Video Producer: Vishnu Gopinath
Cameraperson: Ribhu Chatterjee
Video Editor: Abhishek Sharma
Yeh Jo India Hai Na… yahan we rightfully condemn the 'celebration’ of the bloody assassination of our Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in Canada. And so, when the killing of Mahatma Gandhi is celebrated in India, when his assassin, Nathuram Godse, and his act is ‘celebrated’ and revered in processions In India itself, we must be equally vocal in condemning that as well. But unfortunately, that does not happen.
When someone makes a Republic Day style ‘jhaanki’, showing Indira Gandhi being sprayed with bullets by her own security guards, and this float is allowed to travel through the streets of a Canadian city, it is crass, it is an outrage. Similarly, when a senior member of the radical Hindu Mahasabha party, one Pooja Shakun Pandey, re-enacts the killing of Mahatma Gandhi, by brandishing a gun, shooting at Gandhi’s effigy and setting it on fire, and when these videos are widely shared on social media, it is just as crass, and unacceptable. And this actually happened on the anniversary of Gandhi’s killing in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh in 2019.
Radicalism in India & Abroad
Some argue that the Khalistani sympathisers behind this offensive 'float’ in Canada, are fringe elements. Targeting them will give oxygen to their activities, and will give them the attention they don’t deserve. But India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar has rightly made it an issue, asking Canada not to give 'space to extremists’, saying it would hurt 'bilateral ties’. But then in India, why are we 'giving space’ to radical groups who celebrate Godse and Gandhi’s killing? For instance, in the case of Pooja Shakun re-enacting Gandhi’s killing in 2019, The Quint has found that an FIR was filed, Ms Shakun was arrested, but granted bail within 10 days.
And the Hindu Mahasabha is a repeat offender – In 2017, they tried to convert their Gwalior office into a Godse 'temple'. In 2021, they said they would sculpt a Godse statue using soil from Ambala Central Jail, where Godse was hanged in 1949. In 2022, they gave a ‘Godse-Apte Bharat Ratna’ award to radical leader Kalicharan Maharaj, who had been arrested for insulting Gandhi at a Dharam Sansad in Raipur, saying – ‘I salute Nathuram Godse, that he killed Gandhi.’ In Nov 2022, they even promised to rename Meerut as Nathuram Godse Nagar. So, they have given the government enough reason to act against them, but little has happened.
Mr Jaishankar is right in hinting that Canada’s pro-Khalistan elements are backed by some mainstream Canadian politicians. And that’s what makes them dangerous, isn’t it? It’s a button to be flicked on whenever there’s a perception that a party sympathetic to the Khalistan cause may get a section of Sikh votes in Canada. And, it’s the same argument when it comes to the Hindu Mahasabha.
By themselves, they don’t matter. But there are enough BJP leaders who echo the Mahasabha’s sentiments about Godse, from Pragya Thakur, the BJP MP from Bhopal to Union Minister Giriraj Singh, and former Uttarakhand CM, Trivendra Rawat and others.
The Volatility of Hindutva Outfits
The Hindu Mahasabha has often criticised the BJP, for not aggressively "protecting Hindus”, and the BJP has often rejected some of their statements, but the fact is that the Mahasabha and other such radical Hindutva groups are fringe elements of the same ideological ecosystem. Their icons are shared – VD Savarkar, BS Moonje, KB Hedgewar, MS Golwalkar, and so on. Their shrill, anti-Muslim rhetoric too, is shared. And so, radical Hindutva outfits that espouse violence, are a 'button’ that can be flicked on during elections, to target voters who want an aggressive, muscular avatar of the BJP.
Those who defend Godse, claim he was a ‘patriot’, and when he killed Gandhi, he was acting as a ‘patriot’. Well, those defending Indira’s assassins also claim that her Sikh bodyguards were rightfully enraged about the desecration of the Golden Temple, during the Indian Army operations against Bhindranwale and his militia. But these so-called ‘honourable’ motives cannot be used to justify cold-blooded murder. And THAT is what BOTH these assassinations were. And so, Yeh Jo India Hai Na… when we ask Canada to act tough on those celebrating Mrs Gandhi’s killing, we MUST be just as tough on those celebrating Gandhiji’s murder, here in India.