On 15 August 1947, when the day of independence finally arrived, it was celebrated with gusto all over the country. But in Calcutta, a perturbed Gandhi was trying hard to end the violence that had torn the nation apart.
Gandhi refused to participate in any festivities - along with his protege Abdul Ghaffar Khan, he was the last person to fight Partition till the very end. "I cannot rejoice on August 15. I do not want to deceive you. But at the same time I shall not ask you not to rejoice. Unfortunately the kind of freedom we have got today contains also the seeds of future conflict between India and Pakistan. How can we therefore light the lamps?" Gandhi had said in July.
On 9 August, Gandhi arrived in Calcutta (as Kolkata was known then) with plans to move to Naokhali (now in Bangladesh) - a district torn by communal massacre and violence. In Calcutta, leading figures urged Gandhi not to continue to East Bengal. They felt if Gandhi could bring peace to Calcutta, peace would be restored in all of Bengal.
Gandhi then decided to stay at Hyderi Manzil, close to a Muslim dominated slum called Miabagan. There, he received hundreds of visitors and held prayer meetings. There were constant protests of "Gandhi go back" outside, as some felt Gandhi unduly sympathised with Muslims.
From 13 August onwards, Gandhi began efforts to personally pacify people from either community and urge them to end the violence. On many occasions, angry mobs refused to bow down, but Gandhi continued his efforts. Within days, the result was visible for everyone to see. Lord Mountbatten, noting this, wrote "In the Punjab we have 55 thousand soldiers and large-scale rioting on our hands. In Bengal our forces consist of one man, and there is no rioting."
On 15 August Gandhi marked the day with a 24 hour fast, prayer, and spinning yarn. "My way of celebrating great events, such as today's, is to thank God for it and, therefore, to pray," he wrote to his Quaker friend Agatha Harrison. When C Rajagopalachari visited and congratulated Gandhi for restoring peace in the city, Gandhi said he will not be satisfied "until Hindus and Muslims felt safe in one another's company and returned to their own homes to life as before."
Gandhi had further planned to travel to Delhi, then move on to Punjab, and eventually to Lahore, and thus bit by bit bring peace to entire country. Sadly, what eventually ended the violence was the shock and horror of Bapu's murder.