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From the pages of The Hindu
Mahatma Gandhi: The Last 200 Days

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Mahatma Gandhi's life, attitude and political action were informed by the highest moral principles and compassion. Uniquely among public men, he sought to analyse and explain events and his own reaction in terms of these principles through his talks, statements, writings and interviews. The moral force that he brought to bear on the political discourse was compelling and inspired large sections to take up the cause of freedom.

When freedom finally did come, it was no doubt a cause for celebration. Tragically, though, it was also a traumatic time that witnessed large scale killings and transfers of population across the new boundaries drawn up by Partition. At no time was moral force more badly needed and at no time was it more sorely tested than in these difficult times. Mahatma Gandhi stood unflinching as a moral force and sought to douse the raging passions.

The events surrounding his life and action in these times provide an object lesson in living morality. The last 200 days of his life in particular, provide a fascinating lesson in applying moral principles to situations which seemed totally out of control, when prejudice was all encompassing and even well-meaning advice of restraint to a friend could be mistaken for hostility.

For rendering a day-to-day account of the last 200 days ending with January 30, 1948, no person was better suited than Mr. V Ramamurthy, retired senior IAS officer, a writer of great scholarship and sensitivity whose activities extend from cricket commentary to teaching courses in management science and whose writings touch upon a vast range including Carnatic music and Tamil literature. His daily contributions drawn primarily from the archives of The Hindu and supplemented from other sources were published over a period of 200 days ending with January 30, 1998.

It was with some hesitation and some measure of doubt whether present day readers would be interested in the details of happenings in an earlier era that this series was started. Within weeks, however, the reader response was so overwhelming that all such doubts disappeared. The accounts presented in a historical context with all its drama and richness of detail seemed to fascinate the young who had only a vague idea of the events of the time, and seemed to touch a nostalgic chord in the old who had lived through those times.

Soon after the series ended, there were suggestions that the accounts be compiled in a book as the material was of lasting interest. Indeed, some readers had painstakingly made their own compilations of the newspaper clippings. It is a matter of great satisfaction for us that the book has finally come into being and we hope it would be of widespread interest. In these communally charged times, the message of peace and the uncompromising application of moral principles to political action would seem to be of particular relevance.

N. RAVI
EDITOR



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