Gandhi Announces Fast-Unto-Death in the Effort to Form a People's Council in Rajkot
Before the convening of the plenary session of the Congress Party at Tripuri on March 11, India watched with interest and alarm the struggle between the Mahatma and Shri Dharmendrasinhji, ruler of the minor state of Rajkot, over the granting of democratic reforms in the domain of the latter. On March 3, Gandhi announced that he would not touch any more food until the reforms had been granted, and began a 'fast unto death.' While Gandhi fasted, all India prayed and business in the larger cities came practically to a standstill. The fast was not ended until March 7, when the aged leader consented to sip some orange juice, after receiving assurances from the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, that a council would be set up in Rajkot, the purpose of which would be to suggest ways and means of introducing a democratic form of government.
Also, this fast was different. No longer the kingpin of the Indian National Congress, the Mahatma was out to gain new prestige or martyrdom, or even to test his own power. As an issue he picked on the Thakore Saheb (petty chief) Shri Dharmendrasinhji, ruler of Rajkot, who, like almost any other Indian prince, bears down with a heavily jeweled hand on the 75,540 people in his piddling little State of 282 square miles. It was there that Saint Gandhi got his political start.