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It’s 2019 and India is debating if the murder of Mahatma Gandhi was Godse’s ‘patriot act’

It’s 2019 and India is debating if the murder of Mahatma Gandhi was Godse’s ‘patriot act’
  • The debate over Nathuram Godse’s ‘patriotism’ is peaking in India ahead of the last polling day.
  • Superstar-turned-politician Kamal Haasan’s attack on Godse met with a severe backlash from Hindu fundamentalists.
  • In 2019, India is debating whether the killer of Mahatma Gandhi should be called a ‘terrorist’ or a ‘patriot’.
  • The heated debate has even engulfed apolitical corporates like Anand Mahindra, Chairman of The Mahindra Group.
In his will, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse, asked his family not to perform his last rites, until India is united with Pakistan again. In fact, his urn of ashes is passed on to his clan for safekeeping until his dream comes true.

While Godse’s wish may remain unfulfilled, India’s politics has kept Gandhi’s killer relevant 71 years after his death. Rekindling the debate over his ‘patriotism’ is believed to help consolidate the majoritarian vote that can influence the election result. No wonder, the debate is peaking in India before the final polling day in the 2019 election for the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s Parliament.

On May 13, debutante politician and famous actor Kamal Hassan raked this issue when he called Godse, “independent India’s first terrorist”. This comment was made from Hassan who was campaigning for his new-born political party, Makkal Needhi Mayyam, which fielded candidates in Tamil Nadu.

What followed was a political stir that drew nearly everyone into the debate. Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Bhopal candidate Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, hit back at Haasan and called Godse a ‘patriot’. “Nathuram Godse will be a deshbhakt (patriot) and will always be so. People who make comments on him, should introspect their own actions,” she said.

However, Thakur retracted her statement after her party, the BJP, distanced itself from the comments, but the debate over Godse is still raging on. Hassan defended his comment even today and said, “terrorists are abound in every religion”.

Interestingly, Haasan himself played the role of Saket Ram, who plots to kill Gandhi in the 1999 epic, Hey Ram, which details the protagonist’s journey from extremism to non-violence. Just when Saket Ram was discovering Gandhi’s glory in the fictional story, Nathuram Godse fires at the father of the nation.

While the clash of rhetoric on social media is not surprising, someone threw slippers at Haasan for condemning Gandhi’s assassin.

The political slug was to be expected but even industrialist Anand Mahindra, Chairman of The Mahindra Group, took a moment to express his exasperation.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission (EC) has sought a report from the Madhya Pradesh’s Chief Electoral Officer on Thakur’s comments on Thursday.

Patriot or not
Godse has been a debated topic ever since he shot Gandhi in 1948 as the latter was returning from a prayer meet. The assassin had immediately surrendered, and reportedly, never showed any remorse for his actions.

During the famous Red Fort trial, he wrote a long statement as a response to prosecution. This statement was later printed as a book, called “Why I assassinated Gandhi”. A ban of on the book was lifted in 1968.

While Godse was hanged for his actions, his undying passion for a ‘Hindu state’ has its fans even now.


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