October 2 is Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday. It’s a holiday. We know it. We love it. Today, no Indian Police Commissioner would dare ban any Gandhi celebration. But there was a time when celebrating Gandhi’s birthday was an offence and was banned by the (British) Indian Police Commissioner of Madras, a few years before India won her independence. In those days, some people even fought to celebrate Gandhi Jayanti! At least that’s according to the excerpt from The Guardian, the Christian newspaper published during the Indian independence struggle that I’ve been reading over the past month. The following excerpt is from an editorial written in 1943, after the Quit India movement started. And it tells briefly how the British Government wanted to ban all Gandhi Jayanti celebrations. Today (October 2) we have the freedom to celebrate, but that celebration is usually left to officials. I want to celebrate Gandhi’s birth by posting this for others to see and remember.
October 2 was the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi Jayanti week celebrations… have been an institution for many years. the Commissioner of Police, Madras, has prohibited processions and meetings arranged in this connection. The organisations that jointly arranged these are well known in the City and the programmes they planned did not savour of a political campaign. The topics of lectures for the week were ‘Gandhi and Harijans’, ‘Gandhi and Unity’, ‘Gandhi and Khadhar’ and such like. The occasion is usually availed of to review what the life and leadership of Gandhiji has meant to India. It relates to many other fields besides politics and men of all communities and races join in paying homage. To the Government and the Commissioner of Police, Mahatma Gandhi is only an undesirable political figure and they may see sinister meaning in the notice taken of a man whom they have found fit only for the prison. They law and order maintained by prohibition of this kind is only apparent. It is an exhibition of authority which will not win the respect of the people. Students turned away from this programme are collecting funds for Bengal Famine Relief.
No author (editorial), “Notes” The Guardian, October 7, 1943. p. 469