The comic irony of Modi's response to Pragya Thakur's assertion about Godse
Terrorism has a habit of turning round and biting its handlers. Not that the prime minister has been bitten too hard, but Pragya Singh Thakur’s assertion that Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi’s killer, was a patriot and remains so forced him to say he would never ‘forgive’ her. That the prime minister, who never says a word unless pre-designed, should actually respond as though spontaneously is startling enough; the message more so. The latter represents classic comic irony. Ms Thakur, an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party just before she was fielded as the party candidate opposite Digvijaya Singh in Bhopal. This was the party’s thumbing-its-nose answer to what the prime minister called the Opposition’s ‘sin’ of ‘putting the blot’ of terrorism on non-violent Hinduism. Ms Thakur’s championing of Godse was a reply to Kamal Haasan’s description of him as India’s first extremist. Ms Thakur joined in when the BJP was already screaming against Mr Haasan for ‘abusing religion for political reasons’; unfortunately, she not only reduced her partymen to silence but also compelled them and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to distance themselves from her opinion in slightly frantic tones.
But that was all. The Election Commission had no penalty for a Lok Sabha candidate who publicly glorified a murderer. The BJP, too, did not expel its shiny new recruit. The party appeared to be acting strictly against two other of its Lok Sabha candidates, Anant Kumar Hegde and Nalin Kumar Kateel, for supporting Ms Thakur. Mr Hegde felt Godse would be happy that this ‘debate’ was taking place. Mr Kateel asked, since Godse killed one, Ajmal Kasab 72 and Rajiv Gandhi 17,000, who is the cruellest? Such comments do not grow out of nothing, but out of a live culture of hatred. Six members of the Hindu Mahasabha were arrested in Surat last Monday for celebrating the birthday of Godse with sweets, bhajans and lit lamps. The BJP seems to be wanting to make a spectacle of the idea that it knows what is indecent. For, reportedly, on January 30 last, Hindu Mahasabha activists celebrated Gandhi’s death anniversary in Aligarh by shooting at his poster and calling Godse Mahatma. No penalty there. The prime minister said that the ‘symbol’ embodied in Ms Thakur, meant to counter the notion of Hindu terror, would prove costly for the Congress. So far it has cost him more, it seems.