Gandhi-Godse: Contrasting Concepts of Nationalism

gandhi godse

This Gandhi Anniversary (October 2020) one saw a twitter storm ‘Nathram Godse Zindabad’, (Long live Nathura, Godse). This overshadowed the tributes to Gandhi on the same platform. This year the tweets on Godse exceeded over a lakh, while last year 2019, they were close to twenty thousand. This year many of the tweets notably came from bot accounts that on other days tweeted about “Justice for Sushant”, following the death by suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Celebration of Godse is definitely on the rise from last few years.

Earlier, the then RSS Chief Rajendra Singh did state “Godse was motivated by Akhand Bharat. His intention was good but he used the wrong method.” (April 27 1998, Outlook) One recalls Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur stated in the Parliament that ‘Nathuram Godse was a patriot, is a patriot and will remain a patriot’. Another of BJP MPs Sakshi Maharaj had earlier said that Godse was a nationalist. The foundation of temple for Godse was laid down in Meerut in 2014. A play in Marathi ‘Me Nathuram Boltoy’ drew packed houses in Maharashtra a few years ago. Just last year (2019) on January 30th, the Hindu Mahasabha workers recreated the act of murder of Mahatma, when Pooja Shakun Pandey of Hindu Mahasabha, shot on the effigy of Gandhi thrice. The blood came out and sweets were distributed to those assembled there.

These are some of the incidents which show the rising display of the hold of Godse-Hindu nationalism in the country, which regards Gandhi as ‘father of the nation’. This is taking place in the global situation where 2nd October has been declared as the day of ‘Non-Violence’ to honor the principles of Gandhi. This is in the backdrop of the phenomenon where in Gandhi’s memory different global institutions devoted to peace and non violence are coming up all over the World. Many a global leaders like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela openly declared the influence of Gandhi in shaping the movements led by them. In US Martin Luther King led the struggle for equality of African Americans. In South Africa Nelson Mandela led the movement against apartheid regime.

Gandhi’s unique contributions were to unite the whole country in the thread of Indian identity. He led the anti colonial, anti British movement using the principles of non violence in his satyagraha (Invocation of truth), which was the core of his methods.

As he was developing his movement, the multiple pillars of his work, he was also evolving in the process and from his earlier understanding of race and caste he made transition towards equality of all beings. This got reflected in his anti-untouchability movement, reservations for dalits and suggesting the name of Dr. Ambedkar to be the chief of drafting committee of Indian Constitution.

In contrast the Muslim nationalists and Hindu nationalists harped on the interests of the elites of their respective communities and wanted revival of ancient hierarchies of class, caste and gender. Nathuram Godse who was in RSS and rose to be its pracharak was deeply seeped in the values of Hindu nationalism. For Hindu nationalists the past with inherent values of inequality were the mainstay of Hindu India. Godse’s book, ‘Why I assassinated Mahatma Gandhi’, is making rounds in bookstalls. The communal understanding of past and the period of freedom movement marks the central point of this book as Godse writes, “Gandhi was, paradoxical as it may appear, a violent pacifist who brought untold calamities on the country in the name of truth and nonviolence, while Rana Pratap, Shivaji and the Guru will remain enshrined in the hearts of their countrymen for ever for the freedom they brought to them. The accumulating provocation of thirty-two years, culminating in his last pro-Muslim fast, at last, goaded me to the conclusion that the existence of Gandhi should be brought to an end immediately.” Also, “His (Gandhi’s, added) followers cannot see what is clear even to the blind viz. that Gandhi was a mere pigmy before Shivaji, Rana Pratap and Guru Govind (Pg. 40, Why I assassinated Gandhi?) and finally about the winning of swaraj and freedom I maintain the Mahatma’s contribution was negligible.” (same book. pg. 87)

In contrast Gandhi in his unique ways sees the Indian History as a blend of people of people of different religions, “The Hindus flourished under Moslem sovereigns and Moslems under the Hindu. Each party recognized that mutual fighting was suicidal, and that neither party would abandon its religion by force of arms. Both parties, therefore, decided to live in peace. With the English advent quarrels recommenced…) (Hind Swaraj) The Communalists, Hindu and Muslim both lack the understanding about the role of colonial powers in plundering the country, the need for social change towards equality, the need for anti colonial movement to liberate the country.

Today contradictory processes are in play. While Gandhi’s major innovations in social movement, Non Violence and Satyagrah are being recognized at broader scale, at home his concept of his nationalism is under severe strain. The present rulers while paying tribute to Gandhi, like paying floral tributes to him at Rajghat, are strengthening an ideology which was at the root of killing him. While Godse is being promoted through calculated moves like twitter in a planned way, the fountainhead of Godse’s ideology, RSS, is making all the attempts to distance itself from Godse, who was a trained Pracharak, the highest category in RSS scheme of things.

The real ideology of Hindu nationalism was under wraps till long. Now with renewed confidence eulogies are being paid to Godse. This is sign of times that Godse, is being hailed and Gandhi is being undermined by the current ruling dispensation which presents its politics under the garb of Hinduism. This Hinduism is not the Hinduism of saint tradition and that of Gandhi. It seems Gandhi’s India is being overwhelmed by Godse’s India! Gandhi’s India stood for unity, inclusivity, love and compassion. These are the precisely the values being sidetracked by the new dispensation.



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Dr Ram Puniyani

Dr Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. Email: [email protected]

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