Why Gandhi had to be killed

Mahatma Gandhi has not been rendered obsolete yet.  Hence his birth anniversary is sure to get some attention.  The Congress Party is sure to remember him.  The ruling BJP may pay lip service unless it can conjure up the lexicon that can create a new discourse on the palimpsest of the country’s history and thus absorb Gandhi into its crowded pantheon.

Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s assassin and a member of the RSS, said in his defence during the trial that what he could not stomach was Gandhi’s “infallibility” to which the Congress had capitulated helplessly.  Godse went on to describe that infallibility as “eccentricity, whimsicality, metaphysics and primitive vision.”

And Godse was right! 

Gandhi was on a relentless pursuit of the truth.  The more he pursued it, the more convinced he became of the correctness of his approach.  Hence he imposed his will on many people.  Didn’t every prophet, every messiah, impose his will on his followers?

Gandhi was a messiah.  He was a saint.  He was not a mere statesman.  Not at all a politician.  This is what sets Gandhi apart from the other freedom fighters.  This is what made him a martyr.  The cross was the natural end for Jesus.  And the bullet was the natural end for Gandhi.  Every messiah has to be killed so that the people are saved.  Saved from the messiah.  Saved from the messiah’s impositions.  Saved from the messiah’s will, the power of his truth, the ominous charm of the light he brings, and most of all the infinite demands he makes on the frail human beings.

Truth will set you free, every messiah said that with some variations.  But such freedom is unbearable for the ordinary people.  Such freedom brings what Milan Kundera called “the unbearable lightness of being.”  It is a freedom to be just what you are.  Without attachments.  Without clinging to the truths manufactured by organised religions, political parties and various ideologies.  That freedom is the infallibility that Gandhi possessed. 

Gandhi had equated truth with God.  Satya is derived from Sat, he said in one of his articles, and sat means being, reality.  Truth is the reality.  What is not truth is not real.  Hence he said that where there is no truth, there is no knowledge or Chit.  Where there is truth and knowledge, there is also bliss, Ananda.

For those who have achieved that stage in personal growth, for those who have raised their consciousness to the realms of Satchitananda, “all other rules of correct living will come without effort, and obedience to them (the rules) will be instinctive.”

Gandhi’s life was a committed pursuit of the Satchitananda.  That’s why he called his biography My Experiments with Truth.  He could boldly assert that there was no discrepancy between what he thought, said and did.  It is such concordance between thought, speech and action that Gandhi demanded from people.  That is a tough demand.  If we are to abide by that demand, we have to be saints.  And who wants to be a saint?

“These childish insanities and obstinacies,” said Nathuram Godse in his defence speech at his trial, “coupled with a most severe austerity of life, ceaseless work and lofty character made Gandhi formidable and irresistible.”

Gandhi was too good to live, in short.  That’s what Godse said.  That’s what his followers in the contemporary India say in different words.

Gandhi’s God was Satchitananda, the perfected consciousness.  Such a God sees everything clearly, understands the reality from all possible angles, and hence cannot hate anyone.  Rather, such a God understands why people behave the way they do.  Such a God has no enemies.  That’s why Gandhi could not accept the Rama of the Ramayana and the Krishna of the Mahabharata as gods.  And Godse could not forgive Gandhi for that too.  “It is my firm belief that in dubbing Rama, Krishna, and Arjuna as guilty of violence, the Mahatma betrayed a total ignorance of the springs of human action,” said Godse. 

No, Godse, you betrayed a total ignorance of Gandhi’s greatness.  You displayed your sheer inability to understand what “the Mahatma” was.  You hated him for loving people other than the Hindus.  You hated him for refusing to imprison the human spirit within the straitjackets of nationalism, religion and culture.  You hated him for being too good.  I hope the two of you share a lot of smiles up there in case there is such a place and it offers you better lessons than here where the ordinary mortals are condemned to grapple with the inevitable heaviness of being.

Happy Gandhi Jayanti to all those for whom Gandhi makes sense. 


  1. Happy Gandhi jayanti !
    He was simple, seeker of truth & a man who stuck to his guns. He did try to give his 'trusteeship' idea of governance - political governance! That the wealthy hold the wealth in 'trust' for entire society is not acceptable to wealthy or poor alike.
    Good write up.

    1. Most people didn't understand him, that's the simple truth.

  2. I am awestruck about your blog after reading this post.What a dose it was! Something like the thrill brought in by some of the articles I read from The Gurdian,which is much better than what you read in The Economist about most cases.
    I have been going through a lot of radical secularist views currently and turns out all religion share the same unbearable odour that is typically sickening for us petty little creatures.I could have at most criticised Gandhi on 5 to 6 points I have been thinking of since 2014 and which I have been screaming off to my family subsequently but could never have written such a satirically beautiful article that is so straight and purely relates to the public intellectual method that we all love Chomsky for.
    Reverence.A lot of it.

    1. I too can criticise Gandhi, if I want. His views on science and technology, for example. His attitude toward chastity and married life. And so on. They are an integral part of the eccentricity that necessarily marks a saint. There is something pathological about sainthood, as William James has shown brilliantly in his book,' Varieties of Religious Experience'.

    2. I have issues with his way of favouring the rich industrialists and the INC staying aloof from any activity that supported the class struggle of workers during his reign.Again,yes,all about chastity and even more prominently I dislike his views on married life.Caste,according to me is a form of prolonged class struggle itself,if you see it from the anthropological perspective.Now,Ambedkar did join hands with the British but the cause was to some extent,valid and what he did as answer to it is known to us all.
      Moreover,his ultimate policy of non-violence,I doubt how much it would really work in imperialistic contexts.He was one of the biggest,terrorising anti-feminists I know of and for him we had to have a PM like Jawaharlal Nehru,which I believe was drearier a bite than dividing this country.I mean to say he was at least responsible for all the unjust uplift Nehru gained.
      And he certainly was not a leader envisioned in our dreams,nor was he close to the definition of a leader judging by practicality.

    3. In spite of all those shortcomings and eccentricities, Gandhi remains a great personality for me, Titas. He was imperfect as any man is. But he strove honestly toward achieving perfection. Whatever he said and did came from the depths of his convictions. We may not accept some of those convictions. Yet we have to accept that the man was genuine in everything he said and did. That's what makes him great for me. Many of the things which I find disagreeable may not actually be bad...

      Nehru's agnosticism was far preferable to the religiousness of many others. Again, Nehru's agnosticism was more genuine than the religion of most other people around him. That's why Gandhi preferred Nehru to the others.

      We must remember that the religious situation in India at the time of Independence was highly inflammable and had to be dealt with very cautiously. It is easy to sit in judgement over the situation with our hindsight.

    4. I do not disagree but there is still a scope of the 50% otherwise to prove itself.It might be what we find disagreeable might not have been bad,but it may also be that it was bad,it was worse than we think it is.I do not even want to get into the chaotic domain that politicians have played with till now about Netaji,Russia.Stalin and Russia's strange affection towards brother Nehru.Looks damn weird (and I am saying this despite having strong faith in leftist views,at least economically).This morning,I liked your approach on sainthood that you related with eccentricities and pathology.Nehru was an ardent follower of Gandhi and such things often create no-blood-relation lineages that pose the same threat as monarchy does.
      Now,there are certain things like racism,brutal torture that he protested against but he was more diplomatic than we expect a leader to be.At least a TRUE leader to be,you have explained it better than me in the post.
      Anyhow,I tried to be a little non-judgemental,after all I was born nearly 42 years after this country 'achieved' independence.

    5. It is easy to criticise someone with the benefit of hindsight. The whole debate over Gandhi being either good or bad is like reducing it to the binary of pass-fail. While it cannot be denied that he was not perfect as a being, as a thinker, as a leader, as a strategist, etc., there is also no denying the importance of the man and what he brought to the table with his entry into the freedom struggle. Epistemic pluralism will go a long way in making the debate over Gandhi more nuanced.

      I am all apologies for entering the debate like this.

      @Matheikal - I do agree with most of the things you have written about Gandhi. The title of the post is very thought provoking.

    6. No need to apologise, Aman. The debate is open. I'm sure Titas has a very open mind too.

    7. I didn't have the time to check any serious articles within my exams.Not that they are over yet but I just wanted to check in for my hunger for debates had been increasing recently,once I started trying to stay aloof.

      Hi Aman,
      I like that phrase.Benefit of hindsight.You can use a plethora of concepts to rephrase that.Suppose,you do not take part in the election in your city and then when the mayor does not do anything about unavailability of medicines in the hospital and the medicines do not work since they are not original and you realise there is a scam,you are going to use the easily available,easily usable easy to criticise benefit of hindsight,anyone would,actually.
      Again,not everything comes along with experience,I accept.One concept might not match with the other and this is so since er are talking about largely political concepts.And they certainly have no 0s and 1s.
      Neither me,nor you,nor anyone else will be able to figure out how much help he had actually meant.We cannot determine contribution in quantity.Neither are we supposed to know how much his sainthood and related policies had a real impact,not largely psychological or spiritual but real.
      Epistemological pluralism has a concept called dualism,which is complementary to monism.Monism talks about a few,basic planks playing a role in everything on earth.Now,certainly,monism tends to naturalism.Naturalism tends to capitalistic approaches.Gandhi talked of something called Gandhian Socialism,which was convincing zaminders to give away their lands.Do you think Coca Cola is going to lend a cent to you if you spiritually convince them?Now,I am not using any hindsight.
      So,Gandhi,like almost other saints tends to (Okay,effect of lots of Calculus in that "tends to".) be a naturalist and naturalists themselves were somewhat against epistemological pluralism.Now,we might as well use complementary philosophy to look into the matter deeply.But does that not mean something like monistic epistemological pluralism?
      If that exists at all.
      Whereas I too do not consider him villanish,I consider him saintly villainish.The comprehending skills are all yours.

      And of course,debates are open.

  3. Profound Matheikal, really profound and a brilliant analysis.

  4. Happy Gandhi Jayanti!
    Great post. Of course, Gandhi made mistakes. He was not God. What makes him a Mahatma is that he accepted others' mistakes too. Everyone knows humans are fallible, but we aren't very forgiving when it comes to others' mistakes.

    1. Indeed. "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong." Gandhi said that. And he was a very strong man.

  5. Happy Gandhi Jayanti
    A very insightful analysis. People with staunch religious beliefs, are generally unforgiving of those who believe differently, maybe because they feel very threatened when someone questions their beliefs.

    1. I think it's people who embrace religion without understanding it who are unforgiving. For such people religion is a tool for various purposes other than spirituality. Identity, for example. Or power, or whatever. Hence religion becomes a weapon in their hands.

  6. Mr Matheikal, I loved your article. The satire was amazing. More than all of that, it was a perspective that is fresh and honest. An eye opener...

    1. The satire is a mere undercurrent. The perspective is serious :)

  7. awesome article.
    "Gandhi was too good to live" You are right, Gandhi terrifies us. He is a man of truth and truth is like pure oxygen. In pure form Oxygen destroys the life and in mild,polluted form it sustains life.

    1. That's why people are keen to reduce Gandhi to something as quotidian as Swatchta!

  8. While Godse might have been wrong in his analysis, hindsight always proves even the best people are flawed... and some aspects of Gandhiji's book are difficult to digest...
    However, one cannot detract from his deeds :)

  9. Well, I believe the common man in India is more at fault for just being a blind follower of anyone who has greatness. Basically, we distance ourselves from great people to assure ourselves that only that person is capable of it. We start worshiping them blindly and then we come to know about a flaw in that person, we feel our faith shattered and the hero soon becomes a villain in our minds. Not Gandhi, not Godse, not Lincoln, not Ram, not Mohammed, nor even Buddha is at fault, its our ignorance that we too can pursue truth, that should be blamed and that should be get rid of.

    1. I have combined my response to this comment of yours with your comment on the invisibility to the eye ...


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