SHOP­PING FOR ICONS

THE BJP MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO HAIL ITS OWN HE­ROES, WARTS AND ALL, IN­STEAD OF GO­ING ON A BUY­ING SPREE. PHO­TO­SHOP­PING THEM FROM THE PRESENT WILL NOT ERASE THEM FROM HIS­TORY.

India Today - - SIGNATURE - SIG­NA­TURE KAVEREE BAMZAI

If the BJP is com­plain­ing about Rahul Gandhi’s at­tack on RSS for the as­sas­si­na­tion of Ma­hatma Gandhi, they have only them­selves to blame. As chil­dren would say in a play­ground, they started it first, by quot­ing from his­tory to bol­ster their pan­theon. They did that be­cause they had no choice. Look at their icons. None of them can be men­tioned in po­lite com­pany. Vi­nayak Damodar Savarkar, who lived for 19 years in in­de­pen­dent In­dia, was dis­cred­ited for his al­leged role in the as­sas­si­na­tion of Gandhi—though he was fi­nally cleared of it by the Jus­tice Ka­pur Com­mis­sion. Among his charm­ing be­liefs was that Adolf Hitler was prefer­able to a demo­cratic govern­ment and that In­dia must be a Hindu land, re­served for Hin­dus. While the whole of In­dia was ris­ing in re­volt against the Bri­tish in 1942, as pres­i­dent of the Hindu Ma­hasabha, he was oc­cu­pied in call­ing on Hindu youth to join the mil­i­tary with the call, ‘Mil­i­tarise the Hin­dus, Hin­duise the Na­tion.’

His close as­so­ciate, Dr Syama Prasad Mook­er­jee, who founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, was mem­o­rable not only for his bait­ing of Jawa­har­lal Nehru on the mat­ter of Kash­mir’s ac­ces­sion, but also for his ba­sic be­lief, ut­tered best dur­ing his hour-long pres­i­den­tial ad­dress in 1951: “Any talk of com­pos­ite cul­ture is both il­log­i­cal and dan­ger­ous.” Mad­hav Sadashiv Gol­walkar, the sec­ond sarsanghcha­lak of the RSS, who was im­pris­oned when RSS was banned af­ter Gandhi’s as­sas­si­na­tion, said such tran­quil things as Mus­lims have gob­bled up a part of our body (speech in 1954) and that Mus­lims (and Chris­tians) are nei­ther traitors nor ser­vants of the en­emy—they are sim­ply the en­emy. Deen­dayal Upad­hyaya, who took over the Jana Sangh when Mook­er­jee died in what many right wingers have dubbed a Nehru­vian con­spir­acy, be­lieved Par­ti­tion was a his­toric blun­der and that In­dia and Pak­istan would be re­united one day.

The RSS has for long tried to ap­pro­pri­ate Swami Vivekananda, but he doesn’t quite get votes. Plus he was too lib­eral for their taste, ad­vo­cat­ing three Bs for the sal­va­tion of In­dia—beef, bi­ceps and the Bha­gavad Gita. Not sur­pris­ing then that Sar­dar Val­lab­hb­hai Pa­tel seems the most ap­pro­pri­ate icon, es­pe­cially since he ap­peared to be so in­im­i­cal to Nehru. But the BJP made a car­di­nal er­ror, as­sum­ing that an oc­ca­sional dif­fer­ence of opin­ion with Nehru in what was then a demo­cratic or­gan­i­sa­tion meant he was not a loyal Con­gress­man. Noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. Pa­tel was ab­so­lutely op­posed to the RSS and Hindu Ma­hasabha, and had no doubt in his mind that they were re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing an at­mos­phere, as he wrote in a let­ter to Mook­er­jee af­ter Gandhi’s as­sas­si­na­tion, in which “such a ghastly tragedy be­came pos­si­ble”.

Which brings me to the point—how can BJP vow al­le­giance to both RSS and to Pa­tel in the same breath? It is an al­liance of con­ve­nience based on what they be­lieve is a mu­tual ha­tred for the Nehru-Gandhi fam­ily, shared equally by RSS and Pa­tel. But it is mis­guided. The BJP must have the courage to hail its own he­roes, warts and all, in­stead of go­ing on a buy­ing spree. Pho­to­shop­ping them from the present will not erase them from his­tory. In­deed, elec­tions, as his­to­rian Stan­ley Wolpert points out, tend to res­surect many long-for­got­ten facts and is­sues, on both sides of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum. His weak grasp of re­cent his­tory hav­ing been ex­posed in the in­fa­mous TV in­ter­view, Rahul Gandhi has now started com­par­ing Naren­dra Modi to Hitler. Soon he will start com­par­ing him to Au­rangzeb, as he does in pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions. He should know that Hitler ruled Ger­many for 12 years and Au­rangzeb ruled north­ern In­dia for 48 years. We pre­sume he doesn’t want that.

Il­lus­tra­tion by SAU­RABH SINGH

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