Every Gandhi Jayanthi (Oct 2nd), when the country pays homage to the Mahatma, residents of Jagulaipada village in Rajkanika, Kendraparad district (Odisha) assemble to worship Raghunath Nayak — Gandhiji’s gardener. Every year this day and on Martyr’s day (Jan 30th) , Bapu- Raghu Smruti Committee & villagers come together to organise a public meeting at the Jay Malavya Nodal School in the village where his contributions are remembered & his brave deeds admired. His association with the Father of the Nation has made him immortal for the villagers.
Raghunath Nayak, who was working as a gardener at Birla Bhawan in New Delhi, had courageously captured Nathuram Godse, after he (Godse) shot Mahatma Gandhi dead and deposed as a witness in the court several times as well. Former President Dr Rajendra Prasad awarded him Rs 500/- for his brave act. But soon the nation forgot him. He died at the age of 72 in 1983, unmourned, after he returned to his village after retirement. The German automobile giants, Daimler and Chrysler, had installed the busts of Gandhiji and Raghunath in the village school in recognition of his heroic deeds in 2005. This was done as part of their CSR activities in collaboration with Tata Motors, their Indian partner. According to Gandhi, Indian companies were supposed to be the “temples of modern India” & under his influence businesses established trusts for schools and colleges. Raghu was resurrected from oblivion by the controversial Marathi play ‘Me Nathuram Godse Boltoi’ that brought the little-known gardener into the limelight for his role in nabbing Gandhiji’s killer. His act of heroism even finds mention in one only book “Mahatma Gandhi-The Last Phase”, a biography of Mahatma Gandhi written by his private secretary Pyarelal.
After Raghu’s death amidst poverty on 13th August 1983, Mandodari, his wife, was getting a meagre amount of Rs 100/- as pension per month. But, after her son died in a road accident, Mandodari, (now 87) had to run from pillar to post to get her cyclone damaged house repaired in 2013. Mandodari sold off whatever little she had when she was operated upon to remove a tumour. Finally, in 2016 she was awarded Rs 5 lakhs by state govt, 33 years after Raghu’s death. And today, alone and ailing, she is with her daughter, but takes comfort from the fact that her husband is still alive in the hearts of the people of Jagulaipada. We salute to the heroic act by this almost unknown person in history from Odisha. Jai Hind !
Last publishd in my Face Book page on 01.10.2013
Article & Featured Image: Taranisen Pattnaik