I think the Supreme Court’s order to appoint an amicus curie in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination is important.
More about how it happened and why, are two points which need to be pursued. The plea filed by Dr Pankaj Phadnis, a trustee of Abhinav Bharat, however, suggests a foreign hand. But that remains to be proven. I recall that the assassination was the biggest security lapse. I was working at the news desk of Anjam an Urdu daily when PTI teleprinter rang the bell which a news agency would do only in rare cases. I jumped from the desk to see the story. It said Mahatma Gandhi shot. There was no other detail. I asked my colleague, who had a motorbike, to drop me at the Birla House where there was practically no security. One person manned an apology for the door.
Today, when Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination is recalled with a sense of loss and sorrow, the point forgotten is that it was the biggest lapse of security. The government had ample evidence to infer that a radical Hindu group was out to kill Mahatama. Yet very little security was provided to counter the plot. Only 48 hours earlier, had Madan Lal of the radical group, placed a bomb at the back wall of Gandhiji’s prayer meeting platform. I used to attend the prayer meeting. I was there on the day the blast took place. The Mahatma showed no concern and conducted prayers as if nothing had happened. I too thought that it must be a cracker. Only when I read the following day newspapers did I realise how close was Gandhiji to death.
Sardar Patel was then the Home Minister. He submitted his resignation to admit his failure. But Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru told him that the Mahatama wanted both of them to build the modern India. Even the ban on the RSS was lifted. The Home Ministry at that time should have probed more to understand how deep the Hindu right had spread. Even Sardar Patel had remarked at that time that the RSS had created an “atmosphere’’ where something like this could happen. When I joined the ministry in 1955 as Information Officer and served there for nearly 10 years, I tried to find some leads. There was not a shred of evidence to make me infer that the case was thoroughly probed. Or, maybe, there is something incriminating involving some persons in the government that the government does not want to disclose. The Archives of India has not yet got from the Home Ministry even the papers on the Transfer of Power, a title which the British used to bring out a three-volume book within two or three years of their departure to tell their side of the story.
Soon after the Mahatma’s assassination, when I reached the Birla House, I did not see anybody guarding the place where Gandhiji fell after having been shot dead. Some blood was on the path leading to the prayer platform. There was no policeman around to ensure the preservation of important evidence. Why has no government has gone back to those days to reconstruct events? I can understand the BJP’s diffidence because its mentor, the RSS, did not want any probe even to begin with. But the Congress governments should have perhaps dug deeper. The only piece of information is the trial and the judgment delivered by the then Punjab High Court at Simla. It is an open secret that some ladies of civil society knitted pullovers for Godse. The government, for the reasons known to it, has been reticent on these things.
The 132-year history of the Congress hardly brings out what the followers of Gandhiji went through after his assassination and what they are going through today. The government looks at them with suspicion as if they try to oust the government. The power which the BJP wields, is unchecked. In a democratic set up, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cornered all the power and rules the country by himself. The party pays lip sympathy and put up his photo at the meetings and that too because it attracts votes. Even otherwise, the Mahatma hardly fits into the free market economy and the inequitable growth. No doubt, the law and order machinery at that time bungled. But it is strange that no police officer of that time has left a plausible account of the events leading to the assassination.
It is true that a few Hindu extremists were arrested. Yet I believe that the plot was larger, involving scores of people at high places. The confession of Swami Aseemanand connected with the Malegaon bomb blasts, has shown that the network of Hindu ultras was quite wide. So must have been the case when Gandhiji was shot dead. Tushar Gandhi, who moved for the first time in the Apex Court, said he can explain his locus in the case and opposed the plea, saying there was no point in reopening of the case. The apex court, which has appointed a senior advocate as an amicus curiae in the matter, said it would wait for his report before going ahead with the case.
—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.