Killing the Mahatma over and over again

RSS-BJP leaders have tried suppressing Mahatma Gandhi's undying spirit and his thoughts on various occasions

Getty Images
Getty Images

Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

Barely six months after Independence, Nathuram Godse brutally killed Mahatma Gandhi by pumping three bullets into the Father of the Nation while he was on his way to offer evening prayers at the Birla House.

And January 30, 2023 is being marked as the 75th death anniversary of the Mahatma.  

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from the year 2014 has tried to kill the Mahatma again and again not only by passing critical remarks on Gandhiji but also by repeatedly trying to tarnish his image.

In the year 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ejected Mahatma Gandhi from Khadi Udyog’s calendar and a table diary, which created a furore on social media. Mahatma Gandhi’s photo was excluded from the calendar cover and diary ‐ instead, it showed Modi spinning thread on a large charkha.

Amid protests, the Khadi Village Industries Commission said that there was ‘no rule or tradition’ that only Mahatma Gandhi’s picture should be published on these items.

Also, there are several instances when BJP leaders insulted the Father of The Nation, popularly known as ‘Bapu’.

The former Union Minister and controversial Bhartiya Janata Party MP Anantkumar Hegde had fuelled a row by calling the freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi as 'drama'.

In fact, Amit Shah, the then BJP Chief, pointed out that although Gandhi wanted to dissolve the Congress party immediately after Independence, he was a ‘Chatur Baniya' (cunning baniya) referring  to the shrewdness of the mercantile caste into which he was born.

Shah had said, “People of various ideologies and thinking associated themselves with Congress to gain independence. The Congress didn’t have any ideology or set of principles and it was only used as a special purpose vehicle to secure freedom. And therefore, Mahatma Gandhi, with a lot of foresight -- bahut chatur baniya tha woh -- he knew what was going to happen in the future. He had said immediately after the Independence that Congress should be dissolved.”

The controversial MP Pragya Singh Thakur has repeatedly called Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse a "patriot". During the Lok Sabha election, Singh publicly said Nathuram Godse was a deshbhakt (patriot) and will remain so.

Thakur again in the winter session of the Parliament had praised Godse on the floor of the House.

The BJP as a punishment axed her from a consultative committee on defence and barred her from attending its parliamentary party meeting.

Sambit Patra, National Spokesperson of the BJP in December 2019 called Prime Minister Narendra Modi Father of the Nation (desh ka baap), the title given to Mahatma Gandhi, on a news channel show.

On the same, Congress staged several protests and demanded apologies from Modi to the country for Patra's remark.

Haryana minister Anil Vij courted controversy with his remark that Mahatma Gandhi's image did not help Khadi and caused devaluation of the currency, sparking widespread outrage with even his party the BJP condemning his statement following which he withdrew them.

Vij also took objection over the popular Hindi song Sabarmati ke Sant, saying it portrayed an inaccurate picture of India's freedom struggle and claimed that its lyrics were an 'insult' to many martyrs whose contributions it ignored.

BJP's former Madhya Pradesh spokesperson Anil Saumitra had called Mahatma Gandhi the "father of the nation of Pakistan."

Saumitra wrote in a Facebook post  "Mahatma Gandhi was the father of the nation but of Pakistan. India has had crores of sons like him, some worthy, some unworthy."

The BJP later suspended Saumitra from its primary membership for his remark.

BJP's Rajya Sabha member from Assam, Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, had likened Mahatma Gandhi and India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to "garbage."

"The Congress has pushed the Nehru-Gandhi garbage into the minds of people over the years and there is now no space for any other theory," the then Lok Sabha member from Jorhat said at a public rally.

And this year on January 29, while armed force bands were beating the retreat, the government ensured that Gandhiji's favourite hymn 'Abide With Me' was quietly dropped from the repertoire. Yet early morning today both the prime minister and president were paying homage to Gandhiji at Rajghat underliining the fact that however much they tried to obliterate him, the Father of the Nation's undying spirit endures and the BJP has no easy escape from it.

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