The Clash Over Nathuram Godse:was He a Nationalist Hindu or a Criminal Who Killed Gandhi
The general election is on in India and it has generated many controversies. The Bharatiya Janata Party is locked in a life and death struggle against a multitude of leaders, who have a one-point agenda to remove Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister.
The only fly in the ointment is that there are close to a dozen leaders who all aspire to be prime minister and it could be a free for all fight, in case the combined opposition prevails. In this charged atmosphere the BJP is fighting a no-holds-barred campaign. The BJP has nominated the Hindu Sadhvi named Pragya as a candidate for the Bhopal seat. The purpose is to defeat a rabid anti-Hindu baiter Digvijay Singh, who has for years been ranting that many Hindus are terrorists and has coined the word "Hindu terror."
In this surcharged atmosphere, Sadhvi Pragya has brought up the topic of Nathuram Godse. She has characterized Godse as a "Desh Bhakt"( nationalist who loved India). The fact is many among the Indian Hindu masses regard Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi culpable for his role in the breakup of India. It has brought Indian society in a face-off over Gandhi and his contribution to the present state of affairs.
Gandhi was a devout Hindu( at least he professed as one). He wanted to be considered as a leader of the Muslims as well. Unfortunately for Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah only considered him a leader of Hindus and 99% of the Indian Muslims did not regard Gandhi as their leader. Throughout his life, he thus followed policies which many have termed as an appeasement to the Muslims of the sub-continent.
An example will suffice. Way back in the twenties, he supported the Khilafat movement which Indian Muslims had launched for the restoration of the Caliphate in Turkey. The majority of Hindus had nothing to do with the Ottoman Empire but Gandhi went around and joined the agitation of Muslims for the restoration of the caliphate in Turkey.
The Pro Muslim stance of Gandhi alarmed the extreme fringe of Hinduism. Led by the Hindu Mahasabha, they begin to oppose Gandhi as an appeaser of Muslims and a man who has sold India down the drain.
Other side of the coin
The acid test came during the communal riots in Punjab when the Muslims viciously attacked the Hindus and murdered the men and raped and abducted the woman. This happened in the area that was to become part of Pakistan. In contrast, Gandhi and Nehru did not allow any reprisals against Muslims with the result vast numbers of Muslims stayed on in India. In contrast 99% Hindus were expelled from Pakistan.
The situation in Punjab was particularly bad. An eye witness account given to me by a survivor is reproduced below.
"We lived in Shahdara, Lahore since 1946. It is a suburb of the main city just across the river Ravi, just like Shahdara of Delhi which lies across the river Yamuna. Pre-partition riots started in and around Rawalpindi in April 1947, they engulfed Multan, etc in May/June. By the end of July, we had big riots in Lahore also. Lahore was a Hindu majority city and Hindus ( read Hindus and Sikhs ) owned major business. Muslims started looting and indulged in abduction, rape, and arson. My father was a sub-inspector of police and always went around in uniform, armed with his service revolver. The high ups ordered the Hindu personnel to be disarmed. Now my father was without any weapon. Police uniform gave him certain protection, though it was mainly psychological. Our neighborhood was peaceful enough but it was only a matter of time that the peace would be shattered. On the nights of 12 and 13 August, the night sky over Lahore was glowing red because of widespread fires. Years later when I saw the movie 'Quo Vadis', the night scene of Rome burning immediately reminded me of what we saw in Lahore. My parents decided it was time to move out. A hand cart was arranged, we packed 2/3 suitcases and set out on foot for the railway station on the 14th morning. My father gave our house keys to our Muslim neighbor, told him that in case we did not come back, all the household goods were his. We planned to catch a train for Phillaur, just short of Ludhiana. "
There are other graphic accounts of this period available, that bring out the terrible events in Pakistan. Gandhi who claimed he was a paragon of non-violence never went to Punjab to try and stop the massacres. There is no explanation as to why Gandhi was sitting in Delhi when the Hindus and Sikhs were being butchered. This led to a lot of hatred among extremist Hindus for Gandhi and the inevitable happened. He was shot dead by a member of Hindu Mahasabha by a man called Nathuram Godse. Nathuram Godse last will and testament is available and show that he was a staunch Hindu nationalist.
In 1926 when Swami Shraddhanand was shot dead by a Muslim fanatic The killer justified the killing as he felt Islam was in danger. Godse and millions from Punjab shared his ideas.
The BJP candidate for Bhopal, Sadhvi Pragya has stated a fact that for decades had been spoken about in hushed tones as the Congres government was in power. The Congress has condemned the BJP saying that they were denigrating "father of the nation" but there is also no doubt millions of Indians feel that Godse was a patriot and many feel that what he did to Gandhi was just.
The case of Godse was not in the public domain for a long time has now suddenly emerged out of hibernation.
Anti Gandhi feeling
Had Godse not killed Gandhi, the chance that he would be assassinated by someone else was bright. For this very reason Godse should not have pulled the trigger to kill Gandhi. There was no need for it. Gandhi's bane was that he wanted to be recognized as a leader of the Muslims as well and for this, he was ready to do anything. Despite his best efforts, he is even today in Pakistan regarded just as a Hindu leader who brought about the partition of India.Historians in Pakistan also blame him for many more things.
In 1948 Gandhi was a man out of touch with reality and he paid a terrible price for it. Militant Hindus want to make temples and monuments in memory of Godse but have been forbidden by the government. Godse exposed the hypocrisy of Mahatma Gandhi. This man for decades supported the caste system and there are any amount of writings of Gandhi, in which he said that one of the pillars of Hindu society was the caste system and was essential for Hindu society.
The Congress government wrote the history of that period and made it seem that Gandhi alone won freedom for India. Men who really fought for the Indian Independence like Chandra Bose are given only a passing reference.
Sir Clement Attlee who was the prime minister of England during the transfer of power was asked whether Gandhi had any effect on the British decision to free India. He replied in the negative. We know that the main reason the British left India was that they were not sure that the Indian Army will support the British rule in India. One should not forget that for decades the British Indian Army was extremely loyal to the Crown and in the 1919 Jallianwala massacre, the firing on the ground was done by soldiers of the Indian Army.
Perhaps if there were British Troops they would have refused to fire on the unarmed crowd but the Indian soldiers used to obey orders from the White man fired and killed.
Gandhi was basically an old man who the British allowed to move around the country. The man they feared was Subhash Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army. India is passing through a very difficult period and a militant form of Hinduism is taking roots who want to see Godse in a different light. Remember in 1815 Napoleon Bonaparte was the most hated man in Europe, yet within decades he was made a hero by the French. The last on Nathuram Godse has not been said.
The BJP has romped home , high and dry and Narendra Modi has been shown on TV making a round of the Samadhi of Gandhi. Considering the RSS pracharaks( volunteers) have little love for Gandhi this does appear a forced ritual. The BJP may also take some action against Sadhvi Pragya but the old Red Indian saying that "Smoke signals send messages" is true. The RSS has neither condemned Sadhvi nor chastised her and its a moot point whether majority of Hindus particularly from the North want any action against Sadhvi Pragya.