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Posted at: Apr 16, 2017, 12:08 AM; last updated: Apr 16, 2017, 12:08 AM (IST)AS I PLEASE

Let’s recall Gandhiji’s way of protest, Maulana’s stirring words

By K. Natwar Singh
Here is what the Mahatma told an Ahmedabad court in 1922. And also what Maulana Azad said in a speech in 1940
Let’s recall Gandhiji’s way of protest, Maulana’s stirring words
on March, 18, 1922, one of the great trials of the 20th century was held at the Circuit House at Shahi Bagh, Ahmedabad. Mahatma Gandhi was being tried for some of his writings and anti-Empire activities. The judge was Mr. CN Broomfield I.C.S, district sessions judge of Ahmedabad. Gandhiji accepted the charges. The court asked: “If Mr Gandhi wished to make a statement?” He said he would. He began:

“Before I read this statement, I would like to state that I entirely endorse the learned advocate general’s remarks in my humble self. I think that he was entirely fair to me in all the statements that he has made…that to preach disaffection towards the existence of system of government has almost become a passion with me...

“I wanted to avoid violence. Non-Violence is the first article of very faith. It is also the last article of my creed… I am therefore here to submit not to a light penalty but to the highest penalty. I do not ask for mercy. I do not plead any extenuating act. I am here, therefore, to invite and cheerfully submit to the highest penalty that can be inflected on me for what in law is a deliberate crime and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen. 

“The only course open to you, the judge, is, as I am just going to say in my statement, either to resign your post or inflict on me the severest penalty, if you believe that the system and law you are assisting to administer are good for the people. I do not expect that kind of conversion, but by the time I have finished with my statement, you will perhaps have a glimpse of what is raging within my breast to run this risk which no sane man can run.”

The response of the Empire turned the loyalist into a rebel. By 1922, it was apparent that the days of the Empire were numbered. Gandhi led the non-violent non-cooperation with considerable success. 

Gandhiji’s trial ended on a high and moral note. The judge said: “Mr. Gandhi you have made my task easy in one way by pleading guilty to the charge. Nevertheless, what remains, namely, the determination of a just sentence, is perhaps as difficult a proposition as a judge in this country could have to face…It would be impossible to ignore the fact, that, in the eyes of millions of your countrymen, you are a great patriot and a great leader. Even those who differ from you in politics look upon you as a man of high ideals and of noble and of even saintly life.”

Gandhi was given the same jail term as Bal Gangadhar Tilak — six years’ simple imprisonment. The Mahatma observed that it was an honour.

Broomfield’s closing remarks show him as a man of high character, he said, “…. If in the course of events in India should make it possible for the government to reduce the period and release you, no one will be better pleased than I.” If E.M Forster had been the judge, he would have used similar language. Gandhi did even better: “I must say that I could not have expected greater courtesy.”

A speech few recall was delivered by Maulana Azad at the Ramgarh session of the AICC on February 15, 1940. I quote the most stirring passage. “I am a Muslim and profoundly conscious of the fact that I have inherited Islam’s glorious traditions of the last 1,300 years. I am not prepared to lose even a small part of that legacy — the history and teachings of Islam. Its art and letters, its civilization and culture, are a part of my wealth and it is my duty to cherish and guard them. As a Muslim, I have a special identity within the field of religion and culture and I cannot tolerate any undue interference with it. But, with all these feelings, I have another equally deep realization, born out of my life’s experience, which is strengthened and not hindered by the spirit of Islam.  I am equally proud of the fact that I am Indian, an essential part of the indivisible unity of Indian nationhood, a vital factor in its total make-up without which this noble edifice will remain incomplete. I can never give up this sincere claim.”

A few days ago an office-bearer of the ruling party took a racist swipe at our South Indian brothers and sisters for their complexion. Two days ago another luminary offered Rs 11 lakh for beheading the Chief Minister of West Bengal. This is sickening, beastly.


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