Monday, May 22, 2006

January 20, 1948

On January 20, 1948--10 days, in fact, before he was assassinated--a handmade bomb was hurled at Gandhi as he attended a gathering. This act of terrorism was carried out by a Hindu youth. Fortunately, the bomb missed the mark and Gandhi survived. The youth was arrested. The next day, several adherents of the Sikh faith called on Gandhi and assured him that the culprit was not a Sikh.

Gandhi rebuked them, saying that it mattered nothing at all to him whether the assailant was a Sikh, a Hindu or a Muslim. Whoever the perpetrator might be, he said, he wished him well. Gandhi explained that the youth had been taught to think of him as an enemy of the Hindu cause, that hatred had been implanted in his heart. The youth believed what he was taught and was so desperate, so devoid of all hope, that violence seemed the only alternative.

Gandhi felt only pity for the young man. He even told the outraged chief of police to not harass his assailant but make an effort to convert him to right thoughts and actions. This was always his approach. No one abhorred violence more than Gandhi. At the same time no one knew more deeply that violence can only be countered by nonviolence. Just as fire is extinguished by water, hatred can only be defeated by love and compassion. Some criticized Gandhi for coddling the terrorist.

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