“Mahatma Gandhi a martyr to assassin’s bullets”


Occasionally, the human race produces truly exceptional persons of unique qualities. Gandhi is without any doubt one of them. Behind an apparently frail and simple physical appearance hid a towering personality who for generations has inspired virtues not so common among his fellow human beings: a devotion to human dignity, justice and non-violence. In short, a great soul, as his name Mahatma implied.

The barrister who became a political activist and a great communicator was the guiding light that led India to independence from brutal British rule after the Second World War thanks to his astonishing campaign of civil disobedience and peaceful resistance that at times seemed incredible. He also campaigned for women´s rights, for religious harmony and for measures against poverty.

Eventually, his stubbornness, defiance and persistence paid off and India became independent after almost a century of colonialism, only to suffer partition on religious grounds –India for the Hindus and Pakistan for the Muslims—that led to enormous massacres.

Gandhi could not accept this violence among brothers, albeit separated by religious beliefs, and several times he tried to end this violence preaching endlessly for peace and reconciliation and by fasting, a form of political protest that inspired Indians and Pakistanis alike and had a moral impact on many more around the world.

But hatred won the day on the afternoon of January 30, 1948 when an extremist Hindu nationalist, accusing him of betrayal for his conciliatory stance towards Muslims, walked slowly and coldly towards him during a religious gathering and shot him several times in his stomach at point blank range. Gandhi, 78, collapsed, bled profusely and died thirty minutes later.

The then prime minister Nehru in a national broadcast said that India had lost its brightest man and the world its tallest figure in terms of moral standards.

“The light has gone out of our lives”, said Nehru after learning of the assassination. “There is darkness everywhere.”

The assassin was hanged after a hasty trial one year later. A punishment Gandhi would have surely opposed.

BREAKING NEWS Front pages through history

Dawn, Karachi, Pakistan

Saturday, January 31 1948
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