India Marks Gandhi’s Assassination Anniversary, but Some Praise His Assassin Instead

( [email protected] ) Jan 30, 2015 04:39 PM EST
People across India paid their respects on the 67th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who was shot and killed by an assassin as he walked to a prayer meeting in Delhi. However, some right-wing groups in India have praised Gandhi's assassin instead to mark the occasion.
Mahatma Gandhi prepares for a hunger strike, 1939 Photo: Rex

People across India paid their respects on the 67th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who was shot and killed by an assassin as he walked to a prayer meeting in Delhi.

Gandhi was best known for employing nonviolent civil disobedience as part of a campaign to make the country independent, which was ruled by the British back then. However, Samanth Subramanian of The National reported that more attention, mostly from Hindu right-wing groups, has been given to his killer, Nathuram Godse; Sakshi Maharaj, a parliamentarian and member of prime minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), praised Gandhi's assassin as "a nationalist."

"He may have done something by mistake, but was not an anti-national," Maharaj said about Godse. "He was a patriot."

According to The National, Godse said that he shot Gandhi due to his bias toward Muslims and his appeasement to Pakistan, which was created when the British gave independence to the Asian subcontinent. He was sentenced to death in November 1969 and hanged a week later.

"A co-conspirator was also hanged, while five others - including Godse's brother Gopal - were sentenced to life in prison," Subramanian wrote.

Despite the controversy and infamy surrounding Godse, Indian authorities attempted to ban Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM) from putting up a statue and building a temple in his honor in the north Indian town of Meerut. Pandit Ashok Sharma, the ABHM leader in Meerut, told Mohammad Ali of The Hindu that his group will install Godse's statue at "any cost."

"In the propagandist history of India, Godse was an evil guy because he killed Gandhi," Munna Kumar Sharma, a nation general secretary of ABHM, said. "But we want to tell the masses that he was an ultra-nationalist who wanted to stop the division of the country and thereby also stop the bloodshed which marked the division of the 'Akhand Bharat' (unified India)."

Kumar added that the group plans to launch a "Godse Library" to promote the assassin's views across India.

"We plan to launch series of libraries across the country and to start in Meerut, which will disseminate literature about Godse and his life," Kumar said.

According to The National, ABHM president Chander Prakash Kaushik described Gandhi's assassin as "a patriot, freedom fighter, an editor, and not a criminal."

"He's a martyr and we want the people of this nation to know the truth that compelled Nathuram Godse to assassinate Gandhi," Kaushik said.

A. Annamali, the director of the National Gandhi Museum, told the National that right-wing elements across India are celebrating the assassin's life due to the fact that Modi, a BJP member, currently holds power.

"These groups are bolder now that they think their party is in power," Annamali said. "They think they can push this agenda. It makes me terribly sad."

However, not everyone in India has jumped on the trend to praise Godse. The National reported that hundreds of people have taken part in a Facebook campaign that included posting selfies with the words "#NoToGodse, #NoToHate."

"One doesn't have to believe in everything Gandhi stood for to denounce a mad hater like Godse and his worshippers," New-Delhi based editor Anusuya wrote in her post.

Annamali thought that putting a statue of Godse up would send the wrong message to people across India, dividing instead of uniting them.

"It is the diversity and plurality of India that we need to convey, not this divisiveness," Annamali said.

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