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Nishant Shah

Essay 2

1501104

Final Encounter: Politics of the


Assassination of Gandhi
What aspects of his mothers personality did Gandhi
incorporate in his own personality?
Mohandas Gandhis mother played an important role in his life by making a strong
impression on him with her piety. His mother followed the practices of Jain monks, and was a
devout practitioner of the way of life that the religion preaches. She never would eat her
meals without a prayer, and only when the Sun would come out. Before leaving for London,
his mother, who was a devout Jain, made him promise, never to eat meat. Gandhi thus
remained a vegetarian for the rest of his life. She also made him promise, in front of a Jain
monk, to practice abstinence from meat and alcohol as well as promiscuity.
This way of life influenced Gandhi to practice a high degree of self-restraint. Having learnt
the tenets of Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism, it formed the foundation of his religious ideas
and those of truth and non-violence. He absorbed the goodness of these religions with regards
to communal harmony and this helped him develop a sense of morality while being a firm
believer in God. Also, since his days in South Africa, he realized the strength of the women
gender. This is attributed to the image of a woman, one of love and sacrifice, which he
imbibed from his mother. He thus respected feminine values and imbibed their experiences
and values into his personality.

Describe in brief the Brahmanic tradition that Maharashtrian


Chitpavans like Nathuram Godse represent?
Nathuram Vinayak Godse belonged to Poona (now Pune), which was the unofficial capital of
traditional Maharashtra. The city was known for the rich, complex culture built by the
socially high-status Chitpavan Brahmans. This fact gave them in their own eyes, a certain
historical superiority over the Deshasth Brahman belonging to the plains of Maharashtra. In
the absence of martial cases like the Rajputs in the region, the Chitpavans could thus combine
the traditional prerogatives of the priestly Brahmans and the kingly Kshatriyas. They were
characterised by frugality, untrustworthiness, conspiratorialism, phlegmatic, hard work,
cleanliness and intelligence to name a few. The Chitpavans were a community of astrologers
who offered religious services to the masses.
Agriculture was the second major occupation for those who possessed land. Earlier, the
Deshastha Brahmins believed that they were the highest of all Brahmins, and looked down
upon the Chitpavans as parvenus. This usurping of power by Chitpavans from the Deshastha
Brahmins resulted in intense rivalry between the two Brahmin communities which continued
in late Colonial British India times. Records also mention of Gramanyas or intense village
level debates that the Chitpavans took part in along with other communities.
This glorious past gave them a sense of superiority over the other Brahmans in Maharashtra.
The social gap maintained between the Brahmans and the non-Brahmans was one of the

Nishant Shah

Essay 2

1501104

widest in their region. They considered themselves as the upholders of Hindu tradition and
their aim was redemption of their lost glory, now by taking up terrorism against British
colonialism.
Most of Gandhis charisma did not extend to Chitpavans. If the Kshatriyas were absent, the
Chitpavans would have enjoyed greater status and they incorporated as traditional rulers,
landowners and warriors elements of the Kshatriya identity and lived with many of the
Kshatriya fears and anxieties relating to womanhood

Starting from his association with Gandhis civil


disobedience movement in 1929-30 to floating his
newspaper Hindu Rashtra, describe in brief his political
associations with various organization.
Nathuram Godse was always aligned with the Gandhian movements and lent his support to
the Civil Disobedience Movement as well. His political affiliations began at the age of 20
when he joined the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the
paramilitary wing of the Mahasabha. Both these groups had one agenda Hindu Revivalism.
Godse soon rose through the ranks to become the Secretary of the Poona Branch for the
Mahasabha and became a baudhik karyavah (intellectual worker) in the RSS. He founded the
Hindu Rashtriya Dal after resigning from the RSS, which he said he did not find militant
enough. This mere fact, if fact it be, has been pounced upon by the RSS in the five decades
following Gandhis assassination to argue that Godse had no association with the RSS, and
curiously Nathurams younger brother, Gopal Godse, who was convicted of partaking in the
conspiracy to murder Gandhi and served a fifteen-year jail term and still speaks in the most
bitter terms of Gandhi as the betrayer of India, has himself on more than one occasion had to
issue a strong rejoinder to the RSS, with whose ideological outlook he is otherwise in
complete sympathy, for attempting to disguise his brothers long-term association with the
RSS.
It scarcely matters, then, whether NathuramGodse retained membership in the RSS when he
shot Gandhi dead. Godse was involved in Hindu extremist organizations, including the RSS
and the Hindu Mahasabha, his entire adult life, and the continuing attempts by RSS to evade
responsibility for Gandhis assassination are characteristic of that extreme pusillanimity and
tendency to falsehood which have always been the signal trademarks of an organization that
is determined to bring the idea of Hindu Rashtra to fruition.

What are the similarities and dissimilarities between Gandhi


and Godse at the level of manifest political style?
Gandhi and Godse had many similarities at the level of manifest political style. Both were
defying nationalist highly committed to the Nation. They both had the feeling that Indias
problems were Hindus problems as they formed the majority population of India. They both
were against the partitioning of India. Both thought that austerity was a necessary part of
political activity. Like Gandhi, Godse also believed in casteless Hindu society and in
democratic polity. His beliefs matched with Gandhi regarding mobilizing Indian Muslims for
nationalist cause by making some concessions to Muslim leadership. In fact, Godse started

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Essay 2

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his political career as a participant in Gandhi initiated Civil Disobedience Movement. Though
he had grudge against Gandhi, he respected Gandhi for what he had done for India.
Despite the similarities, there were basic dissimilarities which set Godse aside from Gandhi.
Godse, unlike Gandhi was in the tradition of the Westernized upper-caste elements in the
tertiary sector of the Indian society who had dominated the Indian political scene during that
time. He was greatly inspired by the freedom struggle traditions of urban middle-class
Bengal, Punjab and Maharashtra, which valued Indias imperial rulers, conceptualized
politics as a ruthlessly rational zero-sum games in which opponents losses must be
maximized. He was totally irrational about Gandhis emphasis on political ethics, soul force
and the moral supremacy of the oppressed over oppressor. Both differed in their perception of
Hinduism. Gandhi wanted to organize Hindu as a larger political community rather than a
religious group. Godse perceived history as a chronological sequence, where Hindus were
ruled by Muslims and Christians humiliating Hindus and should be redressed. Gandhi on the
other hand did not take chronological sequence into account. Most importantly Godse felt
that Gandhi had supported Pakistan more than India and hence had failed in his duty as the
Father of the Nation.

After killing Gandhi, NathuramGodse reportedly said that he


had done his duty like Arjuna in the Mahabharata whom
Krishna advised to kill his own relatives because they were
evil. What supporting props about the society in general and
Gandhi in particular could Nathuram may have cited to
justify his remark?
Gandhi died, according to his own scenario, at the hands of one who was apparently a zealot,
a religious fanatic, a typical assassin with a typical background, educated and intelligent, but
an under-achiever. Godse was still relatively young, was coming from the middle class and
yet from a group which was a displaced elite and with a long record of failures. Godse also
had the fear of sexuality, idealization of parents, ideological rigidity and constriction of
emotions. This was the kind of society in which NathuramGodse was born, grew and died.
Godse and his associates decision to kill Gandhi was certainly determined by the
circumstances of Partition and the death of Hindus in the course of the communal violence of
1947. But, during his trial, Godse also made clear that there was an ideological element to the
decision: I had never made a secret of the fact that I supported the ideology of the school
that was opposed to that of Gandhi. I firmly believed that the teachings of absolute ahimsa as
advocated by Gandhi would ultimately result in the emasculation of the Hindu community
and thus make the community incapable of resisting the aggression or inroads of other
communities, especially the Muslims. By his own admission, Godse belonged to an
ideological stream fed by Hindu nationalism and political violence against Gandhi, a school
of thought that began with B.G. Tilak and was perpetuated by Tilakites such as V.D.
Savarkar, Godses mentor.
Godses interpretation of the Mahabharata also has similarities with Tilaks Gita Rahasya. At
the end of his trial, Godse said: In fact, honour, duty and love of ones own kith and kin and

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country might often compel us to disregard non-violence. Arjun had to fight and slay quite a
number of his friends and relations, including the revered Bhishma, because the latter was on
the side of the aggressor. It is my firm belief that in dubbing Ram, Krishna and Arjun as
guilty of violence, the Mahatma betrayed a total ignorance of the springs of human action.