PUNE, June 4, Did Mahatma Gandhi deserve to be “murdered “as he was out to ruin the nation” at the cost if his “baby” (Pakistan)? Equally, were the assassination of Indira Gandhi and her son, Rajiv Gandhi who was blown in to pieces, justified?
Preposterous as the questions may sound many, it is evident that nearly 50 years after the father of the Nation was shot dead there are some in the country who feel that “when the Nation was being crushed under the feet of leaders” someone “had to remove the nation from that person’s feet.”
These are the sentiments of Gopal Godse, 75, the lone surviving family member, younger brother and co-conspirator of the late Nathuram Godse, who was publicly felicitated last Saturday by a section of Pune citizens along with his wife, Sindhutai Godse.
The premise for the felicitation was that while Gopal Godse had completed 75 years, Sindhutai had entered her 75th year. Also felicitated were another co-conspirator, Madanlal Pawha and widows of two other co-conspirators – wife of co-conspirator, Vishnu Karkare and Champutai Apte (Wife of Narayan Apte who was hanged along with Nathuram Godse – Though Champutai did not attend).
Adorning the dais, besides the couple, were two elected Shiv Sena MLAs, Deepak Paigude and Suryakant Lonkar. The presence of Sena MLAs was not surprising considering the public declaration by the Shiv Sena supreme Bal Thackeray some days back that Nathuram Godse had done the right thing by eliminating Gandhiji.
Tough looking Shiv Sena party workers provided the security dragnet to the felicitation function with Pune police throwing in their might as well. The rowdy fracas that followed between four workers belonging to Congress (who had managed to sneak in) and sainiks (as Sena partymen called) stunned the hall which was brimming to the capacity with more than 500 punekars turning up for the event which was organised by the Hindu Mahila Sabha (Women wing of Hindu Maha Sabha). The woman behind the show was Himani Savarkar, daughter of Gopal Godse and who is married into famous Veer Savarkar family.
What was interesting about the felicitation was the composition of those who attended. Not the average rowdy, tough, slogan-shouting fanatics. Instead, the crowd comprised predominantly old persons many of whom belonged to “Chitpavan Brahmin Community” and lot of them were witnesses of the horrors of partition. Scores of retired Army personnel, doctors, and academicians roared and even sobbed openly when patriotic songs of Savarkar about united India and sacrifice of freedom fighters were rendered in high pitched traditional Marathi style. Incidentally, a giant size map pf pre-partition united India adorned the stage depicting the scenes of Godse family and their travails.
“It is love and support of many Indians which has kept me and my family going,” explained Mr. Godse who along with his wife and two married daughters (Who stay nearby) leads a peaceful life in Sadashiv Peth area of Pune while speaking to the Hindustan Times. The family suffered badly once when Gopal Godse was jailed.
Even years after suffering and spending 16 years in jail (Gopal Godse was released in 1964), today, Gopal Godse says that though his family respected Gandhiji for all his sacrifices, the decision to do away with him was correct and the “last straw on the camel’s back” was the ultimatum by Gandhiji to the Indian Government to pay Rs.55 Crore to Pakistan by going on a fast despite the protestations by the then Home Minister, Sardar Patel.
Yet, does any reason, however, strong or logical, justify anyone’s killing? If Gandhiji’s assassination was the result of a nation reeling under partition, there are many who would justify Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.
“Every assassination has a different background, which is not necessarily simple. Rajiv Gandhi was killed by LTTE worker who was not hired. She gave up her life, knowing fully well the risks involved. I am not justifying Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, but they (LTTE) had their reasons.” Explains Mr. Godse.
Nearly fifty years after India’s freedom, Gopal Godse remains the only tenuous link to his brother. Incidentally, Gopal Godse’s family have had good relations with second generation family of Mahatma Gandhi, some of them even visited his house and stayed with Godse’s family. But the pervading feeling in the family is that Gandhiji deserved what he got.
Yet, whether likes it or not, Godse and Gandhi family will always be mentioned together in the pages of history for generations to come.
By Ketan Narottam Tanna