This conversation between Wali Khan & Mahatma Gandhi has been recorded in ‘Facts are Facts : An Untold Story of India’s Partition’ by Wali Khan himself. Wali Khan was a prominent NWFP leader & his father Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was known as Frontier Gandhi.
One day, I (Wali Khan) took the courage to tell Mahatma Gandhi that I had been watching him for a few days and it seemed to me that his inner light had been extinguished, why was he not jubilant over the departure of the British? “It is a rare occurrence in history.” I said. “that one witnesses the fruit of one’s lifetime struggle. Under your guidance forty crore helpless and oppressed people were brought out of the darkness of slavery to the light of freedom. Is it not a moment of joy? Is it not the time to inspire them to achieve higher goals? You had once said that you would live up to the age of one hundred and twenty-five! How wonderful for free India, that she would reap a long range benefit from your experience and guidance.”
Gandhiji had an endearing trait of character: that he talked to people of different temperaments at their mental level. When I had spoken, I found Gandhiji in a very somber mood. He said, “So far it was my desire to live up to the age of one hundred and twenty-five years, but now I have no such desire. The objective before me was not just to attain freedom, but also to remove all the social ills in the society which had festered during the 200 years of the British rule. They have practically divested us of our traditions of tolerance and harmony, and, instead, fomented hatred and discord through their communal policies. I had thought that we could change the entire system and people of this country and would live together like brothers, in love, harmony, and peace, so that coming generations may be blessed with all of that, which, thanks to the British, we have been deprived of. Therefore, in addition to the freedom of my country, the primary objective of my life was maintenance of cordial relations between the Hindus and the Muslims. Since I could not attain my objective, this freedom has become tainted. Today, when I see Hindus and Muslims separated, with a more or less permanent gulf, I feel politically and spiritually defeated. I have no desire to live any longer.”
Then glancing towards me he said, “How could I consider it a day of freedom and joy when I had to say goodbye to your father, Badshah Khan, at the Delhi Railway Station. He was my comrade, friend, companion, and fellow freedom fighter, and now that we have attained independence, we are parted. Perhaps we may never see each other. Now you see what joy this independence has brought for me?” Gandhiji paused and then continued; “If you look around at India today, you will see that all the empty spaces and bazaars of Srinagar are crowded with Hindu and Sikh refugees from NWFP. Similarly, in Bengal, Bihar and Delhi, Muslims are suffering the trauma of partition. The Punjab situation is, by far, the worst. Caravans of Muslim refugees are going towards Pakistan, and, similarly, unending streams of Hindu and Sikh refugees are coming to India. They are being massacred enroute. Men have turned brutes. Barbarism is rampant; every group of refugees is faced with well-organised attacks. Bloodshed has become a daily occurrence; people are being killed irrespective of their age or sex. Is this the freedom that we wanted to attain?”
Then Gandhiji asked a poignant question. “When I cannot remove this mutual hatred and ill-will between Hindus and Muslims, and cannot create feelings of love, peace, and harmony in the name of God and religion, you tell me whether there is any point in my living any more? I would prefer death to this kind of life.”