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KEY TAKEAWAYS

The Indian government has recognized January 30th as Martyr's Day or Shaheed Diwas in commemoration of all the sacrifices made by the freedom fighters in the war for India's independence and to pay our respects to them.

The Supreme Court recently refused to hear a writ petition seeking a stay on the streaming of the film "Why I Killed Gandhi," which was set to release on the OTT platform on January 30th.

The film incorporates Godse's original statement, which covers all of the events from Gandhiji’s assassination to Godse’s hanging, and hence contended that the film tarnishes the image of the Father of the Nation. 

INTRODUCTION

On the evening of January 30, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi, who is known as the Father of our Nation, was assassinated. He is attributed to securing India's freedom from the British. It has been 74 years since that day andis observed as Martyrs Day. Recently, the film "Why I Killed Gandhi," which is planned to release on multiple OTT platforms on January 30, on the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, has been granted a stay by the Supreme Court. The film is based on Gopal Godse's book 'Why I Killed Gandhi,' which was written by Nathuram Godse's brother. It contains Godse's original statement, which recounts all of the events from the day of the assassination of Gandhi until the day he was hanged.  Thus, the writ petition was filed because the publication and presentation of the film will irreversibly degrade the image of the Father of the Nation, causing public turmoil, hostility, and disharmony. In, this article attempts to analyze what led to Gandhi's assassination and then concentrates on how Godse's trial took place after he assassinated Gandhi with a focus on Nathuram Godse's side of the story that prompted him to commit such an act.

ASSASSINATION OF GANDHI

The news of Gandhi's assassination had disturbed not just the Indians, but it was also distressing to the British diplomats in England. No one could have predicted that a Mahatma who preached and supported ahimsa throughout his life would die a violent death. Furthermore, to understand how it all had taken place, we need to see the instances that provoked Godse. A clear picture of Gandhi's character would be inadequate without including Nathuram Vinayak Godse, the man who shot Gandhi while he walked to his Birla House apartment for his nightly prayer. To give a brief on Godse's background, he was said to be a right-wing Hindu nationalist who was a member of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh political party.

"Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy," a well-known Marathi play, was produced in an attempt to dispel the perception, but it caused outrage because it at one point praised Gandhi's assassination. Moreover, people nowadays have a lot of misconceptions regarding Nathuram Godse and his assassination of Gandhi, which can only be addressed by providing enough information and allowing people to form their own opinions. Therefore, the facts surrounding the assassination and trial are addressed subsequently, as an analysis of a historical event would be incomplete without them.

It's not fair to make a comparison of Godse and Gandhi without considering their similarities. It is to be noted that both were committed, courageous nationalists, and both thought that the underlying problem of India was the problem of Hindus; hence desired a unified, free India; and believed that austerity was an essential aspect of political action. Gandhi was indeed well-known, but even Godse lived as a hermit, foregoing all comforts and leisure. What initially arose the conflict between the two was the formation of Pakistan and led to Godse making a statement that 'This is what Gandhi had achieved after thirty years of undisputed dictatorship, and this is what the Congress party calls freedom and peaceful transfer of power.' 

Therefore, with time, Godse developed strong views on the acts of Gandhi and became more eager to kill Mahatma Gandhi, as he considers him to be the primary cause for such a partition. Godse believed that the misery caused by the partition could have been prevented if the Indian government and Gandhi had taken a position and protested the heinous treatment meted out to Pakistan's minorities, Hindus and Sikhs. Hence, on seeing all of this, he was determined to assassinate Gandhi, believing that without him, Indian politicians would be able to make better decisions that important to build a better nation and admits to assassinating Gandhi and further declares that he does not want any mercy and is prepared to face the consequences for such an act. 

TRIAL AND JUDGMENT

After the assassination had taken place, a special court for the trial of Godse and the other accused was formed with a Special act as well named the Bombay Public Security Measures Act. Furthermore, the country gave Godse a title as nothing more than a Hindu zealot, although he was a compassionate man. But, according to Godse, he states that his heart ached at Gandhi's actions against the country in favor of a certain community. To have a better understanding, one must first examine Godse's ideology, then his case before the Court, and subsequently the ruling.

To state briefly, Godse claims that the pain was so unbearable at the time that he couldn't think of any other way to relieve it other than uprooting the source having witnessed the tremendous barbarism faced by Indian communities at the hands of a newly formed Pakistan, he was confident to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi, whom he claimed was the primary cause of his country's plight because Gandhi was the one in charge and the government was just following his order. No doubt, Godse respected and appreciated Mahatma Gandhi's enormous patriotism and contributions to India's freedom, but he mentioned that it doesn't mean he had the authority to divide one huge nation which gives us a view that the country was from him while it is the other way. 

The hearing lasted until December 30, 1948, and the judgment was given on February 10, 1949 and it was held that amongst the other accused, V.D. Savarkar to be acquitted, the reason being he had been a part of the independence struggle since his adolescence, yet charged with plotting to assassinate Gandhi because they doubted that with Godse and others he too would have planned the conspiracy but the prosecution was unable to prove the charges against him for the same. Speaking of the others, Digamber Badge was pardoned since he testified against his co-accused, and five others were sentenced to life in prison. The main convicts, Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were found guilty and were sentenced to death. Later, all the seven convicts filed appeals with the Punjab High Court, except for Nathuram, who decided to appeal his conviction for conspiracy and other allegations over his death sentence.

On June 22, 1949, the Court pronounced Shankar Kistaiya and Dr. Parchure not guilty and acquitted them, but Vishnu Karkare, Gopal Godse, and Madanlal Pahwa sentences were confirmed. The Judges also upheld Narayan Apte's death sentence, which was automatically confirmed because he did not appeal his death sentence. Therefore, after about twenty-one and a half months of the shooting incident, Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were hanged in Ambala jail on November 15, 1949. The highlight here though was that shortly before their execution, when their wrists and toes were tied, Nathuram and Narayan yelled slogans that echoed ‘Akhand Bharat Amar Rahe!  'Vande Mataram.' 

SIGNIFICANCE OF MARTYR’S DAY

With Godse's ideology and how the trial was conducted, it seems apparent that Gandhi's assassination by Godse was no doubt the result of strong enmity. It is of utmost importance to note here that Godse and his gang planned to murder Gandhi on two occasions in Bombay.

The first attempt to assassinate Gandhi was failed on January 20, 1948, due to a lack of cooperation among the members of the gang, which resulted in a Punjabi refugee being arrested on the spot. Even after providing enough proof during interrogation, and clearly stating the gang would prepare another attack on Gandhi the police failed to take any action. Godse and his team could have been arrested based on this confession, but the police and intelligence agencies failed, and it remains a mystery why, despite having enough information, the authorities were unable to stop the subsequent attempt. 

But due to the failure, on the 30th of January, 1948, Godse attempted again to assassinate Gandhi by shooting him at point-blank range during his evening prayers. And, as stated in the argument put forth before the court during trial, Godse attempted to justify his actions by blaming Gandhiji for the country's partition and the deaths of thousands of people during the freedom struggle and referred him to be faking all the concerned for the nation and felt no remorse for his actions. 

Thus, on this day, January 30th, Gandhiji died and was martyred, and hence is marked as Martyr's Day or Shaheed Diwas by the Indian government in honor of all the sacrifices made by the freedom fighters in the struggle for India's independence and to pay our respects to them. Moreover, Martyrs' Day is commemorated even on March 23 in India to honor Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru, and Sukhdev Thapar, who was hanged in the year 1931.

CONCLUSION

To put it in nutshell, firstly the trial on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhiji is considered to be one of the fastest trials in the legal history of India. Secondly, there have been various studies that have been conducted over the years on Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, and the role of Nathuram Godse. Godse said in the latter part of his statement during the trial that he knew he would lose all of his honor in society if he killed Gandhi and would be ignored by the people. He was also aware that he would only receive hatred, despite that, as seen he felt no remorse for his acts because according to him all he did was for the benefit of the nation.

Further, in this article, I have not attempted to support the assassination or disprove the ruling. The only purpose was to figure out what drove Godse to perform such a heinous deed that jeopardized his reputation. Because, it is beyond doubt that Mahatma Gandhi contributed significantly to this country, but at the same time we must not overlook the personality attribute that led Godse to assassinate Gandhi, whom he had previously admired and supported as well. It is unclear on what had taken place back then because as per the facts we see that the attempt to assassinate had taken place twice but the police failed to take action even with sufficient evidence in hand and looking from the other side, it is imperative to note that, Godse anticipated that someday in the future, mankind would understand the act he committed and had no regrets. 


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