A man reduces a court to tears. They declare him guilty of murder.

Waiting for the gallows, he recites the Bhagvad Gita whole. He instructs that his ashes be dispersed in the waters of a re-united motherland. If that must take decades, he wouldn’t really have any reason to mind the wait anymore. The victim’s son writes to him in prison, and over the course of their correspondence they both attain an illusion of closure. In a weak voice, he lets out an ‘Akhand Bharat’, and is then hanged till death.

This is not how a man at peace with himself dies. To answer ‘Who killed this man?’ we must know ‘Who is this man?’ Nathuram Godse looked but never found this answer for himself during his expedited lifetime. LHS=RHS, he never saw his killer.

If he had, it would not have been too difficult. The man who held his hand also led him to the noose. Deputy Commissioner of Police Jamshid Naganvalla, Bombay CID Special Branch, investigating the criminal conspiracy to assassinate Gandhi within days of the investigation’s institution asked for permission to arrest V.D. Savarkar. An angry Home Minister, Morarji Desai, turned him down.

There was clear evidence that both Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte, the two men finally convicted for Gandhi’s murder, visited Savarkar’s residence, days before the attempt. Witnesses claimed that Savarkar was responsible for the order to kill, corroborating that he had been heard saying to them, “Yashasvi houn ya.” Go forth and triumph. The Kapur Commission established under the aegis of Deputy-Prime Minister Vallabhai Patel concluded that any theory other than one indicting V.D. Savarkar and his people for plotting this conspiracy could not hold true. Through due course of law, Savarkar was acquitted. Only a few years after his death did his Secretary and his Bodyguard come forth with depositions too late to convict a dead man.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi were two forces under whom the two most resounding, contrarian but contradictory Indian schools of thought of the 20th century flourished. The former went on to refer to the latter as ‘a sissy’. The latter did not deny it.

Savarkar founded the Hindu Mahasabha, marking the first foray of Hindu gods into poll booths. A proponent of Tilak’s famous reinterpretation of the Bhagvad Gita in his ‘Gita Rahasya’, Savarkar popularised the notion of a ‘Hindu rashtra’ – a society rid of caste, and less charitably, converts. Ghar wapsi would have been breaking news but we are only 70 years too late. He started the Akhand Bharat movement to annul the Partition of India. ‘Veer’ Savarkar gave humankind Hindutva. Interestingly, Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, founder of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its first Sarsanghchalak, wished to insulate his organization from politics and contain it within the sphere of cultural change alone. He tried to distance himself from the Mahasabha. The aftermath of Gandhi’s assassination created a national furore pressurising a ban on all activities of the RSS. The ban was eventually lifted by the Kapur Commission which cleared it of direct involvement in the murder, under the condition that it would adopt a formal constitution. In 1949, the second Sarsanghchalak, Madhav Golwalkar, inserted into the RSS Constitution, under Article 4(b), that the Sangh was to be kept free of politics and ‘devoted purely to cultural work’ .

Godse acknowledged the influence of Savarkar and Tilak growing up.

Erik Erikson, pioneer of developmental psychology, posited that humans grow through a series of stages. Between ages 12 to 18, adolescents experience the stage of ‘Identity versus Role Confusion’, giving rise to the notion of a teenage identity crisis resulting in fidelity to one central identity. A malignancy results in repudiation and a maladaptation leads to fanaticism, whereby the adolescent is excessively devoted to one source of identity.

Nathuram Godse
Nathuram Godse


Best case scenario is a protracted tenure of falling in love with someone who rides a Bajaj Pulsar with the silencer off. “He’s only tough on the outside, but from the inside he must be a water lily. Maybe he’s waiting for the idea of me to come out to.” Worst case scenario is ISIS. It’s a tough racket.

When you look at a portrait of Godse, what strikes you first is how much he resembles that one uncle who wants you to get into engineering every time he calls. Only later do you notice the kind of composure in his face that comes with the certainty of killing. Nathuram Godse was sold an identity. He had been indoctrinated into a pyramid scheme of the Amway-variety – one that seeks propagation through action, as derived from the Mīmāṃsā school of Hindu philosophy. Everything he did with and to his life henceforth was to inspire someone to do something else. Project Mayhem. He was part of something bigger, they said.

The Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which later grudgingly took the Hindu Mahasabha and the Jan Sangha under its umbrella and has been expanding like a conglomerate, is in the business of commercializing the Hindu identity to patrons. It even has a brand name now: Hindutva. It is tough to turn down a deal as lucrative as this when Laxmi is on the brochure and the pension scheme has afterlife coverage. But it is market economics’ odious prophecy:  where there is supply there must be demand. A vacuum existed in spite of the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, one now occupied by the RSS. The vacuum of our national identity.

It is a great sign of our pluralism that India breeds both Jihadis and Bajrang Dal night club vandals. No wonder both are so vociferous in the defense of their respective flags – there is little else to separate them.

If anything that makes you laugh makes you take it less seriously, ask yourself this: why do so many men, and more surprisingly, women, support the RSS in spite of having a comfortable standard of living? The idea that the RSS feeds of illiteracy and misdirected hate is an appealing one if you can live without thinking it through. The idea that free monthly rations could convince someone living below the poverty line to covert to the Hinduism distributed along with RSS pamphlets holds true in theory, but why should it influence anyone who owns an AC?

Maybe, as disturbing an explanation as it is, they want to. If modern India is one of choice, India must be choosing the RSS.

Choosing in place of what?

Nisha Pahuja’s stunning 2014 documentary, ‘The World Before Her’, follows two parallel story-lines – of the toxicity of skin bleach on the face of progressive India that aims for Miss World, and the other which festers half-turned and in shadows, in its Durga Vahini camps where girls as young as 7 are rifle-trained to defend their gods and their dignity. It follows the story of Prachi Trivedi, a pracharak at a Durga Vahini camp whose gruff voice bullies the young cadets but also defends through jests and misdirection as her father states as given that soon she would have to be married off to a suitable boy. The film ends on a quiet admission:

PT: “I can’t explain it, but I know what I am now. I am for parishad, nothing else.”

NP: “How do you put the two together in your head? Because you are fighting for a belief system that actually is controlling you. You see what I mean?”

PT: “Yes, I know that. I completely know that, whatever I’m thinking, whatever I want to do, whatever decision I want to make, whatever I’m thinking for my life–it is against the system for which I am working. I am going to tell these girls who are going to come after me, that you have to live this life, you have to get married, when you get married you are going to give birth to children, and this generation is going to get good teaching from us. I know that I’m going to say it. But being a girl, you can’t do anything. So I have to.”

Nathuram Godse was killed because he could not see himself when he looked in the mirror. V.D. Savarkar’s portrait hangs in the Parliament today. No one will take it down for me. So I have to look in the mirror.