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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

With Godse at the centre

The unseemly clamour is a portent.

Written by Inder Malhotra | Published: December 31, 2014 12:11:57 am
Mahatma Gandhi, gandhi assassination “Nothing could have been more despicable than the campaign of the Hindu Mahasabha to glorify the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi.”

Since the advent of the Narendra Modi sarkar, there have been a spate of hate statements and potentially disastrous demands such as that for “ghar wapsi” or reconversion of Hindus converted to Islam or Christianity over centuries. This issue cannot be treated as inconsequential because no less a person than the supreme leader of the RSS, who is also the “karta” of the sprawling Sangh Parivar, Mohan Bhagwat, has endorsed it. In West Bengal, there has been a constant exchange of foul abuse between the TMC, ruling in the state, and the BJP, ruling at the Centre. A TMC MP went so far as to threaten to unleash his henchmen and goons to “rape” the women in the families of those attacking his party. Now the two sides are threatening to cut off the hands of each other’s workers.

However, nothing could have been more despicable than the campaign of the Hindu Mahasabha to glorify the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi. It must be mentioned that the first statement hailing Nathuram Godse as a “patriot” had come from a senior BJP MP, Sakshi Maharaj. As a result of the prime minister’s private advice or directive to him, he withdrew his statement and declared that he no longer thought that Godse was a patriot. Yet nothing deterred the Hindu Mahasabha from demanding the construction of Godse temples and installation of his statues across the country. To this folly, it added a new doctrine on conversions. Since the reconversion of Muslims to Hinduism would lead to “genetic abnormalities”, said a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, Muslims “should be packed off to Pakistan”. Why Pakistan would accept such a huge exodus from this country or what the international community would think of India’s expulsion of 13 per cent of its population seems to be of no concern to Godse’s bhakts.

What happened during a debate on the subject on a TV news channel was abominable beyond words. The Hindu Mahasabha’s national general secretary, Acharya Madan, justified the Mahatma’s murder by Godse. He argued that “killing for a cause” was no crime, and that patriotic Godse had a just cause. The anchor asked him whether his unacceptable behaviour could give others the right to strangulate him. He ducked the question but went on pontificating that “Mr Gandhi” was responsible for the death of “10 lakh Hindus”. This was the result of Partition, for which the responsibility was “Mr Gandhi’s”. The Hindu Mahasabha spokesman went on to say that, unfortunately, there was no law under which “Mr Gandhi” could be brought to book. So Godse did what he had to. There was not an iota of support for the Hindu Mahasabha’s position during the TV debate but it is scandalous beyond measure that so little notice was taken of the vile words against the father of the nation and so much praise heaped on his murderer. Both government and Opposition parties have been equally neglectful in this respect.

Last week, the Hindu Mahasabha held a bhoomi pujan ceremony for the construction of a temple dedicated to Godse in the Meerut district of Uttar Pradesh. But the matter came to light only on Christmas (sorry, Good Governance!) Day. The Samajwadi Party government in Lucknow has ordered an inquiry into the whole affair. According to the acting district magistrate of Meerut, Navneet Singh Chahal, the administration has taken “serious note” of the incident and ordered the police officer in charge of the area to register a case and pursue it vigorously. Some of those present at the earth-breaking ceremony have reported that the general secretary of the party was critical of Modi for having done nothing about building the Ram Temple or to repeal Article 370. The worthy seems unaware that the BJP, keen to be part of the new government in the sensitive state, or even to head it, has to tread softly on this emotive issue.

It is needless to add that this is by no means all. Things are becoming more controversial and tense in Maharashtra as well. Hindu Mahasabha activists there have made a documentary called Desh Bhakt Nathuram Godse (Patriot Nathuram Godse), which is scheduled for release on January 30, the Mahatma’s death anniversary. But a Pune court is hearing a civil suit demanding a ban on it. Years ago, a play praising Godse was banned. To allow the new film to be shown is bound to create great tension and trouble.

The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator.
express@expressindia.com

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