Misusing the Mahatma’s name

Misusing the Mahatma’s name

by Adithya Reddy - Sunday, March 23, 2014 04:28 PM IST
Misusing the Mahatma’s name
Misusing the Mahatma’s name

The RSS is said to have filed a defamation case against Rahul Gandhi for claiming that ‘RSS people’ killed Gandhiji. There is a good chance that he Rahul will have to pay up a lot in damages because, in law,  the only defence to defamation is truth.

When the news of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination flashed on AIR at around 6 p.m, RSS Chief Guru Golwalkar, was interacting with a gathering of sympathizers at the Spurtank residence of prominent Madras Hotelier and future Mayor V R Ramanatha Iyer, in Chennai.  According to a senior RSS leader who was present at the event Golwalkar’s first utterance on hearing the flash was “What a disaster”.

Nathuram Godse was associated with the RSS at some point of time before the assassination.  All that it takes for a person to be an RSS member is to spend one hour everyday at a Shakha.  Membership is entirely voluntary and informal.  It is because of this set up that Golwalkar simply refused when Gandhiji asked him to vouch for the personal conduct of each RSS member. Godse left the RSS because he thought it was “a coward”. Even according to staunch RSS-critic A G Noorani “he (Godse) was not functioning within the RSS structure in the years before the murder.”

More than 15 years after the assassination and in the wake of the release of Nathuram Godse’s accomplices Gopal Godse, Vishnu Karkare and Madanlal Pahwa, a Government-appointed Commission headed by Justice Jeevanlal Kapur took a fresh look at the role of various individuals and organizations that were said to be involved in the assassination.  An entire chapter in the Commission’s 1969 report is devoted to the role of the RSS (though no reference was made to the organization during the original Court trial).

Of the many witnesses examined by the Commission on the issue only Mr R N Banerjee, Union Home Secretary at the relevant time, spoke directly on the alleged link between RSS and the assassination.  His statement was- “my assessment of the situation or the position of RSS was this that it was not RSS as such that was responsible for the bomb throwing on  Gandhiji or his murder.  In my opinion, those who conspired to murder Gandhiji did not do so as Members of RSS”.

Based on all the evidences before it, the Commission concluded that “in Delhi also there is no evidence that the RSS as such was indulging in violent activities as against Mahatma Gandhi or top Congress leaders”.   Witnesses who testified against the RSS did not go beyond pointing out cases of alleged violence by the organization against Muslims or cases of possession of arms.  These statements were neither credible nor did they have any bearing on the alleged link between RSS and the assassination as such. Journalist J N Sahni (Witness No. 95) put forth a fantastic conspiracy theory as per which Golwalkar along with 6 lakh volunteers was planning to stage a coup d’etat against the Indian Government by killing top leaders, including Gandhiji, in connivance with the princes of Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Alwar, Bharathpur, Baroda and Bhopal.

 A similar conspiracy theory, given unnecessary credence by Gandhiji’s own personal secretary Pyarelal Nayyar, was that RSS volunteers knew of Gandhiji’s assassination in advance.   Apart from such conjectures, there was not a shred of evidence to link RSS with the assassination.  One person who was very clear about this was Sardar Patel.  On 27.02.1948, Sardar Patel wrote to Pandit Nehru  that “It also emerges from the statements that the RSS was not involved in it at all”. More surprisingly on the very next day of the assassination, when anti-RSS sentiment was running high,  Sardar Patel received a delegation of RSS workers who came to his residence to affirm that the RSS had nothing to do with the assassination (As recorded by Patel’s daughter, Maniben Patel in her diary).

Another charge against the RSS is that it was responsible for creating an atmosphere that was conducive for the assassination. In the heat of the situation, even Patel appears have to subscribed to this view.  The true atmosphere as it prevailed in Delhi in the months before Gandhiji’s assassination, in Pyarelal Nayyar’s words, was as follows:-

 “There was a shower of bullets on the (Irwin) Hospital from a   building across the maidan where the office of Dawn, the   Muslim League Organ, used to be and from a mosque close to          it. The bulk of the Police force of Delhi was  Muslims. A          number of them ….. had deserted.  The loyalty of the rest was        doubtful.  There were rumors of Coup d’tat on the part of the           Muslims.  Searches of Muslim homes by the police revealed   dumps of arms, bombs and ammunition.   Sten Guns, Bren   Guns, Mortars and wireless transmitter sets were seized and      secret miniature factories for the manufacture were uncovered”.

The entire violence from the Muslim community was directed at Hindu and Sikh refugees from Pakistan and with a depleted police force, there was nobody except volunteer organizations like the RSS to protect them and counter such violence.   Gandhiji’s pleas to the Muslims to surrender arms made no impact.  Not just the RSS but even some Congressmen were critical of Gandhiji’s advice to Hindus to exercise restraint when in fact they were at the receiving end of violence.

It was in this background that Golwalkar met Gandhiji on 12th September, 1947 at Delhi’s Bhangi Colony, to dispel any misapprehension he had with respect to the RSS.  While strongly denying that the RSS stood for violence he stuck to his guns on the right of Hindus to defend themselves.   In fact, RSS conducted its daily Shakha in the same ground of Bhangi Colony in which Gandhiji had his prayers meetings and for some days its volunteers even stood guard to Gandhiji’s residence in the colony.  On Golwalkar’s invitation, Gandhiji addressed a gathering of 500 RSS workers.  Golwalkar welcomed Gandhiji to the gathering   by calling him “a great man that Hinduism has produced”.

Is it even imaginable that RSS had anything to do with the assassination when in fact it was trying to get closer to Gandhiji just three months before and when according to Tushar Gandhi the plot to eliminate Gandhiji was at least 14 years old?  The “poisonous” atmosphere that was prevailing at that time was a direct result of the partition whereas the same Nathuram Godse made an attempt on Gandhiji’s life in Panchgani as early as 1944.  This proves that Godse and his accomplices had an independent mind which had nothing to do with RSS or any prevailing communal situation in 1948.

The RSS was highly critical of Gandhiji’s approach to many issues.  It was staunchly opposed to Gandhiji’s demand that the Government of India pay Pakistan Rs. 55 Crores as part of the partition package.  But when Gandhiji began a fast unto death on 3rd January 1948 to press the Government for this and his health started deteriorating rapidly in a few weeks, RSS leader Lala Hansraj Gupta (a future Padma Bhushan awardee and Mayor of Delhi) signed an appeal on behalf of the RSS asking him to withdraw the fast.

 RSS valued Gandhiji as a great leader and by all accounts Guru Golwalkar had high regard for him. Unfortunately it is today’s Congress which has let down the Mahatma. Steeped in corruption and indiscipline, the party and its leaders have no option but to repeat proven lies in order to continue misappropriation of his legacy.  The Congress should realized that while the Mahatma may have left the physical world 65 years ago, every instance of corruption, every crime against women and every case of political opportunism is a murder of his legacy.

Adithya Reddy is a Chennai-based lawyer.
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