Nathuram Godse – Saint/Sinner

Nathuram Godse assassinated Gandhi on January 30, 1949. I came across a mention of Godse’s  speech in the court in Chapter 1 of Ramachandra Guha’s book “India after Gandhi”. I became interested in reading the speech and understanding Godse’s motivation behind the assassination. A quick google search will take you to several web pages that contain the full speech. Here, I would like to present some excerpts which I thought are important.

But first, I would like to say that it does not seem to me that Godse merely pulled the trigger in an assassination planned by bigger players. He seems to be a well-read man, who had convinced himself by several reasons that it was time for Gandhi to go; he says in his speech, “After having fully considered the question, I took the final decision in the matter..”.
His motivations and reasons fall in two distinct categories: (a) bigoted Hindu fanaticism, made worse by the troubled times of 1947, and (b) pragmatic political reasons against Gandhi’s dominance of the Indian political scene. Personally, I have no take on Godse. To me, his Hindu doggedness seems as foolish as his political acumen seems praiseworthy.
The main reasons seem to be (a) Gandhi’s defence of Muslims under attack from Hindus and Sikhs in India and (b) Gandhi’s acceptance of the partition. Here are some excerpts:
  • “Born in a devotional Brahmin family, I instinctively came to revere Hindu religion, Hindu history and Hindu culture… I worked actively for the eradication of untouchability and caste system based on birth alone.”
  • “Since the year 1920, after the demise of Lokmanya Tilak, Gandhiji’s influence in the Congress first increased and then became supreme…”
  • “it is nothing but a mere dream if you imagine that the bulk of mankind is, or can become capable of scrupulous adherence to these lofty principles (of truth and non-violence)”
  • “in dubbing Rama, Krishna and Arjuna as guilty of violence, the Mahatma betrayed a total ignorance of the springs of human action”
  • “In condemning history’s towering warriors like Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Gobind Singh as misguided patriots, Gandhiji has merely exposed his self-conceit”
  • “The accumulating provocation of 32 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”
  • “If the country wanted his leadership, it had to accept his infalliability; if it did not, he would stand aloof from the Congress and carry on his own way… Either Congress had to surrender its will to his and had to be content with playing second fiddle to all his eccentricity…or it had to carry on without him… Thus the Mahatma became the judge and jury of his own cause”
  • “When top leaders of Congress, with the consent of Gandhi, divided and tore the country which we consider a deity of worship, my mind was filled with direful anger”
  • “…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”
  • “I stoutly maintain that Gandhi has failed in his duty. He has proved to be the Father of Pakistan…. His doctrine of non-violence crumbled before Jinnah’s iron will”
  • “I felt that Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be proved practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces.”
  • “I had no respect for the present government owing to their policy, which was unfairly favourable towards the Muslims”

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