An assassin speaks

Pradeep Dalvi’s controversial play Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoy has once again ruffled feathers. Like it did in 1989, when the playwright was denied permission by the Maharashtra government to stage the drama. After its brief resurrection nine years later, the state government has now banned the play. Read the play and judge for yourself if the ban was justified.

(The stage is dark save for one spotlight, which is focused on Nathuram, who is standing with his back to the audience. Suddenly he turns and starts looking at the faces in the audience, as if he is searching for someone. Ultimately, he jerks his neck indicating denial or negation and looks up. Now he is directly looking at the audience.)

Nathuram: No. All the faces are unknown. Actually ‘unknown’ is the wrong word to use in this … All your faces are very fresh to me…fresh and new. They are, of course, new to me, but mind you, they are not unfamiliar.

The youngsters among you, were not even born at that time. You must have read about me as a Hindu fanatic in the history written by the government. The middle-aged amongst you must be very confused clinging to their parents, who in turn were running around to save themselves from the massacre of Brahmins as the outcome of the assassination — asking: ‘Who is the Nathuram? Why are our houses being burnt because of him?”

But the elders among you… You must remember me! You must have heard about me on the radio. Some of you might have read Agrani, the newspaper run by myself and Nana Apte. Some of you might have attended my meetings and heard my speeches. Some of you may be knowing me directly or might have met me, but must be refusing the acquaintance after January 30, 1948.

Do you know how old I am? eighty-eight, nearly 90! Do you think I am lying, because I look young? Do you know, the mystery behind my youth is my death. My death…it was untimely, but it was heartily accepted!

I was born at the beginning of this century on May 19, 1910. My father Vinayakrao was in the postal service, my mother’s name was Laxmi.

Vinayakrao was drawing a salary of Rs 15 per month. He used to spend Rs 10 on his family and send Rs 5 to his parents. Vinayakrao and his wife had three sons, none of them survived. They prayed to God, had their fourth son, Nathuram. Nathuram survived because they were destined to suffer for their young son’s death and Gandhi was destined to be assassinated.

The rest of my life was very smooth.

I never stole in my childhood, so there was no question of apologising to my father. I never took a vow of celibacy as I was already practising celibacy. I was moving around the refugee camps and helping the destitute with food and clothes. But I did not wander half-naked because the refugees were naked. I never spun yarn, never cleaned my toilet, never observed silence till I was hanged. There was only one common factor in Gandhi’s life and mine. We were both the cause of each other’s death. He wanted to live for his principles and I was prepared to die for my principles.

But the interesting part of the biography of Nathuram Godse starts on January 30, 1948. After the assassination of Gandhi.

In a sense, I lived only for 655 days — from January 30, 1948 to November 15, 1949. But January 30 was an outcome of January 13.

The central government had taken a decision — Pakistan will not be given Rs 55 crores. On January 13 Gandhi started a fast unto death that Pakistan must be given the money. On January 13, the central government changed its earlier decision and announced that Pakistan would be given the amount. On January 13, I decided to assassinate Gandhi.

January 13, 1948

(The editorial room of Agrani. There is the normal chaos that exists in the editorial room of any newspaper. Nana Apte enters.)

Nana: Pandit, where are you? Visu…

Visu: (Enters) Sir.

Nana: Have you composed and assembled the first page? Break the compose. This is a stop press news.

Visu: You want me to recompose the first page? There will not be any issue tomorrow.

Nana: Listen, we just have to reassemble the first page. This is a very important news. It was on the radio.

Visu: But Panditsaab is rewriting the editorial. I have to recompose and print that matter. How can we…

Nana: Where is Pandit?

Visu: He is sitting in the composing section. He is completing the pages and giving them for composing.

Nana: Call him.

Nathuram: Call? Whom?

Nana: I wanted to call you. We have to prepare the front page again.

Nathuram: No need. My new editorial is on the same subject. Visu just get us coffee. (Visu goes)

Nana: Do you know the news I am talking about?

Nathuram: Yes, of course. The Cabinet has changed its decision. It is giving Rs 55 crore to Pakistan. Gandhi has broken his fast.

Nana: You changed your editorial?

Nathuram: Yes. I thought that my previous editorial was nothing but a pack of lies.

Nana: Pack of lies? And written by you? Impossible!

Nathuram: Yes. Tomorrow is January 14, Makar Sankranti. I had written in the editorial, ‘Don’t celebrate Sankranti tomorrow, don’t take sweets, don’t behave in a sweet manner. Distribute rifles, bullets, weapons. Don’t talk sweet, talk of war. Kill the enemies.”

Nana: It is true, what you had written.

Nathuram: You have not asked me about the title of my new editorial.

Nana: What is that?

Nathuram: Mere talk without actions is futile.

Nana: Meaning…?

Nathuram: It is time for protests in constitutional ways, processions, pickets to come to an end when the establishment resorts to mindless injustices. You can’t just warn the government through editorials at such hours. Tell me Nana. What do you mean by people will not tolerate, people will revolt…and so on? Who are these people? Do you mean our readers or those who attend our meetings and listen to our speeches? No, Nana, people also mean you and me, us. If we forget what we write and what we talk then our editorials and brave speeches in the meetings and futile. A man addressing from the dais is also a part of the crowd sitting before him. When we say that the people should revolt, it means that we should revolt!

Nana: You have written all this?

Nathuram: Yes, I have written celebrate Dassera tomorrow, the festival on which war is proclaimed.

Nana: Pandit, we will be arrested.

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