Why was Gandhi killed (short)


When I conceptualized this piece I thought that chapter 2 would give you the sequence of events from 1920 to 1948 i.e. from the Khilafat Movement to his death. However, after reading Godse’s defence I think he has covered important aspects of the freedom struggle pretty comprehensively. This chapter gives you additional information on the above, Gandhi’s changing views on partition and provides answers to questions like why did Gandhi nominate Nehru as his successor.

Let us get back to a more fundamental question. Why did Godse kill Gandhi? Simply put - Inspite of admiring Gandhi qualities Godse felt that Gandhi had ignored Hindu sentiment continuously and appeased the Muslim one rather generously.

Before we go ahead would like to quote freedom fighter, Gandhi associate, founder of the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, writer, historian Shri K M Munshi. He said, “Another problem that we have to consider is the persistent demand for the rewriting of history to foster communal unity. To my mind, nothing can be a greater mistake. History, in order to generate faith in it, must be written as the available records testify, without any effort to exaggerate or minimize the actual facts. The communal problem, which divided the country, was neither inevitable nor insoluble. It was a price that we had to pay for our inability to assess political realities’.

Khilafat Movement
To read article visit History section. Gandhi the father of Ahimsa saw nothing wrong in assisting the Amir of Afghanistan in waging war against India.

Moplah Rebellion
Tthe attitude of the Congress and Gandhi in particular towards the killings of Hindus in Kerala is amazing. Excuses were found for Muslim oppression. Just like today. When Muslims take to violence the Congress and media alike underplay it.

Murder of Arya Samaj leader Swami Shraddhananda
Subsequent to the aggressive Shuddhi Movement by the Arya Samajis, the Muslims were highly agitated. The Samajis were infringing on their 1200 years monopoly so they decided to murder a great proponent of the Shuddhi movement Swami Shraddhananda in 1926. Pattabhi Sitaramayya writes “At the Gauhati Congress Session of 1926, Gandhi expounded what true religion was and explained the causes that led to the murder. Now you will perhaps recall why I have called Abdul Rashid (the murderer) my brother and I repeat it. I do not hold him guilty but Guilty are those who excited feelings of hatred against one another”.

Life is all about turnarounds and Appeasement
Writing in the Harijan, of 15 June, 1940, “Gandhi candidly admitted that the Congress, which professes to speak for all Indians cannot strike a common agreement with those who do not. It is an illusion created by ourselves that we must come to an agreement with all the parties before we can make ourselves progress”. One would wonder, is it the same Gandhi who was unwilling to attend the second session of the Round Table Conference without a previous agreement with the Muslims and kept on saying that there was no progress without a Hindu-Muslim agreement? What a volte face for Gandhi? Why on earth did Gandhi start the Khilafat Movement other than for Hindu Muslim unity?

Writing in the Harijan dated 13/10/1940 said Gandhi “the strongest power in the land would hold sway over all India and this may be Hyderabad for aught I know. All the big and petty chiefs will ultimately succumb to the strongest power of the Nizam who will be the emperor of India. If you ask me in advance, I would face anarchy to foreign rule whether British or any other”. Quoted from Veer Savarkar by D Keer. Ask any Hindu to live in a Muslim ruled state!  

In April 1942, a few days after the departure of Cripps, he once again realized that ‘attainment of independence is an impossibility till we have resolved the Communal tangle. And he involved himself in a further contradiction when he said that the communal problem would not be solved so long as the Brits did not leave India. Although he looked upon unity of India as a sheet anchor of his policy, he wrote -

In April 1942 “If the vast majority of Muslims regard themselves as a separate nation having nothing in common with the Hindus, no power on earth can compel them to think otherwise. And if they want to partition India on that basis, they must have it, unless Hindus want to fight against such a division”.

Quoted from Veer Savarkar by D Keer, said Gandhi sometime in 1942 “Vivisect me before you vivisect India. Needless to say, the Congress can never seek the assistance of the British forces to resist the vivisection. It is the Muslims who will impose their will by force, singly or with British assistance, on an unresisting India. If I can carry the Congress with me, I would not put the Muslims to the trouble of using force. I would be ruled by them for it would still be Indian Rule”.

Gandhiji has interestingly made three points. One, that Muslims want partition. Two, that they will use force to get what they want. Three, the way to prevent partition is to let Muslims rule India. Did his Muslim appeasement policy arise from this realization?

Far more surprising was his approval on 2/8/1942 of Azad’s statement that he had no objection to British handing over power to the Muslim League or to any other party, provided it was real independence, since, has he pointed out, no single party could function without the cooperation of other parties.

In 1943 Rajagopalchari had drawn up a plan for partitioning India as a basis for settlement with the Muslims and secured Gandhi’s approval when he visited him in jail during his fast of February 1943. In April 1944, Rajagopalchari carried on negotiations with Jinnah. Gandhi himself suggested to Jinnah that they should meet and talk over the matter. Gandhi’s letter was most pathetic in tone and shows the importance the Congress now attached to the League. Gandhi wrote to Jinnah on 17/7/1944 ‘I have always been a servant and friend to you and to mankind. Do not disappoint me. Jinnah turned down the proposal but agreed to meet Gandhi. 

In 1944, Gandhi visited Jinnah’s house 19 times conceding Pakistan through the Rajaji formula but Jinnah did not find it large enough then yet today he was fighting against it. What is common however, is his appeasement of the League.

On Gandhi’s authorization, Bhulabhaidesai in January 1945, held talks with Liaqat Ali Khan to initial a pact that meant a national govt. would be formed with five members each from the Congress and League with two representing other groups. Within a month Liaqat denied any knowledge of the pact. Inspite of having a copy initialed by Liaqat, Desai preferred not to call the bluff. Jinnah disagreed because it did not bar the Congress from including a Muslim on the list. 

You can see the extent to which Gandhi went to achieve Hindu Muslim unity even if it meant handing over India to the Muslim League. For those of us who have lived in Muslim ruled states, in India or the Gulf the thought is scary na. 

Gandhi told Azad on 03/03/1947 “If the Congress wishes to accept partition, it will be over my dead body. So long as I am alive, I will never agree to the partition of India. Nor will I, if I can help it, allow the Congress to accept it”. 

Gandhi’s last bid to prevent partition Returning from Bihar on March 31, 1947 Gandhi called on the Viceroy and suggested to Mountbatten that the Interim govt be dissolved and Jinnah be invited to form a Cabinet of his choice. As long as the Congress thought that Jinnah was pursuing India’s interest, Congress would cooperate with Jinnah and not use its majority in the Central Assembly to block his ministry. If he wishes Jinnah could continue to advocate Pakistan, provided he eschewed force. Azad agreed with Gandhi’s plan and thought it would be the quickest way to stop bloodshed. Nehru and Patel opposed the plan though it was never put to Jinnah. V.P. Menon was opposed to the scheme. Yet there was a moment on April 10, when Mountbatten thought that Gandhi's proposal might fly. In the middle of a three hour meeting with Jinnah he said “we do not know how sincerely – that it was a day dream of mine to be able to put the Central Govt under the Prime Ministership of Mr Jinnah”. Jinnah was too surprised to react but some 35 minutes later Jinnah “suddenly made a reference out of the blue” to the Viceroy’s proposal. At the Working Committee only Ghafar Khan sided with Gandhi. Thus Gandhi admitted defeat.

When opposition to the acceptance of partition was running high in the meeting of the A.I.C.C. on 14/6/1947, Gandhi spoke for about 40 minutes urging the acceptance of Partition. He said if the A.I.C.C. threw out the recommendations of the Working Committee, they must find a new set of leaders who could not only Constitute the Working Committee but also the government. Gandhi concluded by saying that he steadfastly opposed partition but sometimes, certain tough decisions needed to be taken.

Said Nehru on 29/4/1947 “The Muslim League can have partition if they wish to have it”. Please read this in conjunction with the above para what Nehru told Mosley in 1960 “But if Gandhi had told us not to, we would have gone on fighting, and waiting. But we accepted”. So you see in 1942 – 44 Gandhi agreed to Partition but in March 1947 he said it would be over his dead body and went to the extent of offering Jinnah the PM’s post. In June’47 he urged the Congress to accept partition. Honestly what had changed? I think Gandhi realized that Jinnah’s Muslim League would continue with their orgy of violence unless Pakistan was agreed to. If that is indeed what prompted him to accept partition, then, Gandhi behaved like a realist.

If Gandhi was so serious about avoiding partition why he did not tell the Muslims of North-West, ‘I will fast unto death if you insist on partition’. After all fasting was one of the major weapons in his arsenal. Again I admire Gandhi’s realism.
Direct Action Day, August 16,1946 the Muslim League unleashed an orgy of violence. Said the Statesman, an English daily of Calcutta. “ For three days the city concentrated on unrestrained civil war. The primary blame lies on the Muslim League and particularly on Chief Minister Suhrawardy”. When the Muslims butchered the government kept quiet, when the Hindus retaliated peace was restored within a week. Sounds so much like today! Where was Gandhi when Hindus were massacred in Calcutta? Quote from Veer Savarkar by D Keer “British imperialism had physically disarmed the Hindus, Gandhism had enfeebled them mentally and the curfew Raj had done the rest for them. 

When about 300 Hindus were killed in Noakhali, temples destroyed Gandhi went on a long walking tour there to instill courage amongst the Hindus and tolerance amongst the Muslims. A rare instance of Gandhi’s care for Hindu sentiments.

On October 31, 1947 or thereabouts, Gandhi asked the Govt to declare that mosques would be protected, forcible conversion to Hinduism and Sikhism not recognized and no Muslim would be thrown out of India or his house. Patel ignored Gandhi’s advice. Another instance of Gandhi’s super love for the Muslims, Hindus!

“Taxed by Gandhi with a report that he – Patel was encouraging the idea of Muslims going away to Pakistan, Patel denied it totally. He told Gandhi that Muslims not loyal to India should leave”. Quote from book Sardar by Rajmohan Gandhi. I fail to fathom the reason of Gandhi’s ever growing love for Muslims?

Why did Gandhi nominate Nehru and not Sardar as his successor/PM?  Friends follows is the gist of the answer given to this question in the book Sardar by Rajmohan Gandhi.

“It was on 15/01/1942 that Gandhi designated Nehru as his successor. He said “You cannot divide water by repeatedly striking it with a stick. It is just as difficult to divide us—When I am gone he will speak my language”. Why did Gandhi prefer Nehru to Patel? One was that Patel was less popular than Nehru with the country’s leftists, youth and Muslims. Two age and health went against Patel. Three, Gandhi knew that Patel was there to supply a corrective, when necessary to Nehru, who would be primus inter spares and not the sole guide. Fourthly, Gandhi may have felt that Nehru was more likely than Patel to resent a number two position. He was certain that Patel’s commitment had nothing to do with rank. Five was Patel’s distance from the Muslims. “You should try to learn Urdu” Gandhi advised Patel in a letter. Patel’s reply showed that the Wardha announcement had not made him any less frank or free with Gandhi. Sardar Patel said, “ Sixty-seven years are over and this earthen vessel is near to cracking. It is very late to learn Urdu but I will try. All the same, your learning Urdu does not seem to have helped. The more you try to get close to them, the more they flee from you”. Said Gandhi later “Those like Patel who have followed me without question cannot be called heirs. Nehru has the drive that no one has in the same measure”.
Gandhi elects Nehru - Aware that the next Congress President would be India’s first defacto Premier, Azad wanted to continue to be President. Nehru had his own ambitions while Patel was backed by many PCC’s. Nine days before the date for withdrawal of nominations i.e. on April 20, Gandhi indicated his preference for Nehru but the party wanted Patel. 12 of the 15 PCCs had nominated him. Knowing that no PCC chief would propose Nehru, Gandhi asked Kriplani to propose Nehru’s name during a Working Committee meeting in Delhi. As soon as Nehru had been proposed Kriplani withdrew his nomination and handed over to Patel a fresh piece of paper with the latter’s withdrawal written on it, so that Nehru was elected unopposed. Said Gandhi to Nehru. No PCC chief has recommended your name but the Working Committee has. Nehru kept quiet. Obtaining confirmation that Nehru would not take second place, Gandhi asked Patel to sign the statement that Kriplani had given him. Patel did so at once as he had withdrawn in 1929,1936 and 1939.

Why did Gandhi select Nehru? One was that Nehru, a Harrow boy, Cambridge graduate; barrister was required to carry out negotiations with the Brits. Two was Nehru’s rapport with a section of the Muslims contracted with Patel’s aloofness. That Nehru will not take second place, is better known abroad than Sardar and will make India play a major role in international affairs were other reasons. Finally Gandhi realized that Nehru’s selection would not deprive India of Patel’s services but denial would drive Nehru into the opposition”.

If only Gandhi had allowed democracy to prevail India’s history might well have been different. There have been lots of debates on whether the P.C.C. chiefs supported Patel or not for the top slot but to me that is immaterial. What matters is that at a crucial moment Gandhi made Patel withdraw in Nehru’s favor?

So obsessed was Mahatma Gandhi with Hindu Muslim unity that he did not see beyond that. Unfortunately the theme has continued on to this day. Every issue gets converted into a Secular one. Take a matter as simple as Family Planning. Everyone knows that India’s population is exploding and wiping out the fruits of economic growth. Yet try telling a Muslim to have two kids and you would be told that Islam does not allow family planning. It is a different issue that some Muslim countries have adopted family planning. 

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