Last week (March 2014) Rahul Gandhi in an election campaign meeting said that ‘RSS people killed Gandhiji and today their people and BJP talk of him…They opposed Sardar Patel and Gandhiji.” In a reaction to his statement RSS has lodged a complaint with election commission. This is not the first time that Rahul Gandhi has made such a statement; on an earlier occasion also he had made similar statement. What is the truth of Gandhi murder; did RSS as an organization had any role in it? Were members of RSS involved in it? What was the reaction of RSS followers in the wake of Gandhi murder? What was the response of Sardar Patel, the then Home minister in Union Cabinet to this ghastly murder?

These have been the subject matters of many books, films and plays, apart from myriad of books and articles. While the incident, the commissions of inquiry and the judgment are there for all to see, the deeper causes of Gandhi murder have not been debated, the underlying cause of contrasting Nationalisms is not brought to the fore in most of the debates. Today it is necessary not only to unearth the incident of Gandhi murder but it is also imperative to understand that Gandhi murder had deeper ideological underpinnings, those related to two notions of Nationalism, the one Indian Nationalism, which Gandhi espoused and strived for and other the Hindu Nationalism, the nationalism pursued by Godse, Gandhi’s murderer. Incidentally the current Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP, the political wing of RSS, is also boasting about his nationalism being Hindu, so the matters become all the more relevant in the current political context.

After the murder of Mahatma, the official RSS line had been that we have nothing to do with Godse; neither is he a member of RSS.  They could get away with this as there was no official record of members of RSS, and they could disown Godse at legal level. As such Godse joined RSS in 1930 and very soon rose to be its bauddhik pracharak (intellectual propagator), “Having worked for the uplift of the Hindus I felt it necessary to take part in political activities of the country for the protection of just rights of Hindus. I therefore left the Sangh (RSS) and joined Hindu Mahasabha (Godse, ‘Why I Assassinated Mahatma Gandhi’ 1993, and Pg.  102). He held Mahatma responsible for appeasing Muslims, and thereby the formation of Pakistan. He joined Hindu Mahasabha, at that time the only political party of Hindutva, and became general secretary of its Pune Branch.  In due course he started a newspaper, as founder editor, called Agrani or Hindu Rashtra.

In an interview given to ‘The Times of India’ (25 Jan 98) Nathuram’s brother Gopal Godse, who was also an accomplice in the murder, elaborates the apparent reasons and Nathuram’s RSS membership. “The appeasement policy followed by him (Gandhi) and imposed on all Congress governments’ encouraged the Muslim separatist tendencies that eventually created Pakistan…. Technically and theoretically he (Nathuram) was a member (of RSS), but he stopped workings for it later. His statement in the court that he had left the RSS was to protect the RSS workers who would be imprisoned following the murder. On the understanding that they (RSS workers) would benefit from his dissociating himself from the RSS, he gladly did it."

This murder was celebrated by RSS followers by distributing sweets, Sardar Patel wrote, “All their (RSS) leaders’ speeches were full of communal poison.  As a final result, the poisonous atmosphere was created in which such a ghastly tragedy (Gandhi’s murder) became possible.  RSS men expressed their joy and distributed sweets after Gandhi’s death."  Excerpts from Sardar Patel’s letters to M S Golwalkar and S P Mookerjee.  (Outlook, April 27, 1998) The way Hindu communalists were spewing poison against Gandhi, it was logical outcome of their politics.  They used the word wadh for this murder; this word stands for killing a demon who is harming the society.  In a way Gandhi murder was the first major offensive of the Hindutva politics on Indian Nationalism, in a way it was to herald the onset of bigger dangers which Hindutva politics has assumed today.

Contrary to the claims of Godse that it was only his planning, the commissions of inquiry have stated that it was a conspiracy by various followers of Hindu Mahsabha-RSS ideology, who planned to kill the Mahatma as he, a Hindu, was a big obstacle to turn this country in to a Hindu nation. Sardar Patel wrote that it was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that hatched the conspiracy and saw it through,…of course his assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha who were strongly opposed to his way of thinking and to his policy…” (Sardar Patel Quoted in Justice Kapoor report Chapter I page 43). Justice Jivan Lal Kapoor himself concluded that “…all the facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group.”

This Hindutva became the base of politics of Hindu Mahsabha and RSS. Gandhi in contrast was a Hindu but was opposed to the idea of Nation being a Hindu nation. Similarly we see Maulana Abul Kalam Azad; a Muslim never supported the idea of a Muslim Nation Pakistan. Gandhi and Hindutva politics were two opposite poles. Gandhi united the whole nation on secular grounds, cutting across region, religion and caste. He was a religious person but he was opposed to misuse of religion for political goals... "In India, for whose fashioning I have worked all my life, every man enjoys equality of status, whatever his religion is. The state is bound to be wholly secular" (Harijan August 31, 1947) and," religion is a personal affair of each individual, it must not be mixed up with politics or national affairs"(ibid pg 90).While Hindu Mahasabha and RSS believed that this nation is a Hindu nation and minorities have to remain subordinate to Hindus. They mostly did not take part in anti British agitations and struggles. For example Savarkar who was an anti British revolutionary in the beginning of his life, after getting released from Andman jail, never participated in any anti British movement or joined and national movement. RSS followers barring Hedgewar, occasionally and in the beginning also did not take part in freedom movement. Their main focus was countering the Muslim communalists and subjugating them, they were not against the British power as such.

The issue of 55 crores was a mere pretext As a matter of fact this 55 crore was the Pakistan’s share from the united treasury. The first installment of the money was already given and 55 crores were to be given. Meanwhile Pakistan attacked Kashmir. Indian Government withheld these 55 crores after Pakistan attack on Kashmir. Kashmir that time was an independent state and Gandhi, true to his ethical stand in political arena, asked the government not to link Pakistan’s share with the Kashmir problem.

Any way this was a pretext as even before Gandhi talked about Pakistan’s share of 55 crores, already four attacks were made on Gandhi’s life, in some of which Godse was also involved. Jagan Phadnis in his book ‘Mahatmyachi Akher’  (Lokvangymay Griha, 1994) correctly argues that Gandhi murder was not on the charges propagated by them (Partition and insistence on paying Pakistan’s dues (55 crore) from the treasury), but due to the basic deep differences with the social politics of Gandhi and that of the followers of the Hindu Rashtra.  These two reasons are proffered merely as a pretext for the same. We need to understand that when BJP and company talk of nationalism, they are not talking of Indian Nationalism but Hindu nationalism, which is the not so hidden part of their political agenda. The present attacks on secular fabric of our polity are yet another assassination attempts of Mahatma. So talking about the deeper causes of his murder will remain relevant till the attacks on secular democratic values of the country continue to hover on the nation.


Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Not a woman you could cross

Gopalkrishna Gandhi

Mridula Sarabhai did more than any party for communal harmony and for human rights years before the latter phrase gained currency.

Mridula Sarabhai

It is Women's Day and memories of certain amazing women swim into one's thoughts.

To certain people a calling comes most naturally. Mridula Sarabhai, daughter of Mahatma Gandhi's early collaborators Ambalal Sarabhai and sister of the nuclear scientist Vikram Sarabhai, was meant for the rough life. Born in 1911, she died at age 63 in 1974. She looked the rough role all right. One of the proudest women ever made by God, the most sneeringly contemptuous of cowardice and of 'safe playing', Mridula had more of a brave man in her than a woman. Ever in her Pathan salwar-kameez outfit with a man's collar, she looked like she could pound an adversary on his nose without a moment's thought. Or shower imprecations on him. And of adversaries she had no dearth.

Gandhi-influenced but not Gandhian in the choice of her words, her plans of action or her opinions, she was if anyone was her own person.

Mridula took her own decisions. She joined Gandhi in his Noakhali tour in 1946, when she saw Hindus being butchered by Muslims and later in Bihar, where Hindus reciprocated with double the brutality.

She became danger's daughter, daring sister. In the pre-Partition weeks and months Mridula was where men blinded by lust and bigotry were making women their special targets. She could have been brutalised a hundred times herself and murdered. Leaders in India and Pakistan alike praised her courage, her commitment.

She had no time for theory, for ideology. The phrase 'no-nonsense' fitted her like her Peshawari sandals.

The cartography of brutality saw her pulled into Kashmir. And that was to become a lifetime's affiliation.

For all her mannishness, her masculine attire, her 'boy-cut' hair, there was an extraordinary allure, a very feminine allure to Mridula. There is no doubt that both Pandit Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah were drawn to her by instincts other than those of politics.

The closer she got to the Sheikh, the further she moved from the Pandit. Mridula became Sheikh Abdullah's strongest, most stubborn and most articulate supporter outside the Valley. The Kashmir Conspiracy Case and Mridula were inseparable. She was arrested but Nehru never clamped her in for conspiracy. Something of an incipient tenderness remained in their relations, even if the story that a single rose used to be sent every morning to Mridula's home in Delhi from Teen Murti House is mythical.

I was in my early teens when my grandfather C Rajagopalachari (CR) visited Delhi on Swatantra Party work and stayed with us. The Sheikh was still in prison and Mridula was at her intense best, asking for his release, the scrapping of the conspiracy charges and the restoration of civil liberties to the Sheikh and his associates. There were many visitors coming to see CR, and I took some of the phone calls asking for appointments. 'Kon, tuun Gopu?' (Is that you, Gopu?) 'Ha, Gopuj boluun chhuun' (Right, this is Gopu speaking). 'Huun Mridula' (This is Mridula), the voice said. I knew what I was handling. The conspiracy case, the jailings, surveillance, phone-tappings.

The caller must have sensed a quail at the other end of the line.

'Shuun thayuun taney? Mridula ni aavaaj saambhli gabhrayi gayo ke?' (What has happened to you? Have you got flustered hearing Mridula at the other end?) 'Naa, naa...evii vaat nathii' (No, no, it is not quite like that.) 'To pachhi shun? Havey jo...maney Rajaji-e malvuun chhe...Kyaare aavii shakaae maney puchhi ne janaav... Huun line upar chuun...' (Then what is your problem? Now listen, I need to meet Rajaji...Find out when I may come and tell me...I am on the line...)

There was no 'if ', only 'when' and no 'Will you call me back?...' business.

I asked CR, adding, like an idiot, that Mridula was under surveillance, as to whether he would like to give her time.

'Of course' he said 'ask her to come straightaway...And as for surveillance...Such things should not worry us... Tell her in as many words that Rajaji is looking forward to discussing Kashmir matters with her....'

The message was relayed by a now more strong-sounding Gopu.

'Bhaley' (Very well) was the only response and in under an hour, Mridula arrived.

'Tuun ek gabhrayi biladi jevo chhe...Em chale?...' (You are too much of a scared-cat...That won't do, would it?...) she said to me, walking in.

How Nehru re-visited his actions on Sheikh Abdullah, how he had him released and sent him as an emissary to President Ayub Khan are all matters now of history.

Mridula should have been made a deputy home minister under Sardar Patel, with special responsibilities towards the welfare of vulnerable women. The two had a wonderful working equation (no Eros, there!) and Mridula would have put the fear of God into all goondas. She was the perfect counter-goonda. The discredited Bakshi regime shivered at the mention of that amazing woman's name.

Mridula was not old by any yardstick and had at least one good decade of activity ahead of her. Had she lived beyond 1974, there is no doubt she would have given Indira Gandhi's Emergency the toughest time and could well have become one of Jayaprakash Narayan's principal colleagues. To jail, of course, she would have gone with her typical unsmiling seriousness and determination.

And, by Jove, what would she not have done had she been alive and in Gujarat in 2002! She would have hurled a much stronger-than 'gabhrayi biladi' invective at the state government. Today, when a fake and hollow machoism from Gujarat is being sought to be paraded before a gullible India, we should remember this woman who did more than any party, any government for communal harmony and for human rights years before the latter phrase gained currency and for the women of the subcontinent.

Courtesy: Hindustan Times, dt. 8th March 2014

Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and governor. 

courtesy : http://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/mridula-sarabhai.html

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED