Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

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Assassination of M.K. Gandhi
Gandhi Memorial.jpg
Raj Ghat – Memorial marking the cremation spot of Mohandas Gandhi
LocationNew Delhi
Date30 January 1948
Indian Standard Time (5:17 pm)
TargetMohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Weapon(s)Semi-automatic pistol
Deaths1 (Gandhi)
Non-fatal injuries
None
PerpetratorsNathuram Godse
 
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Assassination of M.K. Gandhi
Gandhi Memorial.jpg
Raj Ghat – Memorial marking the cremation spot of Mohandas Gandhi
LocationNew Delhi
Date30 January 1948
Indian Standard Time (5:17 pm)
TargetMohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Weapon(s)Semi-automatic pistol
Deaths1 (Gandhi)
Non-fatal injuries
None
PerpetratorsNathuram Godse

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (often called Mahatma Gandhi in India) was assassinated on 30 January 1948, shot at point-blank range by Nathuram Godse. Gandhi was outside on the steps of a building where a prayer meeting was going to take place. He was surrounded by a part of his family and some followers when three gunshots killed him. Prior to his death, there had been five unsuccessful attempts to kill Gandhi, the first occurring in 1934.

Assassination[edit]

The Martyr's Column at the Gandhi Smriti, (Birla House), the spot where Gandhi was assassinated.

After a previous failed attempt to assassinate Gandhi at the Birla House Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte returned to Pune via Mumbai (Bombay). With the help of Dattatraya Parchure and Gangadhar Dandavate, Nathuram Vinayak Godse and Narayan Apte purchased a Beretta and reached Delhi on 29 January 1948, checking into the retiring room No. 6 at Delhi Railway Station where they chalked out the plan for his assassination.

Conspirators[edit]

Day of assassination[edit]

Godse approached Gandhi on January 30, 1948 during the evening prayer at 5:17 pm. When Godse bowed, one of the girls flanking and supporting Gandhi, Abha Chattopadhyay, said to Godse, "Brother, Bapu is already late" and tried to put him off, but he pushed her aside and shot Gandhi in the chest three times at point-blank range with a Beretta M 1934 semi-automatic pistol chambered in .380 ACP bearing the serial number 606824.[1] Gandhi died almost immediately. Godse himself shouted "police" and surrendered himself.

Gandhi's last words[edit]

The First Information Report (FIR)[2] filed by Shri Nand Lal Mehta shows that the last words of Gandhi were Hey... Raam (which translates into "Oh God", Ram being one of the Hindu deities). There has been no explanation of why he was not rushed to the hospital and was instead taken to Birla House, where he later died.[3]

...People were standing on both the sides and approximately three feet of vacant space was left for the Mahatma to pass through. As per the custom the Mahatma greeted the people with folded hands. He had barely covered six or seven steps when a person whose name I learnt later as Narayan Vinayak Godse, resident of Poona, stepped closer and fired three shots from a pistol at the Mahatma from barely 2 / 3 feet distance which hit the Mahatma in his stomach and chest and blood started flowing. Mahatma ji fell backwards, uttering "Hey-Raam". Nand Lal Mehta

— in the First Information Report recorded on 30 January 1948, at 9.45 pm

The last words uttered by Mohandas Gandhi have been a matter of debate. Venkita Kalyanam, former personal assistant to Gandhi, said that he was present at the spot and that Gandhi said "Oh God." His secretary, Pyarelal, quoted his last words as "Rama Rama". Gandhi had given a speech nine months before the assassination saying "Even if I am killed, I will not give up repeating the names of Rama and Rahim, which mean to me the same God." According to Nathuram Godse Gandhi just said "uhhh." [4]

Trial and justice[edit]

All of those involved in the crime were arrested and tried in a trial that attracted plenty of media attention. Those convicted were either executed or served their complete sentences.

Arrests[edit]

Some of the arrests were high-profile such as the arrest of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.[5][6][7][8]

Trials and convictions[edit]

The Accused were put on trial at Peterhoff, Shimla which housed the Punjab High Court.[9] Savarkar was acquitted and set free due to lack of evidence. Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were sentenced to death by hanging. Gopal Godse was sentenced to life in prison.

Aftermath[edit]

Funeral procession of Gandhi, passing the India Gate, Delhi

Violent incidents took place in Pune, the hometown of Nathuram Godse. Violent incidents occurred in other parts of India as well.[10]

Previous attempts[edit]

First attempt[edit]

On 25 June 1934, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was in Pune along with his wife, Kasturba Gandhi, to deliver a speech at Corporation Auditorium. They were travelling in a motorcade of two cars. The car in which the couple was travelling was delayed and the first car reached the auditorium. Just when the first car arrived at the auditorium, a bomb was thrown, which exploded near the car. This caused grievous injury to the Chief Officer of the Pune Municipal Corporation, two policemen and seven others. Nevertheless, no account or records of the investigation nor arrests made can be found. Gandhi's secretary, Pyarelal Nayyar, believed that the attempt failed due to lack of planning and co-ordination.[11]

Second attempt[edit]

The second attempt on the life of Mohandas Gandhi may not have been an attempt to assassinate as much as a demonstration of anger by a young man who tried to bow down to Gandhi and was rejected. In May 1944, Gandhi was sent from Aga Khan Palace prison and soon after he contracted malaria. On the advice of doctors, he took a vacation to Panchgani, a hill station near Pune. During his stay at Panchgani, Gandhi was staying at Dilkush Bungalow. This group of 15–21 young men came to Panchgani after realising that Gandhi was staying there. This young crowd was led by Nathuram Godse.[citation needed]

However, by evening, during the prayer meeting, Nathuram Godse rushed towards Gandhi with a dagger shouting anti-Gandhi slogans. He was unable to reach Gandhi as he was overpowered by Mani Shankar Purohit (proprietor of Surti Lodge, Pune) and D. Bhilare Guruji of Satara (who later became a Congress legislator from Mahabaleshwar). The documentary evidence of this attack can be found in the depositions made by Mani Shankar Purohit and D. Bhilare Guruji before the Kapur Commission set up to investigate the assassination of Gandhi. However, the Kapur Commission rejected this theory as many of the close associates of Gandhi were not present during that time.[citation needed]

Third attempt[edit]

The third attempt was also a demonstration. However, people who testified before the Kapur Commission referred to it as an attempt at violence. Mohandas Gandhi began his talks with Mohammad Ali Jinnah on 9 September 1944 which lasted for 14 days. While leaving for Mumbai from Sevagram Ashram, a group of Hindu activists stopped him. They did not want him to go to Mumbai to hold talks with Jinnah, however, these protesters were stopped by volunteers of the ashram. The leader of this group, Nathuram Godse, was again found in possession of a dagger. The policeman who found the dagger then looked up to him and joked, "Why do you want to kill Gandhi? Let's leave it to the leaders themselves... perhaps (Veer) Savarkar will finish off the job!" At which Godse retorted, "Gandhi does not require such an honor. Even the jamadar (sweeper) is enough for that." This incident has also been portrayed in the film Gandhi by Lord Richard Attenborough. However, it is not portrayed as an attempt to murder but as a peaceful demonstration in which the demonstrators were waving black flags.

Fourth attempt[edit]

A group photo of people accused in Gandhi's murder case. Standing: Shankar Kistaiya, Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa, Digambar Badge (Approver). Sitting: Narayan Apte, Vinayak D. Savarkar, Nathuram Godse, Vishnu Karkare

On 20 January 1948, Madanlal Pahwa, Shankar Kistaiya, Digambar Badge, Vishnu Karkare, Gopal Godse, Nathuram Godse, and Narayan Apte came to Birla Bhavan (aka Birla House) in Delhi to carry out another attack on Mahatma Gandhi and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy.[12] Except for Madanlal Pahwa and Vishnu Karkare, everyone else reached the venue through the rear entrance in a cab. Madanlal Pahwa tried to bribe Choturam, the driver at Birla Bhavan, to let him go behind the podium to take pictures of Gandhi. However, Choturam became suspicious and asked Madanlal Pahwa why he needed photographs from behind, and inquired about the absence of a camera. Madanlal Pahwa instead left, making Choturam think he was going back to the taxi; however, he placed a cotton ball enclosing a bomb on the wall behind the podium and ignited it. The bomb went off without creating any panic. The team had left after abandoning Madanlal Pahwa.

Gandhi and Jinnah in Bombay, September 1944

On interrogation, Madanlal Pahwa admitted that he was part of a seven member gang who wanted to kill Gandhi. The plan was that Madanlal Pahwa would explode a bomb as close to the podium as possible while Digambar Bagde or Shankar Kishtaiyya would shoot Gandhi in the head during the ensuing panic and stampede, using the chaotic situation to cover their escape. (Vishnu Karkare was to compound the chaos by hurling hand grenades.) Faced with Choturam's suspicious attitude, Digambar Badge decided at the last minute not to act, and instructed Shankar Kishtaiyya (his servant) to also stand down.

Later, Madanlal Phawa led the police to the Marina Hotel where Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte had been staying and also to Sharief Hotel where all other gang members had been staying. Everyone had left by that time and the police were only able to recover some letters and clothes which had the initials "NVG" on it. By this time they were able to ascertain that the members of that team were from Maharashtra; however they were not able to establish the identity and the involvement of Nathuram Godse.

During the Gandhi murder trial, Madanlal Pahwa was identified by Mrs. Sulochana Devi, who had come to Birla Bhavan in search of her three-year old son (who used to play in the servant quarters). She was the fifteenth witness in the trial, and Surjeet Singh, the driver, was the fourteenth witness.

Legacy[edit]

Kapur Commission[edit]

On 12 November 1964,[citation needed] a religious programme was organised in Pune, to celebrate the release of the Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa, Vishnu Karkare from jail after the expiry of their sentences. Dr. G. V. Ketkar, grandson of Bal Gangadhar Tilak,[13] former editor of Kesari and then editor of Tarun Bharat, who presided over the function, revealed six months before the actual event, that Nathuram Godse disclosed his ideas to kill Gandhi and was opposed by Ketkar. Ketkar said that he passed the information to Balukaka Kanitkar who conveyed it to the then Chief Minister of Bombay State, B. G. Kher. The Indian Express in its issue of 14 November 1964, commented adversely on Ketkar's conduct that Ketkar's fore-knowledge of the assassination of Gandhi added to the mystery of the circumstances preceding to the assassination. Ketkar was arrested. A public furore ensued both outside and inside the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and both houses of the Indian parliament. There was a suggestion that there had been a deliberate dereliction of duty on the part of people in high authority, who failed to act responsibly even though they had information that could have prevented Gandhi's shooting. Under pressure of 29 members of parliament and public opinion the then Union home minister Gulzarilal Nanda, appointed Gopal Swarup Pathaka, M. P. and a senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India, in charge of inquiry of conspiracy to murder Gandhi. Since both Kanitkar and Kher were deceased, the central government intended on conducting a thorough inquiry with the help of old records in consultation with the government of Maharashtra, Pathak was given three months to conduct his inquiry. But as Pathak was appointed a central minister and then governor of Mysore state, the commission of inquiry was reconstituted and Jevanlal Kapur a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India was appointed to conduct the inquiry.[14]

Reappraisal of Savarkar's role[edit]

Kapur commission also examined Savarkar's role in the assassination. Godse had claimed full responsibility for planning and carrying out the attack, in absence of an independent corroboration of the prosecution witness Digambar Badge's evidence implicating Savarkar directly, the court exonerated him citing insufficient evidence. According to Badge, on 17 January 1948, Nathuram Godse went to have a last darshan of Savarkar in Bombay before the assassination. While Badge and Shankar waited outside, Nathuram and Apte went in. On coming out Apte told Badge that Savarkar blessed them "Yashasvi houn ya" ("यशस्वी होऊन या" return victorious). Apte also said that Savarkar predicted that Gandhiji's 100 years were over and there was no doubt that the task would be successfully finished.[15][16] However Badge’s testimony was not accepted as it lacked independent corroboration. This was later corroborated by the testimony of two of Savarkar's close aides – Appa Ramachandra Kasar, his bodyguard, and Gajanan Vishnu Damle, his secretary, who had not testified in the original trial but later testified before the Justice Kapur commission set up in 1965. Kasar told the Kapur Commission that they visited him on or about 23 or 24 January, which was when they returned from Delhi after the bomb incident. Damle deposed that Godse and Apte saw Savarkar in the middle of January and sat with him (Savarkar) in his garden. Justice Kapur concluded: "All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group."[17][18]

Is it true that on the day of the bomb blast during the search of the room at Marina Hotel clothes were found bearing the initials N.V.G. – Nathuram Vinayak Godse -? On the basis of which the police went to Bombay and requested the Bombay police to look for this person, the Bombay police assured the Delhi police to do the needful and asked them to return, but did nothing. Is it true that the Bombay Police failed in tracing Nathuram Vinayak Godse?

— Balkrishna Sharma, during the debate on murder of Mahatma Gandhi in the Constituent Assembly of India.

To comment on matters under investigation is both difficult and unwarranted. I can only say that after the arrest and interrogation of the bomber, an officer of Delhi police went to Bombay and briefed the C.I.D. in Bombay. After the briefing, it was decided that some people should be arrested but to arrest them immediately would lead to the other conspirators going underground. So the Delhi police and Bombay C.I.D. decided to defer the arrests for some time to enable them to uncover the conspiracy and all who were involved in it. It is true that the police were on a look out for them but all of them were not in Bombay

Sardar Patel, during the debate on murder of Mahatma Gandhi in the Constituent Assembly of India.

If I am to die by the bullet of a mad man, I must do so smiling. There must be no anger within me. God must be in my heart and on my lips.


Mohandas K. Gandhi, 28 January 1948, two days prior to his assassination.

In media[edit]

Several books, plays and movies have been produced about the event.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Beretta M 1934 No.606824 – Most Infamous Weapon in Mankind's History". punjabjalandhar.info. 18 March 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  2. ^ The First Information Report
  3. ^ Controversy over "Hey Ram"
  4. ^ Lindley, Mark. Gandhi's Inaudible Last Words.
  5. ^ How Savarkar escaped the gallows thehindu.com. Retrieved 3 February 2013
  6. ^ http://www.savarkar.org/en/biography/charges-framed-against-savarkar-mahatma-gandhi-murder-case
  7. ^ Savarkar and Gandhi frontlineonnet.com. Retrieved 5 February 2013
  8. ^ The BJP and Nathuram Godse frontlineonnet.com. Retrieved 5 February 2013
  9. ^ "Nathuram Godse was tried at Peterhoff Shimla in Gandhi Murder Case". IANS. Biharprabha News. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  10. ^ http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/gandhiji-shot-dead-the-hindu-january-31-1948/article4358055.ece
  11. ^ Pyarelal Nayyar, Mahatma Gandhi – The Last Phase, Navajivan, (1956). ISBN 0-85283-112-9
  12. ^ Turning Crown's evidence at trial, Digamber Badge stated that the explosion was meant to create a distraction while Gandhi and Suhrawardy would be "finished off""Gandhi conspiracy trial: informer's evidence". The Times. 22 July 1948. p. 3. Retrieved 27 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "Interview: K. Ketkar". University of Cambridge, Centre of South Asian Studies. Retrieved 2009,August 29. 
  14. ^ Jain, Jagdishchandra (1987). Gandhi the forgotten Mahatma. New Delhi: Mittal Publications. ISBN 81-7099-037-8. 
  15. ^ Abdul Gafoor Abdul Majeed Noorani (2002) Savarkar and Hindutva: the Godse connection LeftWord Books, ISBN 81-87496-28-2, ISBN 978-81-87496-28-1 p. 4 & 114
  16. ^ Mahatma Gandhi—the last phase, Volume 2 Navajivan Pub. House, 1958 p.752
  17. ^ Noorani, A G (15–28 March 2003). "Savarkar and Gandhi". FrontLine. The Hindu. Retrieved 27 January 2011. 
  18. ^ Rajesh Ramchandran The Mastermind? Outlook Magazine 6 September 2004

Further reading[edit]

  • Tushar A. Gandhi; ‘LET’S KILL GANDHI!’ — A Chronicle of His Last Days, the Conspiracy, Murder, Investigation and Trial
  • Could Gandhi be Saved? by Bal Patil
  • Main Bapu ko na bacha saka by Prof. J C Jain, Chief Prosecution Witness in Gandhi Murder Trial.
  • "The Men who Killed Gandhi" by Manohar Malgonkar
  • K. L. Gauba’s Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi
  • J. L. Kapur Commission of Inquiry into the Conspiracy to Murder Mahatma Gandhi
  • G. D. Khosla Murder of the Mahatma
  • Pyarelal Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase
  • "Gandhi Murder Trial" by Tapan Ghosh
  • P. L. Inamdar The Story of the Red Fort Trial: 1948–49
  • "காந்தி புன்னகைக்கிறார்" மாதவராசு, பாரதி புத்தகாலயம், சென்னை (In Tamil)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 28°36′04.6″N 77°12′49.4″E / 28.601278°N 77.213722°E / 28.601278; 77.213722