Tuesday, 24 May, 2022
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Gandhi vs Godse: BJP hasn’t done well by throwing Pragya Thakur to the wolves

If BJP, the party of Hindutva, can no longer stand by those who believe in the ideology, it will be the ultimate loser.

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The repeated attempts to browbeat and humiliate Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur over her views on Nathuram Godse do not do Indian democracy any credit. While the opposition may think it has scored a big political point by getting her to apologise, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), by succumbing to opposition pressures to make her eat crow, has not done its own cause any good. If the party of Hindutva can no longer stand by those who believe in the ideology, it will be the ultimate loser.

No matter how hard the BJP tries to prove its reverence for Gandhi, the opposition is not going to cut it any slack. You will keep hearing the same old accusations, that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), to which the BJP is affiliated, was part of the plot to kill Gandhi.

The Sadhvi, who spent nine years in prison over a terrorism charge that is nowhere near being proven, is entitled to her views on Godse. She called him a patriot, and this is not a tag one can reasonably deny Godse, whose decision to kill Gandhi was driven by a desire to stop Gandhi from repeatedly selling Hindu interests down the drain.

Also read: Pragya Thakur is so controversial that even BJP MPs avoid her in Parliament

The real problem we should have with Godse is his decision to kill the Mahatma instead of fighting him politically. By assassinating him, Godse gave the Mahatma’s aura eternal life, far beyond what history may have been inclined to give him. This is not to suggest that Gandhi was not a Mahatma – he was one, given his own high ethical and moral standards and extreme dedication to pacifism – but he had no business inflicting his personal moral standards on vast sections of society that did not quite agree with him. It is not easy for anyone to believe that there is something quite moral in asking the Jews to let themselves be killed by Hitler, or for Hindus to fight for Khilafat, a cause that had nothing to do with this country or this society.

The big mistake Gandhi made was to confuse individual morality with state and societal morality, where larger interests beyond personal fads have to be defended. Godse’s mistake was to give in to the pessimism that Gandhi’s views would always prevail with the masses. In effect, his assassination of Gandhi was an admission of defeat – that Gandhi’s ideas could not be fought with reasoned arguments alone.

Coming back to Sadhvi Pragya, she is free to consider Godse a patriot. An assassin can be a patriot. If India’s communists can be seen as patriots after eulogising global mass murderers like Lenin, Stalin and Mao, what is wrong in the Sadhvi thinking of Godse as her hero?

The pathetic assault on the Sadhvi’s freedom to decide who her heroes are was compounded by Rahul Gandhi and Asaduddin Owaisi calling Godse a terrorist. They should read up the dictionary. An assassin is different from a terrorist, as the latter has motives that go far beyond just killing one or two persons. A terrorist seeks to intimidate society as a whole by random and focused acts of mindless killings and mass murder. Godse cannot by any stretch of imagination be called a terrorist.

Rahul Gandhi called both Sadhvi Pragya and Godse as “terrorists”, and Owaisi said much the same. If they really want to know what terrorism is, they need look no further than the acts of their own parties. In 1984, the mass killings of hapless Sikhs in Delhi by Congress workers in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination was terrorism, plain and simple. Owaisi’s own party, the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM), the party his father inherited from the razakars of the Hyderabad Nizam, was once terrorism personified. MIM’s razakars played a huge role in the rape and terrorisation of Hindus in Hyderabad state before its formal integration with India.

The party that comes off worst in the humiliation of Sadhvi Pragya – who was forced to offer an apology she did not believe in – is the BJP. Having used her during the last elections to make a point against the author of the idea of “saffron terror” – Digvijaya Singh – it cannot now disown her completely. The Sadhvi defeated Singh in the Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency by a large margin.

This is not to suggest that the BJP cannot have views that are different from the Sadhvi’s, but all it needs to do is say that it does not share her views on Gandhi or Godse.

The reason why the BJP seems to require Gandhi so much for its politics is that he was the tallest Gujarati ever. And both Narendra Modi and his No 2, Amit Shah, hail from Gujarat. They believe that owning the Gandhi heritage is crucial to making the BJP the central pole of Indian politics.

One cannot entirely disagree with this view, for, at the end of the day, Gandhi, in his own way, was a great Indian, even a great Hindu. But the BJP is not doing itself or the nation any favour by throwing to the wolves those whose views on Gandhi it disagrees with. There has to be space for both views.

The Sadhvi has more silent believers in the BJP and the Hindu community than the party’s mainstream leaders.

Also read: Pragya Thakur was Amit Shah’s personal choice to take on Digvijaya Singh in Bhopal

The author is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi. Views are personal.

This article was first published on Swarajya.

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  1. Mr Jagannathan has dispassionately analysed all issues relating to assassination of “Mahatma” Gandhi and his assassin Nathuram Godse. It is not quite clear how and when M.K.Gandhi got the title “Mahatma”. But looking back it certainly looks amateurish. While it cannot be denied that Gandhi stood by high moral values and inspired people to follow him the outcome of his actions differed awkwardly from the “noble” intentions. M.K.Gandhi did say that the partition will happen only over his dead body but partition happened and he was still alive. Gandhi’s views on Caliphate movement, his position naively insisting Hindus to recite “Quran” in Hindu temples post partition blood bath, his stand on the payment of Rs 52 Crores to Pakistan after its occupation of Indian territory and demand to provide land for construction of corridor to connect West Pakistan to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) are reflective of shadiness and perhaps cowardliness. It has to be emphasized that patriotism is only with respect to the Motherland not with reference to any individual howsoever high he may be. As the author has rightly point out an assassin can also be patriot. Self-serving politicians like Rahul Gandhi and Kamal Hassan have muddied the waters. It is ridiculous that the likes of Rahul Bajaj who have been immensely benefited during license raj due to their proximity to Nehru Gandhi dynasty are preaching the gullible common man on what patriotism is. BJP leadership has no business to thrust its views on Sadvi Pragya Singh Thakur. While it may be politically inexpedient to say, the fact of the matter is that Nathuram Godse was and is a patriot. There were many many unsung and unwept heroes in the Independence movement.

  2. How disillusioned is this writer. Someone who assasinated a person who is referred to as the father of nation, should not be called a terrorist. Infact by your logic he should be called a martyr. I support BJP but people like you are trying to push it to the brink of extremism from where there is no point of return.

  3. Who the hell is this Sadhvi Pragya Thakur ?On what merits of public work was she nominated to be MP from Bhopal ?So she spent nine years in jail on terrorism charges that were nowhere close to being proven( is that merit of some kind?) Look at the kind of debates that we are getting in to , a nobody wearing saffron whose only claim to fame is that she spent nine years in jail in a hindu majority country for trying to allegedly kill members of minority community.Gandhi may or may not be great , godse may have had valid reasons for disliking gandhiji , but just imagine if every indian who has valid grouses starts behaving like godse and then some crackpot thinks of that indian as great patriot and then he is elected to the parliament and then there are debates like this .

  4. I am shocked. This one of very bad articles written by Jagganathan. Pragya Singh doesn’t deserve to be in the Parliament. BJP had made a wrong choice of making her the party’s nomination from Bhopal. The party has to now pay for this blunder.

  5. Once in a while, a wrong call is made. Getting her elected to Parliament is one such. Too much political capital will be expended to keep her out of the trouble she will keep getting into. A clean break will be in everyone’s interest. People are free to light candles before a portrait of Nathuram Godse in the privacy of their homes. The public space is sacrosanct. The legacy of Mahatma Gandhi is beyond a rewriting of history.

  6. Great write up, the progeny of two political organization who have been accused of terrorism in 1947-48 (Hyd) and 1984 are jumping on her statement says it all.

  7. Very well written article. If a society wants to be known as liberal one, it must also accommodate and tolerate views which do not gel with the majority thinking. Liberals, or so-called secularists are more intolerant of people who do not agree with them. Right wingers are called intolerant, but not left of centre or left-liberals who call names to people who have different views.

    • By that logic, society should also have plenty of room for racists, neo-Nazis, slavery-sympathizer etc. “Everyone” should have a voice, apparently. By that logic, right-wing Islamophobes like you should not beat your chests when a maulana issues a fatwa or a fundamentalist threatens society. Everyone should have a voice, right? What a proper idiotic argument. The problem is that fundamentally you believe it’s perfectly fine to have views like Pragya Thakur’s as long as they defend Hinduism. Hinduism above nation for you, right? Hinduism is the greatest. Best thing ever.

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