Wednesday, 19 April 2017


April 20, 1915 - Mahatma Gandhi in Chennai - Mahatma Gandhi spoke at public reception, Madras, “On behalf of my wife and myself, I am deeply grateful for the great honour that you here and Madras, and, may I say, this Presidency have done to us and the affection that has been lavished upon us in this great and enlightened not benighted Presidency. (“Hear, hear.”) If there is anything that we have deserved, as has been stated in this beautiful address, I can only say I lay it at the feet of my Master under whose inspiration I have beenworking all this time under exile in South Africa. In so far as the sentiments expressed in this address
are merely prophetic, Sir, I accept them as a blessing and as a prayer from you and from this great meeting, that both my wife and I myself may possess the power, the inclination, and the life todedicate whatever we may develop in this sacred land of ours to the service of the motherland.
(Cheers.) It is no wonder that we have come to Madras. As my friend, Mr. Natesan, will perhaps tell you, we have been overdue and we have neglected Madras. But we have done nothing of the kind. We knew that we had a corner in your hearts and we knew that you will not misjudge us if we did not hasten to Madras before going to other Presidencies and to other towns. It was in 1896 that I found in Mr. Gokhale my Rajya guru (Cheers.) and it was in the same year that I found in Madras, as I did not find in any other place, that deep abiding sense of religion. It appeared in 1896 before you as a stranger pleading a forlorn cause. I then discovered that Madras, or this Presidency, had that instinctive power to distinguish between a right cause and a wrong cause, and it was here that you appreciated in its fullest measure the gravity of the situation that I was then endeavouring to place
before my countrymen throughout India. (“Hear, hear.”) And the impressions that I took with me to South Africa in 1896 have been more than amply verified throughout my experience in South Africa.
The drafters of this beautiful address have, I venture to say, exaggerated the importance of the little work that I was able to do in South Africa out of all proportion. (Cries of “No, no”.) As I have said on so many platforms, India has been still suffering under the hypnotic influence produced upon it by that great saintly politician, Mr. Gokhale. (Cheers.) He issued in my favour a certificate which you have taken at its surface value, and it is that certificate which has placed me in a most embarrassing position, because I do not know that I shall be able to answer the expectations that have been raised about myself, and about my wife in the work that lies before us in the future on behalf of this country.
But, Sir, if onetenth of the language that has been used in this address is deserved by us, what language do you propose to use for those who have lost their lives, and therefore finished their work on behalf of your suffering countrymen in South Africa? What language do you propose to use for Nagappen and Narayansamy, lads of seventeen or eighteen years, who braved in simple faith all the trials, all the sufferings, and all the indignities for the sake of the honour of the motherland? (Cheers.)
What language do you propose to use with reference to Valliamma, that sweet girl of seventeen years who was discharged from Maritzburg prison, skin and bone, suffering from fever to which she succumbed after about a month’s time? (Cries of “Shame”.) It was the Madrassees who of all the Indians were singled out by the great Divinity that rules over us for this great work. Do you know that in the great city of Johannesburg, it is found among the Madrassees that any Madrassee is considered dishonoured if he has not passed through the jails once or twice during this terrible crisis that your countrymen in South Africa went through during these eight long years? You have said that I inspired these great men and women, but I cannot accept that proposition. It was they, the simpleminded folk, who worked away in faith, never expecting the slightest reward, which inspired me, who kept me to the proper level, and who compelled me by their great sacrifice, by their great faith, by their great trust in the great God to do the work that I was able to do. (Cheers.) It is my misfortune that I and my wife have been obliged to work in the limelight, and you have magnified out of all proportion (Cries of “No, no”.) this little work we have been able to do. Believe me, my dear friends that if you consider, whether in India or in South Africa, it is possible for us, poor mortals, the same individuals, the same stuff of which you are made, if you consider that it is possible for us to do anything whatsoever without your assistance, and without your doing the same thing that we would be prepared to do, you are lost, and we are also lost, and our service will be in vain. I do not for one moment believe that the inspiration was given by us. The inspiration was given by them to us, and we were able to be interpreters between the powers who called themselves the governors and those men for whom redress was so necessary. We were simply links between those two parties and nothing more. It was my duty, having received the education that was given to me by my parents, to interpret what was going on in our midst to those simple folk, and they rose to the occasion. They realized the importance of birth in India, they realized the might of religious force, and it was they who inspired us, and let them who have finished their work, and who have died for you and me, let them inspire you and us.
We are still living, and who knows whether the devil will not possess us tomorrow and we shall not forsake the post of duty before any new danger that may face us? But these three have gone forever. An old man of 75 from the United Provinces, Harbat Singh, has also joined the majority and died in jail in South Africa, and he deserved the crown that you would seek to impose upon us. These young men deserve all the adjectives that you have so affectionately, but blindly lavished upon us. It was not only the Hindus who struggled, but there were Mahomedans, Parsis and Christians, and almost every part of India was represented in the struggle. They realized the common danger, and they realized also what their destiny was as Indians, and it was they, and they alone, who matched the soulforce against the physical forces. (Loud applause.) - Source: The HINDU, 21st April 1915

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