Monday, October 18, 2004

India: RSS and the Assassination of Gandhi


A photograph can be seen in the Indian Archives, which blows up Advani's arguments in Savarkar's support. In this particular photograph, Savarkar can be seen in the company of other co-accused of Gandhi's assassination. All the eight accused are there in the photograph posing as if some college students are sitting for the group photograph at the time of farewell-party. Our plan was to kill Gandhi after he had sat down on the little prayer meeting platform facing the crowd. To do it, we stationed ourselves at the outer rim of the crowd towards the right as we faced the platform. It would mean an accurate shot of about thirty-five feet. Sizing up the distance I silently wondered 'Can Nathuram do it?' He was not an experienced or a particularly good shot. Will he be nervous and lose his aim, I wondered. I glanced at Nathuram. He was staring straight ahead, seemingly calm, all wrapped up in himself. I glanced at my watch. Gandhiji was coming late. I began to wonder why. I was a bit nervous." (Report of the Commission of Enquiry into Conspiracy to Murder Mahatma Gandhi-by J.L.Kapur, Judge of the Supreme Court of India)
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RSS and the assassination of Gandhi

Three mortal fires from the black Beretta pistol and few drops of blood on the eight-shilling Ingersoll watch

Arun Rajnath

The RSS zealots and other Hindu fundamentalists are raising diatribes against the secular forces of the Western Indian state of Maharashtra. The upcoming elections of the Legislative Assembly have become very critical, as it would decide the course of the future politics.

The fundamentalist forces are also raising the issue of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's alleged derogation, by a central minister of the United Progressive Alliance government at the Circular jail in Andaman and Nicobar islands. Savrarkar is also blamed for hatching the conspiracy to assassinate Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the father of the nation of India.

The issue of the RSS involvement in the assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi has once again raked up, as the election of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly is nearing. The fundamentalist forces are denying the charges.

It is noteworthy that a minister of the UPA government had removed the nameplate of Savarkar, from the cellular jail in Andaman-Nicobar on the charges of his alleged involvement, in the assassination of Gandhi. Since then, the RSS and BJP are staging demonstration and agitation throughout Maharashtra to mobilize Hindu votes against Muslim and secular votes.

Despite strong denial from the Hindu extremist organization RSS, there is equally strong evidence to this effect. And the black Beretta pistol and eight-shilling Ingersoll watch symbolically tell the whole story.

Since the Congress-led United Progress Alliance government has come into power, the issue of the assassination of Gandhi has once again raked up in the light of detoxification of textbooks and the riots of Gujarat, the home state of the Mahatama. The RSS has, as usual, strongly denied any links with the assassins.

On January 30, 1948 the assassins were already squandering in the gardens of the Birla House at New Delhi where Gandhi was staying. Now this locality is known as the Tees Janvari Road. The co-accused Vishnu Karkare told the police at the Connaught Place, later: "To our relief and surprise, we found the entrance of Birla House posed no problem. No one was searching the crowd coming in for weapons. We were relieved. We knew then Nathuram (the man who killed Gandhi) had made his entrance safely. We walked out to the garden and there we saw Nathuram mingling with the crowds. He seemed composed and good-spirited. We, of course, did not speak to one another. The crowd was scattered around the lawn. As five o'clock and the time for the prayers grew near, the people began to move together. We took our places on either side of Nathuram. We did not speak or glance at him so as not to reveal our secret. He was so much in himself; he seemed to have forgotten that we were there.

Our plan was to kill Gandhi after he had sat down on the little prayer meeting platform facing the crowd. To do it, we stationed ourselves at the outer rim of the crowd towards the right as we faced the platform. It would mean an accurate shot of about thirty-five feet. Sizing up the distance I silently wondered 'Can Nathuram do it?' He was not an experienced or a particularly good shot. Will he be nervous and lose his aim, I wondered. I glanced at Nathuram. He was staring straight ahead, seemingly calm, all wrapped up in himself. I glanced at my watch. Gandhiji was coming late. I began to wonder why. I was a bit nervous." (Report of the Commission of Enquiry into Conspiracy to Murder Mahatma Gandhi-by J.L.Kapur, Judge of the Supreme Court of India)

When Gandhi began his final strides towards the prayer ground, two members of his staff were missing. Sushila Nayyar, the doctor who usually walked in front of Gandhi, was still in Pakistan. The police officer who was assigned to remain by Gandhi's side always, was not there either. He had been summoned to an urgent meeting in downtown Delhi to discuss police arrangements, for a general strike of Delhi's utilities workers scheduled for the next day.

Gandhi was still chatting with the two girls, Manu and Abha who used to accompany him. The crowds were waiting for them at the prayer ground. The setting sun picked out the familiar brown head with its last rays.

Gandhi slid his arms from the shoulders of the two girls, clasped his palms to greet the crowd. Everybody was jostling to have his first glimpses. Some tried to touch his feet, some wanted to touch him.

In between, nobody noticed when did Nathuram Godse so silently came near Gandhi, and fold his hands. Gandhi's assistant Manu thought as if the man wanted to touch Gandhi's feet. At that instant, Godse's right hand exposed the black Beretta pistol. He pulled the trigger thrice. Three sharp, resounding reports shattered the calmness of the prayer ground.

Gandhi's frail body slowly sank to the ground beside Manu, his hands still frozen in namaste as if he was greeting his assassin. In between the folds of the blood-soaked dhoti, which Gandhi was wearing, drops of blood had fallen on Gandhi's favorite eight-shilling Ingersoll watch. The watch was showing the time: 5.17 p.m.

Eight persons were arrested on the charge of the assassination of Gandhi. Narayan Apte (hanged), Veer Savarkar (acquitted), Nathuram Godse (hanged), Vishnu Karkare (life imprisonment), Digamber Badge (turned approver, released), Shanker Kistaya (acquitted), Gopal Godse (life imprisonment) and Madanlal Pahwa (life imprisonment). All of them are respected elders of the Sangh Parivar whom former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his deputy Lal Krishna Advani hold in high esteem.

Soon after the assassination of Gandhi, all paraphernalia of the RSS was seized throughout the country, and Jawahar Lal Nehru banned the organization. The RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav has recently issued a letter of Vallabh Bhai Patel to Nehru, in which he had pleaded the case of the banned organization before the prime minister.

While talking to the 'Weekly Independent', Madhav claimed that the assassins were initially members of the RSS, but before killing Gandhi, they had left the organization. He said, "Nathuram Godse was an RSS member, but he had left before the assassination. So many join us, and after sometime they leave the organization."

However, he could not reply to a query about the total membership of the RSS, as there is no record of such nature. Here lies the secret.

Like any fascist organization, the RSS, too, does not maintain any written account or keep records of any nature. The RSS members are trained to recognize members by their faces, and they learn their names. Even notices are not circulated.

Information of any kind is given orally to one member who takes it to other members, and it will not take more than an hour to spread it in every nook and corner of the country. So it is very easy to deny one's membership or to refuse to recognize any member. Dara Singh, the assassin of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his children, has also been disowned in the same manner.

Other evidence of the involvement of the RSS is, that Gandhi was not included in the 'Pratah Ismaran', the morning prayer of the Sangh Parivar till 1976. The RSS fellows pay respects to all Hindu deities, great men, martyrs, etc before their morning drill through this peculiar 'Pratah Ismaran'.

An accomplice in the assassination, Savarkar is there in the prayer whose portrait, despite opposition from various quarters, the former NDA government installed in the Parliament, and just opposite of the portrait of Gandhi.

Till 1976, Nathuram Godse was also in the prayer. But the RSS deleted his name because the Jansangh (old name of the BJP) was emerging as an important political party after Indira Gandhi's dictatorial regime. At that time they wanted to have a share in Gandhi's legacy to dupe voters, nevertheless, Dr. Hedgewar's (the founder of the RSS) refusal to participate in the ongoing freedom struggle in 1942.

Aside from this, the Sangh Parivar's links with another conspirator, Veer Savarkar is also being denied. Former deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani told the Weekly Independent, "We do revere Veer Sarvakar, and his sacrifices cannot be ignored. He was not linked with the assassination of Gandhi, nor he had any association with Nathuram Godse. And we are raising this issue during the election campaign in Maharashtra."

A photograph can be seen in the Indian Archives, which blows up Advani's arguments in Savarkar's support. In this particular photograph, Savarkar can be seen in the company of other co-accused of Gandhi's assassination. All the eight accused are there in the photograph posing as if some college students are sitting for the group photograph at the time of farewell-party.

How can Mr. Advani deny this fact that when the news of the assassination spread, the police in Pune had to protect the shed where the printing press of the Hindu Rashtra, a right-winger journal was situated? A thousand people tried to storm the Savarkar Sadan, residence of Savarkar, in Mumbai. Mobs attacked the headquarters of the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS in cities across the country.

How can Mr. Advani deny the fact that the ashes of the dead body of Nathuram Godse is still in the possession of his family in Maharashtra to be immersed in the Indus river reunited under Hindu rule as Godse had declared in his last will. And that the RSS and the Shiv Sena still commemorate Godse on the day of his execution, November 15, as the 'Godse Day'. On this day in Pune, Nathuram's ashes are set in a silver urn before an enormous map of the entire Indian sub-continent.

On this day, the zealots of the RSS and other right-winger organizations thrust the open palms of their right hands into the air and swear before the ashes of Nathuram Godse to redeem "the vivisected portion of our motherland, including Pakistan and Bangladesh, to reunite India under Hindu rule from the banks of the Indus where the sacred verses of the Vedas were composed, to the forests beyond the Brahmaputra".


Weekly Independent, Issue #, 17 Vol # 04, October 14-20, 2004