Who killed Gandhiji? Glaring gaps in the investigation

Written by Shabu Prasad

Soon after the assassination, NC Chatterjee, the Hindu Mahasabha chief, was appointed as a judge in Kolkata HC; the outfit never faced any heat despite killers belonged to it; Mahasabha chief became an MP with Communists’ support

One of the greatest tragedies that Independent India witnessed was the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. This is the 70th anniversary of his martyrdom. However, it’s very curious to see that how Gandhiji has been studied by the Indian academia in the last seven decades. While Gandhiji’s name almost monopolized roads and bridges, India, for the most part of that period, was ruled by politicians bearing the mesmerizing surname ‘Gandhi’.

For all these years, we have heard only one narrative of his assassination and its aftermath – the one, our rulers and their supporters in the academia and intelligentsia wanted us to hear. The time has come to review and revisit that narrative and find out the motives behind the murder from whatever little evidence available in the public domain.

Nehru & Gandhi; Image courtesy: www.aicc.org.in

By August 15, 1947, Gandhiji had become a burden for those who were ruling the roost in the Congress and the government. True to his character, he always raised voice against what he perceived injustice. Just like he did against the British, he took on the new government as well. By leaving Delhi to Noakhali and by boycotting Independence Day celebrations, he had sent a clear message to the authorities. He had his own views on what to do with the Congress, governance, industry and rural and village development. He was not ready to compromise on his ideals. He clearly communicated this to the authorities, but Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had rejected them without a review, pushing Gandhiji on a warpath.

Gandhiji’s differences with Communists

Gandhiji and Communists were never on the same page on any issue. Gandhiji had written many letters to the then Communist Party chief PC Joshi, raising many uncomfortable questions such as the secret nature of the party, their view on social realities in India, their working systems and so on. All these letters are well documented in his complete works. They never cared to answer the queries raised by him, instead launched a vicious campaign against him. He was ridiculed in the party mouthpiece Peoples War and abusive slogans were raised against him.

The assassination on January 30, 1948, at the Birla House. Godse is being restrained in the background. Image courtesy: www.columbia.edu

A relook at the turn of events

When we take a closer look at the timeline of Gandhiji’s assassination, we can see that there are many gaps in the whole story. As per the FIR and charge sheet, Gandhiji had announced an indefinite fast from the very next day on January 12, 1948. On January 13, at Pune, 1500 km away from Delhi, Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte planned to carry out assassination bid on Gandhiji on January 20. Within that short period, they conspired, mobilized arms, money and manpower and flew down to Delhi on January 18 to take the life of the most valuable human being of India. On January 20, they successfully conducted a bomb blast during Gandhiji’s prayer meeting. However, their plan to open fire at him in the chaos thus created did not materialize due to lack of coordination among themselves. Madanlal Pahwa, a gang member, was arrested from the spot while his accomplices managed to escape. The police extracted every detail of the conspiracy from Madanlal in the next few days but nobody was arrested. Exactly after 10 days, Nathuram managed to enter the Birla House again without any checking and shot the ‘Prophet of Ahimsa’ in point blank.

The trial of persons accused in Gandhi’s assassination. (Left to right front row: Nathuram Vinayak Godse, Narayan Dattatraya Apte and Vishnu Ramkrishna Karkar. Seated behind are (from left to right) Diganber Ram Chandra Badge, Shankar s/o Kistayya, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Gopal Vinayak Godse and Dattatrays Sadashiv Parachure. Image courtesy: www.photodivision.gov.in

All these details discussed above are from the court proceedings and legal documents which are available to the public. Special Court judge, Justice Atma Charan had clearly observed that life of Mahatma Gandhi could have been saved if the authorities had responded as per the need of the hour.

The question that begs an answer is: Is it possible for some individuals who were totally alien to the topography of Delhi to carry out such a major operation within a short period of time of seven days? They had travelled by air and stayed in star hotels. Who sponsored them? Who helped them in Delhi? Common sense tells us that months would have gone into hatching the conspiracy. Later, the Kapoor Commission found that the successful attempt on January 30th was not the maiden one – three attempts had been carried out previously by the same gang. The first attempt was made in 1944. No investigation or satisfactory explanations have been furnished till date on these questions.

There is more to it than meets the eye. One thing is clear; the forces behind the murder were those who wanted it so desperately.

Immediately after the tragedy, without any investigation, the Nehru Government banned Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), holding it responsible for the crime. He was trying to kill two birds with a single shot: he could successfully deflect public attention from the glaring facts of the case and also stop the steady growth of the RSS. In the initial days of Independence, the media and the public psyche were under the tremendous influence of the authorities. And the government used the circumstances to the hilt to its advantage and shape public opinion.

Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee; Image courtesy: www.veethi.com

Questionable stand on Hindu Mahasabha

The most shocking fact is the government’s stand on the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha. It’s an undeniable fact that all the conspirators were associated with the Hindu Mahasabha. But, interestingly, that organization was not banned or faced any difficulty in its functioning. Instead, the RSS was banned on the ground that Nathuram Godse had a brief association with the Sangh some 15 years ago. The allegations levelled against the Sangh could not stand the legal test and the government was forced to lift the ban on the organization.

Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee was the president of the Mahasabha during that crucial period. It’s ridiculously strange and mysterious that this person was appointed as a judge in the Kolkata High Court immediately after the assassination.

Chatterjee came back to the Mahasabha after the dust settled. He contested the first Lok Sabha elections in 1952 as a Hindu Mahasabha candidate and won. There was not even a murmur of protest when the leader of Gandhi murderers stepped into the House. All these happened when ‘Gandhi disciple’ Nehru was at the helm of affairs and the towering Communist leader AK Gopalan was the Leader of Opposition. But, during this time, RSS with its tarnished image was at the receiving end.

Chatterjee lost the elections in 1957 but returned to the House as an independent member supported by the undivided Communist Party, CPI, through a by-election in 1963. By 1967 General Elections, the Communist Party had split as CPI and CPI (M) and NC Chatterjee was elected to the Lok Sabha with the CPI (M) support. He retired from active politics in 1971 due to health issues but ensured his son Somnath Chatterjee got the CPI (M) ticket. Somnath was a leading advocate in the Kolkata High Court at that time and didn’t have any political experience. It’s very strange that a party like CPI (M) with its strong cadre set up and led by stalwarts such EMS Namboothiripad, BT Ranadive and Jyothi Basu gave a ticket to a political novice.

The question is what was the compulsion of the CPI (M) to accommodate a political turncoat like NC Chatterjee? The Hindu Mahasabha and Communists were poles apart as far as their ideology is concerned. How come he was able to dictate terms with the Communists? NC Chatterjee was unabashed about Mahasabha ideals. Still, the Communists had no problems in accepting him.

What is the inference one can draw from this? Is it possible that NC Chatterjee knew a lot of facts about the assassination, which the Communists wanted to hide? It is strange that all these years no one has brought up his name though he was an MP for long. The Communists had always shied away from discussing him.

Real beneficiaries

The issue throws up two crucial questions: who was the real beneficiary of Gandhiji’s assassination? And who would have faced problems if Gandhiji could have been alive for a few more years?

If Gandhiji was not assassinated at that time, it would have been difficult to highjack surname ‘Gandhi’. Gandhiji’s zero tolerance towards basic values would have made life miserable for the new government. He would not have shied away from taking on the establishment.

An attempt on ‘Kerala Gandhi’

More than anyone else, the Communists were threatened by Gandhiji at a time they were planning a Communist Revolution in India. Another important point that needs to be mentioned here is that the Communists had carried out two somewhat similar assassination bids: The first was on freedom fighter and Congress leader K Kelappan, who was also called ‘Kerala Gandhi’. This is well-documented in the autobiography of K Madhavan, a Congress leader who later became a Communist. The second bid was on one of the most eminent administrators of all times Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyer, the Dewan of erstwhile Travancore. Sir CP’s feud with Nehru is well known. To attack Sir CP, a Tamil Brahmin, the Communists had used a person from the same caste.

Post-assassination, Nehru had given the reins of all academic and cultural institutions to the Communists and through them, the Congress manipulated and appropriated history.

The conclusion that one can draw from a close reading of historical facts is that there seems to be a nexus between Hindu Mahasabha, Nehru and his followers and the Communist leadership. Godse and his accomplices played the role of suicide bombers. That is the reason why there was no investigation into the crucial aspects of funding, conspiracy and the weapon used in the assassination. Even a copy of the report of the Kapoor Commission, instituted by the government, is not available today. This shows the seriousness of the matter.

The truth will come out one day howsoever deep people try to bury it. Even decades after Gandhiji’s death, the controversy continues to be alive.

References: 1. Freedom at Midnight – Larry Collins and Dominic Lapier; 2. Men who Killed Gandhi – Manohar Malgonkar; 3. I could not save Mahatma Gandhi – Prof. Jagadish Chandra Jain; 4. Believing faith – Somnath Chatterjee; 5. Complete works of Mahatma Gandhi



About the author

Shabu Prasad

A prolific columnist and author

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