Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Men Who Killed Gandhi by Manohar Malgonkar

Image result for the men who killed gandhiIn recent months the national discourse has been about Nathuram Godse, the man who shot the Mahatma. I, like most Indians have little idea about this man, except that the Hindu extreme right consider him as a savior and the left and centrists think of him as evil personified who was egged on by the Hindu right to plan and then the execute the assassination of MK Gandhi. The truth as in most cases was completely different.

1947, the year of liberation, what should have been a time of celebration and joy had turned into grief, desperation and for people in Punjab and Bengal, sheer horror! Jinnah, had called for Hindus and Sikhs to be driven out of their homes from East and West Pakistan to make partition a success and ensure a homeland for Muslims. Tens of thousands of Hindus and Sikhs were murdered, women raped and paraded naked. Millions more were displaced from their homes. Hindus and Sikhs responded by culling hundreds of Muslims in Hindu dominated areas in Punjab.

During this time of upheaval and chaos, Pakistan sent its troops disguised as tribal into Kashmir to annex it,  the Hindu king of Kashmir called on Patel and Nehru for help, India flew its troops to Kashmir to stop the massacre. This meant India and Pakistan were now officially at war.

During these times of cacophony, their was the Mahatma, the harbinger of peace. Gandhi, now touching 80, wanted Hindus and Sikhs to stop the violence and even implored them to go back to their homes in Pakistan. The refugees were dumbstruck they could not believe their ears, they came to Delhi for support and refuge instead Gandhi wanted them to go back, to what? slaughter? more rape? To compound their troubles, Gandhi went on a fast to death urging the newly formed Congress government to release 100 crore to Pakistan, this during the time of war with Pakistan.

At the other end was Godse and his partner Narayan Apte, In Pune, they both ran a nationalist news paper. They were appalled by what Gandhi was doing, as per them he was holding the nation to ransom and was anti Hindu. they also blamed him and the leadership of Congress for the split of Mother India. It was then that they deiced to kill Gandhi. They did not know how, when and where but in their head if India had to live then Gandhi had to die.

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Godse and Apte venerated Veer Savarkar, through Savarkar and the Hindu Mahasabha they came into contact with the other men who planned the assassination of Gandhi. Vishnu Karkare, a local do good-er, Madan lal Pahwa, a refugee who was used to living hard, Digambar Badge, the weapons provider and his illiterate servant Shankar. These were the six men who conspired to kill Gandhi.

Over the years an impression has been created that these people were very meticulous, cunning and well funded. If that was true than Gandhi would have been killed much earlier. These guys were amateurs, poorly funded and not even very intelligent. Their plans were ridiculous and ideas plain idiotic. You do not expect to be bursting into bouts of laughter while reading about how Godse and his accomplices killed Gandhi, but trust me the antics of these so called cold blooded killers will have you in splits. Much to the annoyance of the communists and the centrists these guys were not cold blooded killers, they were not much hardcore Hindus either and some of them were not even very resolute on killing Gandhi. Badge even became a witness for the prosecution and turned on his fellow conspirators.

Much to the annoyance of the Hindu right, these guys were not model Hindus, far from it. Narayan Apte, the main co conspirator along with Godse, was a womanizer, he was married and cheated on his wife with a Christian mistress, even made her pregnant and left the poor girl to her own devices to dispose off the "evil Gandhi". These perverted minds kept blaming Gandhi for the murders and partition, like he personally carried them. He might have gone senile in his old age and might have not been living in the real world, but the poor soul was a mascot of non violence and showed the world how to fight without fighting.

In the end, these guys did manage to kill Gandhi. Apte and Godse were hanged. Godse perpetrated the ghastly act. They both were hanged, others were imprisoned for life. Savarkar was acquitted, Congress did not want a rival for Nehru and Savarkar posed a big threat. The fact that Savarakar was venerated by Godse and Apte was a good enough reason for some people to embroil him in the controversy, tarnish his reputation and finish his career.

The author, Manohar, wrote the book back in 70's, he did meticulous research and even spoke with a lot of accused, who were out of prison by that time and the also spoke with investigating officers. Book is filled with photographs and documentary evidences, which I personally like.

The book reads like a thriller, presents facts as a text book and is unbiased like Switzerland. Sublime work of history and politics.

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