Nathuram Godse faced a long and fair trial when Sardar Patel was Home Minister!
Twitter storms and trends are rarely organic. They need coordination, organization, possibly bots, money and time. It is anybody’s guess who were behind ‘Godse Zindabad’ trending on Twitter yesterday
As I write this on Gandhi Jayanti on Saturday, his killer Godse trends on Twitter. I wonder at the demons unleashed on India and why we have come to glorify violence in a society believed to be civilized and even spiritual.
When Gandhiji was asked by a British journalist, “What do you think about western civilisation?", Gandhi had replied, “I think that would be a good idea.” I had been delighted at the sheer brilliance of that comment – the west considered us savages, pagans, somewhat hedonistic given the scale and colour of our festivals and generally too unrefined to be described as a genteel society. I wonder what he would have said today to a similar question on Indian civilization.
Yet the ideas of ahimsa and universal brotherhood had gone out from India. We gave to the world the power of zero and some of the world’s greatest philosophers and thinkers.
The patent violence in Indian society and its preference for Hammurabi's code of an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth –had left me depressed. Not many Indians, I realized, remember Gandhi Ji’s brilliant riposte that an eye for an eye would merely render the whole world blind.
Around the time of the trial of 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab, a friend of a friend, a rich businessman's wife, sitting in a Peddar Road drawing room, has loftily exclaimed, “But why are we giving him a trial? We should simply hang him from the nearest tree!"
That’s not how it is done in liberal democracies, I replied. Even a traitor deserved a fair trial. It now seems ironical that I had pointed to the long and fair trial given to Nathuram Godse before he was hanged for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi.
But this woman was not convinced, so I asked her how she would feel if her son were hanged from the nearest tree for a crime he may have committed but without receiving a fair trial. ‘If he commits a crime, I will never defend him’, she had said. It was surreal when a few months later, her only son was hauled up on suspicion of drug dealing and beaten up in the lock-up even before his lawyers could reach him.
The mother was frantic – why could the cops not have brought him to court, why did they presume he was guilty, she kept repeating over and over again. Her son was so traumatised that the family shifted to the United States with him. They have not returned.
Clearly for many of us, sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander. Many Indians do seem to value blood and gore more than peace or non-violence. I recently ran into an ardent admirer of Narendra Modi, whose son has lost his job, whose daughter-in-law tries to enhance the family income by going door to door serving home cooked meals and whose grandchildren are facing a stark future.
He is comfortable on his pension, which I pointed out came from a job he held during Indira Gandhi's tenure as PM and which was secured with a school and college education he had received practically free during Jawaharlal Nehru's time. He was somewhat subdued and chastened but not for long. He accused me some time later of being a Gandhiwaadi, as though that was a crime and said, “Godse ne koi galati nahin ki”.
He was an old family friend and I told him never to step into my vicinity again unless he was prepared to acknowledge the truth of India which would always have Gandhi's and Nehru's DNA mixed into our soil and ethos. Among our friends now I am the villain for soon a sweet, old lady I met at a society event asked me, “Why do you hate Hindus so much?”
I am still trying to din into her head that Hindu is different from Hindutva and while one is a religion the other is a political ideology and I would rather be a Gandhi than a Godse.
These incidents have informed me that the Godse types were always lurking in the shadows but could never express themselves openly for fear of the law and the liberals who were then dominant. But as Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of the Mahatma, recently told me, the liberals were too complacent about the RSS and bigots and kept dismissing them out of hand as a lunatic fringe. In the absence of law and order and democracy in the country, it is we who have become the fringe and the bigots are the mainstream today. That is why, of course, they can trend Godse on Mahatma's birth anniversary.
As a friend recently told me, he knew someone who was wiping tears from his eyes, recounting stories of how he had to demean himself to keep a roof over his family and food on the table. But he still would not blame Modi for this sorry pass. Religion was important to him but stories of minorities being lynched gave him and his ilk more satisfaction.
That I have grown up among such Godse Bhakts horrify me. But I also take heart from the fact that even today there are large number of Gandhiwaadis in this country.
We should not allow Godse and his admirers to overwhelm us, for history would always treat them as losers. They must note that United Nations has designated October 2 as International Non-Violence Day. I do not think Godse will ever receive any such international honour.
(The writer is an author, columnist and journalist. Views are personal)