Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi(Redirected from Assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)
Mahatma Gandhi, was assassinated on 30 January 1948 by Nathuram Godse at Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti) in New Delhi. Gandhi had just climbed up the steps of a raised lawn behind Birla House where he conducted his multi-faith prayer meetings, when he was shot by Godse. Godse stepped out from the crowd and into Gandhi's path, and fired three bullets at point-blank range. Gandhi fell to the ground. Some accounts state Gandhi died on the spot, while others state he was carried back into the Birla house where he died about 30 minutes later as Hindu scriptures were being read to him as he was dying.
|Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi|
A memorial marks the spot in Birla House (now Gandhi Smriti), New Delhi, where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated at 5:17 p.m. on 30 January 1948.
|Date||30 January 1948
17:17 (Indian Standard Time)
|Weapons||Beretta M 1934 Semi-automatic pistol|
Gandhi's assassin Godse was seized by the witnesses. Godse was a Hindu nationalist with links to the extremist Hindu Mahasabha. They were tried in court at Delhi's Red Fort. At his trial, Godse did not deny the charges nor expressed any remorse. According to Claude Markovits, a French historian noted for his studies of colonial India, Godse stated that he killed Gandhi because of his complacence towards Muslims and the creation of the Muslim nation of Pakistan, holding Gandhi responsible for the frenzy of violence and sufferings during the subcontinent's partition into Pakistan and India. Godse accused Gandhi of subjectivism and of acting as if only he had a monopoly of the truth. Godse, who had planned the assassination with Narayan Apte and six others, was tried and convicted of murder. Godse and Apte were found guilty and executed in 1949, while many others sentenced to life.
Godse and his assassination accomplices were residents of the Deccan area. Godse had previously led civil disobedience movement against the Muslim ruler Osman Ali Khan of the princely Deccan region dominion of Hyderabad State in British India. Godse was arrested for political crimes and had served prison. Out of the prison, Godse continued his civil disobedience and worked as a journalist reporting the sufferings of Hindu refugees escaping from Pakistan and during the various religious riots that erupted in the 1940s.
According to Arvind Sharma, the concrete plans to assassinate Gandhi was initiated by Godse and his accomplices in 1948, after India and Pakistan had already started a war over Kashmir. The Government of India led by Congress leaders had withheld a payment to Pakistan in January 1948 because it did not want to finance Pakistan then at war with India. Gandhi opposed the decision to freeze the payment, went on a fast-unto-death on 13 January 1948 to pressure the Indian government to release the payment to Pakistan. The Indian government, yielding to Gandhi, reversed its decision. Godse and colleagues interpreted this sequence of events as Gandhi to be controlling power and hurting India.
On the day Gandhi went on hunger strike, Godse and his colleagues began planning how to assassinate Gandhi. Nathuram Vinayak Godse and Narayan Apte purchased a Beretta M1934. Gandhi was staying in Delhi in January 1948. Along with purchasing the pistol, Godse and his accomplices shadowed Gandhi's movements.
The first attempt to assassinate Gandhi at the Birla House occurred on 20 January. According to Stanley Wolpert, Nathuram Godse and his colleagues followed Gandhi to a park where he was speaking. One of them threw a grenade away from the crowd. The loud explosion scared the crowd, creating a chaotic stampede of people. Gandhi was left alone on the speaker platform. The original assassination plan was to throw a second grenade, after the crowds had run away, at the isolated Gandhi. But the accused accomplice Digambar Badge lost his courage, did not throw the second grenade and ran away with the crowd. All of assassination plotters ran away, except Madanlal Pahwa who was a Punjabi refugee of the Partition of India. He was arrested.
On 30 January 1948, Gandhi was at Birla House, walking to his prayer meeting. People waiting outside bowed with folded hands. Godse pushed his way and approached Gandhi at 5:17 pm, with his hands folded. Gandhi's grandniece Manu was walking on right, and thought Godse wanted to touch Gandhi's feet. Instead, Godse shot Gandhi just below the heart and stomach three times at point-blank range with a Beretta automatic pistol.
According to some accounts, Gandhi died on the spot. In other accounts, such as one prepared by an eyewitness journalist, Gandhi was carried back into the Birla House, into a bedroom. There he died about 30 minutes later as one of Gandhi's family members read verses from Hindu scriptures.
According to various eyewitnesses and court proceedings, Nathuram Godse was seized immediately and an Indian Air Force officer dispossessed him of the pistol. The crowd beat him up to a bloodied face. The police wrested him loose from the angry crowd, took him to jail. A FIR was filed by Nandlal Mehta at the Tughlak Road Police station at Delhi. The trial began on 27 May 1948, and concluded on 10 February 1949. He and one of his colleagues were sentenced to death. An appeal to the Punjab High Court, then in session at Shimla, upheld the sentence. He was hanged in November 1949.
During the subsequent trial, and in various witness accounts and books written thence, the motivation of Godse has been summarized, speculated and debated. Godse did not deny killing Gandhi, and made a long statement explaining his motivations for the assassination. Some of these motivations were:
- Godse felt that the massacre and suffering caused during and due to the partition could have been avoided if Gandhi and Indian government had acted to stop the killing of the minorities (Hindus and Sikhs) in West and East Pakistan. He stated Gandhi had not protested against these atrocities being suffered in Pakistan and instead resorted to fasts. In his court deposition, Godse said, "I thought to myself and foresaw I shall be totally ruined, and the only thing I could expect from the people would be nothing but hatred ... if I were to kill Gandhiji. But at the same time I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be proved practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces."
- Godse called Gandhi subjective, someone who pretended to have a monopoly on Truth. He stated that Gandhi thought of himself as the final judge of what is true or false, right or wrong, and the suffering of Hindus did not matter to him. Godse claimed that his group of volunteers and he were social workers who had worked across religious and caste boundaries for years to help their fellow Indians, and he was upset with Gandhi's actions and willingness to ignore non-Muslim interests and make concessions to Muslims.
- Godse said that Gandhi exploited the feelings of tolerant Hindu, with one-sided practices. Gandhi's recent prayer meetings in Hindu temples, said Godse, had started the practice of reading passages from the Quran, despite Hindus protesting this practice. However, according to Godse, Gandhi "dared not read the Gita in a mosque in the teeth of Muslim opposition" and "Gandhi knew what a terrible Muslim reaction would have been if he had done so". Godse alleged that Gandhi knew it is safe to trample on the tolerant Hindu. Godse wanted to show that a Hindu too can be intolerant.[note 1]
- Godse stated that Gandhi's fast to pressure the Indian government to release the final payment to Pakistan that it had previously frozen because of the war in Kashmir, and the subsequent Indian government's flipflop is proof that the Indian government reversed its decision to suit the feelings of Gandhi. India, said Godse, was not being run by the force of public opinion, but by Gandhi's whims. Godse added that he admired Gandhi for his lofty character, ceaseless work and asceticism, and Gandhi's formidable character meant that his influence outside of the due process would continue while he was alive. Gandhi had to be removed from the political stage, so that India can begin looking after its own interests as a nation, according to Godse.
- Godse stated he did not oppose Gandhian ahimsa teachings, but Gandhi's talk of religious tolerance and nonviolence had already caused India to cede Pakistan to Muslims, uprooted millions of people from their home, caused immense violent loss of life and broken families. He believed that if Gandhi was not checked it would bring destruction and more massacres to Hindus. In Godse's opinion, "the only answer to violent aggression was violent self-defense". Godse stated that "Gandhi had betrayed his Hindu religion and culture by supporting Muslims at the expense of Hindus" because his lectures of ahimsa (non-violence) were directed at and accepted by the Hindu community only. Godse said, "I sat brooding intensely on the atrocities perpetrated on Hinduism and its dark and deadly future if left to face Islam outside and Gandhi inside, and . . . I decided all of a sudden to take the extreme step against Gandhi". I did not hate Gandhi, I revered him because we both venerated much in Hindu religion, Hindu history and Hindu culture, we both were against superstitious aspects and the wrongs in Hinduism. Therefore I bowed before Gandhi when I met him, said Godse, then performed my moral duty and killed Gandhi.
Trial and justiceEdit
Godse was seized by witnesses and taken away by police. The case was investigated, and many additional people were arrested, charged and tried in a lower court. The case and its appeal attracted considerable media attention, but Godse's statement in his defense to the court was banned immediately by the Indian government. Those convicted were either executed or served their complete sentences.
Investigation and arrestsEdit
Along with Nathuram Godse many others accomplices were arrested by March 1948. They were all identified as prominent members of the Hindu Mahasabha – an organization active in opposing the Muslim ruler of the princely state of Hyderabad State in the Deccan region, before the Indian Army forcibly removed the Nizam in Operation Polo in September 1948.
Along with Godse and accomplices, police arrested the 65-year-old Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who they accused of being the mastermind behind the plot. The prosecution called 149 witnesses, the defense none. While the trial resulted in convictions and judgments against the others, the prosecution was unable to prove their case against Savarkar and the lower court acquitted Savarkar on 10 February 1949.
The accused, their place of residence, caste and occupational background were as follows:
- Nathuram Vinayak Godse (Pune, Maharashtra; Brahmin; editor, journalist)
- Narayan Apte (Pune, Maharashtra; Brahmin; former British military service, teacher, newspaper manager)
- Digambar Badge (Ahmednagar, Maharashtra; Shudra; weapons merchant)
- Shankar Kistayya (Pune, Maharashtra; Shudra; a rickshaw puller, domestic servant of Digambar Badge)
- Dattatraya Parchure (Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh; Brahmin; medical service, care giver)
- Vishnu Karkare (Ahmednagar, Maharashtra; Shudra, orphan; odd jobs in hotels, musician in a traveling troupe, volunteer in relief efforts to religious riots (Noakhali), later restaurant owner)
- Madanlal Pahwa (Ahmednagar refugee camp, Maharashtra; caste unknown; former British India army soldier, unemployed, Punjabi refugee who migrated to India from Pakpattan (Pakistan) on the eve of Partition, after his father and aunt were massacred by a Muslim mob)
- Gopal Godse (Pune, Maharashtra; Brahmin and brother of Nathuram Godse; storekeeper, merchant)
Trial and sentencing: Lower CourtEdit
The trial ran for eight months before Justice Atma Charan passed his final order on 10 February 1949. The court found all except one guilty as charged. Eight men were convicted for the murder conspiracy, and others convicted for violation of the Explosive Substances Act. Savarkar was acquitted and set free due to lack of evidence. Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were sentenced to death by hanging and the remaining six (including Godse's brother, Gopal) were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Appeal: High CourtEdit
Of those found guilty, all except Godse appealed their conviction and sentence. Godse accepted his death sentence, but appealed the lower court ruling that found him guilty of conspiracy. Godse argued, in his limited appeal to the High Court, that there was no conspiracy, he alone was solely responsible for the assassination, witnesses only saw him kill Gandhi, that all co-accused were innocent and should be released.
The appeal by the accused was heard from 2 May 1949, at Peterhoff, Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) which then housed the Punjab High Court. The High Court affirmed the findings and sentences of the lower court except in the case of Dattatraya Parchure and Shankar Kistayya who were acquitted of all charges.
Censorship and judge's commentsEdit
The Government of India made the assassination trial public. It was widely followed till the day of Godse's statement. However, according to Awol Allo, the testimony of Nathuram Godse was "so persuasive" that the Indian government immediately banned it. Gopal Godse, a co-accused and sentenced to life in prison, wrote a memoir which was published in 1967. It was immediately banned and circulating copies of it were seized by the Congress-led government because of its fears that it promoted religious hatred between the Hindus and the Muslims in India. The complete Godse testimony and trial proceedings remained censored for about 30 years, published for the first time in 1977.
G.D. Khosla, one of the judges who heard the assassination proceedings, later wrote of the Godse statement and the reception of his reasons for assassinating Gandhi by the audience in the court:
The audience was visibly and audibly moved. There was a deep silence when he ceased speaking. (...) I have, however, no doubt that had the audience of that day been constituted into a jury and entrusted with the task of deciding Godse's appeal, they would have brought a verdict of "non guilty" by an overwhelming majority.
After the assassination, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru addressed the nation by radio:
Friends and comrades, the light has gone out of our lives, and there is darkness everywhere, and I do not quite know what to tell you or how to say it. Our beloved leader, Bapu as we called him, the father of the nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that; nevertheless, we will not see him again, as we have seen him for these many years, we will not run to him for advice or seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not only for me, but for millions and millions in this country.
Gandhi's death was broadly mourned nationwide. Over two million people joined the five-mile long funeral procession that took over five hours to reach Raj Ghat from Birla house, where he was assassinated. Gandhi was cremated in a funeral pyre.
In some cases the response to this death were different. For example, the Dalit (untouchables) leader Ambedkar, who had long criticized Gandhi and Gandhi's ideas as primitive and wrong, and who later was one of the primary architects of the Constitution of modern India, had a response of relief after he heard the news of Gandhi's assassination. He remarked after a momentary silence and regret, "My real enemy is gone; thank goodness the eclipse is over now". Archibald Wavell, the Viceroy and Governor-General of British India for three years through February 1947, who had worked with Gandhi and Jinnah to find a common ground, before and after accepting Indian independence in principle, remarked after learning the news of Gandhi's assassination, "I always thought he [Gandhi] had more of malevolence than benevolence in him, but who am I to judge, and how can an Englishman estimate a Hindu?"
Gandhi's assassination dramatically changed the political landscape. Nehru became his political heir. According to Markovits, while Gandhi was alive, Pakistan's declaration that it was a "Muslim state" had led Indian groups to demand that it be declared a "Hindu state". Nehru used Gandhi's martyrdom as a political weapon to silence all advocates of Hindu nationalism as well as his political challengers. He linked Gandhi's assassination to politics of hatred and ill-will.
According to Guha, Nehru and his Congress colleagues called on Indians to honour Gandhi's memory and even more his ideals. Nehru used the assassination to consolidate the authority of the new Indian state. Gandhi's death helped martial support for the new government and legitimise the Congress Party's control, leveraged by the massive outpouring of Hindu expressions of grief for a man who had inspired them for decades. The government suppressed the RSS, the Muslim National Guards, and the Khaksars, with some 200,000 arrests.
For years after the assassination, states Markovits, "Gandhi's shadow loomed large over the political life of the new Indian Republic". The government quelled any opposition to its economic and social policies, despite they being contrary to Gandhi's ideas, by reconstructing Gandhi's image and ideals.
In 1934 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was in Pune along with his wife, Kasturba Gandhi, to deliver a speech at Corporation Auditorium. They were travelling in a motorcade of two cars. The car in which the couple was travelling was delayed and the first car reached the auditorium. Just when the first car arrived at the auditorium, a bomb was thrown, which exploded near the car. This caused grievous injury to the Chief Officer of the Pune Municipal Corporation, two policemen and seven others. Nevertheless, no account or records of the investigation nor arrests made can be found. Gandhi's secretary, Pyarelal Nayyar, believed that the attempt failed due to lack of planning and co-ordination.
On 12 November 1964, a religious programme was organised in Pune, to celebrate the release of the Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa, Vishnu Karkare from jail after the expiry of their sentences. Dr. G. V. Ketkar, grandson of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, former editor of Kesari and then editor of Tarun Bharat, who presided over the function, revealed six months before the actual event, that Nathuram Godse disclosed his ideas to kill Gandhi and was opposed by Ketkar. Ketkar said that he passed the information to Balukaka Kanitkar who conveyed it to the then Chief Minister of Bombay State, B. G. Kher. The Indian Express in its issue of 14 November 1964, commented adversely on Ketkar's conduct that Ketkar's fore-knowledge of the assassination of Gandhi added to the mystery of the circumstances preceding to the assassination. Ketkar was arrested. A public furore ensued both outside and inside the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and both houses of the Indian parliament. There was a suggestion that there had been a deliberate dereliction of duty on the part of people in high authority, who failed to act responsibly even though they had information that could have prevented Gandhi's shooting. Under pressure of 29 members of parliament and public opinion the then Union home minister Gulzarilal Nanda, appointed Gopal Swarup Pathaka, M. P. and a senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India, in charge of inquiry of conspiracy to murder Gandhi. Since both Kanitkar and Kher were deceased, the central government intended on conducting a thorough inquiry with the help of old records in consultation with the government of Maharashtra, Pathak was given three months to conduct his inquiry. But as Pathak was appointed a central minister and then governor of Mysore state, the commission of inquiry was reconstituted and Jevanlal Kapur a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India was appointed to conduct the inquiry.
Reappraisal of Savarkar's roleEdit
Kapur commission also examined Savarkar's role in the assassination. Godse had claimed full responsibility for planning and carrying out the attack, in absence of an independent corroboration of the prosecution witness Digambar Badge's evidence implicating Savarkar directly, the court exonerated him citing insufficient evidence. According to Badge, on 17 January 1948, Nathuram Godse went to have a last darshan of Savarkar in Bombay before the assassination. While Badge and Shankar waited outside, Nathuram and Apte went in. On coming out Apte told Badge that Savarkar blessed them "Yashasvi houn ya" ("यशस्वी होऊन या" return victorious). Apte also said that Savarkar predicted that Gandhiji's 100 years were over and there was no doubt that the task would be successfully finished. However Badge’s testimony was not accepted as it lacked independent corroboration. This was later corroborated by the testimony of two of Savarkar's close aides – Appa Ramachandra Kasar, his bodyguard, and Gajanan Vishnu Damle, his secretary, who had not testified in the original trial but later testified before the Justice Kapur commission set up in 1965. Kasar told the Kapur Commission that they visited him on or about 23 or 24 January, which was when they returned from Delhi after the bomb incident. Damle deposed that Godse and Apte saw Savarkar in the middle of January and sat with him (Savarkar) in his garden. Justice Kapur concluded: "All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group."
Several books, plays and movies have been produced about the event.
- May It Please Your Honor was published in 1977, containing Nathuram Godse's statement to the court, after the Indian Congress party lost power for the first time in India after its independence, and the new government lifted the censorship since 1949 after gaining power in the elections. The text was republished in 1993 as Why I Assassinated Mahatma Gandhi?.
- I, Nathuman Godse speaking play composed by Pradeep Dalvi based on assassination trial. Locally produced as Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy, after seven sold-out shows, it was banned in the State of Maharashtra in 1999 upon directions from the then BJP led coalition government in Delhi.
- Gandhi vs. Gandhi is Marathi play that has been translated in several languages. Its primary plot is the relationship between Gandhi and his estranged son but it also deals briefly with the assassination.
- Why I Killed Gandhi is a publication that contains the original transcript of Nathuram Godse's defence in the trial.
- Nine Hours to Rama is a 1963 British movie based on Stanley Wolpert's novel of the same name, which is a fictional account of the final nine hours leading up to Gandhi's assassination.
- Gandhi and the Unspeakable: His Final Experiment with Truth by James Douglass is a non-fiction book that seeks to understand not only the facts of the murder but its importance in the larger struggle between non-violence and violence.
- Hey Ram (2000) - a Tamil-Hindi Bilingual Film by Kamal Haasan about a fictitious plot to kill Gandhi by a man devastated by partition riots and his change of heart even as the real-life plot succeeds.
- In the 1982 film Gandhi, the actor Harsh Nayyar portrayed Godse who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi (played by Ben Kingsley) in the beginning and the end.
- In the 1940s, Gandhi pooled ideas with some Muslim leaders who sought religious harmony like him, and opposed the proposed partition of British India into India and Pakistan. For example, his close friend Badshah Khan suggested that they should work towards opening Hindu temples for Muslim prayers, and Islamic mosques for Hindu prayers, to bring the two religious groups closer.
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- [a] KR Rao (1975). MVVS Murthi; et al., eds. "Satyagraha: Gandhi's yoga of nonviolence". Journal of Gandhian Studies. Gandhi Bhawan, University of Allahabad. 3: 48.;
[b] Laxman Kawale (2012), Dalit's Social Transformation: Redefining the Social Justice, ISRJ, Volume 1, Issue XII, page 3; Quote: "Even though Ambedkar was a party to Poona Pact, he was never reconciled to it. His contempt against Gandhi which was [sic] continued even after his assassination on January 30, 1948. On the death of Gandhi he expressed, "My real enemy has gone; thank goodness the eclipse is over". He equated the assassination of Gandhi with that of Caesar and the remark of Cicero to the messenger – "Tell the Romans, your hour of liberty has come". He further remarked, "While one regrets the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, one cannot help finding in his heart the echo of the sentiments expressed by Cicero on the assassination of Caesar".
- Dennis Dalton (2012). Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent Power in Action. Columbia University Press. pp. 64–66. ISBN 978-0-231-53039-2.
- Guha, Ramachandra (2007), India after Gandhi, Harper Collins, ISBN 978-0-330-50554-3, pp. 37–40.
- Gopal, Sarvepalli (1979), Jawaharlal Nehru, Jonathan Cape, London, ISBN 0224016210, pp. 16–17.
- Khan, Yasmin (2011). "Performing Peace: Gandhi's assassination as a critical moment in the consolidation of the Nehruvian state". Modern Asian Studies. 45 (1): 57–80. doi:10.1017/S0026749X10000223. (subscription required)
- Claude Markovits (2004). The UnGandhian Gandhi: The Life and Afterlife of the Mahatma. Anthem Press. pp. 58–62. ISBN 978-1-84331-127-0.
- Pyarelal Nayyar, Mahatma Gandhi – The Last Phase, Navajivan, (1956). ISBN 0-85283-112-9
- "Interview: K. Ketkar". University of Cambridge, Centre of South Asian Studies. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
- Jain, Jagdishchandra (1987). Gandhi the forgotten Mahatma. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. ISBN 81-7099-037-8.
- Abdul Gafoor Abdul Majeed Noorani (2002) Savarkar and Hindutva: the Godse connection LeftWord Books, ISBN 81-87496-28-2, ISBN 978-81-87496-28-1 p. 4 & 114
- Mahatma Gandhi—the last phase, Volume 2 Navajivan Pub. House, 1958 p.752
- Noorani, A G (15–28 March 2003). "Savarkar and Gandhi". FrontLine. The Hindu. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
- Rajesh Ramchandran The Mastermind? Outlook Magazine 6 September 2004
- Celia Dugger (2001). Robert Justin Goldstein, ed. Political Censorship. Taylor & Francis. pp. 546–548. ISBN 978-1-57958-320-0.
Assassination-related literature and the variance in its coverage:
- Claude Markovits (2004). The UnGandhian Gandhi: The Life and Afterlife of the Mahatma. Anthem Press. ISBN 978-1-84331-127-0.
- Debs, Mira (2013). "Using cultural trauma: Gandhi's assassination, partition and secular nationalism in post-independence India". Nations and Nationalism. Wiley-Blackwell. 19 (4): 635–653. doi:10.1111/nana.12038.
- McLain, Karline (2007). "Who Shot the Mahatma? Representing Gandhian Politics in Indian Comic Books". South Asia Research. SAGE Publications. 27 (1): 57–77. doi:10.1177/026272800602700104.
- Khalid Latif Gauba (1969). The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Jaico Publishing.
Funeral, post funeral-rites and memorialization after Gandhi's assassination: