He Killed Mahatma Gandhi on 30/01/1948

The 20th century bore witness to the poignant tragedy of Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi, the eminent apostle of non-violence, meeting his fateful end in a swirl of violence. This luminary, who held the vanguard in the relentless crusade for India’s liberation from British shackles, found himself a proponent of the partition of the sub-continent into two sovereign dominions – India and Pakistan – come August of 1947. Yet, the euphoria of this partition was quickly eclipsed by the ominous eruption of violence amongst Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs, an outburst that forcibly expelled multitudes from their homes, mere days before the heralded Independence Day of August 15, 1947.

In the face of this maelstrom, Gandhi, true to his tactical acumen, resorted to a weapon familiar to him – a fast unto death. This audacious gambit sought to unveil the faces of shame of those who goaded and reveled in the tumultuous clashes. The global arena resonated with messages of solidarity, reaching even the ears of Pakistan, where the fledgling administration under Jinnah extended begrudging respect for Gandhi’s unswerving commitment to serenity and accord. However, within the echelons of Hindu communities, a disquieting murmur echoed – an accusation that Gandhi’s unflinching allegiance to non-violence served as a fetter, constraining their ability to repel aggression. A sinister chant, ‘Let Gandhi die!’, reverberated through the streets of Delhi, where the Birla Lodge stood witness to Gandhi’s steadfast resolve.

On the 13th of January, inaugurating a fast that would signify his swan song, the Mahatma declared, “For me, death shall be a triumphant emancipation, superior to witnessing the annihilation of India, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Islam.” His vision unfurled a tapestry of harmonious coexistence, wherein Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians, and Muslims shared the same tableau of unity. As the 20th dawned, a coterie of Hindu zealots, repulsed by Gandhi’s clarion call for tolerance and tranquility, ignited a bomb in his proximity, a detonation that yielded no physical harm. This, however, was but a refrain of past assassination attempts. To this, Gandhi calmly submitted, “Should my journey culminate by the hand of a madman’s bullet, I shall receive it with a smile; rancor shall find no haven within me. My heart shall enshrine God.”

On January 29th, Nathuram Godse, a zealot among zealots, returned to Delhi, armed with a Beretta automatic pistol, his intentions sinister and resolute. On the ensuing afternoon, around 5 o’clock, the frail Gandhi, his vitality sapped by fasting, leaned upon the shoulders of his great-nieces as they traversed the gardens of Birla House en route to a devotional assembly. From the heart of an adulatory throng, emerged Nathuram Godse – he bowed, and then, with cold detachment, discharged three bullets at point-blank range into Gandhi’s abdomen and chest. In a gesture reminiscent of Hindu salutation, Gandhi’s hands rose to his face, as if he were bidding welcome to his assailant, before descending in a fatal descent. Amidst the pandemonium, the urgency to summon medical aid or convey Gandhi to a medical facility was conspicuously absent. In the span of half an hour, the curtain fell on his existence.

Nathuram Godse’s bid to draw his own life’s thread proved futile; apprehended and removed from the tableau, he was ensnared amidst a clamorous crowd, fraught with shock and hysteria, their fervent cry for retribution resounding, “End him! End him!” The ensuing judicial proceeding culminated in a murder conviction, and come November of the subsequent year, he would meet his demise by the hangman’s noose.

Meanwhile, the lifeless form of Gandhi lay supine on the terrace of Birla House, shrouded in the pallor of white cotton fabric, a solitary spotlight casting an unwavering beam upon him, an illuminative requiem against the encroaching darkness. Over the airwaves, the Indian Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru, intoned, “The nation’s patriarch has departed, leaving us in a realm of darkness. Words elude me in this hour, as the luminous guide we cherished is now no more.”

In the aftermath, a throng of prodigious magnitude, numbering nearly a million souls, assembled along a five-mile course to pay homage to the funeral procession. Upon an army truck, the body, bedecked with the emblematic Indian flag, was borne, while above, air force aircraft rained down a shower of petals. Hindered by the recurrent intrusion of mourners, the procession extended its journey to five laborious hours, necessitating the authoritative intercession of law enforcement. There, atop a sandalwood funeral pyre, Gandhi’s form was committed to the flames in conformity with age-old tradition. As the pyre kindled, petals cascaded gently from the hands of mourners. For three days, the ashes rested by the riverbank before being consigned to the confluence of the Jumna and the Ganges.

Yet, despite the concerted endeavors of Nehru and his cohorts, the aftermath was awash with violence – Bombay and other corners of India, charred by the fires of riots and arson. Brahmins were targeted, their very identity becoming a mark for assault, for the assailant was of their caste. In Bombay, law enforcers were forced to wield force against the frenzied mobs. This tableau of turmoil, one that saw streets stained in blood, would have doubtlessly wrung from Gandhi a dolorous lament.

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