On January 30, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi, one of 20th century’s greatest figures, was shot dead by Nathuram Godse.
Not many know that Godse would have fled after assassinating Gandhi were it not for the exemplary bravery of a certain Raghu Nayak.
Raghu Nayak, a native of Jaguliapada in the Kendrapara district of then Orissa, was a gardener serving Gandhi at the time.
He was there at Birla House when the Father of the Nation fell to Godse’s bullet.
While everyone around Mahatma was too shocked to react when Godse fired, Nayak quickly regained his composure and chased after the assassin.
It was a brave act because Godse was armed and had not flinched from killing the world’s most recognized figure of non-violence.
Yet without any concern about his own safety, Nayak grappled with Godse. He managed to pin Godse down and keep him from escaping.
Godse was handed over to the police and the rest is history.
Dr Rajendra Prasad, who would later go on to become the first President of India, rewarded Nayak with Rs.500 – at the time, a princely sum.
But that was all. He was soon forgotten, like many other heroes of his stature before him who fought for independence.
Despite performing the greatest heroic deed of his time, Nayak’s name finds mention in just one book – ‘Mahatma Gandhi – The Last Phase’, by Gandhi’s secretary Pyarelal. That’s not a surprise because according to our textbooks of history in schools, even Bhagat Singh was a terrorist.
Nayak died in 1983.
His son, Bidyadhar, a driver with the police force, passed away in 2002. Nayak’s widow, Mandodari, now stays with their daughter-in-law and two granddaughters living a life of abject poverty.
It is now, 67 years later, that the Odisha government thought of rewarding Nayak’s widow for that deed of her brave husband.
So CM Naveen Patnaik handed a cheque of Rs.5 lakh and a shawl to Mandodari on Wednesday.
But thankfully, Nayak’s village remembers him to this day.
In 2005, they erected a memorial pillar in his honour. And do you know who helped them with that? No, it was not anyone from any government or any patriotic Indian corporate house. It was German automobile maker Daimler-Chrysler – the manufacturer of Mercedes.