Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Nathuram Vinayak Godse (May 19, 1910 - November 15, 1949) born at Baramati Poona District , was the assassin of Mohandas Gandhi, one of the principal figures in the movement for India's independence from Britain. Godse was a Hindu Chitpavan Brahmin who blamed Gandhi for Partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan. Investigations revealed that Godse, a high school drop out, was a well-known member of the Hindu Mahasabha. Godse started a Marathi newspaper for Hindu Mahasabha called Agrani , some years later renamed Hindu Rashtra . Following his assassination of Gandhi, Godse was then tried and executed. Godse at his trial on November 8, 1948, stood to read out a 90+ page typed treatise for 5 hours on his justification for killing Gandhi adding "Before I fired the shots I actually wished him well and bowed to him in reverence".
His ties to the Hindu right-wing organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) led to its ban soon after Gandhi's assassination. The RSS to this day deny any connection with Godse and dispute the claim that he was a member.
Godse was also a known correspondent with and follower of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the Hindu nationalist leader whom many Indians regard as a freedom fighter. Other Indians would say that Savarkar was a demagogue who was morally responsible for the deaths of millions in communal riots. Savarkar was charged but not convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of Gandhi.
Godse's immediate motive for the assassination is usually ascribed to Gandhi's January 13, 1948 decision to fast to the death unless the Indian central government reversed a decision to withhold the transfer of 55 crore (550 million) rupees (which was to be paid in accordance with the partition agreements) to the government of Pakistan. The Indian government immediately reversed its decision, and this prompted Godse to assassinate Gandhi on January 30, 1948.
Godse's deposition in court
Godse's vindication of his act is available at: Godse's deposition in court
The movie Hey Ram
In 2000, the famous Tamil actor Kamal Haasan produced, directed and starred in a movie called Hey Ram , concerning the assassination of Gandhi. The title is taken from Gandhi's final words. The movie initially provoked opposition and controversy as it was expected to support and defend Godse's act. Kamal had to placate many politicians in order to get his film past the censorship board.
Despite the controversy and the free publicity, the film was a failure at the box office -- though it won some plaudits in the art-movie and film festival circuit.
Godse and modern Indian politics
Following the deaths of millions in the communal violence that followed the Partition and also the death of Gandhi at the hands of Godse, Hindu political organizations such as the Mahasaba and the RSS were temporarily eclipsed. Many believed that they had blood on their hands. The ruling party of India was Gandhi and Nehru's Congress party, which was non-sectarian, secular, and left-leaning.
The RSS, on the other hand, had been busily organizing. In 1951, they had started a political wing, the Bhartiya Jana Sangh . When this party failed to win and hold power, in 1980 it was reorganized as the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP. Through adroit exploitation of issues such as Ayodhya, the BJP finally won national power. It was the party in power briefly in 1996, and then again from 1998 to 2004, when it was displaced by a revived Congress party.
Critics of the RSS and BJP argue that these groups have consistently preached hatred and violence, while disclaiming responsibility when violence actually resulted (the Partition, decades of bloody communal riots, Gandhi's assassination). Hence there is a continuing debate over the role of the Hindutva groups (the Mahasaba, the RSS and its later political arm the BJP) in inciting Godse to the assassination. The BJP will take none of the responsibility; its critics see this as an evasion.
- Why I assassinated Mahatma Gandhi? ISBN 1375099796
- May it Please your Honor!
- A pro-Godse site with interviews and links
- Time Magazine's Feb 2000 interview of Gopal Godse
- Rediff's Jan 1998 interview of Gopal Godse
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