Messenger of peace

On January 30, 1948 Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. In his rememberance, this day is observed as Martyr’s Day. A day to revisit his mission of non violence.

Published - January 25, 2018 03:48 pm IST

In the January of 1948, Mahatma Gandhi began conducting multi-faith prayer meetings in the evening at Birla House on Albuquerque Road in Delhi. On January 30, just like any other evening, he walked up the steps to the raised lawn. A crowd flanked the path leading to the dais. A man stepped out onto the Mahatma’s path and fired three bullets into him at point blank range. Gandhiji fell to the ground. He was carried to his room in Birla House. Much later, it was announced that he was dead.

The man who shot him was identified as Nathuram Vinayak Godse. He was an advocate of Hindu nationalism, a member of the political party the Hindu Mahasabha and a former member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). However, he had not plotted this villainous act on his own. There were others in the group that had planned this.

The murder trial opened in May of the same year in the Red Fort. Godse was the main defendant, and his collaborator Narayan Apte and six others were co-defendants. Godse and Apte were sentenced to death on November 8, 1949.

January 30 is now celebrated as Martyr’s Day.

On this day, each year, the President of India, the Vice President, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the service Chiefs gather at the Samadhi of the Mahatma in Rajghat and lay floral tributes. They observe a two-minute silence at 11.00 A.M.

Originally, the martyrdom of the soldiers while defending the country was remembered on Republic Day — January 26. But, after the assassination the day was shifted to January 30.

What they said

At the time of his death, well-known people sent in their tributes.

Here are some:

Albert Einstein:

“He died as the victim of his own principles, the principle of non-violence. He died because in time of disorder and general irritation in his country, he refused armed protection for himself. It was his unshakable belief that the use of force is an evil in itself, that therefore it must be avoided by those who are striving for supreme justice to his belief. With his belief in his heart and mind, he has led a great nation on to its liberation. He has demonstrated that a powerful human following can be assembled not only through the cunning game of the usual political manoeuvres and trickery but through the cogent example of a morally superior conduct of life. The admiration for Mahatma Gandhi in all countries of the world rests on that recognition.”

The British prime minister Clement Attlee:

“Everyone will have learnt with profound horror of the brutal murder of Mr Gandhi and I know that I am expressing the views of the British people in offering to his fellow-countrymen our deep sympathy in the loss of their greatest citizen. Mahatma Gandhi, as he was known in India, was one of the outstanding figures in the world today... For a quarter of a century this one man has been the major factor in every consideration of the Indian problem.”

The New York Times editorial:

“It is Gandhi the saint who will be remembered, not only on the plains and in the hills of India, but all over the world. He strove for perfection as other men strive for power and possessions. He pitied those to whom wrong was done: the East Indian laborers in South Africa, the untouchable 'Children of God' of the lowest caste of India, but he schooled himself not to hate the wrongdoer. The power of his benignity grew stronger as his potential influence ebbed. He tried in the mood of the New Testament to love his enemies. Now he belongs to the ages.”

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