Gandhi is Gone Who Will Guide us Now? (Nehru, Prasad, Azad, Vinoba, Kripalani, JP, and other Introspect) Sevagram, March 1948

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Item Code: IDJ976
Author: Gopalkrishna Gandhi
Publisher: Permanent Black
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 8178241897
Pages: 192 (1 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.6" X 5.6"
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Book Description

New Delhi, 30 January 1948
Three bullets stop Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as he walks to a public prayer on the lawns of Birla House, New Delhi. His philosopher-grandson Ramchandra Gandhi, then aged eleven, is to put it differently several years later. 'Gandhi stopped three bullets on their deathly trajectory of hate.'

What is the truth? Was Gandhi's work stilled by his assassin or was it sublimated? Was he, from that moment onwards, to morph into a plaster saint or was be to have even greater meaning?

Sevagram, March 1948
Six Weeks –no more –after the assassination a few men and women gather at Sevagram to search their hollowed hearts and bewildered minds for answers. This is the 'Gandhi family' in its political and constructive aspects. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, wearied by work and care, but with a mind as transparent as it is earnest, has come from the capital. So too has a more self-assured Maulana Azad, education minister. Congress President Rajendra Prasad chairs the deliberations at which a sardonic Acharya Kripalani, a dissenting J.C. Kumarappa, a fresh-minded Jayaprakash Narayan, and an altogether sparkling Vinoba Bhava speak their thoughts with candour, self-criticism, and a refreshing objectivity that does not exempt even their martyred mentor.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel would have been central to the proceedings; the illness which was shortly to take his life keeps him from participating. The newly installed governors of states have either not been invited or have not been able to attend. C. Rajagopalchari (West Bengal) and Sarojini Naidu (UP) would have had something unusual to say. Also unfortunate is the absence of some thinkers from the larger Gandhi fold, such as Acharya Narendra Dev, Rammanohar Lohia, and Nirmal Kumar Bose.

Nevertheless the group is stellar. But in a moonless night.
Those gathered are aware that the conference they are attending is the Mahatma's own creation, conceptualized by him and planned right up to the identification of the date. It was supposed to have met on 2 February 1948, attended by Gandhi himself. Rajendra Prasad has recorded: it had been decided that a conference of constructive workers should be called at Sevagram. A date had been fixed for it in the first week of February (1948). Mahatmaji had decided to attend it and was anxious to go to Wardha for the purpose.

The conference, put off to March 1948, meets without the Mahatma. This is that postponed conference. Central to its discussion are the questions: Bapu is gone; what are we to do now?', 'Whom do we go to for the guidance we used to turn for to Bapu?' 'Who is to run the constructive organizations set up by Gandhi, and what are they to do?'

Close to these haunting self-questionings is the realization that fear, fatalistic resignation and inertia are unbecoming is Gandhi's legatees and have to be kept firmly out. A new energy is needed and has to be found – generated. To describe the new atmosphere or the ambience for a new energy, Nehru uses the virtually untranslatable Urdu word Fiza more than once. Ideologically charged Gandhians present, like Kumarappa, want this new energy to be suffused with ahimsa and rooted in the village. For them the Congress and the government in Delhi have become one entity and as such are extraneous to their calling.

Bereft but have, Pyarelal reminds the conference of his master's 'Last Will and Testament' in which he had proposed disbanding the Congress and founding a Lok Seva Sangh in its read. The Congress has not acted on the proposal. Should this conference revive the idea and found that organization?

The political and non-political heirs-each one redoubtable in his or her own sphere-discuss the options. Vinoba suggests the formation of a fraternity (the English word 'brotherhood' is used in this predominantly Hindi discussion) of persons who regard themselves as followers of Gandhi. Some think this loose organization will not serve the purpose of guiding those who seek guidance.

The conversation grows from thought to counter-thought, argument to counter-argument. It is decided that a Sarvodaya Samaj be formed. And with some mutations of the idea, the 'Akhil Bharat Sarva Seva Sangh' is born.

The discussions are taken down verbatim, reproduced under the supervision of Dada Dharmadhikari, and circulated to the Sangh's limited circle. And in the form they remain for over five decades.

Kolkata, 2006

Armaram Saraogi of the Sarva Seva Sangh (the words 'Akhil Bharat' having been dropped in 1965) brings the record in Hindi, of the 1948 discussions to me to read as 'a most interesting document with great relevance to ur generation'. I go through it, fascinated. He encourages me in my thought that the text can be edited and reprinted in dialogic form, with an English translation.

The product of that exercise, this volume, is dedicated to all those who believe that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's mission on earth cannot be stopped by those three bullets. It needs to go on, be the night moonless and the stars beclouded awhile.

Back of the Book

As India become free on 15th August 1947, and Jawaharlal Nehru became the first prime minister of the country, the larger 'Gandhi family' comprising the political and non-political associates of the Mahatma, needed to think through their future equations. Was a dividing line to be drawn between those who had entered public office and those who continued to do 'constructive work'?

The Mahatma had planned a discussion on this and, in his meticulous manner identified the venue and date for the meeting, which he intended to attend in Sevagram on 2 February 1948.

30 January 1948 intervened
But thanks primarily to Rajendra Prasad and Vinoba Bhave, the proposed conference did take place, after a slight deferment, in March 1948. Without the Mahatma, the meeting acquired a new theme: 'Gandhi is Gone. Who will guide us Now?'

The record of discussions at the conference were typed out for limited circulation amongst the participants. The deliberations were largely in Hindustani, with the subject of India's future lingua franca itself being one of the subjects of discussion.

The record of that conference, unknown to the world until now, forms a fascinating document. Nehru sparkles in it, Vinoba glows, Kumarappa and Kripalani speak out trenchantly. The Gandhian legacy, and how to further it is discussed threadbare from numerous perspectives. Industrialization, militarization, communalism, and the plight of refugees from Pakistan are among the subject discussed.

Published here for the first time sixty years on, the discussions of that conference remain amazingly pertinent, stimulating, and challenging today. This book is indispensable for anyone interested in Gandhi, his legacy, and the history of modern India.

From the Jacket

GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI served in the Indian Administrative Service for twenty-three years, in four diplomatic missions of the Government of India for ten years, and in President K.R. Narayanan's secretariat for two and a half years. He is currently Governor, West Bengal

RUPERT SNELL taught for over three decades at the Hindi Department, School of Oriental and African Studies, London. He is currently at the University of Texas, Austin, working in his chosen fields of language-teaching and medieval literature.


Editor's Note 13
List of Participants 17
Preliminary Discussions 28
Thursday, 11 March 1948, Morning and Afternoon Gandhi is gone and a new government-our government-has taken office. What do we, believers in Ahimsa, now do-Are we firm of faith?-Can we afford not to be?-Government have to match violence with force-Our government can be no different-What is our role to be-Let the State fight, we should train people in Ahimsa', say some-speaking for himself, Vinoba says he would opt for contemplative non-action rather than bumbling activity.
And what is to happen to the constructive organizations that Gandhi initiated. Vinoba, Rajendr Prasad, Kalelkar, Kumarappa and other reflect on this. Let us form ourselves into an integrated and motivated new organization', it is suggested-Let us be a fraternity rather than a formation, says Vinoba-Let us not get trapped in structures, rules and regulations for members which will need offices and officers-He says he has no use for those-He says let us meet as in a 'mela', without the trappings of an association which will gather by its own propulsion, bringing those people together who share Gandhi's way of thinking-A loose body will not do; let us be practical-says Kalelkar-Let our feet be firm on the ground, says Kumarappa.
Ahead of the Meeting
Friday, 12 March 1948
Forenoon 35
Vinoba's idea of a 'brotherhood' is discussed threadbare, arguments and counter-argument are heard-Rajendra Prasad and Zakir Husain, have their doubts if a loose brotherhood will further the cause of ahimsa and of constructive programmes-Some say in flexibility lies resilience, other says 'looseness' is another world for ineffectiveness-Some ask: What should be their link with Congress? Others ask: What should be their link with the new government?-Rajendra Prasad says the two are now identical-Pyarelal reminds the gathering of Gandhi's concept in his Last Will of a Lok Seva Sangh as a substitute for Congress-Kumarappa says there are many issues crying for action outside of government and politics-Ahimsa, grassroots development, agriculture, cootage industries-He says' the Lok Seva Sangh will become our Bapu'.
Friday, 12 March 1948
Afternoon 39
Maulana Azad joins the debate and supports the idea of a new organization for constructive work, as well as Vinoba's 'brotherhood' for ideological bonding-JP, with great respect disagrees with Vinoba-Nothing loose or lax will do, says JP, what we need is a credible set-up which will be tangible, contextual, self-examining, Self-renewing, answering new questions in the evolving light of the changing day, as Gandhi always did, while remaining firm on his basic principles-and will, thereby, make Gandhi come alive for our youth, he says-Everyone then gets drawn into points of detail, semantics and minutiae-Acharya Kripalani reminds them of the broader vision.
Friday, 12 March 1948
Night 46
A sub-committee meets-Mela or no mela, it is clear a new organization has to be set up-What should its name be?-There is some wit and banter on name-alternatives-Kripalani, in the satirical vein that is his own, again reminds the group of the bigger picture.
The Conference Commences
Saturday, 13 March 1948
Forenoon 49
A proposal on the broad objectives and specific programmes drafted by a group with Data Dharmadhikari in the lead is read out by Dharmadhikari-it is a detailed road plan for comprehensive application by a new Gandhi-organization-Hopes rise but Vinoba differs fundamentally-he repeats his suggestion of an unstructured brotherhood meeting in a 'mela'.
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is about to arrive Kripalani objects to police bandobast, convener Dhotre pleads helplessness-Nehru arrives to a respectful welcome-Constructive workers present their problems to him, Prasad summarizes the discussions of the previous two day- Nehru responds, unburdens himself, speaks of Bapu with a controlled yet pulsating emotion, talks of his new role in office with distaste but with a sense of responsibility and, of course, with his special feel for history and his vision which shows the 'village scene' as well as the 'world view'-He speaks simply, using ordinary Hindustani-He talks of war and peace, control, de-control, and planning-fanaticism and secularism-refugees, riots, violence-He agrees and disagrees with what the other have said and asks them not to look to him for 'guidance' –But, he says he will be there for comradeship-Vinoba responds and says Jawaharlalji is, after all, Bapu's chosen heir and successor, it is he who must tell those of the Gandhi way whathe expects of them-Vinoba asks Nehru: What expectation do you have of me?-And offers to take up what Nehru proposes in earnest.
Open Session – I
Saturday, 13 March 1948
Afternoon 66
Rajendra Prasad is in the chair-Vinoba sets the tone-Pandit Nehru bares his heart and his mind-Maulana Azad appeals: Please take the chalice of 'Bapu's medicine with you and put it to the lips of our diseased Hindustan.
Later that Afternoon 74
Nehru, with Azad, departs-Both Nehru and Vinoba have made a deep impression on the gathering-but Kripalani, dissenting from the general mood, says nobody should be considered authoritative, in the matter of interpreting Gandhi-Vinoba is clearly emerging as the 'still-center' of the meeting.
Open Session – II
Sunday, 14 March 1948
Morning 75
Shankarrao Deo says 'Our sights are turned towards Vinoba'-Vinoba takes the stage compellingly-Kripalani spreads a new light on it, eloquently
The Conference Resumes
Sunday, 14 March 1948
Sucheta Kripalani. Mridula Sarabhai, Amtussalam bring the proceedings down to earth, to real life-and-death issues-they successfully give 'the urgent' a place above the important' –they remind the gathering of burning problems: refugees, abducted women, communal hatred-Resolutions for action are proposed, with amendments and modifications, some semantic and some substantive
The Conference Extends
Monday, 15 March 1948
Forenoon 86
The gathering re-convenes-Rajendra Prasad returns to the question of refugees and the Hindu-Muslim question-Vinoba compares Gandhi's way with that of RSS.
Open Session – III
Afternoon 91
Kripalani now takes centre-stage-He is at his wittiest-It is Vinoba's turn to respond-He is at his wisest-But has any consensus emerged?-Constructive workers have certainly 'found' a leader in Vinoba-The Sarvodaya Samaj, the Sarva Seva Sangh and Shanti Sena are taking shape-But has any consensus been reached? Has the question of questions been answered?-Gandhi is no more. Have Gandhi's political legacy and his 'spiritual and 'constructive' philosophy converged here in Sevagram in a way that will guide us?-The proceedings are drawing to a close-Dharmadhikari proposes a vote of thanks-Rajendra Prasad concludes the proceedings skillfully-Something has ended. Has anything begun?
Some six decades later Thakurdas Bang and Atmaram Saraogi discuss the organizations that were born at the Sevagram meet and continue to draw inspiration from it to this day
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