Who killed the Mahatma? History tells us that three bullets from a Beretta M1934 semi-automatic pistol silenced Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Nathuram Vinayak Godse had pulled the trigger and killed the person. But the thought, principles, ideas have all passed away – peacefully and unnoticed. In private conversations Gandhi bashing is a favourite pastime, in public functions Gandhi provides the preferred quotable quote. In the institutions founded or inspired by him, he exists – in the hanging portraits on the wall and the statues amidst the grass.
The ideological death was not caused by hot lead or senile decay – it was apathy. A well-maintained Rajghat and a national holiday on every October 2 – our duty is done. 56 years later Jhanu Barua’s Prof. Uttam Chaudhary pleads “Maine Gandhi ko nahin mara (I didn’t kill Gandhi).” Nor did I? How could I? Gandhi to me (and so many others) was only a synonym of two words – truth and non-violence. I didn’t kill any word. Words whose meanings I cannot comprehend. Words that exist in the dictionary, but not in a vocabulary. Did Gandhi imply anything else? I as a schoolboy never knew, until Richard Attenborough told me. But that was Ben Kinsley not Gandhi. I didn’t kill Ben Kinsley. Nobody took me along to meet the real Father of the Nation. I never knew he existed somewhere beyond the inscriptions of Hey Ram, images on currency notes and photos on the wall in courtroom dramas. How could I kill someone about whose being I was unsure of?
I stand acquitted of any conspiracy to kill Gandhi. Everything about him was long dead long before I was even born. Gandhi died on January 30, 1948. So did his legacy. Long live the Mahatma.
Listen to the Mahatma: