Who killed Gandhiji on January 30, 1948? If we must be safe, or politically correct in today’s context in India, it was just three bullets fired from a semi-automatic Beretta M pistol that did the deed. No ideology or particular organisations were responsible for the heinous crime. But the moment one begins unpacking the conspiracy behind it, one is in dangerous territory. Even though some leaders of the BJP-RSS combine have recently justified the act of murdering Mahatma Gandhi, one is not permitted to even think about the role of the RSS behind it. But facts have an uncomfortable habit: they keep cropping up and staring you in the face.
Take the following example. Gopal Godse, the younger brother of Nathuram Godse, Gandhiji’s assassin, and co-accused in Gandhi murder trial was infuriated by the stand taken by BJP leader and RSS stalwart Lal Krishna Advani giving a clean chit to the RSS regarding the murder of the Mahatma.
Gopal Godse countered Advani, saying that "it is cowardice to say that” the RSS had nothing to do with the murder. While it is true, he said, that the “RSS did not pass a resolution, saying that, ‘go and assassinate Gandhi’, but you do not disown him (Nathuram Godse)”. He testified that the elder Godse (Nathuram) had never really left the RSS and served as its Bauddhik Karyavah till the end. He said that Nathuram claimed he had left the RSS in his court statement “because the RSS and Golwalkar were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS.”
There is, in any case, ample evidence to show that in the months preceding Gandhiji’s murder, the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha — which were indistinguishable at that time as there was a huge overlap in their membership — had spread much hatred against him and his ideas. RSS chief MS Golwalkar had once said that whosoever came in between the RSS and the Hindu Rashtra would be moved out of the way. Weeks before Gandhiji’s murder, Delhi Police reported a rally attended by 50,000 volunteers in December 1947 where Golwalkar described the Congress government as “satanic” and in another meeting in the same month said the RSS “had means whereby their opponents could be immediately silenced”.
Gandhiji indeed was silenced though his ideas have continued to haunt the hate-filled Hindutva protagonists. Sardar Patel, a staunch Gandhian who is being mischievously appropriated by the BJP-RSS, in a letter to Golwalkar, the Sarsanghchalak of the RSS, categorically wrote: “All their (RSS) speeches were full of communal poison. As a result of their poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji.” “RSS men,” Patel added, “expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death.” As for the top Hindutva icon, Savarkar and Gandhiji’s assassination, Sardar Patel, who was a fine criminal lawyer, and who as the then Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister had access to all records and information, stated in unambiguous terms: “It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that (hatched) the conspiracy and saw it through.”
Patel was proven right though Savarkar was acquitted on the technical ground that he could not be convicted only on the evidence of the approver. When the Justice Jeevan Lal Kapur (former Supreme Court Judge) Commission set up in 1965 investigated the matter, two of Savarkar’s close associates, A.P. Kasar and G.V. Damle, who had not testified at the trial, spoke up before the Kapur Commission now that Savarkar was dead, and corroborated the approver’s statements.
The Kapur commission in its final report came to the conclusion: “All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group”. It is shocking that the BJP government put up the portrait of Savarkar in Parliament in front of the Mahatma whom he conspired to kill! But then what do you expect from a party where its leaders openly praise Godse? Jawaharlal Nehru, another hate object of the BJP brigade (one of their leaders recently said Godse’s bullet was fired at the wrong person, it should have been at Nehru!), had a deep understanding of the assassination of the Mahatma.
Nehru was very clear that “this assassination was not the act of just one individual or even a small group…behind him lay a widespread organisation” and he made it clear that the organisation he was referring to was the RSS. In fact, he saw it as an effort to change the very nature of the Indian state by seizing power. In his letter to the chief ministers on February 5, 1948, he did not mince his words: “It would appear that a deliberate coup d’etat was planned involving the killing of several persons and the promotion of general disorder to enable the particular group concerned (RSS) to seize power. The conspiracy appears to have been a fairly widespread one, spreading to some of the states.”
It was a threat to the very ‘idea of India’ as a secular democratic country and Nehru was not about to let it succeed. With the full support of his Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Patel, he banned the RSS and put 25,000 of its activists in jail. Even when the ban on the RSS was removed in July 1949, after it gave written assurances that henceforth it would function only as a cultural organisation and have nothing to do with politics (an insincere promise one can only laugh at now), he warned the chief ministers of the fascist nature of the RSS and the threat of their renewing their activities. Today we are paying the price of not heeding the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, a person the Mahatma had declared as his successor.