Doublespeak on Mahatma Gandhi: Hypocritical homage to Bapu by his assassins

As we mourn the Mahatma’s death, assassinated on this day in 1948, it is worth recalling the duplicity that surrounds the tributes paid by people who allow his assassin to be glorified

Doublespeak on Mahatma Gandhi: Hypocritical homage to Bapu by his  assassins

Tushar Gandhi

A week before India won freedom, in August 1947, Mohandas Gandhi wrote: ‘So long as my faith burns bright, as I hope it will even if I stand alone, I shall be alive in the grave and what is more, speaking from it.’ Within six months of Independence Bapu was murdered on the evening of 30th January, 1948.

Ever since his murder, they the real murderers, the patron and the parent organisations, launched a campaign of lies to attempt to smother his voice and murder his legacy. Initially they could not succeed. But post-1990s the process of radicalising India met with success and post-2014 they started receiving patronage and encouragement from the Government on the sly.

The hate Gandhi campaign, still covert, now enjoys silent patronage from the government and active support from both Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. Officially the PM still makes a great show of his reverence for Bapu, but it’s blatantly a sham. The attempt is to alter Gandhi and create an image that is more convenient for them to live with.

First the photo gallery at Gandhi Smriti, formerly Birla House, was replaced; evocative large prints of Bapu’s death and funeral were replaced by big TV screens which randomly flash images which make no sense to the visitors. And so the tragedy of Bapu’s murder evocatively displayed in the previous Photo Art displays, has now been trivialised. One hurdle crossed.

Next to fall victim to them is Sabarmati Ashram, the memorial that is a living reminder that Bapu lived, and was very much real. He and Ba lived and worked from there and practised everything that he preached. The new Sabarmati Ashram will be a ‘World Class Tourist Destination’ and not a shrine of our freedom movement.

Khadi now has an official patron, the PM dressed in his ‘designer Khadi’. It is no longer Bapu’s rough hewn Khaddar. So, Bapu has been replaced with the nattily dressed image of PM. Even for Swachch Bharat Abhiyan Bapu’s glasses are just aframe without lens or eyes.

When Pragya Singh Thakur, now the MP from Bhopal, eulogised Nathuram Godse and derided Bapu, the PM made a very emotional statement that he would never be able to forgive her. BJP announced a committee had been set up to examine her conduct in praising Bapu’s assassin Nathuram Godse. But that was before the 2019 election. After the election, nobody has heard of the committee and the PM himself continues to sit comfortably in the same House where Pragya Singh Thakur sits as an elected member of his party, behind him.

It has been more than a month since Bapu was abused at the ‘Hate Sansad’ in Haridwar and then in Chhattisgarh. But the PM, in campaign mode, appears deaf to the abuse; it no longer causes him any pain. At an opportune moment, quite possibly on a foreign trip, a tear may trickle down and will be captured brilliantly on camera. But for the moment his heart has turned to stone.

Godse fired the shots that killed Bapu, but he was merely a hitman. He acted on the orders of his master, Savarkar, and the organisations he was an active member of-- the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS.

As is their cowardly practice, they deny their involvement and go to great lengths to disassociate themselves from their stooges. They did the same with Nathuram Godse, after he murdered Bapu. They succeeded in getting Bapu murdered, but to their great discomfort, his legacy lives on, and gaining strength. As Bapu had said, he continues to speak from beyond the flames of his funeral pyre.

A campaign of calumny, character assassination, of lies and half- truths had begun with Godse’s statement in court. That statement of Godse was what the RSS required, and they have exploited it ever since. Both their organisation and unfortunately Nathuram’s statement were banned by the Government of India, which helped both to claim and gain legitimacy and a halo of martyrdom. It continues to be milked and exploited, sometimes as theatre productions like ‘Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy’ or in films such as ‘Why I Killed Gandhi’.

Savarkar, one of the accused, present with the other accused throughout the trial, realised that the public trial gave them a unique opportunity to vent their spleen. Both Guru and Shishya exploited the opportunity to the hilt. Daily accounts of the court proceedings were reported in detail, so was Nathuram’s statement.

Although Nathuram spoke the words in court, he did not have mastery over language; he was loud, abusive and aggressive. But Savarkar was a master of emotionally charged writing. Nathuram’s statement, definitely written by Savarkar, is a well-crafted dialogue designed to earn sympathy. Lies when cleverly told are often more appealing than the truth.

Systematic campaign against Bapu began in the late 1920s, soon after his movement against caste oppressions and practice of untouchability. The first documented attempt on his life took place in Poona in 1934, when a hand grenade was hurled on the car bringing him to an official function. This was during his Harijan Yatra, for opening up temples and village wells to ‘lower castes’ and ‘untouchables’. It angered the Savarna Sanatani Hindus concentrated in Poona and Nagpur, as well as in several princely states.

Post-1934 there were several other documented attempts on Bapu’s life. The attempt in Panchgani, the attack in Sevagram, attempt to derail the Gandhi Special train taking Bapu to Pune are just a few such attempts.

Bapu mentioned the last incident following his evening prayer at Poona and humorously said “I would like to inform those making so many attempts on my life, that they are bound to fail; I am going to live for 125 years!”

A few days later at a public meeting organised by the Hindu Mahasabha, Nathuram responded in Marathi. “Gandhi Mhantat me Ekshe Panchvis Varsha jagnar ahe. Pan tyana evdha jagu denar kon!’ (Gandhi says he is going to live for 125 years. But who will let him live that long).

For a year before Bapu was assassinated, preparations were made, training was imparted assassins were equipped. There is an IB report of two such weapons training camps, one in Alwar and one in Gwalior. In both, targets used to fire at were photographs of Bapu and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

Protest were staged at Bapu’s evening prayer meetings. Prayers of all religions, Sarva Dharma Prarthana, were recited daily. The protests begin as soon as Ayats from the Quran were recited. Refugees were used as protestors, to make it look as if grieving refugees were angry with Bapu. Nathuram and Apte led one such protest in August 1947, which was the most violent.

In the first attempt on Bapu’s life on 20th January, 1948, Madan Lal, a refugee was to be the fall guy. The refugee who was likely to get caught after exploding bombs at Bapu’s prayer meeting, was to be murdered by hit men. This orchestrated conspiracy was designed to establish the myth that angry refugees, upset at Gandhi’s recitation of Muslim prayers, had murdered him. It failed.

On 30th January, the assassination followed the original pattern. A rumour was fanned that a Muslim had murdered Bapu. Nathuram, after he was caught, did not reveal his identity till Anna Gadgil of Poona identified him.

They murdered Bapu 75 years ago. They have left no stone unturned since then to murder his legacy.

(Son of Manilal Gandhi, the author is the great grandson of the Mahatma)

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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