Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Mahatma in Godse's eyes

This is the article I wrote for YKA, but it could never be published.



Disclaimer: I have only tried to assemble unbiased information about the murder of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his assassin Nathuram Godse. I am not following the latest “trend” of hating Gandhi nor do I reverence Gandhism. I do not support Nathuram Godse's ideology nor do I intend to belittle Gandhi or his theories.

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“There was a distracting din in my head. I am here. I did it. I didn’t want the world to think that Gandhi was killed by a madman.

Let the rest go free, I am the One.”

-Nathuram Vinayak Godse



To most, he is a ‘sirphira’ who assassinated the greatest man in the history of India. To some, he is the reason they are compelled to question the greatness of Gandhi. To me, he was a man of unwavering principles who killed the Mahatma because he believed him to be a threat to his motherland.

Vinayakrao and his wife had three sons, none of whom survived. They prayed to God, had their fourth son, Nathuram. Nathuram survived because they were destined to suffer for their young son's death and Gandhi was destined to be assassinated.

The British had followed a divide-and-rule policy in India. Even in the census they categorized people according to religion and viewed and treated them as separate from each other. They had based their knowledge of the peoples of India on the basic religious texts and the intrinsic differences they found in them instead of on the way they coexisted in the present. The British were also still fearful of the potential threat from the Muslims, who were the former rulers of the subcontinent, ruling India for over 300 years under the Mughal Empire. In order to win them over to their side, the British helped establish the M.A.O. College at Aligarh and supported the All-India Muslim Conference, both of which were institutions from which leaders of the Muslim League and the ideology of Pakistan emerged.

The social reformer and educator, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who founded M.A.O. College, taught the Muslims that education and cooperation with the British was vital for their survival in the society. Tied to all the movements of Muslim revival was the opposition to assimilation and submergence in Hindu society. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was also the first to conceive of a separate Muslim homeland.

The partition of India left both India and Pakistan devastated. The process of partition had claimed many lives in the riots. Many others were raped and looted. Women, especially, were used as instruments of power by the Hindus and the Muslims; "ghost trains" full of severed breasts of women would arrive in each of the newly-born countries from across the borders. 15 million refugees poured across the borders to regions completely foreign to them, for though they were Hindu or Muslim, their identity had been embedded in the regions where there ancestors were from. Not only was the country divided, but so were the provinces of Punjab and Bengal, divisions which caused catastrophic riots and claimed the lives of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs alike.

There is a book written by a Pakistani writer named ‘Gandhi and the Partition of India’. The writer Kamran Shahid says “I believe that Gandhi's role as a political force was overlooked by many historians. Had Gandhi sincerely exercised his absolute moral and political authority, which he held about millions of Indians, the Congress and the Hindus, India might not have tasted the realities of partition.”

Not only does a Pakistani writer share the opinion of Godse, even the great Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh also grew to detest Gandhism. As a young lad, Bhagat Singh actively took part in the non-cooperation movement and was an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi. He vehemently believed that India would indeed gain freedom under Gandhi's leadership. But when Gandhi called off the movement following the Chauri Chaura riot in 1922, Bhagat Singh became disenchanted with Gandhism and gradually veered towards the tenets of armed revolutionary struggle. It is believed by some that Gandhi had the power to save Bhagat Singh from the death sentence in March 1931 but he played a diplomatic game.

Pradeep Dalvi's controversial playMi Nathuram Godse Boltoy’ was first staged in 1989, when the playwright was denied permission by the Maharashtra government to stage the drama. After its brief resurrection nine years later, the state government again banned the play. Here are few excerpts from the play…

  • “I never stole in my childhood, so there was no question of apologizing to my father. I never took a vow of celibacy as I was already practicing celibacy. I was moving around the refugee camps and helping the destitute with food and clothes. But I did not wander half-naked because the refugees were naked. I never spun yarn, never cleaned my toilet, never observed silence till I was hanged. There was only one common factor in Gandhi's life and mine. We were both the cause of each other's death. He wanted to live for his principles and I was prepared to die for my principles.”

  • The central government had taken a decision - Pakistan will not be given Rs.55 crores. On January 13 Gandhi started a fast unto death that Pakistan must be given the money. On January 13, the central government changed its earlier decision and announced that Pakistan would be given the amount. On January 13, I decided to assassinate Gandhi.

  • There was no need for a separate nation. Had it been a just demand, Maulana Azad would not have stayed back in India. But because Jinnah insisted and because Gandhi took his side, India was divided, in spite of opposition from the nation, the Cabinet. An individual is never greater than a nation. But Gandhi has dared considering himself greater than the nation.

  • A poor Hindu told Gandhi, 'I am putting down my weapons because I don't want your death on my conscience but I am staying alone with my family in the Muslim area. That night, before leaving Hyderabad I visited his home. The whole household was screaming, weeping, his only eight-year-old son had been killed by the Muslims. He had no weapon to defend himself. He threw his son's body on my lap and said, "Take his blood to your Mahatma. Tell him, if he goes on fast again, he can finish it by drinking not orange-juice but my son's blood." I could not say anything. Gandhi was the Father of my Nation. For a moment, I was tempted to pull out the Muslims from their homes and chop them down. But I controlled myself. Violence for self-defense is justified; otherwise it is an ill-cultured act. I returned to where Gandhi was staying but he had already left by car. Of course, there would have been no point in meeting him... he would only have prayed for both the killer and the victim.

  • His theory of non-violence denies self-defense and self-interest. The non-violence that defines the fight for survival as violence is a theory not of non-violence but of self-destruction.

This assassination was different. It was not planned by a political party or a terrorist group to gain power. It was decided by a sane man who ardently believed that Gandhi’s diplomacy will further chop the country into more Pakistans. Gopal Godse, Nathuram’s brother, was arrested from his house in Pune and was sentenced to 18 years for his part in the assassination. Ever since he was released from prison for being an accomplice in the assassination, Gopal has gathered the faithful together on Nov. 15, the day his brother was executed. There were 150 people at the ceremony the year before his death. They are the visible tip of the group of Indians who believe Nathuram Godse was a martyr, and that his murder of Gandhi was an act of supreme sacrifice.

Together, the band swears to honor the killer's last wish: "May my ashes be immersed into the river Indus when she flows under the shadow of our flag."

The river Indus today flows through Pakistan.

More links on the topic:

Gopal Godse’s interview: http://www.rediff.com/news/1998/jan/29godse.htm

The source of the play: http://ngodse.tripod.com/