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Walkin’ the Cobra in India: Hindutva Fascism’s Triumphal Revisionism

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Mem­bers of the Hin­du Masa­hab­ha hon­or­ing a stat­ue of Nathu­ram Godse–Gandhi ‘s assas­sin and the oper­a­tional fall guy for the RSS and Veer Savarkar, as dis­cussed in FTR #‘s 988 and 989.

COMMENT: We have spo­ken about the Nazi tract Ser­pen­t’s Walk at length over the years. Just such fas­cist his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism is tak­ing place in India.

In FTR #‘s 988 and 989, we exam­ined the assas­si­na­tion of Mahat­ma Gand­hi at length and in detail. Far from being the work of a “lone-nut/ex­trem­ist,” the killing was the out­come and cul­mi­na­tion of an elab­o­rate con­spir­a­cy by the Hin­dut­va fas­cist RSS and the asso­ci­at­ed Hin­du Mahasab­ha. The gun­man who slew Gandhi–Nathuram Godse–was the cat’s paw for this con­spir­a­cy and main­tained silence to shield Veer Savarkar, the founder of the RSS and mas­ter­mind of the killing, from jus­tice. (Godse had been Savarkar’s per­son­al sec­re­tary.)

In numer­ous pro­grams, we have detailed the ascent and lethal­ly tyran­ni­cal gov­er­nance of Naren­dra Modi, a mem­ber of and instru­ment of the RSS.

Five and a half years into his reign, Mod­i’s Hin­dut­va fas­cist fol­low­ers are ele­vat­ing Gand­hi’s killer into a reli­gious and patri­ot­ic icon.

A focal point of the rev­er­ence for Godse has been the Hin­du Mahasab­ha. Close­ly allied with the RSS, the Mahasab­ha was front and cen­ter in the assas­si­na­tion con­spir­a­cy that took Gand­hi’s life.

Key points of dis­cus­sion of the Hin­du Mahasab­ha:

1. Along with the RSS, the Hin­du Mahasab­ha had infil­trat­ed the Indi­an secu­ri­ty forces.  . . . Savarkar’s fol­low­ers held cab­i­net and admin­is­tra­tive posi­tions in the gov­ern­ment. Hin­du Mahasab­ha and RSS extrem­ists had also infil­trat­ed Indi­a’s secu­ri­ty forces. Key police offi­cials were more com­mit­ted to an exclu­sive­ly Hin­du nation than they were to Gand­hi’s demo­c­ra­t­ic ide­al of a diverse, sec­u­lar union. . . .”

2. A failed bomb­ing and firearm attempt on Gand­hi yield­ed an informer. Mr. Pah­wa dis­closed the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Hin­du Mahasab­ha in the plot, as well as that of Godse. ” . . . . Pah­wa’s co-con­spir­a­tors were linked with the Hin­du Mahasab­ha. Laun­dry that the room’s occu­pants had giv­en to the hotel for wash­ing includ­ed three items bear­ing the ini­tials ‘NVG’ (stand­ing for ‘Nathu­ram Vinayak Godse’ [Gand­hi’s assas­sin and Savarkar’s per­son­al secretary–D.E.]). . . .”

3. An offi­cial report on the killing focused on the Hin­du Mahasab­ha’s role in the Indi­an secu­ri­ty forces. ” . . . . Gand­hi’s great grand­son, Tushar Gand­hi, has writ­ten about police com­plic­i­ty in the assas­si­na­tion: ‘Accord­ing to a secret report sub­mit­ted to Home Min­is­ter Sar­dar Patel, many in the police force and many bureau­crats were secret mem­bers of the RSS and the Hin­du Mahasab­ha, and were active­ly sup­port­ing and pro­mot­ing the ide­ol­o­gy of the Hin­du extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions. . . . The mea­sures tak­en by the police between 20th and 30th Jan­u­ary 1948 were more to ensure the smooth progress of the mur­der­ers, than to try and pre­vent [Gand­hi’s] mur­der. . . .

4. The Hin­du Mahasab­ha open­ly sup­port­ed Nazism and the RSS mod­eled itself on Euro­pean fas­cist move­ments. . . . . Hin­du nation­al­ists – who believe that India ought to be a Hin­du nation in pop­u­la­tion and char­ac­ter – warm­ly embraced fas­cist ideas. The Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh, a para­mil­i­tary Hin­du nation­al­ist group found­ed in 1925, mod­eled itself on con­tem­po­rary Euro­pean fas­cist move­ments. The Hin­du Mahasab­ha, a Hin­du nation­al­ist orga­ni­za­tion found­ed in 1915, open­ly sup­port­ed Nazism, includ­ing ‘Germany’s cru­sade against the ene­mies of Aryan cul­ture’, as a spokesman for the group put it in 1939. . . .”

In FTR #990, we chron­i­cled Naren­dra Mod­i’s mur­der­ous regime in India and his appoint­ment of Hin­dut­va fas­cist Yogi Adityanath to head a key tem­ple in Uttar Pradesh.

Adinyanath has pro­posed renam­ing the city of Meerut in hon­or of Godse. ” . . . . Last year the gov­ern­ment of Uttar Pradesh State, which is led by a fire­brand Hin­du monk, Yogi Adityanath, pro­posed chang­ing the name of Meerut to Godse City. One of the first Godse stat­ues was unveiled there about three years ago. Offi­cials now say they have been over­whelmed by demands for more Godse memo­ri­als. . . .”

The Hin­du Mahasab­ha is deeply involved with the polit­i­cal res­ur­rec­tion of, and rever­ance for, Godse. ” . . . . ‘Gand­hi was a trai­tor,’ said Poo­ja Shakun Pandey, who blames Gand­hi for par­ti­tion and who par­tic­i­pat­ed in a recent cer­e­mo­ny wor­ship­ing Mr. Godse on the anniver­sary of Gandhi’s assas­si­na­tion. ‘He deserved to be shot in the head.’ . . . . Last year, she was arrest­ed after re-enact­ing the scene of Gandhi’s killing. In a video that brought her nation­al fame, she is seen shoot­ing Gandhi’s effi­gy, with fake blood spurt­ing out. Ms. Pandey runs the Meerut chap­ter of Hin­du Mahasab­ha with Ashok Shar­ma. They hold prayer meet­ings in tem­ples across Uttar Pradesh  . . . . On a recent morn­ing in Meerut, Mr. Shar­ma sat for a rit­u­al peti­tion­ing Lord Hanu­man, the mon­key God of Hin­du mythol­o­gy, to ward off Gandhi’s spir­it. ‘Hey, son of the wind,’ Mr. Shar­ma prayed toward the fire, refer­ring to Lord Hanu­man, ‘remove Gandhi’s filthy soul from this pure land.’ . . .”

“Gand­hi’s Killer Evokes Admi­ra­tion as Nev­er Before” by Sameer Yasir; The New York Times; 2/4/2020.

Under the shade of a banyan tree, a group of wor­shipers recite San­skrit mantras. A cou­ple men step for­ward and light a fire. Then they start walk­ing, hands fold­ed, as if in a trance, toward a stat­ue.

Some drape flow­ers over it. Oth­ers sing songs of val­or to the stat­ue. It is of Nathu­ram Vinayak Godse, who assas­si­nat­ed Mohan­das K. Gand­hi, the revered father of Indi­an inde­pen­dence and a sym­bol of non­vi­o­lent resis­tance the world over.

Indi­ans con­sid­er Gand­hi one of the fathers of their nation. But the rise of a Hin­du nation­al­ist gov­ern­ment, led by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, has uncorked many extrem­ist beliefs, and admi­ra­tion for Gandhi’s killer, among some, has become more open. It is a sign of how much India has changed in the five and a half years since Mr. Modi took pow­er.

“Gand­hi was a trai­tor,” said Poo­ja Shakun Pandey, who blames Gand­hi for par­ti­tion and who par­tic­i­pat­ed in a recent cer­e­mo­ny wor­ship­ing Mr. Godse on the anniver­sary of Gandhi’s assas­si­na­tion. “He deserved to be shot in the head.”

Hin­du tem­ples are being con­vert­ed into Godse tem­ples.

Promi­nent Hin­du nation­al­ists still invoke Gand­hi, but in many cas­es they are try­ing to co-opt his lega­cy — pre­sent­ing their poli­cies, how­ev­er divi­sive, as con­gru­ent with his beliefs. One exam­ple: a recent cit­i­zen­ship law pushed by Mr. Modi’s gov­ern­ment that, crit­ics say, dis­crim­i­nates against Mus­lims and threat­ens the sec­u­lar state that Gand­hi had envi­sioned.

Oth­er Hin­du nation­al­ists, though, con­tin­ue to overt­ly vil­i­fy the man admired world­wide as an apos­tle of peace.

The cer­e­mo­ny at the stat­ue ven­er­at­ing his killer, in Meerut, in the north of the coun­try, is not the only sign of respect for Mr. Godse in India these days.

Across the coun­try, more than a dozen stat­ues of Gandhi’s killer have been erect­ed. Sev­er­al Hin­du tem­ples are being con­vert­ed into Godse tem­ples.

Last year the gov­ern­ment of Uttar Pradesh State, which is led by a fire­brand Hin­du monk, Yogi Adityanath, pro­posed chang­ing the name of Meerut to Godse City. One of the first Godse stat­ues was unveiled there about three years ago. Offi­cials now say they have been over­whelmed by demands for more Godse memo­ri­als.

Ramachan­dra Guha, a pre-emi­nent biog­ra­ph­er of Gand­hi, said that fans of Gandhi’s killer were no longer a fringe group. Instead, he said, Godse admi­ra­tion has found a place among what he con­sid­ers a wor­ry­ing­ly large seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion.

“It is foul, despi­ca­ble, but it is real and wide­spread,” Mr. Guha said.

In recent months, van­dals with links to right-wing groups have defaced pic­tures of Gand­hi, attacked his memo­ri­als and scrawled the word trai­tor on his pic­ture. In June last year, a stat­ue of Gand­hi was decap­i­tat­ed in east­ern India.

The grow­ing cult around Mr. Godse seems root­ed in the same mil­i­tant brand of Hin­du nation­al­ism that inspired Gandhi’s killer to shoot him on a mild­ly cold Jan­u­ary evening in 1948.

That day, Gand­hi walked slow­ly across a state­ly lawn in New Del­hi, India’s cap­i­tal, lean­ing on the shoul­ders of two young women. Mr. Godse stepped out from a crowd, greet­ed him and touched his feet. He then pulled out a Beretta and shot the frail 78-year-old three times in the upper body.

Mr. Godse was born in a small vil­lage in cen­tral India to an upper-caste fam­i­ly. Three of their old­er sons died from an unknown ill­ness. Think­ing it would pro­tect their new child to treat him as a girl, they pierced the young Mr. Godse’s nose and made him wear a nose ring until they had anoth­er son.

For wear­ing the nose ring, Mr. Godse was called Nathu­ram, mean­ing a man with pierced nose.

When he was a young man, Mr. Godse joined the R.S.S., a Hin­du nation­al­ist group that many mem­bers of India’s gov­ern­ing par­ty, includ­ing Mr. Modi, have been part of.

Mr. Godse believed Gand­hi had betrayed Hin­dus by being too con­cil­ia­to­ry to Mus­lims and by allow­ing Pak­istan to break off dur­ing the par­ti­tion of India in 1947. That line is still echoed by many Hin­du nation­al­ists who see Mr. Godse as a nation­al hero and Gand­hi as a trai­tor.

Tech­nol­o­gy has helped spread the revi­sion­ist atti­tude toward Mr. Godse.

The avail­abil­i­ty of cheap mobile data plans in much of the coun­try­side has helped cre­ate an ecosys­tem of dis­in­for­ma­tion in which it is dif­fi­cult to sift facts from fic­tion. What­sApp mes­sages shared wide­ly in rur­al areas say that if Mr. Godse had not killed Gand­hi, India would have fall­en apart as the Sovi­et Union did. Oth­er mes­sages call Gand­hi a wom­an­iz­er.

Pub­lic meet­ings eulo­giz­ing Gandhi’s killer are also used to spread lies and jus­ti­fy the mur­der.

Amit Jaisw­al Jain, an adver­tis­ing pro­fes­sion­al in the town of Agra, believes Mr. Godse is a hero because he tried to stop Gandhi’s push for India to help the new­ly formed Pak­istan.

“Gand­hi should be respect­ed,” Mr. Jain, 38, said. “But the new India should not tol­er­ate the cas­ti­ga­tion of Godse.”

Mr. Jain, along with some of his Hin­du nation­al­ist friends, are urg­ing the Uttar Pradesh gov­ern­ment to insert a spe­cial chap­ter in school text­books on Mr. Godse. The idea is to present Mr. Godse as a vision­ary for Hin­du nation­al­ism and one of the dri­vers behind the cre­ation of a Hin­du nation.

Hin­du nation­al­ism — an ide­ol­o­gy that ani­mates Mr. Modi and his Bharatiya Jana­ta Par­ty — is premised on the idea that India is a Hin­du nation and that minori­ties, espe­cial­ly Mus­lims, must sub­scribe to Hin­du pri­ma­cy.

Ms. Pandey, who was vis­it­ing Mr. Godse’s stat­ue in Meerut recent­ly, is one of the most edu­cat­ed peo­ple in her vil­lage in north­west­ern India, earn­ing a Ph.D in math­e­mat­ics and teach­ing at a local uni­ver­si­ty. She is also a leader of Hin­du Mahasab­ha, a group formed more than 100 years ago that espous­es mil­i­tant Hin­du nation­al­ism.

Last year, she was arrest­ed after re-enact­ing the scene of Gandhi’s killing. In a video that brought her nation­al fame, she is seen shoot­ing Gandhi’s effi­gy, with fake blood spurt­ing out.

Ms. Pandey runs the Meerut chap­ter of Hin­du Mahasab­ha with Ashok Shar­ma. They hold prayer meet­ings in tem­ples across Uttar Pradesh and exhort peo­ple on why this is the time, under Mr. Modi, to turn India into a Hin­du nation.

On a recent morn­ing in Meerut, Mr. Shar­ma sat for a rit­u­al peti­tion­ing Lord Hanu­man, the mon­key God of Hin­du mythol­o­gy, to ward off Gandhi’s spir­it.

“Hey, son of the wind,” Mr. Shar­ma prayed toward the fire, refer­ring to Lord Hanu­man, “remove Gandhi’s filthy soul from this pure land.”

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