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Freedom At Midnight, by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins: Moving Story of Gandhi’s Assassination
Mahabharata and Ramayana are two great epics of India. There are several classical literatures in various regional languages. English has been known to Indians only for the last 300 years. But literature in English in India has reached new heights and there are thousands of English literature lovers in India too. Some of the writings in particular have reached the classic level and have attracted worldwide attention.
These literatures can be broadly divided into two parts. The first is the literature written by Indians against the Indian background and the second is the literature written by English writers on the events taking place in India. Midnight Freedom falls into the second category and is one of the most acclaimed books on Indian events.
This book covers the events that led to the partition of India, the liberation of India, the senseless violence between Hindus and Muslims, the great Kashmir issue, the annexation of the princely states and finally the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
In this article we will see the important aspects of the book with special reference to the assassination of Gandhi.
1. Setting up the story:
The content of this book on Modern History can be called a “narrative” because the events recorded in it were more impressive than the story. It begins with Lord Mountbatten’s meeting with British Prime Minister Attlee. The entire first chapter deals with the appointment of Lord Mountbatten as the last Viceroy of India with the task of giving freedom to India. The main issue was how to give freedom to India and more importantly the safe passage of the British who were accustomed to a luxurious life in India.
2. Mahatma Gandhi enters:
The Mahatma enters the narrative with a description of his famous tour of Noakhali, where he unsuccessfully attempted to stop Hindu-Muslim violence. He was humiliated by moderate leaders of both religions. The authors deeply researched the newspapers of those times and provide real information about what happened.
The emancipation process begins with Lord Mountbatten taking over as Viceroy. He held several talks with Patel, Jinnah, Nehru and Gandhi who played an important role in increasing India’s freedom. In this final solution, Gandhi and Jinnah have a special place, Gandhi as the Father of the Nation in India and Jinnah as the Creator of Pakistan.
3. Unhappiness of division:
The authors describe the actual split as “the most complicated divorce in history.” As in the case of family division, not only land, but also properties were divided.
The cost of partition was paid by the citizens of the border states, Punjab in the North, West Bengal in the East, and much blood was shed in other states as well.
The violence is detailed in the chapter “Our People Gone Mad.” Mindless violence brings tears to any leader’s eyes.
The author says that “if a person is killed in violence, it is ‘mercy’ shown to him”. Because pressing acid, rape, disfigurement and other tortures were very common. Kidnapping, rape and killing of minor children is widespread. They were recognized by various religious symbols on their bodies and subjected to brutal torture.
A multi-millionaire from Lahore would one day become a beggar and have to walk a long distance without food or water to reach Delhi, while an industrialist in Punjab would have to go in the opposite direction and lose everything and reach Karachi on foot. Several trains full of corpses have arrived in India. The authors point out that at least the Muslims who migrated to Pakistan had a good future because it was a newborn country, while the Hindus who arrived in Delhi had no future at all. They were rejected by their relatives, rejected by their former friends, and literally orphaned on the streets of Delhi and Calcutta. They must reach a country that only expects labor from its subjects and offers nothing to refugees. There was killing and bloodshed everywhere and in this atmosphere India got its freedom at ‘midnight’.
4. While the world sleeps:
This chapter deserves a special mention because it gives every minute information about the freedom of India and Pakistan. The main features are:
13.8.47: Mahatma Gandhi, who led the non-violent freedom struggle, did not participate in the celebrations, instead he passed by while all India was waiting for its freedom and most of the leaders were preparing to enjoy their powers. jungles of Noakhali to stop the senseless violence between the two communities. The hatred of the Hindus, who were greatly affected by the violence, started from here. In fact, the pathos of the story begins here, and a darkness descends on the readers, which foreshadows the tragedy that may happen in the near future.
14.8.47: Marked the last day for Lord Mountbatten as Viceroy. The last order he signed was to elevate the Nawab’s Australian Begum to the rank of Her Majesty. The order was placed on his desk at 11.58 p.m., his face lit up with the purest sign of pleasure, he picked up his pen and made his last move as viceroy of India.
“When the whole world sleeps, India wakes up to freedom” Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, raised the National Flag with these words and announced that India has since become a free nation.
If all went well, the book should have ended with these lines from Nehru. But after independence, not much sweet things awaited the Indians.
A Tamil poet wrote after 50 years of Independence: “We achieved freedom at midnight, we never saw the morning”, how true!
Lord Mountbatten became the First Governor General of India until Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) was elected to the post. India continued in the Commonwealth Nations League. These were the compassionate gestures of Nehru and his government. But this same mercy created a perennial problem for India i.e. KASHMIR.
5. KASHMIR ISSUE:
Kashmir held a special place in the hearts of both Nehru and Jinnah. Pakistan had planned a tribal attack on this valley. Due to the invasion, King Hari Singh annexed Kashmir to India. Nehru very liberally secured a plebiscite and also declared a ceasefire. To this day, part of Kashmir is with Pakistan, which India claims as Pak-occupied Kashmir (POK) and Pakistan as Azad Kashmir (Independent Kashmir). This is the main thorn in the relations between the two countries, for which there is no immediate solution in sight.
The book fulfills the requirement of humor through descriptions of palaces, tigers, elephants and jewels in the Maharajas (Kings) chapter. The Maharajas lost their crowns and were forced to merge their states into an Indian state thanks to the efforts of Patel (known as the Iron Man of India). The description of the lives of the kings, their funny decisions and eccentricities give some relief to the very serious subject matter of the book.
6. The Second Crucifixion:
No other headline could have described Gandhi’s assassination as well as this one, which equates Gandhi with Jesus Christ, who was the first to be crucified.
The day was Friday, January 30; 1948. The killer was a Hindu named Nathuram Godse. Gandhi had no proper security except for his personal aides, most of whom were ladies. Gandhi took the last step to the usual evening prayer. Concealing the pistol in his palms, the assassin approached Gandhi, bowed before him and said, “Namaste Gandhi.”
Godse used his left hand to brutally push the assistant, then pulled out a black Baretta pistol in his right hand and fired it three times. Gandhi gasped “Hey Ram” (Oh God) and fell lifeless on the ground in a gesture of blessing the murderer. It was one of the most unforgettable moments in Human History.
Lord Mountbatten’s first question upon hearing the news of Gandhi’s assassination was, “Who did it?” He was relieved to know that a Hindu had killed him (not a Muslim) because if a Muslim had killed him, India would have experienced the next horrifying massacre the world had ever seen. Possible massacres were averted by repeated ‘Hindu assassinated Gandhi’ announcements on All India Radio and both Hindus and Muslims mourned the death of the great personality.
Jawahirlal’s eyes filled with tears when he stepped in front of the microphone of All India Radio. “The light has gone out of our lives, everything is dark,” he said, “the father of the nation is no more.”
George Bernard Shaw Quote: “It shows how dangerous it is to be good.”
“Generations to come may not believe that such a man in flesh and blood ever walked this Earth.”
J.Krishnamurthy avoided his customary habit of not commenting on the death of leaders and commented, “Gandhi was not killed by one person. We, the entire population, killed him because of our little religious fanaticism.”
This is reflected in the editorial comments of the Hindustan Standard:
“Gandhi was killed by the people he lived to save, the second crucifixion in the history of the world was accepted on Friday – the day Jesus was killed nineteen fifteen years ago. Father, forgive us.”
The reader closes the book with a heavy heart. This book is a must read for every patriotic citizen with a sense of selflessness.
But when it comes to the situation prevailing in India today, it paints a rather bleak picture. Rampant corruption, bribery everywhere, power trading, rigged elections, communal clashes, caste differences and the like basically rule India. “Our freedom is for this, is it for this that thousands of freedom fighters sacrificed everything and fell in prisons, and this Messenger of Peace sacrificed his most precious life?” we cannot avoid thinking. The rebirth of Mahatma Gandhi in India is the prayer of every Indian.
The greatest success of the book “Midnight Freedom” is that it creates this awakening in the readers.
Good luck to those who read this article!
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