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Book 4 d week : The men who killed Gandhi

Review by Vinoo

Author :  Manohar Malgaonkar

Thanks to a good friend for recommending this read on Gandhi’s assassination. It is good read on the conspiracy but then, it is far from unbiased. The book dwells at length, and for seemingly no reason, on the Narayan Apte’s affair with Manorama Salvi, briefly mentions Savarkar’s affair with Margaret Lawrence and keeps referring to Madanlal’s bride-watching for no specific reason. Quoting from the book ‘That was the general pattern of the times. Indian boys went to study at the great colleges of England, goggled at the wonders of the western world and were tamed by the civilizing influences of their environment. They invariably returned as brown sahibs. Many fell in love with English girls, and some brought back white wives. Savarkar conformed to the pattern only by falling in love with an English girl, whose name was Margaret Lawrence. Otherwise he remained defiantly Indian’. He has also referred to the vices of most of the accused and co=conspirators, but seems to paint a very good image of Nathuram Godse, which could well be the case.

‘How Nathuram got his name : ‘As the family had lost their three sons in infancy, his parents, to appease the evil spirits, decided to raise their next son, as a girl, and he was made to wear a ‘nath’ or a nose-ring, hence the name ‘Nathuram’.’ That explains the sissy.

Quoting again ‘… had the audience of that day (in the High Court) been constituted into a jury and entrusted with the task of deciding Godse’s appeal, they would have brought in a verdict of ‘not guilty’. – Justice G D Khosla. I would tend to agree. The irony of it all is that the man who preached non-violence died the way he did, and the assassin had to be hanged to death. It was the decision to give 55 Crore to Pakisthan that triggered Narayan Apte and Nathuram Godse to decide that Gandhi had to be killed. The other reason they believed Gandhi had to be killed was that he was pro-Muslim and thereby anti-Hindu and also responsible for the partitioning of India.

The author has a good sense of humour and has not shied away from taking a dig at Mahatma Gandhi and his fasting at the drop of a hat. Sample this : And with that Gandhi left, ‘to give good effect to his great decision (fasting). It had worked before; there was a good chance that it might produce results this time too.’

As for whether Gandhi cried out ‘Aaahh’ or ‘Hai Ram’ or ‘Raam Raam’ and whether Savarkar said ‘Yashasvi houn ya’ (Come back successful or success to you to Godse and Apte) is debatable. Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte are believed to have said ‘Akhand Bharath Amar rahe’ (Long live undivided India) Gandhi rose to go, Mountbatten told him that his decision to go on fast was a ‘brave move’ and that he hoped it would create the new spirit that was badly needed.

Each one does something in his belief that he is doing what is right. He believes he is as much, if not more, a patriot as anybody else. Nathuram Godse’s defense is well made and certainly worth a read.

Interesting read this last speech by Nathuram Godse. I particularly liked reading the section on ‘Hindustani’, ‘Hindi’ and ‘Urdu’. There is no remorse anywhere. In fact he is even proud of his act. Read on  here.

‘Eight men were charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and other charges connected with violations of the Explosive Substances Act. They were Nathuram Godse, Narayan Apte, Vishnu Karkare, Madanlal Pahwa, Gopal Godse, Vinayak savarkar, dattatray Parchure and Shankar Kistayya.

On 10 February the judge, Atma Charan, delivered the judgment. Only Savarkar was acquitted. How Digambhar Badge, who turned approver, was pardoned is indeed surprising.

The author accuses the Delhi Police and Mumbai Police of not working together and thereby letting the conspiracy succeed. There is also the accusation that Morarji Desai did not act quickly enough although he had information on the conspiracy and that J D Nagarwala, I.P, the DGP also was responsible    by being stubborn in following his own supposition of a conspiracy to kidnap, rather than assassinate, Gandhi.

Useless trivia : ‘Night in Glenzyle’, by John Ferguson, is the book Nathuram Godse is reading just before the assassination. He used a 9 mm Beretta to kill Gandhi. A Pistol as against a Revolver(I haven’t got a good enough explanation on the difference to be able to explain it here).

In his younger days Nathuram Godse was fan of Mahatma Gandhi but then he is believed to have been heavily influenced by Vinayak Damodar ‘Veer’ Savarkar, the proponent of ‘Hindutva’ (Savarkar was an atheist who considered ‘Hinduism’, different from ‘Hindutva’, an ethnic, cultural and political identity). Savarkar was arrested during the freedom movement and released after he pleaded clemency and signed a statement endorsing the trial, verdict and British law, and renounced violence thereby bargaining his freedom. Savarkar was also an accused in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but he was acquitted as the charges couldn’t be proved. Whether he was involved or not is no longer important but the author seems to take a special interest in clearing his name.

Not that I am a great fan of Mahatma Gandhi either, but then you got to give it to him for preaching and sticking to ‘non-violence’. He was ahead of its time. Takes some guts. I wouldn’t want to comment about some of his mistakes cos we have this habit of giving humans godly status. I’d rather save it for a one-on-one sometime, over beer of course. Phew! That was a long one.

Category: Book 4D Week

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