30 January: On this day in history
What events happened on 30 January in history? Dominic Sandbrook rounds up the events, births and deaths…
30 January 1948: Gandhi is assassinated on his way to prayer
A Hindu nationalist gunman believed the leader had betrayed his people
The clock had ticked past 5pm on 30 January 1948, and in the garden at Birla House, New Delhi, Mohandas Gandhi was running late. At the age of 78, the leader of India’s independence struggle still played a prominent role in the politics of the subcontinent, and had only recently completed a fast in protest at the violence between Hindus and Muslims. Now, the day’s business concluded, he and his great-nieces were on their way to a prayer meeting.
Outside, a crowd of several hundred schoolchildren, businessmen, holy men and even street-sellers was waiting. As Gandhi approached, one man pushed his way to the front. “Bapu [Father] is already 10 minutes late, why do you embarrass him?” asked Gandhi’s great-niece, Manuben. At that, the man pushed her aside, so that she dropped the rosary and notebook she was carrying. Then he levelled his Beretta pistol, and fired.
Whether Gandhi died on the spot remains controversial: some accounts say he breathed his last a few minutes later, after he had been carried inside. Either way, the shots were fatal. His assassin, who was seized immediately, turned out to be 39-year-old Nathuram Godse, a Hindu nationalist who believed that Gandhi had betrayed his people to the Muslims. “I sat brooding intensely on the atrocities perpetrated on Hinduism, and its dark and deadly future if left to face Islam outside and Gandhi inside,” he later told the court, “and… I decided all of a sudden to take the extreme step against Gandhi.” Godse was executed for his actions. But to some Hindu nationalists, he remains a martyr.