With the Hindu Mahasabha’s move to observe November 15 as “balidan diwas” — the date Nathuram Godse was hanged in Ambala jail in 1949 for Gandhi’s assassination, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) has had to distance itself once again from Godse. The Hindu Mahasabha called the RSS a ‘traitor’ for criticising its decision to commemorate November 15.
There’s nothing new here: since Gandhi’s assassination, the RSS has had to clarify again and again that Godse did not have any links with the RSS.
Recently, MG Vaidya, one of the RSS stalwarts, said that Godse was a murderer and that by killing Gandhi, he had insulted Hindutva.
Its opponents have always attacked the RSS by calling it “Gandhi’s killers”. Last week, Vaidya categorically said, “I am against honoring and giving respect to Nathuram Godse. He is a murderer. The fight of thoughts should be fought with thoughts only. Some people think that by doing so (killing Gandhi), they have encouraged Hindutva, but that is wrong. In fact, they have insulted Hindutva. I think it was evil to kill Gandhiji who was such a respected figure in India.”
Nagpur based Dileep Deodhar, who has authored several books on the RSS, says the organisation has only itself to blame for being identified with Godse: “The problem with the RSS has been that it never criticised fanatic Hindu elements like those of the Hindu Mahasabha the way it needed to and for that it has been paying the price and it will have to pay the price in coming days as well.”
Till 1937 many people in Maharashtra were connected with three prominent organizations – that is, the Congress, the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS.
However, after 1937, a clear dividing line developed between the Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha. As the RSS continued to grow in those years, Hindu Mahasabha leaders would criticise it but RSS founder Dr Hedgewar never criticised the Hindu Mahasabha in return, in his attempt to consolidate Hindus.
In 1951, leaders like Syama Prasad Mukherjee migrated from the Hindu Mahasabha to establish the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (the earlier version of BJP). In those days, it was quite common for Bharatiya Jan Sangh and swayamsewaks in the RSS to have roots in the Hindu Mahasabha. So there have been close links between the two organisations even as differ in their approach to Godse.