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SPEECH AT PRAYER MEETING

November 26, 1947

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Many of our women are in Pakistan. They are being molested. Those unfortunate women are made to feel ashamed. In my view, they have no reason to feel ashamed. It would be gross injustice if any woman is considered worthless by society and abandoned by her brothers, parents, and husband because she had been abducted by the Muslims. It is my belief that any woman who has the purity of Sita cannot be touched by anyone. But where can we find women like Sita these days? And not all women can be like Sita. Should we show contempt for the woman who had been forcibly abducted and tyrannized? She is not a woman of loose character. My daughter or wife too could be abducted and raped. But I would not hate her for that reason. Many such women had approached me in Noakhali. Many Muslim women also came. We have all become goondas. I consoled those women. It is the men who commit rape that should feel ashamed, not these poor women.

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TALK WITH MUSLIM DELEGATION

PANIPAT,

December 2, 1947

So far I have been patiently listening. I have not said a word. But now the discussion is becoming heated and at last I have been invited to offer advice. I must then tell you that if you have the courage to die at the hands of the refugees or the Hindus, should they want to kill you, you will have rendered a great service to Islam. What happens in Pakistan is a matter for God to see. But I shall never advise you to go away from here. If, of course, you want to go of your own will, no one can stop you. But you will never hear Gandhi utter the words that you should leave India. Gandhi can only tell you that you should stay, for India is your home. And if your brethren should kill you, you should bravely meet death. That is the way I am made. That is the way I would have people behave.

In Pakistan many Hindu girls have been forcibly converted and subjected to extreme barbarities. Hindus too have done similar things. But I am telling you how you should behave like true Muslims. You should seek help from the Pakistan Government and persuade your brethren there to console the young women who have been abducted.

You should tell them: ‘Sisters, you have been cruelly treated. We forgot that we were human. From now on you are our mothers, our sisters, our daughters., If you work in this spirit you can make Pakistan really pakreally pure. Of the three thingshuman dignity, life and propertyyou should make it your business to safeguard one and devote yourselves wholly to service. Then, I assure you, Hindus will worship you and you will be able to serve not only Pakistan but also the Muslims living in India. Geographically you are separated but no one in the world can separate the hearts. Where can you run away from friends and relatives? Someone among you said that Gurubachan Singh had behaved treacherously. I tell you that if a man himself is honest it can do him no harm if the other party is treacherous. I say this from personal experience. I am not preaching like a Christian. Deception and lies can never succeed. Otherwise truth would be at a discount in the world; anyone could get away with lies. The Ministers have assured you that they will protect you even at the risk of their own lives. Still if you are resolved to go and do not place any trust in their word there is nothing further I can say to you. What can I do to reassure you? If I should die tomorrow you would again have to flee. Therefore you cannot go by what others say. You have to decide for yourselves after considering what your duty is towards the country, towards your brothers, towards the land that gave you birth, where you grew up. This will not be because Gandhi says it. There was a time when I wished to live a hundred and twenty-five years. Today I do not have that wish any more. I do not consider our present freedom as freedom. I consider it as the undoing of the country. You are destroying the independence that we have gained without shedding a drop of blood. You are cutting off your own feet.

Today Punja Saheb cannot be visited by any Sikh pilgrim. What a sorry pass we have come to after we became free. If even now you take up the work of service without asking where and by whom the present tide of violence was started, you can still taste the nectar of freedom. Where are all the proclamations of Jinnah ? The more I dwell on these matters the more unhappy I become. I do not believe in shedding tears. But today, having heard you and seen you, my heart weeps.

Do as God guides you. I have said what I had to say. I can only pray to God to grant us good sense

SPEECH AT PRAYER MEETING

NEW DELHI ,

December 7, 1947

BROTHERS AND SISTERS,

Today I wish to talk to you about a very complicated matter, which is also rather sensitive. It has appeared in the newspapers. You will have seen that yesterday some Hindu women workers went to Lahore and met some Muslim women there.

(An Inter-Dominion Conference was held in Lahore on December 6, to consider ways and means for the restoration of abducted women. A joint appeal to the people of Pakistan and India to restore all abducted women was made by the representatives at the Conference. Prominent among the signatories to the appeal were: Ghazanfar Ali, Iftikhar Hussain Khan of Mamdot, Begum Liaquat Ali Khan, Begum Shah Nawaz, Begum Bashir Ahmed, Iftikhar-ud-din, K. C. Neogy, Swaran Singh, Rameshwari Nehru, Mridula Sarabhai and Kamaladevi Chattopadyaya.)

They discussed the question of what ought to be done about the Hindu women abducted by Muslims in Pakistan and the Muslim women abducted by Hindus and Sikhs in East Punjab. A very large number of Muslims have already left India and it is possible some more may yet leave. We should now resolve that not a single Muslim will be compelled to leave. If they voluntarily opt for Pakistan that is a different matter. But the fact is that no one wants voluntarily to leave India. Why should anyone want to give up one’s house and property? It is not as if they had houses and properties waiting for them in Pakistan. Those voluntarily opting for Pakistan or going for the sake of jobs are very few, which is natural because there are not enough jobs for them in Pakistan. And if their established businesses in India are not affected,there is no reason for them to go.

But what of the women? This is a complicated question. Some say that about 12,000 women had been abducted by Hindus and Sikhs and twice that number had been abducted by Muslims in Pakistan. Some others say that this estimate is too low. I would say 12,000 is not a small number. Why, a thousand, or even one, is not a small number. Why should even a single woman be abducted? It is barbaric for a Hindu woman to be abducted by a Muslim or a Muslim woman to be abducted by a Hindu or a Sikh. Some people believe that 12,000 represents a very conservative figure. Let us say that 12.000 is women had been abducted by Muslims of Pakistan and another 12,000 women had been abducted by Hindus and Sikhs of East Punjab. The problem is how to recover them. The women workers had been to Pakistan to consider how to solve this problem. The Hindu and Sikh women carried away by force should be restored to their families.

Similarly the Muslim women taken away should be restored to theirs. This task should not be left to the families of the women. It should be our charge. They also met Ghazanfar Ali ( Minister in charge of Relief and Rehabilitation in Pakistan; he had suggested at the Conference that a joint organization of the Dominions of India and Pakistan should be formed for the restoration of kidnapped women and children to their families.)and a police officer whose name I forget. Mridulabehn (Daughter of Ambalal Sarabhai; one of the trustees of the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust ) and Rameshwaribehn (Vice-President, Central Board of Harijan Sevak Sangh; President of the women’s section set up by the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation) , who had been to Lahore, both gave me separate reports and told me that they discussed the question of how abducted women should be recovered. Obviously it will not do to send police parties or armed units as an escort for these women. Of course some Hindu and Sikh women workers could go to Pakistan accompanied by police officers from East Punjab to bring back the abducted women. But this is not being done. It is said that the women concerned do not now want to return, but still they have to be brought back. Muslim women similarly have to be taken back to Pakistan. It is also said that the Sikh and Hindu women concerned have embraced Islam and married their Muslim abductors.

It could be true. Bat I do not admit that they are not willing to return. Similar is the case of Muslim women in India. We have become barbarous in our behaviour. It is true of East Punjab as well as of West Punjab. It is meaningless to ask which of them is more barbaric. Barbarity has no degrees. Raja Gazanfar Ali says that both parties have indulged in atrocious behaviour. It is not necessary to ask who has been more guilty. Atrocities have taken place on a mass scale and it is irrelevant who took the first step. The need is for women who have been abducted and harassed to be taken back to their homes. It is my belief that the police cannot do this. The army cannot do this. Yes, a team of women workers could be sent to East Punjab and another team to West Punjab but I do not think that would be effective. I can say as a man of experience that this is not the way to do this work. This is a task for the Governments to tackle. I am not saying that the Governments were behind the abductions. It was not the Government of East Punjab which organized abductions. In East Punjab Hindus and Sikhs were responsible for them and in West Punjab Muslims were responsible. What further investigation is required? Whatever the numberI put it at 12,000 at leastEast Punjab and West Punjab should return them.

It is being said that the families of the abducted women no longer want to receive them back. It would be a barbarian husband or a barbarian parent who would say that he would not take back his wife or daughter. I do not think the women concerned had done anything wrong. They had been subjected to violence. To put a blot on them and to say that they are no longer fit to be accepted in society is unjust. At least this does not happen among Muslims. At least Islam is liberal in this respect, so this is a matter that the Governments should take up. The Governments should trace all these women. They should be traced and restored to their families. The police and women social workers cannot effectively deal with this. The problem is difficult, which means to say that public opinion is not favourable. You cannot say that all the 12,000 women were abducted by ruffians. I do not think that is the case. It is good men that have become ruffians.

People are not born as goondas; they become so under certain circumstances. Both the Governments had been weak in this respect. Neither Government has shown enough strength to recover the abducted women. Had both the Governments exercised authority, what happened in East Punjab and West Punjab would not have happened. But our independence was born only three months ago. It is still in its infancy.

In my view Pakistan is responsible for spreading this poison. But what good can come from apportioning responsibility? There is only one way of saving these women and that is that the Governments should even now wake up to their responsibility, give this task the first priority and all their time and accomplish it even at the cost of their lives. Only thus can these women be rescued. Of course we should help the Government if it requires help.

As I told you yesterday I should not speak for more than fifteen minutes; so I end here. Two or three minutes are still left but I shall not use them.

Courtesy: All India Radio. Also Prarthana PravachanII. pp. 178-82

SPEECH AT PRAYER MEETING

NEW DELHI ,

December 26, 1947

BROTHERS AND SISTERS,

I am happy and also sorry to announce that we shall not be having our prayer here tomorrow. Instead I shall be going to Sambhal, where a village panchayat has been formed. It is thought that because of my visit a large number of people will gather there. We shall have the prayer there. I have never been to that village before.

They say the distance is about 11 miles, maybe a mile less or more. We shall of course have our prayer the day after tomorrow day I wish to tell you about the Tibbia College. Both Hindu and Muslim students joined it for studying Ayurveda which was taught there. Later, courses in Yunani, allopathy and homoeopathy were added. Hakim Ajmalkhan was the founder of the college. He was a popular leader of Delhi. Today we have made ourselves enemies of Muslims. It was not so when we thought of starting this college where everyone irrespective of communal considerations could study medicine. All contributed freely. Among the donors were Hindu Rajas and Muslim Nawabs. The late Dr. Ansari worked hard to make the scheme a success. It was under the management of a Trust which had on its board Hindus and Muslims. Today some Hindu friends came to me and asked what would happen to the college now. They said it was difficult to continue it under the present circumstances. Funds had ceased to come. It would be a matter of grief and shame if such a large institution had to close down. I am trying my best to avoid this calamity. The college is situated in Karol Bagh. But Muslim boys fear to go anywhere near it. We have driven out Muslims from Panipat. It is still a moot question where they will be able to live. It is a matter of shame for us. It seems that we are doing our best to ruin ourselves.

For, when we try to ruin others we ruin ourselves. This is the rule of life.

Another matter I wish to speak about is that of abducted girls. I spoke on the matter once. But I must speak again and again, for only then will the people understand. It is not a question of a mere ten or twenty girls. The number could be in hundreds or even thousands.

Nobody knows. Where are all those girls? Muslims have abducted Hindu and Sikh girls. We want to recover them. In Lahore some Hindu, Muslim and Sikh women met and decided to have these abducted girls recovered and restored to their homes. They decided that Muslim girls carried away by Hindus and Sikhs should also be returned. I have received a long list of girls abducted from Patiala. Some of them come from very well-to-do Muslim families. When they are recovered it will not be difficult for them to be returned to their parents. As regards Hindu girls it is still doubtful whether they will be accepted by their families. This is very bad. If a girl has lost her parents or husband it is not her fault. And yet Hindu society does not look upon such a girl with respect any more. The mistake is ours, not the girl’s. Even if the girl has been forced into marriage by a Muslim, even if she has been violated, I would still take her back with respect. I do not want that a single Hindu or Sikh should

take up the attitude that if a girl has been abducted by a Muslim she is no longer acceptable to society. We should not hate her. We should sympathize with her and take pity on her. If a girl is a Sikh, in my eyes she remains a Sikh, if a Hindu, she remains a Hindu. If my daughter has been violated by a rascal and made pregnant, must I cast her and her child away? Nor can I take the position that the child so born is Muslim by faith. Its faith can only be the faith of the mother who bore it. After the child grows up he or she will be free to take up any religion. Today we are in such an unfortunate situation that some girls say that they do not want to come back, for they know that if they return they will only face disgrace and humiliation. The parents will tell them to go away, so will the husbands. I have suggested that a sort of home should be established for such girls which should take up the responsibility for their food and shelter and education, so that they can stand on their own feet. These girls are innocent. The culprits are thosebe they Hindus or Muslims or Sikhswho have abducted them. Let the Hindus and Sikhs who have abducted Muslim girls return them. Let the Muslims who have abducted Hindu and Sikh girls return them. And let them confess publicly that they are guilty. The list I have received makes me tremble. What has happened in Kashmir? A large number of Muslims have been slaughtered. Women have been slaughtered and young girls have been abducted. If my voice can reach those guilty of this outrage, I shall ask them to return all those girls. I am told that several hundred Hindu and Sikh girls had similarly been carried away. I am also told that a certain pir(A Muslim Saint) is holding in his house a large number of Hindu and Sikh girls. Those who have abducted them are reported to have said that they do not mean to harm or dishonour these girls in any way but that they will not return them so long as the abducted Muslim girls are not returned. This will be a wicked bargain. We should not act in such a way. We should behave like decent men. We must return all the abducted girls without any preconditions. If we want to retain our freedom we must learn decency of conduct.

Courtesy: All India Radio. Also Prarthana PravachanII, pp. 241-3

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