The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to express regret for his statement holding RSS responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. If he is not willing to express regret the court said he should be ready to face the trial.
The Congress so far has not expressed willingness to express regret on this matter. That means its vice president will have to face trial for defamation. The court asked “Why did you make a sweeping statement against the RSS branding everyone associated with the organisation in the same brush”.
Supreme Courts order has rekindled a debate on the role of RSS in Gandhi’s murder. RSS welcoming the court order has said it has exposed Congress.
So what are the historical materials and the statements made later by people who had close association with Nathuram Vinayak Godse say about Gandhi’s murder?
Why was RSS banned after Gandhi was killed? What was the ideology that energised them?
It is fact that RSS was banned in February 1948, just a month after the assassination Gandhi. Nathruam Vinayak Godse, who gunned down Gandhi on January 30, 1948 was a former member of RSS. Though RSS was banned just after Gandhi’s assassination, the ban order released on the February 4, 1948, did not refer RSS as a party in the assassination of Gandhi. There was no mention of Gandhi’s murder in the ban order. “… in practice members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have not adhered to their professed ideals (fostering feelings of brotherhood, love and service among Hindus). Undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by members of the Sangh… individual members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition. They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and the military. These activities have been carried on under a cloak of secrecy…”
Though even the RSS was not implicated in the investigation as responsible for the murder of Gandhi, the ideological support to Nathuram Godse came from the RSS. Even Sardar Patel, who is said to have soft corner towards the Sangh, considered the RSS created the atmosphere in which Gandhi was killed. M S Golwalker the Sarsanghchalak pleaded not guilty in the murder and even expressed shock at the incident. But even Patel was aware of the fact that the atmosphere created by the RSS ideology was creating havoc. This was reflected in the letters he wrote to Shyam Prasad Mukherjee and M S Golwalkar.
Vidhya Subramaniam quotes the home ministry press note released on November 14, 1948 in an article published in The Hindu “Golwalkar wanted the ban lifted without agreeing to the government’s demand that the RSS reform itself. Further, the note quoted information received from the provincial governments, which showed “that the activities carried on in various forms and ways by the people associated with the RSS tend to be anti-national and often subversive and violent and that persistent attempts are being made by the RSS to revive an atmosphere in the country which was productive of such disastrous consequences in the past…” (The Hindu dated October 8, 2013).
Vidhya Subramanian in the same article quotes another letter Sardar Patel sent to M S Golwalkar . In the letter dated September 11, 1948, Patel, the article says lauded the RSS for its service to Hindu Society , then went on outline the objectionable part of the RSS ” which “arose when they, burning with revenge, began attacking Mussalmaans …” Further, “As a final result of the (communal) poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji …” Patel said people’s opposition to the RSS grew when “the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death.” (Vidhya Subramaniam The Hindu dated October 8, 2013).
These letters and steps by the government amply proves the ideological base of Gandhi’s assassins. Veteran columnist A G Noorani quotes from Mahatma Gandhi The Last Phase authored by Pyarelal, Gandhi’s secretary ” “members of the RSS at some places had been instructed beforehand to tune in their radio sets on the fateful Friday for the ‘good news’, and sweets were distributed by the members at many places”
Shyam Prasad Mukherjee, who was a member of Nehru cabinet at the time of Gandhi’s murder tried hard to protect V D Savarkar, the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, and an accused in the case. He wrote letters to Sardar Patel against implicating him in the case. But Sardar Patel was not impressed.( Shyam Prasad Mukherjee later went on to form Jan Sangh the earlier avatar of BJP)
In another article in Frontline A G Noorani quotes from a letter Sardar Patel wrote to Shyam Prasad Mukherjee “As regards the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, the case relating to Gandhiji’s murder is sub judice and I should not like to say anything about the participation of the two organisations, but our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible. There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in this conspiracy. The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of government and the state. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure” ( Quoted by A G Noorani from Sardar Patel’s Correspondence page 323, Frontline dated October 5, 2012).
V D Savarkar’s role in the conspiracy is established by the J L Kapor Commission report. The commission examined the evidence not produced in the court during trial, which included testimony of Savarkar’s bodyguard Appa Ramachandra Kasar and his secretary G V Damle. These evidence confirmed Godse’s visit to Savarkar on January 14 1948 and on January 17, 1948. In his report the commission said “ All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group.”
V D Savarkar is still adorned as the ideological guru of many BJP and RSS leaders including prime minister Narendra Modi. BJP has brought his portrait in to the Parliament and BJP leaders pay obeisance before his photo on his birthdays.
This makes one thing clear though the RSS might have got absolved as an organisation in Mahatma Gandhi assassination case, the ideological strength the killers drew came from the Saffron organisation. This should also be noted that Nathuram Vinayak Godse was a member of the RSS if not at the time of killing Gandhi.
In 1994, Frontline magazine carried an interview with Gopal Godse, brother of Nathuram Vinayak Godse in which he said that Nathuram Godse never left RSS. “He had said in his statement that he left the RSS. He said it because Golwalkar and the RSS were in lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave RSS”. To another question, that Advani had claimed that Nathuram had nothing to do with RSS, Gopal Godse’s reply was “I have countered him, saying it is cowardice to say that. You can say that RSS did not pass a resolution, saying that ‘go and assassinate Gandhi’. But you don’t disown him (Nathuram). The Hindu Mahasabha did not disown him. In 1944 Nathuram started doing Hindu Mahasabha work when he had been baudhik karyavah in the RSS” (Frontline January 1994).
RSS thrives on multi- speak. The ideological mentor of the present government do not want to be directly or indirectly be identified as an organisation which supported Gandhi’s killing. But of late different fringe groups have sprouted across different parts of the country which openly support Godse and his politics. It is a fact that one can’t easily distinguish their ideology with that of the RSS.