Mahatma Gandhi’s Message from Noakhali is reiterated by Iman from Asansol Who Lost His Son

From Noakhali to Asansol and Bhagalpur relationship between religious communities continues to be tense. It is the maturity in political leadership and people’s strength to believe in universal humanity that will bring light in the times to come.

Ananya Pathak|Feature Editor | The New Leam

When Gandhi set foot in Noakhali, communal tensions had grown to an extreme degree.  People from the opposed religious communities were raging and not prepared to understand the fragility of the matter. Large scale disharmony and damage were underway.  For Gandhi the task that was awaiting him was not diplomatic but humanitarian. Gandhi did not visit the area as an external agency that had come to greet people with some sweet lines but his decision to go there had a spiritual significance. What was to be the basis of the new nation and could India search for an alternative to the politically divisive climate of the nation?

7o years have passed since Gandhi walked in Noakhali and today there is the same situation.

For Gandhi the issues that faced India were immediate and long term but he believed that educating the common masses to prepare for a positive trajectory required great work on the basic level. He lived in the houses of both the communities and had heart to heart talks with them, listening to their anxieties and aspirations- the amount of faith that the masses held in Gandhi made him the most appropriate individual to calm down a situation that seemed difficult.


The empathetically enriched and spiritually oriented heart of Gandhi can be found incredibly depicted in a line that Gandhi wrote with respect to Noakhali. He said

As it is, all die, but one has to learn by practice how to die a beautiful death. The matter will not be settled even if everybody went to Naokhali and got killed.

See Gandhi’s political maturity and love for the ordinary people. His contemporaries and friends in Delhi were negotiating with the British for the transmission of power and he was living in the most conflict ridden and politically charged Noakhali.

Noakhali was in extremely terrible condition as more than 4o villages had been burnt and communal tensions were on the rise. Nirmal Kumar Bose who had accompanied Gandhi in many important phases of his life creatively took note of the maturity of Gandhi’s mind and his ability to become one with the ordinary masses. It was true that it was a critical moment for India and it was going to become free from imperial legacy but for a mind like Gandhi it was of no meaning if the people of the nation were unwilling to live harmoniously. He walked barefoot, with little food and hardly any respite just to take to the people the healing touch of his warmth. Gandhi’s vibrancy and zeal as a leader of great conscience made him like a guardian to people across faiths and communities.

Gandhi was ensured that the political class or the government cannot calm down the situation and the only way to bring back harmony was through a sustained conversation with people. Gandhi’s agenda in Noakhali was not political but greatly humanitarian.

 A critical moment for India and it was going to become free from imperial legacy but for a mind like Gandhi it was of no meaning if the people of the nation were unwilling to live harmoniously.

He stated that he had not come to Noakhali to speak to them about politics or to speak to them against the Muslim League but only to have a heart to heart conversation that was about the small aspects of our lives.

Gandhi’s peace march alongside crowds of villagers and co-workers, in the aftermath of the Noakhali riots in West Bengal in January 1947. / Image :Kanu Gandhi

The ambience of communal tension was so bad in Noakhali that when Gandhi invited members of both the communities to attend a combined prayer for the restoration of harmony, nobody came to it.  Given that moment, Gandhi invited little children of both the groups to come and play together, as they were the children of God and full of innocence. The children played together and Gandhi played too. He told the elders of both the communities that their children lived in harmony and they should learn this lesson from them and bring back harmony.  Muslims and Hindus arrived and a pledge was made never to attack each other.

The potential of Gandhi came from the aspect of his nature that made the most difficult circumstances an opportunity for unfolding the good in individuals. His politics was not distanced from the life of the common people and his behaviour did not make them think of him as an aloof politician. He walked with people, ate with them, cried with them and had their dreams.

Today in many parts of the nation communal tensions are going on and people are unable to understand the significance of harmony.  Political leadership is not playing the significant role that is expected and not able to deal with the situation well.

Many people are suffering and the ambience in the country is becoming tense.  In a moment such as this it is inspiring to know that in communal tension ridden Asansol  where Maulana Imadul Rashidi, iman of the mosque has lost his son who just appeared for his Board Examinations due to communal violence had decided to walk on the untrodden streets.

The death of his son has brought forward an immensely significant reaction from the imam who has said that if any further problems were created in response to the killing of his son, he would leave the mosque. The beauty of the maturity that this imam has shown in this context is remarkable and teaches all of us an important lesson.

It is possible that the imam is not aware of the trajectory that Gandhi had faced in Noakhali in a similarly volatile situation 70 years ago but his message has the same sacredness as Mahatma Gandhi’s had.

Love and understanding, maturity and political accountability are the most fundamental/ a critical quality of leaders and in the contemporary context requires individuals who have these qualities.  7o years have passed since Gandhi walked in Noakhali and today there is the same situation. There are individuals in every age who teach us to transcend boundaries and believe in the universal nature of humanity, it is in them that the hope of humanity rests.



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