Nathuram Godse at his trial for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi
19 May 1910|
Baramati, Pune District, Bombay Presidency, British India
(now in Maharashtra, India)
|Died||15 November 1949
Ambala Prison, Punjab Province, Dominion of India
(now in Haryana, India)
Cause of death
|Execution by hanging|
|Known for||Assassination of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi|
Nathuram Vinayak Godse (19 May 1910 – 15 November 1949) was the sole assassin of Mahatma Gandhi—the pre-eminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India and apostle of non-violence—shooting Gandhi in the chest three times at point blank range on 30 January 1948 in New Delhi. Godse, a Hindu nationalist activist from Pune, Maharashtra, and ex-member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, who resented what he considered was Gandhi's partiality to India's Muslims, plotted the assassination with Narayan Apte and six others. After a trial that lasted over a year, Godse was sentenced to death on 8 November 1949. Although pleas for commutation were made by India's prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and by two of Gandhi's sons on the grounds that a death sentence would dishonour the legacy of a man opposed to all forms of violence, Godse was hanged a week later.
Nathuram Vinayakrao Godse was born a Chitpavan Brahmin at the nativity mission center, Pune District, into a Marathi family. His father, Vinayak Vamanrao Godse, was a post office employee and his mother[further explanation needed] was Lakshmi (née Godavari).[further explanation needed] At birth, he was named Ramachandra. Nathuram was given his name because of an unfortunate incident. Before he was born, his parents had three sons and a daughter, with all three boys dying in their infancy. Fearing a curse that targeted male children, young Ramachandra was brought up as a girl for the first few years of his life, including having his nose pierced and being made to wear a nose-ring (nath in Marathi). It was then that he earned the nickname "Nathuram" (literally "Ram with a nose-ring"). After his younger brother was born, they switched to treating him as a boy.
Godse attended the local school at Baramati through the fifth standard, after which he was sent to live with an aunt in Pune so that he could study at an English-language school. During his school days, he highly respected Gandhi. In 1930, Nathuram's father was transferred to the town of Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.
Godse dropped out of high school and became an activist with Hindu nationalist organizations such as the Hindu Mahasabha, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), although it is unclear how long this relationship endured. They were particularly opposed to the separatist politics of the All India Muslim League. Godse started a Marathi newspaper for the Hindu Mahasabha called Agrani, which some years later was renamed Hindu Rashtra.
The Hindu Mahasabha had initially backed Gandhi's campaigns of civil disobedience against the British government.
Godse later rejected Gandhi's philosophy, believing Gandhi repeatedly sabotaged the interests of Hindus by using the "fasting unto death" tactic on many issues. In Godse's view, Gandhi was giving in to Muslim interests in ways that seemed unfair and anti-national. He blamed Gandhi for the partition of India, which left hundreds of thousands of people dead in the wake of religious unrest. This has been said to be one of the major reasons behind his decision to kill Gandhi.
Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi
Godse approached Gandhi on January 30, 1948 during the evening prayer at 5:15PM. When Godse bowed, one of the girls flanking and supporting Gandhi, said to Godse, "Brother, Bapu is already late" and tried to put him off, but he pushed her aside and shot Gandhi in the chest three times at point-blank range with a Beretta M 1934 semi-automatic pistol. Gandhi was taken to Birla House, where he later died.
Trial and execution
Following the assassination of Gandhi, Godse was put on trial at Peterhoff, Shimla which housed the Punjab High Court. On November 8, 1949, he was sentenced to death. Among those calling for commutation of the death sentence for the defendants were Jawaharlal Nehru, as well as two of Gandhi's sons, who felt that executing their father's killer would dishonour his memory and legacy which included a staunch opposition to the death penalty. Godse was hanged at Ambala Jail on November 15, 1949, along with Narayan Apte, a co-conspirator. Savarkar was also charged with conspiracy in the assassination of Gandhi, but was acquitted and subsequently released.
Millions of Indians mourned Gandhi's assassination; the Hindu Mahasabha was vilified and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was temporarily banned. However, investigators could find no evidence that the RSS bureaucracy had formally sponsored or even knew of Godse's plot. The RSS ban was lifted in 1949. The RSS, to this day, denies any connection with Godse, and disputes the claim that he was a member. However, Godse's brother, Gopal, claims that all Godse brothers were members of the RSS at the time of the assassination.
In the 1982 film Gandhi, the actor Harsh Nayyar portrayed Godse.
The Marathi language play Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy (Marathi: मी नथुराम गोडसे बोलतोय) ("This is Nathuram Godse Speaking"), first staged in 1997, was also produced, but only from Godse's point of view.
The film Hey Ram, made in 2000, also briefly touches upon events related to the assassination.
Several books based on Nathuram Godse's life were banned by the Indian government:
- Gandhi Vadh aur Main (Gandhi Hatya Aani Me), by Gopal Godse (1967)
- May it Please your Honor!, published by Surya Bharti, India, (2003) - the play based upon the book was banned
- Why I assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, published by Surya Bharti (1993)
- Nine Hours to Rama, Stanley A. Wolpert (1962)
- Boehmer, Elleke (2010). Elleke Boehmer, Rosinka Chaudhuri, ed. The Indian Postcolonial: A Critical Reader. Routledge. p. 145. ISBN 978-0415567664.
- Thomas Blom Hansen (1999). The Saffron Wave: Democracy and Hindu Nationalism in Modern India. Princeton University Press. p. 249. ISBN 1400823056.
- "Early life | Nathuram Godse". Nathuram.com. Retrieved 2014-01-30.
- Jeffrey, Robin (1990). India, Rebellion to Republic: Selected Writings, 1857–1990. Sterling Publishers. p. 105.
- Time (14 February 2000)."His Principle of Peace Was Bogus". Retrieved 3 July 2007
- The Hindu (18 August 2004). "RSS releases 'proof' of its innocence". Retrieved 26 June 2007
- Zee News(IANS) (30 December 2010). "RSS denies Godse was its member, rebuts Cong claim". Retrieved 1 November 2011
- David Hardiman (2003). Gandhi in His Time and Ours: The Global Legacy of His Ideas. Columbia U.P. pp. 174–76.
- Controversy over "Hey Ram"
- The Times (London), pg. 3. 16 November 1949.
- Rediff on the NeT."Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy – The Transcript"
- Pg 176 - My friends had greeted me, and arranged a small ceremony. Late Shri ... On completion he published the series in a book form titled 'Gandhi Hatya Ani Mee' (Gandhi assassination and I) in October 1967. The Government being allergic to the truth which exposed their falsehood, banned the book two months later.
- - The axe was to fall on the Marathi memoirs of Gopal Godse. ... and "spurned", he decided to publish his memoirs.6 It was immediately banned in several parts of India and copies of the book forefeited to the State.
- "Frontline - Google Boeken". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2014-01-30.
- "Charisma and Commitment in South Asian History: Essays Presented to Stanley ... - Google Books". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2014-01-30.
- Elst, Koenraad, Gandhi and Godse – a Review and a Critique, Voice of India, 2001. ISBN 81-85990-71-9
- Godse, Nathuram, Why I Assassinated Mahatma Gandhi, Surya Bharti, Delhi, India, 2003. OCLC 33991989
- Godse, Nathuram May it Please Your Honor!, Surya Bharti, India, 2003
- Khosla, G.D., Murder of the Mahatma and Other Cases from a Judge's Notebook, Jaico Publishing House, 1968. ISBN 0-88253-051-8
- Malgonkar, Manohar (2008). The Men Who Killed Gandhi, New Delhi: Roli Books, ISBN 978-81-7436-617-7
- Phadke, Y.D., Nathuramayan
- Pradeep Dalvi’s, "Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy" narrations by robby Raju pathak
- Time Magazine's February 2000 interview of Gopal Godse
- Article discussing Why Godse Killed Gandhi
- Rediff's January 1998 interview of Gopal Godse
- Article discussing pro-Godse play
- Eyewitness to Gandhi assassination
- Eyewitness: Mahatma Gandhi Assassination on YouTube
- First Information Report (FIR) by police
- "An Assassin Speaks written by Gopal Godse, narrations Navneet singh"