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Gandhi’s Assassination Still Haunts Indian Courts after 70 Years

NEW DELHI – Even as India mourned on Tuesday the 70th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, popularly called the father of the nation, the shadow of his assassination loomed large on the country.

The country’s top court is set to hear a petition filed by an engineer on Feb. 19 to reopen investigation into the murder trial of Gandhi, who was shot dead on Jan. 30, 1948, by Hindu fundamentalist Nathuram Godse.

“Not only a reinvestigation of the case, (...) the question that I am posing to the Supreme Court is ‘has the Gandhi murder crime reached legal finality?’” said Pankaj Phadnis, adding that the accused were executed 71 days before the new Supreme Court of an Independent India was established.

Godse, who confessed to the murder, and his collaborator Narayan Apte, who had pleaded not-guilty, were executed for the murder on Nov. 15, 1949.

However, Phadnis does not agree that the case ends there.

In 1996, Phadnis had rented the house of V D Savarkar, one of the accused in the case, who was acquitted posthumously, and began a two-decade long personal investigation into the case.

He scanned documents in Indian and British archives and spoke with various sources and reached the conclusion that one of the most famous assassinations in history had been poorly investigated.

Phadnis believes there could have been a second accomplice in the crime and that a fourth bullet was fired from another weapon, apart from that of Godse, who, according to the official version, fired the three bullets that pierced Gandhi’s body.

Gandhi, according to Phadnis, was murdered to prevent him from visiting Pakistan and improve ties between the two countries, that came into existence a year earlier, following the end of British colonial rule.

“The British had the motive because they were heading for financial bankruptcy and it made sense for them to create enmity between India and Pakistan so they could export to India and Pakistan,” Phadnis said.

His argument, however, had failed to convince the Bombay High Court, which had dismissed his petition to reopen investigation into the case, which is when Phadnis had approached the Supreme Court.

The petition, however, is opposed by family members of Gandhi, who dismissed it as one of the numerous conspiracy theories that surround the assassination.

Phadnis has also been linked to the Hindu extreme right and accused of trying to exonerate the killers, including Savarkar, with far-fetched theories.

Gandhi’s great-grandson, Tushar Gandhi has publicly said only three bullet wounds were found on Gandhi’s body and asserted that if the British wanted to kill him, they would have done so before India’s independence, not after.

In Tushar’s opinion, if another commission is established to re-investigate the case, “they will be forced to listen to these kind of fantastic stories” and create “compete confusion about the murder.”

Arun Gandhi, a grandson of the Mahatma, also called the case “blatantly frivolous and nonsensical.”

“Ever since the 50’s, when I was a journalist at The Times of India, everything that was wrong in India was blamed on the CIA or the Russian spy agency. It still persists,” he had said in November in an interview to the magazine The Week.


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