Twelve months have gone by since Malaviyaji passed away from our midst. These have not been ordinary months. Events have happened which few of us considered possible a short time ago. Freedom which seemed so far off, of which, to speak the truth, some of us were really afraid, even while expressing intellectual support to it, has come and Indians have now to make decisions involving peace and war and the happiness and prosperity of millions. But it has brought in its wake the partition of the country. The cradle of Indian civilization and culture, the greater part of the land on the banks of the Sindhu and the Saraswati, is no longer ours; it will become alien to us not only because of the accident of a separate Government but because the administration in that region will be in the hands of people pledged to propagate a culture deriving its existence and strength from foreign sources. This is not all. Partition has been accompanied by large-scale pillage and arson, rape and forcible conversion and an uprooting of populations which has no parallel to offer. The material loss has been great, the loss of life has been heavy. But who shall calculate the spiritual damage done to the man compelled to disown the faith of his fathers under duress and to the woman who is robbed of that which she values more than life itself, her honour?
Malaviyaji is not with us. He did not live to see the day of India's independence. The thought of it, the yearning for it, was always so near to his heart. Like many others, I was privileged to meet him a few days before his death. He could not make himself distinctly heard and we did not wish him to exert himself. Still, he could not restrain himself. He spoke to me of a number of things, cow protection for instance, in which he was interested all his life long. And the one thing that was uppermost in his mind, claiming precedence even over cow protection, was the country's independence. He would not fail to refer to it in one context or another. We can hardly imagine the satisfaction, the joy he would have felt if he had been spared a few months to witness the fruition of his labours, the consummation of the task which the Congress which he had helped to found had set itself to perform. But it seems to me, on reflection, that perhaps it is best as it is. Malaviyaji has been spared the pain which would have overshadowed by far his joy at the advent of independence. Those of us who had the privilege of coming into intimate contact with him know what a rare sensitive soul he was. I have seen him weep over the woes suffered by the cow. I and others know what sleepless nights he spent, what acute pain he suffered, when accounts were brought to him of the brutalities which were practised by the police and the magistracy on the people of Ballia as an aftermath of the 1942 movement. One shudders to think what the consequences to Malaviyaji's delicate health would have been if news of the recent happenings in the Punjab had been brought to him. He could not have survived the shock, but every moment of his life till death brought relief would have been a nerve-racking experience. The sense of utter impotence to stop this madness would have meant for him an unbearable torture.
I have said that he was a rare, sensitive soul. He was rare not only in being a man of wide and deep sympathies but in the depth of his cultured mind. There is no dearth of eminent scholars of Sanskrit but the fact that a person has made a wide and deep study of one branch or another of oriental learning does not necessarily mean he is an exponent of the culture associated with that learning. Malaviyaji may not have been a Vedic scholar; his interests, in any case, lay more in the domain of the Puranas which he rightly considered to be the best means of inspiring the masses with courage, hope and self-confidence along with that fervour and faith which only religion can impart. Our scriptures were, to his mind, not merely collections of hymns, philosophic obiter dicta, and a jungle of fantastic stories. They were store-houses of culture and full of that inspiring teaching which lifts man above his little self. He had imbibed deeply the spirit of Hindu culture and he lived it. He was aware of the fact that true religion is above the limitations of time and space; it is eternal but it has to be presented to humanity in the context and the background of the material and mental environment in which the people actually live. That is why he was able tomake his versions of Pauranic stories so realistic; the past was so subtly interwoven with the present as to acquire an undying freshness.
He was an orthodox Hindu. This was one of the secrets of his immense popularity. Not that he was not aware of the great necessity for social reforms but he proceeded about them in a cautious manner which he felt, would weaken much of the antagonism from the inert mass of unthinking orthodoxy.
The generation which Malaviyaji represented is no more, A newer generation of workers has taken the place of the old stalwarts. It has tremendous problems to face. Independence, won after such a hard fight, has to be maintained and translated in terms of peace and prosperity for the common man. Every citizen has to be given the opportunity to rise to his full stature. Let us hope that, faced with these problems, we shall not be led into an unthinking imitations of the ideals and methods of other nations. We have to assimilate knowledge from wherever available, for truth does not know national boundaries but we have to weave it into a pattern with our own traditions. I have no doubt that the example of men like Malaviyaji will be a source of great inspiration and guidance to us in our work today.