What Really Happened After Mahatma Gandhi Died?

Mahatma Gandhi was in many ways the inciting factor that led to Indian independence from Britain. The British raj had existed since 1858 when the territory then under the control of the British East India Company was nationalized and placed under the authority of the monarchy (via Britannica). British rule and Indian opposition were often characterized by mutually extreme brutality in the 1800s, and even when violence died down, there were still humanitarian disasters like the Bengal famine of 1943

Against this backdrop, there were figures in India who sought to end foreign rule. While some — like Subhas Chandra Bose — attempted to foster militaristic ties with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan during World War II to this end, others like Mahatma Gandhi encouraged a non-violent approach in dealing with British authority. Indeed, the latter method was what propelled the nation toward liberation in 1947. But though Gandhi did live to see the British finally leave, he was not in favor of India's Muslims being separated via the creation of Pakistan, and because of these sympathies, he was shot by Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse in 1948 (via History).

Gandhi's death led to national sorrow and bloody riots

Immediately after Gandhi's assassination, bystanders began to attack Nathuram Godse and beat him with whatever they had on hand until he was arrested (via Brittanica). Unfortunately, the frenzy prevented any emergency services from being called on to help Gandhi, who died from his wounds. Despite the obvious tension between the two regions, King George VI was among the world leaders who gave their condolences for the 78-year old's death (via The Guardian). On the day of Gandhi's funeral, around 1 to 2 million people were in attendance to mourn.

Still, the public was far more vengeful when it came to the assassin, who was executed the following year. His then-imprisonment did not satiate the masses, who wanted more blood (ironically, in direct contrast to Gandhi's worldview). As Godse was a Brahmin, the highest class of India's caste system, its members were attacked on increasingly massive scales across the country (via History Today). Thousands are believed to have been killed and assaulted in the ensuing chaos, while many more were forced to flee their homes.