By Gulamhusein A. Abba
On this day, January 30, in 1948 Gandhi fell to the ground, shot by a young Hindu extremist, Nthuram Godse, while he was walking, at about 5 pm., to his prayer meeting in the lawn of Birla House, New Delhi
|Painting by Anis Hamadeh|
That event is very personal to me. I had seen Gandhi, attended a couple of his prayer meetings, was at a large public meeting being addressed by Gandhi at Chowpaty, Bombay and heard his speeches live on radio. That is not all. I actually met him, not as an admirer but as an antagonist. I greeted him but not with a Namaste. Instead I stuck my hand out for a handshake and he graciously responded. And I bluntly asked him why he hated us Muslims and why was he opposing our getting a homeland of our own within India. He patiently explained.
I was alive and in India when he undertook his fast unto death in Noakhali to end the massacre between Hindus and Muslims, and again when he undertook his last fast, after the partition of India, to compel the government of India to pay to Pakistan its share of the assets left behind by the British and which were in India’s control.
I started out as an antagonist but ended up being an admirer, albeit with reservations on certain issues.
On the day of his death I, along with my friend Mehboobali Khan, was at the Strand cinema in the Fort area of Bommbay. watching a Rock and Roll movie. The screening was stopped before the movie ended. The audience was informed that Gandhi had been shot dead and that curfew had been imposed in the whole of Bombay. We were told to go home as soon as possible and by the safest route we could find. It was a long and frightened journey home that day.
Initially the news was that he was shot by a Pathan, a Muslim. It signaled a bloody massacre of Muslims. Fortunately, it was soon confirmed that the assassin was a Hindu.
It was chaotic and frightening for some time, Even as the nation mourned it was puzzled and dazed. A pall settled on the country.
It listened with rapt attention as Jawaharlal Nehru rose to the occasion and delivered his now famous “The light has gone out of our lives” speech.
If there is a national day of mourning for Indians, wherever they may be, today is the day.
Here are some pictures that stir up memories
The trinity; Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sadar Vallabh Bhai Patel