His killer said he was ‘the Father of Pakistan’ ?


Muhammad Ali Jinnah (left) and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist, on 30 January 1948.

“Who was the first Hindu who sacrificed his life for Pakistan?” I asked a prominent businessman in Lahore when I visited Pakistan a couple of years ago. He is a proud Pakistani and also passionate about peace and friendship between our two countries estranged since birth in 1947. He did not know the answer, and was startled when I said, “It was Mahatma Gandhi.”

Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu extremist, on 30 January 1948. The place was Birla House in New Delhi, where the Mahatma (which means “a great soul”) held all-religion prayer meetings every day.

The British had left barely six months earlier, ending their colonial rule of nearly 200 years and dividing the ancient land into two independent and sovereign nations. The reason for Partition (that “Muslims and Hindus are two separate nations”), and the manner in which it took place, had produced a horrendous communal bloodbath and the largest cross-border migration in human history.

Delhi at the time was teeming with Hindu-Sikh refugees from West Pakistan, just as Muslim refugees were pouring into Lahore, Karachi and other places. The atmosphere in India’s capital was charged with not only anti-Pakistan but also anti-Muslim anger.

In one of the manifestations of this anger, many Hindus and Sikhs strongly objected to the Holy Quran being recited, along with hymns from scriptures of other religions, at the Mahatma’s prayer meetings. An anguished Gandhi had undertaken an indefinite fast for the protection of Muslims – it was to be the last of numerous fasts he had undertaken in his life.

Among the conditions he put for ending his fast were: (a) All the mosques in Delhi converted into homes and temples should be restored to their original use; (b) Muslims should be allowed to move freely in the city, and also to travel without danger in trains; (c) No economic boycott of Muslims.

He ended the fast after six days, and only after the leaders of Hindu and Sikh communities accepted his conditions. A peace pledge signed by nearly 200,000 people read: “We the Hindu, Sikh, Christian and other citizens of Delhi declare solemnly our conviction that Muslim citizens of the Indian Union should be as free as the rest of us to live in Delhi in peace and security and with self-respect and to work for the good and well-being of the Indian Union.”

Dawn for more

Comments are closed.