Was Nathuram Godse a Patriot?

Nathuram Vinayak Godse, a Chitpavan Brahmin born in 1910 was more sentimental than rational. Influenced by the attainment of freedom, he wanted to join Satyagraha but couldn’t owing to his educational constraints. When shifted to Ratnagiri in 1929, he met Veer Savarkar, a revolutionary who indoctrinated Hindu nationalist philosophy of Hindutva.

Joining RSS and cooperating with Swatantryaveer Savarkar, he realised how mammoth it is to organise Hindus into a homogenous whole. For his active participation, he was subsequently given a task in 1938 to lead the batch of passive registration launched as an agitation for the removal of injustice done to the Hindus of the Hyderabad State.

From 1938 to 1948, Nathuram had wholly devoted himself to the work of Hindu-Sangathan for bringing about the solidarity of the Hindus. For these ten years, the life of Nathuram was hard-pressed with tours, lectures, article writing for his own newspaper ‘Agrani’, later labelled as ‘Hindu Rashtra’.

The 1947 partition was the most miserable scenario of his times when waves after waves of blood-drenched refugees returned to India every day. There were myriad displaced people who pronounced bitter curses that because of Gandhi they had lost their homes and so Gandhi must not live. However, the thought of actually killing Gandhi was itself far more grievous.

Also, back then, it was an impossible task to even stand against Gandhi and the idea of killing him would result in one’s whole life raised completely to dust. To suffer every contempt, indignity and humiliation from the world over by the followers of this international influencer was no less than self-immolation. Thus, one can very well figure out that killing Gandhi was not an impulsive act of any monomaniac shooter rather a result of extended resentment.

It is discernible that surely there was a chain of events which provoked Nathuram to such an extremity as to deprive Gandhi of his earthly existence and consequently bringing an end to his life as well.

Nathuram assassinated Gandhi on 30th January 1948, as a dire duty and ominous obligation and voluntarily surrendered to the authorities. He quoted in the court of law- “There was no legal machinery by which Gandhi could be brought to book. I felt that he should not be allowed to meet a natural death”. He very well understood that he was no one to put an end to anyone’s life and also knew the repercussions of his acts. So, he requested the Hon’ble Court not to show any mercy to him or anyone, on his behalf, should beg mercy towards him and the Hon’ble court may pass orders of Sentence as may be proper.

At the famous Red Fort Trial, Nathuram presented a long-detailed statement of 150 (One Hundred and Fifty) reasons for killing Gandhi. The reasons were with specification of what all aggravated him and why he decided to take up this step. At the same trial, he denied his lawyer to cross-examine any witness.

The Chief Prosecutor of the case, Shri C.K. Daphtary, requested the court not to allow Nathuram, the accused, to read the statement that he had prepared. But the judge rejected the request as no accused can be stopped from deposing. However, all attempts were made to make sure that the statements made by the accused do not reach out of the court. All the notes of the press reporters were torn to pieces and they were threatened. Further, State after State, there was a ban on the publication of his statement, in part or in full.

In his statements, he aimed to summarize the history of the last thirty years (1918-1948) during which India has been ruined by the Imperialist policy of British and under a mistaken policy of communal unity.

Nathuram’s Detailed Statement

Nathuram Godse, in his deposition, laid down the development of the wide gulf between the two ideologies namely absolute ‘Ahimsa’ by Gandhi and discarding of Ahimsa for resisting the aggressions on Hindus by Hindu Nationalists. He has described in detail the specific events when Gandhi was the reason for several calamities which the Hindu community had to undergo.

Nathu trailed incidents from the very outset of Gandhi Politics. He mentioned- With the death of Lokmanya Tilak, Gandhi started influencing masses with his ideologies and soon became supreme. With this, he decided Hindu-Muslim unity to be the foundation of his politics as the foreign rulers have corrupted the sense of country love of the Muslims. He wanted to be the leader of both Hindus and Muslims.

For the Hindu-Muslim unity, Gandhi had a genuine but somewhat hasty approach which failed all his attempts. He started making most-friendly proposals to the Muslim community. In 1919, Gandhi became very desperate to achieve his objective to the extent that he promised a bank cheque to the Muslims.

In 1919-20, the Ali Brothers, the de-facto leaders became the followers of Gandhi and a ray of hope became evident but what he wanted, never happened.

Soon the Kerala Moplah Rebellion (an extended movement of Khilafat Movement) in 1921 showed the Muslim sentiments of the National Unity, where happened a huge slaughter of the Hindus, rapes, arsons and numerous forcible conversions.

The Muslim mind was so manipulated by the Foreign rulers with the idea of being the minority that they never wanted to unify with the majority for the reason of oppression which they thought would take place if they conjoin with them. But the more Gandhi got defeated, the more, he indulged in persuading the Muslims by extravagant-methods.

With each passing time, he increased his stake and agreed to one undemocratic demand after another to the Muslim League in the hope of taking the credit of National Unity to his name.

In 1928, Separation of Sindh from Bombay and the creation of the North-West Frontier Province (now a part of Pakistan) were accepted on the demand of Mr Jinnah but still, the idea of unity receded further.

Like a gambler who lost a portion, Gandhi became desperate to enjoy the support of Muslim Leader and surrendered more and more to Muslims but every time Jinnah asked for more. Soon after 1928, the Muslim League separated itself from Congress and refused to be a part of it.

In the second-round table conference in 1931, when Ramsay McDonald, the British Prime Minister of that time, proposed the idea of Communal Award Gandhi, the sole representative of Congress available at that meeting refused to oppose it. The introduction of the Communal Award was not at all in support of democracy and nationalism. Additionally, it strengthened the mouldering forces of communalism which had already abraded for the past 24 years. Inexplicably, Gandhi who had staked so much for the previous fifteen years for communal unity had himself ruined his idea.

While the Congress focused on the War of Independence against British, Mr Jinnah and the League remained neutral and got into no tussle with the Government. They had a clear policy which they introduced in the Lahore Session by passing a resolution for the partition of India with a promise of their cooperation in the war.

In 1942, the ‘Quit India’ Movement by Congress resulted in a 2-year Jail term of the leaders. At this time, the League stood in opposition of this movement and raised a counter slogan ‘Divide and quit’. Here, Gandhi’s idea of communal unity was served with a slight addition of Divide, which he overlooked and agreed to partition.

Gandhi tried to win Muslim leadership. Once a Muslim objected to the singing of Vande Mataram and soon the song prominent national importance was displaced by Jana Gana Mana.

The Noakhali massacre where Muslims indulged in the dreadful massacre of Hindus, in Muslim Provinces, led to multiple reactions but Gandhi condemned only the actions of the Hindus and never took instance when Muslim started in the first place. Similarly, he kept mum on the prolonged Hindu persecution in Hyderabad.

One more dejection to the staunch Hindu nationalist was that while the Congress yielded to each demand of the Muslim League, it took no notice of the pure national policies of the Hindu Mahasabha and always derogated and distorted the organisation and its leaders for they talked for a particular community which the Muslim League did as well.

One hypocritical event happened in 1944. Gandi gave out the principle “War Meant Violence and How Could I Help” during the war between England and Germany. But for his release from jail in 1944, he supported the government proposal of help in the war against Japan. Gandhiji himself trampled the doctrine of nonviolence which he had championed and which had led to the death of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and his friends.

After the creation of Western Pakistan, five crores Indian Muslims ceased to be our countrymen and the non-Muslim minority was liquidated by the most brutal atrocities. Likewise, it happened in Eastern Pakistan where one Hundred and ten million of people were forced to leave their homes. Gandhi uttered no single word of sympathy or comfort when millions of Hindus and Sikhs were displaced and massacred during the 1947 Partition.

Even after all such mishappenings, Gandhiji continued to follow the same policy of placation. After partition, the Indian Army was trying hard to stop the invaders from entering Kashmir. To reach a consensus, a commendable strategy of withholding the 55 Crores until the Kashmir issue was undertaken under the guidance of Sardar Patel.

But Gandhi felt this wasn’t as per his ideals of Ahimsa which he failed to follow evidently and, in his 12th January 1948, sermon tried to persuade the Indian Government to dissolve the strategy. To push the Government further, Gandhi went on a hunger strike on 13th January 1948 and resultantly the Government gave in and agreed to pay to Pakistan the money promised and the Kashmir issue stayed unresolved.

Nathuram could not tolerate it any longer and decided to end Gandhi’s life. He was sure that if Independent India continues to work under the guidance of Gandhi, it will deteriorate the freedom of the partition of India which needs to be preserved. Thus, he shot Gandhi.

He emphasised- “If devotion to one’s own country amounts to a sin, I admit I have sinned. If it is meritorious, I humbly claim the merit thereof.”

He added- “I have no doubt that honest writers of history will weigh my act and find the true value thereof some day in future”.

Mr Justice Khosla, the presiding judge in Nathuram’s case, mentioned in his memoirs that after the long statement of Nathuram Godse, the accused, the audience was ‘deeply and audibly moved’. There persisted an unceasing silence when he ended speaking. People were in tears and were coughing and searching for handkerchiefs. It seemed no less than a melodrama scene of a Hollywood movie. Undoubtedly, if the audience of that day constituted the jury and given the task of giving the verdict then they would have pronounced the accused ‘Not Guilty’ by ‘an Overwhelming majority’.

Rishabh Gupta from Symbiosis International Deemed University

“He ventures to learn and write on different aspects of law and has a keen interest in Criminal Law.

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