Except that Gandhi was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse, no other name is associated in Indian History with this date that it should be referred as Martyr’s day. Since partition of India we were being fed on the myth that Gandhi was the ‘Father of the Nation’, until the fact came to light last year that constitutionally and legally that was not true.
Is it not prudent for Indian youth to reassess our history and the contribution of significant personalities fairly and objectively?
Who is a martyr?
A martyr is a person who is put to sufferance including death for adherence to his faith and knowingly sacrifices his life for some cause. If any one died an accidental death he cannot be called a martyr.
Both Gandhi and Godse shared similarities and also certain dis-similarities. Whose ideology was better is a debatable subject and both have ample number of their opponents and supporters. Gandhi was not in favor of India’s partition so was Godse. Both wanted unity of India. While Gandhi kept saying that Pakistan could be created only on his dead body but he signed for partition of India. On the other hand Godse’s ashes are still waiting to be immersed in River Sindhu for the river to flows in united India.
By no way Godse was an ordinary criminal or Gandhi an extra-ordinary martyr. Godse was a staunch Hindu and he was pained to see the plight of Hindus in free India, and the way Gandhi was pressurizing the government to favor Muslims, and Pakistan at the cost of Hindu refugees.
On fateful day, when Gandhi came out of his Birla House residence to go for his prayer meeting he was not aware that Godse was waiting to shoot him. If that was known security men would not have let Gandhi die. Gandhi died suddenly. Mentally and physically he was not prepared to die on that day for country. On the contrary, Godse knew that by shooting Gandhi he would be hanged. He volunteered to shoot Gandhi for the reasons that he thought to be justifiable and opted to die for the cause that he thought was in the interest of his motherland. He did not flee after the shoot out and surrendered along with his loaded weapon.
For the offence of murder Godse was tried under the Indian Penal Code, convicted and hanged. Legal requirement was over. Politically Godse remains condemned. Is it not reasonable to review his role when day in and day out we have been granting pardon to several terrorists today?
On 8 November 1948, Nathuram Godse rose to make his statement in court. Reading quietly from a typed manuscript, he sought to explain why he had killed Gandhi. His thesis covered ninety-pages, and he was on his feet for five hours. His statement, excerpted below, should be read by citizens and scholars in its entirely, for it provides an insight into his personality and his understanding of the concept of Indian nationhood.
“May it please your Honor”
“Born in a devotional Brahmin family, I instinctively came to revere Hindu religion, Hindu history and Hindu culture. I had, therefore, been intensely proud of Hinduism as a whole. Nevertheless as I grew up I developed a tendency to free thinking unfettered by any superstitious allegiance to any isms, political or religious. That is why I worked actively for the eradication of untouchability and the caste system based on birth alone. I openly joined anti-caste movements and maintained that all Hindus are of equal status as to rights, social and religious, and should be considered high or low on merit alone and not through the accident of birth in a particular caste or profession. I used publicly to take part in organized anti-caste dinners which thousands of Hindus, Brahmins, Vaishyas, Kshatriyas, Chamars and Bhangis participated. We broke the caste rules and dined in the company of each other.”
“I have read the speeches and writings of Dadabhai Naoroji, Vivekanand, Gokhale, Tilak, along with the books of ancient and modern history of India and some prominent countries like England, France, America and Russia. Moreover I studied the tenets of socialism and Marxism. But above all I studied very closely what Veer (brave) Savarkar and Gandhiji had written and spoken, as to my mind these two ideologies have contributed more to the molding of the thought and action of the Indian people during the last thirty years or so, than any other factor has done.”
“All this thinking and reading led me to believe that it was my first duty to serve Hindudom and Hindus both as a patriot and as a world citizen. To secure the freedom and to safeguard the just interests of some thirty crores (three hundred million) of Hindus would automatically constitute the freedom and well-being of all India, one fifth of the human race. This conviction led me naturally to devote myself to the Hindu Sanatanist ideology and programme, which alone, I came to believe, could win and preserve the National Independence of Hindustan, my Motherland, and enable her to render true service to humanity as well…
“…Since the year 1920, that is, after the demise of Lokmanya Tilak, Gandhi’s influence in the Congress first increased and then became supreme. His activities for public awakening were phenomenal in their intensity and were reinforced by the slogan of truth and non-violence, which he paraded ostentatiously before the country. No sensible or enlightened person could object to these slogans. In fact there is nothing new or original in them. They are implicit in every constitutional public movement. But it is nothing but a dream if you imagine the bulk of mankind is, or can ever become, capable of scrupulous adherence to these lofty principles in its normal life from day to day. In fact, honour, duty and love of one’s own kith and kin and country might often compel us to disregard non-violence and to use force. I could never conceive that an armed resistance to an aggression is unjust. I would consider it a religious and moral duty to resist and if possible, to overpower such an enemy by use of force. (In the Ramayana) Rama killed Ravana in a tumultuous fight and relieved Sita. (In the Mahabharata) Krishna killed Kansa to end his wickedness; and Arjuna had to fight and slay quite a number of his friends and relations, including the revered Bhishma, because the latter was on the side of the aggressor. It is my firm belief that in dubbing Rama, Krishna and Arjuna as guilty of violence, the Mahatma betrayed the total ignorance of the springs of human action. In more recent history, it was the heroic fight put up by Chhatrapati Shivaji that first checked and eventually destroyed the Muslim tyranny in India. It was absolutely essential for Shivaji to overpower and kill an aggressive Afzal Khan, failing which he would have lost his own life. In condemning history’s towering warriors like Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Govind Singh as misguided patriots, Gandhi has merely exposed his self-conceit.”
“…He was, paradoxical, as it may appear a violent pacifist who brought untold calamities on the country in the name of truth and non-violence, while Rana Pratap, Shivaji and the Guru will remain enshrined in the hearts of their countrymen forever for the freedom they brought to them. The accumulating provocation of thirty-two years, culminating in his last pro-Muslim fast, at last goaded me to the conclusion that the existence of Gandhi should be brought to an end immediately. Gandhi had done very good work in South Africa to uphold the rights and well being of the Indian community there.”
“…But when he finally returned to India, he developed a subjective mentality under which he alone was to be the final judge of what was right or wrong. If the country wanted his leadership, it had to accept his infallibility; if it did not, he would stand aloof from the Congress and carry on in his own way. Against such an attitude there can be no halfway house. Either Congress had to surrender its will to his and had to be content with playing second fiddle to all his eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision, or it had to carry on without him. He alone was the judge of everyone and everything; he was the master brain guiding the Civil Disobedience movement; no other could know the technique of that movement. He alone knew when to begin it and when to withdraw it. The movement might succeed or fail, but that could make no difference to the Mahatma’s infallibility. ‘A Satyagrahi can never fail’ was his formula for his own infallibility and nobody except himself knew what a Satyagrahi is.”
“…Thus the Mahatma became the judge and the jury in his own case. These childish insanities and obstinacies, coupled with a most severe austerity of life, ceaseless work and lofty character made Gandhi formidable and irresistible. Many people thought that his policies were irrational, but they had either to withdraw from the Congress or place their intelligence at his feet to do with as he liked. In a position of such absolute irresponsibility, Gandhi was guilty of blunder after blunder, failure after failure, and disaster after disaster. Gandhi’s pro-Muslim policy is blatantly illustrated in his perverse attitude on the question of the national language of India.”
“…I is quite obvious that Hindi has the most prior claim to be accepted as the premier language. In the beginning of his career in India, Gandhi gave a great impetus to Hindi, but as he found that the Muslims did not like it, he became a champion of what is called Hindustani. Everybody in India knows that there is no language in India called Hindustani; it has no grammar; it has no vocabulary. It is a mere dialect; it is spoken, not written. It is a tongue and a crossbreed between Hindi and Urdu, and not even the Mahatma’s sophistry could make it popular. But in his desire to please the Muslims he insisted that Hindustani alone should be the national language of India. His blind followers, of course, supported him and the so-called hybrid language began to be used. The charm and the purity of the Hindi language were to be prostituted to please the Muslims. All his experiments were at the expense of the Hindus.”
“…From August 1946 onwards, the private armies of the Muslim League began a massacre of Hindus. The then Viceroy, Lord Wavell, though distressed at what was happening, would not use his powers under the Government of India Act of 1935 to prevent the rape, murder and arson. The Hindu blood began to flow from Bengal to Karachi with little retaliation by the Hindus. The Interim Government formed in September was sabotaged by its Muslim League members right from its inception, but the more they became disloyal and treasonable to the government of which they were a part, the greater was Gandhi’s infatuation for them.”
“…Lord Wavell had to resign as he could not bring about a settlement and was succeeded by Lord Mountbatten. King Stork followed King Log. The Congress, which had boasted of its nationalism and secularism, secretly accepted Pakistan literally at the point of the bayonet and abjectly surrendered to Jinnah. India was vivisected and one-third of the Indian Territory became foreign land to us from 15 August 1947. Lord Mountbatten came to be described in the Congress circles as the greatest Viceroy and Governor-General this country ever had.”
“…The official date for the handing over of power was fixed for June 30, 1948, but Mountbatten with his ruthless surgery gave us a gift of vivisected India ten months in advance. This is what Gandhi had achieved after thirty years of undisputed dictatorship and this is what the Congress party calls ‘freedom’ and ‘peaceful transfer of power’. The Hindu-Muslim unity bubble was finally burst and a theocratic state was established with the consent of Nehru and his crowd and they have called it ‘freedom won by them with sacrifice’ – whose sacrifice? When top leaders of Congress, with the consent of Gandhi, divided and tore the country – which we considered a deity of worship – my mind was filled with direful anger.”
“…One of the conditions imposed by Gandhi for his breaking of the fast related to the mosques in Delhi occupied by the Hindu refugees. But when Hindus in Pakistan were subjected to violent attacks he did not so much as utter a single word to protest and censure the Pakistan Government or the Muslims concerned. Gandhi was shrewd enough to know that while undertaking a fast unto death, had he imposed some conditions on the Muslims in Pakistan, there would have been found hardly any Muslims who could have shown some grief if the fast had ended in his death. It was for this reason that he purposely avoided imposing any conditions on the Muslims.”
“…He was fully aware from past experience that Jinnah was not at all perturbed or influenced by his fast and the Muslim League hardly attached any value to the inner voice of Gandhi. Gandhi is being referred to as the Father of the Nation. But if that is so, he has failed in his paternal duty inasmuch he has acted very treacherously to the nation by his consenting to the partitioning of it. I stoutly maintain that Gandhi has failed in his duty. He has proved to be the Father of Pakistan. His inner-voice, his spiritual power, his doctrine of non-violence of which so much is made of, all crumbled against Jinnah’s iron will and proved to be powerless.”
“Briefly speaking, I thought to myself and foresaw that I shall be totally ruined, and the only thing I could expect from the people would be nothing but hatred and that I shall have lost all my honor, even more valuable than my life, if I were to kill Gandhiji. But at the same time I thought that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be practical, able to retaliate and would be powerful with the armed forces. No doubt, my own future would be totally ruined, but the nation would be saved from the inroads of Pakistan. People may even call me or dub me as devoid of any sense or foolish, but the nation would be free to follow the course founded on the reason, which I consider necessary for sound nation-building. After having fully considered the question, I took the final decision in the matter, but I did not speak about it to anyone whatsoever. I took courage in both my hands and I did fire the shots at Gandhiji on 30th January 1948, on the prayer-grounds in Birla House”… “…I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus.”
“…There was no legal machinery by which such an offender could be brought to book and for this reason I fired those fatal shots. I bear no ill will towards anyone individually, but I do say that I had no respect for the present government owing to their policy, which was unfairly favorable towards the Muslims. But at the same time I could clearly see that the policy was entirely due to the presence of Gandhi.”
“I have to say with great regret that Prime Minister Nehru quite forgets that his preaching and deeds are at times at variance with each other when he talks about India as a secular state in season and out of season, because it is significant to note that Nehru has played a leading role in the theocratic state of Pakistan, and his job was made easier by Gandhi’s persistent policy of appeasement towards the Muslims… I now stand before the court to accept the full share of my responsibility for what I have done and the judge would, of course, pass against me such orders of sentence as may be considered proper. But I would like to add that I do not desire any mercy to be shown to me, nor do I wish that anyone should beg for mercy on my behalf.”
“My confidence about the moral side of my action has not been shaken even by the criticism leveled against it on all sides. I have no doubt that honest writers of history will weigh my act and find the true value thereof someday in future.”
Nathuram Godse was hanged a year later, on 15 November 1949; as per his last wishes, his family and followers have preserved his ashes for immersion in the Indus River of a re-united India
When killers of Indira Gandhi Beant Singh, Satwant Singh, and Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale were publicly honored and given the honors of martyrdom, Congress Government under Manmohan Singh did not utter a word. Why are Hindus shy of giving a martyr status to Godse who sacrificed his life for the cause of Hindus?
Bhagat Singh and his associates had shot British DSP Saunders although their real target was Michael Scott. Bhagat Singh was hanged for the killing. Similar was the charge against Godse. In both cases the shoot out was for an ideological clash. Both volunteered to face the consequence. Gandhi did not consider Bhagat Singh and his associates as martyrs but Bhagat Singh has been rightly given the status of a hero by the indebted nation.
For political reasons Congressmen have conferred the highest martyrdom to Gandhi. Why Nation has not cared to review the role of Godse objectively who also sacrificed his life for Motherland as Bhagat Singh did?
Chand K Sharma