Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead on January 30, 1948 by Nathuram Godse who did so because he was against his methods. Godse in his final address to the court explained ‘WHY I KILLED GANDHI!’ In my previous post on Mahatma Gandhi’s Assassination, I pointed that Mahatma Gandhi and his ideas will remain in the hearts of the Generations to come and surely will! See, we have seen the negative side of Godse’s act, but, was he totally wrong on his part? The answer is ‘No’, he wasn’t! After the murder, Nathuram enjoyed certain popularity among the refugees, particularly the women, who had borne the brunt of the Partition atrocities. But on the whole, the population was angry with him.
Nathuram Godse was a follower of Gandhi in many respects, e.g. he was very active in organizing inter-caste activities involving the Untouchables. But he had come to decide in 1947-48 that the Mahatma had betrayed everything he had stood for. Indeed, Gandhi had declared that Pakistan would only be created "over my dead body", but when the hour came, the champion of fasts unto death did not try this pressure tactic to force Mohammed Ali Jinnah, leader of the Pakistan movement, to abandon his demand for Partition. Millions of people, mostly Hindus and Sikhs in West Panjab and East Bengal, felt confident that Partition would not take place because the Mahatma gave them that assurance; and they felt betrayed when he threw them to the wolves. Nathuram Godse worked in the relief operations for Hindu-Sikh refugees from Pakistan, many of whom had been raped or had lost relatives and he held Gandhi responsible for their plight on two counts. Firstly, Gandhi could have prevented Partition, or at least staked his life in an attempt to do so; this he failed to do, probably because he knew that Jinnah would not give in. This failure also cast a shadow over the earlier occasions when he had staked his life to pressure people into doing his bidding: it now seemed that he had only used this tactic with people who could be counted upon to give in, so that there had never been any real risk of having to fast unto actual death.
Secondly, even after conceding Partition, a lot of bloodshed could have been averted by means of an orderly exchange of population, as advocated by the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, free India's first Law Minister: all Muslims to Pakistan, all non-Muslims to India. At the time, neutral British troops were still around to oversee such an orderly migration, and the psychological climate was ready for this lesser-evil solution. Instead, Gandhi and his appointee as Congress leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, refused to countenance this bloodless solution out of attachment to the multiculturalist ideal. The result was that a spontaneous partial exchange of population took place anyway, but under much worse circumstances: nearly a million people were killed.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can only conclude that this second criticism is entirely justified. In India, the Hindu-Muslim riots which were a regular feature of pre-Independence India have resumed. In Pakistan, the situation is much worse: the non-Muslim minorities are being terrorized and squeezed out, and in 1971, the Pakistani army killed perhaps as many as two million Hindus in East Bengal, the biggest genocide after World War 2. In total, more than 3 million people (only counting the mortal victims, not the far more numerous refugees) would have been saved if the Indian leaders in 1947 had had the wisdom to settle for the lesser evil of an exchange of population. By contrast, the first criticism, the one uppermost in Godse's mind, is less justified. It is unfair to blame the Mahatma for the Partition, considering that most other Congress leaders had endorsed the very policies which had led to the Partition, along with the Mahatma or even before his rise. The Mahatma's failure was, in fact, the failure of Hindu society as a whole. But in the charged post-Partition atmosphere, he was made to bear most of the responsibility, and forgotten were the services he had rendered to his people, to the Fickle-minded People!
The final straw after which Godse "could not tolerate this man to live any longer", was Gandhi's "fast unto death" to force the Indian Government to pay 550 million Rupees to Pakistan, and to force the Hindu and Sikh refugees in Delhi to vacate the abandoned mosques and Muslim homes where they had found shelter (this was mid-winter 1947-48, temperature close to freezing). The money was Pakistan's fair share of British India's treasury, but it was nonetheless a strange and unique event to see one country pay such a sum of money to a country which had just invaded it: Pakistani troops were occupying a large part of Kashmir (which had by then legally acceded to India), where they exterminated the entire non-Muslim population. This moral statement, that certain fairness standards are to be maintained even in wartime, was too much for Godse and a few companions. On 30 January 1948, he shot the Mahatma at the beginning of his evening prayer-meeting in Birla House, Delhi.
The aftereffects of the Mahatma’s killing were even more disheartening, as the man who led a country of millions to independence just got a Memorial in return as Raj Ghat. His ideas were neither followed by the leaders nor by the people who gave him the name BAPU! This way, Gandhi's death brought the death of Gandhism as a political factor in India. It strengthened the position of people who used his name but were objectively the worst enemies of everything he had stood for!