The Men Who Killed Gandhi

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Roli Books Private Limited, Jan 1, 2008 - History - 354 pages
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The Men Who Killed Gandhi by Manohar Malgonkar takes readers back into the pages of Indian history during the time of the partition, featuring the murder plot and assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Men Who Killed Gandhi is a spellbinding non fictional recreation of the events which led to India’s partition, the eventual assassination of Gandhi, and the prosecution of those who were involved in Gandhi’s murder. This historical reenactment is set against the tumultuous backdrop of the British Raj. Malgonkar’s book is a result of painstaking research and from also having privileged access to many important documents and photographs related to the assassination.

There is no doubt that Mahatma Gandhi played a leading role in obtaining independence from the British. But the problems that ensued afterwards, such as the structural rebuilding of the country and the Partition, led to many riots, massive migrations, and deep racial and cultural divides. Not everyone agreed with Gandhi and his ideals. As a result, a plot to assassinate Gandhi was devised by six individuals named, Narayan Apte, Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa, Digambar Badge, and Nathuram Godse. This was eventually carried out in New Delhi, on the 30th of January, 1948. Eventually, these six individuals were tried and convicted. Four of them received life sentences while two of them received the death penalty.
The first publication of The Men Who Killed Gandhi occurred in 1978, during the Emergency years. As a result, Malgonkar omitted many vital facts including Dr. Ambedkar’s role in minimizing Savarkar’s criminal conviction. This 11th edition of the text contains these omitted facts as well as rare documents, and photographs obtained from National Archives. After the four individuals who were convicted for Gandhi’s murder completed their life sentences, they were interviewed by Malgonkar. These individuals revealed many details to him which were never known before. The author also received access to the Kapur Commission from his friend Mr. Nayar, who was in the Indian Police Service. As a result, The Men Who Killed Gandhi is considered the most historically accurate account of Gandhi’s assassination plot.

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This book doesn’t delve into anything that is new. However, the author is quite lucid in his narration of facts and the detailed interviewing resorted to by the author is appreciable. The fact that the killers of the Mahatma were indeed fanatics and believed in the cult of violence born out of sheer hatred, terming Bhagat Singh as a terrorist is not accepted. The author would've done a great service to himself had he read Bhagat Singh's own writings instead of depending on the second hand information on him. However, the book overall is a good work and ought to be read by all who are nterested in understanding the gruesome incident of assassination of the Father of our Nation.  

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Th 2019 edition of this book has been published with photographs, some documents, etc. While this is good to see, the way in which the book has been formatted is awful! Basically, there is a newspaper cutting/picture inserted after every 3-4 pages of text throughout the book. As a result, it is very distracting to read and irritating. The images should have been presented all in one spot or two spots in the middle of the book and not scattered like this after every 2-3 pages.
But besides this, more importantly, this book is written with a pro-Gandhi bias. Although I appreciate that the original author has interviewed many people for this book, there are some falsities in it such as that Gandhi's fasts "worked" and communal tensions between Hindus-Muslims almost vanished. This is untrue and in fact, people of those times were highly discontented with Gandhi and his repeated fasting-to-death blackmail strategy towards the Nehru government as can be verified from several contemporary Partition accounts of India.
Secondly, the author repeatedly calls Nathuram and others as "sick" and "fanatics" which once again is a gross exaggeration. In fact, he also calls Bhagat Singh as the "leader of the terrorists" in this book which is also false. In reality, whether one agrees with their methods or not, these people were patriots and revolutionaries for India's freedom and betterment.
Overall, things like these make this book very mediocre at best and if the Gandhi bias had been avoided, it would have turned out to be a more factual book.


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About the author (2008)

Manohar Malgonkar was born in 1913 in a royal family, which had its roots in Goa. After graduating from Bombay University, he served in the Maratha Light Infantry. A big game hunter, civil servant, mine owner and farmer, he also stood for Parliament in the early seventies. Most of this activity was during momentous times of Indian history - the build-up to independence and its aftermath - often the setting for his works. The socio-historical milieu of those times forms the backdrops of his works, which are usually full of action and adventure, reflective, in some way, of his own life. His works span all genres, from novels to biographies to history books. They include Distant Drum, Combat of Shadows, The Princes, A Bend in the Ganges, The Devil's Wind, The Garland Keepers, Bombay Beware, Inside Goa, The Sea Hawk: Life and Battles of Kanhoji Angrey, Chhatrapatis of Kolhapur and Dropping Names. After retirement, Manohar settled on his farm at Barbusa near Belgaum.

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