Date: 30 Jan 2008



Gandhi assassination: Who hatched the plot?
January 29, 2008,Rediff News

Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte together decided that Mahatma Gandhi  had to be killed. As to who of them first thought of the plot, however, remains a mystery, says a book to be released on the 60th anniversary of the assassination of the Father of the Nation.

The ‘great decision’ was made by the two as they read on the teleprinter the news on Gandhi’s decision to go on fast to force the transfer of Rs 55 crore to Pakistan.

In Pune, the two men, Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte, sitting in their non-descript newspaper office read the news and suddenly made their decision - Gandhi had to be killed. No one, however, knows which of them first thought of murdering Gandhi, because to the end they maintained that only one of them - Nathuram - was responsible for the killing, says the new edition of The Men Who Killed Gandhi by Manohar Malgaonkar.
The book is due to be launched on Wednesday, the 60th anniversary of Gandhi’s assassination. The author, now 94-years-old, is an ex-serviceman and a civil servant. He first published The Men Who Killed Gandhi in 1978.

The new edition of the book carries, according to the publisher, hitherto unpublished photographs and documents including the Bombay-Delhi air tickets and bills of the hotel used by the two in Delhi while on their mission.

“Of the six men who were finally adjudged to have been implicated in the murder conspiracy, two were hanged. The other four - the approver Badge and the three who got life sentences, Karkare, Gopal and Madanlal - talked to me freely and at length,” says the author in his note to the first edition of the book.
“All four gave me information that they had never revealed before”, he claimed.
The book has some rare photographs, including one of Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi having a heated argument and Godse and Apte in Pune during the trial. Malgaonkar describes Nathuram Godse as a voracious reader, his interests being mythology, scriptures and Marathi history.

After he met V D Savarkar, Godse was never the same, having been transformed into a fiery champion of all the causes that Savarkar stood for - political, social, religious, freedom from British rule, abolition of the caste system and re-conversion of Hindus who had been enticed into Islam or Christianity.

At 31, Nathuram Godse was a quiet man of simple, almost austere tastes and a serious turn of mind. Pledged to celibacy, he shied away from the company of women and deliberately shunned the temptations of life. 

He was bothered by even by small lapses of middle-class morality and strove to keep his thoughts on a high plane. His secret pride was his ability to sway crowds with his speeches and his admitted liking for coffee.
In contrast, Narayan Apte was quick witted, lively and intelligent, well educated and with a family background of pure scholarship. He smoked and drank, wore expensive clothes and was fond of the good things in life.
“That the two men, who were so different, should become the closest friends seems almost unnatural, but people who knew them well assert that neither was a homosexual and that the friendship was due entirely to total identity of views on the Sanghatan movement,” the author says.

Madanlal Pahwa, another accused was a refugee from Pakistan who had experienced the atrocities first hand.

He was accused of throwing a bomb at Gandhi’s prayer meeting. Pahwa came in touch with Godse and Apte through Vishnu Karkare, who took him from a refugee camp in Bombay to Ahmednagar and helped him earn a living, the book says.

Digambar Badge, one of the four accused, was not the kind of person who inspired confidence. He was the owner of ‘Shastr Bhandar’, a storehouse of weapons. An inveterate name-dropper and a big talker, Badge came in contact with Godse and Apte through one Dixitji Maharaj, the author says.

Godse was an avid reader of detective novels, his favourite being Erle Stanley Gardner. Apte, on the other hand, showed marked preference for Agatha Christie.

After they made up their mind to kill Gandhi, Godse and Apte set a target date of January 20. To accomplish the death of Gandhi, the team zestfully set out to kill or maim scores of men and women, who, they knew, would be crowding around Gandhi.

“As it crystallised in the Marina Hotel in Delhi’s Cannought Circus on the afternoon of January 20, it was a horrifying mixture that was part farce,” the book says.

The two had managed to farm out all the dangerous roles to their subordinates and themselves intended to remain in the background. They had even put a pistol into the hands of that most inoffensive of men, Shankar Kistayya, Badge’s servant. Shankar did not even know who Gandhi was or what he had done or why he has to fire the pistol at him, the book says.

The plans, however, changed, and on January 30, when a man wearing a grey shirt and a cap tucked in his left shoulder walked in through the service gate of Birla House, no one checked him, nor did anyone accost the two men who came half an hour later, swathed in grey shawls against the cold and wearing flat woolen caps.

Nathuram later told his brother Gopal that he was put off by the two girls walking in front of Gandhi. As Gandhi raised his hand to greet the crowd, Nathuram slid forward the safety catch on the Beretta while it was still in his pocket and then stepped up to him, the author says. 

Assassin’s Account @
Godse’s Last Statement @