Peace for the Soul

A common space for harmonic peacemakers

Is India Rejecting Gandhi?
by Arun Gandhi

Ever since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was overwhelmingly voted into power there are several unmistakable, but subtle, events that makes one believe India is moving away from Gandhi. Some, like me, would say India never was a Gandhian State, but that is another story. It is important for western readers to know that at the helm of the BJP is the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) which started as a service organization during the struggle for independence. Serving the community was a façade, what they were actually doing was promoting militant Hindu nationalism. They built a vast grassroots network and always were against Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence.

They openly opposed Gandhi’s attempts prior to independence to avoid the partition of the country. They stoked Hindu nationalism and quietly prepared stashes of weapons to be used against Muslims. While Gandhi was attempting to make peace and assure the Muslims that India is as much their home as it is for the Hindus and others, the RSS was doing just the opposite. They stoked the embers of violence that resulted in a conflagration in 1946-47 that consumed more than a million lives. The RSS cherished the hope that every Muslim would be forced out of India.

Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, who was recently accorded a warm welcome in the US belonged to the RSS cadre and this is no secret. It is written in his resume. Although the RSS did not succeed in making India a purely Hindu nation, they did not give up hope. To make Gandhi pay for foiling their attempt to push Muslims out they engineered his assassination. Although they publicly disowned the assassins they did celebrate the death of Gandhi by distributing sweets and rejoicing. When the RSS was banned for a couple of decades after Gandhi’s assassination a new political wing was formed and named the BJP. Although the policies remained the same and so did the members what they did was give the image a new coat of paint to make it look good.

Recent events need to be viewed against this background. The State of Gujarat became the testing ground for the BJP and RSS. In 2002 more than 2000 Muslims were massacred most brutally. Pregnant Muslim women were hacked to death in the streets, their stomachs ripped open and the fetuses were crushed brutally. All of this happened in a week of carnage when Mr. Modi was the Chief Minister (equivalent to US Governor) of the State of Gujarat. Subsequently, Mr. Modi claims he was cleared by the Supreme Court of any involvement in the carnage. Everyone knows that he did not actually participate in the carnage but as the Head of State he must shoulder the moral responsibility of what happened under his watch. If he says he was helpless and could do nothing then he is a weak leader. But if he and his administration just sat back and watched the carnage then they are morally responsible.

Yet all of this was forgotten and he became a popular leader simply because he was able to build the economy of the State and bring in more industries making Gujarat the richest State in India. This explains why Gandhi said: Materialism and morality have an inverse relationship. When one increases the other decreases. This is true in Gujarat as it is in the United States.

Mr. Modi’s economic success in Gujarat catapulted him to the national scene and anointed him with the Prime Ministership. What will be of interest is to see how he is going to control the RSS elements in his party and administration. Some storm clouds are rising. A Cabinet Minister made a statement in Calcutta saying all those who do not believe in the Hindu Lord Rama are infidels and must be eliminated from Indian society. When this caused an uproar in Parliament Mr. Modi asked the Minister to apologize and has tried to sweep the event under the carpet.

Just when things seemed to simmer down another Member of Parliament belonging to the BJP announced that Gandhi’s assassin will be accorded the honor of a martyr and the day he was hanged would be declared a Martyr’s Day. He said: To us Godse (the assassin) is as revered as Gandhi is to you. After more than 60 years the RSS now tacitly agrees that Godse was their man and that the RSS was complicit in the plot to assassinate Gandhi. At the time of writing the Prime Minister has not made a statement. There are other things that are happening quietly behind the screen. The notoriously inept Indian history is further being distorted to project the RSS and diminish the legacy of Gandhi. Many poor Muslims are being coerced into converting to Hinduism by threatening them with denial of government services.

What is not known is whether these events are going to take India into a new, narrow-minded, direction, or is this going to mark the split of the RSS--BJP nexus. If they do break-up it will be interesting to see how the BJP survive without its grass-roots base?

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