each other after Lord Krishna's death. But he (Gandhiji) was too insignificant a mortal to produce such an effect. However, if the people had become indolent and vicious like the Yadavas and God saw that there was no way out but extermination, be might make even an ordinary person like him, the instrument of such a catastrophe.

Having left himself in God's hands, he worried no more about the consequences. What, however, he saw during the fast nerved him to hope that India had no such self-destruction in store for her.

Concluding, Gandhiji expressed satisfaction at the way Muslims were freely moving about in Delhi. He wanted them to continue the process of self-purification and convert their hearts into temples of the living God of Truth.

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