Interview

'All Indians have the right to speak for the Mahatma'

Print edition : December 08, 2017

Tushar Arun Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. A file photograph. Photo: K. RAMESH BABU

Interview with Tushar Arun Gandhi.

TUSHAR Arun Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, is in the news all over again. The Gandhi scion, who led a re-enactment of the historic Dandi March in 2005, is now seeking to put a full stop to any attempt at reopening the age-old case of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. He has moved the Supreme Court opposing a plea by Pankaj Phadnis, a trustee of Abhinav Bharat, Mumbai, that seeks to open the case.

Tushar Gandhi believes the latest case before the Supreme Court is an insidious one, particularly when no fresh evidence has come into the public domain since Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were hanged to death on November 15, 1949, and V.D. Savarkar escaped the noose for lack of evidence. The evidence pertaining to Savarkar, too, Tushar Gandhi claims, was provided some 20 years later by the Kapur Commission report, but by then Savarkar was dead.

A Bench of Justices S.A. Bobde and M.M. Shantanagoudar questioned Tushar Gandhi’s locus standi in the case and decided to wait for the report of the amicus curiae on the subject.

To explain his locus standi, Tushar Gandhi took to Twitter to say: “Bapu’s murderers have launched a campaign to falsify circumstances of his murder, a pathetic attempt to cleanse his blood from their hands.” He backed it up by posting a picture of his book Let’s Kill Gandhi: A Chronicle of His Last Days, the Conspiracy, Murder, Investigation and Trial.

Incidentally, the book, published in 2007, had been mired in a controversy. Tushar Gandhi was accused of blaming Brahmins for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, whereupon he clarified that he had blamed only some Pune Brahmins and not the entire community.

Tushar Gandhi hopes that the apex court will reiterate what the Bombay High Court had dismissed—Phadnis’ PIL (public interest litigation) petition—on the grounds that the findings had been confirmed right up to the apex court and the long gap of 46 years between the Kapur Commission report in 1969 and the PIL before the court in 2016.

Excerpts from a conversation with Tushar Gandhi:

What are the grounds on which you are opposing the reopening of the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case after almost 70 years? Do your fears have to do with the right-wing government in power at the centre?

Yes, I would say that. For some time now there has been an attempt to justify the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi through a concerted campaign.

Now this attempt to get the case reopened is not an innocent plea to know the truth. It has ulterior, insidious motives. It is completely avoidable. The court has a lot more vital and important issues to pass judgments on. They often complain of a lot of workload, shortage of staff, etc. Then comes this case which can eat up a lot of time. It is uncalled for, particularly after the Bombay High Court had not even listened to the plea of Phadnis.

Even if, for argument’s sake, one were to agree with the idea, what is new now, what can possibly be new? There is no new evidence, no new piece of investigation. On what grounds do you intend to investigate? It has been almost 70 years since Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated. Most of the investigating officers, witnesses and accused are no more.

As far as I see it, this is just a malicious attempt to discredit the Kapur Commission report. Back in the late 1960s, the Kapur Commission had compiled a lot of information on the possible involvement of V.D. Savarkar.

They are trying to weave a fictitious narrative, trying to create a doubt whether Godse did it or Narayan Apte did it or was there somebody else.

There is a section which believes that all the facts were not laid before the court at that time. And the Supreme Court never heard the case. Is it true?

There was no Supreme Court at that time. This was pre-1950. There was no mechanism as such. Godse and others had appealed to the Privy Council. The Council sent it back. The sentences were given after the Red Fort trials. The Punjab High Court upheld the sentence. A three-judge bench heard the plea. That was the highest level they could appeal to, and they did. To say the Supreme Court did not get a chance to hear the plea is frivolous. We were on the way to becoming a republic then, and the Supreme Court was not there yet.

On the other hand, is there not a possibility, however remote, that some evidence can be unearthed with respect to the involvement of V.D. Savarkar too?

There is evidence, plenty of it, in the Kapur Commission report. It has been there for close to 50 years. Unfortunately, by the time the Kapur Commission came up with the report, Savarkar was dead. Today, even if the Supreme Court agrees to hear, who can depose? These people (right-wing members) are past masters at rewriting history. Why give them a chance? If the doubts were justified, I would not have objected to a fresh investigation. I am not for suppressing the truth. However, there seem to be no grounds for a fresh look.

The court has questioned your locus standi on the same. Do you think something similar needs to be done with respect to Pankaj Phadnis, a trustee of Abhinav Bharat?

I appreciate that they want to ascertain what authority I have to intervene in the matter. Well, I have as much authority as Phadnis. I run the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation. If it is the sole criterion, I can also prove that I am related to Bapu. However, I believe that in this matter, blood lineage does not matter. All Indians have the right to speak for the Mahatma.

Have you spoken to your family on the issue? Is everybody on the same page?

I have spoken to my family members about it. My father and most of my uncles hold the same view. I have not sought formal permission, but informally they hold the same view. I know they are with me.

In his petition, Pankaj Phadnis has also questioned the three bullet theory relied upon by courts to hold the conviction of the accused. You may recall that Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte were hanged to death on November 15, 1949.

The theory went into a time warp. If three bullets are accounted for, three wounds are accounted too. All are accounted, and not by one but two medical officers. One of them was the highest serving medical officer at that time.

Those in the know would recall that one bullet was recovered from Birla complex, the second one was entangled in Gandhiji’s shawl and these were sent to Tughlaq Road police station.

The third bullet was recovered from the funeral pyre. It remained inside his body. It was seen as a molten lump of metal after the cremation.

It may be recalled that the first medical inspection was done within five minutes of the assassination. There was no time to hatch conspiracies. There were no other wounds on his body, just three entry wounds and two exit wounds. This information was also written down in the FIR available with the National Archives.

All theories being propagated now are based on hearsay and are made with ulterior motives. I am sure justice will be done.

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