Sadhvi Pragya, the BJP MP from Bhopal who had defeated Congress leader Digvijay Singh has landed in yet another controversy. In the parliament, during an interjection, Sadhvi said that Nathuram Godse, the man who killed MK Gandhi was a patriot. Post her comments, while the opposition was bound to create a ruckus, BJP too has acted against Sadhvi. The party sacked her from the parliamentary panel on Defence and expelled her from attending parliamentary meetings this winter session.
It has long been the established norm in India that any honest debate about the policies of MK Gandhi and the motivation of Godse for committing the murder of Gandhi is taboo. While defending the act of murder is unconscionable, not evaluating and having an honest debate on the subject is equally, problematic. While all of that is true, one must also evaluate what purpose do statements like that one made by Sadhvi Pragya serve and whether the reaction by the Congress and even the BJP is justified.
There are three questions that must be asked to understand the crux of the issue.
Q1. Is Sadhvi Pragya right in calling Nathuram Godse a Deshbhakt?
The question can be assessed independent of Sadhvi Pragya as well and that’s how it should be assessed. Whether or not Godse was a patriot doesn’t depend on what one Member of Parliament, such as Sadhvi Pragya, says. Also, the parliament is not the ideal place to discuss such ideas, however controversial. Ideally, it should take place in the media and academia. Ironically, our media and academia, say universities like JNU, have no issues hosting and debating extreme ideas that advocate the eradication of Hinduism, but they want to censor such debates.
Nonetheless, coming back to the original questions and to Sadhvi Pragya, the BJP MP was already chastised and even publicly humiliated for having called Nathuram Godse a patriot earlier. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is the tallest BJP leader in the current era, said that he can’t forgive Sadhvi Pragya ever for her comment on Godse earlier. With such a background, it was silly of her to repeat it. It was indiscipline and BJP taking punitive action against her internally can be justified, though it is debatable as to why she should be removed from any parliamentary committee.
Q2. Can Nathruram Godse be called a patriot after having killed Mahatma Gandhi?
Nathuram Godse was the killer, the assassin who took MK Gandhi’s life. There is no debate there. However, the debate arises when one is to assess that can Godse be called a patriot or not, and that debate has been sparked by Sadhvi Pragya.
To evaluate whether Godse can be called a patriot, we need to understand a couple of things. First, what MK Gandhi’s policies were doing to the country at the time and secondly, what Godse’s motivations were.
Dr BR Ambedkar once wrote to Laxmi Kabir, who he subsequently married, “My own view is that great men are of great service to their country, but they are also at certain times a great hindrance to the progress of the country. Mr Gandhi had become a positive danger to this country. He had choked all the thoughts. He was holding together the Congress which is a combination of all the bad and self-seeking elements in society who agreed on no social or moral principle governing the life of society except the one of praising and flattering Mr Gandhi. Such a body is unfit to govern a country. As the Bible says that sometimes good cometh out of evil, so also I think good will come out of the death of Mr Gandhi. It will release people from bondage to supermen, it will make them think for themselves and compel them to stand on their own merits.”
Beyond the words of Dr BR Ambedkar, one need not say much to evaluate the first contention – what Gandhi’s policies were doing to the country at the time.
The only source of knowledge we do have of his motivations comes from a book by G.D. Khosla, one of the Judges who passed the judgment of his death. The book is reproduced on a website dedicated to celebrating the life of Mahatma Gandhi.
From the accounts produced by Khosla in his book, it becomes abundantly clear that Godse’s grouse is with Gandhi and Gandhi alone and no one else. It’s also quite evident that Godse is a product of his times, a time in history that witnessed immense bloodshed, millions of Hindus were slaughtered and millions of others were displaced. And he held Gandhi to be responsible for it and thus, set out to eliminate him.
Khosla recalls Godse as saying, “Gandhiji began to hold his prayers meetings in a Hindu temple in Bhangi Colony and persisted in reading passages from the Koran as a part of the prayer in that Hindu temple, in spite of the protest of the Hindu worshippers there. Of course, he dared not read Geeta in a mosque in the teeth of Muslim opposition. He knew what a terrible Muslim reaction there would have been if he had done so. But he could safely trample over the feelings of the tolerant Hindu. To belie this belief I determined to prove to Gandhiji that the Hindu too could be intolerant when his honour was insulted.”
At another point, Godse says, “Gandhiji in fact succeeded in doing what the British always wanted to do in pursuance of their policy of ‘Divide and Rule’. He helped them in dividing India and it is not yet certain whether their rule has ceased.”
Godse was also fully aware of the consequences of his action. He knew that his name and reputation would be tarnished beyond recognition for all eternity. But he did it anyway because of his personal conviction.
Since Gandhi’s action, in Ambedkar’s words, were detrimental to India, can Godse be called a patriot? To answer that question, one must ask – if one commits a crime, however condemnable, is he precluded from being a patriot? The answer is certainly – no. Whether he was a patriot or not depends on which side of the spectrum one belongs to and there should certainly be a debate that surrounds it, however, to say that because Godse committed murder, he cannot be a patriot is fallacious causation that is furthered for political gains.
It is thus clear that murder is a crime, and patriots can also commit a crime when overpowered with emotions. Just as the aspect of being a patriot doesn’t justify the murder, the act of murder doesn’t’ invalidate the patriotism
Q3. If Rahul Gandhi can forgive his father’s killers, why does he hate Gandhiji’s killer so much?
Not just Rahul Gandhi, even the Congress party has forgiven those who assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India and father of Rahul Gandhi, the former president of Congress party. They want to move on. They think people should be full of love and one shouldn’t hate even assassins. After all, Mahatma Gandhi himself said that ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’. Then why do they fail to show the same love towards Nathuram Godse?
It is pure politics. Congress has no hope in Tamil Nadu and they need DMK support. Further, the uber-liberal Rahul Gandhi has supported extremist Dravidian ideologies in name of ‘dissent’, the same ideology that killed his father. But realpolitik demands that he must forget and forgive Rajiv Gandhi’s killers if he has to have any hope on 40 Lok Sabha seats. Forgiving Godse has not such an advantage.
The left-liberal ecosystem has no love or respect for Mahatma Gandhi and his ideas. He has been called a racist, casteist, upper-caste Hindu who denied people like Ambedkar his due. Scroll, a left-leaning website published an interview of Wendy Doniger where she virtually blamed partition of India on Mahatma Gandhi. Arundhati Roy similarly has poured scorn and contempt on Gandhiji on more than one occasion. They hate Mahatma Gandhi with more intensity than Nathuram Godse ever hated. In fact, Godse didn’t hate Gandhi. He was angered and frustrated with Mahatma’s extreme pacifism and Muslim appeasement. And in extreme frustration and anger, he committed a crime that became a political weapon for the left to malign the right.