Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What does a demand for Godse Temple mean in modern day India?

Hindu Mahasabha is once again in news. The political organisation, whose members were identified as the assassins of Mohandas Gandhi in 1948, has proposed to build a temple for Nathuram Godse, the chief assassin of Mahatma Gandhi.

Hindu Mahasabha has been in news ever since for riding on religious emotions to weaken the plural social fabric of the nation for decades. The group, often described as far right, is the oldest Hindu Nationalist Political entity in the country, founded in the year 1906. Ever since it has remained marginalised in Indian political system and has failed to deliver any significant contribution since inception. Assassination of Gandhi is the only act they are famous or infamous for, which certainly made them part of world history.

A demand for a temple is an attempt to establish Godse as an accepted hero, and an icon. But this also means there will be a movement to not accept the contrary thoughts- something which Godse represents. There is diversity in the nation- probably the biggest diversity a single nation can see on the planet. To live with harmony and peace, we need icons who symbolise acceptance of the “other”, and not icons who discard the thoughts of the “other”. Also, there is an effort to bring back the Hindutva politics back into the mainstream of the nation. Various Hindutva bodies have been working together, and recent controversies like ‘Ghar Vapsi’ and others have hinted that there is lot of work being done at the backend of the Hindutva machinery. These acts will certainly deviate the nation from the path of inclusive development. As most of the organisations involved in these controversies claim close ties with RSS and BJP, it becomes important for Prime Minister Modi to clear his stand on various controversies.

After 66 years of assassination, the demand to build a temple for Godse, clearly means the political entity, Hindu Mahasabha, is trying hard to play on the image it is best known for. Romanticising an assassin and hero worshipping him, will only take the society to a violent era. It is sad that the Prime Minister has chosen not to speak his mind on the issue.

The test of time has proved that the world respected Gandhi as the ambassador of non-violent struggle for a just society. World never came forward to pay tribute to Godse. Gandhi became source of inspiration of many global struggles. Icons like Mandela and Martin Luther looked for their inspiration in Gandhi. There are many debates around the personality of Gandhi. And we must welcome debate and discussions. No one can deny that even Gandhi was open for discussion and debates. The entire Ambedkar versus Gandhi episode is based on the fact that the two were open for discussions. But Hindu Mahasabha was not, and thus murdered the biggest and best known political entity of India.

India has been perceived as a land of peace and non-violence. This stands contrary to history of the Indian subcontinent. But if we have a peace icon, whom the world respects, it will be disastrous to build a temple of his assassin. At the same time, it goes without saying that building a temple for Gandhi will also not serve the purpose for what Gandhi stood for. He was a political person, and must be seen as one. We, as a society must restrain ourselves from over-romanticising Gandhi. It will be better if we include his thoughts in the society and politics, rather than just offer prayer in the vacuum.

This article was first published in LokMarg on January 7, 2015

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