We have one of the most important letters by Gandhi to come on the market in 30 years for sale at Bonhams in London. The letter makes reference to his belief in passive resistance and the need for unity between Hindus and Muslims
Lot 441 in the Papers & Portraits: The Roy Davids Collection Part II at Bonhams, is a part of Indian history. Mahatma Gandhi,(1869–1948, political leader and religious and social reformer), wrote this letter, clearly for publication on 15th December 1919.

In it he states: “I venture to claim that I have rendered a service of the highest order by advising the Mohamedans of India to express their sentiments in a restrained manner and by advising the Hindus to make common cause with them...” And, declaring his 'Relentless pursuit of truth', Gandhi also explains his attitude towards and actions vis a vis the British and his position in relation to the Khilafat question [the attempts by the Muslims of India to help safeguard the holy places in newly-conquered Turkey and support for their Khalifah, the spiritual head of the worldwide Islamic community, who was opposed to the British and their allies]. It is written in English in a secretarial hand with a few minor autograph corrections. The address is 2 Mozang Road, Lahore.

This one of the most important single letters/articles by Gandhi to come on the market in thirty years and more, containing as it does answers to Candler's questions, which as Gandhi himself says, 'enable me to explain my position more fully than perhaps it has been by my writings & speeches' and references to his central concepts of satya (Truth), ahimsa or Satyagraha (non-violence) and the need for unity between Hindus and Muslims. It was the failure of Hindus and Muslims to unify that led to the communal riots and wide-spread murders when India gained its independence from Britain in 1947 and the formation of the Muslim-majority state of Pakistan with mass migrations of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs to different areas. It was a fellow Hindu, Nathuram Godse, offended by Gandhi's work for peace and unity, who assassinated him on 30 January 1948.

The year 1919/1920 was critical for both Gandhi and India's national identity. He took a great step towards becoming a national communicator and leader through the press and Congress with a new message and new style. This marked the turning point of his nationalist commitment and participation based on the combination of two wrongs: the treatment of the Sultan of Turkey, despite Indian Muslim sensitivity [the Khilafat question], and the incident in 1919 in the Punjab at Jallianwalla Bagh in Amritsar, and its consequences, when General Dyer ordered the shooting of unarmed civilians (400 died and thousands were injured) in a walled area from which there was no escape. In addition, the subsequent Hunter Report stirred up political and public support for Dyer in Britain. In 1919 Gandhi still had hope as a 'staunch loyalist'; by 1920 he had become 'an uncompromising disaffectionist and non-co-operator'.

i) ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE BRITISH: '...I do not wish & have never wished to embarrass the government and I have never worked up an anti-British campaign for any cause whatsoever. My personal religion would forbid me to do either the one or the other. But sometimes one's right conduct does embarrass those who do not for the moment appreciate it and in that sense I admit that my conduct like that of any reformer has embarrassed people. But I cannot be accused of partiality. Relentless pursuit of truth and conduct flowing from it have embarrassed the dearest ones not excluding my wife and children. But I was no more anti-the-dear ones than I am anti-British...My stubborn opposition to some acts of the British Government must not be mistaken for unfriendliness. Such peculiar notions are entertained about friendliness and loyalty in India that any strong expression of displeasure in regard to acts of Government passes for disloyalty. You will agree with me that real loyalty that dares to utter unpalatable truths must in such an atmosphere be a rare virtue...'

ii) ATTITUDE TO THE KHILAFAT QUESTION: ' regard for the claims of the Turk is derived totally from my regard for my fellow-countrymen the Mohamedans. I should forfeit the right to call them fellow-countrymen if I did not feel for them in everything vitally affecting them provided that the cause was just. The peace of my country is likely to be placed in jeopardy not by my earnest effort to guide the Mohamedan feeling in the right channel but it certainly will be by any thoughtless or ignorant action of British ministers....But the necessity for the question really arises from your not knowing the Mohamedan claim for Turkey...They ask for nothing that has not been granted to the other powers or that was not vouchsafed to them by the British ministers themselves. Their claims as you may be aware has been backed by the majority of the ex-Governors and other distinguished Anglo-Indians. 

April 2011

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