October 2, 2022

Gandhi Murder Case-1: who were the accused and why they conspired to kill Gandhi?

The lawmatics Series- Gandhi Murder Case- Part 1

As per the evidence put by police and lawyers before the court in Gandhi Murder Case, following eight persons were charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and offences punishable under the Arms Act and the Explosive Substances Act:

  1. Nathuram Godse, 37, Editor, Hindu Rashtra, Poona.
  2. His brother, Gopal Godse, 27, Storekeeper, Army Depot, Poona.
  3. Narayan Apte, 34, Managing Director, Hindu Rashtra, Prakasham, Ltd., Poona.
  4. Vishnu Karkare, 37, Restaurant Proprietor, Ahmed nagar.
  5. Madanlal Pahwa, 20, Refugee Camp, Ahmednagar.
  6. Shankar Kistayya, 27, Domestic Servant, Poona
  7. Dattatraya Parchure, 49, Medical Practitioner, Gwalior
  8. Vinayak Savarkar, 65, Barrister-at-Law, Landlord and Property Owner, Bombay.

It is not sufficient just to know the name of the accused, it is also relevant to know the reason why they conspired to assassinate father of the nation.

Here are their antecedents as the per the evidence in the case.

Nathuram and Gopal Godse

Nathuram and Gopal Godse were the sons of a village postmaster. They were a family of six, four brothers and two sisters. Nathuram, the second child, was not an industrious student, and he left school before matriculating. He started a small business in cloth, but when this did not prove profitable he joined a tailoring concern. At 22 he joined the Rashtrya Swayam Sewak Sangh – an organisation of which the avowed aim was to protect Hindu culture and solidarity. A few years later he shifted to Poona, and became Secretary of the local branch of the Hindu Mahasabha.

He took part in the civil disobedience movement in Hyderabad, where Hindus were complaining of being deprived of their rights by the Muslim government of the Nizam. Nathuram was arrested and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. He had, by now, become deeply involved in Hindu politics and had read widely in History and Sociology. He decided to remain free from the bonds and impediments which matrimony brings with it, and to devote all his energies to the aim he had set before him. At Poona he met Apte, who was then employed as a school teacher, and started a newspaper Agarni. The name was later changed to Hindu Rashtra.

Godse was strongly opposed to what he called Mahatma Gandhi’s policy of appeasing the Muslims, and adversely criticised any move to concede Jinnah’s demands. He was resentful of Mahatma Gandhi’s visits to Jinnah, of his friendship with Surawarthi, a Muslim leader from Bengal. The Government warned him when his writings became inflammatory and dangerous to public peace. This did not suffice; his security deposit under the Press Security Act was forfeited. He was asked to make a fresh deposit, and the money was hurriedly collected from the sympathisers of the Hindu Mahasabha cause. The bomb incident of January 20, 1948, was reported in Hindu Rashtra with more than touch of gloating satisfaction in the headline: REPRESENTATIVE ACTION SHOWN BY ENRAGED HINDU REFUGEES AGAINST THE APPEASEMENT POLICY OF GANDHIJI.

Godse had made a study of Bhagwadgita and knew most of its verses by heart. He liked to quote them to justify acts of violence in pursuing a righteous aim. He had a fiery temperament which he usually endeavoured to conceal under a calm and composed exterior.

His younger brother, Gopal, was not quite so passionate in his espousal of the Hindu cause. After passing his matriculation examination he, too, joined the tailoring concern in which Nathuram worked. He married and had two daughters. After working for some time for the Hindu Mahasabha, he joined the Army as a member of the civilian personnel, and was appointed a store-keeper of the Motor Transport Spares Sub-Depot at Kirkee, a military station near Poona.

During the war he went to Iraq and Iran and came back with a fuller understanding of the rights of men and the importance of freedom. He was greatly influenced by Savarkar’s speeches against the proposal to divide India, and became converted to the creed of violence. His brother, Nathuram, counselled discretion and said to him: ‘You are a married man with responsibilities and commitments. Think twice before embarking on this dangerous course.’ Gopal hesitated, thought over the matter, but in the end decided to throw in his lot with Nathuram.

Narayan Dattatrya Apte

Narayan Dattatrya Apte came of a middle-class Brahmin family. After taking his B.Sc. degree he became a school teacher at Ahmednagar. There he started a rifle club and joined the Hindu Rashtra Dal. During this time he met Nathuram Godse and became friendly with him. In 1943 he joined the Indian Air Force and was awarded a King’s Commission.

Four months later he resigned because his younger brother’s death necessitated his return home to look after the affairs of the family. The following year he joined Godse to help him with his newspaper on the management side. His close association with Godse converted him to the belief that nothing substantial could be achieved in the political field by peaceful means. To the last he displayed a more steadfast and courageous attitude than Godse, though he did not possess Godse’s religious fervour nor his ebullient enthusiasm.

Vishnu Hamkrishnan Karkare

Vishnu Hamkrishnan Karkare had a chequered childhood and adolescence. His parents, unable to support him and bring him up. took him to an orphanage and, leaving him there, abandoned him. He ran away and earned his livelihood by taking up odd jobs in hotels and restaurants. He joined a troupe of travelling actors, and finally started a restaurant of his own in Ahmednagar.

He became an active member of the Hindu Mahasabha, and was elected secretary of the district branch. It was thus that he came to know Apte, and the two became close associates. With Apte’s help, Karkare successfully contested the election to the Ahmednagar Municipal Committee.

In 1946 he went to Noakhali with a relief party to render assistance to the victims of Muslim mob violence. The payment of Rs. 10,000/- to Ghulam Sarwar, a Muslim M.L.A. of Bengal, amounted, he said, to awarding a vicious criminal because Ghulam Sarwar had been responsible for many acts of violence against the Hindus.

Madanlal Pahwa,

Madanlal Pahwa, a Punjabi Hindu from Pakpattan (now in Pakistan), had the makings of a firebrand. He ran away from school to join the Royal Indian Navy. When he failed to pass his examination he went to Poona and joined the Army. After a brief period of training he asked for, and was given, a release order.

He went home to Pakistan, and when large-scale rioting started in 1947, he was evacuated to Ferozepore. He tried in vain to secure employment, and his continued failures added to his sense of resentment. In December 1947 he met Apte and Godse, and began organising demonstrations by groups of refugees against the Government and its apparent lack of sympathy for the Hindu victims of the partition.

Shankar Kistayya

Shankar Kistayya was the son of a village carpenter. He had no schooling of any kind and remained illiterate. After an unsteady period of temporary jobs, he went to Poona and obtained employment at a shop. There he met Badge, who dealt in daggers, knives and (surreptitiously) in firearms and ammunition. Badge offered to take him as his domestic servant, and Kistayya agreed to serve him at a salary of Rs. 30/- per month. Kistayya proved a willing and energetic worker, and besides doing Badge’s house-work he washed his clothes, looked after his shop and acted as his rickshaw coolie. But when his wages fell into arrears he decamped with a sum of money which he had collected from an old woman on his master’s behalf. After the money was spent he went back to Badge and Badge re-employed him.

Thereafter he ‘went steady’ and became Badge’s trusted agent for carrying contraband arms and weapons to his customers. There was at that time quite a flourishing trade in illicit arms owing to the’ communal trouble in Hyderabad and other parts of the country.

Dr. Dattatraya Parchure

Dr. Dattatraya Parchure was a Brahmin from Gwalior. His father held a high post in the Education Department of the State and was a greatly respected individual. Parchure qualified as a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, and joined the State Medical Service. He was dismissed in 1934 and began practising privately. He took an active part in the activities of the Hindu Mahasabha, and was elected the Dictator of the local Hindu Rashtrya Sena. In this capacity he became acquainted with Godse and Apte.

Vinayak Savarkar

Vinayak Savarkar, or Veer Savarkar as he came to be known, was a barrister and historian. He joined a revolutionary body and was sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. He was subsequently interned. On his release in 1937 he joined the Hindu Mahasabha and devoted himself to the Mahasabha’s objective for united India. He was for many years the president of this body, and exercised a great deal of influence over its deliberations and policies. He resided in Bombay, and his house Savarkar Sadan was visited by all Hindu leaders, and the meetings held there were viewed with an eye of Suspicion by the authorities.

Digambar Ramchandra Badge

Digambar Ramchandra Badge (pronounced Bahdgay), the approver, a Maratha from Challisgaon in Esat Khandesh, had a brief period of schooling, and long before the stage of matriculation could be reached he abandoned studies and went to Poona to earn his livelihood. He experienced considerable difficulty in obtaining permanent employment, and had to be content with temporary jobs of various kinds.

Once, he resorted to satyagrah in front of the residence of the Chairman of the Poona City Municipality, the post he was offered did not satisfy him and he left it. For some time, he collected funds for a charitable institution and went with a money-box from door to door, his remuneration being one-fourth of the collections made by him. He bought small quantities of knives, daggers and knuckle-dusters from a shop and hawked them. The business brought him a little more money than what he had been able to earn hitherto. Gradually he expanded the scope of his activities, and finally started a shop of his own.

The articles he dealt in did not require a license for sale or purchase, and were at that period in great demand by political agitators and members of anti-Muslim associations. The Hindus re- siding near the border to the Muslim State to Hyderabad were particularly good customers. Badge, thus, came into contact with members of the Hindu Mahasabha and began attending the annual sessions of this body wherever they were held.

On each occasion he met Nathuram Godse and Apte at the residence of Veer Savarkar, president of the Hindu Mahasabha. In 1947 he enlarged his business, adding contraband firearms and ammunition to his stock-in-trade. These he acquired and disposed of surreptitiously through his ‘contacts’ of which, by now, he had many in Poona and in Bombay. These transactions were far more lucrative than the sale of books on patriotism and Hindu solidarity.

Such was the composition of the group which came together and became united by a common hatred of what they believed was the weak-kneed policy of capitulation to Muslim arrogance, as propounded and advocated by Mahatma Gandhi.”

Reference

As mentioned in the book ‘The Murder of Mahatma’ by G.D.Khosla (Formerly Chief Justice of Punjab, who heard the appeal of Nathuram Godse & others and gave his most historic verdict in the case of assassination), First Published: 1965