As he walked up the four steps leading to the prayer mandap, a young man, aged about 35, came before Gandhiji and, bending his body forward at a distance of less than two yards, offered pranam. Gandhiji returned the salute, when the young man remarked “You are late to-day for the prayer.” Gandhiji smiled and replied, “Yes, I am”; but just at that moment, the young man pulled out his revolver and rang out three shots from point-blank range, the bullets piercing the frail body of the great leader just below the heart and stomach. Immediately, Gandhiji collapsed; but Ava Gandhi and Manu Gandhi stuck to their place by his side and held him firmly. But that was the last of the Nation’s Father. It was then 5.12 p.m.
The last act Gandhiji did was to lift both his hands as a sign of prayer in the direction of the large gathering which had assembled for the prayer. Thereafter, he was speechless and the loss of blood, at his age and so soon after his fast, made death inevitable. He was beyond medical aid from the start when shock had had its effect. Lord Mountbatten and Cabinet Ministers, including Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and others soon arrived. The Ministers present held consultations among themselves as to the future course of action.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who had returned from Amritsar that afternoon, did not have an opportunity to meet Gandhiji. Pandit Nehru came out to address the huge gathering of nearly two lakhs which had surrounded Birla House, but broke down with grief more than once when he spoke. The leaders, including Pandit Nehru, who were present, were dazed and perplexed, while tears overflowed down the cheeks of countless women and men both inside and outside Birla House. The grief-struck crowd, which went on swelling in numbers, were making their way into the main building to have a last glimpse of the departed leader. Glass windows were broken. But the crowd restrained itself and leaders soon made arrangements to let the crowd see Mahatma Gandhi.
Assassin beaten by crowdThe assassin, soon after he fired the shots, was seized by the people who had come to attend the prayer. His revolver — a six-chambered one — and some cash were recovered. It appears he was beaten by the crowd and was slightly injured. The police have taken him into custody and investigation is proceeding. It is learnt that the name of the assassin is Nathuram Vinayak Godse (aged 36), a Mahratta. He described himself as the Editor of a daily paper called Hindu Rashtra published in Laxmipet, Poona.
He wore khaki pants and tunic. There is no truth in the report that he attempted to commit suicide by putting a bullet into himself.