Contrary to popular belief, there were many failed attempts on the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Mahatma. Out of these attempts five are well documented and involve the Pune branch of the Hindu Mahasabha. Three of which also point to the involvement of Narayan Apte and Nathuram Godse.
The following text is based on the book Hatyakand (The Story of Gandhi’s Murder), a good work in Hindi giving a minute–by–minute account of the Gandhi murder trial.
The First Attempt: Bomb thrown at Pune
25th June 1934, Pune: During the Harijan Yatra in 1934, the Mahatma visited Pune. On 25th June he was to deliver a speech at the Corporation Auditorium. The Mahatma and Kasturba were travelling in a motorcade consisting of two similar cars. At one place en route the car in which the Gandhis were travelling was detained at a railway level crossing.
The first car arrived at the auditorium and the welcoming committee assumed that the Gandhis had arrived and stepped forward to welcome them. Just then a bomb was thrown at the car which exploded, grievously injuring the chief officer of the municipal corporation, two policeman and seven others.
The bomb was reportedly hurled by anti–Gandhi Hindu extremists as mentioned by Mahatma’s secretary Pyarelal in his book, The Last Phase, and by his biographer BG Tendulkar. Pyarelal has written: "This time their attempt was very well planned and executed to perfection…." Implying that the attempts before 25th June 1934 failed due to lack of planning and co–ordination. And also that the murderers were getting better with each attempt.
Pyarelal has said: "These people kept photographs of Gandhi, Nehru and other Congress leaders in their shoes. They were trained to shoot by using Gandhiji’s photograph as their target, these were the same people who later murdered the Mahatma while he was striving to bring peace to a riot ravaged Delhi, in 1948."
After the attack, speaking at the function to felicitate him, the Mahatma said: "It is sad that this happened while I am working for the uplift of the Harijans. I have no desire for martyrdom as yet, but if it is to happen I am prepared to face it. But in trying to kill me why are they inconsiderate to the innocents who are likely to be killed or injured along with me? My wife and three young girls who are like daughters to me were travelling in the car with me. How have they angered you?"
The attacker escaped and there is no record of investigations or arrests. This was the first documented attempt in India on the life of the Mahatma. Many historians have alleged that this was the work of the Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte gang. This gang was involved in several other bomb attacks on other opponents of their Hindutva and dominance of the upper caste ideology.
First published on Communalism Combat, October 2000