Mahatma Gandhi
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A historical account of Nathuram Godse and the men who killed Gandhi tells us something unusual about his childhood. Three of his elder brothers died soon after birth, but his elder sister survived. His parents thought that there was a curse on the boys in the family, and it led them to take a religious pledge to bring up the next son as though he was a girl.

Accordingly, the next son, Ramachandra, was made to wear a nath (nose-ring) and was brought up just like a girl till the next brother survived infancy. That is how Ramachandra became Nathuram, the Ram who wore a nose-ring. The historical account suggests, “Psychologists may find some explanation of his warped mental processes in the fact that Nathuram was brought up as a girl”. We do know that Nathuram went on to become a “strapping” young man, but did not marry and “shied away from the company of women”.

Is this story relevant to the current controversy about Godse? Not quite, if our question is whether he should be called a ‘terrorist’. To my mind, the more interesting question is whether and in which sense should he be called a ‘Hindu’. The story of Nathuram’s childhood gives us an insight into the impulse that lay behind his brand of Hinduism and, by implication, into a bigger question of our times.


Also read: There’s a lobby that wants to keep Nathuram Godse alive. And it’s not the Hindu Right


Let us first dispose of the first question that excites news channels: Was Kamal Haasan justified in saying that Nathuram Godse was the first terrorist of independent India? The outrage against Haasan is ridiculous on various counts.

First, this was not the first time Kamal Haasan was making this statement. I was present and with him when he made the same statement on 16 April this year before Mahatma Gandhi’s statue at the Marina Beach in Chennai. Somehow, the media did not pick it up. This time, when the locality was predominantly Muslim, this became a headline.

Second, it is clear that he described Godse as an “extremist” (theeviravadham) and not a “terrorist” (bayangarvadham). Now, even Godse would have been disappointed if he were not called an extremist!

Third, Kamal Haasan did not describe Godse as a “Hindu extremist” but as “an extremist who was a Hindu”. If you read this in the context of the full speech that he gave, there is little to be debated. The speech is about communal harmony and abjuring all forms of extremism.

In any case, the debate on “Hindu terror” was started not by Kamal Haasan, but by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In his now infamous speech at Wardha, Maharashtra, the PM asked the audience: “Over the last thousand years, can you name one Hindu ever involved in an act of terror?”

You can forgive him for this mix of arrogance and ignorance. Or, turn a blind eye, as the Election Commission did. Or, you could give him an answer: yes sir, have you heard of Nathuram Godse?


Also read: When Nehru’s India banned a story on Gandhi’s murder and Godse’s past


Kamal Haasan’s statement can be read as the much-needed response to the PM. If the PM’s question, and all the rabble-rousing that went with it, did not violate any law or model code of conduct, how come Haasan’s sober and factual response becomes a problem?

Even if Godse was described as “terrorist”, is that wrong? Over the last two days we have heard a lot of warped logic: this was a simple murder, not an act of terror (as if Godse had a property dispute with the Mahatma); Godse was an assassin, not a terrorist (as if an assassin cannot be a terrorist); he surrendered on his own (as if no terrorist ever surrenders, once the job is done); he was tried and punished (as if the punishment cleansed the terror tag).

Godse’s act fits all the key attributes of what we today call terrorism: Gandhi’s assassination was unlawful, violent, pre-meditated, ideologically inspired, targeted a non-combatant, meant to send a wider political message and intended to stop a category of people from pursuing a given course of action. What else is terrorism?

Let us turn to the more interesting question: was Godse a Hindu? In the most obvious sense, he was. Born into an orthodox Chitpavan Brahmin family, he was and remained a Hindu. Godse was Hindu in a secondary, political sense as well. Like his political guru V.D. Savarkar, he thought he represented the Hindus. In his eyes, what he did was to avenge the humiliation of the Hindus.

If militants in Punjab were called “sikh militants” or terrorists who wreak violence in the name of Islam are “Islamic jihadis”, then Godse was, and many of his ilk are, “Hindu extremists”. If we do not use Hindu as pre-fix, as we should not, then we should drop religious pre-fixes for everyone.

But did Godse represent Hinduism in any deeper sense of the term? If he did, why was he so vehemently opposed to the man who insisted that he was a sanatani Hindu? We must turn to Ashis Nandy, one of our iconoclastic intellectuals, to decode Godse’s anger against Gandhi. In a seminal essay written four decades ago, Nandy described Gandhi’s assassination as the “Final Encounter”, as the inevitable culmination of a tension that lies at the heart of modern India: “Godse’s hand was forced by the real killers of Gandhi: the anxiety-ridden, insecure, traditional elite concentrated in the urbanized, educated, partly westernized, tertiary sector whose meaning of life Gandhian politics was taking away.”

That brings us back to the story about Godse’s childhood. For Godse, Hindus were feminine, being constantly violated by outsiders. He saw Gandhi as the effeminate Father of the Nation who was unable to protect Mother India. He wanted Hinduism to attain the masculinity that the colonial rule represented. Gandhi represented the affirmation of the feminine self, long enshrined in the Hindu ideal of the ardhnarishwar (a composite, androgynous divine form, half-male, half-female). This reflected in the deeper divide. Like Savarkar, Godse looked up to the European ideal of centralised, uniform nation-state. Gandhi wanted decentred power and accommodation of differences, even beyond the boundaries of the recently constituted Indian nation. Brahmanic Hinduism was Godse’s ideal. According to Nandy, Gandhi’s Hinduism was deBrahmanic.


Also read: We’ve trained our kids to kill: Husband of Hindu Mahasabha leader who ‘shot’ Gandhi


Godse’s political Hinduism represented the Western, European and Victorian sensibilities, while Gandhi represented indigenous Hinduism. This divide gets replayed today. What is called “Hindutva” today represents Godse’s legacy, playing out his deep anxieties. Gandhiji was assassinated. Godse was hanged. But Gandhi vs Godse is a live battle. It is a battle for the soul of India. The battle has just begun. And, who better than Kamal Haasan, the writer-producer of Hey Ram! to sound the bugle.

The author is National President of Swaraj India. The views are personal.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Gandhi was killed because of his acts, speeches and the injustice he has done for the very country for which he fought for freedom. He is guiding star for the Congress to adopt minority appeasement. Godse was punished for his unlawful act. He has not undertaken his mission based on his religions teachings, if not by Godse, some other true Hindu could have killed him. If Godse is extremist, then Gandhi also was an extremist why he undertook freedom movement, he can negotiate with British to get approved India as independent colony of British?. It is unacceptable correct?. In the same way acts, speeches of Gandhi were unacceptable to every Hindu wants to lead a respectable and peaceful life

  2. As at present more than one definition of the term Desh Bhakti are floating around. On the one hand so called ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’ are claiming and being accepted by a section of society as genuine Desh Bhakts, on the other hand one can get a certificate of Desh Bhakti from another group only if one support the present regime. In between these two extremes one can find many other definitions. In midst of this scepticism if Sadhvi Pragya comes out with her own definition of the term and declares Godse as a Desh Bhakt, then why loose nerve?”

  3. Happy to see Yogendra Yadav’s article factually shattered by almost all comments with one or 2 exceptions. Please study better next time Mr. Yadav!

  4. “As at present more than one definition of the term Desh Bhakti are floating around. On the one hand so called ‘Tukde Tukde Gang’ are claiming and being accepted by a section of society as genuine Desh Bhakts, on the other hand one can get a certificate of Desh Bhakti from another group only if one support the present regime. In between these two extremes one can find many other definitions. In midst of this scepticism if Sadhvi Pragya comes out with her own definition of the term and declares Godse as a Desh Bhakt, then why loose nerve?”

  5. Mr. Yogendra Yadav,
    1. Islamic terror is called so because they spread terror, fear, and hatred in the name of their religion. Sikh militants waged a war for Khalistan, again, religion related uprising. Going by your logic, Indira Gandhi should be remembered as the worst terrorist India ever saw.
    2. Care to keep your intellectual crap aside for a while and refer to the English dictionary? Terrorist and Assasin are two different words, meaning completely different things.
    3. We can understand you commies trying to piece together every evidence possible to bring the NDA down but let’s accept that Indians have finally realized your dirty tricks. No amount of pseudo intellectual crap is going to brainwash the massed anymore.

    • Brilliantly exposed Yogendra Yadav should read this reply and apoligise if has any shame. Actually, i was supposed to reply but well done friend.

  6. Godse was just Nathuram. It was RSS who pulled trigger and killed Mahatma Gandhi.
    The Provinces were being divided on the lines of Lingual States. 5% of Islam was needed to to stop disintegration of Bharat aka India aka Hindusthan aka whatever. Hindus should have behaved as Hindus as country as a whole, not riffraffs as leaders.
    Who stopped India to stop multiple women Islam fornicating and mass producing Muslas? YOU and your PARENTS and GRANDS.
    Take stock of today’s problems and boy you act now. Declare Bharat Hindu Republic and make preparation before you declare it.
    It is damn that easy.

  7. comparing Godse with Islamic jehad is like camparing raja bhoj with gangu tell.the author is very keen in define difference between hindutwa and hinduisim but never dwelt on Islamic jehad.killing of innocent in the name of religion. It is this hypocrisy by this type of intellectual give birth to rss

  8. Mr Yogendra Yadav is not making sesnse talking of how Godse was brought up. Mr Godse wrote extensively on why he was forced to kill Gabdhi, as Gandhi without bothering about crores of hindus being killed across border was forcing Indian govt under Nehru to release 65 crores of rupees in 1947 to Pak. In fact at that time the act of Godse was celebrated in in streets of Maharashtra, with scores of women sending sweaters and gifts of Godse. Godses biggest problem was why was Gandhi speaking on behalf of all Hindus and forcing his non violence apeasement on all hindus in dire times of partition?

    • This is not the fact that Mahatma Gandhi insisted on 55Cr, (you said 65 Cr). There was an agreement between India and Pak signed by Nehru, Mountbatten regarding distribution of all the assets.
      Of all monetary and liquid assets, Pakistan got 17.5% while India’s share was 82.5%. Liquid assets included printed currency stocks, coins, postal and revenue stamps, gold reserves and assets of the Reserve Bank of India. This was accounted for so meticulously that there is even a record of proportional division of Rs 75 – petty cash from a district commissioner in an inaccessible part of Nagaland!.
      https://www.google.com/amp/s/topyaps.com/assets-india-pakistan-partition/amp/

      Gandhi ji had abandoned even the primary membership of Congress in 1934. There wasn’t any need of taking views of Mahatma Gandhi when 20Cr were already paid to Pakistan as 1st instalment.

      There is no documentary or audio record which appeared in the news papers that Mahatma Gandhi insisted on transferring 55Cr to Pakistan..
      This story was fabricated much later probably in early 70s.

      http://www.gandhi-manibhavan.org/main/q3.htm

      • That’s surprising. We were all told that Gandhiji had gone on a fast to force handing over the remaining amount to Pakistan. This is from official history sources, which had been left controlled all along. Of course, in no way does that condone his killing, let’s be clear.

  9. Actually this is not quite true. In those days, it was not uncommon to give a name like ‘Nath’ (the Maharashtrian nose ornament) to confuse God so that he spares the male child. Godse was given the name Nathu Ram for this reason. He was not brought up as a girl.
    This was told me years ago by a lady, here in Pune, who belonged to the Godse family.
    A similar mindset gave names like ‘Dhondu ‘ (stony) to male children, to ward off the evil eye, ‘nazar na lage’.
    Even today, we have girls called ‘Nakoshi’ (unwanted).
    God bless us, we are very transparent in what we want!

  10. Mr Yadav,
    If you revisit this website to see the comments:-

    1) Nathuram was raised as a girl and was shy in company of Women. Mahatma Gandhi was raised as a boy and would bathe and sleep with NAKEd women and girls. Will you deny this fact? Will Mr Nandy (who wrote a thesis on mentality of Godse), also dare or care to psychoanalyse the Mahatma?
    2) Will You or Kamal Hassan call LTTE a terrorist organisation, who were Hindus? I know you will not! Entire TN will wipe out the likes of Kamal Hasan from political scene.
    3) Did Modi started the Hindu terrorism scenario? I think, you need strong coffee! Check what Mr Rahul Gandhi told the US Ambassador about SAFFRON Terrorism and check who perpetrated the term Hindu Terror during UPA Regime.
    4) Godse belonged to the Chittapavan Bramhin clan who consider themselves to be the Children of Parshuram – The Kshatriya Slayer !( It is said that Parshuram- an Avatar of Vishnu killed ALL Kshatriyas 7 times and killed his mother Renuka on the order of his father Jamadagni)! And Mr Yadav says he consider Hindus weak? Come on! Smell the coffee.
    5) As stated rightly By Prof. Paranjape, Godse was a political assassin who was lucky due to the inept administration! Also, Godse – the assaasin- did not run away from the crime scene but waited for the people to capture him and arrest him.
    6) It seems that the Congress and it’s ecosystem ( leaft leaning guys) want to keep the ghost of Godse alive. They know fully well that the 4% Brahmin Vote can’t do much damage and hence Mr Jinnah is never invoked in Political Discourse and neither is ANY other Religious terrorism!

    • 1. This is being done many times over. Psychoanalysis of the Mahatma is not new. Psychoanalysis of Godse must be done more because he was the killer. Mahatmas was not.
      2. Yes, agree this is a problem. Terrorism in the eyes of one is nationalism in the yes of other = a universal problem. By this coin you must look at Kashmir as well. There lies the problem. When Hindus IN INDIA are such a monstrous majority and control India’s political life, why are they turning intolerant playing the victim. This is the question.
      3. Boss, you need perhaps a peg or two. Yogendra’s reference point is simply BETWEEN Kamal and Modi.
      4. Don’t use mythology as evidence for any argument. No body believes that Hindus are weak; Yogendra is speaking about perceptions people have and cultivate.
      5. None of these makes him not a terrorist. Godse was an ideologically indoctrinated political terrorist. Paranjpape is now regularly on TV defending the right wing. So you must keep quoting him because that is your true history.
      6. Why should anyone keep the ghost of Godse alive with special effort? We have killers of rationalists; we have Modi-Shah who want to make people believe that Hindus are genetically nonviolent in the most intolerant fashion through the violence of rabble-rousing, emboldening the Hindutva fringe, whom they need to stay in power.

      • 1) Do You mean psychoanalysis of Gandhi’s sexual life and behaviour?
        2)Do you agree that LTTE, was a terrorist organisation which was Hindu? And do you agree that it quoted Hindu texts to further it’s acts of terror on the innocent Buddhists of Sri Lanks (The jehadis regularly quote the Quoran for the same)?
        3) There is no comparison made. (Normally comaprison happen between similar talents Modi & Kamal are no match in politics). I do enjoy my Single Malts and hence can think better.
        4) Just as birth of Jesus to a virgin is a FACT, just as the Quoran was revealed s a FACT, Parshuram is ALSO a FACT.
        5) Godse was an assassin motivated by his own counsel and volition who chose to kill Mahatma and he owed it! Not in the name of a religiously sanctioned act! So to attach “terrorist” tag to him is Modisque!
        6) It suits the LEFT intellectuals to keep Godse alive to point a finger at Hindus! There is a Babri Mosque demolition as a counterbalance to the thousands of temples destroyed by the invaders.

        And your slip, of left intellectualism is showing!

  11. Terrorism = “unlawful, violent, pre-meditated, ideologically inspired, targeted a non-combatant, meant to send a wider political message and intended to stop a category of people from pursuing a given course of actions”.
    By this definition (especially the last two statements), every revolution is akin to terrorism.
    Even Aap Aadmi Party (when it was formed) becomes a (non-violent) terrorist organisation.

  12. Godse is not a terrorist, he killed gandhiji in the fit of anger. Due to the massacre of hindus. I dont know why this so called educated persons are destroying and defAming their own religion and culture for their own benefit. The whole world is facing the problem of terrorism in the name of jihad. They have not seen what had happened in srilanka. Hindus ko terrorist saabit karne ki hod lagi hui hai sab mein. Kamal hasan jaise log film industry se retire hone ke baad desh ka PM CM banne ka khwab dekhne lagte hain. Yeh log cine ma ka hi seva karein to acha hai bharat maa kii seva to modiji ko hi karna hai. Jai hind

  13. Yogendra ji,
    Sometime back you formed a political party- swaraj abhiyan.
    So how many seats are you contesting and winning?
    Introspection needed urgently.

    • That is exactly what Yogendra is saying. Modi-Shah is emboldened by the vote and they think that winning the election legitimises whatever the winner things/ says. Because they are victors, Modi-Shah forbid Kamal from saying the truth: that Godse was a Hindu terrorist just like Bin Laden was an Islamic terrorist. But ideally we should take away the PREFIX “Hindu” as well as “Islamic” before their names. When we do that we should not again be partial.

  14. BJP is a hindoo terrorist organisation that kills Christians globally, as seen in SriLanka. Modi Amit Shah BJP have the same mentality as RSS terrorist Nathuram Godse. On one hand they say that Pakistan should be destroyed and taken over into India, on the other hand they tell muslims and opposition to leave India and go to Pakistan and that they will not let muslims enter India. Totally stupid and confused logic that led Nathuram Godse to kill Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. BJP has the same mentality and stupid logic to this day….

    • You sound quite confused yourself!
      How did bjp kill srilankans??
      Recent attacks were done by IS inspired Muslims. Earlier killings were done by LTTE, an ethnic tamilian group with no distant relations to BJP.

  15. It is not unreasonable to attribute the term Hindu extremist to Godse but to call him a terrorist is not accurate. H e was apolitical assassin and he never intended to visit terror on innocent civilians or any collateral damage on property. So to call him a Hindu terrorist is not only inaccurate but is mischievous and pandering to the appeasement lobby!

  16. Yogendra is losing as politician and as his intellectuals. With his analogy any person who is murderer is a terrorist. Pity his thoughts. Just for the sake of opposing and spewing venom against Modi he has written the piece. Even though I am not great fan of Modi but this is the very reason Modi has great fan following and guy is winning election.

  17. No one can defend assassination of the Father of the Nation. It was the most condemnable and heinous crime. Heaps of material is available on the subject matter, including Godse’s defence in the court. However, debate arises on the issue on two counts: ( 1) Should this Act be considered as equivalent to present day terrorism? For example Kasab in 2008 killed hundreds of Mumbaikars with who he had no acquaintance whatsoever. What is the dividing line to distinguish between an individual act of assassination and mass murder of innocent people? (2) Should all the organisations who subscribe to the philosophy of political or cultural Hinduism be held responsible for a mad and senseless act a few persons? Is it fair and just? Did the Congress not take undue advantage of the post-assassination situation to suppress entire opposition adhering to political or cultural Hinduism. To cite just one example, Savarkar was exonerated by the Court for lack of adequate evidence. After his death, the issue was again examined by Kapoor Commission, when Savarkar was not alive to defend himself. Statements made purportedly under duress and torture by Savarkar’s bodyguard and secretary were considered as valid evidence by the Commission, even though these two were never cross examined in a court of law. Till this date, no direct evidence has been found linking Savarkar to the assassination. The dynasty which ruled India for more than six decades got agitated when Rajiv Gandhi was posthumously criticised by Modi. Members of the same dynasty and their confidants revel in condemning a dead person as an assassin without any material proof.

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