January 20, 2023
Mohandas Gandhi was still recovering from his final fast when would-be assassins set off a bomb at his evening prayer meeting seventy-five years ago today.
Gandhi paid attention to social justice worldwide; he was lamenting that many white Americans didn't care that blacks were being lynched in the South when the explosion occurred twenty-five yards away. The assassins had planned to attack the dais with grenades during the confusion, but Gandhi encouraged those around him to keep calm, and they lost their nerve.
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While the conspirators escaped in a waiting taxi, Gandhi continued his speech. Those listening might consider the acts of “American whites as barbaric” and think that Indians “are better people and cannot do such things.” But he encouraged them to reflect on the recent post-Partition violence, and if anyone harbored any feeling of injustice, they should not “seek revenge privately, but... leave it to the Government to deal with.”
I find this statement fascinating combined with his position two days earlier, when he accepted a pledge from community leaders and broke his fast. In that instance, the commitment to peace came from individuals who specifically said they would guarantee it without the help of the police. “Those who seek justice, must do justice,” Gandhi wrote. Individuals should not take justice; but delegate that privilege to the Government.
After the assassination attempt, the police asked to restrict access to his prayer meetings. To protect him, they wanted to search the people coming and going. Gandhi immediately refused. He had said his life was his message, and his life demonstrated a belief in the fundamental goodness of all human beings. Distrusting people, even in an effort to extend his own life, would have fundamentally changed his message. Even though he was dead ten days later, his legacy continues to inspire millions today.
What message do you want your life to demonstrate?