Madan Lal Pahwa

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A group photo of people accused in the Mahatma Gandhi's murder case. Standing: Shankar Kistaiya, Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa, Digambar Badge. Sitting: Narayan Apte, Vinayak D. Savarkar, Nathuram Godse, Vishnu Karkare

Madan Lal Pahwa (in Punjabi ਮਦਨਲਾਲ ਪਾਹਵਾ) was one of the conspirators involved in assassinating Mahatma Gandhi. He came to India in 1947 as a refugee after the partition of India. The plight of refugees intensified his anger against Gandhi, the main leader of the Indian National Congress, and other Congress leaders. He tried to murder Gandhi on 20 January 1948 in a prayer meeting at Birla House New Delhi but failed in his attempt. Later when Nathuram Godse killed Gandhi on 30 January 1948, a case of attempt to murder was filed against Madan Lal. He was found guilty, and was sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement.

Early life[edit]

Madan Lal Pahwa was born to Kashmiri Lal Pahwa at Pakpattan village of Montgomery District in British India before partition. This village Pakpattan is now in Pakistan. After his matriculation he served in the Royal Indian Navy as a wireless operator. He was honourably discharged from the Navy in 1946 after the end of the Second World War. After the partition of British India into two countries – India and Pakistan he came to India and settled at the Chembur Refugee Camp in Bombay. The main reason of coming to Bombay at that time was to find a job and during his tenure in the Navy he was stationed at Bombay. During that period most of the refugees were cursing Gandhi and other Congress leaders for their plight.

Refugee in India[edit]

After many days of searching, he was unable to find a job. A friend at the refugee camp took him to Dr. J. C. Jain, a Hindi teacher at Ruiya College Bombay. Dr. Jain helped him by providing a part-time job to earn commission by selling his books. He used to earn a 25% commission by selling the books.

Later he got a permanent job in a licensed firecracker factory – Messrs Vassen Puspasen, and during this time he developed the skill of making grenades. During this period he came in contact with Dixit Maharaj – brother of Dada Maharaj, who was the head of a sect of affluent Hindus known as Pushtimarg Vaishanavas. He lived in a house in the precincts of the famous Bhuleshwar temple at Bombay.

Madan Lal lost his index finger while working at the firecracker factory. The finger was gripped in the gears of a turntable when his hand slipped. His assistant immediately stopped the machinery, but the finger was wedged between the teeth of two rotary wheels. However medical assistance was not sought.

"There were half-made bombs lying all over the place. To send for a doctor would have been suicidal. So I picked up a knife and chopped the finger off." – As told to Manohar Malgaonkar in the book "The Men Who Killed Gandhi"[1]


Contacts with Hindu Mahasabha[edit]

A group photo of people accused in Gandhi's murder case. Standing: Shankar Kistaiya, Gopal Godse, Madan Lal Pahwa, Digambar Badge (Approver). Sitting: Narayan Apte, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Nathuram Godse, Vishnu Karkare

Madan Lal came in contact with Vishnu Karkare of Hindu Mahasabha through Dada Maharaj. He started a fruit stall in Ahmednagar sponsored by Vishnu Karkare, whom called as Karkare Seth. Karkare took him to Pune and introduced him to Narayan Apte and Nathuram Godse. Till then he had come in the police records for his Hindu nationalist stance. He was kept under overnight detention for rushing to the podium and snatching the microphone from Congress leader Rao Saheb Patwardhan at Ahmednagar. The incident occurred on 5 January 1948.

On 9 January 1948, Police Inspector Razak recommended for the arrest of Madan Lal Pahwa and Vishnu Karkare. However, the warrants were issued only on 12 January 1948 and by that time they had left Ahmednagar for Delhi to carry out their mission with other members.

Incident at Birla House, Delhi[edit]

On 20 January 1948 Madan Lal Pahwa[2] along with Vishnu Ramkrishna Karkare, Shankar Kistaiya, Digambar Ramchandra Badge, Gopal Godse, Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte came to Birla House in Delhi to carry out an attack on Mahatma Gandhi. Except for Madan Lal Pahwa and Vishnu Ramkrishna Karkare everyone reached the venue through the rear entrance in a cab. Surjeet Singh was the cab driver. Pahwa tried to bribe the gatekeeper Choturam at Birla Bhavan to let him go behind the podium to take photographs of Mahatma Gandhi from behind. However Choturam was suspicious and asked Pahwa the need of taking photographs from behind, especially while he did not have a camera. Madan Lal Pahwa just went off the podium. Choturam thought that he was going back to the taxi. In the meantime he placed a gun-cotton ball on the wall behind the podium and ignited it. The bomb went off without creating any panic. The team had left, abandoning Madan Lal Pahwa.

Trial of Pahwa[edit]

On interrogation, Madan Lal admitted that he was part of a seven-member gang who wanted to kill Gandhi. The plan was that he would explode the bomb as close to the podium as possible. Digambar Badge or Shankar Kistaiya would shoot Gandhi in the ensuing panic and stampede and use the chaotic situation to effect their escape. Vishnu Karkare was to compound the chaos by hurling hand grenades. However at the last minute Digambar Badge decided not to act and also instructed his servant, Shankar Kistaiya, to do likewise. The late start of the meeting and Choturam's cross questioning were the reasons for this decision.

"...We walked night and day. There were men and women of all ages and all conditions. Many could not stand the strain. They-mostly women and children-were left on the road. I reached a place called Fazilka, in Indian territory, and discovered that another refugee column in which my father and other relatives had set out had fared much worse. They had been attacked by Muslim mobs on their way: Only 40 or 50 had survived out of 400 or 500 and even these were in hospitals. My aunt had been killed, more than a hundred girls were abducted, and my father rescued from a heap of the dead." "...While in Fazilka, we saw other refugee columns coming in; one of them he says was 'forty miles long', and in another marched " five hundred women who had been stripped naked.......I saw women with their breasts, noses, ears and cheeks of them told me how her child was roasted and she was asked to partake of the same.....another was ravished in the presence of her husband who was kept tied to a tree."

— Stated under oath by Madan Lal Pahwa during the Gandhi Murder Trial.

Later Madan Lal Pahwa took the police to the Marina Hotel where Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were staying and also to Sharief Hotel where all the others were staying. Everyone had left by that time and the police were only able to recover some letters and clothes which had the initials "NVG" on them. By this time they had evidence that the members of that team were from Maharashtra. However, they had not been able to identify Nathuram Godse.

Pahwa was identified during the Gandhi murder trial by Sulochana Devi, who had come to Birla Bhavan in search of her three-year-old son who used to play in the servant quarters. She was the fifteenth witness in the trial.

Madan Lal was sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in the assassination of Gandhi. After serving the sentence, Pahwa lived in Dadar, Mumbai, until his death.


Pahwa was released on 13 October 1964. He was settled in Dadar area of Bombay. In 1966 he was married to a middle aged lady Manjari. Madan Lal was reported to be dead in 2000 he adopted one child named Avadesh Kumar Prasad who runs an ad agency (eight years before the date of report).[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Manohar Malgonkar, The Men Who Killed Gandhi, Madras, Macmillan India (1978) ISBN 0-333-18228-6
  2. ^,8599,2055031,00.html "His Principle of Peace Was Bogus"
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 September 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) assassination conspirator’s widow ill
  • Manohar Malgonkar, The Men Who Killed Gandhi, Madras, Macmillan India 1978 ISBN 0-333-18228-6
  • Gopal Godse Gandhi Vadh Kyon? Suryabharati Prakashan Nai Sarak Delhi 110006 India