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Glorifying Communalists, Insulting Freedom Fighters: Nation Demands An Apology Mr Modi

By Subhash Gatade

14 November, 2013

'Though this be madness yet there is method in it' - 'Hamlett', Shakespeare


What would be your take if one fine morning, you get up and find name of a great freedom fighter getting replaced by someone who had collaborated with the colonialists, who had opposed people's anti-colonial upsurge and whose world view was contrary to the very idea of the Republic we live today. You would immediately seek an apology from the person who has openly insulted the memory of a great freedom fighter.

Thanks to a pliant media, the manner in which the issue of Modi's bad mouthing a great freedom fighter like Shyamaji Krishna Verma - by replacing him with a communalist namely Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in his speech - has got reduced to the 'slip of tongue' realm and nobody has tried either to scrutinise this mixing or ask Modi to tender an unconditional apology.

To recap, it may be mentioned that Modi had gone to inaugurate a hospital in Gujarat and got embroiled in this controversy during this speech. In the said speech he claimed that Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, was a 'great son of Gujarat and had built India house in London' He also claimed that this 'great son of Gujarat was in regular dialogue with Vivekanand and Dayanand Saraswati' and in his usual penchant for taking credits 'it was his good fortune to be able to bring back the ashthi (ashes) of Mukherjee from Geneva in 2003.'

The fact of the matter was that he was referring to Shyamaji Krishna Verma, a great nationalist (born 4 th October 1857) from Gujarat who was a lawyer, journalist who had gone to London, developed the India house (1902) which later became the living space for many Indian freedom fighters, started an English monthly, ‘The Indian Sociologist’ an organ of political, social and religious reform. History books tell us that Shyamji had died in Geneva in 1930.

Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, a Hindutva leader initially associated with Hindu Mahasabha and later shifting his allegiance to RSS to form Bharatiya Jansangh, also happened to be part of the first cabinet of Nehru formed after independence and also had served in a cabinet led by Muslim League in early 40's. It need be underlined here that it was the period when there was tremendous ferment in the country and the 'Quit India movement' had been launched to oust the Britishers. Hindu Mahasabha was collaborating with the Britishers then and Savarkar was holding meetings in different parts of the country to support Britain's war efforts, it had no qualms in forming this coalition government in Bengal. On the one hand the 'Quit India' call reverberated throughout India but Hindu Mahasabha as well as Muslim League were enjoying fruits of power.

Supporters of Narendra Modi claimed that the said speech - which showed his complete ignorance about the important milestone in the trajectory of his own organization, the formation of Bhartiya Jansangh, the first mass political platform launched by RSS itself, - was just slip of tongue and not much should be read into it. If for arguments sake one agrees with the contention then immediately the next question arises about his string of speeches where he had made outrageous, false claims and even after being pointed out by critics the factual mistakes in his presentation did not deem it necessary to correct them and make necessary amends.

A sample of his completely false claims would be in order

- Nehru did not even attend Patel's funeral - despite proof to the contrary

-Alexander had come to Bihar and was defeated by Biharis - despite the obvious fact that Alexander never crossed the Ganges

- Placing Taxila in Bihar although it is in Pakistan

- Claiming that Chandragupta Maurya the legendary King belonged to the Gupta dynasty.

- China spends 20 % of GDP on education whereas Xinhua, the official news agency of China tells that it is around 3.75 % of GDP

What one is concerned here not just slip of tongue here and there - which can happen with anyone - in fact it is a new genre of speech which is on the one hand (according to observers) 'entertaining' and 'captivating' but if one digs further one finds it is built on sheer fiction, to say the least. And there is no spontaneity involved here leading to 'slip of tongue', everything is deliberate, presented before the masses in a packaged form for wider consumption to serve the larger agenda based on exclusion and hate.

The fascist style of political speech may be summarised in 3 words: affirmation, repetition and contagion. They spread lies and practice deceit as a matter of habit. Truth is whatever is convenient for serving their interests. More than anything else, it is the onslaught on the human mind that is the most dangerous feature of totalitarian politics - of any variety. The RSS in power will abolish truth completely. Modi’s lies are a foretaste.


In fact, it would not be off the mark if one says that Modi has slowly metamorphosed into 'P N Oak' of Indian politics. It need be mentioned here that P N Oak was a very popular 'historian' in Hindutva circles who claimed that 'that Christianity and Islam are both derivatives of Hinduism, or that the Catholic Vatican, Kaaba and the Taj Mahal were once Hindu temples to Shiva'. Variously described as 'crackpot' or 'mythistorian' by critics his petition to the Supreme Court to declare Taj Mahal a shiva temple (Tejomahalya) were summarily rejected by the courts with a comment 'he had a "bee in his bonnet" that's why this petition.

The manner in which Modi has tried to appropriate Patel makes it very clear that he has grasped his P N Oak well.


Three months before his death Sardar Patel said " Our leader is Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Bapu appointed him his heir and successor during his lifetime and even declared it. It is the duty of the soldiers of Bapu that they abide by his orders. One who does not accept this order by heart would prove a sinner before god. I am not a disloyal soldier. For me it is unimportant what my place is. I only know that I am that very place where Bapu asked me to stand'' - 2 nd October 1950, Indore

(Translated from original hindi, Purnahuti, Chaturth Khand, Page 465, Pyarelal, Navjeevan Prakashan, Ahmedabad)

An important characteristics of these Modispeaks is that in its hurry to belittle the Congress or stigmatise his adversaries, Modi has done a grave injustice to Patel's persona and abused history to no end. In fact it would be better to put it this way that NaMo has carved out a Patel which suits his politics but is unrecognisable to anyone outside the Parivar.

"Sardar Patel is no more a symbol of pride for the Gujaratis. Today, Modi has reduced him to a symbol of victimhood of Nehru dynasty and an unfulfilled desire" (http://www.truthofgujarat.com/vicitimization-sardar-vallabhbhai-patel).

On the one hand he euologises Patel, claims that India's future would have been different if he would have become the first PM of India, tries to create a false adversarial relation between him and Nehru and simultaneously in the same breath 'abuses' him. Perhaps if wiser sense would have prevailed he would not have held Congress responsible for partition or for being instrumental in changing the history and geography of the subcontinent knowing fully well that Patel was part of the triumvirate apart from Gandhi and Nehru, which played a key role before and after Partition.

Definitely Modi would not like to remember at this juncture his government's move to ban a book by Jaswant Singh 'Jinnah: India – Partition – Independence' for 'questioning the role of Sardar Patel during the partition of India as well as his patriotic spirit.' which was 'an attempt to tarnish the image of Patel who is considered the architect of modern united India.' (2009) The ban was later lifted by the Gujarat high courts. Why did Modi felt infuriated with this book because it placed facts - which were already available in public domain - about the role of these national leaders during that period and their slowly accepting the impending partition of the country. If Jaswant Singh could be removed from the Party for 'questioning the core beliefs of the Party' on this issue itself , then similarly should not the high priests of Hindutva reprimand Modi himself for targeting Patel (who formed the core of Congress leadership).

In fact Modi in particular and RSS in general is faced with two kinds of problems

One the RSS did not participate in the anti-British struggle for independence as an organisation nor encouraged its activities to work for independence. There are instances when it tried to discourage its activists in participating in the struggle and made derogatory remarks about great freedom fighters.

Secondly, ideologues of Hindutva were the first to declare that Hindus are a separate nation. Sample their hero V.D Savarkar's declaration on August 15, 1943: "I have no quarrel with Mr Jinnah's two-nation theory. We Hindus are a nation by ourselves and it is a historical fact that Hindus and Muslims are two nations" (Indian Annual Register 1943 vol.2 p.10).

To get over this absence of any real hero of the masses who owned allegiance with their exclusivist ideology, they are engaged in appropriating leaders from the anti-colonial movement- showing their alleged proximity to their worldview.

In light of their attempts to portray Patel as opposed to Nehru, it would be opportune to read Sardar Patel himself in a book titled "Nehru Abhinandan Granth - A birthday book'. The book was released in 1949, to mark diamond jubilee birth celebrations of Pt Nehru, recognising Pt Nehru's credentials as idol of the nation, hero of the masses and leader of the people and also addressing Nehru as a person who is willing to seek and ready to take any advice, contrary to the impressions created by some interested persons. Patel writes:

Jawaharlal and I have been fellow members of the Congress, soldiers in the struggle for freedom, ..This familiarity, nearness, intimacy and brotherly affection make it difficult for me to sum up for public appreciation, but then, the idol of the masses, the leader of the people, the Prime minister of the country and the hero of the masses, whose noble record and great achievements are an open book, hardly needs any commendation from me."

.."As one older in years it has been my privilege to tender advice to him on the manifold problems with which we have been faced in both administrative and organisational fields. I have found him willing to seek and ready to take it. Contrary to the impressions created by some interested persons and eagerly accepted in credulous circles, we have worked together as lifelong friends and colleagues, adjusting ourselves to each other's point of view as the occasion demanded and valuing each other's advice as only those who have confidence in each other can".

He further writes "in the fitness of things that in the twilight preceding the dawn of independence, he should have been our leading light and that when India was faced with crisis after crisis, following the achievement of our freedom, he should have been the upholder of our faith and the leader of our legions. No one knows better than myself how much he has laboured for his country in the last two years of our difficult existence. I have seen him age quickly during that period on account of the worries of the high office that he holds and the tremendous reponsibilities that he wields."

Of course, Modi cannot be held solely responsible for denigrating 'own' heroes. For someone who has been a Swayamsevak since his teens, where you are fed with all sorts of rubbish ideas as part of Baudhik can you expect something better. In fact, anyone conversant with Sangh history can vouch that there is nothing new as far as 'abusing' own heroes is concerned if it helps present a sanitised image of RSS. As an aside one can look at how RSS had no qualms in denigrating Savarkar himself to 'prove' its innocence in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse, a Hindu fanatic and the alleged role played by RSS in it is still debated. Few years back when some fresh facts emerged to buttress the case, RSS had issued press statement denying any culpability in this killing and in the process itself maligned Savarkar - a key ideologue of the project of Hindutva

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh today denied that it had anything to do with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and as "proof" of its innocence circulated a copy of a letter written by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to Jawaharlal Nehru just 28 days after the murder. However, it seems that the RSS overlooked the fact that the same letter blamed V.D. Savarkar for hatching the conspiracy and "seeing it through" while emphasising that "the assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS and the [Hindu] Mahasabha."

(RSS releases `proof' of its innocence, By Neena Vyas, 17 th August 2004, http://www.hindu.com/2004/08/18/stories/2004081805151100.htm)


That day Delhi caught Punjab’s infection. “I will not tolerate Delhi becoming another Lahore,” Vallabhbhai declared in Nehru’s and Mountbatten’s presence. He publicly threatened partisan officials with punishment, and at his instructions orders to shoot rioters at sight were issued on September 7.Four Hindu rioters were shot dead at the railway station in Old Delhi.

(P.428, Patel : A Life, Rajmohan Gandhi, Navjeevan Publishing House, Ahmedabad)

Whatever might be the claims of his cheerleaders - who felt happy when NaMo talked of ‘Hindus and Muslims uniting together to fight poverty' or ‘Pahle Shauchalay aur Phir Devalay' (Toilets first, Temples later) - the core of his 'divisive, prejudice deepening politics' is not going to go away easily. It would be too much to expect that one fine morning NaMo would be able to undertake a Kafkasquean metamorphosis and do away with what his biographer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay calls 'myopic view of history, an exaggerated notion in his abilities and disdain for viewpoint of the 'other'.'

For someone who is in a hurry to reach the topmost post in the country - any sort of 'unlearning' seems impossible

A beginning can only be made if he tenders an unconditional apology for the carnage in 2002 and opens himself for a legal scrutiny of his alleged acts of omission and commission during that tumultuous period.

Subhash Gatade is the author of Pahad Se Uncha Aadmi (2010) Godse's Children: Hindutva Terror in India,(2011) and The Saffron Condition: The Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India(2011). He is also the Convener of New Socialist Initiative (NSI) Email : subhash.gatade@gmail.com


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