Certainly not a patriot
Mahatma Gandhi's India suddenly started hearing the clamour about Godse for reasons that must be dissected to comprehend the polity pushed to the brink of crumbling in this just-concluded election season. Nathuram Godse was a right-wing advocate of Hindu nationalism belonging to RSS whose fundamentalism drove him to plot Mahatma Gandhi's murder (along with seven others) and shoot him down at point-blank range in New Delhi January 30, 1948. He believed that Gandhi favoured the political demands of India's Muslims during the Partition. This ideology is a crucial takeaway: intolerance for demands of Indian Muslims and allowing them a kind of privileged status. The ghost of this ideology, irrespective of who endorses it, haunts the culture of Indian politics even today. Muslim appeasement is a potent tool in electoral politics. When an entire community is reduced to a count of votes, they are already violated and parenthesised for their religion. Development and upliftment do not figure in this scheme of affairs. On the flipside, intolerance for this approach can be rationalised for diversion of resources. Either way, at the receiving end is the vote-bank community that continually has games played upon it. From the very inception, Muslim appeasement was an incorrect approach to perpetuate. Had there been genuine assimilation, the unsettling issue of appeasement through preferential treatment and (supposedly) positive discrimination of a significant part of society would not have been a tough struggle today.
Godse walked into the picture with Kamal Hassan, while campaigning in Tamil Nadu's Aravakurichi, when he said that "India's first extremist was a Hindu", referring to Nathuram Godse. Subsequently, 76 complaints are reported to have been received against him. At least two police complaints were filed against the actor-turned-politician and he was accused of "promoting enmity between different groups". As expected, Hassan's remark prompted sharp reactions from political parties. BJP and the ruling AIADMK said he was trying to "incite communal hatred in a Muslim-dominant area". Tamil Nadu Minister KT Rajenthra Bhalaji, in reaction to this comment, said that Kamal Haasan's "tongue should be cut off". "Extremism has no religion, neither Hindu nor Muslim nor Christian," he had said. It was also demanded that Makkal Needhi Maiam chief Kamal Haasan should be sacked for such a comment. The Election Commission also denied permission to Kamal Haasan for campaigning in Sulur after Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan, the state BJP chief, complained to the election body. On his part, Kamal Haasan denied the allegations and claimed that his speech was "misquoted with malafide intent". He told the High Court that his comments on Nathuram Godse are a "historic fact". He also said that in his seven-minute long speech, he had only attempted to explain that "extremists are in all religions" and that he was focusing on the need of "religious co-existence". In agreement with Kamala Hassan, the comment on Nathuram Godse is indeed a historic fact and that extremism can exist anywhere irrespective of religion. Affirming this is the BJP's controversial candidate from Bhopal, Pragya Singh Thakur, who praised Godse and hailed him a patriot. As is politically correct, she has been cornered by her fellow party members who are embarrassed by her senseless remark. Notwithstanding the level of discussions that has hit historical lows this time, peaceful co-existence and respect for difference and diversity are the needs of the hour.