The Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindu nationalist political party, formed way back in 1915, is at the centre of a fresh controversy for commemorating the 66th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse, releasing a book on the life and principles of the man, and launching a website on his life.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), have taken strong exception to this. The relationship between the Mahasabha and the RSS is interesting. Leaders like VD Sawarkar, KB Hegdewar, Shyama Prasad Mookherjee were part of the Mahasabha in its early days.
Hegdewar later moved to the RSS, and is remembered as one of its great leaders. The RSS claims to be the true inheritor of Savarkar’s legacy. Mookherjee founded the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, which later became the BJP. As per some accounts, the RSS was a competitor to Mahasabha, and grew much bigger than it over the years.
Godse was linked to both the Mahasabha, and the RSS. Godse had been a member of the RSS at some point – a connection which its rivals see as proof of its hand in Mahatma’s murder.
Indeed, RSS has over the years tried to dissociate itself from the man. In contemporary times, the link proves more problematic. While PM Narendra Modi, a former RSS man, invokes Bapu’s legacy both at home, and abroad, any ‘links’ between the RSS and Bapu’s assassin are embarrassing both for the BJP and the RSS.
In this interview with NewsMobile, senior RSS ideologue MG Vaidya strongly condemns the Mahasabha for glorifying Godse. Here are the edited excerpts:
What is your view on the Mahasabha commemorating Gandhi’s killer?
This is not correct, and it will only diminish the pride and glory of Hindutva. Mahatma Gandhi has a special place in national discourse. Glorifying his killers defames Hindutva. There may be ideological differences with Gandhi, but ideas should be fought with ideas. Bloodshed won’t put an end to any ideology. This method is not right.
Gandhiji played a big role in the mass movement for Indian independence. It cannot be denied.
Gandhi features among the modern day thinkers who are respected in the Sangh. Like Ramkrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda, BR Ambedkar, Ravindranath Tagore, Mahatma Phule, Lokmanya tilak, KB Hegdewar, Guruji Golwalkar, Gandhi also gets his place. This has been a long tradition.
What is your view of the Mahasabha?
The Hindu Mahasabha has different ideologies, and the RSS has its own. There is no link.
Detractors criticize the RSS for its ‘link’ with Godse. How do you respond to that?
Godse used to come to the Sangh at one time, but there is no relation between the Sangh and him. It is not proper to link him with the RSS.
Are incidents such as these embarrassing for the Sangh?
It is not an embarrassment for the RSS, but in my view this is not good for Hinduta, and only defames the ideology. Hindutva is inclusive and it has no place for violence. In branches of Hinduism like Vishanavism and Shaivism, there is a place for ‘shastras’ (scriptures), but not ‘astra-sastra’ (weapons). There is place for debate.
Do you think there is growing intolerance in the country?
It was all a political conspiracy, keeping in view the Bihar polls. Now that the polls are over, awards are not being returned anymore. The real intolerance was during the Emergency. Could these people have spoken their minds then? I myself was jailed during the Emergency. They didn’t speak up during 1984 riots. Why now?