India

India’s First Study Centre Dedicated to Gandhi’s Killer in BJP-Ruled State Draws Outrage

The Hindu Mahasabha, the party which claims to protect Hindu rights, has been lobbying for legacy of Nathuram Godse – a former member who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1949 – to be legitimised. It has even asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to re-open the Gandhi assassination case to put an end to the vilification of Godse.

The formal inauguration of a new study centre and library documenting the ideology and life of Nathuram Godse, the assassin of global anti-violence icon Mahatma Gandhi, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has provoked strong reactions from those on social media.

“It is shameful that we are opening a centre dedicated to a terrorist,” said one, with several others blaming the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for encouraging the rise of Hindu nationalist elements in public life since it came to power in 2014. The BJP is also in power in Madhya Pradesh.

​“The library has been opened to put before the world the true nationalist that Godse was. He stood and died for an undivided India. The purpose of the library is to instil true nationalism which Godse stood for,” Jaiveer Bhardwaj, Hindu Mahasabha’s national vice-president told reporters at the centre’s opening on World Hindi Day (10 January).

The Hindu Mahasabha is a political outfit founded in 1906 during the time of British colonial rule on the Indian subcontinent, in response to the creation of a Muslim League, which advocated the rights of Muslims. Godse, who was convicted of assassinating Gandhi in 1949, was a member of the Hindu Mahasabha.

However, the outfit has remained unapologetic about the fact that one of its members assassinated Gandhi.

“Godse trained in Gwalior and purchased a pistol. Later, he went to Delhi to execute his plan. The first time he did not succeed. When Gandhi met Godse, the latter kept his resolution to assassinate him. Since then we have said that you partitioned the country and you have to bear the consequences. No matter how big the leader, we stand by Godse’s act,” Bhardwaj was quoted as saying in media reports.

Although his part in Gandhi’s assassination has been proved by legal commission, since 2014 – when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP first came to power – the Hindu Mahasabha has demanded his bust be erected at public spaces across the country and that his “patriotism” be celebrated and better known.

The BJP has often found itself in the firing line from its political opponents over the supposed popularity of Godse among a section of its Hindu nationalist followers.

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