Between the 66th Republic Day and the 68th anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination by Nathuram Vinayak Godse, is as good a time as any to figure out what patriotism meant to the assassin.  

Playwright Pradeep Dalvi is evidently one among thousands of people who admire Godse for his ‘brave’ deed. Some admirers are even planning to celebrate January 30 as Shaurya Diwas. Dalvi on his part wrote a play, Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy (This is Nathuram Godse speaking) in 1989, to justify Godse’s act. The censors refused him permission to perform, and the government banned the play. The ban was lifted in 2001 by the High Court and the Supreme Court, after which actor Sharad Pokshe has been speaking non-stop as Nathuram, holding the converted spell-bound with Godse’s life, views and values.

Godse’s first reason for assassinating Gandhi was Gandhi’s supposed responsibility in allowing the country to be partitioned. Those who have read history know the complex political issues that preceded this painful event. But historical complexity has never interested extremists. The second reason was Gandhi’s moral argument that whatever Pakistan had done or was likely to do shouldn’t be made the reason for not giving it the balance of Rs 55 crore owing to it (Rs 20 crore had already been paid) as its 20 per cent share of the assets of undivided India.

However, since these two reasons alone could not have glorified Godse as a martyr, Dalvi had to take recourse to fiction in his play, creating purely imaginary characters and situations. One such invention is police superintendant Sheikh, the investigating officer. He begins as a Muslim stereotype, all arrogance and high-handedness. However, our brave hero isn’t one to be cowed down. Instead, he plays clever mind games with Sheikh and floors him. He also floors him by beating him at chess every day. Then more invention follows. In a crudely crafted scene, Sheikh tells Godse that it is his, Sheikh’s daughter Zubeida, who puts flowers on Godse’s seat in court every day. She also prays for him, although, being pregnant, she can barely walk to the mosque. When Godse hears this, he sends her the following megalomanic message through Sheikh: "If you really love this brother of yours, look after the baby in your womb. You will give birth to a son. Teach him my values. If another Gandhi is created on this soil, this country will need another Nathuram. We want Nathuram. Another Nathuram."

Finally, so winningly lovable is Godse, and so courageous in the face of death, that Sheikh, in full uniform, sobs on his shoulder when he is taken away to Ambala jail to be hung.

Dalvi’s other major piece of invention is Godse’s claim that he and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, one of the accused in the conspiracy to assassinate Gandhi, and a veritable god to Godse – “He is the sun. We are infinitesimal splinters of him amounting to nothing”—used to have long, convivial chats when they were together in jail. Justice G D Khosla’s book on the trial suggests this is unlikely. Godse also tells us that he made his will on the day before his hanging, in which he asked for his ashes not to be immersed till India snatched the Sindhu river back from Pakistan by force. That he made such a will is true. What is not true is his claim that Savarkar read the will and said, “You are sage Dadhich of modern India. Like his bones, your bones too will turn into weapons.”

Historian Y. D. Phadke points out in his book Nathuramayan, that Savarkar was released from jail nine months before Godse wrote his will. Therefore, not even with the longest vision in the world could he have read the will from across the 1600 odd kms that separated him from Ambala.

At Shivaji Mandir on Monday, the audience lapped up this incredible story, clapping, whistling and laughing when they were particularly pleased with their hero; for example when he said, “Gandhi did not say ‘Hey Ram’ when he died. If he had said anything at all it would have been ‘Hey Rahim’.”

Mercifully, the play is not all fiction. Godse tells us that on January 30, 1948, he covered his face and crept into the Birla House precincts, waylaid Gandhi who was on his way to evening prayers and fired three shots into his chest. Gandhi was unarmed. Godse was armed with a Beretta M 1934 semi-automatic pistol. That act proved his shaurya, his patriotism.

Published On : 28-01-2015