Given the audacity with which our history is being rewritten and re-imagined, we should not be surprised to learn in the not-too-distant future that the “chatur baniya”, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was actually a devout pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh who was killed by a fanatic Muslim.
Soon after Narendra Modi became prime minister, Gandhi was given charge of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Virtually reduced to the status of a Super Sanitary Inspector, the Mahatma’s job was to ensure clean streets; never mind the muck in the minds. We must thank the BJP general secretary, Ram Madhav, for putting Gandhi back on a pedestal. From Madhav’s learned treatise (‘Coming full circle at 70’, IE, August 15) we learn that unlike Jawaharlal Nehru whose mind was infected with the “coloniser’s view”, Gandhi was infused with “the genius of our country which is rooted in its religio-social structures like state, family, caste, guru, festival”.
According to this version of modern Indian history, Nehru and his Congress took India down the wrong road for decades but fortunately, happy days are here again. India has a president, vice president and PM all of whom are from “the same ideological fraternity”, all in tune with India’s “native wisdom”, all from the “Conservative Right”. Gandhi, we are told, belongs to the same fraternity. How? Because: “Gandhi always spoke in his discourses and dissertations about Ram Rajya”.
Hitler’s master propagandist Joseph Goebbels said: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it”. Perhaps we will all one day buy the Big Lie that Gandhi was an RSS man. But for now, could Madhav and the Sangh Parivar kindly take a few questions: Gandhi repeatedly said: “Let no one commit the mistake of thinking that Ram Rajya means a rule of Hindus. My Ram is another name for Khuda or God. I want Khuda Raj which is the same thing as the Kingdom of God on Earth.” Is Gandhi’s “Ram Rajya” the same as the “Hindu Rashtra” ideal of the Sangh Parivar?
If yes, why did Nathuram Godse, an RSS-Hindu Mahasabha creation, assassinate Gandhi? And why did the RSS, according to the then Home Minister Vallabhbhai Patel, distribute sweets to celebrate the murder? Had he been around today, how would Gandhi have responded to Hindutva’s lynch mobs repeatedly targeting Muslims and Dalits in the name of the holy cow? And what might the Mahatma have said about the lip service, at best, of the PM in response to this continuing majoritarian onslaught?
Even as the Sangh Parivar is doing all it can to claim Gandhi, its hostility to Nehru remains undiminished. This is so, Madhav tells us, because Nehru was a “liberal” while the “genius of India”, like America, tilts towards the “Conservative Right”. The RSS ideologue approvingly quotes a book which describes America as “essentially a nation with a conservative ethos”, a nation where even the Democrats are “liberals in name only”.
India and America: Same, same?
The US is not my idea of heaven on earth and Donald Trump is certainly not my hero. But there’s a strong message that conservative America recently sent out to the world, a message India’s “Conservative Right” can learn from.
When neo-Nazis and white supremacists turned violent against peaceful counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month, Trump initially blamed “many sides”. But “conservative” Americans were so outraged by the misdeeds of the extremists that speaking in one voice, politicians — including top Republicans — corporate big guns, the media and ordinary citizens slammed their president, shamed him into changing his tune within 48 hours.
This is what US conservatives pushed the right-wing, Republican Trump into saying: “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and other hate groups… We will spare no resource in fighting so that every American child can grow up free from violence and fear”.
Sounds good: Freedom from violence and fear. In an India plagued by lynch mobs and acute Islamophobia, when did we hear the Sangh Parivar, its incumbent president, vice-president, prime minister, speak such language? Should India’s “Conservative Right” not be ashamed at its own silence, if not complicity, over the recurring ugly spectacles and yet claim fraternity with Gandhi and affinity with America’s “conservative ethos”?