The Last Phase by Pyarelal Nayar covers the last phase of Mahatma Gandhi’s life in which the
results of all the experiments that he carried out throughout his career were put through their
severest and final test. Pyarelal was acutely aware of Gandhi’s state of mind. Indeed, of all
Gandhi’s associates, Pyarelal is the most sensitive and articulate in describing these moods.
The present work represents an attempt by one who had the opportunity at first hand the insight to
represent the events correctly—Pyarelal, secretary to Gandhi. The Last Phase deals with the last
21 months of Gandhiji’s life beginning with his release from detention in the Aga Khan’s palace in
May 1944. It describes in fair detail the political developments of those years resulting from the
British govermnent’s intention to relinquish power in India, Pyarelal says: "During those fateful
days, like a Titan he rushed from one danger spot to another to prop up the crumbling heavens."
The author has attempted to condense the epic story of those days in 1946-47. The last volume of
Pyarelal’s biography of Gandhi has been condensed by Meghani into an easy-to-read, lucid account
to make it more accessible to the general reader.
Mahendra Meghani was born in Mumbai and educated in Bhavnagar, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. He
studied journalism at Columbia University. He is an editor and journalist and has translated
Victor Hugo’s Ninety-Three, Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tikiand Heinrich Harrer’s Seven Years in Tibet
The present book covers the last years of Mahatma Gandhi’s life, in which the results of all the
experiments that he carried out throughout his career were put to final test. The author’s
writings in Young India and Harijan and several works on Mahatma Gandhi have well established him
as a faithful and authoritative chronicler and interpreter of Gandhiji’s life and philosophy.
It is only in a detailed account of what Gandhiji did, how and why he did it, that a soul-stirring
picture of his life and teaching can be found. The present work represents such an attempt by one
who had first—hand knowledge of the events he has described and has the insight to interpret them
What made Mahatma Gandhi almost unique among leaders was l his capacity to harmonize widely
different points of view so that they became contributory to the prosecution of the common goal.
An outstanding instance was the way in which he dealt with his colleagues in the Congress
organization who differed from him. While holding to his own principle, he allowed his colleagues
full scope to serve the country according to their light. As a result of this, not only did most
intimate relations continue between them, but also those who differed from him ultimately came
round and worked under his leadership. Gandhiji was uncompromisingly opposed to the Partition of
India, which he had called her vivisection. The Muslim League agitation for the Partition of the
country resulted in serious rioting. Partition, based on a wrong theory and brought about by such
questionable means, Gandhiji was certain, would do irretrievable harm to both Hindus and
Muslims—in India and Pakistan. But he left it to the Congress Ministers in the Central Government,
who were in charge of running, the administration, to act according to their judgment. Once they
had decided in favour of Partition, he did not oppose them, although he never concealed his own
Instead of carrying on propaganda against his own colleagues, ho set about with an amazing energy
In repair the vast damage Io communal harmony and peace which preceded and followed the Partition.
His words became commands, his mere presence sometimes sufficed to check the blaze where the
police and army could have succeeded only after much bloodshed. It is this last phase of his life
which is particularly dealt with in this book with insight, understanding and restraint, and with
meticulous regard for accuracy Some of the most fascinating pages of the book are devoted to
describing the functioning of his mind in search of new techniques for setting India on the road
to the new social order of his dreams. The time had arrived when, with all the experience and
prestige acquired in the course of the Indian struggle for freedom which he had conducted for more
than 30 years, Mahatma Gandhi could extend the ambit of his activities and prove that ahimsa could
work wonders even in the most adverse of circumstances. At this stage he was taken away but the
ideas and forces he has released may yet accomplish things even more marvellous than were
witnessed in his lifetime.
The core of Gandhijis teaching was meant for all mankind and is valid for all time. He wanted all
men to be free so that they would grow unhampered into full self-realization. He wanted to abolish
the exploitation of man by man in any form, because both exploitation and submission to it are a
sin against the law of our being. He had been invited by many foreigners to visit their countries
and deliver his message to them directly but he had declined since, as he said, he must make good
what he claimed for Truth and Ahimsa in his own country before he could launch on the gigantic
task of converting the world. With the attainment of freedom by India by following his method, in
spite of all the imperfections in its practice, the condition precedent for taking his message to
other countries was to a certain extent fulfilled. And he might have been able to tum his
attention to this larger question y But Providence had ordained otherwise. May some individual or
nation arise and carry forward the effort launched by him.
The Last Phase presents a full, detailed and authentic story of the ultimate phase of Gandhijis
life, in which his spiritual dynamism was at the height of its power. The book deals with the
period from his release from detention in the Aga Khan’s Palace, in 1944, up to the end of his
An amazing story of the mingling of streams- of Eastern and Western thought from which he derived
his spiritual nourishment, and a meteoric rise to recognition and fame unfolds to a student of
Gandhijis life. A shrinking, shy immature youth, unsure of himself and baffled by life’s jigsaw
puzzle, he finds himself—an utter stranger in a strange land, where a freak of fortune had thrown
him-suddenly confronted by the challenge of racial and political prejudice at its worst. Armed
with nothing save unsoiled integrity undeterred by fear of where it might lead him, he takes up
that challenge, and in the short span of two years becomes a factor to be reckoned with.
Practically single-handed, he changes the course of political events, inspiring many with awe and
even affection. Whence came this strength and what was the secret of his alchemy?
His capacity for compromise-rooted in the habit he had cultivated of seeing a problem from the
opponents viewpoint—and for trust which begets trust, enabled him to win the respect and goodwill
even of those with whom he was locked in a fierce conflict and to convert determined antagonists
into personal friends.
The transformation in South Africa was due almost entirely to the unremitting toil of one man,
member of a despised race, with no official status or authority save what his selfless service and
the moral pressure generated by it gave him-MK Gandhi, the Mahatma—to—be. Gandhijis work in South
Africa can be properly studied only as a prelude to India’s struggle for independence. No better
apprenticeship for it could have been found than what South Africa provided. There, he had to
raise from the dust a people who had come to regard insults and humiliations in pursuit of a
living as their lot, who were
torn by dissensions and divided into factions. The authorities were only too eager to exploit
their differences. In short, every one of the problems that Gandhiji had to tackle later, in the
course of Indies non-violent struggle, had its prototype in this microcosm of South Africa. All
this experience proved to be a most valuable asset to him in his confrontation with the British
Empire during Indies fight for liberation. None of his Indian colleagues in the struggle had the
advantage of this vast and varied experience.
What I have drawn upon, in the first instance, are Gandhijis office records, his own writings in
Young India and Harijan, statements to the press and personal correspondence. I had, besides, my
own notebooks and diaries, as well as notebooks of other members of the party I have relied upon
his own journal which he began specially for me—to make up for my absence from him at the time of
the second Simla Conference in May 1946-and which was continued till July 1947.
In giving quotations from Gandhijis speeches and interviews, I have taken the liberty to amplify
or revise the language of the published version with the help of the original notes. I have spared
no pains to check up and verify information by reference to the actors in the drama. In support of
my conclusions, I have cited appropriate chapter and verse; hence the close documentation which
has added to the bulk of the volume.
I have, in some cases, departed from the dates and sequence of events, relating to certain
incidents in Gandhijis career as given in
his own writings. In every such case, I have fully justified my reasons with evidence. I have also
taken the liberty in some places to give my own translation of some of the quotations from
Gandhiji’s Autobiography, originally in Gujarati, where I felt that the corresponding version
given in The Story of My Experiments with Truth was either faulty or not sufficiently clear.
Almost the first thing a foreign visitor does on arrival in India is to visit Rajghat, to pay
homage to the Father of the Nation. Before he leaves, he invariably ends up asking: "Where is
Gandhi in the India of today?” That is a question which every one of us owes to himself to the
India for whom Gandhiji lived and died, and to the world, to ask and answer. This book is an
attempt to help us turn thee searchlight inward and find the answer.
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