Mahatma Gandhi is considered as the Father of the Nation by Indians and is revered worldwide for the philosophy that guided him — By Nita Chicooree-Mercier
Mahatma Gandhi is considered as the Father of the Nation by Indians and is revered worldwide for the philosophy that guided him in his participation for the liberation of India from British rule. However, on 30th January 1948, hardly six months after Independence, Gandhi was killed by Nathuram Godse. The first motivation of the killing was that prior to Independence, Gandhi, who was against Partition, stated that Partition would take place on his dead body. So Godse opined logically that there was no reason for Gandhi to go on living in a partitioned India and took it upon himself to put an end to Gandhi’s life.
Who was Nathuram Godse? What were his other reasons? In his adolescence, as a member of RSS he was a committed supporter of Independence and an admirer of Gandhi. Gandhi was an idol for crowds of young people who lauded the mass awakening sparked by his actions. And in the march towards achieving the goal of Swaraj, Gandhi’s removal of fear of prison was an idea that appealed to combative young minds. Godse dropped out of school and gave up RSS which he perceived as being too soft on the tensed political events that were to decide on the future of his motherland.
He sensed that the principle of secularism promoted by Gandhi would spell the doom of Hindu society. Secularism contributed to make the idea of Unfinished Partition acceptable to the public, which millions of Hindus were against. To make things worse, Gandhi adopted the ‘turn the other cheek’ principle which led to the massacre of 250 000 Hindus in Noakali, Hyderabad in 1946. Women were forced to remove sindhoor. Gandhi’s advice of bowing to ‘ahimsa’ was deeply resented. It was perceived that Gandhi looked away from atrocities being heaped on Hindus.
Godse felt that one person had to stop the cycle of violence. The principle of peace was bogus, his brother Gopal Godse declared after spending 18 years in prison for conspiracy. Non-violence is not a principle at all, he stated, because the world does not work that way. In politics, you cannot follow non-violence, you cannot follow honesty for more often than not politicians give lies to the public.
Gandhi was blamed for the condition of Partition which killed thousands of people. His appeasement policy consisting in giving the reins of political power to Jinnah to prevent Partition angered the people. When the Indian government decided to withhold the transfer of 550 million rupees to Pakistan which was part of an agreement on Partition, Gandhi started a fast unto death movement in January 1948. Finally, the government reversed its decision while it complained of continued Pakistani rebellion and occupation of disputed parts of Kashmir. All this infuriated Godse and his fellow comrades.
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Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
Subhas Chandra Bose was considered by Gandhi as a great patriot. Nevertheless, he was ousted as president of Indian National Congress (INC) in 1939 following differences with Gandhi, after taking the leadership of the young radical wing for more than two decades.
The INC was set up in the 19th century initially to seek the status of Dominion. It was also a means for the British to have an eye on the political aspiration of its members. The first signs of militancy came from Lal Bal Bal and Sri Aurobindo in the decade of the WWI in an Indo-German failed conspiracy to topple British rule.
Meanwhile Bose was influenced by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Sri Ramakrishna. He prized religion and his motherland above all. After obtaining a BA in Philosophy, he decided not to work for the Civil Service of an alien government. Offensive remarks and insults to Indians in public places set him on the road of rebellion.
Germany and Japan. In 1940, Bose escaped from house custody in India and fled to Germany where he asked Hitler’s help to oust the British. The Free India Centre and Free India Radio were set up by him in 1941 and he communicated daily on the radio. A Free India Legion comprising 3000 Indian soldiers captured in foreign lands was formed to aid in a possible future German-led invasion of India. When that became impossible, Hitler arranged for a submarine to take Bose to Madagascar and from there to Japan-held Sumatra in May 1943.
With Japanese support, he revamped the Indian National Army composed of Indian civilians who enlisted from Singapore and Malaysia and captured Indian soldiers in the same region. In early 1945, the British Indian Army halted the Japanese attack on India, and reversed it killing the Japanese soldiers and half of Bose’s INA. Bose refused to surrender and escaped to Manchuria with a view to joining the Soviet Union where tension was brewing against the British. On the Indian PM’s visit to Japan, one of the surviving companions of Bose came to meet the PM in a wheelchair and read out a letter written in Hindi by him to honour the memory of Bose.
Turning Point. What is not mentioned in official reports of the Independence movement, according to other sources, is that though his tactics and ideology were not acceptable by Congress Nehru-Gandhi policy, Bose played a significant part in the final decision of British withdrawal. Financially, Britain was weakened by WW2. Above all, British politicians and Churchill realized that they could no longer rule India because they no longer had the support of the Indian Army. In 1946, the first signal of non-cooperation came from the Indian Navy. And this is also put down to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s influence.
Bose was officially reported to have died of burns in a plane crash in Taiwan. Others believed he was executed in Russia. His supporters argue that Bose’s charisma, appeal and contribution have been deliberately minimized by Congress leaders. To this day, his family is still struggling to know the truth which the BJP-led government promised to disclose four years ago.
* Published in print edition on 26 January 2018