Independent India at 60
The Universal Man
The oppressed and exploited of all nations feel that the most powerful voice raised in the cause of justice has been stilled
Gandhiji had abundant faith in his people. Now the time has come when we must justify it or perish
“THE Mahatma has become immortal.” The cry that rose from a million throats as the flames consumed the old frail body that had housed that mighty spirit confidently anticipated the verdict of posterity. The tributes that have flowed from all quarters of the globe show how unique was the stature of this man who became a legend in his life-time not by withdrawing from the world in proud seclusion but by bestriding the consciousness of humanity like a colossus, his feet planted firmly on earth, the refuge of the lowliest and the lost, his head crowned with the stars. King George with fine feeling described as irreparable the loss that the Indian people – “indeed mankind” – had suffered. Prime Minister Attlee said: “His moral and spiritual leadership have been an inspiring example in a distracted and troubled age.” The American President is confident that “peoples all over the world will be inspired by his sacrifice to work with increased vigour towards brotherhood and peace which the Mahatma symbolised.” In the Security Council a representative of the ancient civilisation of China spoke of the Mahatma as the pride of Asia and affirmed that “his principles had universal significance.” The oppressed and exploited of all nations feel that the most powerful voice raised in the cause of justice in our time has been stilled. The only world citizens we have had or are ever likely to have are the saints, who touch a chord in every heart. The Mahatma has joined this shining company and become a universal possession. “Friend of all things that are, ever at peace with himself, of love and compassion all compact,” to-day his work done he walks with God.
A great nation feels orphaned and desolate; its heart is wrung with an intolerable anguish and its head bowed in desperate shame. These few last months when brother’s hand was raised against brother were working with tragic inevitability to the climax that came with the foul deed of last Friday. Those who watched Gandhiji closely knew that it was for him the Via Dolorosa. But his faith in the future never wavered. And it is that faith which must sustain us now, setting aside
unavailing grief and wounding recriminations. It is in that spirit that Gandhiji would have wished us to work. Speaking during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, another great liberator who died by the assassin’s hand, said: “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me. Now, at the end of three years’ struggle, the nation’s condition is not what either party or any man devised or expected — God alone can claim it. Whither it is tending seems plain. If God now wills the removal of a great wrong, and wills that we of the North shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong, impartial history will find therein new cause to attest and revere the justice and goodness of God.” It was in this spirit that Gandhiji laboured during those last few months – conscious of the perils that beset the nation he had led so valiantly, convinced more than ever that it can never be really harmed except by itself and confident that in the long run truth and righteousness will prevail. He had abundant faith in his people. And now the time has come when we must justify it or perish. He has gone but his example remains. Not for nothing did he inculcate self-reliance as the supreme virtue. Other countries like China have found the inspiration to action in the political testament of a great leader. In this respect we are even more fortunate. In Mahatmaji’s many writings, in the memory of his heroic deeds, in the powerful picture he has impressed on the sensitive minds of his generation, there is for us a perennial stream of inspiration. He is a reminder to us that an exalted ethic can go hand in hand with practical good sense, that ruthlessness in action is compatible with a boundless love. Men like him are a perpetual rebuke to the faint-hearted of every generation; they are the Ideal made flesh.
India to-day is like a bundle of faggots from which the binding cord has been loosed. The spirit of turbulence and disorder, not having been exorcised but only kept down by main force during the long period of foreign rule, is finding protean expression. And in a world ruled by power politics, it is only strength that is respected. At such a time the country needs staunch leadership and she is supremely fortunate in this respect; for she has in Mr. Nehru and his trusted colleagues men, valiant and true, who have grown in the shadow of the Mahatma and yet have not been stunted. They have learnt from him that, while the basis of moral authority is principle, a sense of direction is as important as fixity of purpose. Statesmanship to-day must be dynamic. An amorphous mass of aspirations has to be integrated; life has to be made meaningful for the millions who have led a twilight existence; new tracks must be laid for the questing spirit. Let us remember that Gandhiji’s immense strength was derived from the fact that his ear was ever close to the earth to catch the heartbeats of humanity. And he scorned the letter that killeth. He created his own tools and made no fetish of them. He had a supreme mastery of technique; but he knew, none better than he, that no technique is useful for all time or in every circumstance. The modern world and India’s own unorganised state are full of opportunities as well as perils for her people. If only her leaders act with faith and courage, the Mahatma’s mighty dream of establishing righteousness on earth may yet come true.
EDITORIAL : MONDAY, FEBRUARY 02, 1948
Independent India at 60