Amit Malviya justifying Gandhi's murder is BJP betraying its Sangh legacy

The party's IT cell head’s 2015 tweet was about Hindutva blossoming into what Savarkar and Golwalkar had wanted it to be.

 |  Angiography  |   Long-form |   03-10-2017
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Long before Amit Malviya, the BJP IT Cell head, was tweeting stills from Bhojpuri films starring his BJP colleague Manoj Tiwari and passing them off as scenes from a riot-torn Basirhat in West Bengal, he was profusely praising Nathuram Godse, the killer of Mahatma Gandhi. A 2015 tweet by Malviya has found its way back to public debate because it so happened that yesterday was October 2, Gandhi Jayanti, and Alt News had a story that many of the abusers followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter happened to be fans of Godse. Among the fanboys, there he was, the amazing Amit Malviya.

Malviya has previously been called out on several occasions over his no-holds-barred bigotry online. That this is a conscious and organised attempt by the BJP IT cell, to troll and abuse dissenters, secular and liberal journalists, women, Bollywood stars with a mind of their own, among others, has been amply documented by DailyO columnist Swati Chaturvedi in her critically-acclaimed book I Am A Troll. But Malviya justifying Godse and saying he had his “reasons” for assassinating Gandhi and a fair society must “hear him out”, is basically the BJP proudly showing off its Hindutva origin, mind, flesh, bone and marrow.

Until May 2014, when “Modi wave” swept India – at least 31 per cent of it in our first-past-the-post system of electoral politics – Godse was something to be whitewashed or disowned, if not by the RSS of which his family says he was a lifelong member, but at least by the Bharatiya Janata Party, and its predecessor, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Author and journalist AG Noorani has written how attempts had been made by BJP stalwarts including LK Advani, and the former member and now renegade, Ram Jethmalani, among others, to turn Godse’s assassination of Gandhi into a “political offence”, and not by a “religious fanatic”.

In fact, Noorani wrote in 2013 that when Advani claimed Godse had nothing to do with the RSS, Gopal Godse, Nathuram’s brother, made a strong rebuttal. Gopal Godse said: “All the brothers were in the RSS. Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govind. You can say we grew up in the RSS rather than in our home. It was like a family to us. Nathuram had become a baudhik karyavah [intellectual worker] in the RSS. He has said in his statement that he left the RSS. He said it because Golwalkar and the RSS were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS.”

Similarly, Noorani quotes Gopal Godse clearing the air on Gandhi’s assassination and the fact that Godse was an RSS member when he killed the leader in 1948.

“I have countered him, saying it is cowardice to say that. You can say that RSS did not pass a resolution, saying, ‘go and assassinate Gandhi’. But you do not disown him [Nathuram]. The Hindu Mahasabha did not disown him. In 1944, Nathuram started doing Hindu Mahasabha work when he had been a baudhik karyavah in the RSS.”

The political discourse had evidently moved away from attempts to disown or explain away Godse’s “lone wolf” killing of Gandhi, to the framing of Godse as a “nationalist”, who had “reasons” to assassinate Gandhi. Not only Noorani, but other writers and critics have eviscerated a book by Koenraad Elst called Gandhi and Godse (published by a pro-Hindutva outlet called Voice of India), in which the ideological shift was palpable and narrative was transformed from Godse’s deranged, Hindutva-motivated murder of Gandhi to the “profoundly political nature of his murder of Gandhi”.

gods-alt_100317045211.jpgCourtesy: Alt News

Elst had written: “A refusal to understand its political rationale lends unsustainable credence to the idea that his assassin was motivated by religious fanaticism and little else besides. On the contrary, Nathuram Godse was a secular nationalist, sharing many of the convictions and prejudices of the dominant independence movement, led by the Congress party. He was steadfastly opposed to religious obscurantism and caste privilege and sought social and political equality for all Indians in the mould advocated by his mentor, Veer Savarkar.”

Malviya’s ill-read defence of Godse, must however, be located in this rereading of all that the man stood for, and the ideological moorings that he had, in the thrice-banned RSS, the Hindu Mahasabha, in Veer Savarkar and MS Golwalkar’s essential religious racism and bigotry, in the weaponisation of Hindutva, a term coined by Savarkar himself.

When Elst and others called Godse a “nationalist”, they were being the harbingers of what has now become the WhatsApp history of India, and which is lapped up, blindly believed in by many of those peddlers of fake news and abuses, rape and death threats on social media, who are blessed with a “digital aashirvaad” from PM Modi. Malviya’s defence of Godse has been long in the making, even as the Prime Minister himself delivers sermons on “Clean India” on October 2, while keeping mum on Sangh-affiliated cadres, small-time BJP/RSS/VHP members resurrecting Godse as a folk hero of Hindu India’s liberation, as a Robin Hood of Hindutva.

The Alt News piece puts out several tweets of those followed by PM Modi, and their consumptive admiration for the Hindutva martyr in Godse. Malviya’s January 2015 tweet is confirmation that the Godse-fixation is something the Sangh is not just afflicted with from the very bottom of its enormous cadre base to the topmost rung of centralised leadership and the spokespersons, it forms the very essence of Sangh’s Hindu nationalism. And in order to nationalise Hindutva not just as a dominant ideology but as a way of life, what’s said of the Hindu religion even in court orders and judgments, the likes of Godse must be given a fresh lease of heroic afterlife.

godse-fans_100317041227.jpgCourtesy: Alt News

Recently, Malviya had to defend PM Modi when #BlockNarendraModi trended on Twitter after the PM failed to unfollow the abusers on social media, despite an outcry in the wake of journalist Gauri Lankesh’s assassination.Malviya said Narendra Modi was that “rare leader who truly believes in freedom of speech and has never blocked or unfollowed anyone on Twitter”. This is a blatant lie because Modi had both unfollowed and blocked people on Twitter, particularly the critics and dissenting members within BJP.

However, Malviya speaking of Modi’s belief in freedom of speech is a little rich, given his government’s jailing of JNU students on charges of sedition because a few slogans had perhaps been uttered (not by them that too) on campus during a memorial for the hanged Kashmiri, Afzal Guru.

Godse is a potent symbol of the virulent ideology conceived by Savarkar, whom Noorani calls the “BJP’s ideologue”, and MS Golwalkar, also known as “Guruji” within the RSS – Hindutva. Noorani wrote how Swapan Dasgupta, one of BJP’s “public intellectuals” and member of Rajya Sabha, had once said that LK Advani had confided in him that former Indian PM Moraji Desai had told Advani that “Savarkar was complicit in Mahatma Gandhi’s murder but got away with it”.

Noorani quotes Sardar Patel’s Correspondence, Volume 6, Page 56 to say it was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that “[hatched] the conspiracy [to assassinate Gandhi] and saw it through”.

Though these were ruminations of the country’s first home minister based on specific intelligence inputs, his later warning on the RSS and the Mahasabha were rather categorical.

Patel wrote: “[M]ilitant communalism, which was preached until only a few months ago by many spokesmen of the Mahasabha, including men like Mahant Digbijoy Nath, Prof. Ram Singh and Deshpande, could not but be regarded as a danger to public security. The same would apply to the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh], with the additional danger inherent in an organisation run in secret on military or semi-military lines.”

That the RSS was banned in 1948 by the country’s first home minister Sardar Patel, whose statue would symbolise “unity” for India under Modi, is a bitter historical irony that too would be explained away in the coming days.

Patel’s fixing of the “moral responsibility” for Gandhi’s murder by Godse on Savarkar has echoes even in the present. A virulent ideology doesn’t confine itself to poisoning the minds of its followers: it has direct impacts and consequences in real life, such as the lynchings and murders of Dalits, minorities, establishment critics, journalists, rationalists, writers. Just like Godse is being posthumously acquitted with honour, if not in the court of law but in the mental courts of India’s Hindutva-walas, the lynchers and murderers enjoy the “Hindu, upper caste privilege”, much like the “white privilege” of the white, male mass shooter in the United States of America, who’s never called a “terrorist”.

Godse had long been sidelined as a foot-soldier in Hindutva cause, who must be disowned so that the BJP could gentrify itself and pitch for national political, electoral, governmental and ideological leadership. That was partly the case under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rule. That is now history. At present, after a thorough saffron spin-doctoring, Godse is trophy material, a proud face to be duly showcased, almost fusing him with his murder victim, whom the BJP national president Amit Shah had, some time back, called, rather effusively, a “chatur baniya”.

Along with the reclaiming of Godse, the assassination of Gandhi’s secular idea of India is equally afoot. And Amit Malviya, with his serial whataboutery and persistent peddling of fake news, broadcasting bigotry from his Twitter pedestal, is entirely complicit once again.

Also read: How I learnt that Hindutva is hypocritical

Writer

Angshukanta Chakraborty Angshukanta Chakraborty @angshukanta

Opinionator at DailyO. Because criticism is the opium of the classes.

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