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Gandhi and Godse


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Interview between the playright Pradeep Dalwi and the journalist Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

Fifty years after he killed Mahatma Gandhi, Nathuram Godse's

name continues to generate controversy.

And, when a Marathi play on his life, Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoy (I am

Nathuram Godse talking) opened to appreciative audiences in

Bombay, that was the cue for political parties to raise a hue and cry

over the denigration of the Father of the Nation. Succumbing to the

criticism, even the central government advised the Maharashtra

government to ban the play.

Says Pradeep Dalvi, the playwright, "I don't know where all these

protestors were when the same drama was being staged in Gujarati!"

In an interview with Syed Firdaus Ashraf, Dalvi explains his stand on the controversy.

How do you feel about the central government's advice to the state

government to ban your play?

I feel a great injustice has been done to me. We call ourselves a

democratic country, and it is a shame that we cannot express our feelings

openly in India. I have a fundamental right to speak. I have been

associated with theatre for the last 30 years. And I am hurt because I

never expected this furore. I am born in the post-independence era. I feel

our people have matured in the last 50 years, but our politicians still need

to mature. We are in a situation where we see ourselves going downhill.

What do you feel about Friday's incidents, when mobs tried to

prevent the show from being staged in Bombay?

The Congressmen who did that were not agitators but rioters. In a

democracy one can understand if you do not agree with somebody's

viewpoint. You have a right to protest. But one must have decency while

doing so, which was missing in the agitators. The protesters were being

abusive, with even women using filthy language. And, I am sure they did all that without seeing the play. They are not even aware of the play. My

opinion is, whenever an assembly or Parliament session is on. These things happen. Last year, it was the killing of Dalits in Ramabai Nagar. This time they caught hold of my play.

How did you think of writing a play on Nathuram Godse?

I had read the book, Gandhi Hatya Anhi Me (Gandhi's assassination and

me) written by Nathuram Godse. And after that I happened to be in Pune

on some work. Over there, I met Gopal Godse and asked him about

Nathuram's ashes. So his nephew showed me the ashes. At that point of

time, I thought whether it is right or wrong, at least Nathuram was sincere

about his stand. I then started reading more books on him.

You know, Nathuram never employed any advocate for himself. I then

read his another book, Please Your Honour which was banned till 1968.

I researched many other books and found out that Justice Khosla, who

presided over Godse's trial, mentioned before awarding the death

sentence, 'If the people sitting in the court had been on the jury, they would have acquitted Nathuram'. That was a very important quote for me and I felt that the man who awarded him the death sentence had a strange opinion about Nathuram. So I started meeting people who are alive, his co-conspirators Karkare and Madanlal Pahwa. After meeting all these people, I thought of writing the play and went ahead.

Why is it that anything to do with Godse raises a controversy?

That is because we are denying history. So many American presidents

have been assassinated, but after every assassination they come out with a white paper because the common man has a right to know. In India, this

trend is never followed. People are still coming out with new theories

about Kennedy's assassination, and they have come out with a film like

JFK. But it is only in our country that we keep things a secret. So I

strongly feel we should know both sides of the picture.

What is your personal opinion about Gandhi?

I have high regard for him and his efforts for our freedom struggle. But

since the British had agreed to give us Independence, Gandhiji made

mistakes in his life. I think Partition was wrong. Gandhiji had said Partition

of the country would be over his dead body. But that never happened.

When Gandhiji was going to meet Mohammad Ali Jinnah, one young man

lay down before his vehicle. When the police dragged him away, Gandhiji

told them to bring that man. He touched the Mahatma's feet and said, 'My

name is Nathuram Godse. We don't mind a Muslim prime minister, but

Bapuji, don't agree to Partition'.

As far as my knowledge of history goes, I have never come across

this incident.

This was in 1946, when discussions on Partition were going on. But these

facts have been buried by vested interests. What turned Nathuram against

the Mahatma was the killing of Hindus in Hyderabad and East Bengal

under the leadership of H S Suharwardy. And the final blow came with the

Mahatma fasting over the waiver of Rs 550 million owed to Pakistan. So

Nathuram thought the Mahatma's existence was harmful to the nation.

Don't you think that Jawaharlal Nehru and Vallabhbhai Patel also

wanted Partition, and it was they who forced Gandhi to take the

decision?

Sardar Patel did not want the country to be partitioned. I have forgotten

his name, but there was one journalist who was a great friend of Patel and

Lord Mountbatten. He arranged a secret meeting between the two, when

Mountbatten told Patel that Jinnah won't live for more than a year because

of his health problems. And this fact, Patel informed Gandhiji too. But

Gandhi refused to believe this and said the prime minister of India will be

Jawaharlal Nehru. At that time, when the Congress Working Committee

voted for the prime minister, a majority was with Vallabhbhai, Nehru got

only one vote. But Gandhiji intervened and told Patel to let Nehru become

prime minister.

Mr Dalvi, if I am not mistaken, nobody knew about Jinnah's

ill-health. Are you sure about what you are saying?

No, it was kept a secret. But all the top leaders knew about it.

Can you name a few books in which this fact has been mentioned?

I will have to talk to Ketan Mehta, director of Sardar. He had the books.

Do you consider Mahatma Gandhi as the Father of the Nation?

Of course. But the greater the man, bigger the mistake he commits. If I

commit some mistake it won't make much of a difference. But if the chief

minister of Maharashtra, or the prime minister makes a mistake it will have far-reaching consequences.

BJP leader Pramod Mahajan had said India has a history of 5,000

years and that Mahatma Gandhi cannot be called the Father of the

Nation. Do you agree with this?

Our parents and grandfathers called Gandhiji the Father of the Nation

before we were born, so we cannot change that. What can you do? But

today, if there is an election for the Father of the Nation title I would not

vote for him. In fact, the nation does not need a father. The nation should

be run by youth. Why do we need old people to run a nation? If you are

old, one should retire and leave things to the youngsters. And that is why

our nation is lagging behind the rest of the world, because old men run our

country. In every nation, youth have come out in the open and braved

army tanks. Look at Israel. It became a nation one year before us.

Compare the two nations. Now look at us, we don't have respect and

value for our independence. Why did Britishers leave India.? Because they

were basically businessmen. When they came to know that this shop was

not running, they left.

Don't you think Mahatma Gandhi made a great contribution to our

freedom movement?

I do, no doubt about it. Had Gandhiji not been there, these people would

have run their shop for another ten years. Gandhiji was a great mobiliser.

Even Nathuram said so.

Do you think Godse has been discriminated against by Indian

historians?

Of course, yes. And that is why I want to talk about this man through my

play. But that too, they shut down in five days.

Don't you think you are glorifying a murderer?

No. The play is written in a very balanced manner. I have kept the facts

about Gandhiji and Godse before you. If people feel I have glorified him,

then his character must be glorious. I am not saying that.

Do you think what Nathuram did was right? Yes, or no?

(Thinks) Errrr.... There was no other way to detach Gandhiji from political

activity. Now, P V Narasimha Rao was not a good PM. so we did not

elect him the next time. But I am nobody to justify that, because I was not

even born at that time.

What are the qualities you admire in Nathuram the most?

Guts, daring and his dedication to the nation. He was a daredevil

character. He did not run away from the scene of the assassination.

Nathuram said 'I accept that I killed Gandhi. And I should be hanged.

Because if I won't be hanged, there will be no law in this country'. So he

was prepared. He did not run away, but surrendered to the police.

Had Gandhiji not been killed, had he lived longer, what do you think

would have happened?

One thing would have definitely happened. Now, there are two Kashmirs,

Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Indian Occupied Kashmir. Had Gandhiji

been alive, there would have been only one Kashmir, and that is Pakistan

Occupied Kashmir. That is 100 per cent.

Why was no objection to the same play in Gujarati?

Don't ask me. Ask the government's scrutiny board and Congressmen.

Again, why ask for a ban on the Marathi version, when it is a

verbatim of the Gujarati play?

Again, I don't know. You ask the home minister of India, L K Advani, or

Mulayam Singh Yadav and Vajpayeeji. I want to ask them the same

question. You can go and ask this question to the noted Gandhian,

Ushaben Mehta. Why did she not make a noise over the Gujarati play?

It is said you have used the Marathi word vad to describe

Gandhiji's killing, a word that is used in legend to describe a

demon's killing.

Vad does not mean the killing of a demon. The word, according to the

Marathi dictionary written by Dr Ketkar is that any killing which is done

without personal motive or personal gain, but for the good of society, is

called Vad. And not as my critics say, killing of a demon.

Are you a member of any of the Sangh Parivar?

No, not at all. I am a completely apolitical person. I have never even been

to an RSS shakha. I was never a Bharatiya Jana Sangh (now the BJP)

member. Nor am I a member of the Shiv Sena.

Will you appeal in court now that your drama is banned?

Yes, of course, I will go to the courts. I will go to the Supreme Court. I

will bring Godse back on stage. It is only a question of some days, as my

play is neither anti-Gandhi nor pro-Godse.

Tarun Bharat, the Marathi newspaper, had quoted Vinay Apte, the

play's director as saying that after seeing the play, the audience

would break all the Gandhi statues around them. Is this correct?

No, this is not true. In fact, some outstation mediapersons whom I refused

to meet wrote this about me. They were irritated since I could not meet

them. And they attributed wrong statements to me.

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