Man Who Killed Mahatma Gandhi: Understanding the Mind of a Murderer

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Adele Mellen Prize for Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship
It is commonly known that Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead in 1948 by a Hindu militant, only half a year after India had both gained her independence and lost almost a quarter of her territory to the newly-founded Islamic state of Pakistan. Less well-known is assassin Nathuram Godse’s motive. Until now, no publication has dealt with this question except for the naked text of Godse’s own speech in his defense, pronounced during his trial. It didn’t save him from the hangman, but still contains a substantive argumentation against the facile glorification of the Mahatma.

Dr. Elst compares Godse’s case against Gandhi with criticisms voiced in wider circles, and with historical data known at the time or brought to light since. While the Mahatma was extolled by the Hindu masses, political leaders of divergent persuasions who had to deal with him tended to be less enthusiastic, and their views would have become the received wisdom if he hadn’t been assassinated. Yet, the author also presents some new arguments in Gandhi’s defense from unexpected quarters.


“Historian Dr. Koenraad Elst has entered the critical debate on the murder of the Mahatma with a skillful commentary on the speech of his assassin, Nathuram Godse… [this] elegant book highlights the actual ideological and political cleavages that prompted Gandhi’s tragic murder by Godse…absent in most post-independence Indian historical writing…[it] underlies the insuperable contradictions posed by the Indian discourse on secularism and communalism.”
-Dr. Gautam Sen,Former Lecturer,
London School of Economics & Political Science

“Very few scholars have the range of scholarship that Dr. Elst has. He has an excellent command over the relevant scholarly literature. He also taps the non-conventional sources well and his encyclopedic knowledge of historiography and contemporary issues of Indian society/politics and history provide the ideal academic backdrop for this masterly study.”
-Dr. Saradindu Mukherji,
Indian Council of Historical Research,
New Delhi

“It speaks the truth suppressed until now.”
-Dr. Bharat Gupt,
Former Associate Professor,
Delhi University

“This may be the first book length monograph on the topic of Gandhi’s assassination. It takes a political and historical approach that contextualizes the usefulness of tactics such as hunger strikes, which were only employed against people that Gandhi viewed as somewhat sympathetic to his cause. It also outlines how Gandhi had numerous enemies that took advantage of his humility in the waning days of his life.”
-Dr. Bradley Kaye,

Table of Contents

Foreword by Gautam Sen
Author’s Preface
Chapter 1: The Murder of Mahatma Gandhi and Its Consequences

Chronicle of the Mahatma murder
The verdict
Political consequences
A Tabooed document
Facts of the murder plot
Chapter 2: Nathuram Godse’s Background
Nathuram Godse’s case
Revenge on Godse’s case
Godse the Swayamsevak
The Godse brothers’ testimony on the RSS
Inspired by Savarkar
Disappointed with Savarkar
A rumor about Godse and Savarkar
Godse the Gandhian
Punishing his own kind
Godse the secularist
Chapter 3: Critique of Gandhi’s Policies
Genesis of Muslim Separatism
Encouragement of Muslim Separatism
Gandhi’s non-violence
Hindutva and Gandhian non-cowardice
Gandhi vs. Krishna
Gandhi vs. the HMS
Gandhi and World War 2
Why Hindu-Muslim Unity had to fail
Gandhi’s role in the failure
Gandhi and the Khilâfat
Gandhi and Jinnah
The Quit India Movement
Chapter 4: Gandhi’s Responsibility for Partition
Gandhi’s Khilâfat campaign
The Moplah rebellion
Call for an Afghan invasion
Gandhi’s attack on the Arya Samâj
Gandhi and the separation of Sindh
The Round Table Conference
Congress greed for office
Gandhi concedes Partition
Failure of Quit India
Gandhi’s Hindustani
Gandhi on the national symbols
Gandhi on cow slaughter
Gandhi’s friendship with Suhrawardy
Hindu and Muslim Princes
Intermediate steps toward partition
The Cabinet Mission Plan
Gandhi on the Partition
Chapter 5: Godse’s Verdict on Gandhi
Gandhi’s character
Other voices on Gandhi’s character
Gandhi and the Leader Principle
Did Gandhi win India’s independence?
Gandhi vs. Bose
Credit to the Moderates
The international context
Gandhi’s irrationality
Gandhi’s non-violence revisited
Ineffectiveness of non-violence
Inconsistency of Gandhi’s non-violence
The liberation of Hyderabad
Because I loved India more
Godse’s farewell
Chapter 6: Other Hindu Voices on Gandhi
Aurobindo on Gandhi
Godse’s act as a strategic mistake
Hindutva and gandhism non-violence
Ambedkar’s support to Godse’s critique
Ram Gopal on the death of Gandhism
Gandhi, killer of Gandhism
Sita Ram Goel on Gandhi’s merits
Gandhi’s failure, Hindu society’s failure
Gandhi and the Hindutva leadership
Gandhi vs Secularism
Gandhi’s failure vis-â-vis Christianity
Appendix 1: Sangh Parivar, the last Gandhians
Appendix 2: Gandhi in World War 2
Appendix 3: Mahatma Gandhi’s letter to Hitler
Appendix 4: Learning from Mahatma Gandhi’s mistakes
Appendix 5: Questioning the Mahatma
Appendix 6: Gandhi and Mandela
Appendix 7: Gandhi the Englishman

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