The Supreme Court has heard a plea seeking "reinvestigation" into the daylight murder from point-blank range of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi by the Hindu Mahasabha and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh member Nathuram Vinayak Godse on January 30, 1948, in the national capital's then Birla House compound, which is now the Gandhi memorial. Almost every visiting dignitary pays an honorary visit to the Gandhi memorial, and Indian politicians across party lines still feel a strong urge to pay homage to the man who has been called the "greatest Indian" of 20th century, "Father of the Nation", "Bapu", among other sobriquets.
SC has appointed an amicus curiae in former additional solicitor general Amarendra Sharan on a plea to re-probe Gandhi's assassination today, a year after it was filed at the Bombay HC. The petition was filed in 2016 by Mumbai-based Pankaj Phadnis, who's a researcher and a trustee of Abhinav Bharat, which was formed in 2006 by Lt Col Shrikant Purohit and retired major of Indian Army Ramesh Upadhyay. The PIL (public interest litigation) was filed in May 2016 in Bombay High Court, and it sought "the appointment of a commission of inquiry to probe afresh the murder of Mahatma Gandhi and the conspiracy behind it".
It must be noted that Bombay HC dismissed the plea in June 2016 on two grounds. One, the fact-finding was recorded by a competent court and was given thorough judicial examination right up to the apex court. Two, the Justice JL Kapur Commission of Inquiry set up in 1966 that submitted its report in 1969, wasn't sufficient to convey any involvement besides Godse and his ideologues.
Abhinav Bharat's Purohit, after spending nine years in jail after being convicted in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, has been recently granted bail by the Supreme Court. He has been "welcomed back" into the Army and has also donned the military uniform, the image of which was played on loop on TV channels that are perceived to be friendly to the Narendra Modi regime.
Purohit and Abhinav Bharat's alleged role in Malegaon and other blasts (including the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings, Mecca Masjid bombing and Ajmer Sharif Dargah blast) led investigators and the media to coin the term "saffron terror", which is now being airbrushed as the National Investigation Agency (NIA) goes back on its own original findings to alter the course of the probes. Historian Dhirendra Jha has noted how Abhinav Bharat - a revived Abhinav Bharat Society (Young India Society), founded by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in 1904, that believed in militant Hindutva and hated Gandhi's non-violence and civil disobedience as revolutionary strategies - allegedly continued on the original path. While it's being debated on social and mainstream media whether the NIA itself has become a caged parrot, the current petition and the re-probe portends far more fundamentally alarming shifts in the idea of India.
Exactly as Nathuram Godse is being gentrified and given "reasons" to assassinate Gandhi by none other than the BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya, a renewed push to saffron-wash the RSS' and Hindu Mahasabha's role in fomenting communal crisis before and after independence is afoot. Elaborate attempts to erase the contributions of Indian National Congress stalwarts like the first Prime Minister of independent India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in bringing in the official freedom from British Raj, as well as in nation-building post-1947, until his death in 1964, are ongoing.
The petition seeking reinvestigation into Gandhi's assassination is significant.
Only last year, the fake news epidemic on the "Nehru letter bomb" was planted and circulated on mainstream and social media. It was alleged that Jawaharlal Nehru had sent a letter to British PM Clement Attlee calling Bose a "war criminal". The ridiculous spelling and grammatical errors gave the fakeness of the letter away, but that only cemented the semi-literate jingoism of TV channels and the vulnerability of social media, that went ballistic over it. Though this is being dismissed as the "WhatsApp history of India", in which the Mughals are constantly demonised and Taj Mahal is being dropped from an official Uttar Pradesh tourism brochure because it's ostensibly "Muslim", the sinister implications of this thorough rewriting of history cannot be more stressed, especially for millions of young and impressionable Indian youths.
It is in this context that the petition seeking reinvestigation into Gandhi's assassination becomes significant. Pankaj Phadnis, the petitioner, reportedly wants a probe into the "possibility" of the involvement of more than just Godse in the murder, alleging that this could reveal one of the biggest "cover-ups" in the history of independent India. The PIL bases its arguments on salacious media reports that there was a "fourth bullet" pumped into Gandhi on January 30, 148, when Godse had fired only three from a revolver carrying seven bullets.
This lurid attempt to indicate a possible involvement of a second assassin, with the goal of eventually exonerating Godse posthumously, is more or less the Sangh's idea of washing its hands off one of the foundational acts of violence of the newly independent India. Even though Sardar Patel's own writings [Correspondences, Volume 6] talks of RSS' and Veer Savarkar's "moral responsibility" in brainwashing Godse to ultimately pull the trigger, the Sangh's discomfort with Godse, both in resurrecting him for petty communal gains and in the silence on this elemental assassination of Gandhi and Gandhian pacifism from BJP's stalwarts and current leaders, indicates a larger project - that of saffron fascism - is afoot.
While a number of Godse fanboys who routinely abuse seculars and women on social media, sending out rape and death threats casually, saying Gauri Lankesh's fate awaits those who criticise/malign Modi and the Sangh, are followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter, their tribe feels emboldened when the likes of Amit Malviya "justifies" Gandhi's assassination as "reasonable". This ideological elasticity of the RSS/BJP complex is basically sanctioning "just" violence committed in the past and in the present and in the future, because it's in the interest of Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra. This isn't just cow politics gone mad, though that is very much an extension of this historical hatred that the Sangh has betrayed towards India's constitutional secularism and sociopolitical pluralism. This is striking at the foundations of the Republic of India and what it stands for.
There are several (and legitimate) criticisms of Gandhi, particularly from the Ambedkarite and leftist viewpoints, but the man's role in ushering in India's independence is redoubtable. The real and organised hate industry from the Sangh, and its affiliates such as Abhinav Bharat, which the then Congress government in Maharashtra wanted banned in 2013, will do everything in power, no matter how infantile and ridiculous it might sound to the erudite and secular sophisticate of the upper "claste" India, because they are really "in power".