History

The Godse non-Factor

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi the 145 year old Father of our Nation was recently, again, at the receiving end of the now-famous ‘Reasons of Assassination’ defense statement by Nathuram Godse. This has not been the first time that this is doing the rounds in social media and thus made me look up facts and information about some of the incidents. Here is my take –

The Assassination:

I have seen the Marathi play ‘Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoy’ and I too was sympathetic towards Nathuram Godse as any angry, young man would. However on some pondering it can be observed that what we hear in the play is only Nathuram’s version. There is no one to project Gandhi’s arguments. Also,  I fail to understand what Godse achieved by killing a frail 78 year old Gandhi who would probably not have lived much longer anyway given the life expectancy at the time? Instead Gandhi’s philosophy remained rock solid and rather became more accepted after his assassination and Nathuram, on the other hand, was branded a traitor and his lot slaughtered in the ensuing riots. My general observation is that political celebrities are more so if they are assassinated rather than when they die a natural death. Abraham Lincoln, Che Guevara, JFK, Malcolm X and Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi or Phoolan Devi closer home are good examples. Nathuram Godse may have been a patriot as well as a freedom fighter with views not in alignment with those of Gandhi’s but the fact remains that assassinating Gandhi just helped Gandhi’s cause more than it helped Godse’s. Had it been so simple, as Godse should have realised, the British would have done it long before.
Its easy to kill a person, but its not that easy to kill a thought and its exponentially more difficult to kill one if it were of a person as popular as Gandhi.

Gandhi and Bhagat Singh:

One of the reasons Gandhi did not support Bhagat Singh could be that he and other extremist freedom fighters went against his own principles. What would be left of the image of a national leader (with a growing international repute) if he went against his own very staunch principles? The British would have been the first to take advantage of this fact. I’m sure it would have pained Gandhi to the greatest extent to see these heroes die but, that, in a way was also a sacrifice he made. Gandhi was a freedom fighter and a patriot but also a staunch believer in non violence and shrewd politician (not the one in today’s sense, obviously). He knew he was a person with a popularity that was rivaled by very few leaders in the world let alone India. It would be a massive boost for the Imperialists if they would have had the opportunity to brand him a hypocrite in the eyes of Indian masses and also on the international stage. The shrewd politician in him was not going hand them this advantage.
Interestingly, in retrospect, it may be observed that in most cases where there were armed, bloody revolutions and civil wars against oppression, there was not long lasting freedom. We are one of the few countries, that has sustained almost 70 years of fair democracy (one without coups d’état, dictatorships or other foreign occupation) after the death of imperialism and I sincerely believe one of the major reasons for this is our non violent roots.

The ₹55 Crore issue:

It was a bitter, bitter and a still more bitter divorce between a couple. Does alimony ring any bells?!! On a serious note though, it was actually ₹75 Crores that India owed to Pakistan out of which ₹20 Crores had already been paid and the rest ‘₹55 Crores’ held up as Pakistan had invaded Kashmir. Since the whole of India was to be divided, its resources and all government machinery had to be divided too. It was too cumbersome to physically divide all the government property and thus it was valued up and ultimately divided into approximately a 20:80 ratio in favour of India. This 20 percent, after reducing what Pakistan already had in its territory, amounted to India paying Pakistan ₹75 Crore. It would hardly be fair that India didn’t pay that amount. Remember, India has always been fair in its deals with Pakistan without giving a thought as to the behaviour of our spoilt-brat neighbour which, in fact, should be the way of it. Moreover there is hardly any proof that Gandhi’s fast in Delhi during the period before his death was to persuade the Government to release the money rather than ending the riots in the Capital. Even if it were though, it would have not been wrong.

It will be interesting to note further that Nathuram Godse had made three previous attempts on Gandhi’s life the first and the second being in May and September 1944 respectively. At that time, there was no consensus as regard to any payment by India to Pakistan over partition. Heck! Partition was not even finalised by then.

Lately, I have observed, it has become somewhat of a fashion or a trend, if you may, to hate, criticize, demean and shame Gandhi. Our struggle for freedom was not a competition amongst our heroes. Even though they followed different ideologies, paths and methods, they themselves respected each other and had the common goal of a free, united and prosperous India. Gandhi, Tilak, Agarkar, Nehru, Bhagat Singh, Savarkar, S C Bose and all others were not batman and superman to be pitted against each other for our amusement. They were true supermen in the real sense of the term, to be respected, to be honoured and to be celebrated.

As the man himself has said:
Truth is one, paths are many

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