Mandodhari, the widow of Raghu, the man who had caught Gandhiji’s assassin Nathuram Godse on the January 30, 1948, today lives in abject poverty
In the of remote village of Jaguleipada in Odisha’a Kendrapara district, Raghu Nayak and his family have been forgotten. Raghu who worked as a gardener at Birla House in New Delhi, grappled with Gandhiji’s assassin Nathuram Godse on the January 30, 1948. His widow Mandodhari, spent many years at Birla House, but now ekes out her livings by making cow-dungs and broomsticks from coconut leaves, after the death of her only son in a road accident five years back. Cooped up in a tiny thatched house, Mandodhari (87) is counting her days. She looks weighed down, but not defeated.
Mandodhari wrinkled face sparkles while remembering his husband‘s role to nab Godse on January 30, 1948. “My husband caught Gandhiji’s assassin Nathuram Godse on the January 30, 1948. It was a sad day on my life, the day Gandhji was assassinated. I used to give goat’s milk to Gandhiji”, said Mandodhari. “My husband was devoted to the Mahatma Gandhi,” she added, before breaking down in tears.
Raghu came back to his village Jaguleipada in 1959 after he retirement from the Birla Company and died in 1983. Till his death, Raghu Nayak would personally organise prayer meets on every October 02 and January 30 in memory of the father of the nation. After his death, Nayak’s widow Mandodhari and other
family members have carried on the tradition.
“Many biographers of Mahatma Gandhi and historians, including Pyarelal, the personal secretary of Gandhiji mentioned the heroic act of Raghu Nayak in his book “The Last Phase of Mahatma Gandhi”. Raghu grappled with Nathuram Godse, the assailant of Mahatma Gandhi and pinned him down after he fired the lethal shots at the Father of the Nation at Birla House in Delhi on January 30, 1948”, said Prafulla Das a noted historian and writer of Rajkanika.
Dr Rajendra Prasad, the President of India had felicitated Raghu Nayak at the Rastrapati Bhawan on February 02, 1955 and granted him Rs 500 including a letter, praising Raghu for nabbing the killer of the Father of Nation. The much acclaimed book “Let Us Kill Gandhi—A chronicle of His last Days, The Conspiracy, Murder, Investigation And Trial” written by Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar Gandhi also revealed the role of Raghu Nayak. Raghu Nayak was one of the main eyewitnesses in Mahatma Gandhi‘s murder trial. In total, 147 witnesses including Raghu Nayak had been examined in India’s most famous murder trial, whih was held at the Red fort in Delhi.
Raghu Nayak died in abject poverty and the socio-political climate at that time has rendered his family almost destitute. Raghu was getting a paltry sum of Rs 50 as pension but after his death on August 13, 1983, at the age of 72, his widow gets a meager Rs 25 a month.
Last year, Mandodhari developed a tumor which had to be operated and for that she had to sell her jewellery. She also had to run from pillar to post to obtain a loan of Rs 50,000 to repair the thatched house built by Raghu.
A decade ago, some of the villagers had decided to name the village school after Raghu Nayak to remember him as well as his long association with the Father of the Nation and his heroic deed to nab Nathuram Godse who was holding revolver on his hand at that time. But the officials of the education department had turned down this proposal.
By Ashis Senapati from Jaguleipada