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Mainstream, VOL LV No 30 New Delhi July 15, 2017

Hatred For Gandhi is a Fundamental Element of Hindutva Discourse

Amit Shah on Gandhi: ”bahut chatur baniya tha woh”

Sunday 16 July 2017, by Shamsul Islam


Amit Shah is no ordinary Indian ruler. He is the President of the BJP which rules the Centre and a majority of the Indian States. Most importantly, he is the other half of our PM, Modi; they together rule as the most powerful duo ever to rule India after independence. Additionally, he is a senior RSS functionary. With this bio-data Amit Shah is naturally the ideological face of the Hindutva ruling elite and his utterings hold the status of holy words for his followers.

Recently, he was in Chhattisgarh to speak to “eminent persons” for strengthening the BJP in the State where Assembly elections are due in 2018. While philosophising on the irrelevance of the Congress, belittling its rule in the freedom struggle, he went to discuss Gandhi. According to him Gandhi, to quote original words in Hindi, “bahut chatur baniya tha woh”.1 Its English translation would be, “he was a very clever baniya (merchant or moneylender)”. These words for Gandhi make one thing clear that Shah was treating Gandhi not as a leader of the composite Indian nation on whose call Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains and others came out in millions to oppose the foreign rulers, thousands of them laying down their lives for the freedom. On the contrary, Gandhi was a ‘baniya’, a caste/group among Hindus. It needs to be noted here that by this categorisation Shah, in fact, borrowed the language of M.A. Jinnah who always referred Gandhi as ‘Hindu baniya’ who represented only Hindus. So in the vocabulary of this Hindutva icon, Shah, Gandhi was reduced to the status of a Hindu leader which the Muslim League always propagated and propagates even today. Shah even disregarded the fact that Gandhi was murdered by the Hindutva zealots because he was not acting as a leader of the Hindus only but wanted an all-inclusive India.

Shah’s denigration of Gandhi was not limited to his political identity. The Hindi idiom which he used for Gandhi, ”bahut chatur baniya tha woh”, has sinister hatred overflowing in the phrase which non-Hindi (or Urdu)-speaking people will not be able to understand. In Hindi “tha woh” phrase is used for servants, persons of lower status, those who are considered not respectable or very intimate friends. For elder persons, for respectable persons, we always use “the ve” It is shocking that Amit Shah, himself a baniya, uses such words for another baniya, a fellow Gujarati, that too an elderly person who is no more. It is in contravention of both the Gujarati and baniya ethos. The baniyas are known for their cultured and refined use of words as they aim at winning hearts in order to reach to the pockets of customers. It seems Shah’s hatred for Gandhi, grown out of Hindutva beliefs, has made him oblivious of the civilised behaviour practised by the baniyas.

The RSS’ hatred for Gandhi is as old as the formation of the RSS itself. Dr K.B. Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS, was a Congress leader but parted company with the latter in 1925. After meeting Hindutva icon V.D. Savarkar, he realised that Gandhi was the biggest hurdle in the Hindutva project of organising Hindus separately. According to an RSS publication, since Gandhi worked for Hindu-Muslim unity, “Doctorji sensed danger in that move. In fact, he did not even relish the new-fangled slogan of ‘Hindu-Muslim unity”.2Another RSS publication corroborates the fact that the main reason behind Hedgewar’s parting with the Congress and formation of the RSS was because the “Congress believed in Hindu-Muslim unity”.3

The RSS launched its English organ, Organiser, in July 1947 and a perusal of its issues till the murder of Gandhi on January 30, 1948 shows a flood of articles and sketches inimical to Gandhi. The RSS seemed to be competing with the Hindu Mahasabha leader, Savarkar, and the Muslim League organ, The Dawn, in denigrating Gandhi. The first Home Minister of India, Sardar Patel, whom the RSS often praises, was forthright in holding the RSS and Hindu Maha-sabha responsible for creating an environment of hatred against Gandhi which resulted in the latter’s murder. He underlined it in a letter (July 18, 1948) to the prominent leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee: “As regards the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, the case relating to Gandhiji’s murder is subjudice 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.”4

Eight months after Gandhi’s assassination, Sardar Patel, in a letter (September 11, 1948) to RSS chief Golwalkar, was straightforward in telling that it was due to the communal poison spread by the RSS that “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 with the RSS...Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death.”5

The RSS may be displaying a photo of Gandhi in some of its programmes and may describe him as Mahatma but its hatred keeps on recurring; it is shaswat, perennial. After the Modi Government came to power in 2014, the RSS/BJP leaders have been demanding national recognition, as freedom fighters, for the killers of Gandhi. Temples are coming up with the images of Godse who was the main killer of Gandhi. The Hindutva organisations have been celebrating the killing of Gandhi as the ‘vadh’ of a demon at the altar of HinduRashtra. It is to be noted that Nathuram Godse and others who conspired to kill M.K. Gandhi, claimed to be ‘Hindu Nationalists’.

If you believe that all this is happening without the knowledge of the RSS/BJP‘s top leadership, you are grossly mistaken. A prominent Hindutva organisation, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), allied to the RSS, has been regularly holding national conventions for ‘Establishment of a Hindu Nation’ in India. In 2013 one such convention was held in Goa. It is to be noted that members of one avatar of the HJS, Sanatan Sanstha, have been found indulging in bomb blasts at Muslim institutions and are under investigation for the murder of renowned secular intellectuals like Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar. This convention started its proceedings with a felicitation message from the then CM of Gujarat, Narendrabhai Modi, wishing the HJS all success in its project of turning India into a Hindu Nation.

Shockingly, from the same dais in this convention from where Modi’s felicitation message was read, one of the prominent speakers, K.V. Sitaramiah, declared that Gandhi was ‘terrible, wicked and most sinful’. Rejoicing at the killing of M.K. Gandhi, he went on to declare, “As Bhagwan Shri Krishna said in the Gita, Paritranaya Sadhunam Vinashaya Cha Dush-kritam/Dharamasansthapnaya Sambhavami Yuge-Yuge (For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked and for the establishment of righteousness, I am born in every age) on...30th January 1948 evening, Shri Ram came in the form of Nathuram Godse and ended the life of Gandhi.”6

K.V. Sitaramiah has also authored a book, titled Gandhi was Dharma Drohi and Desa Drohi, in which the text at the back cover, quoting from the epic Mahabharata, demands that ‘Dharma Drohis must be killed’, ‘Not killing the deserved to be killed is a great sin’ and ‘where the Members of Parliament seeing clearly allow to kill Dharma and truth as untruth, those members will be called dead’. 

With this legacy of hatred towards Gandhi, Amit Shah’s oration about Gandhi being a “chatur baniya” was not an aberration. It is, in fact, the second killing of Gandhi. The RSS reserved extreme hatred for Gandhi because his idea of India was diametrically opposite to the Hindutva vision about India. Gandhi proved to be the greatest stumbling block to the following vision of the RSS about the future of India: “Let us no longer allow ourselves to be influenced by false notions of nationhood. Much of the mental confusion and the present and future troubles can be removed by the ready recognition of the simple fact that in Hindusthan only the Hindus form the nation and the national structure must be built on that safe and sound foundation...the nation itself must be built up of Hindus, on Hindu traditions, culture, ideas and aspirations.”7

Interestingly, Gandhi’s opposition to the two-nation theory brought both the RSS and Muslim League, flag-bearers of Hindu and Muslim separatism respectively, together in denigrating him. Pakistan, entangled in its existential crisis, may have stopped bothering about Gandhi but with the resurgence of Hindutva politics in India, Gandhi remains a potent danger to the Hindutvavadis. He was assassinated long ago but his idea of a democratic-secular India needs to be buried. The RSS, presently, is working overtime on this project.



2. H.V. Seshadri (ed.), Dr Hedgewar, the Epoch-Maker: A Biography, p. 61.

3. H.V. Pingle (ed.), Smritikan: Parm Pujiye Dr Hedgewar ke Jeevan kee Vibhinn Ghatnaon kaa Sankalan, p. 93.

4. Letter 64 in Sardar Patel:Select Correspondence 1945-1950, Volume 2, Navjiwan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1977, pp. 276-277.

5. Cited in Justice on Trial, RSS, Bangalore, pp. 26-28.


7. Editorial ‘Whither’ in Organiser, August 14, 1947.

Shamsul Islam, a well-known theatre personality, is a former Associate Professor (now retired), Department of Political Science, Satyawati College, University of Delhi. For some of the author’s writings in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi, Urdu and Gujarati use the following link: http/

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