Nathuram Vinayak Godse was born on 19 May 1910 in Baramati, Pune District, Bombay Presidency, British India & died on 15 November 1949 in Ambala Prison, Punjab Province, Dominion of India, was the sole assassin of Mahatma Gandhi—the pre-eminent leader of Indian nationalism in British ruled India and apostle of non-violence—shooting Gandhi in the chest three times at point blank range on 30 January 1948 in New Delhi. Godse, a Hindu nationalist activist from Pune, Maharashtra who resented what he considered was Gandhi’s partiality to India’s Muslims, plotted the assassination with Narayan Apte and six others. After a trial that lasted over a year, Godse was sentenced to death on 8 November, 1949. Although pleas for commutation were made by India’s prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and by Gandhi’s two sons on the grounds that a death sentence would dishonour the legacy of a man opposed to all forms of violence, Godse was hanged a week later.
Nathuram Vinayak Godse was born in nativity mission center Pune Districtin a Chitpavan Brahmin family. His father, Vinayak Vamanrao Godse, was apost office employee and his co mother was Lakshmi (near Godavari). At birth, he was named Ramachandra.
Nathuram was given his name because of an unfortunate incident. Before he was born, his parents had three sons and a daughter, with all three boys dying in their infancy. Fearing a curse that targeted male children, young Ramachandra was brought up as a girl for the first few years of his life, including having his nose pierced and being made to wear a nose-ring (nath in Marathi). It was then that he earned the nickname “Nathuram” (literally “Ram with a nose-ring”). After his younger brother was born, they switched to treating him as a boy.
Godse attended the local school at Baramati through the fifth standard, after which he was sent to live with an aunt in Pune so that he could study at an English-language school. During his school days, he highly respected Gandhi. In 1930, Nathuram’s father was transferred to the town of Ratnagiri.
Godse dropped out of high school and became an activist with Hindu nationalist organizations such as the Hindu Mahasabha, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), although the RSS has claimed he left during the mid-1930s. They were particularly opposed to the separatist politicsof the All India Muslim League. Godse started a Marathi newspaper for Hindu Mahasabha called Agrani, which some years later was renamed Hindu Rashtra.
The Hindu Mahasabha had initially backed Gandhi’s campaigns of civildisobedience against the British government.
Godse later rejected Gandhi, after he saw Gandhi’s repeated sabotage against the interests of Hindus by using the “fasting unto death” tactic on many issues. In Godse’s view, Gandhi was giving into Muslim interests in ways that seemed unfair and anti-national. He blamed Gandhi for the Partition of India, which left hundreds of thousands of people dead in the wake of religious unrest.
Godse was against Gandhi’s personal teachings of extreme or absolutist non violence. He thought that such non-violent ideology would lead to Hindus losing the will to fight against other religions, which he saw as a matter of self-defense, and thereby becoming permanently enslaved. This has been said to be one of the major reasons behind his decision to kill Gandhi.
Godse approached Gandhi on January 30, 1948 during the evening prayer. When he bowed, one of the girls flanking and supporting Gandhi, Abha Chattopadhyay, said to him, “Brother, Bapu is already late” and tried to put him off but he pushed her aside and shot Gandhi in the chest three times at point-blank range with a Beretta M 1934 semi-automatic pistol. Gandhi died almost immediately. Godse was attacked and pinned to the ground by the crowd around him and was subsequently arrested when a small group of police officers arrived on the scene a few minutes later.
Following the assassination of Gandhi, he was put on trial at Peterhoff, Shimla which housed the Punjab High Court.
On November 8, 1949, Godse was sentenced to death. Among those calling for commutation of the death sentence for the defendants were Jawahar Lal Nehru, as well as Gandhi’s two sons, who felt that executing their father’s killers would dishonour his memory and legacy which included a staunch opposition to the death penalty. Godse was hanged at Ambala Jail on November 15, 1949, along with Narayan Apte, a co-conspirator. Savarkar was also charged with conspiracy in the assassination of Gandhi, but was acquitted and subsequently released.
Millions of Indians mourned Gandhi’s assassination. The Hindu Mahasabha was vilified and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was temporarily banned. However, investigators could find no evidence that the RSS bureaucracy had formally sponsored or even knew of Godse’s plot. The RSS ban was lifted by Prime Minister Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in 1949.
The RSS, to this day, denies any connection with Godse, and disputes the claim that he was a member.
After the assassination, many criticized the Indian government for not doing more to protect Gandhi who, earlier in the week, had been the target of a bomb plot by the same conspirators. Of particular concern was the fact that a Bombay detective had wired the names and descriptions of the assassins along with the fact that they were known to be in Delhi stalking Gandhi. On the other hand, Gandhi had repeatedly refused to cooperate with his own security and had resigned himself to a violent death which he accepted as an inevitable part of his destiny.