New Delhi, March 9: The Congress has asked the RSS a question it will find difficult to answer: will you file a defamation suit against Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel for suggesting that RSS activities were responsible for Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination?
Responding to the RSS threat to sue Rahul Gandhi for linking it to Gandhiji’s assassination, the Congress has asserted that its vice-president was only echoing Sardar Patel’s views.
These arguments have been posted on the party’s official website. The BJP has not moved court yet but today filed a complaint against Rahul with the Election Commission.
Sardar Patel was a Congress leader but the RSS and the BJP have tried to appropriate him because of his known differences with Jawaharlal Nehru. This is not a new project and L.K. Advani has fashioned himself as Sardar Patel. But Narendra Modi has taken this discourse to a new level by presenting the towering Gujarat leader as an antithesis to Nehru’s leadership.
Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, has used Sardar Patel’s symbolism to invoke Gujarati pride and undertaken the project to install his biggest statue in the state, for which iron is being collected from all over the country.
The Congress has been desperately trying to drag the BJP to historical facts — that Sardar Patel was a Congress leader who differed with Nehru on procedural matters but was secular to the core and detested RSS activities.
Hence the latest taunt: “If the RSS has its way, they would file a defamation suit against Patel.”
The statement put on the website also says: “Sardar Patel, the man who unified our nation, was the first to point out the threat the RSS poses to India’s unity. After Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated by a religious fanatic, Sardar Patel advocated a ban on the RSS.”
It added: “Patel wrote in a letter the activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the Government and State.”
Quoting from the home ministry notification to ban the RSS after Gandhiji’s assassination, the Congress statement added: “Individual members of the RSS have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunition.
“They have been found circulating leaflets exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government, the police and the military.”
The statement continued: “Sardar Patel was firmly of the opinion that the communal poison spread by the RSS was responsible for the Mahatma’s assassination.
“He said, ‘As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji’. He also wrote that people’s opposition to the RSS grew when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death.”
The truth is that the RSS was let off in the case but grim historical facts, including Nathuram Godse’s links with it and the ideological affinity among the communal elements opposed to Gandhiji, gives the Congress a huge political advantage over the BJP.
The Congress is worried about the ignorance of today’s youth who tend to see Modi as a development messiah without giving any importance to where he comes from and what he brings along.
Technically, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav was right that the saffron organisation was not indicted. The Kapur Commission which looked into Gandhi’s assassination also said in its report: “... RSS as such were not responsible for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, meaning thereby that one could not name the organisation as such as being responsible for that most diabolical crime, the murder of the apostle of peace. It has not been proved that they (the accused) were members of the RSS.”
RSS leaders were acquitted of the conspiracy charge by the Supreme Court and the ban on the organisation was lifted.
The government communiqué banning the RSS did not mention Gandhiji’s assassination and said: “In their resolution of February 2, 1948, the Government declared their determination to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name. In pursuance of this policy, the Government of India have decided to declare unlawful the RSS.”
Patel, however, held the RSS responsible for creating an atmosphere that led to such a ghastly fallout. In a letter to RSS chief M.S. Golwalkar on September 11, 1948, Patel wrote: “All their speeches were full of communal poison.
“It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organise for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or of the people, no more remained for the RSS.”
In another letter, Patel wrote to Hindu Mahasabha leader Shyama Prosad Mookerjee on July 18, 1948: “As regards the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, the case relating to Gandhiji's murder is sub judice and I should not like to say anything about the participation of the two organisations, but our reports do confirm that, as a result of the activities of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha was involved in the conspiracy.”