Nathuram Vinayak Godse was the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi. He was the right-wing advocate of Hindu Nationalism. He was a member of the right-wing organizations; Hindu Mahasabha and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. After murdering Mahatma Gandhi, he never apologized for the act he did.
Nathuram Godse was born in Marathi Chitpawan Brahmin family on 19 May 1910 (Age: 39 years, at the time of death) in Baramati, Pune district, Bombay Presidency, British India. His father, Vinayak Vamanrao Godse, was an employee in Post Office. His real name was Ramachandra. However, he was renamed as Nathuram to prevent a bad omen. Before he was born, his parents had three sons and a daughter. All their sons died in their infancy. Fearing a curse, Ramachandra was brought up as a girl and his nostrils were pierced (Therefore, he got the name, Nathuram, a man with pierced nostrils). When his brother, Gopal Godse was born, his parents switched to treating him as a boy. In his childhood, he went to a local school to receive his primary education. Later, he was sent to her aunt’s in Pune to receive the English-language education. Earlier, he was an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and highly respected him. He got failed in his matriculation did not study further.
He was born to Vinayak Vamanrao Godse and Lakshmi. He had one brother, Gopal Godse (Died in 2005) and one sister, her name is not known.
He remained unmarried throughout his life.
When he left the study, he joined the Hindu Nationalist Organization, Hindu Mahasabha. He started a Marathi Language newspaper, called “Agrani” which some years later renamed as “Hindu Rashtra.” As he felt that Mahatma Gandhi was doing favours of Muslims only, he rejected the Gandhian Philosophy and sometimes, he treated Gandhi as anti-national. In 1932, he became a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Sangli, Bombay Presidency (Now in Maharashtra), British India, though, he remained a member of the Hindu Mahasabha. He often wrote articles to let the public know about his thoughts. During this time, he along with M. S. Golwalkar (Later, RSS chief) translated the Babarao Savarkar’s book “Rashtra Mimansa” into English. According to the sources, he had a fall-out with Golwalkar when Golwalkar took the entire credit for translating the book. On the day of Vijayadashmi of 1942, he founded his own organization, “Hindu Rashtra Dal.” However, he remained a member of Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. In 1946, Godse realized that the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha were not doing well to stop the Partition of India, he left RSS and Hindu Mahasabha. On this account, his relation with many RSS and Mahasabha volunteers soured.
Assassination Of Mahatma Gandhi
Godse mourned the partition of India. He held Mahatma Gandhi responsible for it. He and his friends made the first attempt to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi on 20 January 1948. On that day, Gandhi Ji was staying in Birla House, New Delhi and offering prayers in a raised lawn there. Gandhi Ji was to deliver a speech at a nearby park. Godse and his friends were equipped with grenades and went to that spot where Gandhi Ji was delivering the speech. One of his friends threw a grenade to disperse the crowd first and the second grenade was to kill Mahatma Gandhi but his friend, Digambar Badge lost the courage and all his friend ran away with the scared crowd.
The Second attempt to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi was made by Nathuram Godse himself and his friend Narayan Apte on 30 January 1948, seven others were accomplices. Narayan Apte plotted the assassination. Mahatma Gandhi moving for his prayer meeting in Birla House and he was already 10 minutes late. Gandhi Ji was accompanied by Manuben (Gandhi’s great-niece) to the right and Abha (an adopted girl by Mahatma Gandhi) to the left. Nathuram Godse wearing the khaki dress, pushed his way through the crowd. He folded his hands to make others feel like he wanted to touch Gandhi Ji’s feet. Manuben tried to move him aside asserting, “Bapu is already ten minutes late, why do you embarrass him.” According to her, Godse pushed her aside and at 5:17 pm, he shot Gandhi Ji three times in his chest. She saw smoke everywhere, Gandhi Ji’s hands were folded and he was trying to say, ‘Hey Ram.’ Gandhi Ji was taken to a nearby room in Birla House where he was declared dead. Col. Bhargava arrived and pronounced Mahatma Gandhi’s death.
Arrest and Trial
Herbert Reiner Jr., an American diplomat was standing beside Mahatma Gandhi when he was assassinated. He captured Nathuram Godse right away. According to some, Nathuram Godse surrendered and did not try to run away. The trial began on 27 May 1948. Eight out of nine were charged with murder conspiracy.
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was acquitted and set free due to the lack of evidence. On 10 February 1949, Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were sentenced to death and six others including Gopal Godse (Nathuram Godse’s brother) were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Apart from Godse, all appealed for mercy petition or for less severe punishment but rejected. Godse proudly accepted the death sentence. Even Gandhi Ji’s two sons; Manilal Gandhi and Ramdas Gandhi appealed for commutation but their appeal was also rejected by the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, Deputy Prime Minister, Vallabhbhai Patel, and the Governor-General of India, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari. On 15 November 1949, Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were hanged in Ambala Jail.
- The pistol used by Nathuram Godse to kill Mahatma Gandhi was “Beretta M1934” which was made in the Kingdom of Italy. The pistol was carried by an officer during Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia and later, it was taken by a British officer as a war trophy. How it reached India, it is not known.
- During his clarification, “Why I Killed Gandhi?”, he said that Gandhi Ji supported the Idea of a separate state for Muslims. According to him, he was solely responsible for the partition of India. In spite of Pakistani aggression in Kashmir, Mahatma Gandhi fasted to compel the government of India to release the amount of Rs. 55 crores to Pakistan. The aggressive and war-like nature of Muslims was a result of Gandhiji’s policy of appeasement.
- When Nathuram Godse was explaining why he murdered Mahatma Gandhi, G.D. Khosla, one of the judges who heard the assassination proceedings, wrote –
“The audience was visibly and audibly moved. There was a deep silence when he ceased speaking. (…) 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 a verdict of “not guilty” by an overwhelming majority.”— G.D. Khosla, Chief Justice of Punjab
- The brother of Nathuram Godse, Gopal Godse wrote a memoir “May I Please Your Honour” and published it in 1967. However, the government of India banned it right away citing it would spread hatred between Hindus and Muslims. When the new government came to power in 1977, the ban was uplifted.
- In 2014, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power, the Hindu Mahasabha made some attempts to rehabilitate Nathuram Godse and portray him as a patriot. It requested Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to install the bust of Nathuram Godse. The Hindu Mahasabha also made a documentary film titled, “Desh Bhakt Nathuram Godse” (Patriot Nathuram Godse).
- During the election campaign for the 2019 General Elections, BJP candidate from Bhopal, Sadhvi Pragya referred to him as a patriot.