Bapu attained martyrdom this very day – 68 years ago.
Let us for a while go back to the day, 30th January, 1948. History testifies to the fact that till the moment he was assassinated in cold blood which led to a time freeze and cast its shadow of gloom all across the world, it was like any other day for Gandhiji at his temporary residence in New Delhi – the then Birla House, now re-christened Gandhi Smriti – that stands on Tees January Marg, named in the poignant memory of his martyrdom.
Gandhiji awoke at 3:30 am and as per daily routine, did his prayers and worked on his desk for three hours before going back for a short nap. He got up again at 8:00 am and had his first nourishment in the form of goat’s milk, raw vegetables, oranges and a concoction of ginger and sour limes, a repast he would repeat in the evening. Then followed another nap before he was up at 2:00 pm when select visitors were allowed right up to the open space behind the Birla House to meet with him. When free of these engagements Gandhiji would be at the spinning wheel. This had been his routine ever since he had arrived in Delhi to restore communal amity.
At 4:00 pm arrived Patel with whom Gandhiji had decided to have a serious talk on how best to have a truck with Nehru. The post of Deputy Prime Minister did not sit easy on Patel’s shoulders. The presence of Nehru stymied his efforts in any direction as ideologically they had differences on almost every issue. Patel had offered to resign but it was Gandhiji’s firm belief that both Nehru and Patel had to work in unison. The discussions between Gandhiji and Patel extended to more than an hour, beyond his scheduled prayer meet at 5:00 p.m. It had gathered such intensity that neither Manu nor Abha could muster the courage to interrupt.
At around seven minutes past five, it was Manu who dropped a silent message by gesturing at her watch. Gandhiji instantly took leave of Patel and was ready to begin his last walk to the prayer ground. Throughout the short journey he was supposed to have reprimanded his grand-nieces, ‘Why should I keep an eye on time? You are my time-keepers. I cannot tolerate even a minute’s delay at prayer’.
Gandhiji hurriedly climbed the five shallow, semi-circular steps that led to the raised part of the prayer ground, where the crowd opened out to allow a free passage to the moving cortege. This is when Nathuram was supposed to have rushed out of the crowd and bowed before Gandhiji as a token thanksgiving for whatever useful service he had rendered to the nation. As Manu tried to nudge him gently telling him that Gandhiji was already late for the prayer meet, he pushed her aside violently and in a split second fired the shots from an Italian Baretta pistol. The three bullets tore into the chest of the slender advancing frame. Gandhiji collapsed instantly and life ebbed away within minutes.
As blood oozed out and made Gandhiji’s homespun shawl turn a crimson red, Manu stole a glance at the Ingersoll watch that hung below his waist. The time of the second crucifixion in history, after that of Jesus, was recorded as seventeen minutes past five.