Godse not RSS? Prayer & ‘tailor’ entry test claim
Caravan article casts doubts
- Published 2.01.20, 3:40 AM
- Updated 2.01.20, 4:34 AM
- 5 mins read
The popular perception that Nathuram Godse had left the RSS to join the Hindu Mahasabha has been questioned on the basis of evidence that suggests close working relations between the two organisations and a concerted attempt to create a distance between them after Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.
A widely researched article in The Caravan magazine by Dhirendra K. Jha, published on Wednesday, offers several clues to Godse’s uninterrupted association with the RSS and cites the lack of documentary evidence to confirm a formal break-up.
The article has dug up archival material to show that Godse kept attending RSS meetings and that a large number of people worked for both outfits simultaneously and had dual membership.
It says the most-cited purported evidence of Godse’s formal exit from the RSS is his own statement during the Gandhi assassination trial.
“A document that cements the case that Godse indeed remained an RSS member was seized from the RSS headquarters in Nagpur in the aftermath of the assassination, and can now be found in the records section of Delhi’s Nehru Memorial Library. The document pertained to a meeting of the organisation’s Bombay provincial unit in 1940 — two years after Godse is believed to have joined the Mahasabha,” the article says.
“Page eight of the document has the name ‘N.V. Godse, tailor’ inside a list of ‘RSSS organisers of Poona’ who had attended the meeting. (The organisation was then often referred to as RSSS.) As per the report, the organisers’ meeting was held on 11 May 1940, and the attendees included ‘Tatyarao Savarkar’ — another name of V.D. Savarkar — Kashinath Pant Limaya, the Provincial Organiser of Bombay Province, Dr Hedgewar Sar Sanghchalak Nagpur, Madhav Rao Golwalkar of Nagpur, Bapur Saheb Sohoni, Berar Provincial RSSS Organiser, Appaji Joshi, Wardha District Organiser of the RSSS and others from Nasik, Poona, Satara, Ratnagiri, Bombay, East Khandesh. Godse is named third from the top.”
Godse, who ran a tailoring shop before throwing himself into political activity, had made a statement on November 8, 1948, to the special court.
“I am one of those volunteers of Maharashtra who joined the Sangh in its initial stage. I also worked for a few years on the intellectual side in the province of Maharashtra,” he said.
“Having worked for the uplift of the Hindus I felt it necessary to take part in the political activities of the country for the protection of the just rights of Hindus. I therefore left the Sangh and joined the Hindu Mahasabha.”
The article says historians have ignored a statement Godse had made in March 1948, months before his statement to the special court and available only in its entirety in the Marathi language.
This statement reveals that Godse had started off as an active member of the RSS and then moved seamlessly to work for the Hindu Mahasabha without ending his previous allegiance. This statement doesn’t mention leaving the RSS.
“There is no evidence — document or testimony — to suggest exactly when Godse formally joined Hindu Mahasabha and thereby, as presumed by many, left the RSS,” the article says.
“None of the two statements he made after the assassination of Gandhi — the pre-trial statement recorded in Marathi and the statement made on 8 November 1948 during his trial at Red Fort — say anything about it.”
Most curiously, the article says, “Early on 15 November 1949, shortly before his execution, Godse recited a prayer: ‘Namaste sada vatsale matrubhume/ Twaya Hindubhume sukham vardhitoham/ Mahanmangale punyabhume twadarthe/ Patatvesha kayo namaste, namaste!’”
A translation: “O affectionate motherland, I eternally bow to you/ O land of Hindus, you have reared me in comfort/ O sacred and holy land/ May this body of mine be dedicated to you and I bow before you again and again)!”
These four Sanskrit lines make up the first of the three stanzas of the RSS official prayer, which is sung to this day by members at the shakhas.
Godse is said to have left the RSS sometime around 1938. But the Sanskrit prayer, which had replaced a previous Marathi version, had only been drafted in 1939 and became popular much later.
How and why Godse chose to sing this just before his death, if it is true that the Hindu Mahasabha had an antagonistic relationship with the RSS, is a puzzle. The article insists that the story of the strained relationship was planted to distance the RSS from Godse and the Mahatma’s assassination.
“There are also several reasons to doubt Godse’s November 1948 statement, in which he claimed that he had left the RSS,” the article says.
“By this point, having been tutored by a lawyer, Godse was on a drive to take complete responsibility (for) the murder and was trying to implicate as few people as possible. The ponderous statement, which consisted of 150 paragraphs and took Godse five hours to read in the courtroom, was not entirely of his preparation — a fact disclosed later by P.L. Inamdar, one of a group of lawyers working with the Hindu Mahasabha and defending the accused.
‘“In Nathuram’s case, it was primarily Jamnadas Mehta, Barrister-at-Law from Bombay, who assisted him in preparing the statement,’ Inamdar wrote. Apart from being one of the prominent lawyers of the group, Mehta was also a long-time associate of V.D. Savarkar.”
Reached by this paper for a reaction to the article, a BJP spokesperson refused to comment, saying he was not aware of the article.
Godse’s family members, including his brother and co-convict Gopal Godse, have maintained that Nathuram never left the RSS.
The article quotes Gopal, who said in an interview in 1994: “He did not leave the RSS. He (Nathuram) has said in his statement (in the court) that he left the RSS. He said it because Golwalkar and the RSS were in a lot of trouble after the murder of Gandhi. But he did not leave the RSS.”
Gopal had added: “All the (Godse) brothers were in the RSS. Nathuram, Dattatreya, myself and Govind. You can say we grew up in the RSS rather than in our home. It was like a family to us.”
Citing evidence to suggest “close collaboration” between the two organisations, the article says: “On 5 July 1940, the Marathi newspaper Kesari carried an article by L.V. Paranjpe — one of the five founding members of the RSS, and who steered the Sangh as its sarsanghachalak for a short duration when Hedgewar was in jail following his arrest during the Gandhian civil disobedience movement launched in 1930.
“It (Paranjpe’s article) said, ‘Last year (1939) the working committee of Hindu Mahasabha decided to set up a national militia. On the advice of Dr Moonje (a Hindu Mahasabha leader) I discussed the issue with Dr Hedgewar. I requested him to provide some swayamsevaks for imparting training to the militia. He happily agreed to make some trained swayamsevaks available for the purpose’.”
The Caravan write-up adds: “In the article, Paranjpe further pointed out that although Hedgewar didn’t want the RSS to work as an outfit of the Hindu Mahasabha, he had no objection to swayamsevaks working simultaneously for the Hindu Sabha.”
It quotes Paranjpe as saying: “It was because of his policy to keep the Sangh independent and non-affiliated that its area of operation expanded so much. He was himself for long the secretary of Hindu Mahasabha and was recently its vice-president. (He believed that) swayamsevaks should give maximum of their time to the Sangh, but there was no bar on those who desired to work for Hindu Sabha. After all, we (the Sangh) cannot remain unresponsive to Hindutva ideology and the vision of a Hindusthan for Hindus.”