While the nation was celebrating Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, the Father of The Nation was in news for all wrong reasons. As per the reports of PTI, a Durga idol at a puja pandal, organised by Hindu Mahasabha at Ruby Crossing in southwest Kolkata represented Asura as Gandhi. It immediately evoked controversy across the city and only after police intervention, the idol of Asura was modified.
Speaking to PTI, Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha state working president Chandrachur Goswami said, “Durga idol that was worshipped here initially had a Mahishasur whose face looked similar to that of Mahatma Gandhi. The similarities are just a coincidence. After photos of it went viral, a police team visited the pandal and asked us to change the face.”
As the bald headed Asura with spectacle resembling Gandhi took the social media by storm, Goswami said, “The police asked us to change it, and we obliged. We put a moustache and hair on Mahishasur's idol.”
However, without an iota of repentance Goswami continued, “It is coincidental that our asura whom Maa Durga is killing, looks like Gandhi. Many people said it looks like Gandhi. However, it is also true that Gandhi needs to be criticised.”
Referring to the real heroes whom Hindu Mahasabha perennially propel against Gandhi, Goswami added, “Our real heroes are Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh. We do not fear to criticise Gandhi. Someone has to bell the cat. He does not derive respect. We want to send a clear message to all that we want Gandhi-mukt Bharatvarsh.”
Earlier, senior editor of Alt News Indradeep Bhattacharya tweeted the photo of the idol. However, he had to withdraw it immediately as the Kolkata Police asked him to do so citing possible communal tensions. Bhattacharya later said, “I have been requested by @KolkataPolice cyber cell @DCCyberKP to delete my tweet on a particular puja in Kolkata as they think it might create tension amid the festivities. As a responsible citizen I abide by their request.”
Also Read | Who Is Ram? Defining The Enigma
Reactions to Gandhi as Asura
Interestingly, all the Hindu Mahasabha factions in the state are not on the same board. The president of Bangiya Parishad Hindu Mahasabha Sandip Mukherjee expressing his displeasure over the event said, “We don't support what Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha did. We condemn it. We too had differences with Gandhi ji's views, but this is not a way to protest against it.”
The spokesperson of ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) Kunal Ghosh condemned the action of Mahasabha and said that it amounts to ‘sacrilege’. “It is an insult to the father of the nation. It is an insult to every citizen of the country. What would the BJP say about such an insult? We know the assassin of Gandhiji belonged to which ideological camp,” Ghosh said.
Distancing itself from the Hindu Mahasabha, state BJP president Sukanta Majumder said, “If such a move had been made, it is unfortunate. We condemn it. This is in poor taste.”
Hindu Mahasabha’s relentless salvos at Gandhi
Hindu Mahasabha’s continuous attacks on Gandhi through veneration of Godse, hitting on the statue of Gandhi and celebrating Godse Jayanti have created controversies several times. While the critique of Gandhi for his alleged role in creation of Pakistan has been the text book modus operandi for the Sabha, it has gained momentum recently.
In 2021, in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, Hindu Mahasabha opened a library namely Godse Gyan Shala dedicated to Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse. While inaugurating the library that was supposed to spread authentic knowledge about India, the secretary of Hindu Mahasabha Devendra Pandey said, “Godse did the right thing by killing Gandhi.”
“Godse took action because Gandhi betrayed India – this library will teach the next generation how Godse was a true nationalist martyr,” Pandey added. Though the library had to close down within two days with intervention of a magistrate and a few arrests of local Hindu Mahasabha leaders, the situation hardly changed on the ground.
In 2019, while celebrating Gandhi’s death, national secretary of Hindu Mahasabha Puja Shakun Pandey shot at an effigy of Gandhi in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. The shooting of effigy was visual reproduction of Godse’s action as blood oozed out of the effigy as she shot at it.
Earlier this year on January 31, when the nation mourned Gandhi’s death, Hindu Mahasabha paid tribute to Godse and his co-accused Naryan Apte in Gwalior by celebrating ‘Godse -Apte Smriti Diwas’. The far-right organisation also conferred Bharat Ratna to the jailed religious leader Kalicharan Maharaj who was arrested along with other four Mahasabha leaders for making derogatory remarks against Gandhi while addressing a Dharam Sansad in Raipur, Chhattisgarh.
Gandhi’s Ram Rajya
These are just a few incidents of how Mahasabha in the recent past has demonised Gandhi. While India is celebrating Ram Navami and Gandhi is being represented as Asura, it is high time to recall the idea of Gandhi’s Ram Rajya. While writing in Young India in 1929, Gandhi wrote,
Also Read | Who Is Ram And What Is His Story?
“I do not mean Hindu Raj. I mean by Ramarajya Divine Raj, the Kingdom of God. For me Rama and Rahim are one and the same deity. I acknowledge no other God but the one God of truth and righteousness. Whether Rama of my imagination ever lived or not on this earth, the ancient ideal of Ramarajya is undoubtedly one of true democracy in which the meanest citizen could be sure of swift justice without an elaborate and costly procedure. Even the dog is described by the poet to have received justice under Ramarajya.”
Mahasabha’s root of discontent thus lies here. Gandhi’s Ram Rajya never had any Asura to be killed, rather it was inclusive to contain all shades and grains within the umbrella of India.