1948, 30th Jan, sometime between 4 and 5 PM
Birla House, New Delhi
The great leader who was old and fragile was already late for the prayer meeting. He was confabulating with the Home Minister on an important matter and that took some time. He had fought for the country’s independence but alas the country got split along religious lines. Now the two siblings were at war over the Kashmir valley. The bigger sibling threatened to withhold the funds due to the smaller one because of the war and the leader went on a fast since against all morals and principals. Reluctantly the bigger sibling gave in. Many in the country felt a lot of resentment especially the militant Hindutva Party. They were already convinced that the leader had a soft corner for the Muslims. Their dream of Akhand Bharat got shattered because of the split at the time of independence. The party men were seething in rage and added to that was the recent fast, to force Bharat to make payment to Pakistan.
One of his grandnieces has whispered in his ears that there were some people who wanted to meet him. He told his grand-niece that he would meet them after the prayer meeting if he was alive. Did the leader have a premonition of things to come, thought his grand-niece but it was disturbing that too at the time of getting ready for prayer. She helped Bapu as he was fondly called to proceed to the meeting.
Flanked by his two nieces on either side the leader started his slow trudge to the prayer venue at the sprawling lawns. The chill wind hit him and he shivered for he was covered only by a shawl thrown over his bare upper body.
Thanuram Codse was an ardent member of the Hindutva party. He worshipped the leader Reev Vasarkar and had met him several times. In one such meeting, they decided that the country must be freed from the clutches of Bapu. Their dream of Akhand Bharat repeatedly got thwarted by Bapu who was a moral force in the nation beyond compare. With great difficulty, he obtained an automatic pistol Beretta M 1934 and he had been practising in the wilderness in the Deccan region from where he hailed. Bapu’s fast against Bharat holding back money due to Pakistan was the last straw on the camel’s back so to speak. Thanuram decided to take matters into his hands. He knew the security for Bapu was quite weak. And during prayer meetings when thousands throng to have a darshan of Bapu and take part in the prayers one could conclude the security became lax.
A few days before the prayer meeting was due, he had visited the venue and took a good look at the venue and planned his move well. But he had begun preparations when Bapu began his hunger strike against freezing of payment to Pakistan. He would reach the venue ahead of time and hang around near the path that led from the bungalow to the sprawling lawns where the prayer meeting was to be held. He had also decided to dress in Khaki to look like a security man himself.
30th Jan 5 PM
The clock had already struck 5 when Bapu reached the top of the steps leading to the raised lawn, the venue for the multi-faith prayer meeting. As Bapu began to walk, Thanuram stepped out from the crowd cutting into Bapu’s path and fired three bullets into Bapu’s stomach and abdomen. Bapu fell and got immediately carried away to his room.
Time stood still for a few moments. Nobody comprehended what had happened. According to historical accounts Herbert Reiner, newly arrived vice-counsel at the American Embassy was the first one to react. He too was among the crowd and wanted to have a closer look at Bapu. He saw a stocky man in khaki taking a step towards Bapu. Then he saw the shooting. He had the presence of mind to seize the shoulder of Thanuram and soon enough the security forces pinned Thanuram down.
According to Manoben one of the grand-nieces, the three bullets hit, in and around the belly. She recalled that as Thanuram has pushed her aside the things she was carrying fell on the ground and she had bent forward to pick up the things. She heard the shots being fired and smoke was everywhere. Bapu’s hands were folded with his lips saying Hey Ra..ma. Nobody could corroborate if 'Hey Rama' was the last words spoken by Bapu but the nation has come to believe it so.
Thanuram never had the intention to escape after the assassination. He dropped the pistol when the security forces held him. He had done his job and got the nation Bapu mukt (free). Thanuram was sentenced to death on 8th November 1949 and on 15th November he was hanged. Both the assassin and the one who was assassinated got etched in the annals of the history of the nation. They were never forgotten for their deeds.
As the new year dawned everyone greeted each other Happy New Year. Ominous signs were all there but nobody knew that 2020 was going to be the worst of the times. The mutated version of the Hindutva party that Thanuram belonged to had captured power in the summer of 2019 with a brute majority for the second time in a row. They passed laws that would lead to the foundation of a Hindu Rashtra being laid. The dream of the Akhand Bharat was revived and that led to unrest among the neighbours. Maps were being drawn at will. Border skirmishes began with a bigger neighbour several months later. The state of Jammu and Kashmir ceased to exist and it was divided into two union territories. To aid in the dream of the Hindutva party the Supreme Court passed an astonishing judgement and declared that a temple for Ram be built on the disputed Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi site. The economy was in doldrums with growth plunging and unemployment rising. In February the capital saw the worst of the communal riots never seen except in the state of Gujarat.
It was in the last month of the first quarter when COVID struck and caught the ruling government quite unawares. A draconian lockdown got imposed and the poor came out like a can of worms out of the city. Government’s own statistics revealed that a whopping 810 million people were living off the government’s dole of ration.
In July foundation was laid for the temple for Ram. By that time Bharat became the third most affected nation by COVID following USA and Brazil ruled by macho dumbos. That speaks well for how well COVID had been managed in Bharat. Floods came and devastated several states and the poor.
Soon it was time for the winter session of parliament. The mood was sombre. India and the US were neck to neck in the race for the highest cumulative COVID infected numbers. The vaccine was far too distant on the horizon. Reports were that incumbent President of the US would lose badly and the present PM of Bharat would lose a great friend. Desperate times call for desperate measures. PM has so far relied on distraction, deception and disruption, the 3Ds of his governance principles. He set the ball rolling. He made a call to Sadvi who understood and nodded her head triumphantly. Her time has come.
There was a buzz in the camp of the mutated Hindutva Party. A whip has been issued. Now what? The citizens awaited holding their breath. The opposition too followed suit issuing their whip. It didn’t matter at all as their numbers were insignificant in the parliament.
1st November 2020,
11 am in the parliament
Sadvi moved the motion. The motion read: “the house approves with a majority the conferring of Bharat Ratna to both Reev Vasarkar and Thunaram Codse.” Immediate pandemonium followed as the opposition went on a shouting spree. The speaker had anticipated this and the marshals quietly removed the opposing members. The speaker looked at the final results. 350 votes said ayes to the proposal. The time was 12 noon.
Across the nation, millions of cell phones started ringing at that instant. People were quite stunned to listen to a weak voice that just said 'Hey Ram', twice and the call got cut off.
In Ayodya, the temple priests were quite stunned to see the bells ringing but no one was there to ring the bell. Newspaper, WhatsApp and TV all reported from far-flung corners of the nation that the bells were ringing in Ram Mandir but no one was ringing the bell.
Cell phone service providers denied that they had anything to do with the voice call that said “Hey Ram.” Grandson of Bapu confirmed that the voice was indeed that of Bapu. Voice experts too confirmed that it was indeed Bapu’s voice.
Bapu had died in spirit too, that moment.