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M. A. Ansari and Mahatma Gandhi

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338

E-mail- dr.yogendragandhi@gmail.com;dr.yadav.yogendra@gandhifoundation.net

 

 

M. A. Ansari and Mahatma Gandhi

 

 

M. A. Ansari was one of the closed associates of Mahatma Gandhi. He had taken part in Indian Independent movement in the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi. He was former president of congress and Muslim league. He was one of the founders of Jamia Millia Islamia University and he remained its chancellor during 1928 to 1936. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have read your pathetic letter to Devdas. I have already sent my assurance to Mahomed Ali that I am going to issue no statement till I have met him. You will see how I have met the growing demand for some statement from me. I am myself eager to make my views known on the Hindu-Moslem question, and I am now held back only by Mahomed Ali’s desire for postponement, as also Pandit Malaviyaji’s, with whom I had a fairly long chat yesterday on this very question. But you do not want me to keep silent about the Tibbia College incident, for instance. I want to deal with that as also the charge against Mahomed Ali. I have not got his reply to Swami Shraddhanand. Though I am trying to overtake the vernacular Press, it is very difficult to do the thing single-handed. If you could send me all the choice cuttings from both Hindu and Moslem newspapers, I would like to deal with them with all the firmness I can command. Not a day passes when I do not think of the Brothers and their sorrows. The Khilafat is dear to every Mussulman, but the Ali Brothers have made its prestige and honour their life-work. I can therefore understand how the decision of the Turkish Assembly must have shaken them. Amina’s death and Shaukat Ali’s serious illness filled the cup of sorrows. How I wish I was by your side to nurse Shaukat Ali back to his former health and vigour! It is so difficult to think of him lying prostrate on a sick-bed. May God soon restore him to health! I wish I could go to Bombay to meet him when you arrive. But I must not make the attempt. One such journey may mean nothing, but you know my method. If I break the self-imposed restriction once, I shall have to do it many a time and I should be nowhere. Even in this retreat I have no rest. Crowds of visitors would not leave me alone, and from today I am commencing some hours’ silence practically ever day so that I might have some quiet and I might also be able to overtake the correspondence which is daily growing in volume. I have already added Wednesday as a day of silence to Monday so that I may be able to cope with the editing of Young India and Navajivan. I should not dream of Shaukat Ali coming to Juhu in his present state of health. You must therefore, take him to Mather an, and when you can spare a day yourself, I certainly want to see you. Mahomed Ali will bring me all the messages from Shaukat Ali and that would be quite sufficient to go on with. As far as I am concerned, there is not much really that I now want to know except the views of you and the Brothers and of a few others whose opinions I value. My mind is practically made up, and I am becoming impatient to deliver my soul.”1   

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “What is the use of the Congress President sending a cable to the League of Nations? I feel like a caged lion, only with this difference that the lion foams and frets and gnashes his teeth and lashes the iron bars furiously in the vain attempt to be free, whereas I recognize my limitations and refuse to foam and fret. If we had any power behind us, I would immediately send the cable suggested by you. Things I omit to mention in the pages of Young India are buried deep down in my bosom and they are far weightier than those I advertise. But I do not fail to advertise them daily before the Unseen Power. When I think of the horizon about us, my heart becomes sick and weary. And when I listen to the still small voice within, I derive hope and smile in spite of the conflagration raging round me. Do save me from having to advertise our impotence.”2 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Do you not see any difference between a cable to the President of the League of Nations and Council work? Personally I am as much opposed to Council-entry as I ever was. You may depend upon it that my part in the Patna Resolution was a matter of necessity and not of choice. Necessity in the sense that I recognize the democratic character of the Congress. And knowing that I could not convince the Swarajists of the error of Council-entry and knowing also that my best friends and co-workers had become Swarajists; I took it that I could not do less than throw my weight with them as against other political parties. Thus though I would personally dislike my appeal to the League of Nations while we were impotent, if there were two parties one wanting to approve of the French atrocity and another wanting to help the sufferers, I would throw in my weight with the latter. You do not know how much people have strayed away from the true path. What is the use of making me ludicrous when I know that I would get no more than Rs. 100/- in answer to my appeal? I am sick unto death over the unreality and untruth that surrounds us at the present moment. Please therefore forget me for any other work than the humble work of khadi and untouchability and the unpopular method of protecting the cow. I confess my utter inability to tackle successfully any other problem.”3 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have your telegram about your immediately sailing for England. It came upon me as a surprise as I knew nothing of your impending visit nor am I any better off now. However, on your return there will be sufficient still left of me as your patient for you to examine and tamper with. But a telegram today says you are to be one of the Hindu- Moslem Committee now to be appointed. Does it mean that your departure is postponed or that the Committee is to carry on its work after your return? I have responded to Pandit Motilalji’s imperative call but I am diffident about our ability to do anything. Whenever you go my good wishes attend you. I hope Begum Ansari is much better now. I wonder how Hakimji is faring.”4

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It was a treat to receive your letter. But you will remember that you owe me a medical visit—can’t call it professional because a professional visit will carry with it Rs. 1,000 per day if not more, now that you have been twice to Europe since the promise of a visit. And, is not each European visit supposed to add to the capacity of doctors and lawyers and therefore also their daily fees? Meanwhile, I shall bear your instructions in my mind. My chief difficulty is how to control the mind and not to let it think, unless I develop dementia. If you say I may not reduce my thoughts to writing or not even give utterance by speech even in the shape of conversation, I can somewhat understand; but I do not know how I can prevent the doings of Hindus and Mussalmans from making me think furiously. Nor do I know how to prevent the growing starvation of millions acting upon my mind. I do not need to read papers and get information to make me continuously think of these things. The ony way to prevent me from thinking of these things is for Hindus and Mussalmans to behave like human beings rather than sub-human animals and for all of us who get more than our share of our daily bread to think of the vast majority of the teeming millions and for their sakes to discard foreign cloth and for their encouragement to spin during every idle moment. If it is really a fact that high blood-pressure is due to an overwrought brain, I seriously contend that the only way to remove this tension would be to prescribe a starvation cure. Deep down in me I do feel that a prolonged fast is the only radical cure because during the 21 days fast, I could see that after 10 days I has ceased even to think of the outside world. The starvation had created that temporary mental adjustment. Whilst I am eating even if it was possible the mind refuses not to think. But under starvation the mind will co-operate in ceasing to think and worry. And, if in spite of the care that I am myself taking and in spite of the army of medical friends who see me and examine me, in spite of the quacks whose opinion I voluntarily seek and in spite of the undivided attention of devoted nurses, blood-pressure refuses to yield and weakness persists, I shall certainly risk causing temporary pain to many friends and impose a fast upon myself either to end or to mend this vegetating and vexing state. But there is no cause for any alarm. It seems that the pressure will go down. For the last two days I am feeling stronger than when I came to Nandi. The highest pressure during last week was 188. On Tuesday last it was found to be 180. This was the first decline yet noticed after the collapse. This hill is 4,850 feet, therefore, not so high as Ooty nor so cold; but it is cool enough and Doctor Mehta considers that I should not go to a higher altitude. Others again say that higher the altitude the better it is for. When doctors differ what is a poor patient to do? Some day when you are free I shall certainly expect you when we shall talk not merely of my health but about several other things of infinitely greater importance.”5

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I was grieved to hear of your illness. I hope you will soon recover. Why not come here to regain your strength? The climate here as you know is very nice. Somehow or other the resolution of the A.I.C.C. does not fill me with immediate hope, much less, enthusiasm. The hope deep down which is born of implicit faith is there. But it receives no added impulse from the resolution. For, I feel the few who have a detached mind and who are keeping their heads cool can produce at present no impression upon those who are fighting or those who are at the back of the fighters. I don’t know if you think that you have any influence. I see nothing but devilry going on under the garb of religion. Not until we learn to become men and therefore instead of breaking heads for the vindication of supposed rights, we learn to refer to arbitration matters even of attacks upon our rights supposed or real and until we cease to think of Government interference, shall we have real peace or real swaraj. Anything short of that gives me no satisfaction. My only hope therefore lies in prayer and answer to prayer.”6

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have your bomb-shell. I had as long chats with Panditji over it as it was possible for us both to have. Your draft statement does not shock me. The atmosphere about us is so debilitating and irresponsive that the tallest of us becomes dazed for the moment. The suffocation has clearly overtaken you. It is no fault of yours. And as I could say to Khwaja in spite of his going back upon his brilliant professions that I could love him, so I can literally say of you in spite of what is admittedly a lapse. I say “admittedly” because you still believe in Non-co-operation, but the situation demands, in your opinion, a different conduct and you deceive yourself into the belief that the different conduct would hasten Non-co-operation. I don’t believe it. But I can’t impart my belief or unbelief to you. You must act up to whatever is natural for you. But I have this suggestion. Keep those views to yourself. You are in no way called upon to publish them. For, if I am no politician, you are still less. When swaraj is established, you won’t want to belong to the diplomatic service, nor to the military. You would fight shy of the law department. You would be content, if you are placed in charge of the medical service and given a free purse for all your researches, intelligent or otherwise, even as I would aspire after nothing more serious or important than the spinning department, if hand-spinning has not become universal by that time. The law, diplomacy, military and the rest, we shall leave to Motilalji and company; and if Panditji thinks that Shaukat Ali would be good company, he may throw at him the military departments. If my reading is correct, you and I, but you more than I, will not be expected to contribute to the discussion over Assembly and Councils programme, constitution making and what not or better still, what rot. I, therefore, think that you will commit no crime against God or Indian humanity, if you announce to the world that you have no opinion on these matters which must be left to specialists and politicians. I am sure you have not made the mistake of supposing that I have sponsored your election because I considered you to be a brilliant political thinker or anything near that state. The country has acclaimed your election with one voice because you are a true and good Mussalman, you are a lover of your country, there is no camouflage in you, you know your limitations, you keep your head about you, but because above all, Hindu-Muslim unity is a passion with you, and you entertain ideas about it which you would gladly share with your country and which you are impatient to share with it, and enforce them even if it be at the point of the bayonet. Your election is a demonstration, in spite of the madness raging round us, that the country is thirsting for domestic peace, and that it is sick over dishonesty, fraud, immorality and violence committed in the sacred name of religion. I therefore ask you to tear your statement to pieces. Keep that opinion to yourself, accept the election with grace, dignity and thankfulness, and announce that you have no political policy of your own to place before the country, that so far as that is concerned, you will take up a strictly judicial and impartial attitude and act merely as a chairman of meetings guiding deliberations, keeping order and enforcing decisions of majorities, that you have accepted the election with the sole intention of guiding the country your year of office, by all the power at your command, to domestic peace. For, you owe it to the country as a Mussalman and a staunch nationalist to vindicate the religion of the Prophet and the honour of the country by giving all the talents you have for securing a domestic peace honourable to all parties. Nobody expects more of you. And, if you meddle in anything else, you will be travelling outside your province. I have not telegraphed to you; for, I thought I would save a few rupees of the poor spinners. That I have left to Panditji who is better able to patronize the telegraph department. You made him your carrier, and I give myself the same honour by letting him carry my reply. And in the face of this reply, you dare not refuse the crown of thorns that is offered to you by a grateful country, and you dare not publish your statement, however precious your views are. If you wish to place them before a few friends gathered together in a drawing room enjoying hookah, you may certainly enliven the company with your views. But beyond the four walls of such a drawing-room, your views may not travel. This letter gives you sufficient indication of my health and ill health. Health you may gather from the length of the letter and the views expressed therein. Ill-health you are entirely to infer from the fact that much against my will I have been obliged to dictate what is purely a personal and affectionate letter of an old friend. You need not apologize for not coming. If I find myself on the brink of the precipice, I shall not hesitate to telegraph for you, nor; if I undertake a fast more prolonged than 21 days. And I know that whatever engagement may be, you will leave them to see a friend patient if only to say good-bye to him or to wean him from his mad fasting career. Meanwhile by all means continue to make your thousand per day on condition that a certain respectable percentage of your ill-gotten gains is reserved for the poor spinners, if only by way of penance.”7

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Your published statement is certainly an improvement on the original. But I cannot help thinking that it would have been better if you could have stayed your hand. But I fully recognize that you had no business to do so when the inner voice told you otherwise. After having waited all these days, I felt that I should write just a brief thing for Young India. I send you a copy of the statement. If you think that I should not publish it, please wire. This letter should be in your hands at the latest on Monday. If I receive a wire from you disapproving of the statement, I shall cancel it. If the letter does not reach you before Tuesday, please wire direct to the Manager, Young India Office, Ahmadabad, asking him to withhold publication of the note. I am instructing the Manager not to publish the note if a countermanding wire is received from you. Whether the note is published or not, I feel that the suggestion made in it is the only proper course for you to adopt, unless of course, you feel strongly that those who enter the Councils must take up office and otherwise adopt the policy adumbrated in your statement, and that if you accept the Presidentship, you must actively work to that end. I recognize that you cannot take up an impartial attitude, if you must become an avowed propagandist of your own policy. Three or four days ago when I had a long telegram from Motilalji, I thought that in view of your statement, spontaneous retirement on your part was perhaps the best way of dealing with the difficult situation that had arisen. But I now feel that consistently with your views about the necessity of communal unity, you may not now retire. But I feel equally that if you are to make a Herculean effort for bringing about unity, you have to forget Council politics, adopt an attitude of absolute neutrality and act merely as an impartial chairman regulating proceedings of the Congress, All India Congress Committee, and the Working Committee, but not guiding or shaping the political programme and if you accept my suggestion, I think it would be necessary for you to make a very brief statement making it clear that whilst you adhere to the opinion expressed in your statement, you will not seek to impose that view upon the Congress but that you will confine your own activity solely to the promotion of communal unity.”8   

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I had a long chat with Malaviyaji. The resolution on the cow and the music as it stands does not satisfy him, nor does it satisfy me. I have suggested two formulas to which he agrees and thinks the Hindu Mahasabha will agree. The first is this: the preamble instead of mentioning rights should say “without prejudice to the rights of either party, etc.” The second which I consider to be the most important and the true solution is that Mussalmans should forgo cow-slaughter and the Hindus should forgo music before mosques. They should be part of legislation by common consent. Malaviyaji thinks that if the second proposal can be accepted by the Mussalmans, he will be able to carry the Hindu Sabha with him. If you think that there is anything in the two proposals please postpone passing the unity resolutions and let us discuss the proposals in all their bearings.”9 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “The Cow Resolution has shaken me to the marrow. I could read it carefully only last night. The more I think of it, the more I shrink from it. The draft I sent with M. A. Azad is no substitute. I have told the Maulana Saheb that it does not in any way satisfy me. The only solution that I can see is the one I have suggested. I would therefore urge you not to proceed with that resolution at all during this session. I must have a chat with the Mussalman friends who are here and whom I know, and place before them my awful position. But I won’t trouble you at this stage. You have so many things on your hands. I am, however trying to see the Brothers. I came to help. I am now becoming a hindrance. My grief is indescribable.”10 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Don’t you worry about my health? Doctors will frighten one. This time the registered blood-pressure does not seem to produce any impression on me. I am keeping fairly fit. I have strength to walk, and I only lie on my back because doctors are imperative and tell me that some blood-pressure cases are most elusive and especially dangerous when the patient himself feels no visible effects. This letter I am dictating in connection with Ajmal Jamia Fund. Whilst you are in the midst of all the big people, I want you to buttonhole them and get them to subscribe, no matter how much. I fear that there will be little spontaneous response or it will come when noted men and women have subscribed. If I had not become bedridden, I would have done lobbying this side of India. And I have not yet lost hope of being able to do it. I am not at all sure of your scheme of deputations going round succeeding. I know it is cruel to ask you to spare the time when it is occupied between your practice and direct Congress work. But you have got to find it for this work too. If you have not seen my article “After Hartal?” please looks at it. Unless you take up this universal and possible thing, boycott of foreign cloth, the energy created by the boycott of the Statutory Commission will be all waste of effort. Every negative action without corresponding positive action becomes useless in the end.”11

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I resign myself to your letter to the Viceroy. Of course I entirely agree with you that if the States will give us assistance we shall receive it gladly. But I know that they dare not give it to an institution that is frankly a creation of non-co-operation and nursed in its atmosphere. But if they do with the certain knowledge that it is a non-co-operation institution, we should gladly accept their assistance. The proposed European visit is causing me much trouble just now. I can’t make up my mind. I know that I should not be so undecided like this. But what is the use of my hiding my weakness? I can’t account for it myself. However, I should come to a decision in the course of the next fortnight at the latest. Improvement in health has no attraction for me. The meeting with M. Romain Rolland and a quiet conference with the chief men of Europe is what would take me to Europe. Let us see how God leads me. What is the use of Begum Ansari and Zohra wanting me to stay in their new abode? All the time I am there, they keep themselves at a safe distance hiding them behind the purdah. If they want me to be there, they will have to expose to view their superfluous bangles and other jewellery so that I can ease them of the superfluities and turn them to good account. So far as the Jamia collections are concerned, I suspect that we shall do nothing beyond getting collections from personal friends, and, in order that this can be done it is necessary to have that constitution and trust-deed. Do please therefore expedite it as soon as you can.”12  Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “If the meeting of the representatives of mill owners comes off and if you give me due notice, I shall be present. But up to now there is no intimation from Motilalji. I am in constant touch with the representatives of mill owners and so far as I am aware nothing is going to come out of these negotiations. The mill-owners have decided upon a separate organization of their own from which they wish to eschew politics altogether. Sir Purushottamdas has declined to be president even of this association. And I understand that he has come to the conclusion that the mill-owners will do nothing substantial at the present moment. Mr. Birla writes to me almost in the same strain, though he wants the boycott campaign without the mill owners. After having had so many The Ashram chats and so much correspondence with the latter, I incline to the same view. But that does not mean that we should not have the conference Motilalji has in in view. You will keep me informed of what is going on. I would like you to read all I have written about the mills in the pages of Young India. If you have not the articles I can send them to you. I wish you will settle the Jamia constitution without delay.”13  

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have had a full chat with Dr. Zakir Husain. The position is certainly very precarious. The liabilities are accumulating and the money collected for the Jamia Millia Fund cannot be released till a proper trust-deed is made, which is the condition in the original announcement. The constitution framed is acceptable neither to Jamnalalji nor to me, nor is it in accordance with the terms we discussed when you were here. What is to be done in the circumstances? I feel that the new Committee should surrender all the powers to the professors who have pledged themselves to become life-workers, or the committee should become an active working body and take charge of the institution so far as the financial liabilities are concerned. But from what Dr. Zakir Husain tells me and from what I can see for myself, the Committee will not act swiftly and effectively. And if it neither acts nor surrenders full control to the working professors, I can see nothing but a lingering death for the Jamia and that would be a terrible tragedy. One would not mind it if it was inevitable. What should happen to the Ajmal Jamia Fund collected up to now is difficult to say. If a trust-deed acceptable to us four collectors cannot be made, the only way possible in order to release the fund is to publish the constitution that has been framed and call upon the donors to signify their wish whether they want their donations to be given to the Committee under the constitution. Of course, this is a most unsatisfactory thing and hardly a step that can be taken, if we will cherish the memory of Hakim Saheb and value the good of the Jamia. Is it then not possible to give the full control to the working professors and then they can frame a proper trust-deed and release the fund already collected and make an effort to collect more?”14

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “This will be presented to you by Mr. Mahomed Khan who was with me in South Africa. He is at present on the Railways. He has been ailing for some years. He once wanted a note to Hakim Saheb which I gave him. He tells me that Hakim Saheb’s treatment gave him relief for the time being. He has again a relapse. He now wants a note to you, which I gladly give. I know you will give him what advice is possible.”15 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Here is a copy of a statement I propose to issue on behalf of the trustees of the Lalaji Memorial Fund. Will you please wire your consent? If I do not hear from you to the contrary, I propose to publish the same. I hope you are none the worse for the terrific strain of Calcutta.”16 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I hope you have now got rid of your influenza. It was a marvel to me how some of us could get through the terrific strain of the work in Calcutta without coming to grief. I often exclaimed to myself, ‘God is great’! What you tell me about the Muslim Conference in Delhi makes distressful reading. We have to live it down. And if we will but keep our heads cool, retain our patience in spite of irritation and not swerve from what we may consider to be the true path, I know that all will be well in the end. I was able to see Dr. Zakir when I passed through Delhi. He was with me the whole time. I agree with you that a bulk of the collections of the Ajmal Fund should be transferred to the Jamia so as to relieve Dr. Zakir of anxiety at least to a certain extent. I shall be writing to Jamnalalji or perhaps he will be coming here. I do not leave for Sind before the 31st instant and I have asked Jamnalalji before he goes to Madras to come to Sabarmati even if it is for a day. He may be here any time this week. If he does not come, I shall write to him. I hope that you are still working over the Hindu-Muslim question. I note what you say about the Lalaji’s Society and I agree with you entirely that, if there are members in it with a communal bias, it should be purged of that then. I shall be writing to the Secretary as also to Purushottamdas Tandon.”17   

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I noticed in the papers that you and Lala Shankerlal are appealing for a purse to be presented to me on my arrival in Delhi earmarked for local Congress work. Nowhere have purses of this description been countenanced. Purses earmarked for provincial service have been accepted in some places but everywhere the principal purse has been for khadi. Here if the papers correctly report you the purse is exclusively for local Congress work. This may not be done on any account. If nobody cares for khadi I think that no collections should be made. I must also say that I would discountenance anything done by Lala Shankerlal in connection with my visit. My experience of him has not been happy. He has still not refunded so far as I am aware the moneys due to the All-India Spinners’ Association. He has not sent the full amount collected in the name of the Bardoli struggle to Bardoli. There have been several other complaints made to me from time to time about his financial dealings but I have not thought it worthwhile to investigate them. I know that Jamnalalji and several others have the same experience of him. I am sorry. But as I saw his name associated with yourself I thought I should tell you what I feel about him. You may certainly show this letter to him. If any injustice has been done to him and if I can be convinced of it I shall tender my apology to him. I did write to him once or twice about the All-India Spinners’ Association money and then in despair gave up writing anything to him further. I would have preferred silence even now. But I would have been guilty of suppressing the truth if I had not told you of my opinion of Lala Shankerlal. I hope you will not arrange for any public meeting either unless it is really called for. I must visit Delhi now as it has been announced and I have sent appointments to some people. I am staying with Raghbir as he wrote to me whilst I was in Mussoorie reminding me of the promise I made him when I was last in Delhi that on my next visit I shall stay with him. I expect to reach Delhi on the 1st proximal, by car from Meerut time in the evening. I hope you got a fat sum from Bhopal and that you had a successful tour in the South so far as the Jamia is concerned. I saw in the public Press that your tour was wholly successful otherwise. Hayat met me in Mussoorie.”18

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It is now 3.30 a.m. I have been struggling to find time to give you a few lines. Your letter I appreciate. It was first seen by Motilalji and Jawaharlal and then read to the Working Committee. There were various comments. No one, however, thought that there was anything in it to warrant a departure from the Lahore programme. I agree that the Hindu-Muslim problem is the problem of problems. But I feel that it has to be approached in a different manner from the one we have hitherto adopted not as at present by adjustment of the political power but by one or the other acting on the square under all circumstances. Give and take is possible only when there is some trust between the respective communities and their representatives. If the Congress can command such trust the matter can proceed further, not before. The Congress can do so only by becoming fearless and strictly just. But meanwhile the third party the evil British power has got to be sterilized. There will be no charter of independence before the Hindus and the Muslims have met but there can be virtual independence before the charter is received. Hence must civil disobedience be forged from day to day by those who believe that there is no escape from non-violence and that violence will never bring freedom to India? I do not know if I have made myself clear. Anyway my own personal line is cast. I fancy that I see my way clear now. There will be no turning back. I can live if God wills and if He finds work for me. I have no interest in living if there is no work for me in the direction for which. He appears to me to have called me. If all this be hallucination I must perish in the flames of my own lighting. I want you then to cheer up. It does not matter at all if we do not see eye to eye. It is well with us if our hearts are pure, as I know they are.”19

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I have your message, it does not move me. I want you to read my letter to the Viceroy with an unbiased mind. You seem to have made up your mind that the Independence Resolution is wrong and that Civil Disobedience its corollary is also wrong, i. e., at the present moment. You will find neither to be wrong. We cannot achieve unity through any Conference. But we can through fighting for common causes. At the time of the flood in Gujarat four years ago, all without exception in the flood area made common cause. There was no difficulty about Mussalmans seeking the same shelter as the Hindus. The blindly orthodox Hindu suspended his prejudice against the untouchable. The snake discarded his venom for the time being. True, they are again “as you were”, but a few more such lessons will certainly set them right. I want you to realize the new orientation I have given to the struggle. I seek independence through a redress of the age-long grievances which touch the masses more than us. I want you to throw yourself heart and soul into this battle. If your preoccupations prevent you, you must at least give it your blessing. I have smallpox raging in the Ashram. We are most of us antivaccinationists from religious motives. No provable virtue of vaccination will therefore move us. If you know of a remedy apart from vaccination, please send me the prescription. The treatment we are having is red colour; strong permanganate solution warm baths followed by wet-sheet pack and liquid food, chiefly fruit juices, and when the virulence abates a little milk and water, but of 12 cases three have proved fatal. Two obstinate cases of confluent smallpox have completely recovered. There is uncertainty about one bad case. We are trying to keep children from the patients but it is so difficult to isolate patients completely. It is an expensive process if you will not make it heartless and leave the patient practically to his fate. If you have leisure please dictate full instructions.”20

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I thought that you had agreed that if the communal question was not solved the Congress should not be represented at the Round Table Conference. Why do you now agree with the suggestion made by Sastri, Andrews and Polak? But whether you do or not, you have to consider my own want of confidence in myself if I went without the solution. What can I ask and what strength can I put forth in the national demand if we are a house divided against it? But I have in my reply to the cable said that if I was invited to go to London to discuss things apart from the Round Table Conference I would gladly go if the Settlement was being properly worked. Have you seen the announcement made by Maulvi Mohammad Yakub? I do not know what the papers have reported about my statement about the necessity of the Sikhs joining any solution that might be arrived at. Do you see any escape from it? There was much left over to talk about at Simla. I am looking forward to the 9th June when we should be able to resume the conversations.”21 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I forgot and I had not the time to talk to you about the local quarrels in Delhi. A letter from Mrs. Asaf Ali reminds me that the quarrels are not yet over and that they have extended to the ladies also. Can you not put these quarrels down? I hope you found your brother better. I wonder what Dr. Rehman was able to do.”22

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It was thoughtful of you to have sent us the medical report. Hardly a day passed but we have talked of you. You have suffered. It is good you are going out for treatment. We all hope you will profit by it and return fully restored to health. It was equally considerate of you to have given a full report of Jawaharlal’s health. I expect to hear from you regularly and now about ourselves. We have all been keeping quite well. I am taking milk. My weight is 105. We are leading a student’s life. Sardar gives full hours or more to Sanskrit. He gives nearly two hours to spinning and turns waste paper into envelopes. I learnt only here that he had an eye for neatness and a deft hand. This will be closed in an envelope of his make. So you see he is adding to the wealth of the country. Mahadev is reading French, gives Sanskrit lessons to the Sardar, does my writing work, reads other things and does  hours’ spinning and needful cooking, etc. I do over two hours’ spinning and Urdu. I have read those Jamia publications that were sent to me. And now I am rereading Shibli’s Life of the Prophet. I carry on a little Urdu correspondence. One of my correspondents is a girl whom you are reported to know. Her name is Zohra. What a wonderful hand she writes. My Urdu teacher is Raihana whom too you know. She is the daughter of our old young friend Abbas Tyabji. She is a brick. Bon voyage and love from us all.”23 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “You have been sending your lovely cards. This is just to send you and Shervani our love and prayer that both of you may soon be restored to perfect health and soon return home. You have no doubt read all about the step I have taken. It was a peremptory call from God which I could not resist. I hope you had no difficulty in appreciating the step. The future is in His hands. The situation is moving so fast that it is difficult to say what will have happened when this reaches you. Supposing that this proves my last letter to you, let me tell you that my faith in Hindu-Muslim unity is as green as ever and that I feel the richer for having many Muslim friends who are as blood-brothers to me.”24

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “We were all looking forward to a detailed letter from you. Sherwani must have already left for India. Western medicine and surgery seem to be becoming a very complicated and costly affair. The fewest men and women can get the whole benefit of it. It seems to me that there must be something radically wrong in the system, which daily tends to become more and more costly, and split into compartments, each one of which requires a specialist and a change from one expert to another. I suppose you have a complete and conclusive answer to my objection. I have stated it in order to coax you. You may give me your considered answer when you have ample leisure. Anyway, I do not want you to return to India till you are completely restored, and now that you are there, I do not care if you have to go to a hundred experts to have all the parts of the body fully restored. It is a great thing for you to have hardened your heart and resisted all temptations to attend public functions and meetings. Of course I knew your devotion to your profession and I am glad that you will soon complete an original treatise on rejuvenation. We all wish you success in your work. Please remember me to Shwaib and Shaukat Ali if the latter is there. Zohra and I correspond with each other regularly. You may discount her abilities as a teacher. For me she is an ideal teacher. She takes great pains over correcting my Urdu, and her handwriting has never been excelled by a single correspondent of mine in Urdu. I look forward to her weekly letter. I like her composition also but as to that, I can be no judge. Love from us all.”25

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “My emphatic opinion is that the paralysis of the intelligentsia must be removed. However much, therefore, I may differ as to the Council-entry programme, I would welcome a party of Congressmen pursuing that programme rather than that they should be made sullen, discontented and utterly inactive. I still retain the view that the Congress cannot, without committing suicide, give up the Poona resolution, but, if the majority of the Congressmen do not feel like carrying on this, I would welcome a meeting of the A.I.C.C. at which it should express its opinion and withdraw the Poona resolution. I am sure that the country would agree with their courageous behaviour.”26 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Bapu sends you his hearty greetings on your return home. The papers say you are coming here in a couple of days. Bapu says: ‘You must come sooner if you can.’ We hope you have benefited by the change and are feeling much stronger and fitter. The Khans you should have found here, but they have gone to Bengal and though they were expected to be back by the 7th, their stay is being prolonged and I wonder if they will be back earlier than the 16th. You have stolen the hearts away of English friends like Agatha, Horace Alexander and others who seem to want you there almost permanently.”27 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “It was a great effort for me to resist the temptation to respond to your telegram as you would have liked me to do. But I felt that I must not respond. I resisted the temptation elsewhere also. I hope, therefore, that you will forgive me.”28

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “This is about a naturopath named Sharma. He belongs to Khurja. He owned and conducted a sun-treatment hospital in Delhi. Through Amtussalaam whom you met here, I came to know him now three years ago. There was much show about his hospital and more about the books he wrote. Now he has humbled himself. He has given up the hospital and burned his books. He wants at my instance to put his knowledge on a more solid foundation and therefore wants to know things about the human body which should be common to all whether they are allopath or naturopaths or any other. But he cannot afford to go to a medical college and begin studies there. He has sufficient knowledge to be able to pursue private studies, if. He had some guidance. What I would like you to do is to tell me what he should read and what accessories he. Should require. And could you lend him one after another the books he should read? If you are sufficiently interested in him he will call on you. I do not want or expect you to give much of your time to this work. If you can easily jot down the books he should read in their order, I should be thankful. I shall procure or buy the books, if you have none to lend. I do want to help Shri Sharma as I believe him to be an earnest seeker who wants to dedicate his knowledge and all for the alleviation of human suffering.”29 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Here is another questionnaire for you to answer at your early convenience. Do please send me a list of the English books you want Sharma to read. You need not wait for giving me any exhaustive list. If you give me a preliminary list of the books that he must read in order to qualify himself for making experiments on this very complicated human machine that is enough. I hope you are not wearing yourself out with work so as again to necessitate you’re going to Europe just for a cure.”30   

Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I was afraid that you were fast losing what you had gained when in Europe. If you go on like that, you will presently give India a bad name and everybody, who wanted to be or remain well, will be going to Europe. For the sake, therefore, of the good name of India you have to show us a way of life whereby we may repair our bodies in India itself or keep intact And before you entitle yourself to do so you will have to follow the prescription, “Physician heal thyself”. I hope you will not desert the Board or the Committee. You need not take any great active part requiring much strain. But your counsel cannot be dispensed with. That is my opinion.”31 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “I shall not strive with you but shall plead with Rajenbabu to release you. I can see quite clearly that if we are to have your services for many a year you should not have any regular responsibility to shoulder. I see too that you must go to Europe from time to time.”32 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Having obtained some dispensation from medical friends, I am able to write this to you. I hope to reach Delhi on 8th. I hope you will prevent people from coming to the station. I am not in a fit state to face crowds and cut my way through them. I should love quietly to be taken to Birla’s new Harijan Home. This could have been written by Mahadev. I have taken up this letter to tell you that as soon as I received your great book on regeneration, I began to read it and finished it the day following. I have called it great because it is evidence of much research and great labour. There is hardly a superfluous word in it. But as I was reading it, I asked myself, “Does this book take mankind upward? Is it in need of that kind of regeneration? What is revival of youth worth if you cannot be sure of persistent physical existence for two consecutive seconds?” Is mere physical restoration the end of true medical science? I wonder! I asked myself these questions; because you were the author of the book I have ever known you as a seeker of God. When you can spare a few moments, I would like to know from you how this form of regeneration harmonizes with a search after God.”33

 

References:

 

  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, April 5, 1924
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, November 7, 1925
  • LETTER TO M. A. ANSARI, November 26, 1925
  •    LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, March 5, 1926
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, April 28, 1927
  •   LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, May 21, 1927                            
  •   LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, August 10, 1927
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, August 26, 1927
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, December 25, 1927
  •   LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, December 28, 1927
  •   LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, February 11, 1928
  •    LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, April 7, 1928
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, April 14, 1928
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, July 6, 1928
  •   LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, September 15, 1928
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, January 6, 1929
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, January 17, 1929
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, October 25, 1929
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, February 16, 1930
  •    LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, March 3, 1930
  •   LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, May 26, 1931
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, June 13, 1931
  •   LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, August 7, 1932
  •   LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, September 16, 1932
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, December 22, 1932
  •   LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, Before March 31, 1934
  •   LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, October 6, 1934
  •   LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, November 13, 1934
  •    LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, November 29, 1934
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, February 5, 1935
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, February 16, 1935
  • LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, March 8, 1935
  •    LETTER TO DR. M. A. ANSARI, March 3, 1936
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