Gandhi as “evil” (Mahiasura) is a time-tested narrative for all hues of Hindu communalists

The latest depiction of Mahatma Gandhi as ‘Mahiasura’ at the All India’s Hindu Mahasaha’s puja pandal in Kolkatta is a time-tested narrative of Hindu communalists who, as Teesta Setalvad has writen, regurgitate this narrative portraying Gandhi as different forms of “evil”

GandhiImage courtesy: The Indian Express

The All India Hindu Mahasabha in Kolkatta reportedly ran into trouble after a durga puja in Kolkata organised by them depicted Asura as Mahatma Gandhi; they “alleged” that the murti was removed after a police complaint was filed. However, as Teesta Setalvad writes, this narrative is not new, Gandhi has always been portrayed as evil by Hindu communalists of all hues. For the moment, Gandhi’s face is off this durga puja  pandal.

Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha changed the appearance of the idol following instructions from the police after a complaint was lodged, PTI reported. Media reports stated that when contacted, Chandrachur Goswami, working President of West Bengal state unit of All India Hindu Mahasabha, told India Today, “We see Gandhi as true asura. He is the real asura. That’s why we made the murti like this.”  

” The central government is promoting Mahatma Gandhi. We were forced to remove the murti and change it. We have been pressurised by the Home Ministry. We want to remove Gandhi from everywhere and keep Netaji Subash Chandra Bose and other freedom fighters in front,” Goswami said.

While there are serious subaltern contestations on the way “asuras” read “demons” are portrayed by a Brahmianical reading of mythology, according to mythology, Goddess Durga slew Mahusasur in an epic battle to end his evil reign. Every year, puja organisers choose a theme, mainly social issues, and use their pandals, idols and lighting arrangements to depict it. Many a time, the traditional “Mahisasura” was replaced by something that represents social evil.

By the way for students of history, an alternative narrative does exist about Mahishasura — sections of marginalised populations worship him as a symbol of justice who was deceived and defeated by Brahmanical forces. But none of the organisers at the Ruby Crossing puja, Kolkatta, were concerned about that nor mentioned any alternative narrative. Interestingly, earlier, this year, on January 31, Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary, the Hindu Mahasabha –the parent outfit that seeks to disassociate itself from the current narrative–made news for having paid tribute to his assassin Nathuram Godse and a co-accused in the Gandhi murder trial, Narayan Apte, in Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior by observing “Godse-Apte Smriti Diwas”.

On October 2, a journalist tweeted a purported photograph of the Durga idol, before deleting the post claiming that the police asked him to do so as it might create tension during the festival. “I have been requested by @KolkataPolice cyber cell @DCCyberKP to delete my tweet on a particular puja in Kolkata as they think it might create tension amid the festivities. As a responsible citizen I abide by their request,” Alt News Senior Editor Indradeep Bhattacharyya said in a fresh post.

This latest move to paint Gandhi as “evil”, drew condemnation from all political parties the ruling Trinamool Congress in the state, and the opposition parties including Bharatiya Janata Party, CPI-M and Congress.

The move was condemned by the Bengal Provincial Hindu Mahasabha. The leader of the Bengal Provincial Hindu Mahasabha said, “We condemn what they have done. This is only to come in the limelight. They claim themselves as Hindu Mahasabha. But we think this is sad.”

The ruling Trinamool Congress state spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said if this was really done, it was nothing but sacrilege. “It is an insult to the Father of the Nation. It is an insult to every citizen of the country. What would the BJP say about such an insult? We know the assassin of Gandhiji belonged to which ideological camp,” Ghosh added. The state BJP, which is the parliamentary wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that was banned by the Sardar Patel-headed Indian home ministry in 1948, after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, has also castigated such a representation.

“If such a move had been made, it is unfortunate. We condemn it. This is in poor taste,” BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar was quoted by PTI as saying. Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha also claimed that they are the ‘only’ Hindu Mahasabha party. Chandrachur Goswami said, “All the other Hindu Mahasabha organisations are false. These are all triggered by the BJP.” In January this year however the parent outfit had praised Nathuram Godse.

CPM state secretary Md Salim said he was shocked. “Gandhi’s role in the freedom struggle is undeniable. He was murdered by the Hindutva brigade and now his thoughts are murdered every day.… Their motive is to create strife and destroy the social amity and the sentiments of a vast section of the people during the Puja,” Salim said. According to him, if the authorities do not take necessary action against the perpetrators, he would ask his party’s lawyers to take the matter to court.

While affiliates of Hindu communalist organisations continue to vilify Gandhi, the central government is on a major spree of appropriation of the Mahatma. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi on his birth anniversary, and urged everyone to purchase khadi and handicraft products as a tribute to him. On the same day, Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, in the course of his Bharat Jodo Yatra, said, “The ideology that killed Gandhi has delivered inequality, divisiveness and erosion of hard-won freedoms in last eight years.”

In 2015, Teesta Setalvad authored this collection Beyond Doubt—A Dossier on Gandhi’s assassination published by Tulika books. In the long and detailed introduction to the volume that traces the history of this narrative, she sheds light on how Gandhi as “Evil for Hindu Communalists of all hues. The volume edited by Setalvad contains excerpts from historian YD Phadke’s Nathuramayana, and Jagan Phadnis’ Mahatmanche Akher (The last days of the Mahatma)

Setalvad writes:

“The Hindu communalists regard Gandhi as evil because he stood for a united and harmonious India. Currently, a book published in Bangalore by an RSS man, titled Gandhi Was Dharma Drohi and Desha Drohi: The Supreme Judgement, is finding wide circulation in print and otherwise. The duplicity and forked tongue of the communal proto-fascists continue to spread their message: spread hatred against Gandhi through widespread literature and ‘culture’ of the kind that Dalvi’s plays and film represent, while seeking to appropriate Gandhi minus his essence. It is a project that can be allowed to succeed only at India’s peril.

The Conspiracy that killed the Mahatma

Setalvad writes:

“At least six months before he committed the murder, Nathuram Godse had been vocally expressing his desire to kill Gandhi (in public meetings and private discussions). To quote from Phadke’s book:

In October, 1964, Karkare, Madanlal and Gopal Godse finished their term in prison and were released. In order to celebrate this, a Satyavinayak Pooja was organized in the Udyan Hall in Pune on November 12, 1964. Here, speaking in front of 150 to 200 people, G.V. Ketkar, the then editor of the daily, Tarun Bharat, revealed a sensational secret. He said that three months before Gandhiji’s assassination, Nathuram used to tell him [Ketkar] that he wished to kill Gandhi. Ketkar said that while discussing the possible con- sequences of such an act, he had asked Nathuram to consider the politi- cal and social fall-out. Ketkar also told the gathering that, personally, he was opposed to the idea of assassinating Gandhiji. After the explosion by Madanlal in the prayer meeting on 20th January, Badge returned to Pune. When Badge spoke to Ketkar about his future plans, Ketkar realized that he and his companions were going to assassinate Gandhiji.

“As Ketkar was saying all this, Gopal Godse, who was sitting next to him, told him, ‘Don’t say anything more.’ But Ketkar retorted, ‘Now if I say all this they [i.e. the Congress government] are not going to arrest me.’

“In October 1947, Nathuram Godse had met Ketkar to request him to write an article for Agrani. At this meeting, Ketkar reminded Nathuram of his speech in July, and asked him if he really intended to murder Gandhiji. Nathuram replied in the affirmative. For an hour or so, Ketkar tried to dis- suade him. But it was of no use. However, till he testified before the Kapur Commission, he had never mentioned in public this discussion with Nathuram. The conclusions reached in the Kapur Commission Report about Ketkar are as follows: (i) Ketkar knew in October or November 1947 that Gandhiji’s life was in danger; (ii) from his conversation with Badge on 23 January 1948 or thereabouts, Ketkar knew about the conspiracy planned by Nathuram; (iii) until he met Badge, Ketkar had no idea that Badge and Apte were also involved in the conspiracy to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi. But, since Nathuram had told him in October or November 1947 that he (Nathuram) intended to assassinate Gandhi or that such a plan existed, Ketkar knew of Nathuram’s complicity.23 Despite this, till 12 November 1964, Ketkar did not reveal this in public. This has to be considered an offence on his part. There is no evidence to show that Ketkar took the lead and communicated the information he had to the Bombay government.

“One thing is clear from the Report of the Kapur Commission. At least three or four months before Gandhiji started his fast to insist on the transfer of Rs 55 crores to Pakistan, Nathuram was voicing his intention to assassinate Gandhiji to a senior leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, G.V. Ketkar, albeit in private. This establishes that it is untrue that Nathuram decided to assassinate Gandhi because of the fast. The fast was only a minor reason for him. Phadke  concludes that to say that Gandhi was ‘the Victim of Fifty-Five Crores’ is only to advance an argument in support of Nathuram’s criminal offence.”

Double Edged project of Hindu Communalists

This a devious and long-standing project of all communalist, read supremacist Hindu organisations. Vilify Gandhi, blame him for Partition and ‘appeasement’ of Pakistan, read Muslims, even glorify the violent terror filled conspiracy that killed him. In doing so Gandhi’s commitment to battling caste, albeit in the way of a believing sanatani Hindu and most crucially, of his passionate advocacy for India being and remaining a secular state, is also brought into serious question and vilified.


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