Red Fort in Delhi. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/GettyImages)
Snapshot
  • Kamal Hassan declared at a public meeting in Tamil Nadu that the first terrorist of independent India was a Hindu.

    Here is a fact check for him, and also an additional lesson on a massive Islamist terror attack on New Delhi that the then provisional government of India foiled.

Many people have pointed out the difference between an assassin and a terrorist. Godse did a heinous crime, a sin against the nation and humanity when he fired those three bullets.

Many neo-Internet Hindutvaites love to rush to the defence of Godse and they love attacking Gandhi.

It is not that Gandhi did not commit blunders. He did. He acted as a moral dictator for the newly formed Indian state. Whatever be the decision of the government and whatever be the laws passed in the Parliament, if he started a fast the government would come to its knees, he had declared with pride. His blunders were often costly in terms of the quanta of human tragedies they produced. Particularly for Hindus, the tragedies were of genocidal proportions. To this day, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains stuck in Pakistan and Bangladesh, whose human rights are trampled everyday continue to pay for the vision of human harmony the Mahatma envisioned.

Yet, what Godse did was unforgivable and not in the least defensible. He was wrong. What he did was wrong.

Yet, he was not a terrorist.

He wrongly thought that elimination of Gandhi from the Indian political scene would liberate the nation from the moral iron grip he held on the state. A terrorist on the other hand uses terror to advance his or her political or religious goals. ‘Striking terror into the heart’ of one’s ideological and religious enemies is an accepted form of proselytising for some religions and ideologies like Marxism. Godse thus was not a terrorist, but an assassin whose act brought shame to the Hindutva movement.

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Godse was an amateur zealot criminal, who believed that eliminating an old man would end the threats Hindus and India faced then. However, in contrast to his act, there was an actual terror attack that was foiled by the Indian state just months prior to the murder of Gandhi.

The plan was notoriously well conceived. Had it succeeded, India would have ceased to exist as we know it. The British, who still had more sympathy for Pakistan than for India, would have justified it in the international arena.

The terror plan

As Partition approached, the wheels of this attempt were set in motion. An Intelligence Bureau report warned: “There is clear evidence that many Muslim clerks are ready, and even anxious, to hand over confidential documents to League officials.” (Fortnightly Summaries and Weekly Reports, DIB, India, TNA: WO 208/5007 in Nisid Hajari, 2015).

Curiously, Archibald Wavell, who was the Viceroy before Mountbatten, tried to facilitate this further by suggesting that the Home Ministry be shifted to the Muslim League office itself. Later, after Partition became a reality, something more ominous was uncovered.

Freedom fighter and a witness to the tumultuous events of that period, J B Kripalani, wrote:

To make matters worse, there were rumours of a coup d’etat on the part of the Muslims to seize the administration of the capital. The fact that the Muslims had collected arms gave credence to the rumours. Searches of Muslim houses by the police had revealed dumps of bombs, arms and ammunition. Sten-guns, Bren guns, mortars and wireless transmitters were seized and secret miniature factories for the manufacture of the same were uncovered. 
J.B.Kripalani, Gandhi His Life and Thought, Publications Division, Government of India, 1971, pp.392-3

This was only half of the story. The correspondence of Sardar Patel with Jawaharlal Nehru clearly reveals that there was indeed an Islamist plan to effect a huge terror attack in Delhi against both the new government and the non-Muslim refugees and Delhi residents.

When some prominent Muslims including Suhrawardy and Sir Sultan Ahmed complained to Jawaharlal Nehru that they were searched at airports, Nehru promptly wrote to Patel regarding these complaints and sought an explanation. In his reply, Patel clearly indicated that there was a scheme afoot with connections at very high places:

the GP Government had given an intimation that by this plane, which was coming from Hyderabad, some illicit arms were being smuggled and partly because a telephonic conversation had been intercepted between Hyderabad House and Hyderabad which confirmed CP’s report and showed that some Bren guns and Sten guns had been asked for by the Hyderabad House staff.
Sardar Patel’s Correspondence 1945-50 Vol.IV, p.352

Patel was well aware that in the heat of Partition, some officers might use this opportunity to humiliate all Muslims. But he was against that and took action against such officers.

Nevertheless, the searches had to be conducted. He added:

We are not yet out of the wood in Delhi and we cannot rule out the possibility of attempts being made to import illicit arms in Delhi. We must retain, therefore, the liberty to search persons and luggage suspected of importing illicit arms. What is, therefore, necessary is to see that these instructions are strictly adhered to by the police officials responsible for searches at aerodromes.

Clearly, despite all white-washing of this particular episode in history, the alertness of Patel averted a terrorist tragedy in Delhi.

When Dr Bhagwan Das wrote about the RSS informing the government of this scheme of an armed Islamist outbreak in Delhi, Nehru flew into a rage and shot him a letter. The article came at a time when the RSS was being banned despite the government not being able to associate it in anyway with the murder of Gandhi.

Bhagwan Das, according to the Nehruvian hagiographers, offered to denounce his information as lies, though he never seemed to have done so in public. But we do know that in his letter written to Patel on 30 September 1947, he condemned the RSS for all the disturbances happening not only in Delhi but throughout India and indirectly blamed Patel saying that ‘still noted members of the RSS were appointed as special magistrates’ and that these ‘special police officers have functioned improperly’ and went on to inform Patel that ‘an attempt is being made now to purge these people’.

In his detailed reply, Patel refused to honour Nehru’s remarks on the RSS but took specific instances hinted at by Nehru and explained in detail the facts around them. One of the points of contention was a police officer, Randhawa, whom Nehru was criticising because of the inputs from the Chief Commissioner of Delhi. This commissioner, Patel pointed out, was having 'contacts and relationship with some League personalities, some of whom were suspected of illicit possession of arms and ammunition'.

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From all these, one can deduce certain facts.


One, there was a heavy movement of illicit arms into New Delhi by pro-Pakistan elements and active removal of arms from the police and paramilitary centers by those heading for Pakistan. There was a rumour of a planned taking over of Delhi by pro-Pakistan elements. It was substantiated by the raids.

Two, at the same time in Delhi, RSS members were being admitted as special police officers.

All these point to some level of veracity in the story that the RSS was instrumental (even if it is given that its members exaggerated its role) along with the government forces in foiling either a possible take over of the government or a terrorist attack on non-Muslim population of the capital city.

Unlike Gandhi’s assassination which was carried out by a highly amateurish group of frustrated young men who were equally ill-equipped and inefficient, the planned armed assault on Delhi was meticulous and coordinated from within the local population, certain elements in administration and forces across the country.

Despite these facts being purged from the pages of history, the traces still remain.

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