Godse: Mahatma Gandhi's Killer Evokes Respect and Admiration in Present Day India
In 1947, the British lost their brightest jewel. At that time the British were not sure of the support of the Indian Armed Forces. The forces had helped them rule the subcontinent. Mutinies at Bombay and Karachi convinced the Attlee government that the time had come to leave India. They were also reduced to almost a pauper status after the war with Hitler. They had no choice but to enact the Indian Independence act. As a parting gift, British divided India into two nations. The British attended to the dreams of two Indian politicians Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru who both wanted to be prime minister of India and divided the country.
Mohandas Gandhi claimed to represent all sections of Indian society including the lower castes. Unfortunately, Gandhi could not get the admiration of the Muslims and the lower caste Hindus.
The Dalits( Lower castes and untouchables) felt that Gandhi befriended the rich industrialists and he never did much for the oppressed castes in India. Gandhi's earlier writings where he supported the Varna system are proof enough if required.
After the Independence Act, was passed in 1946, the British decided to wash their hands of India, wide-scale rioting broke out in the country.
This was confined to the Punjab, where communal riots broke out. Gandhi proved to be an ineffective leader and many Hindus felt that partition was because of his weakness. Many also felt he had compromised the Indian nation by agreeing to pander to Muslims. Gandhi had been trying to win over the Muslims for a long time as can be seen that earlier he supported the Khilafat movement which even Jinnah did not support.
The other protagonist in this drama is Nathuram Godse. He was a Maharashtrian higher caste Hindu. He was a member of the Hindu Mahasabha. He had helped in the translation of one of the books of Veer Savarkar into English from Marathi. He had his concept of nationalism and believed in an 'Akhand Bharat'( One India). He also believed in Hindutva and in 1946 with rioting all around and Gandhi showing his partisan attitude by not going to the Punjab where all the killings were going on, decided with a group of conspirators to kill Gandhi.
Gandhi was shot dead by Godse on 30 January 1948. He was tried by the Punjab High Court and sentenced to death and hanged in November 1949. There are no records that he ever repented. He maintained that he had killed Gandhi for his political beliefs.
One can argue whether it was correct of Godse to have assassinated Gandhi. In 1947-48 Gandhi had become extremely unpopular in India because of his failure to douse the fire of communal rioting. His indifference to Hindus migrating from Punjab from the newly created state of Pakistan had brought his popularity to a lower level. There was every chance that had elections been held in Punjab at that time Gandhi's party the Congress would have been defeated.
After the killings, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Home Minister banned the RSS. He assumed that it may have had a hand in the killing of Gandhi. Subsequently, the ban was removed.
The government which was a Congress government tried its best to portray Gandhi as a Mahatama and Godse as a cold-blooded killer. However, with time, an undercurrent of support for Godse built up. Many felt that he was fighting for an Akhand Bharat and what he did to Gandhi was correct. In 2014, the victory of the BJP at the hustings gave hope to many Indians that they could now think of resurrecting Godse. I will now add my impression that generally there are many Hindus, particularly in Maharashtra and Punjab who do look upon Godse with a certain degree of reverence.
1948 is a long way back. In 2014, India witnessed a renaissance in militant Hinduism, This was because of the coming to power of the BJP, a Hindu revivalist party. This party traces its roots to the erstwhile Jan Sangh
Many thought that the moribund Hindu society for long trampled in their own land and ruled for 900 years first by the Moghuls and later by the British for 200 years would breathe freely. When Independence was given on a platter, the duo of Gandhi and Nehru were unable to come to grips with the new India and Hindu aspirations.
Recently in Meerut under the shade of a banyan tree, a group of worshippers recited Sanskrit mantras. The ritual continued and later a couple of men stepped forward and lit the sacred fire and then stood in front of a statue with folded hands. Some people even garlanded the statue with flowers. It is worthwhile to bring to the notice of the readers, that this is the statue of Nathuram Vinayak Godse, who assassinated the self-styled Mahatma Gandhi.
2014 also signaled the arrival of Hindu nationalism. Part of this was channeled into admiration for the man who killed Gandhi. This is a sign of how much India has changed over the seven decades, more so after Mr. Modi came to power. Modi has been showering platitudes on Gandhi but extremist elements in the party have espoused the cause of Godse. One of the BJP members of Parliament, Sadhvi Pratiga referred to Godse as a "Desh Bhakt"( patriot)
One of the women, who attended the ceremony at Meerut, Puja Shakun Pandey has commented that Gandhi was a traitor. Recently a series on the partition of India was shown on YouTube. In one of them, a nonagenarian government servant in an interview said that Gandhi was lucky that he was shot dead otherwise he would have suffered much more.
The ceremony was held in Meerut in the north of India and is a sign of respect for the man who fired the bullet at Gandhi. This is not the only place and at several places, Hindu temples are being converted into temples for Godse. There is a proposal that has yet not been openly brought out to name Meerut city after Godse. Even in the east, a statue of Gandhi was beheaded.
Does the question arise why there is veneration for a man who killed Mr. Gandhi? There is no rational explanation immediately available but the fact remains that during the crucial winter in 1947 Gandhi was a passive witness to the mayhem unleashed in Punjab. He was also guilty of two other sins. One was that he never made any serious attempt to remove the caste system. In his earlier writings, Gandhi had supported the caste system. In his famous speeches all over India, there were separate enclosures for the Dalits and the Untouchables. He has gone on record that the equality of caste does not mean that untouchables will sit and eat food with a higher caste on the same table.
What is Hindutva? It is Hindu nationalism that has come to the fore now. The historical fact is that for almost 9 countries most of India was ruled by an Alien race and now militant Hinduism has come which wants to do away with the old order. This, in essence, is what Hindutva is. It is not liked by people who would like to practice vote bank politics like the Congress party and the left group of politicians
It is now immaterial whether the Hindu revivalist party is in power or not because the genie has come out of the bottle. I do not feel that the genie can ever go back. It is here to stay and in time to come there will be a further appreciation of Nathuram Godse.