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India: `Godse cult gains when govt sympathetic Gandhi’s used only to stand for cleanliness’

Saturday 28 March 2015, by siawi3


Mar 27, 2015 : The Times of India (Mumbai)

Q & A - `Godse cult gains when govt sympathetic Gandhi’s used only to stand for cleanliness’

Activist Teesta Setalvad has written Beyond Doubt:A Dossier on Gandhi’s Assassination. Speaking with Anahita Mukherji, Setalvad discussed her views on the Mahatma’s killing, why she thinks a Nathuram Godse cult is resurfacing ­ and Gandhiji’s relevance regard ing more than cleanliness:

You believe Mahatma Gandhi was killed for his values ­ but many of these echoed Tilak and Swami Vivekananda, whom his assassins admired. Can you elaborate?

Tilak and Vivekananda belonged to an earlier era where India was still negotiating shared spaces and articulating what shape democracy would take ­ for the ideology that killed him, Gandhi, with his mass appeal, was far more dangerous.

He was deeply religious but spoke of a composite nation and was uncompromising on secularism. Upper-caste Hindu right-wing organisations misinterpreted Tilak, believing his call for independence would restore power to Brahmins ­ Gandhi’s all-inclusive movement was not in their interest.

Virtually all attempts on Gandhi’s life were from upper-caste Maharashtrians. If he was killed for Partition, why were there no assassination attempts from other regions and how come these began in 1934 ­ when the question of Partition was not part of the discourse?
The first serious attempt was in 1934, when Gandhi was to address the issue of caste in Pune. Godse was part of an armed gang that tried to attack Gandhi in Panchgani and Sabarmati Aashram. Gandhi even invited Godse for dialogue ­ which he refused.

When conspirators in Gandhi’s assassination were released after 20 years in jail, they spoke of the organisations involved.

Why do you hold RSS and Hindu Mahasabha as responsible for Partition as the Muslim League?

There are several instances where RSS and Hindu Mahasabha colluded with the British government against the freedom struggle ­ Savarkar wrote a letter pledging support to the British empire.

While the Muslim League wanted a state based on Islam, the Hindu rightwing supported the twonation theory and did nothing to bring Hindus and Muslims together.

Didn’t successive Indian governments clarify Partition’s complex history?

The educational and cultural apparatus of successive governments, including those dominated by Congress, didn’t have the courage to look the conflict in the eye and face what had happened.

Indian textbooks have not elaborated on the forces responsible for Gandhi’s killing, nor the Hindutva right-wing’s ideological framework ­ while much is made of Jinnah and the Muslim League.

After Gandhi’s death, Nehru and Patel did reveal the truth. However, a deterioration of values in Congress and an ever-changing narrative by proto-fascists resulted in a distortion of history.

Are we seeing a resurgence of a Godse cult today?

The Godse cult first rose under the Vajpayee government, during which time the play `Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy’, glorifying Godse, was staged.

The cult gains strength every time it feels the government is sympathetic towards it ­ or represents it. Godse’s supporters now demand a temple for him. A Member of Parliament calls him a patriot.

Gandhi is too big for Hindutvavadis to ignore, so they’ve appropriated him to suit their inter ests, hollowing out his essence ­ using Gandhi as a symbol of Swachh Bharat seems as if clean liness is all he stood for.