Mahatma Gandhi Announces Fast to End Hindu/Muslim Violence in Delhi
He conducted extensive dialogue with Muslim and Hindu community leaders, working to cool passions in northern India, as well as in Bengal.
Despite the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, he was troubled when the Government decided to deny Pakistan the 55 crores (550 million Indian rupees) due as per agreements made by the Partition Council. Leaders like Sardar Patel feared that Pakistan would use the money to bankroll the war against India. Gandhi was also devastated when demands resurged for all Muslims to be deported to Pakistan, and when Muslim and Hindu leaders expressed frustration and an inability to come to terms with one another. Gandhi's arrival in Delhi, turned out to an important intervention in ending the rioting, he even visited Muslims mohallas to restore faith of the Muslim populace. He launched his last fast-unto-death on January 12, 1948, in Delhi, asking that all communal violence be ended once and for all, Muslims homes be restored to them and that the payment of 550 million rupees be made to Pakistan. Gandhi feared that instability and insecurity in Pakistan would increase their anger against India, and violence would spread across the borders. He further feared that Hindus and Muslims would renew their enmity and that this would precipitate open civil war. After emotional debates with his life-long colleagues, Gandhi refused to budge, and the Government rescinded its policy and made the payment to Pakistan. Hindu, Muslim and Sikh community leaders, including the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Hindu Mahasabha assured him that they would renounce violence and call for peace. Gandhi thus broke his fast by sipping orange juice.
On January 13, 1948, he began a fast; "my greatest fast," he wrote to Miraben, his English disciple. It was also to be his last. The fast was not to be broken until Delhi became peaceful. The fast had a refreshing impact upon Pakistan. In India there was an emotional shake-up. The fast compelled people to think afresh on the problem on the solution of which he had staked his life. On January 18, representatives of various communities and parties in Delhi signed a pledge in Gandhi’s presence that they would guarantee peace in Delhi.
After this fast the tide of violence showed definite signs of ebbing. Gandhi felt free to make his plans for the future. He thought he should visit Pakistan to promote the process of reconciliation between the two countries and the two communities.
Gandhi's Life, Part Fourteen