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‘Ideology of hate’ consuming India, Gandhi’s great-grandson says | News

Tushar Gandhi blamed the arrival of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP for increasing polarization and division in the country.

The rising tide of Hindu nationalism in India is an affront to the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, his great-grandson said ahead of the 75th anniversary of the assassination of the revered independence hero.

Gandhi was shot dead at a multi-denominational prayer meeting in January 1948 by Naturam Godse, a religious fanatic enraged by his victim’s conciliatory gestures towards the country’s Muslim minority.

Godse was executed the following year and remains widely criticized, but writer and social activist Tushar Gandhi, one of the global peace symbol’s best-known descendants, said his views now have an alarming resonance in India.

“This whole philosophy has now captured India and Indian hearts, an ideology of hatred, polarization, division,” he told the AFP news agency.

“It’s only natural for them that Godse would be their iconic patriot, their idol.”

Tushar, 63, attributes this tectonic shift to the rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Modi took office in 2014, and Touchard says his government is to blame for undermining the secular and multicultural traditions that his great-grandfather sought to protect.

“His [Modi’s] success was built on hate, we have to accept that,” Tushar added. “There is no denying that deep down he also knows that he is doing what is lighting the fire that will one day consume all of India.”

Worship Godse

Gandhi’s killer is revered by many Hindu nationalists, who insist on re-evaluating his decision to kill a man, which is synonymous with non-violence.

A temple dedicated to Godse was built near New Delhi in 2015, a year after Modi’s election, and activists have campaigned in his honour, renaming an Indian city after him.

Godse was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a still prominent far-right Hindu group whose members hold paramilitary exercises and prayer meetings.

The RSS has long distanced itself from Godse’s actions but remains a powerful force, having founded Modi’s party decades ago to fight for Hindu interests in the political arena.

Indian writer Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, reads a book during an interview at his home in Mumbai in this picture taken on January 25, 2023.
Touchard says his government is to blame for undermining the secular and multicultural traditions that his great-grandfather sought to protect. [File: Sujit Jaiswal/AFP]

Modi regularly paid tribute to Gandhi’s legacy, but refrained from participating in a campaign to rehabilitate his killer.

Since Modi became prime minister, there has been an increase in attacks against Muslims, who make up 15 percent of India’s 1.4 billion population.

Modi’s BJP and RSS warned Hindus against religious conversion to Islam and Christianity and called for action to prevent a “demographic imbalance” in the world’s second most populous country.

The ruling BJP has been accused of encouraging persecution of Muslims and other minorities by hardline Hindu nationalists since taking power.

Last week, the Indian government used emergency powers to block the airing of a documentary questioning Modi’s leadership during the 2002 Gujarat riots and banned it from being posted on social media. Twitter and YouTube complied with the request and removed many links to the documentary.

Modi was chief minister of the western state of Gujarat when communal unrest swept through.

The violence began after 59 Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire. Thirty-one Muslims were convicted of conspiracy and murder in connection with this incident. In the riots that followed, about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed.

The Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed the documentary as “propaganda material”.

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