M Sridhar Acharyulu, Former Central Information Commissioner and Professor at Bennett University.
After 71 years of Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, both assassin and the assassinated became central points of debate during the recently held election campaign in India.
Actor- turned-politician Kamal Hassan, called Godse , India's first Hindu terrorist and BJP’s candidate, whereas MP Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur , described him as a Deshbhakth or nationalist.
It could be a matter of opinion of two politicians, but whether these statements impacted the people’s decisions in national elections is yet to be deciphered.
Kamal Haasan at a public meeting in Tamil Nadu held on May 12 said: "Free India’s first terrorist was a Hindu, his name is Nathuram Godse. There it [terrorism] starts," Kamal Haasan was quoted as saying hours after the polling ended in the penultimate phase of Lok Sabha election.
Then after four days, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur - BJP’s Bhopal Lok Sabha candidate, responded to his statement saying, "Nathuram Godse was a deshbhakt, is a deshbhakt and will remain a deshbhakt."
Kamal Hassan was the actor, director, and writer of a movie titled 'Hey Ram', which substantially supported the idea and efforts of killing Gandhi, though the hero changes his mind in the last scene.
The movie was an Indian alternative historical fictional version released in the year 2000. Saket Ram Iyengar is the principal character, which Kamal played, who thinks and plans like Nathuram Godse. By the time Saket Ram reaches Delhi to assassinate Gandhi he ends up admiring him. But he was surprised to see Godse firing bullets at Gandhi.
Now is it proper for Kamal Hassan to categorise Godse’s act as terrorism or extremism is the question that arises. When he tried to justify the attempt in 'Hey Ram' for the cinema's commercial prospects, then how could he oppose it for political purpose?
Does this political drama of Kamal created very imaginatively, not support Godse’s terrorism, as called by him?
Interestingly both Kamal and Pragya have retracted their statements. Kamal Haasan, said he did not use the word terrorist but said he was an extremist. Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, under pressure from the BJP leadership, apologised and withdrew her statement. "I will never be able to forgive Sadhvi Pragya for insulting Bapu, " Prime Minister Narendra Modi said .
Even Godse repented!
According to a judge who heard the appeal in the case, Godse repented for his deed and vowed to work for peace like Gandhi.
Its interesting to note that the two politicians, Godse himself and the principal character in 'Hey Ram’ also changed their minds.
Justice GD Khosla, a member of three-Judge Bench, who heard the appeal filed by Godse and his co-convicts against the trial court’s verdict in the Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination case, published a book in 1965 recording the legal aspects of these events.
Justice Khosla observed "the decision to strike was taken on January 13, when it was learnt that Mahatma Gandhi had started his fast to put pressure upon the Government of India and compel it to review its former decision to withhold the payment of 55 crores rupees to Pakistan...the conspirators could wait no longer".
According to Justice Khosla, former Judge of Punjab High Court, Godse had "repented of his deed and declared that were he to be given another chance he would spend the rest of his life in the promotion of peace and service of the country". If this is true, it means, even Godse changed his mind about Gandhi’s peace mission. (Godse did not appeal neither on his conviction nor on death sentence. He only preferred appeal on a limited point of conspiracy)
With all this backdrop, what moral right did Pragya and others have, to categorise Godse as 'deshbhakt' for his inhuman act of assassinating the Father of the Nation, throwing the entire blame of India's partition on Gandhi, even though they had the right to opinion under freedom of speech and expression.
People express their love and devotion in myriad forms including building temples. There are temples for Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi. Khushboo, Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar etc. And for Godse also.
On November 16, 2017, Hindu Mahasabha at its office in Daulatganj in Gwalior district laid the foundation stone for construction of a temple in the name of Nathuram Godse, though the district administration denied permission. A statue has already been put up in their office and they observe November 15, 1949, the day on which he was hanged to death as 'sacrifice day.' The Gwalior administration gave a notice to remove the temple from that place much later.
On May 21, 2019, the police arrested six Hindu Mahasabha activists in Surat for allegedly celebrating the birth anniversary of Nathuram Godse, by lighting lamps, singing bhajans and exchanging sweets. It appears they have built a temple there for Godse.
There are temples for Gandhi at several places, including one at Sambalpur in Orissa, and another in Peddakaparthi village of Nalgonda district in Telangana.
If these love-hate conflicts of Gandhi and Godse affected the campaign and impressed voters, God only has to save our democracy...