Jan 30 1948 - Gandhi and Godse: Pages from Past and Prejudice | Nirendra Narayan Dev

Nirendra Narayan DevEditor's Note: Nirendra Narayan Dev (nirendev1 [at] gmail [dot] com), an acclaimed political journalist, is a special correspondent of The Statesman, New Delhi and author of acclaimed books including Modi to Moditva, Ayodhya : Battle For Peace, The Talking Guns North East India and Godhra A Journey To Mayhem. Nirendra was born and brought up in India's northeast and his father served with paramilitary force Assam Rifles. His blog is at bestofindiarestofindia.blogspot.com.

We have previously had an opportunity of talking to the author and have posted the audio recording of the interview.

WBRi also has the pleasure of publishing a series of short stories by Nirendra. Search with keywords "Nirendra Dev" to read his prior stories and articles on Washington Bangla Radio.

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and ...

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), political and spiritual leader of India. Location unknown. Français : Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), Guide politique et spirituel de l'Inde. Lieu inconnu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I weep for Adonais – he is dead!
Peace, peace ! he is not dead, he doth not sleep…
He lives, he wakes – ‘tis Death is Dead, not he
Mourn not for Adonais – Thou Young Dawn

….The Spirit thou laments is not gone….”

These lines drawn in piece meals from P B Shelley’s famous work ‘Adonais’ tries to underline that the poet John Keats is not dead. It is Death who has died. Shelley means that, for such a spirit as that of Keats, Death has no existence.

Most of us equally in India feel strongly about Mahatma Gandhi, our Father of the Nation. Pt Jawaharlal Nehru had very rightly lamented in his national broadcast within hours of Gandhi’s assassination – on that fateful day January 30, 1948 that “THE LIGHT HAS GONE OUT OF OUR LIVES”.

“The Mahatma’s assassination marked the climax of the nightmare that partition had become,” analysed Mark Tully in his impressive work ‘From Raj to Rajiv’ – a publication of BBC Books.

But in retrospect, we can also study Mahatma Gandhi’s failures – just as someone has said, to err is human and yes, even, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi too was human. Mahatma Gandhi cared for non-violence all his life.

But India or rather the whole of Indian sub-continent – and I am including Bangladesh and Pakistan in that – continues to bleed.

Open letter to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose - Nirendra Dev

In circa 2016 as we bow our heads in memory of Bapu, is it not pertinent to declare –albeit in pensive mood that – Gandhi’s non-violence has lost out to violence?

While millions died during the partition, lakhs of refugees who from eastern Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and west Pakistan who crossed over to India – under duress and in sheer poverty – blamed Bapu for accepting the partition. Muslims – whom Gandhi sought to protect – have turned a pro-violence community today – at least in terms of perception. And Hindus feel they must give up the Sanathan spirit. As a result over the last few decades the so called Hindu-revivalism has turned increasingly ominous. For Muslims again there is a peculiar dilemma. To many Muslims – who stayed in India abandoning Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s partition and Pakistan – there is a lasting guilt of the community’s role in dividing the country. Yet the real blame should have gone to those who went off in search of paradise in the new country. But the “real tragedy”, according to M J Akbar and I endorse that - the price of partition is not being paid by the people who got Pakistan but “by the Muslims in India” – who stayed back and trusted their Hindu and Sikh brethren. This is the irony and a melancholic turn!

While radicals have blamed Gandhi for the partition, the truth of the story is as late as March 1947- Gandhi had rejected division of the country: “If Congress wishes to accept partition, it will be over my dead body. So long as I live, I will never agree to the partition of India’.

A few years earlier in 1944, Gandhiji had got a shock when he was heckled in public by a Poona-based journalist Narayan Apte. In fact a little known periodical ‘Agrani’ then had a photo caption of Gandhi and Apte: “I denounce you a hundred times because you have conceded Pakistan’. At later stage, it goes without saying Apte had worked in tandem with Mahatma’s assassin Nathuram Godse.

In the words of Manohor Malgonkar in his book ‘The Men who killed Gandhi’, “…when it turned out that the Muslim League was altogether unappeaseable, the Congress began to show signs of giving in to their demand for Pakistan, but Savarkar and his followers (that included Godse certainly –blogger) remained staunchly opposed to it till the very end, and so to be fair, did a large number of people within the Congress organization itself”.

It would be pertinent here to say that strangeness has always not only made history interesting – it has guided the course itself. The two men – Narayan Apte and Godse (elder of the two) were so different in personalities - but - yet ironically both had become the closest of friends!

There’s another incongruity (or absurdity) that drove post-1947 phenomenon in India. Gandhiji’s ‘fast’ was literally turning the tide – as Hindu arsonists in Bihar controlled themselves and stopped revenging Muslim carnage of 1946 Direct Action in Calcutta. It left positive impact in Delhi and parts of Punjab too. It is often said ‘like a drunk making a good resolution in the morning’ – rioters stopped attacking helpless citizens in several parts. Hindus and Sikhs greeted Muslims with fruits. Things were too good at times to be real. Words spread that things were being stage-managed too.

But the refugees from Pakistan having suffered directly at the hands of Muslims felt outraged that Gandhi was staking his own life to save Muslims. Gandhi also wanted Indian government pay Rs 55 crore to Pakistan as was agreed upon before 1947. Angry protestors often marched to Birla House to voice their protest.

A few organizations also protested. All these ultimately resulted in culmination of January 30, 1948. ‘Hey Ram’ and the Man of Peace had fallen to assassin’s bullets.

But who gained and who lost? Lot remains to be judged from historical conjecture perspective !

Whether an undivided India would have been a possibility? How long it would have lasted?

Whether making Jinnah united India’s first Prime Minister was a practical suggestion? Should Indian independence been postponed?

To many, it is not merely a strange phenomenon that a Nation subjected to colonial rule put up a strong resistance against the British hegemony with non-violence as a principal tool under a frail looking leader Gandhiji. It goes without saying that it is never possible to evaluate how much India and the world owes to Mahatma Gandhi, the holy mascot of peace. A peace – however with a difference! This is what the protagonist was himself to say: “I am a man of peace. But I do not want peace at any price. I do not want the peace that you find in grave”. This is precisely an element that gives a suitable clause about Gandhi as a ‘man of peace’. His ‘Ram dhun’, the popular devotion number, ‘Ishwar Allah tera naam’ is still the nation’s best hymn for Hindu-Muslim peace.

Mahatma Gandhi in real sense was a harbinger of truth. In fact, he even had said that ‘Truthfulness is more important than peacefulness’. In this context, the following words of the Mahatma, as quoted from ‘Young India’ newspaper are quite relevant. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Though we sing – all glory to God on high and on the earth be peace — there seems to be today neither glory to God nor Peace on earth”.

It indeed was tragic that a saint of universal peace and non-violence had fallen a victim to violence and hatred himself.

On the hind side, the Mahatma’s life has remained a lesson itself. It still inspires millions both in India and outside. His non-violence is a cardinal value system in global context. Yet it failed in his own country. The sectarian conflict India is living through today would have shocked Gandhiji beyond imagination. But where’s the course correction?

While Hindus feel let down by a system in their own country, minorities Muslims and Christians have their complaints. When Mahatma fell to Godse’s bullets, Nehru rushed to Birla House and broke down. India wept then. Those tears are yet to dry up!