I have never met Gopalkrishna Gandhi. I have only read about him and his views in newspaper columns. I know his brother Rajmohan Gandhi, my party mate and Lok Sabha candidate from East Delhi constituency. I can tell you that knowing him is a privilege, I had never met a soul gentler than him; he is also remarkably learned. His book on his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi is a treasure for those who want to know about the man and his deeds and also about the freedom struggle. I assume Gopal Gandhi is like him, the worthy grandson of a great man. I have never heard of him using his grandfather’s name to promote himself.
In today’s world defined by turbulence, trauma and tragedy, Gopal Gandhi has consented to be the vice presidential candidate of a joint opposition and immediately he has been subjected to ridicule, contempt and abuse of ideological pygmies. A few channels whose coverage tarnishes the image of India as a torch-bearer of free and democratic society have begun questioning the patriotism of the man because he supported the mercy petition for Yakub Memon, who was convicted of his role in the 1993 blasts and hanged in 2015. But the fact is that the kids of the new-media revolution have through this attack on Gopal Gandhi condemned themselves with ignorance and arrogance, and are the victims of delusion.
My sense is also that this attack on Gopal Gandhi will get more vicious and virulent than normally reserved for opponents in politics. It is less political and more ideological. It is more out of guilt than fair thinking. It is an attempt to erase the immortality of the man who defied their logic and refused to borrow a construct that in any way included hate.
Gopal Gandhi is not the target. The target is the legacy which he carries. The target is the politico-cultural construct called independence movement. The target is the modern national assertion which derives its sustenance from the great tradition of this country called Bharatvarsh which believes in harmony and respect for all faiths and propagates free spirit. But some people have a problem with this narrative and they are captives of a false notion that history is a constant struggle for the survival of the supreme race, who believe that “Hindu” and not “Bharat” is the national consciousness, who believe that there is a problem with competitive faiths like Islam and Christianity, who believe that the Indian National Congress is the engine of “de-nationalisation”.
Yes, I am talking about Hindutva, the ideology of the contemporary ruling elite.
For these people, Gopal Gandhi is quintessentially a symbol of the narrative which opposes India being turned into a Hindu-Pakistan. His crime is that he is the grandson of a man who stood like a rock against the politics of hate and did not subscribe to the idea of M S Golwalkar’s two-nation theory, the second chief of RSS who was fondly referred to as Guruji; he had serious issues with Gandhiji and his political strategy of carrying together the Muslims and Dalits. Golwalkar provided the ideological base for RSS and its affiliates. He was quite candid in his opinion. In fact, the RSS is sometimes embarrassed by the free and frank expression of his ideas like those expressed in his book “We or Our Nationhood Defined”.
Golwalkar writes – “As a matter of fact we have in Hindusthan a triangular fight, we, Hindus, at war at once with the Moslems on the one hand and Britain on the other. The Moslems are not misled. They take themselves to be the conquering invaders and grasp for power. ” This book was published in 1939. Like M A Jinnah, Golwalkar was also a proponent of the theory that Hindus and Muslims are two different nations and can’t live together. Jinnah’s theory led to the division of the country and creation of Pakistan. Hindutvadis, more than Jinnah, blame Gandhi and his politics of “appeasement”.
In the eyes of Golwalkar, Muslims and Christians are foreign elements who have refused to assimilate in the “Hindu nation”. He writes, “There are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture or live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race.” This theory is very much similar to the Nazi party led by Hitler who believed in the purity of the Aryan race and that the presence of the other races like Jews was the cause of racial pollution and would result in the weakness of the German nation. I do not need to delve into history to prove what havoc this thinking has created in the past and what cost humanity paid for the delusion of one man.
The possibility of that being repeated is unlikely since we live in an era far more modern and open than the times of Golwalkar and have been witness to Nazi history . Society at large has learnt its lessons. But let’s not forget that only the form has changed, not the bill of hate. Hindutvadis believes that intellectuals like Gopal Gandhi are internal enemies who have to be fought and discredited. Golwalkar has written – “This educated class of Hindus became in truth slaves of English, they had cut their traces, lost their footing in the national past and became decultured, denationalised people.” Golwalkar was firm in his understanding that the British empire had deliberately worked for this; their aim was to weaken the resolve of “true-nationalism”, the spring of national regeneration, and it was with that aim that the Congress was created by the English.
It is not a coincidence that Gopal Gandhi is the candidate of the joint opposition led by the Congress party. His name, though proposed by the Trinamool Congress, was supported by none other than the CPM, the Communist Party Marxist. Communists too have been dubbed enemies of the Hindu nation like Muslims and Christians by Golwalkar. Gopal Gandhi’s name has cropped up at a time when the right ideology is hell-bent on dislodging the intellectual dominance of the left. Institutions like JNU are being painted as dens of anti-nationals. Therefore, I am not surprised by the venom unleashed against him. As the fight between the two worldviews gets sharper, this will lead to further hate-mongering. It’s the cycle of history which is to be blamed.