On the night of January 30, 1948, Nathuram Vinayak Godse mató a tiros a Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi a quemarropa, as India’s most revered leader left a prayer meeting in the capital, Delhi.
The 38-year-old fan was Hindu Mahasabha member, a right-wing party. He had accused Gandhi of having betrayed the Hindus by being too pro-Muslim and soft on Pakistan.. He even blamed him for the bloodshed that marked Partition, the process through which India and Pakistan were created after independence from Britain in 1947.
A court of first instance sentenced Godse to death a year after the murder.
He was executed in November 1949, after the high court upheld the verdict. (An accomplice, Narayan Apte, also received the death sentence, and six others were sentenced to life in prison).
The specter of assassination
Before joining Hindu Mahasabha, Godse era miembro de Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Organization of Volunteers) or RSS, the ideological source of the ruling party Bharatiya Janata (BJP) from India.
the prime minister himself Narendra Modi is a member longtime mothership of 95-year-old Hindu nationalism. The RSS plays a deeply influential role in your government and outside of it.
For decades, the RSS has shunned Godse, who murdered the “Father of the Nation,” as the Indians love to call their greatest icon.
But nevertheless, a group of Hindu rightists in recent years have praised Godse and openly celebrated the assassination of Gandhi. Last year, an incendiary BJP MP described Godse as a “patriot”.
All of this has outraged most Indians, but the RSS has stood firm on its position: Godse had left the organization long before he killed Gandhi. A new book now claims that this is not entirely true.
Godse, he was a shy man who dropped out of high school, worked as a tailor and sold fruit before joining Mahasabha, where he edited their newspaper.
During the trial, it took him more than five hours to read a 150-paragraph statement in court. He said that “there was no conspiracy” to kill Gandhi, and thus tried to acquit his accomplices of any crime.
He rejected the accusation that he had acted under the guidance of his leader, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who gave birth to the idea of Hindutva or Hinduism. (Although Savarkar was cleared of all charges, critics believe the radical rightist who hated Gandhi was connected to the assassination.)
godse too told the court that he had broken with the RSS long before he killed Gandhi.
Dhirendra Jha, author of “Gandhi’s Assassin”, writes that Godse, the son of a postal worker and a housewife, was an “outstanding worker” for the RSS. There was no “proof” that he was expelled from the organization.
A statement from Godse recorded before the trial “never mentions his departure from the RSS after becoming a member of the Hindu Mahasabha.” But nevertheless, his court statement said he “joined the Hindu Mahasabha after leaving the RSS, but remains silent on when exactly he did it.”
“This was a statement that remains one of the most debated aspects of Godse’s life,” says Jha.
In his view, “pro-RSS writers” have used this to “quietly push the idea that Godse had already broken with the RSS and joined the Hindu Mahasabha nearly a decade before he killed Gandhi.”
The American investigator J. A. Curran Jr claimed that Godse joined the RSS in 1930 and resigned four years later, but provided no evidence for his claim.
Jha writes that in a statement made to the police before the start of her trial, Godse admitted that he was working for both organizations simultaneously.
Family members have also joined the debate in the past. Gopal Godse, Nathuram’s brother, who died in 2005, said his brother “did not leave the RSS”. Separately, a nephew Godse’s grandson assured a journalist in 2015 that Godse joined the RSS in 1932 and “neither was expelled nor did he leave the organization”.
“Fluid and overlapping relationship”
Jha, who tracked down the files, also dwells on the links between the two Hindu organizations. write that the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS had a “fluid and overlapping relationship” and an identical ideology.
The two groups, he points out, “they always had close connections and sometimes even overlapping members” until Gandhi was assassinated. (RSS was banned for more than a year after Gandhi’s assassination).
The RSS has always echoed what Godse said in court: that he left the organization in the mid-1930s and that the trial showed he had nothing to do with the murder.
“Saying that he was a member of the RSS is just projecting a lie with political intentions”, He said Ram Madhav, a top RSS leader.
MS Golwalkar, one of the most influential leaders of the RSS, described Gandhi’s assassination as a “tragedy of unprecedented magnitude, even more so because the evil genius is a fellow countryman and a Hindu.”
More recently, RSS leaders such as MG Vaidya have called Godse a “murderer” who “insulted” Hindutva by killing such a respected figure in India.”
Authors like Vikram Sampath believes that the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha had a stormy relationship.
Sampath, author of a comprehensive two-volume biography of Savarkar, writes that the Hindu Mahasabha’s decision to create a group of volunteers akin to a “revolutionary secret society” to “safeguard the interests of Hindus” had “soured” their relations with India. the RSS.
Furthermore, according to Sampath, the RSS “desisted from idolizing people, unlike the Mahasabha leader, Savarkar, who believed in “hero worship and exaggerated flattery.”
In another book, “RSS: A View to the Inside”, Walter K Andersen and Shridhar D Damle, talk about how the RSS was “tainted with the participation of a former member (Nathuram Godse)” in the assassination of Gandhi, and “maligned with official backing as fascist, authoritarian and obscurantist.”
However, the doubts that Godse was an inextricable part and never left the RSS have never faded..
Before Godse off to the gallows on November 15, 1949, he recited the first four sentences of the RSS prayer. “Once again, this reveals the fact that he was an active member of the organization”, says Jha. “Disassociating RSS from Gandhi’s assassin is an invention of history.”