Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Mahatma Gandhi's Murder: Subramanian Swamy Must Ask BJP Before Restarting Public Debate


Speaking in Rajya Sabha, Subramanian Swamy sought a fresh discussion in Parliament on Mahatma Gandhi's assassination. Perhaps Swamy has not heard of the perils of not letting sleeping dogs lie.

The Mahatma's murder, to use another metaphor, is a hornet's nest. Stirring it will unleash so many facts that it will end up stinging a lot of heroes we have been worshipping, including the ones held dear by Swamy and friends.

As Jagjit Singh once sang, Baat niklegi to phir door talak jayegi. So, careful, Mr Swamy, what you wish for.

In 1966, the government of India constituted a one-man committee under justice Jeevanlal Kapur of Supreme Court to probe the Mahatma's murder in the wake of fresh evidence and allegations.

The probe was the result of GV Ketkar's boast that he was aware of the plan to murder the Mahatma. Ketkar, grandson of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, had revealed this fact during a programme organised to celebrate the release of Gopal Godse and two other sentenced to life for the murder.

Justice Kapur examined hundreds of witnesses, including the then home minister of Bombay (Mumbai) Morarji Desai, socialist leader Jayprakash Narayan, cops who investigated the case in various cities (Pune, Delhi, Gwalior, Alwar, Mumbai) and noted: "All these facts were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group..." (25.106, part two.)

Though Savarkar was let off after the initial trial, the Commission uncovered new evidence that left no doubt that the Mahatma's murder was planned by Madanlal Pahwa, Nathuram Godse, Narayan Apte and Savarkar.

The Kapur Commission cited also the evidence of one Devendra Kumar to point at the larger conspiracy by Savarkarites.

"Statement made before a magistrate under section 164 CrPC of one Devendra Kumar, who was originally resident of Goa and had joined the Hindu Rashtra Dal in March 1937. He stated that he met NV Godse (the person hanged for the Mahatma's murder) who was captain of the Dal. The statement shows how the deponent was taught to manufacture bombs and to use guns from cycles and cars and how to use pistols and revolvers. He was also training others. Among other things he disclosed that it was planned that Mahatma Gandhi, (JLN) Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad and Baldev Singh should be killed as they were standing in the way of the Rashtra Dal. The party was waiting for a chance to execute this programme. Then he added:

'We were creating hatred against these leaders in the minds of the public and it was planned that as soon as the public was ready the leaders should be killed one by one...When I heard of the sad incident about Gandhiji I became unnerved. I dropped a letter to Savarkar threatening to expose the conspiracy if he did not desist from the execution of the rest of the programme'..."

Read that list again, narrated in Justice Kapur's report: Gandhi, Nehru, Azad and Patel.

A portrait of Savarkar hangs in Indian Parliament alongside Gandhi's today. Many of his colleagues swear by Savarkarwad, his idea of India. Is Swamy willing to discussed the murder again, bring the spotlight back on Savarkar's role?

Perhaps Swamy should consult some of his current colleagues before getting into the backstory of the murder. Many questions about the murder have remained unanswered for several years, leading to several conspiracy theories. Naming people whose failures resulted in the Mahatma's assassination will sully several reputations today.

Speaking in Rajya Sabha, Swamy raised several questions. The BJP leader has the knack for making irrefutable, undisputed facts look controversial and commonplace occurrences resemble mysteries. In trademark style, Swamy popped questions with the air of a man revealing something sensational. But, his questions have been answered many times in the past and are mentioned in dozens of reports and books.

According to India Today, Swamy said there was a dispute regarding the number of bullets fired at Gandhi. Nathuram Godse said he fired two bullets but the public prosecutor said three bullets were fired. Some newspapers said four bullets were fired at him.

Here is what The Hindu reported on 31 January, 1948: "As he (Mahatma Gandhi) walked up the four steps leading to the prayer mandap, a young man, aged about 35, came before Gandhiji and, bending his body forward at a distance of less than two yards, offered pranam. Gandhiji returned the salute, when the young man remarked “You are late to-day for the prayer.” Gandhiji smiled and replied, “Yes, I am”; but just at that moment, the young man pulled out his revolver and rang out three shots from point-blank range, the bullets piercing the frail body of the great leader just below the heart and stomach. Immediately, Gandhiji collapsed; but Ava Gandhi and Manu Gandhi stuck to their place by his side and held him firmly. But that was the last of the Nation’s Father. It was then 5.12 p.m."

This is what Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre wrote in Freedom at Midnight: "At that instant Nathuram's left arm shot out, thrusting her (Manu) aside. The Black Berretta pistol lay exposed in his right hand. Nathuram pulled the trigger three times." (Page 440, chapter: The Second Crucifixion).

And this is what justice GD Khosla, the Punjab High Court judge who heard the murder case, said in his book, The Murder of the Mahatma: "Mahatma Gandhi had been shot dead while walking to his prayer meeting, that day at 5 p.m., by Nathuram Godse, a Brahmin from Poona. The assassin had fired three shots at point-blank range. Mahatma Gandhi was wounded in the chest and abdomen, and fell down on the spot saying: 'Hai Ram'. The murderer was immediately apprehended and saved from a lynching by the crowd. The pistol from which he had fired the shots was recovered from his possession. Gandhiji was carried to his room in a state of unconsciousness, and he succumbed to his injuries within a few moments."

In his book, justice Khosla also answers Swamy's second question: Why wasn't the Mahatma taken to a hospital?

Elementary, Mr Swami, he died within a few moments.

Finally, as Swamy asked, why wasn't an autopsy conducted? It was Mahatma Gandhi's will that he be cremated within 24 hours of death. After his death, many in the Indian government had suggested that his body be embalmed and kept for public darshan for several days. But his secretary Pyarelal put his foot down, citing the Mahatma's desire.

As The Hindu reported: "The last act Gandhiji did was to lift both his hands as a sign of prayer in the direction of the large gathering which had assembled for the prayer. Thereafter, he was speechless and the loss of blood, at his age and so soon after his fast, made death inevitable. He was beyond medical aid even from the start when shock had its effect. Lord Mountbatten and Cabinet Ministers, including Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and others soon arrived. The Ministers present held consultations among themselves as to the future course of action."

So, what is super sleuth Swamy insinuating? That the Mahatma was allowed to die in the presence of the entire Indian government?

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