History

On October 2, 1947, Why Did Gandhi Say He Was Ashamed That He Was Still Alive?

“You want only the Hindus to remain in India and say that none else should be left behind,” he asked. His message: “If you really want to celebrate my birthday, it is your duty not to let anyone be possessed by madness.”

The plans to officially mark Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary are on course. At the ground level, however, the ugly face of communalism continues to rear its head in one virulent incident after another. It was an issue which agitated Gandhi until his dying breath and, in fact, was uppermost in his mind during his prayer discourse on October 2, 1947, in Delhi, on the day of his 79th birthday, just one-and-a-half months after independence and Partition.

The Wire brings you a short excerpt from Gandhi’s prayer discourse of October 2, 1947, from The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 89, as published online by the Gandhi Heritage Portal.

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Today is my birthday…For me today is [a] day of mourning. I am surprised and also ashamed that I am still alive. I am the same person whose word was honoured by… millions [in] the country. But today nobody listens to me. You want only the Hindus to remain in India and say that none else should be left behind. You may kill the Muslims today; but what will you do tomorrow?

At present we have some Muslims in our midst who belong to us. If we are ready to kill them, let me tell you that I am not for it. Ever since I came to India, I have made it my profession to work for communal harmony, and I wish that though our religions are different we may live in amity[,] like brothers. But today we seem to have become enemies. We assert that there can never be an honest Muslim. A Muslim always remains a worthless fellow.

In such a situation, what place do I have in India and what is the point of my being alive? I have now stopped thinking about living for 125 years. I have stopped thinking in terms of 100 or even 90 years. I am entering my 79th year today; but even that pains me. I would tell those who understand me – and there are quite a few who do understand – that we should give up such bestiality.

I am not worried about what the Muslims do in Pakistan. It is not that the Muslims become great by killing the Hindus[;] they only become brutes. But does it mean that I should also become a beast, a barbarian, insensitive? I would stoutly refuse to do any such thing and I must ask you too not to do so.

If you really want to celebrate my birthday, it is your duty not to let anyone be possessed by madness and if there is any anger in your hearts you must remove it….If you remember this much, I would consider it a good act on your part. This is all I wish to tell you.