Saturday, October 2, 2010

Mahatma Gandhi's finest moment

What was the Mahatma's finest moment - was it when he practised Satyagraha for the first time in South Africa in 1909 against the colonial government's illegal laws, or when on his return to India in 1915 the 30 year old Indian National Congress simply entrusted itself to his care and leadership, or when he picked up a fistful of salt from the sea shore at the end of his famous Dandi March in 1930 silently announcing to the entire world the Indian people's ownership of India's natural resources, or when from Bombay's Gawalia Tank he served a notice to the British to "Quit India", or when under his undisputed leadership India attained independence on the 15th August 1947, or was it when falling to an assassin's bullets on that fateful wintry evening of the 30th January 1948 he had God's name on his lips?

My humble response to the above is 'none of the these'. For me his finest moment came in the late 1946 when with only a handful of his faithful companions he had rushed to Noakhali in East Bengal in a bid to protect the Hindus who were being victims of the worst kind of savagery at the hands of the majority Muslim community. Going on foot from village to village, unarmed and without any police protection, he and his companions applied a healing touch to the wounds, bodily and emotional, suffered by the Hindus. It was his piety, purity and friendliness which put some sense into the minds of even the most virulent tormentors of the minority community. But before that could happen he himself was attacked by a Muslim youth who could very well have killed him had he not heard Gandhi mumbling a prayer from the Quran. When the youth realised his madness he fell at the Mahatma's feet and begged for forgiveness. The great man patted him on the shoulder and told him not to mention the incident to anyone, otherwise the entire country would be rocked by Hindu-Muslim riots.

He brought sanity and peace to Noakhali by the sheer force of his character and that was his finest moment.

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