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India, explained

Nathuram Godse killed Gandhi for a fast that held India to ransom

A strange lesson from history for contemporary politics
India mahatma gandhi anniversary death 2012 01 30Enlarge
Indian prison inmates gather around a memorial statue of Mahatma Gandhi in observance of the anniversary of Gandhi's assassination. (AFP/Getty Images)

Nathuram Godse murdered Mohandas K. "Mahatma" Gandhi on this day in 1948.  But the murderer's despicable decision might resonate especially clearly this year. India continues to wrestle with the anti-corruption movement led by social activist Anna Hazare -- who has aped Gandhi's "fast unto death" to blackmail the government.

As I wrote sometime back for GlobalPost, "Godse remains a better foil for the Mahatma than his perennial adversaries like the low-caste leader B.R. Ambedkar or Pakistan-founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Far from being an insane fanatic, Godse perceived that Gandhi's fast unto death — the ultimate expression of passive resistance — was not nonviolence, but violence turned inward against the self. Ambedkar and Jinnah had recognized this, too."

But Godse stands apart because he was able to respond in kind. “Many people thought that [Gandhi's] politics were irrational,” Godse said before his execution. “But they had either to withdraw from the Congress or place their intelligence at his feet to do with as he liked.”

No politician could afford to let Gandhi kill himself, but Godse understood that by murdering him he would martyr himself as well — achieving his own ends as ruthlessly and inexorably as the Mahatma.

“I thought to myself and foresaw I shall be totally ruined, and the only thing I could expect from the people would be nothing but hatred ... if I were to kill Gandhiji,” he observed.

“But at the same time I felt that the Indian politics in the absence of Gandhiji would surely be proved practical, able to retaliate, and would be powerful with armed forces.” It is not a flattering mirror.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/godse-killed-gandhi-hazare

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