Gandhi-Godse row: In defence of the indefensible

In the last few days , a lot was said about Nathuram Godse, the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.

Unfortunately for the man, nobody stands to even give a counter narrative.

This was definitely not the kind of democracy that even Gandhi aspired for, where opinions are muzzled and people are fearful of speaking their minds.

Invariably, Godse‘s name crops up every time during elections when the political opponents of the saffron party that claims to be the benefactor of the Hindus , the BJP,  is to be verbally browbeaten. It is because Nathuram Godse was once a RSS member, the organisation that BJP derives its ideological provenance; he  later shifted to the Hindu Mahasabha, a staunch Hindu hardline group, when he plotted the assassination of the Mahatma.

Modi had announced in a election rally, that that no Hindu can be a terrorist, and pat came the reply “ Nathu Ram Godse was the first Hindu Terrorist“!

But was Nathuram Godse a Terrorist? Definitely not.

Terrorism is, in the broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror among masses of people; or fear to achieve a religious or political aim. It is used in this regard primarily to refer to violence during peacetime or in war against innocent civilians and neutral militant personnel (courtesy Wikipedia- this definition maybe the best I think).

Godse did not kill or instigate people to kill Muslims, or even terrorise them. He did not kill innocent people. He killed Gandhi, who he thought was the reason for the grave sufferings of his people. He was a ‘reactionary‘, an extremist who espoused to counter Gandhi’s extremism of non-violence and pacifism, that was hurting the Hindus.

But any debate of Godse is blasphemy in India and anybody even trying to argue with even facts is shouted down by the very liberal intelligentsia that talks of freedom of speech and expression, and finds enough merit in the cause of people like Afzal Guru and the Naxalites.

Godse killed Gandhi in the backdrop of one of the most turbulent times in Indian History, the partition of India post independence, the biggest forced human migration that left around 15 million people displaced, distraught and homeless and that made them destitutes in their own country.

Two million people lost their lives in the murderous frenzy that gripped the minds of people from both sides  who turned into beasts, hacking, shooting and lynching innocents, thousands of women were raped and dismembered and children maimed with the ruthlessness unknown to mankind .

Historians claim that the horrors of Indian Partition were worse then the Holocaust.

The seeds of hatred sown during that time has been the main reason for the protracted rivalry that still lingers between the two nations.

Who was responsible for that? Most Indians believe that the stalwarts of independence who were credited for getting the independence, were very conveniently absolved of the accountability for the catastrophic event that followed.

The clash of ideologies and ego between Md Ali Jinnah on the one side and Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru at the other end, was the pivot on which the British and rightwing groups on both sides, churned out the two-nation theory.

Jinnah was the strongest ally of Gandhi during 1920’s who said that ”this bogey of the majority Hindus subverting the interests of the minority Muslims in a future independent nation was preposterous and an agenda of the right wing extremists within the Muslims” .

In the ensuing two decades, Md Jinnah felt that he was sidelined by Gandhi and Nehru was given undue prominence. Such a feeling was prevalent amongst most of the other congress leaders, but they preferred to keep mum, unlike Jinnah, who had big ego and stubbornness that only matched Gandhi. It was this personal ego clashes that finally concluded in  the farcical tragedy of partition.

What complicated the matters further was that the division of India was done by a certain Radcliffe, who was parachuted by the British, and had no knowledge about India; and he did it in the most haphazard manner and the British left Indian in a hurry, a full 10 months before the promised date of transfer, i. e June 1948, with no law and order in place, poverty and joblessness at its peak and fresh communal tensions fanned around Bengal and Punjab, triggered by many events like the Direct Action in Bengal in 1946 that left thousands of Hindus butchered by the Muslims. But very little was done by Nehru or Gandhi to avert the sequence of tragic events.

Gandhiji won us freedom?

Gandhi returned from south Africa in the early 20th century. He was already a famous man known both for his ‘non violent movements‘ as much as his proximity to the British government.

Gandhi was the best bet for the British to be propped up as the face of Indian independence movement, as his pacifist ways of non violence best suited their interest.

There were many occasions in the early 1920‘s and 30‘s when popular uprisings were strong enough and the already weary of world war,  Britain would have been forced to withdraw from India.

But Gandhi called off those movements abruptly on one pretext or another, the sole reason being that he somehow believed that India as a nation was not prepared for self rule , which turned out to be a monumental mistake.

It’s a fact that prior to the early 20th century, India was mix blend of cultures, a melting pot of various religions and thought process and Hindus and Muslims blended so well that it was difficult to divide people on the basis of religion or castes, and feeling of parochial identity ran deep, and the British realised this strength of the Indians  especially after the 1857 uprising, and used the ensuing few decades to slowly divide Indians on the lines of caste and religion, assured of a ‘slowly brewing independence movement based on non violence‘ by Gandhiji.

Is it not a matter to ponder at, that while the ruthless colonial masters who oppressed India for three decades, left India after independence without facing any retribution and bloodshed, while the people of India who were supposed to be celebrating their liberation, where pushed into the dungeon of a tragic farce orchestrated by the omissions and commission of a few top leaders, and the Mahatma was the one who was revered by everyone in the Congress, despite bitter disagreements on his stubborn policies that were guided by his firm convictions rather than the masses interest.

His authoritarian ways were legendary, as he weighed in to throw out or discredit voices of dissent, even if it was the wish of the majority and pro independence.

Check history, most of the countries who snatched independence from their colonial rulers by revolutionary means and on their own conditions are developed countries by now, with more unity and nationalistic feelings.

Gandhiji‘s legacy of non-violence only bequeathed the posterity  more violence post independence and many decades beyond, and a nation that was cut and divided into pieces.

Post independence, Gandhiji was seen pandering to Pakistan‘s most unreasonable demands, sitting on Hunger strikes, emotionally blackmailing even an adamant Nehru on many issues , to concede.

Driven by his conviction of non-violence and idea of Hindu-Muslim Unity , he was perceived as bending backwards and to protect the interests of the Muslims in Post partition India so that they stay back.

He would openly blamed  Hindus for violence while spoke nothing when trains and truckloads full of dead bodies would come from Pakistan.

The fact was that his appeal of peace to Pakistan fell on deaf years while he put the onus on the Hindus and Sikhs in India to exercise  restraint. He did little to assuage the feelings of the Hindus and Sikhs who were traumatised and brutalised and forced to leave Pakistan.

In one instance, he even agreed to the irrational demands of Muslims who were adamant not to give shelter to the destitute Hindus and Sikhs kicked out from Pakistan in a local Delhi mosque, as it was against their religious teachings!

While his attempt was very ideal in theory , and it did manage to hold a lot of Muslims from leaving India and saved a lot of Muslim lives , but showed no initiative and enthusiasm for the safety and resettlement of the refugees from Pakistan. In a communally charged atmosphere, he was seen as someone who was harming the interest of the majority Hindus, and propping the interest of Muslims.

That the Mahatma has gone bonkers, was a feeling widely prevalent within the Congress and the nation. “He was more behaving like the father of the nation of Pakistan, whose delinquent sons gave no hoots to their benefactor” was a well know wisecrack doing rounds then.

But it is also a fact that Gandhi‘s efforts that sounded so irrational then, actually helped strengthened the Democratic and Secular  bedrock of India, while Pakistan went on to become a Islamic nation, persecuting its minorities to extinction, due to the lack of sincere interventions by the Masters of the new Pakistan, including the sadr-e-azam Jinnah.

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Nathuram Godse was an extremist who used violence to follow his convictions that convinced him that the Mahatma, who was once his ideal , was on a rampage to destroy the interests of the Hindus and no amount of persuasion by his fellow Congress men was helping in changing his ways. The Mahatma was such a tall personality that nobody was confronting him while the majority population in the nation was suffering because of his biased ideas.

Godse also held Gandhiji responsible for the partition of his Motherland, because he as a leader held sway over others, and it was no way that the partition could have happened had the Mahatma weighed in.

Simmering Anger against Gandhi was widely prevalent, and at least four attempts to his life were made prior to Godse’s final assault.

Ask people of the ‘partition generation‘ and they are filled with bitterness for Gandhi.

While i am not trying to justify the extreme step taken by Godse to kill Mahatma Gandhi; I am just trying to highlight the circumstances in which he took the decision.

History has been unkind to him , projecting him like the demon which he was not.

Obviously, the narrative of idolising Gandhi as the paradigm of virtue without any flaw, suits the narrative of some people who have made a industry out of the brand Mahatma Gandhi, and so obviously, Godse has to be a mindless villain, a Terrorist to fall a man as great as Gandhi. (Ironically, Gandhiji, in his autobiography My Experiments with Truth, has himself candidly admitted about grave mistakes and moral transgressions that marked his life; he admits that doing mistakes is human, but to learn from our mistakes makes you different.)

The binary that either you confirm to the idea that ‘Godse was a terrorist‘ or otherwise you are a right wing ideologue, reeks of hypocrisy.

The Book, Why I killed Gandhi which has the proceedings of the Godse trial where he gave 150 reasons why he was forced to kill Gandhi, was banned for 60 years. It could see the light of the day only after a legal battle of 60 years fought by his brother in the SC.

Nathuram Godse admits that Mahatma Gandhi was a great man and a true patriot, who had gone rogue, and he was left no option but to eliminate him, just to stop him from any further misadventures.

It is said that one of the judges in the court announced after hearing out Godse in the court, that if the people present in the court were made jury to decide of the case, Godse would have been acquitted  on all counts.

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Godse was like the marvel anti-Hero of his times , the Thanos, who was convinced about doing something that was terribly wrong by law, but which serves good in the larger interest of his people, in allaying their sufferings, even though most of his own men did not agree to his method.

Morality is a relative term, of course.

Godse also knew very  well that history will always persecute his legacy and paint him as a demon, but he took the risk for his people.

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