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NEW DELHI-Mohandas K. Gandhi was killed Friday by an assassin who fired into the bared chest of the man who led India to independence, setting off the first serious Hindu-Moslem riots in Bombay in several weeks.

Police said the 78-year-old Manhatma, or Great Souled One, was killed for “political reasons” by a Hindu who was grabbed and beaten almost before Gandhi slumped to the ground. The assassin stalked him as he was going to his evening prayer meeting.

The little preacher of nonviolence, who is considered saintly by millions of Moslems and Hindus alike, had scarcely breathed his last when bloody rioting broke out in Bombay.


Fifteen persons were reported killed and 54 injured. Affected areas were placed under a police curfew. An official statement issued at midnight said “full police and military precautions have been taken and the situation now is under control.”

Police said the young Hindu, arrested after the slaying, had been spirited away to a secret place to avoid any lynching attempt. The Hindu, 25 years old, is named Nathuram and is a member of an extremely nationalistic sect.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, foremost leader in the Indian dominion after Gandhi, announced that the body would be cremated today on a huge pyre of logs beside the banks of the holy Jumna River. He said this was the wish of Gandhi, who was a Hindu.

“The light has gone out of our lives,” said Nehru.

His voice broke and he had to be led away.

Friday night the body was carried to a veranda on the second floor of the mansion of the millionaire Birla, where Gandhi was staying and where he died. The couch on which the body lay was tilted and floodlighted so tens of thousands who jammed against the mansion doors could view the face.

Widespread looting, arson and stabbing started in Bombay two hours after news of the assassination was received. Police fired scores of times into Hindu-Muslem rioters and troops were sent into the city. Transport and business was brought to a standstill.

It was 5-15 p. m. Friday when the three shots ripped into Gandhi’s body. As he collapsed on the green lawn, he feebly raised his hand to his forehead in the Hindu gesture of forgiveness to his assassin. He was carried into the villa where he died at 5-45.

It was revealed today that he had a premonition of death. Retiring Thursday night, Gandhi said to his 18-year-old grand-daughter Manu-

“This is a strange world. How long can one be at the game?”

Rising early, Gandhi said to his personal attendant-

“Bring me all my important papers. I must reply today. Tomorrow may never be.”

At the villa Friday night, while the lights blazed on Gandhi’s face and his weeping followers grouped about his bed, little Manu told how she saw death come to Gandhi-

“The Mahatma was ascending the steps leading to his prayer platform in the garden when a man suddenly broke through the rows of the congregation and bent before him. Assuming that he was trying to wipe the dust from the Bapu’s (father’s) face, I tried to tell him to go away because Gandhi might trip. I caught his left hand.

“The man pushed me aside and started shooting. The first shot hit Gandhi in the abdomen. Gandhi chanted-

“Ram! Ram!’ (Oh God! Oh God!)

“Two more shots followed quickly. They went straight through his heart.

“Gandhi fell back. His spectacles dangled and his sandals fell off. His spectacles and sandals have not since been found.

“The blood gushed from his abdomen and heart. He lost consciousness completely as he was carried toward the villa. Twenty minutes after he was taken in he breathed his last.”

The Indian government proclaimed today a day of mourning for Gandhi, to be marked by fasting and prayer. There will be no public entertainment during the official 13-day mourning period for the man who above all brought independence to this sub-continent’s 400 million people.

During the night an oil lamp burned beside Gandhi’s body. This afternoon, when the funeral procession reaches the river, the lamp will light the pyre on which his body will be burned.

As the crowds chanted and sang hymns outside the villa throughout the night, police made it known they believe the murder stemmed from Hindu fanatics who want India bathed again in the blood of religious warfare.

The murderer tried to kill himself after he fired the shots into the Hindu leader’s frail body.

Gandhi’s death came in the midst of his efforts to bring India’s Hindus, Moslems and Sikhs to seek peace among themselves.

Last August he had seen the dream of his life come true, the independence of India. But its division into two dominions, India and Pakistan, was bitter to him. The killing of 300,000 or more persons in communal fighting had tortured his soul.

On Jan. 12 he went on a fast, declaring it would continue until he was satisfied India had produced the conditions for internal peace.

While he was fasting small crowds of Sikh refugees from the Punjab, many of whom had seen their women folk violated by Moslems, shouted outside his quarters, “Let Gandhi die.”

The fast ended Jan. 18 when leaders of all communities had pledged themselves to work for peace and had agreed to a seven point program advanced by Gandhi.