On the evening of 30th Jan. 1948, Shri Guruji was present at a meeting of prominent citizens of Madras organised by the Sangh. Tea was being served and Shri Guruji was holding the cup in his hands. suddenly, before he could take it to his lips, the evil tidings came – somebody had shot Gandhiji dead at the Birla Bhavan in Delhi during his prayer meeting. On hearing the terrible news, Shri Guruji put down his cup, and sat still for a long moment, lost in thought. Then he exclaimed in anguish – ‘What a misfortune for the country!’ Cancelling the rest of his tour, he flew back to Nagpur. Before leaving Madras, he sent telegrams of condolence to Pt. Nehru, Sardar Patel and Shri Devdas Gandhi.
At the same time he also issued a country-wide directive to keep all Sangh Shakhas closed for thirteen days as an expression of grief over the tragedy.
On returning to Nagpur, he immediately wrote letters to Pt. Nehru and Sardar Patel expressing his deep sense of anguish over Gandhiji’s tragic end.
In his letter to Pandit Nehru, he wrote, in essence,
“The attack on such a deft helmsman who held so many diverse natures in a single string bringing them to the right path, is indeed a treacherous act not merely to an individual but to the whole country. No doubt you, that is the Government authorities of the day, will deal suitably with that traitorous individual. But now is the testing time for all of us. The responsibility of safely steering the ship of our Nation ahead in the present troubled times with an unruffled sense of judgement, sweetness of speech and single-minded devotion to the Nation’s interest is upon all of us.”
In the letter to Sardar Patel, Shri Guruji wrote: “Let us shoulder the responsibility that has fallen upon us by the untimely passing away of that great unifier, keeping alive the sacred memories of that soul who had tied diverse natures in a single bond and was leading them all on a single path. And let us, with the right feelings, restrained tone and fraternal love, conserve our strength and cement the national life with everlasting oneness.”
Shri Guruji concluded both the letters by saying: “On behalf of the Organisation which is built on this faith and on this basis oneness, I pray at the Feet of the All-Merciful Lord to guide all the children of this Nation on the right path and inspire them for the building up of a pure and powerful national life.”
– Extract from SHRI GURUJI – Pioneer of A New Era Page 61 of 219
Both these letters show how utterly noble Shri Guruji’s mind was and how deep his reverence for the departed leader, as also his sincere offer of cooperation in that hour of national crisis.
The Sangh Swayamsevaks held condolence meetings at Nagpur and elsewhere to pay homage to Gandhiji. Shri Guruji circulated a similar message through the Associated Press also. In it too he had appealed preserving the nation’s unity and fellow-feeling among all the countrymen. But in the wake of the terrible tragedy, wild propaganda against the Sangh became the order of the day. Reckless, motivated rumours became rife. Everywhere, an explosive atmosphere against the Sangh was sought to be built up. Instead of reciprocating Shri Guruji’s call for co-operation and goodwill, dastardly designs were made to link the Sangh with Gandhiji’s assassination.
In a statement issued to the press, Shri Guruji observed “Living in these critical times the country needed a great unifier and pacifier that the great soul was” and called upon all his “brother Swayamsevaks to keep calm under any kind of situation and behave with amity and affection, and understand that the trouble, given by people who had fallen prey to misunderstanding, was also an index of the great love and respect that our countrymen felt for the great man who had brought glory to our motherland in the eyes of the whole world.”
Unfortunately, even such a noble statement could not find a place in the media. Incitement against the Sangh continued unabated.
In Maharashtra and some adjacent areas the hate campaign was given a Brahmin-non-Brahmin twist also. The result was that houses of a large number of people were attacked, looted and torched taking a toll of some lives also. Thousands of families were rendered homeless. All over the country the Sangh Swayamsevaks and workers had to undergo terrible suffering both physical and mental. Still no one retaliated, nor was there any bitterness in their speech.
Everything was borne in silence.
Behind this suffering lay not fear but a spirit of exceptional restraint on their part. Shri Guruji had also sent a directive everywhere that there must be no retaliation. Shri Guruji was himself made the target of people’s wrath. But the extraordinary steadfastness, unique restraint and large heartedness he displayed on that occasion were but a sign of the purity of his worship of God in the form of our society. It was a moment of high tension.
On February 1, 1948, thousands of people swarmed in front of Shri Guruji’s residence in Nagpur and began hurling stones. They raised wild and even obscene slogans. Looking to the gravity of the situation, Swayamsevaks who came to guard his place, asked for his permission to put the attackers in their place.
Shri Guruji replied, “I do not want that my own countrymen’s blood should be shed in front of my house for the sake of my safety. No one need guard me. You may all go home.”