Nathuram Godse, the man who killed Mahatma Gandhi

Nathuram Vinayak Godse was a nationalist. He was the person who assassinated Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on the 30th of January, 1948. This happened when Gandhi Ji visited the then Birla House in New Delhi for a prayer meeting. Godse had fired 3 bullets at Gandhi Ji’s chest. This ensured his demise. Godse chose not to escape. He was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death.

Now the question comes, who was Godse? Nathuram Godse was born into a Konkani Brahmin family from Baramati, Pune. He chose to join the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha or RSS. This was because he was inspired by nationalist ideals. Godse joined as a ground-level worker of RSS. Later, he became the editor of a Marathi daily called Agrani- Hindu Rashtra. The Hindu Mahasabha leader, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar invested in it. This person also formed a separate Hindu nationalist organization called “Hindu Rashtra Dal”. This happened after he had a feud with the RSS chief M.S. Gowalkar.

Godse was sentenced to death on the 8th of November, 1949. In his statement following his death sentence, Godse said that he was unhappy about Gandhi’s support for the Muslim community. He also blamed him for the partition of India and the formation of Pakistan. As for killing Gandhi, Godse said that he felt “Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be proved practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces. No doubt, my own future would be totally ruined, but the nation would be saved from the inroads of Pakistan.” He was later hanged on the 15th of November, 1949.

Now, who was Gandhi? Born the son of an Indian official in 1869, Gandhi’s Vaishnava mother was deeply religious. Early on, she exposed her son to Jainism, a morally rigorous Indian religion that advocated nonviolence. Gandhi was an unremarkable student. In 1888, he was given an opportunity to study law in England. In 1891, he returned to India but failing to find regular legal work he accepted in 1893 a one-year contract in South Africa.

When the year turned to 1945, a new government came to power in Britain, and negotiations for India’s independence began. Gandhi sought a unified India, but the Muslim League disagreed. After protracted talks, Britain agreed to create the two new independent states of India and Pakistan on August 15, 1947. Gandhi was greatly distressed by the partition, and bloody violence soon broke out between Hindus and Muslims in India.

In an effort to end India’s religious strife, he resorted to fasts and visits to the troubled areas. He was on one such vigil in New Delhi when Nathuram Godse, fatally shot him. Known as Mahatma, or “the great soul,” during his lifetime, Gandhi’s persuasive methods of civil disobedience influenced leaders of civil rights movements around the world, especially Martin Luther King Junior in the United States.

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