There are a number of well-educated young Indians who argue that Godse’s final speech was very eloquent and persuasive. This is an examination of that claim. This is not a defense of thousands of wrong-doings which Gandhi may or may not have done.
What are the steps involved in the making of an ISIS terrorist today?
- A self-proclaimed good Muslim is fed up with the injustices happening to his community.
- He selectively reads Quran and finds the bits which justify killing (and conveniently ignores the bits where he is being asked not to kill innocent human beings).
- He finds the one who is doing injustice and kills him/her.
- He has sacrificed himself for a greater good of Islam.
(Deliberate use of sexist pronouns)
How does this differ from a natural justice system where a person is hanged to death?
- The accused is brought to a court and is supposed to be innocent until proven otherwise.
- Evidence against him/her is presented in a court of law.
- The accused is given a fair chance explain himself/herself and counter the arguments and evidence presented.
- If still, he/she is found guilty of a crime deserving of death, he/she is given one.
Notice that the most important part of a justice system is to give the accused a fair chance to defend oneself before even proving the guilt. In the terrorist’s method, you just need a sense of perceived injustice. One does not care about the other side of the story.
Now keeping this in mind let us try to investigate what Godse had to say in his defense. If you read Godse’s speech, you will find following flow of logic:
- He claims that he was a good Hindu trying to get rid of evils of Hindu society (Paragraph 1 -3)
- He found Gandhi to be a hindrance in progress of Hindus and at times responsible for their suffering. He cites Geeta to say that Gandhi deserves to be killed. (Paragraph 4 onwards) And conveniently ignores the fact that killing was said to be Dharmic (justified) only when it was done in a war against an armed enemy.
- He kills Gandhi.
- He claims that he has made a sacrifice and does not want a mercy* in return. (Paragraph 14)
If this is not enough to convince you that his approach towards life was that of a terrorist, let me quote a line from his speech explaining why he killed Gandhi and dissect it:
“The accumulating provocation of thirty-two years, culminating in his last pro-Muslim fast, at last, goaded me to the conclusion that the existence of Gandhi should be brought to an end immediately.” (Paragraph 5)
- If someone provokes too much, kill him/her. Now, remember the killings of cartoonists of the French Magazine Charlie Hebdo. In case you forgot – Terrorists were provoked a lot because of the paintings of the Prophet and that’s why they killed the non-believers.
- Being pro-Muslim means being anti-Hindus and consequently anti-India. (Really?) All Gandhi was saying through that fast, do not stoop down to the levels of a few violent Muslims and kill a majority of innocent Muslims. He was totally for fighting back if one’s life is in danger. This is a quotation from his article:- ” My nonviolence does not admit of running away from danger and leaving dear ones unprotected. Between violence and cowardly flight, I can only prefer violence to cowardice.”  Here, he was urging Hindus to fight back if you are being attacked. But self-defence is not same as retribution from someone who did not harm you. Self-defence does not mean killing someone just because he/she belongs to the same community as the culprit who harmed your loved ones. Hypothetically speaking, if a Christian is harmed by a Hindu today, will it be okay for someone to kill thousands of Hindus spread across the world? If your answer is yes, Gandhi was wrong. But you still have an arduous task ahead of you to prove that this wrongdoing warranted his murder.
1. “Hindu-Muslim Tension: Its Cause and Cure”, Young India, 29/5/1924; reproduced in M.K. Gandhi: The Hindu-Muslim Unity, p.35-36.
*People give too much credit his honesty in the court. Given that he had murdered in broad daylight, he did not have much of a choice. The only choice he had was to manipulate the public opinion and emotion in his favor and that he tried.