The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Journey to Nagaland', by Mildred Archer. An account of six months spent in the Naga Hills in 1947

caption: journey back to Mokokchung
caption: news of Mahatma Gandhi's fast
medium: diaries
person: Gandhi
location: Mokokchung
date: 11.9.1947
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: At the bungalow, mail was waiting for us and we heard for the first time the news of Mahatma Gandhi's fast. It seems that on 1 September some Hindus brought a bandaged man to him and 'tried to become their own judges and executioners.' 'They began to shout at the top of their voices.' Mahatma Gandhi states, 'My sleep was disturbed, but I tried to lie quiet, not knowing what was happening. I heard the window panes being smashed.
text: 'I had, lying on either side of me, two very brave girls. They would not sleep, but without my knowledge, for my eyes were closed. they went among the small crowd and tried to pacify them. Thank God, the crowd did not do any harm to them.
text: 'The old Muslim lady in the house, endearingly called Bi Amma, and a young Muslim stood near my matting, I suppose to protect me from harm. The noise continued to swell. Some had entered the central hall, and began to knock open the many doors.
text: 'I felt that I must get up and face the angry group. I stood at the threshold of one of the doors. Friendly faces surrounded me and would not let me move forward. My vow of silence admitted of my breaking it on such occasions, and I broke it and began to appeal to the angry young man to be quiet. I asked a Bengali girl to translate my few words in Bengali. (77)
text: 'All to no purpose. Their ears were closed against reason. I clasped my hands in Hindu fashion. Nothing doing.
text: 'More window panes began to crack. The friendly ones in the crowd tried to pacify them. There were two police officers. Be it said to their credit that they did not try to exercise authority. They too clasped their hands in appeal.
text: 'A lathi blow missed me and everybody round me. A brick aimed at me hurt a Muslim friend standing by. The two girls would not leave me and held on to me to the last.
text: 'Meantime, the Police Superintendent and his officers came in. They too, did not use force. They appealed to me to retire. Then there was chance of them stilling the young men. After a time the crowd melted....
text: 'Since the foregoing was written, i.e. about 4 o'clock, during silence, I have come to know fairly well the details of what has happened in the various parts of the city. Some of the places which were safe till yesterday have suddenly become unsafe. Several deaths have taken place. I saw two dead bodies of very poor Muslims. I saw also some wretched-looking Muslims being carted away to a place of safety.
text: 'I quite see that last night's incident so fully described above, pales into insignificance beside this flare-up. Nothing that I may do in the way of going about in the open conflagration could possibly arrest it. I have told the friends who saw me in the evening what their duty is.
text: 'What part am I to play in order to stop the rot? The Sikhs and the Hindus must not forget what East Punjab has done during these few days. Now the Muslims in West Punjab have commenced the mad career. It is said that the Sikhs and the Hindus are enraged over the Punjab happenings.
text: 'I have adverted above to an urgent call for me to go to the Punjab. But now that the Calcutta bubble seems to have burst, with what face can I go to the Punjab? The weapon which has hitherto proved infallible for me is fasting. (78)
text: 'To put an appearance before a yelling crowd does not always work. It certainly did not last night. What my word in person cannot do, my fast may. It may touch the hearts of all the warring elements even in the Punjab if it does in Calcutta.
text: 'I therefore begin my fasting from 8-15 tonight to end only if and when sanity returns to Calcutta. I shall, as usual permit myself to add salt and soda bicarb to the water I may wish to drink during the fast.'
text: Since Mahatma Gandhi is now seventy-seven, no one believes he can survive a long fast and we fear that even now he may be dead.