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The Assassination of Mohandas Gandhi

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The assassination of Mohandas Gandhi was a culmination of decades of systematic brainwashing. Gandhiji had become a thorn in the flesh of the hard-core Hindus and in course of time, this resentment turned into a phobia. 16th of September, 1947 was an important day for Mahatma Gandhi. That day Gandhi met with members of the Hindu extremist party RSS. The meeting took place near the Bhangi Colony in Delhi. He wanted to lecture these extremists on non-violence.

He wanted to reduce their hatred of Muslims. Gandhiji also used to arrange recitations of the Holy Quran. The meeting with the RSS also started with the recitation. The recitation angered the RSS workers. One of them shouted and said, “we wouldn’t allow you to recite these verses”. Then someone chanted ‘death to Gandhi’. Gandhi left the ceremony.

After the 16th of September, all his ceremonies were held in Birla house. The RSS meeting had proven one thing. Gandhi’s policy of non-violence was failing. Hindu extremists were considering him an obstacle in their path. Anti-Gandhi ideas were spreading across India. The city of Poona (Pune), had become a hotbed of anti-Gandhi sentiments. This situation worried Mahatma Gandhi. Even on his 78th birthday, he wasn’t so excited. He said that since his arrival in India he had worked for communal harmony. He said that today everyone had become enemies of each other. Today we declare that a Muslim can never be an honest Muslim. He always remains a worthless fellow. He questioned what place did he have in India in this situation? What was he doing there? What sins had he committed that God kept him alive to witness all the horrors? But that wasn’t just Hindu extremists who worried Gandhi. Nehru had also distanced himself from Gandhi.

Nehru had started a war with Pakistan over Kashmir. He also withheld Pakistan’s share of 55 million crore rupees. Mahatma Gandhi opposed Nehru’s actions. He advised the two countries to resolve the issue through dialogue. He said that if he had the power, he would have invited the Pakistani envoy to India. Then they could have reached an agreement. He declared that it was necessary to live as peaceful neighbors. He admitted that both sides had committed mistakes. But a continuance of the mistakes would destroy both countries. Gandhi’s words shocked the Indian government.

Nehru was opposed to dialogue with Pakistan. He wanted to occupy most of Kashmir before any settlement. He also sent some angry messages to Mahatma Gandhi. One day Mahatma Gandhi told this to visitors in Birla House. He said that he was severely reprimanded for his views on Kashmir. He said that the advice he gave was the advice of a humble man. He also made an offer to India and Pakistan. He said that he was ready to act as a mediator over the Kashmir issue. But Nehru didn’t pay attention.

Indian General L.P. Sen who fought in Kashmir tells a different story. He shows another side of the coin. In his book \Slender Was the Thread\ he tells about his meeting with Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi had told him that he was going to save innocent people. And advised him to use all the resources for this purpose. This means that Mahatma Gandhi supported the war in Kashmir.

However, the Indian government and the public didn’t know of this. So in Gandhi’s life, everyone thought he was supporting Pakistan over Kashmir. At least his public statements were creating the same impression. Maybe, Gandhi was actually supporting India over Kashmir. But he didn’t support Hindu extremists over anti-Muslim riots. He wanted to stop the genocide of Indian Muslims. He was trying his best to stop the genocide. But the Kashmir war had increased the bitterness towards Muslims. Even Hindu extremists wrote him hateful letters. On January 2, 1948, Gandhi read a letter to his audience. The letter accused Gandhi of learning nothing and remaining friendly to Muslims. The writer said that even to imagine Muslims as friends were foolish. He said that the Muslims could never be their brothers or loyal to India.

The writer was worried about a possible Indo-Pak war. He questioned Gandhi about the loyalties of Muslims in such a war? Gandhi’s comments over this letter were historic. He said that this attitude was responsible for India’s partition. He said that the poison was increasing around them. Kashmir had added more poison. This letter and the people’s attitude prompted Mahatma Gandhi to action. He realized that such action was necessary to stop Hindu-Muslim riots. He decided to reuse his most effective weapon. He once again declared a hunger strike. His doctors warned him that his kidneys were failing. A hunger strike was harmful to him. Yet Mahatma Gandhi ignored their warning. On January 13, 1948, Gandhi began his last hunger strike. He said that in Satyagraha, the hunger strike was the last resort for a peaceful struggle. He declared to end his fast only when all the groups decided to live in harmony. An end to the Muslim genocide and the release of 550 million rupees to Pakistan. Without it, he would not end his hunger strike. His fast provoked a negative reaction. Some Hindu youths decided to punish him for helping Muslims and Pakistan. They said that Gandhi would not die of hunger strikes but of bullets now.

Gopal Godse’s elder brother Nathuram Godse planned Gandhi’s murder. He had some other young supporters too. Nathuram Godse was a resident of the city of Poona. Anti-Muslim organizations such as the Hindu Mahasabha thrived in the city. These organizations were against Gandhi even before the independence. In 1934, Mahatma Gandhi was attacked in Poona. An unknown assassin threw a bomb over his car. Luckily, the assailant targeted the wrong car. 3 people were injured, yet Gandhi survived. So Nathuram Godse had grown up in the same city. These extremist ideas had taken over his mind. He had strong links with the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS. The Hindu Mahasabha’s leader Savarkar was his political Guru. Savarkar had trained and brainwashed Godse for years. This brainwashing increased Godse’s resentment towards Muslims. He thought that every Muslim sympathizer was an enemy of India. When he heard of the Mahatma’s hunger strike he lost his temper. He decided to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi. He moved to Delhi with his brother Gopal Godse and some other friends. But before he could move against him, Gandhi broke his fast.

Mahatma Gandhi’s hunger strike was a successful one. The Indian government and leaders had all accepted his demands. On 18 January, Nehru, Patel, Maulana Azad, and over 100 leaders visited Birla House. They signed a 7-point declaration. The declaration called for the unity of all the communities in Delhi. It also guaranteed the rights of the Muslims. India had already released 550 million rupees to Pakistan. But the war in Kashmir didn’t stop. However, Gandhi’s hunger strike was a great success. He had once again proven himself to be the greatest leader of India. But the success didn’t last long.

Nathuram Godse and his friends were unhappy. On 20 January, Just 2 days later, they attacked Mahatma Gandhi. Gopal Godse tried to shoot Gandhi through a window in Birla House. But the window was high, so he failed. However, they ignited a guncotton slab in the lawn and fled. The blast did no damage however their comrade Madanlal was arrested. It was a failed attempt on Gandhi’s life. Police had arrested one of the culprits. Surprisingly, the police didn’t actively search for the remaining gang. They didn’t even chase the taxi they had used to flee Birla House. The Police didn’t properly investigate Madanlal either. Madanlal said that he was a Punjabi migrant, a good Hindu, and a patriot. The police thought this statement to be enough and closed the case. They never investigated the motives and other culprits of the crime. Was it just the incompetence or did they deliberately ignore it?

No one knows the real answer to this question. Even the role of the then Home Minister Patel was suspicious. He controlled Delhi Police. He was a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi. But he wasn’t serious about this case. He only increased the police guards at Birla House. Some plainclothes policemen were also assigned to Gandhi. Now Mahatma Gandhi’s security was being beefed up. While Godse and his gang had gone into hiding. The gang kept on planning its next attack for several days. Nathuram Godse decided to shoot Mahatma Gandhi at a close range. So he may not survive this time. On 30 January, Nathuram Godse reached Birla House by a tanga. The visitors were waiting for Gandhi. Godse hid a pistol in his khaki robe. He stood by the steps near this monument and waited for Gandhi. After 5 P.M., Gandhiji came out. He walked into the garden with some companions. But as he climbed the stairs, Nathuram Godse approached him. He bowed before the Mahatma. Then he pointed his pistol at him and fired 3 shots. The bullets hit him in the chest and abdomen. Blood flowed from Mahatma Gandhi’s body. The Mahatma said ”Hey Ram… Hey Ram\ and then fell to the ground. These were his last words and are quoted in all of his biographies. Gandhi’s secretary Kalyanam says that he was with Gandhi at that moment. He didn’t hear him saying ‘Hey Ram’. The people carried Gandhi back to his room. They laid him on a wooden cot. Mahatma Gandhi was unconscious. After a while, he asked for water but then he fainted again. He died within half an hour of being shot.

According to Stanley Wolpert, he died at 5:17 P.M. The assassin couldn’t escape either. An American diplomat Tom Reiner was attending Gandhi’s prayer service. He caught Nathuram Godse. Indian Air Force flight sergeant DR Singh snatched his pistol. Then the crowd also tortured him and handed him over to the police. Godse wasn’t worried. He loudly declared that he wasn’t ashamed of his act. The news spread like wildfire all over India. Sardar Patel was also present at the Birla House at that time. Mahatma Gandhi had also met him before going out. He also stood at Gandhi’s bedside until his death. After some time, Nehru also reached Birla House. Thousands of people gathered outside Birla House. They all wanted to see Gandhi for one last time. So the Mahatma’s body was taken to the second floor. The bedhead side was raised. His face was illuminated by a lamp for all to see. That night, Nehru addressed the nation and paid tribute to Gandhi. He said that the light had gone out of their lives and there was darkness everywhere. An army-led funeral procession left the Birla House the next day.

Governor General Lord Mountbatten also attended the funeral. Gandhi’s body was placed on a military vehicle covered with flowers. Nehru and Patel also rode the vehicle. Millions of people lined both sides of the road. The women were crying aloud. His body was taken to the crematorium on the banks of the river Jumna. His pyre was covered with sandalwood and then ignited. The crowd was so large that the cavalry police baton-charged them. On February 12, 1948, Nehru arrived in Allahabad to scatter Gandhi’s ashes. Thousands of people gathered on this occasion. The vehicle carrying Gandhi’s ashes was covered with flowers. Soldiers marched in front of the vehicle. Military helicopters flew overhead. Nehru’s caravan moved under the army’s protection. They reached where Ganges and Jumna rivers meet, the location of the Kumbh Mela. Nehru, with some female relatives of Gandhi, went into the river in a boat. He scattered Gandhiji’s ashes in the water. The remaining ashes were put in pots and sent to all the state capitals. Some of this was later scattered in the water in various places. Some of it was scattered in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Mumbai in 2008. In 2010, his ashes were scattered off the coast of Durban, South Africa. In the Indian Ocean.

Mahatma Gandhi had spent his youth days in South Africa. He had started his law and political careers there. That’s why some of his ashes were scattered there as a tribute. Gandhi’s killers were arrested. But some questions still remains unanswered. For example, why wasn’t his security tightened after the first blast? How did the assassin enter the Birla House with a gun without checking? A plainclothes cop, an assistant, and a female doctor were supposed to be there. But all three were absent. Why? Patel also didn’t search for the answers. Why?

Patel was considered the worst opponent of Muslims. Even today, Hindu extremists respect Patel more than Nehru and Gandhi. Modi has installed a 597-foot-tall statue of Patel in Gujarat state. This statue is known as the Statue of Unity. But it is difficult to say that Patel was involved in Gandhi’s murder. Maybe?

Massive riots took place after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. His supporters burned the properties of Brahmins in Mumbai and the other cities. Their shops and houses were burned. This was the first time in independent India that Hindus were fighting Hindus. Godse belonged to both the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha. So both the organizations suffered heavily. Some accused the RSS leaders of providing the pistol to Godse. There were newspaper headlines. RSS workers also distributed sweets after Gandhi’s murder. The Indian government banned the RSS and jailed its workers. Many leaders from the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha were arrested. However, the RSS ban was later removed. Because the Home Minister, Sardar Patel had given clean chit to the RSS. He accused the Hindu Mahasabha of planning the assassination. However, Nehru didn’t ban the Hindu Mahasabha. The party remained part of the Congress-led coalition government. Party leader Mukherjee served as the minister for commerce and industries until 1950.

Gandhi was considered a symbol of non-violence in the world. His murder shocked the world. Truman called Gandhi’s death an ‘international tragedy’. The UN also mourned and lowered its flag to half-mast. The most surprising response came from Pakistan. Although both countries were enemies at that time. Their armies were fighting each other in Kashmir. Yet Quaid-i-Azam issued a statement of condolence. The statement said that the Quaid was shocked to learn of Gandhi’s death. He was a great leader of the Hindus and all the Hindus respected him. He offered his condolences to Gandhi’s family and the Hindu nation. He said that this was a great loss for India. It will be difficult to fill the vacuum created by Gandhi’s death.

Gandhi’s death place, the Birla House, is now a museum. It is known as the Gandhi Smriti Museum. His glasses, stick, and clothes are also kept here. Monuments are erected on his sitting place and the place where he was murdered. His foot marks are also preserved. The road in front of the building is also called Tees January Road. Gandhi died on a Friday. Hindu men and women gather in the building every Friday to remember him. Gandhi’s trial took place in the Red Fort. Then its appeals proceeded in the Punjab High Court (Shimla). At the trial, Gandhi’s assassins laughed shamelessly. They felt no remorse. Savarkar was also included in the trial. He was accused of provoking Godse and his gang to murder Gandhi. He had a group photo with them too. Digamber Badge became the approver against him. He testified that Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte had met Savaraker. The badge was also present there. He also overheard Savarkar wishing them good luck in their mission. However, the approver’s statement wasn’t enough to punish Savarkar. The law required another witness who didn’t appear. So Savarkar was released. Godse also took the blame on himself and never blamed Savarkar. Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were sentenced to death. Gopal Godsse, Madanlal, and Vishnu Karkare were sentenced for life. However, Godsse made inflammatory speeches in court. Thus he became a hero for the Hindus. He presented his own case in court. He prepared a 150-paragraph-long statement and read it to the court in 5 hours. He tried to prove that he murdered Gandhi to benefit India. He narrated a reason for that. He accused Gandhi of bowing to the Muslim League’s demand of partition. Gandhi was a Muslim sympathizer. Gandhi was supporting the Muslims and not the Hindus over Kashmir etc. He said that he was surprised that Gandhi was credited for the freedom of India. He said that it wasn’t right to bow to the League’s demands. Accepting the demand for Pakistan wasn’t the right way to freedom. It only meant to create an enemy state on the Indian borders. As a permanent enemy. He said that there was no legal way to punish Gandhi. That’s why he killed Gandhi because he couldn’t do more.

However, Godse acknowledged that Gandhi had suffered for the nation. That’s why the assassin bowed to him before firing shots. In the end, Godse chanted ‘long live Akhand Bharat, Vande Mataram’. Nathuram Godse was hanged on 15 November 1949. He was hanged in Ambala Central Jail in the modern-day state of Haryana. His brother completed his jail term and returned to Pune. He died on 26 November 2005, in Pune at the age of 86. He preached the Hindutva ideology throughout his life. He always said that he wasn’t ashamed of Gandhi’s assassination. Nathuram Godse was hanged. But he has become an ideal of the extremist Hindus. Especially, the RSS, BJP, and the Hindu Mahasabha consider him a hero.

A BJP MLA, Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal called Godse a ‘patriot’. His statue was installed in the office of the Hindu Mahasabha in Gwalior. His statue was bathed in milk and his forehead was marked with a ’tilk’. However, the police removed the statue later on. Hindu Mahasabha also established a study center in Godse’s name in Gwalior. In Madhya Pradesh, Gandhi’s ashes were stolen and his poster was disgraced. Hindu Mahasabha leader Pooja Pandey also reenacted his assassination. She fired bullets at an effigy of Gandhi and fake blood flowed from it. She was arrested but she told the court that she wasn’t ashamed. She said that she only used her constitutional right. This is the way of the Hindu Mahasabha and other groups. They show their hatred for Gandhi in this way. But they still refuse to bear the responsibility for his murder.

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