By Dushyant Shekhawat Jan. 31, 2019
On Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary, the Hindu Mahasabha shot at an effigy of the Father of the Nation and set it on fire. Where are these defenders of Indian values, society, and culture, when the name of one of the architects of the nation is being besmirched?
Mahatma Gandhi has been dead for 71 years. Maybe the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha didn’t get the memo (or was punished outside class during history lessons), because they chose to mark Martyrs Day by shooting at an effigy of the Father of the Nation and setting it on fire. Thirteen people have been booked for this “historical re-enactment”, which was more tasteless than SuSu Swamy’s diagnosis of Priyanka Gandhi.
Despite the police action, the BJP and their supporters, normally so quick to lob accusations of anti-nationalism at those who don’t subscribe to its singular view of patriotism, have remained silent. In its eyes, something as innocuous as criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi or not standing up for the national anthem in a movie hall is seen as evidence of anti-Indian sentiments. Yet defiling the legacy of one of India’s greatest freedom fighters seems to get a free pass.
Image source: Twitter
Image source: Twitter
On Twitter, journalist Barkha Dutt asked, “Will this Hindu Mahasabha person who has recreated Gandhi’s assassination be called anti-national or booked for sedition?” Even though the police have booked 13 individuals, including the saffron-clad star of the show, Mahasabha leader Pooja Shakun Pandey, Dutt’s question remains purely a rhetorical one. It underscores how despite the prevalence of evidence supporting the idea, Hindu fundamentalism is still not perceived as a threat by the public at large.
Over the past few years, we have seen Hindu extremists repeatedly act in defiance of the tenets of the Indian Constitution, lynching minorities over suspicious meats or under the pretext of “love jihad”. Rather than being named anti-national, they acquire somewhat flattering titles, such as “gau rakshaks” or “Hindu shers”. When the threat of saffron terror was growing after the Malegaon blasts, a standard response of the “protectors” of Hindutva was to point out to the number of terror attacks masterminded by Muslim extremists. Last year, after the Maharashtra ATS seized an arms stockpile that would have made a Terminator blush, from the home of Vaibhav Raut, a member of the Sanatan Sanstha, there was none of the sensational reporting and heated news debates that would have accompanied the outing of a legitimate terrorist sleeper cell. And most recently, when a policeman was killed in a clash with cow vigilantes in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr, the state’s CM’s initial response was to express more concern for the slain cattle rather than the policeman, who was murdered.
Rather than being named anti-national, they acquire somewhat flattering titles, such as “gau rakshaks” or “Hindu shers”.
But what hope could a mere martyred cop have for fair remembrance, when even the Father of the Nation is treated with such calumny on his death anniversary? Clearly, by proclaiming to serve the interests of the country’s majority religion, these actors are throwing up a saffron smokescreen to mask their deeds for what they really are — lawbreaking assaults on the democratic ideals on which India was founded.
Yet the right wing continues to peddle the myth that the greatest threat to national security inside our borders comes not from these people who choose to jubilantly relive one of the most horrific moments in Indian history or attack fellow citizens, but from some imaginary bogeymen like the “Tukde Tukde Gang” and “Urban Naxals”. Where are these defenders of Indian values, society, and culture, when the name of one of the architects of the nation is being besmirched?
Oh that’s right, they are standing right behind the perpetrators. In a picture posted by Pandey on March 19, 2017, she is seen in the company of former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and union minister Uma Bharti. The photos have reportedly been deleted now. But the Mahasabha leader has no dearth of supporters. Her backers in the BJP might have gone mum but she can look for a kindred spirit in Bollywood reject Payal Rohatgi, who marked Martyrs’ Day by sharing a video of Godse’s speech and implying his actions were justified.
Meanwhile, Vivek Agnihotri, a man who seems to have made it his life’s mission to root out anti-nationals in the country, is conspicuously quiet on the actions of the Mahasabha. The inventor of Urban Naxals will probably be elated to know that he is in the august company of our PM and top BJP leaders, who have also remained similarly mum. This, despite the party using Gandhi as a convenient ambassador for some of its most high-profile schemes, like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
This silence probably stems from the fact that when the Hindu Mahasabha pulls stunts like the one they did yesterday, they highlight an inconvenient truth that the right wing would rather remained buried. The fact is that Hindutva ideology is actually at odds with the vision of what India was destined to be at the time of its conception, and valorising Godse over Gandhi is one of the most glaring examples of that truth. Every time the misguided individuals in the viral video chant “Mahatma Nathuram Godse Amar Rahe,” they put their ignorance on display. The only reason they’re able to act with such impunity is because they’re confident they won’t be called out on it.
Where are these defenders of Indian values, society, and culture, when the name of one of the architects of the nation is being besmirched?
The Hindu Mahasabha video reenacting the assassination has gone viral, giving them the publicity they were obviously seeking, and then some. But now that everyone has seen the true face of Hindu extremism, it’s up to us, the citizens of India, to choose whether we wish to celebrate it, or reject it just like we did in 1948.