After independence in India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Messiah of non-violence and Satyagraha, was given the honor of the Father of the Nation.
But in today’s India, especially in the last seven-and-a-half years of the BJP‘s rule, the question of how much Gandhi’s ideas and ideals matter in this country has been raised time and again.
Recently, the 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation has ended with a little simplicity.
On the other hand, Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse is being openly worshiped and praised. All Hindutva forces, even BJP MPs are involved in Godse-Vandana. Bollywood has also announced to make a biopic of Godse on Gandhi Jayanti this year.
Is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s identity as the Father of the Nation dying in today’s India?
- Godse Puja
The Hindu Mahasabha, whose members were the conspirators of the Gandhi assassination, is still active in Gwalior, central India. It also has a lot of influence in that area.
A year ago, a statue of Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse was installed in its office in Gwalior.
On November 15, 1949, Narayan Apte and Nathuram Godse, accused of Gandhi’s assassination, were hanged in Ambala Central Jail.
Hindu Mahasabha celebrates this day every year as ‘Sacrifice Day’ – worship is also done in the temple. The idols of both the Marathi men are washed with milk and ghee.
Hindu Mahasabha does not forget to call the media that day and tell that they are proud to build a temple for ‘Shaheed’ Narayan Apte and ‘Shaheed’ Nathuram Godse to show their respect.
Although worshiping a deity is not a punishable offense in India, it was unimaginable until a few years ago to openly pay tribute to the killer of the Father of the Nation in India.
But now similar incidents are happening in different parts of the country, it is being openly said that how much Godse has benefited the country.
- bjp leader certificate
During the last general elections, BJP candidate from Bhopal Pragya Singh Thakur did not hesitate to call Godse a ‘deshbhakt’.
The leader, who came out on bail in a case related to extremism, later became an MP and a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Defense Affairs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in an interview that he would never forgive Pragya Thakur for that statement about Godse – but in reality no action was taken against her.
The saffron-clad Sadhvi, who is currently an MP, later stood up in Parliament and called Godse a patriot.
How the ‘great’ Nathuram Godse presented his side on the allegation of ‘Gandhi-slaughter’ in front of the court, many such posts are constantly being shared on Facebook or WhatsApp.
And Hindu Mahasabha leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is being given the status of a national hero during the BJP rule.
A decade ago, the then BJP government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee changed the name of Port Blair airport in Andaman to ‘Veer Savarkar’.
- ‘Godse fans are not mainstream people’
Anirban Ganguly, a member of the BJP’s Policy Research Cell and policy strategist, claims that those who praise Godse have nothing to do with the BJP’s mainstream.
“Godse’s acceptance or attraction has always been within a class,” he told the BBC.
“Godse had given his reasoning on why he killed Gandhi – some may agree with him, some may be against him.”
Ganguly says that, “It is up to the people to consider Godse a patriot. But nowadays with the trend of social media, those things are being known to everyone, which people were not even aware earlier. But can it be called mainstream thinking? Is it? Never.”
He says, “The BJP never worshiped Godse, something ‘people from outside the society’ are doing. And Godse himself had rejected the Hindu Mahasabha or even Savarkar in his own life.”
- ‘BJP’s DNA Godse supporter’
But former senior Indian bureaucrat and now Trinamool Congress MP Jawahar Sarkar says the BJP-RSS-Jana Sangh-Hindu Mahasabha and Godse-Savarkar’s philosophy are actually linked.
He says, “Godse was a member of the RSS in his early life, but later moved to the Hindu Mahasabha, a more extremist organization.”
Jawahar Sarkar says that, “Savarkar himself looked after the work of the Hindu Mahasabha at that time. As a result, Godse has two genes – the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha.
“And there is no doubt that the DNA of the BJP is pro-Savarkar or pro-Godse – that is why whenever Modi sees the statue of Savarkar, he bows down and worships him.”
According to Jawahar Sarkar, if you read Savarkar’s writings and statements, you will understand that he is an anti-Gandhi, anti-peace person.
“At first he did not want to join the political stream of independent India. Later he formed the Jana Sangh Party in 1953. And if he wants to remain in politics, he has to follow some rituals to show the people. His Gandhi Worship is like that too.”
“Yet they will continue to talk about Godse or Savarkar,” Jawahar Sarkar told the BBC.
- ‘Gandhi is in the farmers’ movement’
But if Nathuram Godse’s praise is getting socially acceptable, does it mean that the country is also forgetting Mahatma Gandhi?
Mridula Mukherjee, the country’s well-known historian and former head of the Nehru Memorial Museum, gives a straightforward answer:
“The fact that the farmers of this country have been following the path of satyagraha and non-violent protest shown by Gandhi for the past one year shows that Gandhi remembers them.”
Gandhi’s ideal may not be in anyone’s mind, but the way his killer is being accepted today, Mridula Mukherjee is not ready to accept it at any cost.
“The whole incident is beyond reality, sad and unforgivable,” she says.
She asks, “How can you worship a murderer who has been sentenced to death in court? Then Gandhi’s murder is justified, isn’t it? And against those who talk about Godse like this. Has any action been taken?”
The reality is that no FIR has been registered anywhere in India. Gandhi’s great-grandson and author-researcher Tushar Gandhi says this is not surprising.
Tushar Gandhi, president of the ‘Mahatma Gandhi Foundation’, told BBC Bangla, “Those who know that Pragya Singh Thakur and Narendra Modi come from the same thought and ideology will not be surprised.”
Tushar Gandhi says, “Earlier also Godse was worshiped in secret, but when they see that the government of the country also follows his ideology, they are now doing so openly. Cowardly people are always like this. We do.”
- Gandhi, Godse and Bollywood
Modi was seen in a gathering decorated with Bollywood stars on the 150th birth anniversary of Father of the Nation Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
From Aamir Khan-Shahrukh Khan to Kangana Ranaut-Alia Bhatt-Sonam Kapoor all came under one roof that day on the call of the Prime Minister.
Many of these stars also appeared in the official advertisement of the festival.
Narendra Modi also urged Bollywood to make a film on Gandhi’s ideology – but not a single film appeared in the market.
In contrast, this year on Gandhi Jayanti, there has been an announcement that Bollywood producer Mahesh Manjrekar will make a film on Godse’s life. He has also made a biopic of Savarkar.
Mahesh Manjrekar said in a statement that the story of Nathuram Godse has always been his favorite – and that Godse was “neither right, nor wrong.” He wants the audience to decide after watching his film.
He posted Gandhi’s favorite hymn “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram” along with a tweet to make Godse’s biopic.
However, it is not difficult to know from whose point of view Gandhi or Godse will try to tell the story.
- Gujarati identity of Narendra Modi and Gandhi
Jawahar Sarkar, former Cultural Secretary of India and former chairman of Prasar Bharati Board, feels that Narendra Modi does not really care about the Gujarati identity of Mohandas Gandhi.
“They can’t get rid of Gandhi completely because there is a political advantage to keeping Gandhi alive – it’s everyone’s interest,” says Jawahar.
“The second reason is Modi’s bias towards Gujarat. Though he is the prime minister of the country, he brazenly shows a pro-Gujarat stance, as if everything is good in that state. And Gandhi is also a Gujarati, so he leaves him out. Can’t. Gandhi was a Gujarati, and I am too – it’s just that.”
Jawahar Sarkar says, “They also celebrated Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary with utmost simplicity… When I was in the Ministry of Culture, the government also celebrated Rabindranath-Vivekananda Jayanti in a grand manner, in Gandhi’s case not even one percent of it was done. “
- BJP pays respect to Gandhi
But then in the last seven and a half years has the Modi government done anything to implement Gandhi’s ideology?
According to BJP leader Anirban Ganguly, whatever critics may say – he has actually shown far more respect for Mohandas Gandhi than in previous Congress governments.
He says, “What has the Congress done to preserve all the places where Gandhi visited or stayed in the country? Gandhi even asked the Congress party to be dissolved.”
“In 1917, Gandhiji, while talking about cleanliness, argued that if we cannot keep our premises, houses, cities and villages clean, we will not be able to run Swaraj.
“Today, the BJP government has started ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ as a tribute to him. This program has been very successful.
“Gandhiji’s Sabarmati Ashram is now being renovated to international standards to attract lakhs of visitors – and it has been started by the Narendra Modi government.”
Anirban Ganguly claims that the BJP has given a new status to the Father of the Nation not only in the ‘logo’ of the cleanliness campaign, but by building toilets in villages and giving new life to the Khadi brand.
He told the BBC, “Gandhi always talked about cleaning the toilets himself – that was the rule in his Phoenix, Sabarmati or Wardha ashrams.”
Anirban Ganguly reminds that Mahatma Gandhi started the practice of cleaning there after seeing dirty water coming out of the toilets during the Congress party session.
“So no one is asking why the party, which claims to be the flag bearer of his ideology, has not been able to build toilets in remote areas or rural areas of the country for so many years after independence.”
“And don’t look at khadi..that khadi which is called our ‘Fabric of Freedom’, it was not being worn! That khadi which is synonymous with Gandhiji – why are that shabby shops of khadi running? Today crores of khadi are being worn daily. Doing business of Rs.
- Their path is anti-Gandhi?
Tushar Gandhi says that Gandhi’s so-called development program is one thing, and it is another thing to run the state in the opposite direction from his ideology of taking all castes and religions along.
“The fact that Gandhi is called the Father of the Nation has actually been made completely meaningless,” he says.
“Very few people in India see or follow Gandhi that way, and this is not the first time today. But needless to say, this status has become more volatile.”
Tushar Gandhi says, “It is true that Gandhi was proud of his Gujarati roots, but with that identity he became the humanity of the whole world.”
He says, “Today, on one hand the Prime Minister proudly says that he is also a Gujarati like Gandhi – on the other hand his government is limited to promoting a section of the citizens of the country. I don’t think anyone can do that. “
Tushar Gandhi says, “There cannot be a bigger anti-Gandhi move than this.”
In India, the leader of ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’ and Gandhian Medha Patkar also believes that the path of this government is far from the path of non-violence and satyagraha.
He believes that the fight of ‘Modi vs Gandhi’ has always been going on in India.
“All the models of this government – economic, political or social – are against Gandhi’s ideology.”
“How can I call him a Gandhi supporter when he has chosen violence over non-violence, he is always practicing untruth instead of truth?”
- attacked Gandhi’s secularism
Jawahar Sarkar believes that the biggest betrayal of the BJP to the Father of the Nation is its politics of religious communalism.
He is of the view that Gandhi’s mantra of keeping the country secular irrespective of religion is on the verge of extinction in India today.
Jawahar Sarkar says, “There is no doubt that Gandhi took the strongest stand against fundamentalism in this country. Nehru kept a distance from religion, but Gandhi showed that one can remain secular while being religious.”
“It can be said to have a strange Indian character… Secularism abroad means sacrificing religion, but in India it means being tolerant of other religions while believing in one’s own religion.”
Jawahar Sarkar says, “Nehru was a Western secular, anti-religious ideology – which is not possible to run in India. This is Gandhi’s contribution.”
“Even though he sang Raghupati Raghav Bhajan, he never supported the demolition of the mosque in the name of Ram. Today there is neither Ram nor Ayodhya as before.”
“Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi is becoming irrelevant in the politics, society and economy of India as a whole – on the other hand, supporters of Nathuram Godse-Savarkar are becoming more and more vocal and coming out in the open.”
“Perhaps that day is not far- when the Father of the Nation of India will be seen adorned only on the walls of government offices, on coatpins of government employees or on photographs of currency notes.”