‘Let’s Kill Gandhi!’: A Chronicle of his Last Days, the Conspiracy, Murder, Investigation and TrialPages 987. Rs 995.

‘Let’s Kill Gandhi!’: A Chronicle of his Last Days, the Conspiracy, Murder, Investigation and TrialIt is rightly said that the life of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was very rich. Though many writers have delved into his life, thoughts and actions, he continues to remain elusive. Each attempt sheds new light on the leader who dreamt of "Ram Rajya" or an ideal polity. In the past, Prof. Bhikhu Parekh, Raj Mohan Gandhi and Kamran Shahid have been some of the intellectuals who have analysed the leader who has been treated as a demi-God by generations of his countrymen.

Was he a man of the masses or by using words like Ram Rajya, a leader of the orthodox Hindus? If he was an orthodox Hindu, why did a fanatic Hindu, a Chitpavan Brahmin, assassinate him? Surprising, when Mahatma’s political guru, Gopal Krishan Gokhale, was himself a Chitpavan Brahmin.

Tushar A.Gandhi, the great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, is the author of the book. Instead of analysing his grandfather’s thoughts, he has set himself on the task of exposing, what he feels, the murder and the subsequent loopholes in the investigation. Was the murder planned? Were some of the trusted leaders of independent India involved in the murder of the Mahatma? Tushar Gandhi thinks so. He supports his viewpoint with examples where some estranged political heirs of Gandhi felt that the "old man" was not accommodating. As he writes, "A martyred Mahatma was so much easier to live with."

However, does reading and analysing between the lines justify pointing finger at the leadership of the time? That is debatable. He gives a day-to-day account of the planning of the Godse gang to eliminate Gandhi. Simultaneously, he captures the last days of the life of Mahatma Gandhi. In fact, he blends the two streams, one tragic and the other of a man in a hurry, so beautifully that the reader feels the anxiety of the events unfolding. Tushar Gandhi has tried to read the psyche of Godse and his accomplices. He reaches the conclusion that Nathuram had not succeeded in making it big in life. He had a disturbed childhood, with the result he grew up with strange notions.

The killing of the Mahatma was the first and the last act in which he succeeded in his life. This act had become an obsession with him as can be culled from his statement, on June 30, 1946, in retort to Gandhi’s who said: "By the grace of God I have been saved from the proverbial jaws of death, seven times. I have not hurt anybody `85 I am not ready to die just yet. I am going to live till I reach 125 years." Godse mocked: "But who will allow you to live that long?"

Tushar Gandhi has written the book with a purpose. Besides the rage that was bottled up in him, he has tried to negate the idea of the Hindu Mahasabha’s version of a Hindu rashtra. As he says: "We do not want another partition, neither of hearts nor of territory."

The author has also dealt in detail as to how the British divided the people and left behind a sub-continent in a shambles. According to him, that was an act of vengeance by the retreating rulers as "the Congress, their bitter enemy, had extracted a far greater price from them than they had ever paid in any of the violent wars they had fought to build their empire. The non-violent fight for freedom had made the British lose face".

These lines and many more stay in the mind after the reader has closed the book. You pick up the book to read such lines again that instil nationalist feelings. The author has dealt with the Cabinet Mission plan and other talks between the British, the Congress and the Muslim League, highlighting the role of the Mahatma. This is different because Gandhi differed from his political heirs. The book is rich with information. The investigation, the Red Fort trial and the statement of Nathuram Godse is worth reading.

A lot of research and thought has gone into the book. Though at times the intimacy of the account strains credibility, the information in the book demands our attention.

The Tribune , Sunday Edition,  March 4, 2007