Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of Holi for Communal Harmony
(Following is the text of the speech made by Mahatma Gandhi on 6th March, 1947, a day prior to Holi, in Patna. This was his last Holi as Nathuram Godse shot him dead before the next Holi. The speech was made when the country was witnessing its worst ever Hindu-Muslim violence.)
Holi will be celebrated tomorrow. If we wish to celebrate it in a religious spirit, we must meet and greet each and every Muslim in the true spirit. With our overflowing love we should reassure the Muslims that the Hindus are their brothers and that there can be no difference between us.
Dr. Mahmud is a Congress Muslim; but I have been meeting Muslims belonging to the League too. We meet one another with great affection and talk in the most friendly manner. Houses of Muslims have been burnt down and their fathers, brothers, sons, innocent children, womenfolk and friends have been done to death. We should not disclaim responsibility for these acts by saying that some other people are responsible for them. Whoever might have actually done it, we cannot escape the responsibility. Muslims say that they live in great terror here. Hindus in Noakhali also used to say that they lived in terror of the Muslims.
We should not terrorize each other. If at all, we should overawe each other with our love and affection. Some Muslim friends say that the Ministry here may allot some houses or lands to the Muslims under political compulsion. But this will not do much good so long as the Hindus and Muslims do not sincerely love or trust each other.
They say that Hindus and Muslims have been living together here for centuries, used to refer to one another as paternal or maternal uncles and attend wedding and funeral ceremonies. Today, however, they have turned into sworn enemies. How could the Muslims live here if this enmity persisted? I had to hand my head in shame when I heard this from Muslim friends.
I have heard that Hindus here start shouting and threatening when they see Muslims. They raise the slogans of Jai Hind & Vande Mataram. It is all very well to shout slogans; but we must make sure that they do not terrorize, or intimidate our upset other people. We are guilty of a great sin. Do we intend to announce through our slogans that we are proud of these acts? Our that we regard them as right actions? Hindus in Noakhali were also afraid of the slogan Allah O Akbar raised by Muslims. The slogan merely means ‘God is Great’ and no one need be afraid of this slogan. But when slogans are used for a wrong purpose, their meanings too are misunderstood and they become curses instead of boons.
Jai Hind does not mean victory to Hindus and defeat for Muslims. But nowadays the Muslims take it in that light because we have put it to wrong use and threatened them with it. When we hear the slogans shouted by another person we think that the other fellow is preparing for a fight, and we also start getting ready for it. If we go on fighting like this and wreak vengeance for one place upon another, rivers of blood will flow all over India and still the spirit of vengeance will not subside. Hindus should behave so uffectionately that even if a Muslim child comes into their midst, they should wash and clean him, dress him well and shower him with such love that the child should feel entirely at home. Only when this happens will Muslims realize that Hindus have become their friends.
A gentleman remarked to me that they had always regarded Hindus as a very noble people, incapable of kidnapping anyone’s wife or daughter, since it was immoral and barbarous to do so. But the Hindus had stooped to such things. Many Muslim girls are missing. That gentleman also stated that it was difficult to tell the exact number of such girls, because whole families were missing. Muslims think that many of their girls have been forcibly kept in Hindu houses. “If we say this,” these friends say, “no one will pay any heed; but if you make an earnest appeal, it may produce a serious response.”
I had made a similar appeal to Muslims in Noakhali and I repeat it here to the Hindus. If any Muslim girl is held by any Hindu, he should release her. If he is afraid of returning her to the court or to the Police Station, let him take her to Dr. Mahmud or to his wife or to me or to Dr. Rajendra Prasad. I can assure the abductors that no harm will come to them, if they approach me. In fact, they should not be afraid of suffering punishment for their crime. He is brave who
confesses his crime and is prepared to suffer due punishment.
Another thing which the gentleman told me was that the Muslims were afraid that the Hindus did not want the Muslim refugees to return to their homes. I have heard the same story in Noakhali from Hindus and now I am hearing it from the Muslims in Bihar. Our behaviour should be so exemplary that even if an Englishman lives amidst us we should not let him feel that we are his enemies.
I repeat here what I said in Noakhali. As long as the Hindus and Muslims together do not assure me that their hearts have been cleansed and that I could leave them without any anxiety, I will not leave this place. I shall continue to stay here as long as the Muslims do not come to me and reassure me that the Hindus have become better than what they were in the past. I use the word “better” on purpose.
In a way, all of us are filled with evil intentions. But every heart which has evil traits also possesses noble impulses. And now we have to overcome our evil traits with our nobler qualities.
You should contribute liberally to the funds raised for Muslim victims. But more than giving money, you have to cleanse your hearts. We have to win over the hearts of Muslims. We must realize that politics leads to all sorts of things. But even Muslim Leaguers have conceded that had Jawaharlal not arrived in Bihar the fate of Muslims would have been much worse. They have undertaken to tell the whole world that some Hindu Congressmen have at the risk of their lives saved the Muslim Leaguers.