Godse thought he represented the Hindus. In his eyes, what he did was to avenge the humiliation of the Hindus. For Godse, Hindus were feminine, being constantly violated by outsiders. He saw Gandhi as the effeminate Father of the Nation who was unable to protect Mother India. Like Savarkar, Godse looked up to the European ideal of a centralized, uniform nation-state. Gandhi wanted decentered power and accommodation of differences. One of the main reasons that Godse gave for killing Gandhi was the latter’s refusal to conform to the principles of realpolitik.
In his final speech, Godse said that Gandhian politics was dominated ‘by old superstitious beliefs such as the power of the soul, the inner voice, the fast, the prayer, and the purity of the mind.’ He also said, ‘Gandhiji's inner voice, his spiritual power and his doctrine of non-violence, of which so much is made of, all crumbled before Mr Jinnah's iron will and proved to be powerless.” Gandhi wanted to see his version of Hinduism as a generous ideal where there is no place for ill-will towards other communities. He interpreted the Bhagawad Gita in his own way, and saw it as an allegory for every person's constant fight against the evil inside him.
Godse’s ideas were checkmated by Gandhi's popularity, and this frustration drove him to murder, for which he was convicted and hanged. If he had waited awhile, Godse would have probably seen Gandhi lose some of his popularity - as the near complete abandonment of Gandhi's ideals in modern India attests. In fact, all those who now use Gandhi as a stick to beat the Sangh parivar with have actually murdered him in spirit by their own venal corruption, hypocrisy and general abandonment of the idea of non-violence.
One of Godse’s main intensions in assassinating Gandhi was to remove his brakes on the Government of India so they could conduct statecraft on the basis of ruthless realpolitik. He was worried that Gandhians would prevail on the government to pardon him. He thought that the government’s mercilessness towards him was a good beginning for the kind of politics that he wanted to see from them. He thought that there was plenty of latent support in the country for his line of thinking and that posterity would vindicate him.
The Government suppressed Godse’s speech fearing that it would evoke a lot of support for him, since it knew that there were a lot of people, especially in the educated middle class, who held views similar to those held by Godse. The latter thought that since state power was now in the hands of India, Gandhi was a back number who would be an obstacle for normal statecraft. Godse just reflected that unexpressed desire.
When Godse made his final statement before the judge who heard his assassination case, the entire audience was with him emotionally. That is what GD Khosla, former Chief Justice of Punjab, who heard Godse’s appeal and sent him to the gallows, believed. In his book, The Murder of the Mahatma, Khosla notes that after Godse’s last statement to the court
“the audience was visibly and audibly moved. There was a deep silence when he ceased speaking. Many women were in tears and men were coughing and searching for their handkerchiefs. The silence was accentuated and made deeper by the sound of an occasional subdued sniff or a muffled cough. It seemed to me that I was taking part in some kind of melodrama or in a scene out of a Hollywood feature film.
Once or twice I had interrupted Godse and pointed out the irrelevance of what he was saying, but my colleagues seemed inclined to hear him and the audience most certainly thought that Godse's performance was the only worthwhile part of the lengthy proceedings.”
In Khosla’s view, if the verdict had been left to the audience, Godse would have gone scot-free for his murder of Gandhi. “I have, however, no doubt that had the audience of that day been constituted into a jury and entrusted with the task of deciding Godse's appeal, they would have brought in a verdict of 'not guilty' by an overwhelming majority,” Khosla wrote.
There is a peculiar kind of heroism even in Godse. He knew he would be reviled and abused for what he did. To do something when you know you are only going to be hated for it also requires a weird kind of courage. It is easier to do something for which you will be applauded. Nehru had said that a madman had killed Gandhi. Godse was no madman. He saw more clearly than most people what he had done. In Ashis Nandy's essay, The Final Encounter: The politics of the Assassination of Gandhi (included in the essay collection Debating Gandhi), there is a quote by T. K. Mahadevan:
Godse was to Gandhi what Kamsa was to Krishna. Indivisible, even if incompatible. Arjuna never understood Krishna the way Kamsa did… Hate is infinitely more symbiotic than love. Love dulls one’s vision, hate sharpens it.
As a slight digression, there is an interesting story (probably apocryphal) that Ashis Nandy tells about the depth of devotion to Ram of the politically vocal Rambhakths. During his only visit to an RSS shakha, Gandhi saw the portraits of some of the famous martial heroes of Hindutva like Shivaji and Rana Pratap on the walls. Being a devotee of Ram, Gandhi asked why no portrait of Ram had been put up as well. The RSS leader who was accompanying him around said, ‘No, that we cannot do. Ram is too effeminate to serve our purpose.’
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