India: Deleting history, deepening the divisive agenda

In a way, we are following the path of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In Pakistan (Islamic nationalism), the hate manufactured against Hindus and Christians did result in their persecution there. In Sri Lanka (Buddhist Sinhala nationalism), Hindus (Tamils), Muslims and Christians have been on the receiving end of the consequences of hate.

Dr Ram Puniyani May 02, 2023
NCERT (Photo: Wikipedia)

Recently (April 2023), India's NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training) decided to make many deletions from school textbooks. Apart from the parts related to Mughal history, the mention of Gujarat violence, and the origin of the caste system, what stands deleted is also a part related to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.  “His (Gandhi’s) steadfast pursuit of Hindu-Muslim unity provoked Hindu extremists so much that they made several attempts to assassinate Gandhiji… Gandhiji’s death had an almost magical effect on the communal situation in the country… The Government of India cracked down on organizations that were spreading communal hatred. Organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh were banned for some time…” 

How do we see these deletions? And the deletion that Gandhi's killer Nathuram Godse is referred to as a Hindu extremist, a Brahmin needs to be understood.

One recalls that the murder of Swami Shraddhanad was done by a Muslim Abdul Rashid. Gandhi condemned the murder but addressed Rashid as a brother and said that he should not be blamed for this murder; instead, those who created the atmosphere of hate should be blamed. On the same lines Gandhi and his disciple, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in particular, saw Godse being the manifestation of hate prevalent in the society.

Of course, Gandhi was not there to opine about Godse after his murder but his attitude to the dastardly act became clear when in 1944 Godse tried to attack him with a dagger in Panchagani near Pune. The incident was, “During a prayer meeting that evening, Nathuram Godse, dressed in a Nehru shirt, pajama and jacket, rushed towards Gandhi. He was brandishing a dagger in his hand and shouting anti-Gandhi slogans. Godse was overpowered…” and Gandhi was saved. In response Gandhi “asked Godse to spend eight days with him so that they could understand each other. Godse rejected this invitation and was allowed to go free by a magnanimous Gandhi.” In both the case of Abdul Rashid and Godse, Gandhi’s response seems to be on the same page.

The ban on RSS

As for Gandhi blaming hate as the cause of murder in the case of Swami Shraddhanand, the same view was taken by Gandhi’s disciple Sardar Patel, then the country's home minister, who banned the RSS. Some mistakenly believe that it was on the insistence of Nehru that the RSS was banned. The real fact is revealed by the communiqué issued by the government. 

In a communiqué issued on February 4, 1948, the central government said it was banning the RSS “to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name… It has been found that in several parts of the country, individual members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity, and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and the military.”

In a letter to M.S. Golwalkar, Patel writes, “All their speeches (RSS members, added) were filled with communal poison… As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of sympathy for the government, or of the people, no more remained for the RSS. In fact opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death.”

RSS propagates that mentioning the ban on RSS is half true as the ban was lifted by courts as being illegal. The paragraph which has been deleted precisely mentions that the ban was imposed for some time only. As such from Gandhi to Patel and Nehru they all realized that more than Godse as a person it is the hate that is responsible for the violence, including the murder of Swami Shraddhanand and later of Gandhi. While the RSS ban was not valid on legal grounds, its ban was prompted by RSS spreading hate which led to violence and murders, including that of Mahatma Gandhi. While paying lip service to Mahatma, RSS continues to do what it began, spreading Hate against Muslims and at the same time glorifying the old hierarchical society.

The hate which Godse imbibed was from RSS, to begin with, Godse writes, “Having worked for the uplift of the Hindus I felt it necessary to take part in political activities of the country for the protection of just rights of Hindus. I, therefore, left the Sangh (RSS) and joined Hindu Mahasabha.” (Godse, ‘Why I Assassinated Mahatma Gandhi’ 1993, and Pg.  102). He held Mahatma responsible for appeasing Muslims, and thereby the formation of Pakistan. He joined Hindu Mahasabha, at that time the only political party of Hindutva, and became general secretary of its Pune Branch.  In due course, he first started a newspaper, as founder editor, called Agrani (leader) and later another one called Hindu Rashtra. And undoubtedly mentioning him as a Brahmin is not unwarranted as Brahmins were at the forefront of Hindu Nationalist politics, to begin with.

Nationalism in the name of religion

Understanding hate imbibed by Abdul Rashid and Godse in today’s context will mean that those youth who are waving lathis, swords, and pistols in the religious processions are guilty of course but the bigger blame has to be apportioned to the indoctrination of hate ideology, hate speech and the social media which is constantly blaring the Hate against religious minorities. Looking in the neighborhood it confirms that nationalism in the name of religion is the main weapon that is creating and propagating Hate. 

In a way, we are following the path of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In Pakistan (Islamic nationalism), the hate manufactured against Hindus and Christians did result in their persecution there. In Sri Lanka (Buddhist Sinhala nationalism), Hindus (Tamils), Muslims and Christians have been on the receiving end of the consequences of hate.

Now with these deletions in textbooks, those upholding Hindu nationalism and their advocates are further intensifying the hate which has led to so many acts of violence, have led to the marginalization of minorities further culminating in ghettoes that are proliferating in various areas. Defending the deletions, particularly related to Gandhi's murder and the role of the RSS, is yet another attempt to deepen the divisive agenda.

(The writer, a former IIT Bombay professor, is Chairman, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai. Views are personal.) 

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Mon, 05/15/2023 - 19:25
Look who is preaching, with a very superficial knowledge of our Indic ethos