Mohan Bhagwat has rediscovered Mahatma Gandhi. In an article on October 2, he called him the brightest leader that India’s freedom struggle had produced. But, he did not rebuke the BJP and the RSS leaders who unleashed their diatribes against Gandhi.
The “saint” who declared Godse to be a true patriot, is a member of Parliament from the BJP. It may surprise some that Bhagwat chose to wax lyrical about Gandhi on his 150th birthday, but did not defend him on any of those occasions.
This is a textbook example of how the RSS works; they can’t bury Gandhi’s ideas, hence they must appropriate them to their end. One can say anything that serves its purpose as long as it is loaded with force and vigour. We have seen them paint the legacies of Sardar Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh in saffron. Now they brandish that brush at the Mahatma, marking the political-ideological contradictions of our times all too clearly.
Bhagwat claims that K B Hedgewar was one of those who spoke at a rally in Nagpur organised in protest of Gandhi’s arrest in 1922. However, he wouldn’t reveal why Hedgewar left the Congress soon after. He wouldn’t allude to the ideological transformation that led the speaker at a Congress rally in 1922 to become the founder of RSS in 1925. This shift reflects the chasm between the ideals of Indian national movement and Hindu fundamentalism.
The roots of Godse’s hatred against Gandhiji cannot be traced elsewhere. Gandhiji stood for harmony and unity between Muslims and Hindus. It was the entrenched hatred for Muslims that led Hedgewar to embrace fascism in the way it was propounded by Benito Mussolini. How can anyone draw parallels between this and Gandhian vision? Can Bhagwat or anyone else prove that Gandhiji harboured any sympathy towards the Sangh’s hatred for Muslims?
M S Golwalkar codified the thoughts that underpinned the Sangh’s ideology. His perspectives are espoused in his books We or Our Nationhood Defined and Bunch of Thoughts. He deals with India’s enemies: Muslims, Christians and Communists, in that order. The similarity of this list with Hitler’s list of enemies, as noted in Mein Kampf, is strking: Jews, Christians and Communists in that order. Bhagwat might not like to mention these now.
Instead, he writes of Gandhiji’s visit to Sangh Shala in Delhi during partition and the reports that appeared in this respect in Harijan on Septemer 27, 1947. To portray it as Gandhiji’s patronage of communalism as opposed to his desperate cry to put an end to the bloodshed in those moments of despair is appalling.
Gandhi’s murder was not an outcome of a madman’s sudden provocation. Godse undertook preparations that spanned several months. During the trial, he narrated the groundwork that preceded the killing. Whether Godse was a member of RSS at the time of firing his pistol is nothing but a technical detail. He had always maintained that he had nothing personal against Gandhiji. Yet, he was convinced that every day Gandhiji remained alive was an affront to Hindu dignity. The murder was as much political as it was heinous.
At the time of his crime, Godse was still the editor of the mouthpiece of Hindu Mahasabha. Gopal Godse, Nathuram’s brother had emphasised the Sangh’s influence over their lives. They spent longer hours at the RSS office. Hatred for Muslims was inculcated in them in those formative years. Gandhiji led a war against such hatred. That is why in Godse’s eyes Gandhi became unfit to live.
Let us not take our eyes off from the bunch of thoughts that fuel atrocities in the name of citizenship and Article 370, that allow cow vigilantes to lynch citizens or violent men to kill Dalit children for defecating in the open, that systemically degrade Dalits and Muslims. Let us not forget how it propelled the bullets that took Gandhiji’s life then, and the lives of Govind Pansare, Narendra Dhabolkar, M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh now.
The writer is Rajya Sabha MP from the Communist Party of India
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