On January 30, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi fell to his assassin Nathuram Vinayak Godse’s bullets during an evening prayer ceremony at Birla House in Delhi. Perched atop a gate of Birla House, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru announced to the world the “light has gone out of our lives”.
Eight men were convicted in the murder trial inside Red Fort by a special court, constituted by an order of the central government. Godse and co-conspirator Narayan Apte were hanged for the murder of the Father of the Nation on November 15, 1949.
Historians and scholars have written extensively on “who killed Gandhi and why?” and the answer, obviously, doesn’t end with Godse. What Godse told the court in an attempt to explain why he chose to pump three bullets into Gandhi’s chest at point-blank range provides a glimpse into the politics of the assassination.
Why Godse killed Gandhi
“I do say that my shots were fired at the person whose policy and action had brought rack and ruin and destruction to millions of Hindus,” Godse told the court.
He added: “I bear no ill will towards anyone individually, but I do say that I had no respect for the present government owing to their policy, which was unfairly favourable towards the Muslims. But at the same time I could clearly see that the policy was entirely due to the presence of Gandhi.”
Godse had been an active member of the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha and ran a nationalist newspaper called Hindu Rashtra. Political psychologist and social theorist Ashis Nandy wrote in his book “At the Edge of Psychology: Essays in Politics and Culture” that Godse did not find the RSS militant enough, and in the Hindu Mahasabha “he found a more legitimate expression of the Hindu search for political potency”.
(The writer tweets as @saha_abhi1990 )