Beyond Doubt V – Hindutva Right and Communal Violence

1948, 30th January Newspaper, Late Night Edition, The Star,From London   Courtesy: Time of India

RSS activists have been involved in riots in various parts of the country
Post-independence, as my research into communal violence has revealed, in virtually every single officially appointed judicial commission to probe into the cause of communal riots in different parts of the country, the role of the RSS and other majoritarian communal outfits has been pivotal in the build-up to the explosion of violence. We had first placed this investigation in Who Is to Blame?, Communalism Combat’s  cover story, March 1998 and sought it fit to reproduce here. The report of the Justice  Report of the Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission of Inquiry investigating the Ahmedabad riots of 1969, Report of the Justice DP Madon Commission of Inquiry into the Communal Disturbances at Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad of 1970, Report of the Commission of Inquiry, Tellicherry Disturbance, 1971, Justice Joseph Vithyathil, Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Communal Disturbances at Jamshedpur, April 1979, Justice Venugopal Commission of Inquiry into the Kanyakumari riots of 1982 (prolonged confrontation between Hindus and Christians), Justice RC Sinha and Shamshul Hasan: Bhagalpur riots, 1989. Justice BN Srikrishna Commission report, Bombay 1992-1993 disturbances and the Justice Liberhans Commission Report  appointed to interrogate the Babri Masjid demolition all draw similar conclusions. The absence of institutional absorption and memory of this historiography of communal violence by institutions of law and governnence –police and the judiciary- has ensured an absence of lasting criminal culpability on these outfits.

In August 2004, former parliamentarian, RK Anand in an open letter to the RSS chief Sudarshan recorded details of the RSS serious allegations against the RSS and their involvement in riots in the year 1948.[1] This record reveals how trunks of lethal weapons had been gathered by the  RSS and crammed with blue-prints of great professionalism and accuracy, of every town and village in that vast area, prominently marking out the Muslim localities and habitations. There were also detailed instructions regarding access to the various locations, and other matters which amply revealed their sinister purport. These trunks were seized by IG of the Police of the Western Range, BBL Jaitley and brought to the home of Rajeshwar Dayal, the seniormost bureaucrat who immediately took the police party to the Premier (G.B. Pant’s) House. There, in a closed room, Jaitley gave a full report of his discovery, backed by all the evidence contained in the steel trunks. Timely raids conducted on the premises of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh) had brought the massive conspiracy to light. The whole plot had been concerted under the direction and supervision of the Supremo of the organisation himself, Golwalkar. Dayal records that G.B. Pant could not but accept this hard evidence (but in the Cabinet there was much procrastination and delay) and finally a ‘mere letter’ was written to Golwalkar who by then (after an obvious tip off was nowhere to be found. Dayal concludes,  "Came January 30, 1948 when the Mahatma, that supreme apostle of peace, fell to a bullet fired by an RSS fanatic. The whole tragic episode left me sick at heart." This entire letter is also part of this Volume. It was during the Pant government’s control that in 1948 the Ram lala  idols were first, illegally smuggled into the Babri Masjid site.
Gandhi’s sway held over vast corners of the sub-continent and made Pakistani women weep and break their bangles in anguish as news of the dastardly killing spread. To enable the collection in this Volume to be complete, we have sourced editorials from Pakistani newspapers that appeared in the days following the assassination. In an editorial titled, Glorious dust, The Pakistan Times, Lahore, dated January 31, 1948 concluded, “ Once the Hindus and Muslims of the undivided India mingled their blood, to fight for freedom under Gandhi’s banner during the Khilafat days: let us hope they will now mingle their tears over his glorious dust, to retain their peaceful freedom under the independent flags or India and Pakistan.”

Not insignificant is the fact that it was none less than the epochal /iconic Revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz who authored this editorial and another on February 2, 1948, Long live Gandhiji!, saying, “ But we are gratefully conscious of the fact that nothing would give greater pleasure to the soul of the illustrious dead than dispensation of justice and fair play to Indian Muslims, which he so passionately preached and for which he laid down his life. To these countless Muslims Mahatmaji would ever remain a symbol of hope and courage. Though he is dead he will give through ageless time.”

The ‘Last Hours of the Mahatma’ by Stephen Murphy has been kindly reproduced from the website so painstakingly put together by TK Somaiya of the Bombay Sarvodaya group. Somaiyaji’s personal commitment to communal harmony and the furthering of Indo-Pakistan toes is legendary.
RSS, NDA I and Gandhi
The different segments of this volume have been chosen carefully. Apart from the first section specifically devoted to the culpability of both the RSS and HMS as legally seen and acted upon by independent India’s first government, it is important for readers today to understand the seminal and civiliozational shift that occurred with the coming of the first RSS supported government NDA I. Even the Janata government that legtimised the Jana Sangh and the RSS (because of the Emergency) especially the turnabout of Morarjee Desai who revoked his own assessment on this, bears recall.

What is however most critical is how a minority RSS government led by Vajpayee had the audacity to ‘re-edit ‘ the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG) a project conceptualisd in 1956 by government after which an exemplary advisory board undertook the critical and onerous task of not just collecting Gandhi’s writings across three continents (they were available in South Africa, India and England) but authenticating each before publishing them in three languages. The publication division if he I and B ministry was responsible for the English and Hindi versions while the Gujarati version was entrusted to the Navajivan Trust. Tridip Suhrid, today the Director of the Sabarmati ashram writing in the EPW in 2004 has pointed out5 how this effort undertaken in 1998 was deeply flawed. He found that 500 entries from the original missing from the CD ROM version (of which about 215 were subsequently added to the printed version. There is a failure to identify sources by the new set of editors and worst of all, the works meticulous  scholarship and authenticity saw a pathetic drop in standard so that they could no more be a standard reference. Critical letters by Gandhi to a wide spectrum of colleagues, professionals and world leaders have been dropped. The article by Suhrid lists these while ending with a demand that the catholicity of the original volumes be restored. It was only after the defeat of the NDA government that the dishonestly ‘revised’ edition of the CWMG was withdrawn in 2005.

NDA II 2014
Within months of NDA II coming to power in May 2014, this time headed by a man who began his political life as a pracharak, both the RSS and its affiliates that include the Hindu Mahasabha began their forked tongue dances around the hero worship of Nathuram Godse. Each time the RSS is in power and control in Delhi, efforts to inch he secular democratic republic of India closer to their unabashed dream of a Hindu rashtra grow.  On November 15, 2014, this writer, wrote a three part series of articles exposing how the Global Hindu Foundation had urged the ministry of human resources development (MHRD) to ensure that Nathuram Godse is treated as a ‘national hero’ who must be represented as such in Indian school text books. [2]The letter, completely distorting history states that Godse “fought for indepedendence from the British.”  The letter was posted on the home page of, the website of the “Mission to Save Hinduism and Hindu Temples”. Touted as a ‘Project of Global Hindu Heritage Foundation, (GHHF) USA’, the mission operates out of the ‘Save Temple Office’ opened in Hyderabad city in June 2012.

It was almost a month after this determined advocacy by the GHF that the homegrown but NRI-fed member of parliament of the ruling party, Sakshi Maharaj, on December 11, 2014, called Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi's murderer, a patriot on December 11, 2014 ( Following the uproar in the upper house of Parliament where the ruling party remains in a minority, he was forced to apologise. Indian Parliament, once the seat of sagacious visionaries and politicians is today littered with saffron clad men with hatred on their lips. The same Sakshi Maharaj had days before spewed venom against Madrassahs (and by extension, Indian Muslims) and even more recently, exhorted Hindu women to produce at least four children in the service of the faith and nation. [3]

Was the BJP MP’s apology the result of a real change of heart? Or did he actually, like his prime minister and the entire RSS and affiliate family, actually mean each and every word, since they are foundational beliefs to the narrow worldview that they have been brought up in? Godse has always been critical to the embodiment of the kind of politics Indians were happy to call the lunatic fringe. Today that fringe is the mainstream and therein lies the real challenge to the institutions of secular, democratic India. Godse is an exemplar of the philosophy grounded in the othering of sections of Indians and communal hatred. Godse’s success in their eyes, and in the eyes of those who rule India today, lay in the cold blooded elimination of Gandhi who more than even Nehru, they believe to be the pioneer of secular politics in India.

The extreme right has always played footsie with the killer of Gandhi. The Belgian writer, Koenrad Elst, in a book published in 2001, argues that Godse was a factor in the birth of the Jansangh and its present day avatar, the BJP.[4] “The total lack of support from politicians in other parties during this ordeal (the ban on RSS after Gandhi’s assassination by home minister Sardar Patel) convinced the RSS rank and file of the need to start a party of their own.”

Since 1970, the RSS has tried to manipulate the circumstances around the Gandhi assassination by construing the action as anger of the so called “masses” against his pro-Pakistan. Despite the government of India’s clear-cut stand in banning the RSS within two days of the killing, as also the self-acclaimed facts by co-conspirator and brother of the assassin, Gopal Godse, the RSS through its mouthpiece the Organiser has repeatedly tried to de-link their connect to Godse by stating that Nathuram left the RSS in 1933. The Frontline magazine has successfully dealt with this with a comprehensive and revealing interview of Gopal Godse (1996) that we also reproduce here.

Yet the man who has been awarded the highest Civilian honour by the present government, brazenly and openly exhorted the mob while distorting the letter and spirit of the order of the Supreme Court. These actions, now by men in constitutional positions of governance epitomize the manner in which proponents of the Hindu Rashtra propogate lies, distort histories, subvert the rule of law and the Constitution. At every step.

Within two weeks of the godman member of parliament, Sakshi Maharaj’s statement hailing Nathuram Godse as a true patriot and his subsequent retraction, newspapers reported that in the middle of December 2014, Activists of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha had allegedly performed a ceremony at Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh, for construction of a “temple” dedicated to Godse, following which the administration ordered a probe into the matter. Not insignificantly, Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh has also been one the locations (one of the districts –four) where brute anti-minority violence had been unleashed in September 2013. The Hindustan Times in its editorial of December 29, 2014, made a significant analysis, “Celebrating Godse is to valorise a form of vigilante politics that if practised now will surely undermine India’s unity and integrity. We saw in the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombings an echo of Godse’s methods whereby the accused, inspired by their own understanding of India’s martial traditions, took it upon themselves to bomb Pakistani nationals travelling on the train. Godse was no less a misguided fanatic than the latter; the open idolising of him is a very damaging symbol of the shape of Right-wing politics to come. On a simpler plane, Godse killed a frail old man in cold blood and this country has no business celebrating him.”

Even after political compulsions compelled the Uttar Pradesh chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Laxmicant Bajpai to retract his statement on Godse’s bust, the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha was triumphantly unrepentant. Its national president Chandra Prakash Kaushik was quoted by newspapers as saying that “unless Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Laxmikant Bajpai retracts his statement against the Godse bust, they would fight him in 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh “even if he contests from Pakistan, which is quite likely given the kind of person he is“. Bajpai’s father, Vaidh Sham Sundar Bajpai, was a prominent leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, until his death.

After Meerut and Sitapur, the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha went further and identified a site in Lucknow for a temple dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse. The organisation (as reported by newspapers) had announced its plans to conduct ‘bhoomi poojan’ soon to begin construction at the site on the outskirts of Lucknow. “The temple… for Godse will come up at Bhaptamau in Haiderganj area of Lucknow, for which a local resident has voluntarily given the land to the Mahasabha. Our plan is to install Godse’s bust at the site before January 30, which we will celebrate as ‘Shaurya Diwas’ to honour the ‘martyr’ [Godse]… We plan to hold similar events that day across the country,” Mahasabha national general secretary Munna Kumar Sharma was quoted as declaring. These actions and the controversy over the staging of Pradeep Dalvi’s play make the publication of this book even more relevant.

The justification of killing for a purpose, ends justifying the means, is central to this idea and worldview. Political commentator Inder Malhotra commenting on a recent television discussion over the controversy was unequivivocal, “What happened during a debate on the subject on a TV news channel was abominable beyond words. The Hindu Mahasabha’s national general secretary, Acharya Madan, justified the Mahatma’s murder by Godse. He argued that “killing for a cause” was no crime, and that patriotic Godse had a just cause. The anchor asked him whether his unacceptable behaviour could give others the right to strangulate him. He ducked the question but went on pontificating that “Mr Gandhi” was responsible for the death of “10 lakh Hindus”. This was the result of Partition, for which the responsibility was “Mr Gandhi’s”. The Hindu Mahasabha spokesman went on to say that, unfortunately, there was no law under which “Mr Gandhi” could be brought to book. So Godse did what he had to.” [5]

Like political commentator Bharat Bhushan who commented t length on the Constitutionality and ethics behind the prime minister spending Rs 4 crores, 9.60,000 on a sandalwood and ghee Rudra Abhishek when he visited the Pashupathinath temple as head of the Indian state on August 4, 2014[6], a little known critical detail was commented upon by Rajesh Ramachandram in the Economic Times, December 29, 2014[7]. While much was made of the prime minister and government’s brazen decision to observe December 25, 2014 as Good Governance Day, Ramachandran says, “There was no iftaar party this time at 7 RCR. PM Narendra Modi worked on Eid, addressing the scientists of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research on July 29. This too is high symbolism, which tells the minority community that they do not belong to the new idea of India. And also to the majority community–that they need not respect or celebrate the festivals of the minority communities. The Eid incident was not noticed widely. But the celebration of Christmas Day as Good Governance Day came as a shock. In all these 66 years after Gandhi's murder, no politician had dared praise his killer nor has the killer's organisation ever sought to build temples for Godse. Vajpayee and Advani had only put up a portrait of Savarkar in Parliament's Central Hall. Now, Gandhi has been reduced to a garbage disposal scheme and Godse is the new God.”

A visceral hatred for Gandhi, his vision of a modern, secular, democratic India and firm beliefs in intra-community harmony and dialogue despite the tragedies unleashed by Partition are the benchmarks of this worldview. At the height of the current debates and controversies, this comment was without any editorial discretion posted on the web portal of the ibn live channel on Wednesday December 3, 2014. “Gandhi needed to be killed as he was giving a lot of money and sympathy to Muslims which they never deserved and would have used it against India, Why would someone touch a walking talking trashbags I say just shoot them in their head so they can't breed more pests.” This wide currency to the politics of hatred is the foundational ideological principle of those who today control the Indian state.

In all these 66 years after Gandhi's murder, no politician had dared praise his killer nor has the killer's organisation ever sought to build temples for Godse. Vajpayee and Advani had only put up a portrait of Savarkar in Parliament's Central Hall. Now, Gandhi has been reduced to a garbage disposal scheme and Godse is the new God.

India is inching slowly but surely to a modern day version of a Hindu rashtra. The threat needs to be fully understood as the challenge before us all is clear.

On December 24, 2014 the Indian government, now, 67 years later under the complete sway and control of the RSS, awarded a Bharat Ratna to former prime minister, Atal Behari Vajypaee. The day the announcement was made, detractors of the decision circulated his (rabid) speeches made on You-Tube. [8]

A transcript of the speech is chilling as it shows an enthusiastic Vajpayee provoking supporters of the RSS-BJP combine days before the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. Worse than anything else is the monumental lies uttered in the speech that tells the frenzied crowd that ‘ the Supreme Court has allowed the kar seva. [9] The Supreme Court Order dated November 28, 1992, following an agitated application by O.P. Sharma that was brazenly violated on December 6, 1992 allowed a “symbolic kar seva” only and appointed as its observer, Tej Shankar. In this order, the Court recorded the apprehensions of Sharma of the massive mob build-up at Ayodhya that was being cynically allowed by the BJP-led state administration. The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Kalyan Singh had to even serve a token day in jail because he failed to implement the letter and spirit of the order and committed contempt of court. Yet the man who has been awarded the highest Civilian honour by the present government, brazenly and openly exhorted the mob while distorting the letter and spirit of the order of the Supreme Court. These actions, now by men in constitutional positions of governance epitomize the manner in which proponents of the Hindu Rashtra propogate lies, distort histories, subvert the rule of law and the Constitution. At every step.
(Excerpted from the Introduction to the publication edited by the Author, Teesta Setalvad – Beyond Doubt-A Dossier on the Gandhi assassination published by Tulika Books)


[1] Rajeshwar Dayal, an IAS officer who was home secretary in the year 1948 wrote a book titled, A Life Of Our times, Pages 93-94.
[2], ‘Godse is a National Hero who must be Taught about in Schools’ — Global Hindu Foundation to Government of India, Teesta Setalvad
[4]  Koenrad Elst, Godse and Gandhi, Voice of India, 2001,
[9] Supreme Court ne jo faisla diya hain uska arth main batata hoon; Wo karseva rokata nahi hain; Sachmuch mein Supreme Court ne hume adhikar diya hain ki hum karseva karne. Rokne ka to sawal hi nahi. Kal karseva kar ke ayodhya mein sarvochya nyayalay ki kisi nirnay ki avahelana nahi hogi, karseva kar ke sarvochya nayalaya ke nirnay ka samman kiya jayega: Atal Behari Vajpayee.





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