Gandhi and Godse: Conflicting Nationalism

Ram Puniyani

(9 October 2001)

The play by Pradeep Dalvi, Mee Nathuram Godse Boltoy, (This is Nathuram
Godse Speaking), was banned by Maharashtra Govt. three years ago on the
grounds that this play is likely to hurt the sentiments of the followers
of Mahatma. In a recent order the court has lifted the ban on the plea
that the ban is an infringement of the rights of expression of the writer.
The judgment is a welcome one but the play needs to be evaluated from
political angle also.
This play distorts the History, and that too the one of such a recent
time. In just fifty years the contributions of Mahatma are sidelined,
forgotten and the RSS creed, who were opposed to the secular Nationalism,
to the Freedom movement, make Godse appear to be the Hero and Mahatma, the
one who led the freedom movement, as the one who was in the wrong. Though
for electoral purposes even the organizations like RSS, where Godse got
his training, disown him and he is projected to be an individual, not
related to the Hindutva family, which is a lie.
After Gandhi's murder by Godse, some of he leaders of Hindu Mahasabha,
including Savarkar, who was let off for the lack of sufficient evidence,
were also accused of conspiring in the murder. RSS, the other Hindutva
twin staunchly denied any affiliation with the killer of Gandhi. In a way
the Gandhi murder was product of intolerance of Hindutva politics to the
Liberal and progressive values of Secular Nationalism, which Gandhi
The followers of RSS and Hindu Mahasabha remained aloof from freedom
struggle and at all crucial times collaborated with British. The votaries
of Hindu Rashtra were divided into Hindu Mahasabha (HM), which was more
interested in the immediate participation in politics as the flag bearers
of Hindu communal politics, and the RSS, which was concentrating on making
a network of 'cadres'. Both these denominations of Hindutva politics had
the common goal of Hindu Rashtra. Their goals were common, their social
base was common, their key texts were common, but their methods differed.
Nathuram Godse, killer of Mahatma 'uniquely' symbolized the fusion of both
these trends.
After the murder of Mahatma, the official RSS line had been that we have
nothing to do with Godse, neither is he a member of RSS. They could get
away with this as there was no official record of members of RSS, and they
could disown Godse at 'legal' level. In 1930, Godse joined RSS and very
soon rose to be the bauddhik pracharak (intellectual propagator), Like
both HM & RSS he was ardent supporter of Akhand Bharat, undivided Hindu
India, comprising of today's Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar. "Having worked
for the uplift of the Hindus I felt it necessary to take part in political
activities of the country for the protection of just rights of Hindus. I
therefore left the Sangh (RSS, added) and joined Hindu Mahasabha (Godse,
'Why I Assassinated Mahatma Gandhi' 1993, Pg. 102).
As an ardent Hindutvawadi he was extremely critical of Gandhi's ahimsa
(non-violence), the movements led by him, and thought very lowly of him.
Godse uses very peculiar scales to assess Gandhi, "His followers cannot
see what is clear even to the blind viz. that Gandhi was a mere pigmy
before Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Govind (ibid Pg. 40) and finally
about the winning of swaraj and freedom "I maintain the Mahatma's
contribution was negligible." (Ibid. pg. 87) He held Mahatma responsible
for appeasing Muslims, and thereby the formation of Pakistan. He joined
HM (Hindu Mahasabha), at that time the only political party of Hindutva,
and became general secretary of its Pune Branch. In due course he started
a newspaper, as founder editor, called Agrani, its subtitle was Hindu
Rashtra. The subtitle of this paper expressed the goal of this paper.
Jagan Phadnis in His book 'Mahatmyachi Akher'(The End of Mahatma)
(Lokvangymay Griha, 1994) argues that Gandhi murder was not on the charges
propagated by them (Partition and insistence on paying Pakistan's dues,55
crores, from the treasury), but due to the basic deep differences with the
politics of Gandhi and that of the followers of the Hindu Rashtra. He also
recalls that number of attempts was made on Gandhi's life, the last of
which, the one by Godse was 'successful' in eliminating the 'thorn in the
flesh' of Hindutva politics. These two reasons are proffered merely as a
pretext for the same.
In an interview '(TOI, 25 Jan 98) his brother Gopal Godse, who was also an
accomplice in the murder elaborates the apparent reasons and about
Nathuram's RSS membership. "The appeasement policy followed by him and
imposed on all Congress governments' encouraged the Muslim separatist
tendencies that eventually created Pakistan. Technically and theoretically
he (Nathuram) was a member (of RSS), but he stopped workings for it later.
His statement in the court that he had left the RSS was to protect the RSS
workers who would be imprisoned following the murder. On the understanding
that they (RSS workers) would benefit from his dissociating himself from
the RSS, he gladly did it."
This murder was steeped in both the streams of Hindutva politics, RSS and
HM. His editing the paper called, 'Hindu Rashtra was quite symbolic.
This murder had a broad sanction of the followers of HM and RSS, as they
celebrated Mahatma's murder by distributing sweets, "All their (RSS)
leaders' speeches were full of communal poison. As a final result, the
poisonous atmosphere was created in which such a ghastly tragedy
(Gandhi's murder) became possible. RSS men expressed their joy and
distributed sweets after Gandhi's death." (Excerpts from Sardar Patel's
letters to M S Golwalkar and S P Mookerjee. Outlook, April 27, 1998). In
a way Godse was no freak. The way Hindu communalists were spewing poison
against Gandhi, it was logical outcome of their politics. And Godse had
the 'benefit' of the teachings of both RSS as well as HM to be the ideal
person to execute the job. They used the word wadh for this murder, which
stands for killing a demon who is harming the society. In a way Gandhi
murder was the first major offensive of the Hindutva politics on Indian
Secular Nationalism, in a way it was to herald the onset of bigger strides
which Hindutva politics was to a assume in times to come.
Though officially Sangh Parivar dissociates from Gandhi's murder by Godse,
in private many a members not only uphold the dastardly act, but also have
even succeeded in undermining the importance of Mahatma and 'sympathize'
with Godse. This complex trick can be achieved only by a multi-headed
organization, capable of talking with different tongues at the same
It is unfortunate that such a recent history, as this one, can be doctored
to suit the interests of communal politics. Here the question is how does
one present the correct picture in the times when the distortion of
history, past and recent, is the major agenda of the Govt. led by BJP and
the education Dept. being headed by a RSS Swayamsevak, Dr. Murli Manohar
Joshi. The question is not just of such vicious plays being produced and
being staged but also of the threat of communal Nationalism trying to
eclipse the secular nationalism, which stands for the values of Liberty,
Equality and Fraternity.

(Writer works with EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity,Mumbai)

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