Martyrs' Day 2024: Indians pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi on 76th anniversary of his death

Prime Minister and President lay wreaths at memorial in New Delhi

Indians mark Martyrs' Day on Tuesday by paying tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1948. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday led the nation in paying tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on the 76th anniversary of his death, which is marked as Martyrs' Day in the country.

Mr Gandhi, a key figure in India's struggle for independence and a global symbol of peace and non-violent resistance, was assassinated on January 30, 1948, just months after India gained its freedom from British colonial rule.

He was 78 years old when he was shot by Nathuram Godse, who belonged to a militant Hindu group.

Mr Modi and President Droupadi Murmu laid floral wreaths at the Gandhi memorial in New Delhi on Tuesday.

“I pay homage to Pujya Bapu [father] on his Punya Tithi [death anniversary]. I also pay homage to all those who have been martyred for our nation,” Mr Modi said in a post on social media.

“Their sacrifices inspire us to serve the people and fulfil their vision for our nation.”

Leaders of the opposition Indian National Congress party and other senior officials also paid tribute to Mr Gandhi.

“On Martyrs' Day, we pay our respects to Bapu – the moral compass of our nation,” said Mallikarjun Kharge, president of the INC. “We must pledge to fight against those who seek to destroy his ideals based on Sambhav and Sarvodaya [progress for all].”

Mr Modi regularly talks about Mr Gandhi’s influence on his life, and invokes his name globally to promote non-violence and peace. Still, critics say, since Mr Modi’s rise to power in 2014, right-wing Hindu groups and members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have attempted to lionise Godse.

Hindu nationalists have set up temples and memorial libraries in Godse’s honour in Nagpur, Gwalior and Meerut, with the mission of painting the assassin as a patriot.

Many in India consider Godse a hero, while branding Mr Gandhi a traitor, and mark Martyrs' Day as “Valour Day”.

Mahatma Gandhi's statue unveiled at London Parliament's Square - video

Mahatma Gandhi's statue unveiled at London Parliament's Square - video

Godse, who was 38 at the time, was a member of Hindu Mahasabha, a radical Hindu nationalist group, having previously been associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh – the ideological forerunners of the BJP.

Hindu Mahasabha had accused Mr Gandhi of betrayal, seeing him as being soft on Muslims and responsible for the bloodshed that took place during the establishment of Pakistan after India gained independence from Britain in 1947.

Godse fired three bullets into Mr Gandhi’s chest from a pistol. Mr Gandhi is said to have died instantly.

A year later, Godse was convicted of murder and hanged, along with co-conspirator Narayan Apte.

On Tuesday, members of the Hindu Mahasabha distributed sweets and prayed at a temple dedicated to Godse in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh.

“We celebrate the day as Valour Day,” Ashok Kumar, the temple priest, told The National. “We want the country to be free from the Gandhian philosophy of secularism. It is because of him that our country was divided on the basis of religion, and Pakistan became an Islamic nation, whereas we are still talking about secularism.”

In the past, members of the Hindu Mahasabha have re-enacted the murder by shooting an effigy of Mr Gandhi filled with fake blood, causing outrage among many Indians.

Updated: January 30, 2024, 9:18 AM