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Manuben's diary, Jan 30, 1948: Bapu would say, 'I'm an ordinary man, why touch my feet?'

Manuben Gandhi (left) with Gandhiji and Abha Gandhi
By Nandini Oza*
An Indian parliamentarian from the right wing Bhartiya Janta Party, whose government is in power at the centre, when recently called Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse a deshbhakt, I cannot stop penning the pages from Manuben Gandhi’s diary as she describes 30th January 1948, one of the darkest days in the History of India, exactly seventy one years ago today.
Nathuram Godse shot unarmed Mahatma Gandhi dead while he was going for collective prayers on this dreadful day. Gandhiji was 78 years of age. And today, Godse's followers decriminalize a cold blooded murderer in the parliament and outside.

Select excerpts translated from Manuben Gandhi's diary from Gujarati:

Manuben: “Birla House, New Delhi.
30-1-’48
As per routine, Bapu woke up for prayers and woke me up too… As Sushilaben is not present, I have to recite Gita Path…Bapu said, “…prayers are to cleanse the soul. I have deep faith in prayers. Those who do not like it should abandon me. That is good for both…I do not find these signs good. I hope God does not let me live more to see all this... Today I wish to listen to the devotional song, ‘even if tired, man, do not rest’”...
Never before, and it is only today that Bapu has chosen this song. I find something different in Bapu today. I feel deep down that Bapu may undertake a fast again. Today Sardardada (Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel) is to come to meet Bapu and they will be talking alone. Then cabinet will be called and decisions taken... After (morning) prayers, I brought Bapu in from the Varanda and covered him with a blanket. He began correcting the draft for the Congress… He is still weak from the fast. While writing, he fell asleep and I massaged his legs…while taking a stroll, Shrimati Rajen Nehru arrived…At eight as per the schedule massage, bath and then newspapers were seen (by Bapu)… After bath, he took boiled vegetables, milk, a radish, and four ripe tomatoes and spoke with Pyarelalji about Noakhali while having food…at 12.30, he talked about requirement of a house for the nursing home by Dr Bhargav… After that, Maulana Habibur Saheb asked about Sevagram…
…Arrangements for the publication of Mahedvbhai’s life and his diaries are not happening at all. He talked about this to Shantikumarbhai who complained that there is some problem between Chandrashankerbhai and Navjeevan. There is a talk about taking a lot of money...
...Bapu said: “Wherever I see, the way in which the Yadavs killed each other, the same situation is with us now. We are harming the society because of our internal disputes. No one is aware about that…The diaries should be placed in order…”
…Dr Silva and his daughter were chief representatives from Lanka and they were given autograph…In the afternoon (Bapu) completed the penning of pending letters with Bisenbhai…
...We returned from the city at 4.30 and he (Bapu) began talking with Sardardada…In the mean time, leaders from Kathiawad, Rasikbhai Parikh and Dhebarbhai arrived. They wanted to meet Bapu. But today every second is occupied. However I told them that I will ask Bapu and give them a reply. Bapu and Sardardada were deeply engrossed in their talks. When I asked Bapu, he said, “Tell them, if I remain alive after the prayers, then at the time of taking a stroll we will talk.”…They are sitting in the next room…
[After this (above entry) I am (Manuben) writing the diary only on the night of 1st (February 1948) after 2 past mid-night -- What do I write? There is nothing but sounds of weeping in the whole of Birla house. Oh! It is as if Bapu is not sleeping at all! Will he not get up to reprimand me on seeing me write so late in the night? No, No, Bapuji, you did not let my mistakes pass for even a second and why are you so liberal today! Are you unhappy with me today? “In this havan (sacred fire), it is just you and me. You can leave me but I will not.” But Bapu, you have left me!…Nothing is making sense… Panditji’s heart wrenching cry is piercing the heart of the toughest. And the small dear Gopu is asking: ‘Manuben, why is dada asleep?’]
Just before Mahatma Gandhi was shot
…Bapu was so engrossed in his talk with Sardardada that it was late by ten minutes (for the prayer meet). No one wanted to disturb them in this tense atmosphere. At last Maniben had the courage. If time will not be adhered to, Bapu will be upset with us. Bapu ate while talking… he got up suddenly. As per the daily routine, I took a pen, Bapu’s rosary, spittoon, spectacle case, and the note book in which the daily preaching/sermons have been written. Bapu expressed his displeasure for the delay by ten minutes: ‘You are my watch are you not? Why should I touch a watch?’…
Bapu said: Wherever I see, the way in which the Yadavs killed each other, the same situation is with us now
...Talking like this, we walked up the stairs for prayers… As per the practice, we were his support, his sticks while walking to the prayer (grounds)… We climbed four steps. Looking at the assembly of people as per his routine, Bapu lifted his hands from our shoulders, folded his hands before the people and walked ahead. I was to his right. From my side a hardy – healthy man in khakhi, with folded hands, tearing through the crowds came very swiftly and suddenly. I thought it must be his desire to touch Bapu’s feet. This used to happen daily. No matter where Bapu went, people came to touch his feet. We used to tell them in our own way that Bapu did not like anyone touching his feet… Bapu would tell those who touched his feet, “I am an ordinary man, why touch my feet?”
This is why I too pushed the hand of this man surging ahead and said: “Brother, Bapu is late by ten minutes, why are you harassing him!” But that young man pushed me so hard that everything -- the pen, the rosary, the note book -- fell off my hands. Till the other things fell, I did not bother much but continued to prevent the man (from moving ahead). But when the rosary fell, I bent down to pick it up. Just at that very moment one after the other -- dhada dhad -- three bullets were fired. Darkness, smoke and sky piercing sound and yet Bapu as if with upright chest and erect, was moving ahead -- ‘He Ra..m, He Ra..m with folded hands he fell to the ground...
…Many tried to prevent Bapu’s fall. Abhaben also fell down. She got up but fell down again. She took Bapu’s head on to her lap. I could not understand what had happened. Everything happened in just three to four minutes… A crowd of people assembled… It is difficult to express the condition of we two girls… But from his white clothes, a stream of blood began to flow forming a puddle! The watch in the folded hands of Bapu showed it was 5-17. Bapu with his folded hands was in the green garden of heaven, in the lap of the mother earth, in deep sleep…”
***
I end the translation here as it is heart wrenching to continue as murderous voices of the followers of Nathuram Godse, holding government positions today, shout from public podium, “Goli Maro Salo Ko…”. The Election Commission has barred a couple of them from being star campaigners of the Bhartiya Janta Party in the forthcoming Delhi polls after they gave this murderous call.
But is this enough to save our democracy and secular values?
---
Independent researcher, formerly with Narmada Bachao Andolan. This blog first appeared in History less known

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