New Delhi, Jan 30: Did Mahatma Gandhi have a premonition about his death? A 20-panel exhibition on his final fast-unto-death indicates this was so.
“Who knows my ‘ahimsa’ might be tested at the fag end of my life. A proverb says that a dying flame burns brighter before it burns out. May be, my end is approaching and I am fully prepared…,” Mahatma Gandhi had said before going on fast Jan 12, 1948 against the communal riots sweeping the national capital.
The exhibition at the Nehru National Museum and Library (NMML), inaugurated by Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch Wednesday to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s 65th death anniversary, looks at the fortnight leading to his assassination and the do-or-die crusade against the forces of parochialism and religious hate.
The 20 panels, “The Weapon of Ahimsa: Mahatma Gandhi’s Last Fast”, of text and visual prints mounted in the lobby of the library, present Gandhi’s itinerary in a chronological manner.
The panels describe Mahatma’s outrage with the rioters in Delhi, his decision to go on a fast-unto-death Jan 12, 1948 at the Birla House in the capital, breaking his fast after a declaration of peace by a delegation of 130 Hindu, Sikh and Muslim groups to restore order in the capital and end rioting, prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s appeal to the people to save the nation and Gandhi’s assassination Jan 30 evening.
The information about Gandhi’s last days have been sourced from his correspondence with his former South African associate Herman Kallenbach – the latest addition to the collection of private papers in the National Archives of India.
The correspondence, classified into 13 groups, throws insight on Gandhi’s relationship with the Kallenbach family – brother Simon and niece Hana Lazar.
The papers include letters of eminent Indian personalities like Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Pherozeshah Mehta, C.F. Andrews, Mahadev Desai, Pyarelal, Sushila Ben, Miraben, Manilal Gandhi and many other Gandhi aides – who contributed to the freedom struggle.
The collection has 287 photographs and memorabilia – Yarvada Chakra, flag of Suraj and khadi textiles that portray the influence of Mahatma Gandhi in the daily lives of the Kallenbach.
The collection has original copies of “Young India” and “Harijan” as well.
Gandhi believed that fasting was “the weapon in the armoury of the votary of Ahimsa – when the human ingenuity fails, the votary fasts”. He said fasting was a spiritual act.
Fasting served both as a means of genuine self-rule as well as a “political tactic to work towards the society he had dreamt of”.
Nehru had said: “Each time, I learnt of Mahatma Gandhi’s decision to fast, I neither asked him not to resort to fast nor give it up”.
“The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere,” a choked Nehru told the nation as he announced the passing away of Gandhi.