In India, the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi is worshiped because of Hindu nationalism

L.On Sunday, a large crowd of men gathered in a building in the Indian city of Gwalior, 200 miles south of Delhi. Most wore bright saffron hats and scarves, a color that gave birth to Hindu nationalism, and many took copper flowers as a gift of devotion.

He was present at the inauguration of a memorial library and “Knowledge Center”, dedicated to Nathuram Godse, the man who shot Mahatma Gandhi. Devout yellow and pink flowers were placed around the center of the room, a black and white portrait of Godse.

Nathuram Godse
Nathuram Godse, the Hindu nationalist who assassinated Gandhi in 1948. Photo: Scholar

On January 30, 1948, Godse stepped in front of Gandhi and fired three shots at the empty point. A staunch believer in Hindu nationalism, Godse believed that Gandhi, by agreeing to the partition of India, had betrayed the Hindus of India, leading to the formation of Pakistan, and violating the rights of Muslims. In 1949, Godse was hanged for Gandhi’s assassination.

In the ensuing decades, Godse was widely denounced as a terrorist and traitor, the killer of the “Father of India”. Yet, in recent years, as Hindu nationalism has shifted from extremism to mainstream Indian politics – the original Hindu nationalist agenda of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – Godse’s public reputation Has backed down from being condemned as a traitor. Worship as a misunderstood Indian patriot

Meanwhile, since the BJP came to power in 2014, Gandhi’s ideology of secular India with equal rights for all religions has been abolished.

“Godse did the right thing by killing Gandhi,” said Devinder Pandey, 53, national secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindu nationalist organization behind the memorial library. He voiced his belief that India should be declared a “pro-Hindu country” and that its 200 million Muslims should be relocated to Pakistan.

“Godse considered Gandhi as his father, so killing him must have hurt him a lot, but there was a real reason,” he said. “Godse acted because Gandhi betrayed India – this library will teach the next generation how Godse was a true nationalist martyr.”

Inauguration of Nathuram Godse Library.
Nationalists wearing saffron hats and scarves are preparing to open Nathuram Godse’s library. Photographer: NDTV

The library is one of the recent efforts to commemorate and honor Godse. The Hindu Mahasabha, which belonged to Godse and now has about 7,750,000 members all over India, has erected several statues of Godse and tried to establish a temple in his name.

The organization celebrates Godse’s birthday in May as Holy Day. In Pune, Maharashtra, a silver vessel containing Gadse’s ashes, after his wish that India and Pakistan should not be allowed to disintegrate together, has become a popular pilgrimage site. ۔ Videos of extremist Hindu sermons glorifying Godse have spread on social media.

Pandey said the Hindu Mahasabha plans to open several such education and memorial centers dedicated to Godse across India. However, there is still a lot of resistance to glorifying Gandhi’s assassin. Two days after the Goods Memorial Library reopened this week, it had to close on a local magistrate’s order. And members of the Hindu Mahasabha have been arrested on charges of attempting to erect a memorial to Godse and hold ceremonies in his honor.

Audrey Troshke, an assistant professor of South Asian history at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said, “This glorification of Godse and the glorification of violence is linked to the rise of all the BJP.” Is moving towards where more and more people in India are now willing to accept it. And people’s perceptions of Mahatma Gandhi are being formed, and reshaped, in decisive, unstable ways.

Paintings by Nathuram Godse
Police photos of Nathuram Godse, who was hanged for Gandhi’s assassination. Photographer: Monddori Portfolio / Monddori / Getty

Historian Ramchandra Goha, who wrote Gandhi’s biography, said it was not surprising when the BJP pursued its Hindu nationalist agenda, which included a citizenship law that directly discriminated against Muslims. Yes, Godse’s legacy is being restored in India.

Godse was a member of the extremist Hindu nationalist cultural organization RSS, which is seen as the BJP’s umbrella organization. Most senior figures in the ruling BJP government, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hold positions in the RSS.

“Privately, the BJP dislikes and distrusts Gandhi and Godse has always been praised by the members,” Goha said. “The BJP dislikes influencing Gandhi, they believe that his non-violence movement has weakened India, they trust him when he agrees to partition and most importantly they are Muslims. The dislike is deep, so it is not surprising that the BJP is now so politically and socially powerful that it has come to the surface.

“The debate around Godse takes you to the heart of what is happening in India today,” Goha said. He added: “This worship of Godse symbolizes a truly dangerous change in our political life, our public life, our institutional life and our cultural life. It raises the question of India’s future: are we now Hindu-majority? Are the people whom the Lord always wanted?

This article was modified on January 17, 2021. The state of Pune is in Maharashtra, not in Madhya Pradesh as stated in the first version.

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