January 30, 1948 – Nehru Announces The Death Of Gandhi – Past Daily Reference Room
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As the world was slowly absorbing the news that India’s spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi was cut down by an assassins bullets, Prime Minister Nehru had the overwhelming task of delivering the news to the Indian people.
This was a shortwave broadcast, beamed throughout the world by All-India Radio from their studios in New Delhi. But because it’s shortwave, the sound is dim and distant and very difficult to make out at times because of the nature of technology at the time.
I’ve provided a transcript of that address, so you can follow along and read the details for yourself. After the address it switches back to Hindu before the recording stops.
Prime Minister Nehru: “Friends and Comrades,
The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere. I do not know what to tell you and how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the Father of the Nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that. Nevertheless, we will never see him again as we have seen him for these many years. We will not run to him for advice and seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not to me only, but to millions and millions in this country. And it is a little difficult to soften the blow by any other advice that I or anyone else can give you.
The light has gone out, I said, and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for these many years will illumine this country for many more years, and a thousand years later, that light will be seen in this country and the world will see it and it will give solace to innumerable hearts. For that light represented something more than the immediate past, it represented the living, the eternal truths, reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking this ancient country to freedom.
All this has happened when there was so much more for him to do. We could never think that he was unnecessary or that he had done his task. But now, particularly, when we are faced with so many difficulties, his not being with us is a blow most terrible to bear.
A madman has put an end to his life, for I can only call him mad who did it, and yet there has been enough of poison spread in this country during the past years and months, and this poison has had an effect on people’s minds. We must face this poison, we must root out this poison, and we must face all the perils that encompass us, and face them not madly or badly, but rather in the way that our beloved teacher taught us to face them.
The first thing to remember now is that none of us dare misbehave because he is angry. We have to behave like strong and determined people, determined to face all the perils that surround us, determined to carry out the mandate that our great teacher and our great leader has given us, remembering always that if, as I believe, his spirit looks upon us and sees us, nothing would displease his soul so much as to see that we have indulged in any small behavior or any violence.
So we must not do that. But that does not mean that we should be weak, but rather that we should, in strength and in unity, face all the troubles that are in front of us. We must hold together, and all our petty troubles and difficulties and conflicts must be ended in the face of this great disaster. A great disaster is a symbol to us to remember all the big things of life and forget the small things of which we have thought too much. In his death he has reminded us of the big things of life, the living truth, and if we remember that, then it will be well with India…
It was proposed by some friends that Mahatmaji’s body should be embalmed for a few days to enable millions of people to pay their last homage to him. But it was his wish, repeatedly expressed, that no such thing should happen, that this should not be done, that he was entirely opposed to any embalming of his body, and so we decided that we must follow his wishes in this matter, however much others might have wished otherwise.
And so the cremation will take place on Saturday in Delhi city by the side of the Jamuna [Jumna] River. On Saturday forenoon, about 11.30 a.m., the bier will be taken out at Birla House and it will follow a prescribed road and go to the Jamuna [Jumna] River. The cremation will take place there at about 4 p.m. The place and the route will be announced by radio and the Press.
People in Delhi who wish to pay their last homage should gather along this route. I will not advise too many of them to come to Birla House, but rather to gather on both sides of this long route from Birla House to the Jamuna [Jumna] River. And I trust that they will remain there in silence without any demonstrations. That is the best way and the most fitting way to pay homage to this great soul. Also, Saturday should be a day of fasting and prayer for all of us.
Those who live elsewhere, out of Delhi and in other parts of India, will no doubt take such part as they can in this last homage. For them also, let this be a day of fasting and prayer. And at the appointed time for cremation, that is 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, people should go to the river or to the sea and offer prayers there. And while we pray, the greatest prayer that we can offer is to take a pledge to dedicate ourselves to the truth, and to the cause for which this great countryman of ours lived and for which he has died. That is the best prayer that we can offer him and his memory. That is the best prayer we can offer to India and ourselves.
JAI HIND. [Long Live India.]”
It was reported that Nehru broke down several times in the course of this broadcast, and that it was a highly emotional moment.
Needless to say, not much of this was broadcast outside of India, although the complete address from the studio is in All-India Radio’s archives.