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Thursday, April 25, 2024

This is not Godse’s India, neither should it be Gandhi’s idea of India


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“If I am to die by the bullet of a madman, I must do so smiling. God must be in my heart and on my lips. And if anything happens you are not to shed a single tear.”

Mahatma Gandhi, January 28, 1948

Gandhi was shot from point-blank range on the prayer ground at 5.12 pm on January 30, 1948, by Nathuram Godse.

“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.”

Some people opine that Godse was a patriot to his India. Some people opine Godse was a traitor to Gandhi’s idea of India.

Godse murdered Gandhi in cold blood. That’s the truth. There is no justification for the murder. A murder is a murder.

It was the news that Gandhi decided to go on a fast to force India to transfer Rs 55 crores to Pakistan which was the trigger that led to Godse making the decision to kill ‘Gandhi’.

The murder of Gandhi by Godse only increased Gandhi’s ‘Demi God’ status in India and other parts of the world.

Godse got branded the sinner, and Gandhi got branded the saint. Gandhi became the face of India and remains the face of India.

Gandhi was an enigma. Some of his speeches of Gandhi baffled me. On 6th April 1947, he said, “We should with a cool mind reflect when we are being swept away. Hindus should never be angry against Muslims even if the latter might make up their minds to undo even their existence. If they put all of us to the sword, we should court death bravely, may they, even rule the world, we shall inhabit the world. At least we should never fear death. We are destined to be born and die, they why need we feel gloomy over it? If all of us die with a smile on our lips, we shall enter a new life. We shall originate a new Hindustan.”

On 23 September 1947, Gandhi expressed in one of his speeches, “Let us die if the people kill us; but we should die bravely with the name of God on our tongue. Even if our men are killed, why should we feel angry, you should realize that even if they are killed they have had a good and proper end. He further went on to elucidate, “I will advise you as I did the residents of Rawalpindi, that they should go there and meet the Sikhs and Hindu refugees, tell them politely to return to their places in Pakistan unaided either by the police or the military.

“He who is born must die. If those killed have died bravely they have not lost anything but earned something. But what to do with those who have slaughtered people, is a big question. One may concede that to err is human. I want even if a handful of persons protect themselves, they should not be afraid of death. After all the killers will be none other than our Muslim brothers. Will are brothers cease to be our brothers after a change of their religion?” Gandhi further expressed this in a speech on 23 September 1947.

Gandhi in a speech at a Prayer Meeting, in Patna, on March 5, 1947, “This Bihar of ours has today committed a heinous crime. The atrocities perpetrated on a handful of Muslims have no parallel, so say the Muslims, in the annals of history. I too have read some history. I know that the world has witnessed greater brutality by man on man. But it is no use repeating them here. We must not compete in doing evil and that too against whom? Those who cry for avenging Noakhali in Bihar do not know the meaning of vengeance. Is it manliness to return barbarism for barbarism? India has placed before the world a new weapon…We have been insisting that we will attain independence through nonviolence. I do not claim that all Indians have accepted non-violence as a matter of creed. But even when we accept anything as a matter of policy, it becomes our duty to act upon it…Those who are under the illusion that Bihar has saved other people by committing these barbarities are talking nonsense. This is not the way to attain freedom. If Muslims believe that they would annihilate the Hindus or if Hindus believe that they would annihilate the Muslims, I should like to ask them what they would gain thereby. Muslims will not serve Islam if they annihilate the Hindus; rather they would thereby destroy Islam. And if the Hindus believe that they would be able to annihilate Islam it means that they would be annihilating Hindu dharma. All religions are equal and they are founded on the same faith. Scriptures have said that one who condemns other religions, condemns one’s own religion…We should not gloat over the massacre of Muslims by Bihar Hindus. The Hindus of Bihar have committed a grave sin. They will raise the head of Bihar much higher if they do honest reparations, greater in magnitude than their crimes.”

I am not an advocate for violence and neither am I an advocate for non-violence. Situations define the need for violence or non-violence. But I am perplexed because it appears that Gandhi’s ‘Ahimsa’ focused on or was preached only to Hindus in India. He appeared to have had a soft corner for the Muslim community, even to the extent of supporting the Khilafat Movement. He even supported the formation of Pakistan and pressured the Congress government to pay Rs 55 crore to Pakistan.

The reasons expressed by Godse at the Red Fort trial on 8th November 1948, no matter how compelling an argument is made for the fallacies of the non-violence principles of Gandhi and its disastrous impact on Hindus in India and Hindus in Pakistan; one cannot still justify the killing of Gandhi.

in fact, Godse went on the state, “My confidence about the moral side of my action has not been shaken even by the criticism leveled against it on all sides. I have no doubt honest writers of history will weigh my act and find the true value thereof on someday future.”

There is no morality in the act of killing Gandhi. In fact, all morality that could have existed in Godse’s arguments become null and void because he decided to kill Gandhi. By murdering Gandhi in cold blood, he immortalized Gandhi and his flawed ‘Ahimsa’ teaching.

Bollywood director Rajkumar Santoshi has found the courage to make the movie ‘Godse Vs Gandhi’. There is no doubt that the premise around Gandhi’s and Godse’s differences in ideologies makes a compelling case study. But Godse was an assassin. An assassin might have a compelling argument to justify his act of terror but it is still an act of terror that must be condemned and not condoned.

The truth is Godse assassinated Gandhi. The truth is also that Gandhi flip-flopped with his policies on India. In hindsight when we evaluate Gandhi’s decisions, we are left with questions about the duplicity of some of the decisions that harmed the Hindus and also the Muslims.

Ahimsa in face of terror and barbarism is an act of cowardice and not bravery. Every human has a basic right to dignity. If one cannot protect that right to dignity and civility; and allow for oneself and one’s community to be violated, tortured, and obliterated then it is fruitless to be alive. It is like advising victims of rape to not fight back but accept one’s fate of being raped at the time of being raped. Gandhi’s ‘Ahimsa’ is flawed because it teaches us to be cowed down to brutality and consider it to be bravery while facing brutality.

What father because he believes in the principle of ‘Ahimsa’ allow his children to be tortured and violated but tells them to not be violent in times of violence and turn the other cheek when slapped on one cheek? No father in his right sense would remain a mute spectator or also advice his children to suffer the cruelty. Gandhi was titled Father of the Nation.

There is no doubt in my mind that Godse was wrong in assassinating Gandhi. But Gandhi’s ‘Ahimsa’ philosophy of submissiveness to deal with human rights violators and colonizers focused on our cultural genocide was flawed in my opinion.

This is not Godse’s India where we resort to assassinating a political leader because we find their policies flawed or discriminatory against our community. Neither should it be Gandhi’s idea of India where we as Indians allow ourselves to be raped time and again because a political leader believes that it is prudent to lie down and be violated because we need to walk the path of ‘Ahimsa’.


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