MAHATMA - Life of Gandhi, 1869-1948

Chapter 07, The Nation's Representative, 1931-1932, 42min 18sec, Reel 16-19

The film depicts Gandhi's visit to England as the sole representative of the Congress at the Second Round Table Conference. The apostle of non-violence, scantily clothed, pleaded not merely for India's freedom but for a vaster and more comprehensive morality. He declared, "My goal is friendship with the world." The conference was completely abortive. On his return to India, His Majesty's guest at Buckingham Palace was led to His Majesty's prison.



Reel 16


Sequence 01 Gandhi had awakened the nation from the slumber of centuries and endowed it with the courage and determination to be free.

The colours of the national flag were changed at Gandhi's instance... . White, green and red were replaced by saffron, standing for courage and sacrifice, white for truth and peace, green for faith and strength; the spinning wheel represented the hope of the masses ... .

For Gandhi, true defence of the flag consisted in assimilating the qualities represented by the colours and in giving the spinning wheel a place in every home.


2 He explained, "We have nearly 700,000 villages a large number of which are living in a condition of semi-starvation; and they do so because they have no employment for nearly six months in the year... . That being the case, it is necessary to find some supplementary occupation .... Such an occupation is hand spinning ... ."


3 In an interview, commenting on the efficacy of Satyagraha Gandhi said, "The Satyagraha movement is nothing but a movement for promoting goodwill amongst those against whom we seem to be fighting. Therefore, I have no misgiving as to the ultimate result."

In reply to a question regarding his dress in England, Gandhi observed, "I shall certainly not be found in European dress, and if the weather permitted, I should present myself exactly as I am to-day." When asked whether he would stick to his dress if invited by the King of England, he replied, "In any other dress I should be most discourteous to him, because I should be artificial."


4 The political atmosphere deteriorated. The sense of conflict grew.... Gandhi toured Gujarat to give comfort and courage to peasants in the villages ravaged by revenue officials.

The Delhi treaty was being broken in all its clauses.... Peasants were subjected to coercive processes .... Gandhi appealed to them to fulfil their part of the settlement irrespective of the Government doing it or not.


5 The Government stiffened its back and tightened its hold .... A long and unsatisfactory correspondence followed between Gandhi and the Viceroy... .

The continuing harassment in the country was an indication to Gandhi that he "must not sail" to attend the Round Table Conference.


6 In the final effort to reach a satisfactory arrangement with the Government, Gandhi reached Simla once again on August 25....

On August 27, his principal demand was conceded. The Delhi settlement of March 5 remained operative. ... The obstacle being removed, he hurried to fulfil his obligation.

Gandhi reached Bombay on August 29 to catch the boat in time .... A special passport was issued to enable him to "make a dash for London". Despite rain, men, women and children, eager to catch a farewell glimpse of Gandhi, thronged to listen to his parting message. "I must go to London with God as my only guide. The horizon is as black as it could be. There is every chance of my returning empty-handed .... I shall endeavour to represent every interest that does not conflict with the interest of the dumb millions.... "


7 S.S. Rajputana was ready to sail.... The wharf was alive with people.... The Indian plenipotentiary arrived not for waging a battle of diplomacy but for embarking on his mission of asserting the right of the Indian people to be masters of their destiny and cultivating friendship with the world, for he could not think of permanent enmity between man and man.


8 Accompanying Gandhi were two fellow-delegates, Sarojini Naidu and Madan Mohan Malaviya.


9 The innermost thoughts and feelings of the people were "go forth to quaff the bitterest draughts that may yet be in store for you .... Let not the thought of our misery and misfortunes make you pause... . you have taught us to suffer cheerfully. You have stiffened our tender hearts into steel! What if you return empty-handed? Go and proclaim to mankind your message of love and brotherhood. ... "


10 At noon on August 29, the "Rajputana" steamed out.... Jawaharlal Nehru watched the ship that carried the sole representative of one-fifth of the human race to the Arabian sea and the far west... .


11 As Gandhi was drawing away from the shores, his thoughts were focussed on India. "I shall work for an India in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country, in whose making they have an effective voice, an India in which there shall be no high class and low class of people, an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony...." This was the India of Gandhi's dreams.


12 Gandhi was in the best of spirits during the voyage.... Riding the pitching seas like a veteran mariner, he selected for himself a corner on the second-class deck where he spent most of the day and the whole of the night under the canopy of the starlit sky... .

The quaint traveller carried the scantiest of luggage and scrupulously observed his daily routine on board the ship ...

To Gandhi spinning was a sacrament ...

He felt that every time he drew a thread on the wheel, he was coming nearer to the poorest of the poor and through them to God ...

He said, "It is a symbol not of commercial war but of commercial peace. For every revolution of the wheel spins peace, good-will and love... The spinning wheel Is for India's starving millions the symbol of salvation. ... "


13 In a jubilant and almost boisterous mood, he played fairy God father to a child .... He never felt so happy as in the company of the little bird .... and the child was happy and hilarious in his company... . "Children are my life" said he... .

He mixed with his fellow-travellers.... capitulated smilingly to passengers seeking snapshots.... and gave autographs... .

The voyage provided him with much-needed rest. He heeded only to the promptings of "Goddess sleep" and slumbered deeply.

He spent time in reading and writing, answered correspondence and sent despatches to his papers. As the right hand suffered from writer's cramp, he wrote with his left hand ....

Gandhi gave his testimony on prayer. "Prayer has been the saving of my life.... As food is indispensable for the body, so is prayer indispensable for the soul.... I am indifferent as to the form."


14 His host the captain treated him with every mark of respect and invited him to go round the ship. "I am your prisoner for a fortnight", said Gandhi. He was conducted to the Captain's bridge. He tried out the various nautical instruments .... and exhibited keen interest in each device ....

It was time for the life-jacket drill, and Gandhi readily participated in it.

Throughout the voyage, Gandhi endeared himself to the fellow-passengers by his unfailing courtsey and gentleness.


Reel 17


Sequence 1 After a weary voyage of 1660 miles, daylight broke over the rock-crested shores of Aden. Gandhi steered the 'Rajputana' into the first port of call. "I hope I do not capsize the boat", he remarked as he turned the wheel ... .

A big welcome awaited Gandhi at Aden ... .

He arrived at the citizens' meeting to receive an address of welcome and a purse.


2 In his first public speech outside the Indian subcontinent since 1914, he declared that India did not stand for isolated independence. "One-fifth of the human race, becoming free through non-violence and truth can be a great force of service to the whole of mankind. ... "

He extolled the simple way of life associated with the Caliphs and told the Arabs to help solve the Hindu-Muslim problem.


3 As the ship was gliding through the Suez, messages of welcome from the Egyptians poured in ....

On crossing the Egyptian waters, Madam Zaglul Pasha sent the "great leader of great India" her best wishes for the success of the Indian cause. In the name of Egypt, Mustafa Nahas Pasha, President of the Wafd Party fighting for Egyptian independence, greeted "the great leader Al Mahatma Gandhi" and wished him success in his quest.

Gandhi thanked them and reciprocated kind wishes for the independence of Egypt.


4 At Port Said, Gandhi told the journalists on board the ship that he would heartily welcome the union of the East and the West provided it was not based on brute force.


5 On the ship, Gandhi gave discourses on non-violence. His contention was that as life persisted in the midst of destruction, there must be a higher law .... the law of love which worked like the law of gravitation, that the force of non-violence was infinitely more subtle than the material force of nature, and that opponents should be conquered with love... .


6 Gandhi had, in his loyal secretary Mahadev Desai an assistant who not merely relieved him of much of his routine work but put his keen intellect and tireless capacity for work at his disposal. Mahadev's devotion to Gandhi was complete and Gandhi's affection for him deep and unbounded.


7 On the misty cold morning of September 11, S.S. Rajputana anchored at Marseilles.


8 Madeleine Rolland greeted Gandhi on behalf of her ailing brother, Romain Rolland, with a message, "The better Europe is with you".

The world press was represented to cover Gandhi's arrival. "I shall do everything at the spur of the moment, depending on my inner voice which means God will guide me", he told the journalists.


9 When the "spiritual ambassador of India" alighted on the soil of war-weary Europe, he was hailed with shouts of "Vive la Gandhi".


10 Gandhi expounded the message of non-violence to the students of Marseilles saying that it was a weapon not of the weak but of the strong.


11 On the train to port Boulogne, a correspondent asked, (his voice) "How long do you intend to be in London, Mr. Gandhi?"


Gandhi : (his voice) "I know your trick."

C.         "Won't you just say a few words ?"

C.         "Would you say a few words for France ?" A voice : "Only for France ?"

G.        "I thank all the French."

G.        "Finished, finished, now".

G.        "Ah I that's lovely."

C.         "Good-bye, Sir."

G.        "Good-bye".


12 At port Boulogne, Gandhi was given a friendly ovation. The party boarded the channel boat to Folkstone.


13 While the boat steamed along, the temperature began to drop and yet Gandhi had wrapped himself only in shawl.

To the marvelling pressmen, Gandhi's explanation was, "my dress is the symbol of my mission."


14 At Folkstone, on September 12, Britons gathered to greet the "Guest of the nation".

Gandhi landed on British soil, with thoughts of the hard task ahead. "I am here to vindicate the honour of India and to uphold truth as I see it, for I believe it is the keystone of life. ... "

He was driven straight to the "Friend's House" in London.


15 A surging crowd stood for hours on Eusten Road awaiting Gandhi's arrival... .

All facets of public life were represented at the Quaker Centre, to welcome him as an instrument of the synthesis of politics and religion... .

Explaining his mission, Gandhi said he had come absolutely in a spirit of co-operation and to strive for an agreed solution between India and Britain.


16 Gandhi had accepted Muriel Lester's invitation to stay at Kingsley Hall, a centre dedicated to the slums of London .... The people of East End opened their homes and hearts to him ....

A little cell on the flat roof with an open view was put at Gandhi's disposal.

The members of every section of Bow assembled outside Kingsley Hall to welcome Gandhi ....

(His voice) "I am thankful that I got this opportunity of being surrounded by happy children and seeing the homes of the poor."

He was soon at home among the workers .... He felt happy because he got here a taste of the life he was pledged to live.


17 Then began the inrush of visitors of every shade of opinion .... The Pearly King accompanied by his son and daughter came to pay respects to the distinguished visitor in his domain. Gandhi greeted the costermonger royalties who offered him their best oranges.

(Gandhi's voice) "Thank you; why take only one. I take two .... Still ?"


18 In his first ever broadcast talk, Gandhi told the American people from Kingsley Hall, "The world is sick unto death of blood spilling.... Perhaps it will be the privilege of the ancient land of India to show the way out.... "


19 At the Federal Structure Committee of the Round Table Conference, held at St. James's Palace, the voice of resurgent India spoke through Gandhi. "The goal of absolute Independence remains intact".

Gandhi stressed the need of adult suffrage and racial equality and advocated an honourable partnership between India and Britain.

"The nation that does not control its defence forces and external policy", asserted Gandhi, "is hardly a responsible nation".

He struck a note of warning. "A nation of 350 million people needs simply a will of its own to say 'no' and that nation is today learning to say 'no'."


Reel 18


Sequence 1 To create greater understanding about India's case, Gandhi spent more time in meeting leading celebrities and visiting interesting places. He met Charles Chaplin of whom curiously enough, he had not heard. They talked about the toilers, the underfed and the use and misuse of machines.


2 Gandhi's visit to Lancashire afforded him an opportunity to come into friendly contact with the millowners and workers.

In this centre of the British textile industry, the Mayor of Darwen welcomed the most uncompromising advocate of the boycott of foreign cloth.

Asking the workers not to attribute their miseries to India, Gandhi poured out his heart to them. "I would be a false friend if I were not frank with you". He explained how economics and ethics and politics were inextricably mixed up in his life.

"My nationalism is not so narrow that I should not feel for your distress ... I do not want my country's happiness at the sacrifice of any other country's happiness ... You have three million unemployed but we have nearly three hundred million unemployed and underemployed for half the year ... Your average unemployment dole is 70 shillings. Our average income is seven shillings and six pence a month ... If India could revive the living corpses by putting life and food into them in the shape of work, it will help the world ... "

He pointedly asked the operatives, "Do you want Lancashire's prosperity to be built upon the ruin of the Indian artisan?

Their spontaneous reaction was, "We know each other now".

A voice : "We would just like to say a few words".

G. (his voice) "You are going to tell the other children that I love you all as my own children. That's all I want to say."

Gandhi expressed his gratefulness, "I shall treasure the memory of these days to the end of my earthly existence."


3 In a recorded talk Gandhi sought to prove the existence of the benevolent power-God. (His voice) "I do dimly perceive that, whilst everything around me is ever changing, ever dying, there is underlying all that change, a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves and recreates. That informing power or spirit is God ... . For I see that in the midst of death life persists; in the midst of untruth, truth persists; in the midst of darkness, light persists. Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, Light. Faith transcends reason. ... "


4 Being His Majesty's guest, Gandhi felt morally bound to accept the invitation to attend his reception.

He went to Buckingham Palace in his usual dress.


5 The Round Table Conference was completely abortive ... Every divisive tendency in India was encouraged. .. The conference concluded on December 1.


6 Gandhi's twelve-week stay at East London, which afforded him an opportunity to see "the best side of human nature" and lent support to his belief "that at bottom there was neither East nor West", came to an end. After planting a tree in front of Kingsley Hall, his parting message was, (his voice) "Whatever the result of the mission that brought me to London, I know that I shall carry with me the pleasantest memories of my stay in the midst of the poor people of East London."


7 On December 5, 1931, Gandhi left Britain "Without any disappointment". (His voice) "I carry with me the pleasantest recollections of many happy friendships formed."

The call from India was peremptory. Gandhi boarded the channel boat to the French coast on the way home leaving behind seeds of goodwill and mutual understanding ...


8 On his homeward journey, Gandhi landed in France. The crowds overwhelmed him with their welcome.

During his one day sojourn in Paris, Gandhi spoke to an attentive audience. "I know that we have to go through still more suffering to vindicate our position."

Next day, he departed for Switzerland.


9 Gandhi came to Geneva to spend a few days with Romain Rolland - the sage of Villeneuve.

The two kindred souls tormented by the spirit of darkness engulfing the world met at Villa Olga on the bank of Lake Leman.

Rolland described the blighting effects of exploitation and the perils of war ... .

Gandhi affirmed that nations should cease to answer violence with violence. Gandhi's routine of taking early morning walks continued despite the severe December cold.

One evening at Gandhi's request, Rolland played on the piano an ANDANTE movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony representing the triumph of the heroic will over the deepest gloom ... .

At a meeting in Geneva, he pointed out, (his voice) "My speeches at the Round Table Conference are all officially reported. Meanwhile, I must ask you to believe me when I say that I have never made a statement of this description, that the masses of India, if it becomes necessary, will resort to violence. Call that as you like; it is complete independence that we want."

"God", Gandhi said at Lausanne, "is an eternal principle. That is why I say that Truth is God and the way to him is through love."


10 After five days' stay in Switzerland, Gandhi left for Italy ...


Reel 19


Sequence 1 At Rome, Gandhi was cheered by enormous crowds ... He was received by General Morris - a friend of Romain Rolland ... The movietones grunted; journalists struggled, but Gandhi had decided not to make public statements ...

During his three days' stay in Rome, he had a packed schedule ... He was able to see something of the ancient city... he made a hurried round of the Roman ruins... .

The Vatican galleries were specially opened for Gandhi ... Their art treasure interested him immensely ...

Gandhi's eyes fell on a striking statue of Christ ... . He went up to it and stood in deep contemplation ... Gandhi saw here that nations like individuals could only be made through the agony of the Cross and that joy came not out of infliction of pain on others but out of pain voluntarily borne by oneself ...

Gandhi was shown a military exercise and drill by little boys known as "Balilla".

(His voice) "Well, it has given me very great pleasure to see all these young children hate and hearty. That is all. Quite enough." A voice : "Thank you."


2 On December 14, Gandhi boarded S.S. Pilsna at Brindisi en route to India ... .

After his experience in England, it was clear to him that the true battle ground was not London; it was India ... But in ignorance of the situation at home, he reiterated that he would try every means to avoid another fiery ordeal ...


3 On December 28, two days after the arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi reached the shores of India ... .

Though he had returned empty-handed, he had not compromised the honour of his country .. A great ovation awaited him ...


4 Gandhi was unprepared on landing to find intensified repression and special ordinances in operation ... The truce had been done to death ... The die seemed to be cast ...

Bombay staged a magnificent welcome to Gandhi ... Thousands turned out en masse to greet him .... The streets were lined with greatly excited crowds. ... National flags fluttered everywhere and banners and arches adorned the whole of the long route to Mani Bhavan.


5 Gandhi encamped on the terrace of Mani Bhavan and acquainted himself with the situation. He found things blacker than he had imagined.


6 That evening, people flocked to Azad Maidan to listen to Gandhi. .. A vast concourse of humanity stretched far beyond the maidan ...

At 5 O'clock, Gandhi arrived to give his appraisal of the situation and ascended the 20-foot high rostrum ...

In reply to the demonstration of tumultuous welcome, Gandhi condemned the attempt of the Government, to unman a whole race ...

He emphasised his eagerness to co-operate with the Government, though he was ready for a struggle if necessary .. .

"If a fight is inevitable" he asserted, "I would expect every son of the soil to contribute his mite ...

I would not flinch from sacrificing even a million lives for India's liberty."

He exhorted the people to get rid of the fear of death and adhere to non-violence ...

He made an impassioned plea for raising the level of the untouchables realising that without it freedom would be futile.


7 Gandhi gave a detailed account of his work in Britain to the members of the Congress Working Committee.

... He discussed the grim situation in the country with his colleagues and sought an interview with Lord Willingdon to find a way out...


8 On receiving a stiff reply from the Viceroy, Gandhi had no choice left but to resort to Civil Disobedience ...


9 He prepared to go to jail ... . His message to the nation was to wake up from its sleep and respond to the challenge of the Government without hatred or malice for "our quarrel is not with men but with measures."

To poet Tagore he wrote, "I want you to give your best to the sacrificial fire that is being lighted ... "


10 The Government instantly struck back and when the whole nation was asleep, Gandhi was put under arrest at 3 a.m. on Monday January 4-his weekly day of silence in the tent on the terrace of Mani Bhavan ... .

After the prayers, he was taken away and was once again interned in the Yeravada Jail "during the pleasure of the Government".


11 India was numbed by repression ... It was a conflict of two historical forces.. .


The jails began to be filled with a Civil Disobedience prisoners ... Their idealism and pride led them to fetters ... . It was a tribute to the national movement ...