”I am late by ten minutes, I hate being late. I should have been here at the stroke of five.” Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi mused aloud to the crowd waiting for his prayer meeting. This was just a few minutes before he was shot dead by a young man who had entered the prayer meeting premise of Mahatma, taken out the pistol from his Khaki jacket and assassinated the charismatic leader. “Hey Ram” were his last words, and in more ways than one, suggest an uncanny reference to the name of the assasin Nathu “Ram” Godse.
This had been Godse’s second attempt to assassinate Gandhi. Not much has been said or written about the first attempt. It was in the year 1944, when Godse, who was part of a small group of demonstrators, is said to have rushed towards the Mahatma with a knife. After Godse failed in his initial attempt to take the Mahatama’s life, he did not give up. Finally after five years, at a prayer meeting, he did what he wanted to.
Nathu Ram Godse was a school dropuot, who gave up his studies to become an activist and joined the Hindu Mahasabha. The Hindu Mahasabha had initially backed Gandhi’s campaigns of civil disobedience against the British Government. However, Godse and his mentors later rejected Gandhi, as they felt that Gandhi was sacrificing Hindu interests in an effort to appease the minority groups. They blamed Gandhi for the macabre Partition of India, which left hundreds of thousands of people dead. RSS or Rashtra Swayamsangh Singh was the next platform for this 25-year-old boy, of which he soon became a member.
However, many did not consider Godse to be a religious fanatic, and argue that he never harmed any Muslim, as is widely believed. Godse was the editor of the Marathi newspaper, ”Argani”. Reading his articles, many observers agree that he did not directly write anything against Gandhi but certainly, he did not believe in his ideologies.
He also strongly held the view that the nation was divided because of Gandhi. He openly blamed Gandhi for the partition of India and believed that Gandhi had blackmailed the cabinet with his fast unto death for Pakistan. Talking about the issue, he had said, “In a democracy you cannot put forward your demands at knife-point. Jinnah did it and Gandhi stabbed the nation with the same knife.” He even raised the issue that Gandhi’s threats to claim his own life were causing the destruction — geographical as well as economical — of the nation.
According to Godse, Muslims had claimed a part of the nation as their own and that would incite the Sikhs also to do the same. He also felt that the religions are already divided into castes; they would then demand sub-divisions of the divisions. He questioned the very concept of national integration that Gandhi “advocated”. He felt that if partition had to occur after the century long struggle for independence in unison, it would have been far better had we fought independently and proclaimed our own lands on basis of our religions. This would have saved us the pain and agony of the partition.
His ultimate decision to attack Gandhi was made on the 13th of that month, the day when Gandhi started fasting to compel the Government to sanction funds worth Rs. 55 crores to Pakistan, to which the Central Government hadn’t agreed.
At his trial, Godse admitted, “After the firing, I raised my hand holding the revolver and shouted, ‘Police, police’. For 30 seconds nobody came forward and I scanned the crowd. I saw a police officer. I signaled to him to come forward and arrest me. He came and caught my wrist, then a second man came and touched the revolver… I let it go…” The following May, he was presented to the court and it was adjudged that he should be hanged.
Its been 60 years since Gandhi breathed his last and a few months later, so did Godse. However, the ideas of one are preached, and those of the other remain throttled and unheard.