The deletion of some sentences referring to Gandhi’s assassination in Class 12 history textbooks by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has shocked many historians, but not Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of the Mahatma and author of the nearly 1000-page book titled Let’s Kill Gandhi! A Chronicle of His Last Days, The Conspiracy, Murder Investigation and Trial.
“It is not at all surprising that, since they are in power, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) attempts to whitewash its crimes,” says Tushar Gandhi, referring to The Indian Express report that certain sentences taught for the past 15 years in Class 12 as part of the political science curriculum, including the mention of a ban on the RSS after the murder of Gandhi on January 30, 1948, were deleted. Also purged are sentences that suggest that religious extremists had vowed to bump off Gandhi over the legendary leader’s efforts to forge Hindu-Muslim unity amidst the blood violence during and preceding Partition.
It is interesting that one of the sentences, as mentioned in the report, that was deleted is as follows: “His steadfast pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists so much that they made several attempts to assassinate Gandhiji.”
In fact, Tushar Gandhi’s Let’s Kill Gandhi!, an outcome of years of exhaustive research into the previous attempts on Gandhi’s life, covers bids on his life by Hindu fanatics right from 1934 to his assassination on January 30, 1948. Tushar Gandhi has argued in his book that certain extremist forces began targeting Gandhi ever since he began to work toward the uplift of the Harijans, now called Dalits. In an earlier interview with Open, Tushar Gandhi had dwelled at length on why attempts on Gandhi’s life by certain Hindutva entities began suddenly in the 1930s. “That is the whole question. If this assassination (of Gandhi) took place out of a fit of exasperation against what they perceived as his pro-Muslim tendencies that damaged the hopes of a Hindu India, then why was there an attempt on his life as early as 1934, at a time when Muhammed Ali Jinnah had not raised a demand for Pakistan? The only one who had spoken about a division of India then was [Vinayak Damodar] Savarkar. Mind, it was at this time that Gandhi had been working relentlessly in uplifting the untouchables and reduction of atrocities against them. He had been going around ever since he was freed from jail after the Salt Satyagraha, working towards securing Harijans access inside temples and to village wells and so on. He had also been living with them in their villages, teaching them practical aspects about the need to maintain cleanliness,” he had said.
Now, Tushar Gandhi avers that Hindutva entities in India want a sanitised Gandhi, “not one who keeps reminding everyone about the danger that is the Sangh Parivar and its Hindu Savarna dominated New India”. Although the ban on the RSS was lifted and two of the killers of Gandhi, Narayan Apte and Nathuram Godse, were executed in Ambala in 1949, Tushar Gandhi says that RSS activists were never tried. “They have conveniently used the acquittal of Savarkar to claim that they too were absolved,” he notes. RSS had always maintained that it had nothing to do with the assassination of Gandhi. His great grandson believes that the ban on the outfit was the acknowledgment of “their undeniable role in Bapu’s murder”. RSS is the parent organisation of the BJP.
According to Tushar Gandhi, the first attempt on Gandhi was made by hurling hand grenades in Pune on a car that was to carry him to the Corporation Auditorium to receive a civic honour on June 25, 1934. In 1944, there were two more attempts. In 1946, some miscreants tried to derail a train and kill Gandhi while he was travelling to Pune on 29 June. And then comes the last unsuccessful attempt – the bomb attack of January 20, 1948, in which Madanlal Pahwa was arrested from the scene in New Delhi.
Tushar Gandhi argues that Savarkar, leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, was acquitted in the Gandhi assassination case because nobody probed how the pistol used to kill Gandhi – the 9mm Beretta pistol, known as M1934 (serial number 606824), which was under the custody of the then ADC of the Gwalior Maharaja – reached a gun trader’s hands, and then to Godse. “If that investigation had been done, the role of Savarkar would have been established. In fact, Godse didn’t have the stature to find the network that took him to the gun trader that sold him the most effective close-range revolver at the time. Until several decades later, this revolver remained the most preferred one by contract killers in Europe. Nathuram had no experience in handling such a gun and 36 hours before the assassination of Gandhi, he got hold of that with the requisite number of bullets. How he got it is still the weakest link in the Gandhi murder investigation,” Tushar Gandhi had told Open in an earlier interview. Savarkar, who had a special relationship with Godse, was later acquitted for lack of sufficient evidence and lapses in the Gandhi murder probe and died of ill health in 1966. It was Savarkar who popularised the word Hindutva which was apparently coined by Bengali writer Chandranath Basu.
Following his release from prison, Nathuram Godse’s brother Gopal, who was also an accused in the Gandhi assassination case, had said in interviews that both the brothers were closely associated with the Sangh and that he would try to do the same if he ever got another chance to murder Gandhi.