Sailen Chatterjee (1923-2001) was a veteran journalist who in 1945 was assigned to cover Gandhi and travelled with him regularly over the next two years, including to Noakhali in East Bengal and to Calcutta. He got to know Gandhi well. Chatterjee was present at Gandhi's assassination on 30 January 1948 and gave an eye-witness account of the moment of tragedy. I Interviewed Sailen Chatterjee in Delhi on 25 January 1997.
I have kept on the end of this recording charming renditions by my then BBC colleague Jyotsna Singh of a Tagore song which Gandhi greatly liked and which is mentioned by Chatterjee.
Travelled with Gandhi from 1945 "as a journalist but I became almost a member of his party. I used to travel with him in hits third-class compartment. I used to read newspapers to him almost every night then I used to walk with him during his peace mission, pilgrimage, in Noakhali ... and I used to talk to him on many matters"
After spending a month in Srirampur in Noakhali, 'Gandhi decided to tour the whole area, from one village to another village, and preach his message of peace, brotherhood and unity. ... He gave up his chappals [sandals] ... And it was one night, one day journey. Early morning he would start from a village, slowly walk, reach another village and stay there. Sometimes even he had to stay in a tree. ... Every day he would ask people accompanying him to sing a song of Tagore - Rabindranath Tagore had written a poem: walk alone, if anybody responds to your call ... Every day this song used to be sung. one day, I said why do you want this song to be sing, Gandhi ji? He said: perhaps ... Gurudev [Tagore] has written this for me'
During Gandhi's fast to Calcutta, 'these people who were responsible for killing, they came with their weapons, placed him at the feet of Gandhi, and they assured him: we will never in future to do this kind of killing and destruction ... Some people who were very shabbily dressed they came with swords, daggers anc country-made guns ... I saw them ... Even Mountbatten said this was the miracle of Calcutta'.
On 30 January 1948, 'when [Gandhi] was meeting Sardar Patel it was almost five. So he said: no, no, no, I'm getting late for the prayer. So he walked. I used to cover his prayer speeches. Everyday I used to follow him as he used to leave the room, thinking that after he goes from the prayer ground he will speak something, and I'll take a note. So I was following him. When he was going, there were three steps. He climbed. That was his last fast, he was slightly weak ... so slowly he was going with his hands n the shoulders of his grand-daughters, two grand-daughters, and as he was climbing a young man, from a distance I could see, some young man dressed in green ... He tried to touch his feet. Later these grand-daughters told me they told this young man: please don't touch his feet, Gandhi doesn't like people touching his feet. And immediately the man rose then he fired three shots and Gandhi fell down. He uttered the word: hai Ram. I rushed. i found from his shawl blood was coming out. Everybody was weeping ... People held that man, some were beating him ... There was confusion ... and everybody lifted Gandhi, I also followed and we went in the room.'