It can be assumed that the case will take its own time to be settled and Rahul Gandhi can make merry until then
Rahul Gandhi must not have imagined that one of his several irresponsible statements would land him in legal trouble, that a court would frame charges against him, and that he would face trial for defamation. Sometime in early 2014, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election, the now Congress president had declared at a meeting in Bhiwandi near Mumbai that “RSS people had assassinated Mahatma Gandhi”. A local RSS worker promptly filed a case of defamation against him at a court in Thane.
In most books and materials that have been written on the subject, it is mentioned that Godse quit the RSS in 1946 because of differences with the Sangh. He had also joined the Hindu Mahasabha but left that too because of his extreme views.
Initially, the Congress chief sought to wriggle out of the situation by claiming that the crux of his remark was that people with RSS mentality had killed Mahatma Gandhi. A year after the RSS worker filed the complaint, Rahul Gandhi moved the Bombay High Court with an appeal to quash the case. When the High Court refused to do so, he approached the Supreme Court with a special leave petition. But he later withdrew the petition and expressed willingness to stand trial.
It appears that his advisers in the party prevailed upon him to stick to his earlier accusation. They perhaps believed that even flogging a dead horse can yield political dividend. Even if it is an accusation, the issue can come handy to sustain attacks on the RSS. Given the legal system, it can be assumed that the case will take its own time to be settled and Rahul Gandhi can make merry until then.
The Congress’s plan is obvious enough: It wants to use the opportunity to ‘reopen’ the case by summoning historical documents from back in the 1950s and the 1960s with a hope to somehow establish the RSS’s links to the assassination. The 2014 gamble had failed for the party electorally in 2014; it now hopes for better results in the run-up to the 2019 battle. The Congress is seeking a ‘bigger debate’ on the issue. This is in keeping with its recent posturing on the RSS, where it has been blaming the Sangh for everything — including the Union Government’s move to get in experts from the private sector into the bureaucracy at the Joint Secretary level and part of a lateral entry programme.
While we cannot and must not prejudge the outcome of the present case, a sweeping perusal of the material at hand would not be out of place. Nathuram Vinayak Godse was one of the nine persons accused of and tried for the Mahatma’s assassination. After the final hearing of the preliminary proceedings was completed on June 14, 1948, the trial commenced. Nathuram Godse was introduced as the “principal accused” and a “former RSS member”. In most books and materials that have been written on the subject, it is mentioned that Godse quit the RSS in 1946 because of differences with the Sangh. He had also joined the Hindu Mahasabha but left that too because of his extreme views.
Are we to believe that a ban placed on the RSS, supposedly complicit in the murder of the Father of the Nation, was lifted merely because the Sangh promised to adopt a written constitution?
Much has been made out of the statement made by Nathuram Godse’s family members that Godse had been an RSS man when he shot dead Mahatma Gandhi. His grandnephew Satyaki Savarkar — who incidentally is also VD Savarkar’s grandnephew — told the media in 2016 that while the RSS boycotted Godse after the assassination and condemned the killing, it did not expel him. But this does not tally with most other authoritative accounts. Besides, Satyaki Savarkar said something else which has a bearing on the defamation case at hand. He said that Rahul Gandhi’s remark dragging in the RSS into the incident was “immature” since Godse had denied any conspiracy and the RSS’s hand. He said he alone was responsible for the act.
Whatever the belief of many ‘secularists’ may be, nowhere throughout the trial did the RSS angle emerge. In the end, the Special Court judge Atmacharan delivered his verdict, holding Nathuram Godse guilty of murder and handing over the death sentence to the convict. The matter went in appeal before a three-judge Bench of the Punjab High Court that also had Justice GD Khosla, who went on to write a book on the issue. Here too, the RSS was nowhere in the picture, with Godse taking full ‘credit’ for the heinous act he had committed. The High Court offered no relief — and Godse was seeking none either — and the matter went to the Privy Council. The appeal was rejected, and the issue in the final lap of its journey landed at the doorsteps of the Governor General. The Governor General too showed no desire to reconsider the judicial orders, and on November 15, 1949, Godse along with an accomplice, was hanged to death.
Returning to the defamation case, given that the RSS was not part of the court proceedings, directly or indirectly, nor was it held as involved by even Government agencies in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s tenure, what else does the Congress have to claim that a member of the organisation had killed Mahatma Gandhi? The party latches on to the fact that the RSS had been banned by the Union Government soon after the assassination, and that this itself hinted at the organisation’s complicity. But then the ban had been lifted in a year’s time. Are we to believe that a ban placed on the RSS, supposedly complicit in the murder of the Father of the Nation, was lifted merely because the Sangh promised to adopt a written constitution?
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.