“Just an old man in a loincloth in distant India: Yet when he died, humanity wept.”
Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead at about 5:12 PM at Birla House in Delhi on 30th January, 1948. He was 78, followed the views of Ahinsa and lead a country of 36 crore people to freedom without a shot fired. He made the world sit up and take notice, shook an empire and changed the world.
His assassin, Nathuram Vinayak Godse, was a Hindu Nationalist, active member of the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, staunch believer in the idea of Hindutva nation and involved in three out of four assassination attempts made on Gandhi. Amongst his many reasons given for killing the father of the nation, he admitted to being against his form of politics and his “tactic of fast unto death”.
In the case before us, we have Rahul Gandhi, Vice President of the Indian National Congress, on the stand for his statement that the RSS killed Gandhi. The statement, made in a rally in Bhiwandi, Maharashtra in 2014 – “RSS people killed Gandhiji. They opposed Sardar Patel and Gandhiji”, caught the ire of the Hindutva organisation, whose members had filed a defamation suit in a Maharashtra court. While RaGa had tried to quash the case at the early stage, the court dismissed his petition but granted him time to appeal before the Supreme Court for the same. The Supreme Court, in its order on Tuesday, has allowed the case to progress when Rahul refused to apologise for his statement.
The case has come up at a very crucial time with Punjab elections around the corner and image of BJP taking a lashing for its close ties with the RSS and other Hindutva centric organisation. While Prime Minister Modi may not be named with regards to the on-going case and its speculated effects on national politics, it’s safe to say he would be (at the least) interested in how this particular storm plays out.
This comes in with the slow attempts of rehabilitating Godse’s image in the nation as a patriot, with the RSS requesting the Prime Minister to install the bust of Godse and the attempted release of a documentary named “Desh Bhakt Nathuram Godse” on the death anniversary of the Mahatma on 30th January, 2015. There have been talks of constructing a temple for Godse in Sitapur district of UP and of declaring 30th January as “Shaurya Diwas” (bravery day). At present, it is reported to be celebrated on the death anniversary of Godse. He was hung to death, being found guilty of murder of M.K. Gandhi, on 15th November, 1949.
What the average person can’t help but ask is when did the person, who killed the father of the nation and changed the world with his idea of non-violent protest, became a patriot? Some have also raised disturbing questions on the silence of the armed forces, which have popularly been associated with towering figure of non-violence.
The final word on this, even though over half a century has passed since he last spoke, can only be Godse’s in this matter, when asked why he carried out the assassination –
“To secure the freedom and to safeguard the just interests of some thirty crores (300 million) of Hindus would automatically constitute the freedom and well-being of all India, one fifth of the human race.”
Ranveer Raj Bhatnagar