In the 21st Century, it has become fashionable of sorts to attribute all manners of causes and motivations to Nathuram Godse for his assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Over the years, he has merely become a stick to beat Hindutvavadis with and an excuse to exclude the Hindu Right from the corridors of power.
It has become par for the course to demonize Godse beyond all measure. Because the target is not Godse himself, he is dead, but every politically conscious Hindu alive. Thus, we have people like Kamal Haasan who says, “The first terrorist in independent India is a Hindu, his name is Nathuram Godse.”
Quite interestingly enough, there are some people who saw certain merits to the assassination of Gandhi. B.R. Ambedkar, of all people, was of the opinion that ultimately, the death of Gandhi would have a positive impact upon the future of the country.
He once wrote to Laxmi Kabir, who he subsequently married, “My own view is that great men are of great service to their country, but they are also at certain times a great hindrance to the progress of the country. Mr Gandhi had become a positive danger to this country. He had choked all the thoughts. He was holding together the Congress which is a combination of all the bad and self-seeking elements in society who agreed on no social or moral principle governing the life of society except the one of praising and flattering Mr Gandhi. Such a body is unfit to govern a country. As the Bible says that sometimes good cometh out of evil, so also I think good will come out of the death of Mr Gandhi. It will release people from bondage to supermen, it will make them think for themselves and compel them to stand on their own merits.”
Kamal Haasan is the most recent politician to claim Godse was a Hindu terrorist but he is certainly not the first. To repeat myself again here, the target isn’t Godse, the target is every Hindutvavadi and therefore it’s quite necessary to clearly outline what Godse’s actions were and what they weren’t and what it can be called.
First and foremost, let us evaluate whether Godse can actually be called a terrorist. This is not to pass moral judgment on his actions but an objective evaluation of the category his actions can be classified under. As it so happens, there are no universally accepted definitions of terrorism. And that is a problem. However, there are certain definitions from global institutions which can be relied upon to get a fair idea of the matter.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1566 defines Terrorism as “criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, which constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature.”
NATO’s definition is much shorter. It defines terrorism as, “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property in an attempt to coerce or intimidate governments or societies to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives”.
The Supreme Court of India in a 2003 ruling (Madan Singh vs. the State of Bihar), adopted Alex P. Schmid’s definition of terrorism “defin[ing] acts of terrorism veritably as ‘peacetime equivalents of war crimes”. The United States of America defines terrorism as the “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.“
Therefore, certain critical features emerge from these various definitions of terrorism:
- It’s directed against civilians.
- The goal is to kill, maim and injure a maximum number of people.
- The intent is to instil a sense of fear within the larger population.
- Acts of Terrorism are attempts to coerce governments into giving in to the demands of the perpetrators.
- The aims of terrorist activities are to create, maximize, and continuously shift the parameters of uncertainty, confusion, insecurity, and fear.
- Terrorists usually have certain political objectives.
Thus, it appears clear that apart from political motives in a very broad sense, Godse’s actions do not conform with the core features of terrorist activities. From what is known to the common public and we can be fairly certain as even his worst critics haven’t made these claims about his actions, Godse did not want to inflict physical injuries or kill a large number of people, he did not want to instil a sense of fear in anyone and he did not want to coerce any government into following his diktats. He did not want to create chaos either and neither was Gandhi an ordinary civilian, Gandhi was a political leader with immense power. Therefore, it can be safely concluded that Godse wasn’t a terrorist.
With regards to what category best fits Godse’s actions, it is the most common term that is used to describe Gandhi’s death that describes his actions best: Assassination. By definition, assassination is the act of killing a person in a position of authority for political, religious or monetary gains. To be clear, assassination is a technique that is used by many terrorist organizations to achieve their desired objective. However, the act in itself is not terrorism. Motivations matter.
Unfortunately, we may never know what Godse’s true motivations were because previous governments made sure that his voice was silenced forever. Because it’s much easier to demonize an entity that has no voice to defend itself. The only source of knowledge we do have of his motivations comes from a book by G.D. Khosla, one of the Judges who passed the judgment of his death. The book is reproduced on a website dedicated to celebrating the life of Mahatma Gandhi.
From the accounts produced by Khosla in his book, it becomes abundantly clear that Godse’s grouse is with Gandhi and Gandhi alone and no one else. It’s also quite evident that Godse is a product of his times, a time in history that witnessed immense bloodshed, millions of Hindus were slaughtered and millions of others were displaced. And he held Gandhi to be responsible for it and thus, set out to eliminate him. Therefore, we ought to ask ourselves, can a grudge against a particular individual, a single powerful individual, be called terrorism?
Khosla recalls Godse as saying, “Gandhiji began to hold his prayers meetings in a Hindu temple in Bhangi Colony and persisted in reading passages from the Koran as a part of the prayer in that Hindu temple, in spite of the protest of the Hindu worshippers there. Of course, he dared not read Geeta in a mosque in the teeth of Muslim opposition. He knew what a terrible Muslim reaction there would have been if he had done so. But he could safely trample over the feelings of the tolerant Hindu. To belie this belief I determined to prove to Gandhiji that the Hindu too could be intolerant when his honour was insulted.”
At another point, Godse says, “Gandhiji in fact succeeded in doing what the British always wanted to do in pursuance of their policy of ‘Divide and Rule’. He helped them in dividing India and it is not yet certain whether their rule has ceased.”
Another reason Godse cites is that Gandhi started exerting disproportionate influence over government policy. According to him, the Congress party was being held hostage by Gandhi. “He alone was the judge of everyone and everything, “Godse is quoted as saying by Khosla, and that according to him was a huge problem as “the Congress had to surrender its will to his, and had to be content with playing the second fiddle to all his eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision.”
At another point, Godse says, “In a position of such absolute irresponsibility Gandhiji was guilty of blunder after blunder, failure after failure and disaster after disaster. No one single political victory can be claimed to his credit during 33 years of his political predominance.” Thus, quite clearly, Godse has no other motivations apart from taking Gandhi out of the equation as he believed the latter was a hindrance to the prosperity of the country.
Godse was fully aware of the consequences of his actions and knew that he would be ruined completely. He knew that his name and reputation would be tarnished beyond recognition for all eternity. But he did it anyway because of his personal conviction.
Therefore, I again ask the question, what kind of terrorism is it if the action is centred around the assassination of a single individual? What kind of terrorism is it that targets only a single individual and makes no attempt to target anyone else at all? But we all know the answer to that question, don’t we?
The objective of people like Kamal Haasan and others who call Godse a terrorist is not the vilification of Godse himself. Godse is long gone and received just punishment for his actions. No, the purpose here is to demonize people who believe Hindus are being disenfranchised in their own land. The goal here is to silence debates around the matter and indulge in the character assassination of individuals who remotely speak for Hindu interests. It’s a childish tactic. “You think Hindus are being disenfranchised? Do you know who else believed the same thing? Godse! Yeah! And you are, therefore, a Godse apologist!” It’s like accusing someone of being a fascist because he, like Hitler, drinks water.
Of course, there’s another objective as well. The other objective is to put Hinduism on the same pedestal as Abrahamic faiths. Terrorism and genocides inspired by Christianity and Islam have been fairly common throughout history, the same cannot be said for Hinduism. Therefore, to force fit the “All Religions are the same theory” of secularists, same examples have to be found in Hinduism as well. Therefore, liberals have been working in overdrive to find the same examples in Hinduism. Thus, we have vigilantism inspired mob lynchings, which are terrible crimes in themselves but certainly not terrorism, being labelled as such. And now, we have political assassinations, directed as a single individual, being labelled as terrorism by the same crowd.
The larger objective, of course, is to take away the inherent superiority that Hinduism has over Monotheistic faiths in terms of how it regulates violence and such. Thus, it’s no wonder that the same people who are the first to scream “Terrorism has no religion” whenever a Muslim commits a mass massacre are the ones who call Godse a Hindu Terrorist.
Again, just to be clear, the objective of this article is not to justify Godse’s actions or give him a free pass. Actions have consequences and Godse paid the price for his actions with his life. The punishment he received was just. But to put him on the same category as people who make sex slaves out of women, slaughter people with no political power whatsoever, mercilessly, to achieve political ends, make terrorists out of children and dedicate their entire lives to killing as many people as they can, is doing great disservice to the actual victims of terrorism and all those women who are currently being held captive by Islamic terrorists as sex slaves.
Liberals can screech and whine all they want but saying that Godse wasn’t a terrorist doesn’t mean someone his justifying his actions. It only means the person values objectivity and truth over political brownie points.