Monday, 30th October 2017

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Diary of a witness

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By The Telegraph Online in Gandhi
  • Published 9.05.10

Just when one thought everything that could be written about Gandhi has already been written, a book on Gandhi’s assassination and the following murder trial brings to light hitherto unknown facts. Will it kick up a storm in academic circles or the political establishment?

Published by Frontpage, I Could Not Save Mahatma Gandhi: Untold stories from a witness’s diary narrates the plight of a lone, hapless Indian who unwittingly stumbled upon the conspiracy to kill Gandhi, days before he was assassinated. The book, which is a compilation of Jagdishchandra Jain’s diary entries, portrays how this philosophy teacher and scholar, who was also a Gandhian, desperately tried to save the Mahatma by warning the administration about the plot.

But instead of taking him into confidence, the administration ridiculed, harassed and accused him of complicity even as Gandhi was murdered as he had warned.

The book raises questions about the administration’s willingness or lack of it to save the Mahatma and points fingers at political heavyweights such as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who was then the central home minister, Morarji Desai, the then home minister of Bombay Province, and BG Kher, the premier of the Provincial Government of Bombay.

Jain, who was the chief prosecution witness at Gandhi’s murder trial, faced a threat to his life and was under security cover. Says Anil Jain, Jagdishchandra’s son: “My father was given a revolver by the state for self protection as we were under constant threat from the fundamentalists. We used to live right across Shivaji Park in Bombay and our house was stoned and attacked a number of times.” During the trial, judge Atma Charan observed: “Had the slightest keenness been shown in the investigation of the case at that stage the tragedy probably could have been avoided.”

Anil Jain, who lives in the US now, agreed to publish his father’s diary when Abhijit Mazumdar of Frontpage met him at Heathrow airport a year back. Says Jain: “There is such a dearth of information on Gandhi’s assassination. People in India and the rest of the world should know the truth behind Gandhi’s murder. My father used to diligently write his diary and it has become an important historical document.”

Publisher Mazumdar, whose Frontpage specialises in books on critical debates, says: “I asked Jain for the publishing rights to his father’s diary. After an initial hesitation he agreed. I think this book contains historically important facts that need to be told.”