Letter to Mr. M A Jinnah

In the year 1938 a serious attempt was made by the Congress leaders to come to an understanding with Mr. Jinnah, President of the Muslim League of India, with a view to bring about unity between the two organisations – the League and the Congress – and to solve the Hindu-Muslim tangle. Mr. Jinnah however insisted that an essential precondition to any agreement between the two organisations was the recognition by the Congress that the Muslim League was the sole authoritative and representative political organisation of the Muslims of India. The talks ended in smoke. In the course of these talks Mahatma Gandhi wrote the following letter to Mr. Jinnah…

In your speech I miss the old Nationalist

Dear Mr. Jinnah

Pandit Nehru told me yesterday that you were complaining to Maulana Sahib about the absence of any reply from me to your letter of the 5th November in reply to mine of the 19th October. The letter was received by me when I was pronounced by the doctors to be seriously ill at Calcutta.

The letter was shown to me three days after its receipt. Had I thought it necessarily called for a reply even though I was ill I would have sent one. I re-read the letter and I still think there was nothing useful that I could have said in reply. But in a way I am glad you awaited a reply and here it is. Mr. Kher told me definitely he had a private message from you. He delivered it to me when I was alone- I could have sent you a verbal message in reply but in order to give you a true picture of my mental state I sent you a short note. There was nothing to hide in it. But I did feel, as I still do, that the way in which you used it came upon me as a painful surprise.

You complain of my silence. The reason for my silence is literally and truly in my note. Believe me, the moment I can do something that can bring the two communities together nothing in the world can prevent me from so doing. You seem to deny that your speech was declaration of war, but your later pronouncements too confirmed my first impression. How can I prove what is a matter of feeling? In your speech I miss the old Nationalist when in 1915 I returned from my self-imposed exile in South Africa. Everybody spoke of you as one of the staunchest Nationalists and the hope of both the Hindus and Mussalmans. Are you still the same Mr. Jinnah? If you say you are, in spite of your speeches, I shall accept your word.

Lastly, you want me to come forward with some proposal. What proposal can I make except to ask you on bended knees to be what I thought you were? But the proposals to form the basis of unity between the two communities surely have got to come from you.

This again is not for publication but for your eyes; it is the one of a friend, not of an opponent.

Yours Sincerely

M. K. Gandhi