Gandhiji’s assassination on 30 Jan 1948 merits to be the first terrorist act and political murder of independent India. This year, we are facing 30 Jan in the backdrop of multi-pronged communal frenzy, resurgent moves to legitimise Gandhiji’s assassin by building Godse temples with calibrated indulgence by those in power. BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj’s statement calling Godse a ‘patriot’ obviously did not come from the blue. But, given the stature of Gandhi in popular imagination, BJP had to officially ‘distance’ itself and Sakshi too ‘retracted’ as a formality.
Unmistakably, RSS-BJP is leveraging its power at the Centre for a calculated double-game, all geared to its core ideological agenda of crafting a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. On the one hand, politics of assassination of Gandhi is being legitimised by the saffron leaders/cadres on the ground with the implicit assurance that the govt will not act against them. On the other hand, image of Gandhi is being used as mascot of a govt programme – a crafty ploy that is intended to capitalise on the public stature of Gandhi, while at the same time recasting Gandhi in popular imagination as merely a mascot for ‘Swachhata Bharat/Clean India’ , thus cleansing Gandhi himself of his anti-communalism, syncretism and non-violence!
And now, the cat is out of the bag, with Modi Sarkar first covertly omitting the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ from the Preamble of the Constitution in the Republic day ad, and then its leaders- including the Union Minister of Communication and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad openly calling for a ‘debate’ on these words in the Constitution!!! In the present phase of attacks on secular fabric of our polity talking about the deeper causes of Gandhi’s assassination will remain relevant till the attacks on secular democratic values continue to hover on the country.
We reproduce below two excerpts from the insightful articles by noted Journalist Bharat Bhushan and thinker Ram Punyani on the politics of assassination and appropriation of Gandhi
Why Narendra Modi needs both ‘Mohanlal’ and Mohan Bhagwat (by Bharat Bhushan Business Standard Oct 9, 2014)
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed his favourite constituency of non-resident Indians, promising them an India of “their dreams”, he asked them rhetorically: Gandhi gave us freedom, but what did we give him in return? A wag remarked on Twitter: “Sanghis gave him a single bullet”. Actually, it was three – Nathuram Godse touched Gandhi’s feet before shooting him three times. Although the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has always denied any responsibility for the assassination of Gandhi, there is no doubt that the conspirators were Hindutva ideologues.
Gandhi has never really been owned by the RSS. Many in the RSS will even question why he is referred to as the Father of the Nation, because for them the idea of India precedes Gandhi by thousands of years. It is surprising, therefore, to see Modi, once an RSS-pracharak (proselytizer), invoking Gandhi repeatedly, most recently on his birthday, re-designated, Swachhta Diwas.
Modi has not engaged deeply with Gandhi’s thought. He did not even care to get his name right. The Madison Square Garden speech was the second time Modi called Gandhi “Mohanlal”. That he is no true acolyte of Gandhi was evident from the fact that he reinforced the stereotype of the lower castes being unclean by choosing to wield a broom in Valmiki Colony (Valmiki is a “scavenger” caste)…. The moment one frames the issue as one of Modi sweeping with a broom and Gandhi as the metaphor, the mental framework and the methodology of understanding, discussing and making choices about public health and the issues of the citizenship are short-circuited. As Modi’s personality gets a brand rub-off from Gandhi, perhaps India does not become significantly cleaner or healthier, or even attentive to the link between caste and manual scavenging, which Gandhi wanted to highlight in his campaign for “cleanliness”…
Resurgence of Godse – Ram Punyani (31 Dec 2014)
During last many decades most Hindu nationalists have kept the appreciation of their hero, Nathuram Godse under wraps. With the new dispensation coming to power (Modi Sarkar, May, 2014), it seems these acts are being silently appreciated by those in power. This inference is logical as none in the positions of power have either reprimanded or opposed these Godse acolytes.
The latest in the series of acts-statements by this Godse appreciation club is the bhumi pujan by Hindu Mahasabha for Godse temple in Meerut (Dec 25 2014). The activists of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha are all set to build the country’s first temple for murderer of Mahatma Gandhi in Meerut. There are several demands from the Hindu Mahasabha offices to install his statues. The Hindu Mahasabha has requested land from the Centre to erect a statue of Godse in the national capital. The paperback issue of Godse’s book is already running into second reprint.
The BJP MP Sakhshi Maharaj recently called Godse as Nationalist; of course he retracted it soon; apparently to ensure that the ruling party, BJP, is not embarrassed on the issue. At the same time, BJP’s parent organization RSS has come out with two books meant for internal circulation. These books claim to ensure that RSS viewpoint is reached to its Pracharaks, swayamsevaks. These books are RSS-Ek Parichay (RSS-an introduction) and RSS-Ek Saral Parichay (RSS-a simple introduction), the second of which is written by veteran RSS member MG Vaidya. Essentially these books aim to dissociate RSS from Godse.
What is the relationship between Godse and RSS? Was he part of RSS and later left it or was he part of it and also joined Hindu Mahasabha in mid 1930s? As far as the official line is concerned RSS has tried to keep its slate clean by stating that it had nothing to do with Godse and he was not a member of RSS when he killed Mahatma Gandhi. Just to recall, in early 1998 Professor Rajendra Singh, the then RSS chief, had stated “Godse was motivated by akhand Bharat. His intention was good but he used the wrong method.” (April 27 1998, Outlook)
How do we understand the whole issue? The major backdrop to understand the issue is to see the politics of Hindu nationalism as expressed through Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. These organizations remained aloof from freedom struggle. Hindu Mahasabha (HM), was more interested in the immediate participation in politics, as the flag bearers of Hindu communal politics, and the RSS wanted to concentrate on making a network of ‘cadres’ before forming organizations and infiltrating into different arena of education, culture, electoral politics and state apparatus. There was a lot of overlap in the agenda of these organizations as they were both working for the common goal of Hindu Nation. Nathuram Godse, ‘uniquely’ symbolized the fusion of both these two trends.
RSS could get away with dissociating with Godse or rather underplaying Godse’s association with RSS as there was no official record of members of RSS, and so they could disown Godse at legal level. In 1930 Godse joined RSS and very soon rose to be the bauddhik pracharak (intellectual propagator). Like both HM & RSS he was ardent Hindu Nationalist.
Gandhi kept religion as personal matter and projected overarching Indian identity for all. This was what annoyed the HM-RSS combine, as they wanted only Hindus to be recognized as Indians. Godse’s assessment of nationalism of Gandhi is expressed in a way which identifies nationalism with Hindu kings. He used very peculiar parameters to assess Gandhi, “His (Gandhi’s, added) followers cannot see what is clear even to the blind viz. that Gandhi was a mere pigmy before Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Govind (ibid Pg. 40, Why I assassinated Gandhi?) and finally about the winning of swaraj and freedom I maintain the Mahatma’s contribution was negligible.” (Ibid. pg. 87)
He held Mahatma responsible for appeasing Muslims, and thereby the formation of Pakistan. About his association with RSS and Hindu Mahasabha, he writes, “Having worked for the uplift of the Hindus I felt it necessary to take part in political activities of the country for the protection of just rights of Hindus. I therefore left the Sangh and joined Hindu Mahasabha. (Godse, ‘Why I Assassinated Mahatma Gandhi’ 1993, Pg. 102).
As such Gandhi murder was not on the charges propagated by them (Partition and insistence on paying Pakistan’s dues (55 crore) from the treasury), but due to the basic deep differences with the politics of Gandhi and that of the followers of the Hindu Rashtra. These two reasons are proffered merely as a pretext for the same.
What does Godse mean when he says that he left RSS? Is it true? This truth behind Nathuram’s leaving RSS, is clarified by his brother Gopal Godse. In an interview given to ‘The Times of India’ (25 Jan 98); Gopal Godse, who was also an accomplice in the murder tells us the reality behind Nathuram’s statement that ‘he left RSS’. Gopal Godse says “The appeasement policy followed by him (Gandhi, added) and imposed on all Congress governments’ encouraged the Muslim separatist tendencies that eventually created Pakistan…Technically and theoretically he (Nathuram) was a member (of RSS), but he stopped workings for it later. His statement in the court that he had left the RSS was to protect the RSS workers who would be imprisoned following the murder. On the understanding that they (RSS workers) would benefit from his dissociating himself from the RSS, he gladly did it.”
So this is the logic of Godse saying that he ‘left’ RSS. The dual membership (RSS+Hindu Mahasabha) was not a problem. Thus the murder of Gandhi was steeped in both the streams of Hindutva politics, RSS and HM. His editing the paper called, ‘Hindu Rashtra was quite symbolic. This murder had a broad sanction of the followers of HM and RSS, as they celebrated Mahatma’s murder by distributing sweets, “All their (RSS) leaders’ speeches were full of communal poison. As a final result, the poisonous atmosphere was created in which such a ghastly tragedy (Gandhi’s murder) became possible. RSS men expressed their joy and distributed sweets after Gandhi’s death.” (excerpt from Sardar Patel’s letters to M S Golwalkar and S P Mookerjee.). Godse was no freak. The way Hindu communalists were spewing poison against Gandhi, it was the logical outcome of their politics. And Godse had the ‘benefit’ of the teachings of both RSS as well as HM. They used the word ‘wadh’ for this murder. This word wadh stands for killing a demon who is harming the society.
So though officially RSS family kept dissociating from Gandhi’s murder by Godse, in private many members not only uphold the dastardly act, but also have even succeeded in undermining the importance of Mahatma and they do ‘sympathize’ with Godse. This complex trick kept going on so far. Now with Modi Sarkar there is no need to hide the true ideology and thinking of this combine and so the open efforts to glorify Godse!