Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338
Verrier Elwin on Mahatma Gandhi Arrest
Gandhi was staying in a house called Mani Bhuvan and he invited us to stay with him there. There was great excitement in the city; the Viceroy had finally rejected the Congress offer of peace; Nehru was already in jail, and arrest of other national leaders was expected at any moment. But when we reached Mani Bhuvan and climbed to the roof, we found a great serenity in astonishing contrast to the crowds and turmoil outside. The roof was a very pleasant place. Low tents had been erected, and there were palms and plants; at least 300 people could gather there. It was cool and you could see the stars. Bapu was sitting at the wheel quietly spinning. He had already begun his weekly silence. I carried on a one-sided conversation with him, and he wrote down his questions and replied on a scrap of paper which I still have. I must have begun by asking if there was anything I could do. He wrote: “I have sent for you for that very purpose. I have told Mahadev all I have been revolving in my mind. When he comes he will tell you or I shall briefly write what is wanted. How are you keeping in health? He Mahadev should be coming shortly. If he does not during the time I finish this I shall write out what I want to say.
You are sleeping here? If so is your bedding, etc., arranged?” Then Shamrao and I retired to the smaller tent and Bapu lay down about three yards from us, while some thirty others lay on the roof under the canvas shelter. Mrs. Gandhi and Mirabehn gave us a surprisingly satisfying supper of dates, nuts and fruit. But I could not sleep. As I wrote at the time, ‘I felt I had to keep vigil, and for hours I was under those splendid stars that rose, tier upon tier above me, while beside me Bapu slept like a child committed to his Father’s hands. I thought of Christ going up to Jerusalem, his eyes filled with determination and courage: and I seemed to see the Spirit of Christ travelling the centuries like a bright sword turned against all wrong and injustice. Among these sleeping friends so dear to us, brave, pure-hearted, sincere, the spirit of love was manifest and unconquerable. At last I lay down between Shamrao and Bernard on my hastily improvised bed on the floor, just beside Bapu, and fell into a deep sleep, when suddenly like the coming of a dream there was a stir and a whisper: ‘The police have come.’ We started up and I saw what I shall never forget a fully uniformed Commissioner of Police at the foot of Bapu’s bed, and Bapu just waking, a little bewildered, and looking old, fragile and rather pathetic with the mists of sleep still on his face. ‘Mr. Gandhi, it is my duty to arrest you.’ A beautiful smile of welcome broke out on Bapu’s face and now he looked young, strong and confident.
He made signs to show that he was keeping silence. The Commissioner smiled and with great courtesy said, ‘I should like you to be ready in half an hour’s time.’ It was five minutes past three. Bapu looked at his watch and the Commissioner said, ‘Ah, the famous watch!’ and they both laughed heartily. Bapu took a pencil and wrote, ‘I will be ready to come with you in half an hour.’ The Commissioner laid his hand on Bapu’s shoulder with a gesture so full of affection that I thought it was an embrace, until I realized that it was the formal token of arrest. Bapu then cleaned his teeth and retired for a moment. The door was guarded, and all of us who were on the roof sat round in a circle. I looked out on to the road where some had been keeping all-night vigil and where a little crowd, very quiet and orderly, had collected, but there were no special police precautions. When he was ready, Bapu sat in the midst of us for the prayers and we sang together the song of the true Vaishnava. Then Bapu took pencil and paper and wrote a few messages, some last instructions to his followers and a letter1 to Sardar Vallabhbhai, which was as follows:
He then wrote a short note and gave it to me: Then Bapu stood up to take farewell. It was a strange sight: the police at the door, Mirabehn and Devdas bustling to and fro with the baggage which was already packed, Bapu surrounded by his friends, many of them weeping. Mrs. Gandhi with tears running down her cheeks said, “Can’t you take me with you?” Everyone in turn touched his feet, and when I said goodbye he pulled my ear with a smile. He was in very good spirits: he might have been going to a festival rather than a jail. Then, followed by the whole company, he went downstairs. Shamrao and I watched from the roof. The tiny figure got into the car and the crowd surged round it. It was a wonderful tribute to India’s non-violence that there were only a few policemen and they were able to be in the midst of the crowd without fear of danger. Just at that moment a message came to say that Sardar Vallabhbhai, the Congress President had also been arrested. And then the crowd scattered as the car bearing the very soul of India drove away through the dark and deserted streets.