The Gandhi murder [27-35]

One is constrained to ask - is there any revolutionary in the history of any country whose record is as
scarred as Savarkar's? What drives the BJP to acclaim him as a hero is his authorship of Hindutva,
the credo of communal hate. For this, all his other sins are overlooked. There is an aspect to the
Gandhi murder case which has been commonly overlooked. Since the conspiracy originated in the
erstwhile Bombay Province, it is the Bombay Police which conducted the investigation into its
ramifications. But the Delhi Police came in because the dastardly murder was perpetrated in Delhi.
There was perfect rapport between Morarji Desai, Home Minister of Bombay, and Vallabhbhai
Patel, the Union Home Minister. In any case, there is no charge sheet in a case such as this unless
Patel approved of it. His devotion to Gandhi was total. He was, besides, an outstandingly able
criminal lawyer in his time. Savarkar could not have been cited as one of the accused unless Patel
had approved of it. The record reflects creditably on Patel and as poorly on his ill-chosen cabinet
colleague, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, himself a former President of the Mahasabha, supporter of
Savarkar, and subsequently founder of the Jan Sangh.

Mookerjee rushed to write to Patel on May 4, 1948,

I wrote to you (and also spoke to Shankar) about the definition of persons connected with the
Mahasabha. Those who are suspected of complicity in the outrage on Gandhiji will no doubt be put
up for taial. I understand Savarkar's name is being mentioned in this connection. I do not know what
evidence has been found against him. I have not the least doubt that you will satisfy yourself that
nothing is done which may give rise to the suggestion later on that was prosecuted on account of his
political convictions. I hope the records will be placed before you before any decision is taken. His
sacrifices and suffering in the past have been considerable and unless there is some positive proof
against him, he should not, at this age, be subjected to charge of conspiracy to commit murder. I
leave the matter to your decision.

Patel replied thus on May 6, 1948:

As regards Savarkar, the Advocate-General of Bombay, who is in charge of the case, and other
legal advisers and investigating officers met me at conference in Delhi before I came here. I told
them, quite clearly, that the question of inclusion of Savarkar must be approached purely from a legal
and judicial standpoint and political considerations should not be imported into the matter. My
instructions were quite definite and beyond doubt and I am sure they will be acted upon. I have also
told them that, if they come to the view that Savarkar should be included, the papers should be
placed before me before action is taken. This is, of course, in so far as the question of guilt is
concerned from the point of view of law and justice. Morally, it is possible that one's conviction may
be the other way about.

What else did Patel mean by that except that even if guilt not be established before the court,
'morally' it was to hold him guilty of the crime? The charge sheet against including Savarkar, was filed
in Court on May 27, 1948 the trial commenced. But, earlier, on May 15, a notification in Gazette of
India Extraordinary published the names of nine persons. Savarkar was the eighth accused.

To continue with Patel's reply to Mookerjee:

I quite agree with you that the Hindu Mahasabha, as an organization, was not concerned in the
conspiracy that led to Gandhi's murder, but at the same time, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that
an appreciable number of the members of the Mahasabha gloated over the tragedy and distributed
sweets. On this matter, reliable reports have come to us from all parts of the country. Further,
militant communalism, which was preached until only a few months ago by many spokesmen of the
Mahasabha, including men like Mahant Digbijoy Nath, Prof. Rain Singh and Deshpande, could not
but be regarded as a danger to public security. The same would apply to the RSS with the additional
danger inherent in an organization run in secret on military or semi-military lines.

No one has alleged, to this day, that the RSS was privy to Gandhi's murder. That would imply
direction at its highest level, by its chief or executive. What has been alleged- and was for long
frantically denied - was that Godse was a member of the RSS. The cover was finally blown away by
Gopal Godse at a press conference, in Pune on June 5, 1991, when he said that Nathuram was a
volunteer of the RSS, but the RSS was not involved in the assassination.

Mookerjee wrote to Patel again on July 17, 1948 on 'our policy towards RSS and Hindu
Mahasabha', pleading that neither was involved as an organization ('as such'). He pleaded for 'Hindu
consolidation' inspite of 'political differences between party' and party.... Hindus holding strong views
on the need for saving lndia from passing under Muslim rule or other foreign rule should not be
dubbed as fascist or conspirators.' An entire section was devoted on 'our attitude towards Muslims'
to allege that they were disloyal to India.

Patel replied the very next day on July 18:

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 organizations, 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 this conspiracy.
The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of Government and the State.
Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has
marched on, the RSS circles are becoming more defiant and are indulging in their subversive
activities in an increasing measure.

Which was this 'extreme section of the Hindu Mahasabha involved in this conspiracy?' Patel did not
identify it explicitly. But he knew quite well who its leader was. It is unlikely that Mookerjee
understood this to refer to Godse alone, not Savarkar. Indeed, in a letter to Prime Minister
Jawaharlal Nehru on February 27, 1948, Patel had told all:

I have kept myself almost in daily touch with the progress of the investigation regarding Bapu's
assassination case. I devote a large part of my evening to discussing with Sanjevi the day's progress
and giving instructions to him on any points that arise. All the main accused have given long and
detailed statements of their activities. In one case, the statement extends to ninety typed pages. From
their statements, it is quite clear that no part of the conspiracy took place in Delhi.

The centers of activity were Poona, Bombay, Ahmedabad and Gwalior. Delhi was, of course, the
terminating point of their activity, but by no means its centre; nor do they seem to have spent more
than a day or two at a time, and that too only twice between 19 and 30 January. It also clearly
emerges from these statements that the RSS was not involved in it at all. It was a fanatical wing of
the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that (hatched) the conspiracy and saw it through ....
Of course, his assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS and the Mahasabha who were
strongly opposed to his way of thinking and to his policy. But beyond this, I do not think it is
possible, on the evidence which has come before us, to implicate any other members of the RSS or
the Hindu Mahasabha."

The question brooks no evasion. Why do the BJP and the RSS ignore the mass of material on
Savarkar's role in Gandhi's laud him as a hero? Would they have been as quiescent if the assassin
had not been the author of Hindutva?