Huge row over special issue on Savarkar by magazine run by Gandhian institution chaired by PM

Gandhians, opposition leaders and civil society members have denounced publication of a special issue on Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar by Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti’s magazine ‘Antim Jan’

Huge row over special issue on Savarkar by magazine run by Gandhian institution chaired by PM

NH Political Bureau

Gandhians, historians, opposition leaders and civil society members have denounced the publication of a special issue on Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar, tried as an accused in Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination case, by Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti’s magazine ‘Antim Jan’.

Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti (GSDS), formed as an autonomous body in September 1984 by merging Gandhi Darshan at Rajghat and Gandhi Smriti at 5, Tees January Marg – where Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 –functions under the aegis of the Union Ministry of Culture, and is chaired by the Prime Minister. As per its webpage, the Samiti’s basic aim and objective is to propagate the life, mission and thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi through various socio-educational and cultural programmes.

It runs one of the biggest museums on Mahatma Gandhi in the national capital, housing around 60,000 books and 6000 original photos of the Father of the Nation.

Huge row over special issue on Savarkar by magazine run by Gandhian institution chaired by PM

Commenting on the development, Kumar Prashant, head of Gandhi Peace Foundation, termed it as a “naked display of fascism”, while Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, expressed “dismay” and called upon the GSDS to explain to the readers why Savarkar was charged as a co-conspirator in Gandhi’s assassination case.

Talking to National Herald, Tushar Gandhi remarked that Hindutva forces had long been trying to establish Savarkar as some sort of a freedom fighter but wanted to conceal the fact that he wrote several mercy petitions while in jail and upon being released by the Britishers, accepted a monthly pension from them even as India was fighting for freedom under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress.

“How did Savarkar contribute to the freedom struggle…they (Hindutva forces) should tell the people,” he said.

Pertinently, Savarkar was released from jail in 1924 – 23 years before India got independence. After his release and until his death, he did nothing except make efforts to establish and promote Hindutva as a dominating counter ideology opposed to Congress’ secularism.

Tushar Gandhi pointed out that it was ironic that even to establish Savarkar, they had to resort to using Gandhi’s name.

He demanded that all institutions centered on Gandhi should be freed from the clutches of the government and the bureaucracy.

“Such things will happen again if the government controls the institutions built after Gandhi’s name. That is where the danger of political ideology overpowering the ideology of Gandhi exists,” he said.

Kumar Prashant, on his part, said that instead of reacting to such issues, people needed to think about what we are doing to fight against fascism.

“The Ministry of Culture has the right to publish whatever it wants. The focus of the people and the civil society should be to defeat the ideology of fascism and Hindutva,” he remarked.

Ironically, the first article in the magazine, whose cover features Savarkar’s photograph, is on religious tolerance, penned by none other than Mahatma Gandhi.

Savarkar’s piece on Hindutva has been published as the second lead article. The magazine carries a piece by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee titled “Savarkar was a fire” as well as an article by the editor of the magazine, Praveen Dutt Sharma, titled ‘Gandhi ka gussa’ (Gandhi’s anger).

After the issue triggered a row, vice-chairperson of GSDS, BJP leader Vijay Goel, claimed that the magazine’s theme was dedicated to Savarkar as it was his birth anniversary on May 28. “Veer Savarkar was a great man. So was Gandhi, so was Patel. We have to learn from their sacrifices. No one else spent as much time behind bars as Savarkar during British rule,” he said.

Speaking to the media, he said that the magazine would continue to publish special issues dedicated to freedom fighters, and its August issue would be around the theme of ‘Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ to mark 75 years of Independence.

Terming the decision by the magazine to bring out a special issue on Savarkar as “unfortunate”, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that the Centre was trying to subvert the institution of Gandhi Smriti.

“The history of the country is being distorted to satisfy the present government. This is very unfortunate,” he said.

Author and journalist Dhirendra K Jha, who recently wrote a book titled ‘Gandhi’s Assassin: The Making of Nathuram Godse And His Idea Of India’ was quoted as saying by The Hindu: “Conspiracy angle of Gandhi’s murder was not investigated properly. Kapur Commission of Enquiry to investigate the conspiracy behind the murder of Gandhi was set up much later in 1966. The commission clearly said that Savarkar and a group of people under him planned to kill Gandhi. The benefit of doubt Savarkar got during the murder trial should not be seen as complete acquittal for Savarkar”.

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Published: 18 Jul 2022, 6:55 PM