Monday, June 6, 2022

Long-term fall-out of the Mahatma murder

(FirstPost, 27 May 2022) + The +topic of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination at the hands of Nathuram Godse on 30 January 1948 still comes up regularly for discussion. Mostly this is +to embarrass the RSS and the party associated with it, the BJP, which was actually founded in 1980, that too as reincarnation of the Jan Sangh, wh+ich had equally been founded after the murder, in 1951. This then is the best-known long-term effect: the unrelenting allegation that anything s+melling of Hindu nationalism, and certainly the RSS, necessarily leads to such crimes. But are we missing something? + Chitpavan massacre The first conseque+nce of the murder was immediate: Godse’s own community, the Chitpavan Brahmins, was targeted for mass murder. The comparison with the mass kil+ling of Sikhs by Congress secularists after Indira Gandhi’s murder in 1984 is fairly exact, except that that massacre is well-known (even ecli+psing the memory of the larger number of Panjabi Hindus murdered by Sikh separatists in the preceding years) whereas this one has been hushed up.+ The New York Times first drew attention to it, reporting 15 killings for the first day and only for the city of Mumbai. In fact the killing we+nt on for a week and all over Maharashtra, with VD Savarkar’s younger brother as best-known victim. Arti Agarwal,+ who leads the research in “Hindu genocide”, estimates the death toll at ca. 8,000. On mass murders, estimates are often overdramatiz+ed, but here we must count with a countervailing factor: the Government’s active suppression of these data, as they would throw a negative li+ght on Gandhism. But research on this painful episode has now started in earnest, and those presently trying to get at the real figures include Sa+varkar biographer Vikram Sampath. Crackdown+ The secon+d consequence came right after: the Government’s crackdown on the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS. Their offices were closed down, their office-b+earers imprisoned for a year or so, their stocks of literature impounded. It clipped their wings for years to come. The Hindu Mahasabha lost it+s president Shyam Prasad Mookerjee, who went on to found the Jana Sangh. The HMS would never recover from this blow. Its last MP was to be Mahant+ Avaidyanath, best known as a leader of the Rama Janmabhumi movement and as Guru of present UP CM Yogi Adityanath, defected to the BJP in 1991.+ By cont+rast, the RSS did survive quite well, and even generated a whole “family” of like-minded organizations, including a new political party. In a nume+rical sense, it was to thrive; but in two other senses, it paid a high price. The t+hird consequence was a drastic change in the political landscape. After Partition, the Hindutva movement had the wind in the sails. All Cong+ressite assurances that warnings against Islamic separatism were mere British-engineered paranoia, had been refuted by reality. Gandhi’s pro+mise that Partition would only come over his dead body, had proven false. The new-fangled ideology of secularism stood discredited at its bi+rth. And yet, overnight, the Hindutva current was marginalized and Nehruvian secularism started its triumphant march. By his murder, Godse had s+mashed the window of opportunity of his own political movement. + Amputated backbone Finally, the fo+urth consequence would only materialize over the long term: the Hindu movement began to lose its defining convictions. Rather than continuing to +see India as an essentially Hindu nation, it bought into the secularist notion of a mere “Hindu community” juxtaposed to “minority communities” +that were endowed with equal rights and increasingly with privileges vis-à-vis the Hindus. When Jawahar+lal Nehru was widely criticized for having facilitated the Chinese invasion, the RSS halted the publication of a Nehru-critical serial by Sita Ram+ Goel in Organiser: Rather than clamouring that its guest author’s judgment of Nehru stood vindicated, it feared that if anything were to happen +to Nehru, the RSS would again get the blame. As the Gandhi murder had shown, it wasn’t necessary to be actually guilty to still incur the punis+hment, viz. by “having created the atmosphere” for the crime. The RSS bought into the secularist narrative that the Hindu ideology had caused t+he murder and started amputating its own ideological backbone. When in+ 1980 the BJP was founded, the party flag it adopted was significantly divided in orange and green, in the communal sense (no, not green for gr+eenery). Not only the nation was to be partly Islamic, but even the Hindu party itself. This prefigured Mohan Bhagwat’s 2018 statement that a Hindu Rasthra is not complete without Islam. The RSS founded within its ranks a Muslim Morcha, abandoning its founding belief in national unity for c+ommunal appeasement. It became the RSS family’s most successful member, not by spreading the national idea in the Muslim community but by serv+ing the latter’s sectional interests. Ind+eed, under Narendra Modi, minorityism, once the BJP’s bogeyman, became the party’s principle of governance. All kinds of schemes of state la+rgesse favour the minorities; no, not real minorities like Parsis and Jews, but the India chapters of the Christian and Muslim multinationals. I+n its publicity campaigns, the party boasts that it has done more for the minorities than Congress ever has. The 1990s’ eminently secular BJP slogan “Justice for all, appeasement of none” has been given up in favour of: “I am better at appeasement than you!” If Nathuram Godse had foreseen these consequences of the act he contemplated, he might have thought twice about going through with it. +
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