The discourse delivered by Mahatma Gandhi at the prayer meeting on January 16, 1948, the fourth day of his final fast.
Gandhi’s final fast (January 13-18, 1948): On the 70th anniversary to mark this historic protest, The Wire recalls the politics and ideals Gandhi represented and sacrificed his life for.
Below is the full text of Mahatma Gandhi’s discourse at the prayer meeting on January 16, 1948, the fourth day of his final fast. It has been taken from The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi.
Brothers and sisters,
I had not hoped to be able to speak to you today. But you will be glad to know that today by god’s grace I feel my voice is stronger than it was yesterday. During all my previous fasts I never felt as strong as I am feeling today on the fourth day of the fast. My hope is that if you will continue the yajna of self-purification my strength to address you can remain to the end. I may say that I am in no hurry at all. Hurry will not help our work. I feel ineffable peace. I do not want that anyone should do anything incompletely and tell me that everything is all right. When there is perfect peace in Delhi there will be peace all over India. I have no wish to live if I cannot see peace established all round me, in India as well as in Pakistan. This is the meaning of this yajna.
It is never a light matter for any responsible cabinet to alter a deliberate settled policy. Yet our cabinet, responsible in every sense of the term, has with equal deliberation yet promptness unsettled their settled fact. They deserve the warmest thanks from the whole country, from Kashmir to Cape Comorin and from Karachi to the Assam frontier. And I know that all the nations of the earth will proclaim this gesture as one which only a large-hearted cabinet like ours could rise to. This is no policy of appeasement of the Muslims. This is a policy, if you like, of self-appeasement. No cabinet worthy of being representative of a large mass of mankind can afford to take any step merely because it is likely to win the hasty applause of an unthinking public. In the midst of insanity, should not our best representatives retain sanity and bravely prevent a wreck of the ship of state under their management? What then was the actuating motive? It was my fast. It changed the whole outlook. Without the fast they could not go beyond what the law permitted and required them to do. But the present gesture on the part of the government of India is one of unmixed goodwill. It has put the Pakistan government on its honour. It ought to lead to an honourable settlement not only of the Kashmir question, but of all the differences between the two Dominions. Friendship should replace the present enmity. Demands of equity supersede the letter of the law. There is a homely maxim of law which has been in practice for centuries in England that when common law seems to fail, equity comes to the rescue. Not long ago there were even separate courts for the administration of law and of equity. Considered in this setting, there is no room for questioning the utter justice of this act of the Union government. If we want a precedent, there is a striking one at our disposal in the form of what is popularly known as the MacDonald Award. That award was really the unanimous judgment of not only the members of the British cabinet, but also of the majority of the members of the Second Round Table Conference. It was undone overnight as a result of the fast undertaken in the Yerwada prison.
I have been asked to end the fast because of this great act of the Union government. I wish I could persuade myself to do so. I know that the medical friends who, of their own volition and at considerable sacrifice, meticulously examine me from day to day are getting more and more anxious as the fast is prolonged. Because of defective kidney function they dread not so much my instantaneous collapse as permanent aftereffects of any further prolongation. I did not embark upon the fast after consultation with medical men, be they however able. My sole guide, even dictator, was god, the infallible and omnipotent. If He has any further use for this frail body of mine, He will keep it in spite of the prognostications of medical men and women. I am in His hands. Therefore, I hope you will believe me when I say that I dread neither death nor permanent injury even if I survive. But I do feel that this warning of medical friends should, if the country has any use for me, hurry the people up to close their ranks. And like the brave men and women that we ought to be under hard-earned freedom, we should trust even those whom we may suspect as our enemies. Brave people disdain distrust. The letter of my vow will be satisfied if the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs of Delhi bring about a union, which not even a conflagration around them in all the other parts of India or Pakistan will be strong enough to break. Happily, the people in both the dominions seem to have instinctively realised that the fittest answer to the fast should be a complete friendship between the two dominions, such that members of all communities should be able to go to either dominion without the slightest fear of molestation. Self-purification demands nothing less. It will be wrong for the two Dominions to put a heavy strain upon Delhi. After all, the inhabitants of Delhi are not superhuman. In the name of the people, our government have taken a liberal step without counting the cost. What will be Pakistan’s counter gesture? The ways are many if there is the will. Is it there?