Gandhi’s killer Godse ‘real patriot’ for some Hindu nationalists | Mahatma Gandhi News

Ashok Sharma has dedicated his life to supporting the deeds of an Indian “patriot”: not the revered independence hero Mahatma Gandhi, but the man who shot him dead.

Sharma is the custodian of the temple to Nathuram Godse, who on January 30, 1948, shot dead a figure hailed worldwide as an apostle of nonviolent struggle.

For generations, the fanatical young man – hanged the following year – was looked down upon as the villain in India’s long struggle for liberation from British colonial rule.

But since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi nearly a decade ago, a history turns Forging in Hindu nationalist ideology has made Sharma no longer a “lone warrior” worshiping assassin.

“I was ostracized by everyone, including my family and friends… but today I gain respect for being a disciple of Godse,” he told AFP news agency at his temple. in the bustling city of Meerut, a few hours by car from New Delhi.

“There was a wind of change in the country and people understood that Godse was a true patriot and Gandhi a traitor.”

Sharma established his unremarkable temple complex in 2015, a year after Modi took office, after several unsuccessful attempts under previous governments that resulted in his brief imprisonment and His property was confiscated.

Its inauguration was met with intense outrage and criticism in the press, renewed in 2019 when it marked the anniversary of Gandhi’s death with a staged rendition of the murder using a fake blood spray dummy.

Now the humble temple, featuring a small ceramic bust of Godse and his main accomplice, Narayan Apte, is visited by many people – some out of curiosity, but mostly to respect them.

Sharma and his followers held daily prayers before the idol of Godse, chanting religious sermons accusing Gandhi of betraying the nation despite his role in mobilizing mass protests. independence for India.

In their view, Gandhi failed to prevent the British colony from being split into separate states of India and Pakistan, preventing it from becoming a nation ruled by ancient Hindu scriptures. .

Abhishek Agarwal, like Sharma, a member of the centuries-old radical Hindu Mahasabha group, said: “It was because of Gandhi and his ideology that India was divided and Hindus had to bow before Muslims and outsiders.”

Nathuram Godse, left, one of nine co-conspirators in the Mohandas Gandhi assassination plot case, and defense counsel LB Bhopatkar present May 27, 1948, at the start of the hearing.  (AP photo)
Nathuram Godse [File: AP Photo]

Agarwal said Godse has been vilified by post-independence secular politicians in his plot to suppress Hindu beliefs and impose democracy, a concept he claims is alien to local historical traditions direction.

“But now Gandhi has come out and Godse’s words are spreading everywhere. Secular leaders cannot stop this storm and there will come a time when Gandhi’s name will be wiped from the pious land,” he told AFP.

Patriot or traitor?

Godse was born in a small Indian village in 1910, the son of a postal worker, and at a very young age joined Rashtriya Swaamsevak Sangh (RSS), a prominent Hindu far-right group whose members conduct paramilitary exercises and prayer sessions.

He was 37 years old when he shot Gandhi at close range as he emerged from a multi-faith vigil in New Delhi.

At the time, authorities briefly banned RSS – although its leaders claimed that Godse had left the organization before committing the crime – but reversed course not long before the attackers. Murderer was executed along with an accomplice.

Today, RSS has continued to be relevant as the ideological source of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), founded to Hindu cause champion in the political field.

Decades before becoming the leader of India, Prime Minister Modi’s first role in public life was as an RSS cadre.

Modi with Gandhi
Modi honors Gandhi in Johannesburg, South Africa [File: Ihsaan Haffejee/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

‘Hate will devour us’

Modi regularly respected Gandhi as one of the most revered figures of the 20th century, visiting his spiritual retreat and speaking emotionally about his ideals and legacy.

He refrained from considering the efforts of nationalist activists to restore the legacy of the assassin Gandhi – to the chagrin of Sharma and his companions.

But he also never explicitly denounced Godse or his ideology, and his government supported the work of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, an important Hindu thinker who was once was Godse’s advisor and was tried with him but acquitted as an accomplice in the assassination.

After coming to power in 2014, Mr. Modi has proved adept at navigating the rising tide of Hindu nationalism in India, citing the glorious past of India’s majority religion and promised an end to the “persecution” of the religion.

His departure from the secular values ​​of his predecessors was watched with disappointment by Gandhi’s great-grandson Tushar, an author living in Mumbai.

Tushar told AFP that the reverence for Godse is a direct result of an ideology espoused by Mr. Modi’s government that threatens to sow “the seeds of our destruction”.

“For a long time, we were too diplomatic and a little too generous to see it as nationalism. It’s not nationalism, it’s fanaticism,” he said.

“Hate will devour us. If we must survive, the venom of hatred must be removed somewhere.”

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