Abhay Shivgounda Patil

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Who Killed Gandhi?

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lkgGodse was not the killer – he was just an instrument of a much bigger conspiracy. There were as many as five unsuccessful attempts on Gandhi’s life, last one barely 10 days before the fateful day. After the last attempt, there was enough information to nab Godse and his accomplices, but it remains a mystery why the police did not act. After the murder, police were lax in acknowledging, leave alone following up on, the tell tale evidence. So much so that the trial Justice Atma Charan closed his judgment stating that the Police should have been named as one of the accused. It is as if everybody, including the ruling Congress Party, was content to avenge one death with two lives – and were not too eager to pursue the case. The Jivanlal Kapur commission proved to be a redeeming development, however the current ruling dispensation is working on removing this report from the official records.

Today (Nov 6, 2016) I heard Tushar Gandhi in Pune. His great grandmother, Kasturba, died in Pune and the murderers of his great grandfather hailed from Pune. It was an emotional speech, with startling facts. What I picked up from his talk is shocking enough that I am eager to read his well researched book, Let’s kill Gandhi. (He was in Pune to release a book, written by a young activist Sanket Munot, countering widespread misconceptions about Gandhi.)

Here are some of the notes I made during the talk.

First attempt on Gandhi’s life happened in 1934 when he was in Pune to accept civic felicitation. A hand bomb was hurled at his car. The case was closed with no arrests. Later, a forensic report confirmed that the hand bomb used in 1934 was from the same batch of hand bombs that were thrown at a Muharram procession in Ahmednagar in 1946. These bombs were recovered from the residence of Vishnu Karkare, the convict in Gandhi’s murder.

Madan Lal Pahwa was arrested after he hurled a hand bomb, on January 20th during Gandhiji’s prayer meeting. This was just 10 days before Gandhi was killed. Pahwa did lead the police to the hotel room where the kingpins of the conspiracy had met with him. There was tell tale evidence, including laundered clothes bearing initials NVG (Nathuram Vinayak Godse) – but Police did not act. Ashutosh Lahiri (?), who was ready to depose was not interrogated. When questioned by the Court, the police chief infamously gave the explanation that they did not expect the conspirators to revert so quickly. (“They were not playing cricket” -was the actual statement!)

Godse and his accomplice Apte were complete novices when it came to firearms. Just two days before Godse killed Gandhi, it is a mystery how he acquired one of the most sophisticated revolvers of that time – a Beretta. It was apparently surrendered by an Italian troupe to a General in King of Gwalior Jiwaji Rao Shinde’s army. The arms dealer Sharma, from whom Godse acquired it, was never interrogated enough on this count.

Godse was not known to be good with words. He did edit a few journals, but his style was aggressive and never persuasive enough.  Godse’s argument in the appeals court, that is available on the net, was so powerful that one of the Justices hearing the case remarked that had the people in the Court turned jury, they would have acquitted Godse. Tushar Gandhi claims that there was no way Godse could have drafted that speech – he believes that it was work of one of the most gifted litterateurs, V D Savarkar.

On the afternoon of January 30, pamphlets – allegedly printed in Amritsar – were distributed in Alwar, Rajsthan, announcing death of Gandhi. Gandhi was killed in the evening.

Digambar Badge, the bodyguard of Veer Savarkar turned approver; and his deposition was considered fit to hang two convicts. Tushar Gandhi claimed that, it is intriguing why the evidence he shared regarding Veer Savarkar was rejected by the Court. However, Justice Jivanlal Kapur came down harshly on Savarkar in his report, terming his acquittal purely technical.

And finally, he talked about the bogey that Gandhi forced Indian Government to give Rupees 55 Crore to Pakistan; and that he was the one responsible for the partition.

When Mountbatten came back with the proposal for partition, it was only Gandhi who opposed it. No organization, RSS and Hindu Mahasabha included, agitated against it. Nehru and Patel did not like the idea – but they accepted it as a “practical” step. Later Nehru confessed that he did not anticipate the terrible human cost that the partition entailed – and that only Gandhi saw it, but to no avail. Gandhi confided to Pyarelal that neither the leader who was like a son to him, nor the one who claimed to be his inheritor, was ready to listen to Gandhi’s counsel. They were in tearing hurry to get the power and overlooked the consequences that proved to be too bloody – only comparable to the holocaust.

Gandhi’s last fast was NOT for pressing Indian Government to give the promised Rs. 55 Crore to Pakistan. It was for peace. It is a fact that the newly born Indian nation was almost bent on renegading on it’s very first commitment as a sovereign nation. The brutal violence that erupted post partition had the whole country boiling with rage against Pakistan and the then Government did not want to be seen as Pakistan’s benefactor. But they also knew that not keeping the promise meant a huge loss of credibility for the new born country. Gandhi’s fast turned out to be a good excuse to do the right thing, but that also meant turning the ire of the nation towards Gandhi. Note that Gandhi DID NOT end his fast on this announcement. His fast was not for the 55 Crore – it was for peace.

And Godse claimed that Gandhi’s fast for giving money to Pakistan was the last straw.






Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

November 6, 2016 at 11:52 pm

Posted in History, India, Uncategorized

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My blogs – So far!

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[Updated on September 2, 2017.]

Latest blog on the Musical form Tarana.

My recent “professional” blogs on LinkedIn here:
Demystifying Continuous Performance Management
Life Lessons from Originals – a wonderful book by Adam Grant
Interviewing for Hiring: Nobel Laureate’s Advice
Leadership Learning
Self-healing Systems

A few personal blogs on education, society and stuff.
If you don’t see beauty, you are not seeing
Notes from a talk by K B Jinan, the activist, designer and disruptive educationist.
Geshe Dorji Damdul on Mindfulness:
HH Dalai Lama’s confidante’s take on mindfulness.
Remembering Dijkstra
My talk on some of the quotes by the eminent computer scientist Edsgar Dijkstra.
Turning Around Universities
My notes of a talk by Prof. Deepak Phatak on how MOOC can dramatically change the role of a traditional University.
Gen Y For Dummies
Had a good time attending the NASSCOM (Pune) session on Gen Y management.
The Loss of Innocence – The IIT, Then and Now
A typical IIT student was intelligent, unassuming, self made, studious and rooted well in the “local” ethos.
Mathematics for justice!
Can we divide something between people such that everyone is guaranteed to be satisfied?
Let’s Talk Dirty!
That’s right. I do want to talk about things dirty.
Watch Thyself!
What do I do when I see an accident?
Wages of Inequality – P. Sainath’s lecture in Pune
Will we ever stop wearing our ideologies on our sleeves and instead focus on the human side of the story?
Can we ever read History with an open mind?
As an 11 year old in the 9th grade, untouched by any “ism” and totally oblivious of the label p-secular …

And here are some personal musings!
Some Poetry recital (काव्यवाचन) on Soundcloud!
संदीप खरे अाणि वैभव जोशींच्या “इर्षाद” च्या निमीत्ताने

Sharad Joshi Interview
“I see a lot of parallels between the socialism of the first Prime Minister Nehru and the so-called development-politics of PM Narendra Modi.” Always insightful to know what this iconic leader has to say on the issues that confront us. (Translated from original Marathi.)
Uniqueness of Religious Regions of Maharashtra
Religious Geography of Maharashtra – now that’s one scary academic sounding topic!
Tale of Two Relocations
My experience of two relocations – first in the year 1993 to the USA and then in 2001 to India.
दोन स्थलांतरांची गोष्ट
“तुम्ही भारतात परत का आलात?”
बोलाचे साहित्य बोलाचेच विश्व, रंकाचे धन आणि रावांचे कवित्व ॥
विश्व मराठी साहित्य संमेलन!
आता तुम्हीच काळजी घ्यायला हवी…
A poem by Shankar Vaidya.
One year of JM – FC road one way plan
Serious issues needing urgent corrective measures. (August 20, 2010)
Was ist Mitaan bitte?

Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

February 22, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Uniqueness of Religious Regions of Maharashtra

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(Picture: downtoearth.org.in/)

(Picture: downtoearth.org.in/)

Religious Geography of Maharashtra – now that’s one scary academic sounding topic! But after I skimmed through a delightful note by Prof Anne Feldhaus, I decided to attend the talk and boy was it wonderful!  Here are my notes.  Disclaimer: I have paraphrased what I heard and I am no academician myself. 

As Prof. Suhas Palshikar spoke in Marathi about late Prof. Rajendra Vora, in whose memory the talk was organized, the sari clad elderly Caucasian American lady with snow white hair was seen nodding appreciatively.  A small disappointment then when Prof. Palshikar announced that Ms. Feldhaus would be speaking in English.

Ms. Feldhaus talked about six patterns that have created regions bound by common threads  of faith.  These patterns were stories, body images, goddess sisters, numbered sets, biography of saints and pilgrimage.

She narrated the story of the birth of river Karha.  Arjun and Nakula in search of water, toppled the kamandalu of a sage and thus was born the river Karha.  They  ran for their life with the sage in hot pursuit.  Whenever the sage would get close, they would throw a rice grain behind them.  The grain would turn in to a shiva-linga and the sage would stop in his tracks to worship it!  That explains the Shiva temples along the bank of Karha.  The villages around Karha, in a sense, signify a region defined by this story.

The Purush Sukta in Rigved uses the metaphor of human body to describe rivers.  Interestingly, eight locations of the river Godavari have been likened to eight angas – body parts – of a woman; from head to toe.

Then she talked about seven goddesses, the Malai sisters, who once in a year visit their maher, i.e. home of their parents, from seven different locations.  This religious event binds the eight locations.

Then there are these numbered locations – the ashta-vinayak, the 11 Maruti, the three and a half shakti-peeths and so on.  These sets too define a region.

The holy places of he Mahanubhav panth are all about the activities of their founder, Chakradhar Swami, and his guru.  The place where he slept, where he delivered his message – even where he went to the bathroom – are enshrined as holy places!

And the last, and the most significant, pattern that creates religious regions is the pilgrimage.  The wari of Pandharpur being the most significant example.

At this point, she came up with two key observations.

Some of the regions overlap geographically, but, interestingly, they don’t meet!  She cited Jejuri as an example.  It happens to be near Karha, the annual palakhi of Janai originates from there, the Morgao of ashta-vinayak is not too far, one of the Malai sisters belongs to this place and the Pandharpur pilgrimage passes through Jejuri.  However, folks who are passionately involved in one of the regions are often found to be completely oblivious to the other regions which exist there!

Her second observations was that, with one notable exception, none of these religious regions has metamorphosed into any administrative or political entity.  The glorious exception being the wari of Pandharpur which united the Marathi speaking folks not withstanding the cast and class differences.  She credited the wari with the creation of the state of Maharashtra.

Personally, it was a very different perspective for me, coming from  an American scholar  who has almost adopted Marathi as her language.  To know more about Anne, do read this immensely entertaining note she wrote for her colleagues at the Arizona State University.


Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

February 24, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Can we ever read History with an open mind?

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Sourced from Wikipedia.

As an 11 year old in the 9th grade, untouched by any “ism” and totally oblivious of the label p-secular, I remember stealing uncomfortable glances at my Muslim classmates when the history teacher was gleefully describing Shivaji Maharaj killing Afzal Khan.  Those memories came back vividly as I recently watched the play “Shivaji Underground in Bhimnagar Mohalla” where a Muslim character tells his friend how everyone in his class used to stare at his tummy when the story of Shivaji piercing Afzal Khan’s abdomen used to be narrated in the class.

Can we ever discuss History rationally – without getting emotional, without attempting to push things under the carpet lest someone may get hurt? Can we ever accept that the History we are studying may be one sided – and there could be another version, which may actually be factual?  These questions came to my mind recently when I stirred up hornet’s nest with a Facebook update where I claimed that there are people who believe that the British rule of India was a lesser evil than the Peshwa (read Brahmin) rule that it replaced in Maharashtra.  (BTW, it was Jotiba Phule who stated publicly that he preferred British to the Peshwa rule.)

As a follow up, I stated that there were barbaric practices like alive burial of shudras in the under construction walls of forts and palaces.  I added that such practices by the ruling elite (read – Brahmin and Maratha) instilled a deep hatred in the minds of the untouchables – which they harbor to this day! To make matters amply clear, I clarified that while one has to accept the facts – they should never get translated into animosity against the descendants of those who perpetrated the atrocities.

Some of my friends asked for the proof.  I had no ready access to the proof – but thanks to Wiki I pointed them to a page which stated with reasonable authenticity that indeed in medieval India, the practice of burying humans either dead or alive in the foundations of fort walls, to ensure their stability, was widely followed.  It was believed that the ghosts of those sacrificed as such would keep evil spirits away.  As a corollary, one shouldn’t be surprised if these humans, who were buried, happened to be from the most disadvantaged class of the society – namely shudras and ati-shudras. And it also goes without saying that the ruling classes of those times approved – or rather accepted – such practices.

Some friends felt that I was holding the Peshwa’s responsible for the practices that pre-dated them.  I in fact was citing that as an example of an atrocity that is used to foment hatred against the descendants of the perpetrators.   A parallel example is how some Hindu organizations incite hatred against Muslims for the Muslim kings’ vandalizing of Hindu temples.

What surprised me the most that a friend accused me of Brahmin bashing!  True, in Maharashtra there are rabid organizations that have expressed their aversion to anything Brahmin in the most vulgar fashion – but my statements were no where on those lines!  Sambhaji Brigade is one such rabid organization. They vandalized the famed Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), when many priceless historic manuscripts got destroyed. The reason? A western author, James Lane, had dared to mention a vulgar rumor about Shivaji’s lineage in his book, and he happened to have acknowledged help from  some of the researchers from BORI in the credits.

All said and done, the fact also remains that – take any era – the powers to be have always mutilated History to serve their own purpose – sacrificing facts to promote their own agenda.  Shivaji’s story, as it is taught in Maharashtra, is no exception.  People who believe that they know enough of Shivaji’s legacy, should care to take the following pop quiz!  Do tell me if you are not surprised looking at the answers given at the end of this post!

1. Who discovered Shivaji’s samadhi on the Raigad fort and also started practice of celebrating Shivaji’s birth anniversary?

2. Who were the most virulent adversaries of Shivaji Maharaj?

3. What makes Shivaji a truly visionary ruler – well ahead of his contemporaries anywhere in the world?

4. Was Shivaji a Kshatriya king?

5. How many  of Shivaji’s bodyguards were Muslims?

6. What percentage of Shivaji’s commanders were Muslims?

7. How did Shivaji treat the family of his adversary Afzal Khan’s after killing him?

8. Do you know where Shivaji’s sword is today?

Answers below!


1. Who discovered Shivaji’s samadhi on the Raigad fort and also started practice of celebrating Shivaji’s birth anniversary?
No – it was not Lokmanya Tilak.  Jotiba Phule discovered the samadhi (cremation memorialof Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on Raigad Fort which had disappeared in creepers and climbers.  He wrote “Shivajicha powada” an epic poem.  He started “Shiv Jayanti” (Birth day of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) first time in India.

2. Who were the most virulent adversaries of Shivaji Maharaj?
No – not the Mughals and Nijam, but the Maratha vatandars (ones who ruled small fiefdoms – and gave cess to the kings) who brutally exploited the farmers.

3. What makes Shivaji a truly visionary ruler – well ahead of his contemporaries anywhere in the world?
Here are some facts.  He was the first one to set up an “administrative system” to manage his kingdom and collect fair taxes.  In one of his edicts he asks his army to treat trees as children of the society and allows them to cut only the decrepit trees, that too when absolutely necessary and only after seeking permission from the owners. During his time the language of the administration used to be Farsi – which was not understood by the commoners.  Shivaji created the compendium of Marathi terms in governance and made Marathi the official language of his state.  He banned slave trade.

4. Was Shivaji a Kshatriya king?
No! He was the first Shudra king.  Both the local Marathas and Brahmin did not accept him as a true Kshatriya (warrior class).  He had to persuade a brahmin priest from Varanasi (with a lot of money!) to come down and coronate him as a king.

5. How many  of Shivaji’s bodyguards were Muslims?
Some 5 of his 11 bodyguars were Muslims.  The most notable was Madari Mehtar who sacrificed his life while helping Shivaji escape from Aurangzeb’s captivity in Agra.

6. What percentage of Shivaji’s commanders were Muslims?
Apparently some 20% to 30% of his commanders were Muslims.  It was the same with the Muslim rulers – about 20% of their loyal commanders were chaste Hindus.  Notable Muslims under Shivaji were Ibrahim Khan (head of artillery) and Daulat Khan (head of navy).  The dreaded Afzal Khan’s ambassador was a Marathi brahmin named Krishnaji Bhaskar Kulkarni – who was killed by Shivaji’s men.

7. How did Shivaji treat the family of his adversary Afzal Khan’s after killing him?
Shivaji not only allowed them to settle near Pratap Gad (where he killed Afzal Khan) but also arranged to send regular supplies from the Bhavani Devi temple for the upkeep of Afzal Khan’s tomb.

8. Do you know where Shivaji’s sword is today?
The ridiculous myth that the Goddess Bhavani bestowed her divine sword on Shivaji has been making rounds from time immemorial.  A blacksmith from Sawantwadi (in coastal Maharashtra) gifted a sword of Portuguese make to Shivaji – which he used as his personal sword.  This sword is kept in a museum in Satara.

How much did you score out of 8?

References: These two books are “must-read”s – and are principal references for this post.

  •  शिवाजी कोण होता – गोविंद पानसरे (Who was Shivaji by Govind Pansare)
  • छत्रपती शिवाजी महाराज जीवन रहस्य – नरहर कुरुंदकर (King Shivaji – Unraveling his life by Narhar Kurundkar)
  • Books by Govind Pansare and Narhar Kurundkar.
    Books by Govind Pansare and Narhar Kurundkar.

Written by Abhay Shivgounda Patil

January 18, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Posted in History, India, Shivaji