Six days after Gandhiji’s assassination, Nehru wrote to CMs about RSS ban and steps taken

This week, seventy-three years ago, on 5 February 1948, six days after Gandhiji’s assassination, Jawaharlal Nehru, his disciple and heir, still reeling under the shock of the loss, wrote to CMs

Jawaharlal Nehru (Social Media)
Jawaharlal Nehru (Social Media)

NH Web Desk

This week, seventy-three years ago, on 5 February 1948, six days after Gandhiji’s assassination, Jawaharlal Nehru, his disciple and heir, still reeling under the shock of the loss, wrote to the Chief Ministers warning them of the dangerous situation and informing them of the action that had been and needed to be taken

“When I wrote to you last, Gandhiji was in the middle of his fast. A little more than two weeks have elapsed since then, and yet it seems as if it was distant ages ago, for so much has happened and all of us have experienced shock and unutterable pain. The suddenness and magnitude of what has happened benumbed us for a while, and yet we felt immediately that we have to take action and swift action.

You are already aware of some action that we have taken. You must have seen the resolution issued by the Government of India on this tragedy and know that we have banned the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh organisation. Investigations are proceeding. But enough has come to light already to show that this assassination was not the act of just an individual or even a small group. It is clear that behind him lay a fairly widespread organisation and deliberate propaganda of hate and violence carried on for a long time.

It is significant that for the first time after a long period we should have political assassination in India and that too on the highest level. Even apart from Gandhiji’s death by such assassination, the fact that there are people in this country who have adopted this method to gain political ends is of the gravest import. Perhaps we have been too lenient in dealing with these various elements in the country. We have suffered for that. But it is time that we gripped the problem fully and dealt with it adequately. There can be no half measures.

It would appear that a deliberate coup d’etat was planned involving the killing of several persons and the promotion of general disorder to enable the particular group concerned to seize power. The conspiracy appears to have been a fairly widespread one, spreading to some of the states. It is not proper for me now to say much more about this except to warn you of its widespread ramifications.

I am and have been a believer in civil liberty and the democratic processes, but it is absurd to talk of democracy when the very basis of it is challenged by terroristic activities; it is equally absurd for civil liberty to be granted to those who wish to seize power by murder and violence…. We must remember that the people opposed to us are thoroughly unscrupulous. They will say one thing and do another.

I have had messages of condolence from some persons of note who are believed to be associated in this conspiracy. I cannot, therefore, just take any person’s word for granted. It is fairly well-known that attempts have been made, and these have met with some success in having cells of these conspirators in all manner of governmental places, services, etc. We shall have to purge these and purify our administration and services.

The popular reaction to the murder is understandable. {There were violent demonstrations all over India against members of the R.S.S. and Hindu Mahasabha and attacks bn their offices.} It was scandalous in the extreme that any person in India should have the temerity and the meanness to celebrate by distribution of sweets or by slogans the assassination of Gandhiji. If the mass of the people resented this and took action of their own accord, I can understand it, and even appreciate it to some extent. But it is clear that any widespread disorder plays into the hands of our enemies and weakens such action as government might take and are taking….

There is a strong opinion in the country, with which I sympathise, that no political-religious organisation or rather no organisation confined to a particular religious group and aiming at political ends; should be allowed to function. We have suffered enough from this type of communalism whether it is Muslim or Hindu or Sikh….

It is clear that a good part of our troubles is due to a thoroughly irresponsible Press. I do not, of course, refer to the many responsible organs of public opinion. But in recent months especially a spate of thoroughly irresponsible sheets have come out and they spread hatred, communal bitterness and the cult of violence. This must be ended.”

(Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former Professor of History at JNU and former Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library)

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