July 31, 2023
The campaign to slander Bapu, Mohandas Gandhi, has been cleverly orchestrated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ever since their ideology claimed his life. Nathuram Godse was merely a gunman, used and then disowned, to murder Bapu. After his murder, when Bapu’s thoughts and persona grew even larger and more powerful, they launched a campaign of misinformation and slander against him. They appointed characters to carry out their agenda, equipping them with slanderous and fictitious toolkits. Just like Vinayak Savarkar provided the toolkit to Godse to justify Bapu’s murder, Sanghis have used it to demean Bapu ever since. With their ascent to power, the campaign of slander has grown louder and bolder.
During his junkets abroad, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pretends to worship Bapu but back home he remains silent when fellow Sanghis slander him. The PM follows and patronises Bapu’s serial defamers. I am not surprised that, for all his bravado, the PM dare not go against his parent organisation, the RSS, and why should he? After all, he is an offspring of its ideology.
So far, the campaign of disinformation and slander used to be about Gandhi, the public figure, and his acts in public life. Every public figure does and should face such scrutiny. Even though it hurts, we, his biological descendants, have learnt to accept it.
I, for one, decided early that I would counter the campaign of lies and have done so as loudly as I can. Even though Gandhians counselled me to remain silent, I believe that it is silence that has made the voices of the liars louder and believable. Most Indians believe these lies because of the silence of those who know the truth. I have not remained mute so far and will not be either till they silence my voice for good.
The latest slurs
Today, the campaign has crossed the limits of decency; they are targeting Bapu’s parents.
A similar toolkit was successfully utilised against Jawaharlal Nehru’s family to allege that Panditji was a Muslim and so were his ancestors and descendants. A parallel campaign has also been successful in branding the Zoroastrian Feroze Gandhi, the husband of slain Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, as ‘Feroz Khan’, a Muslim. Branding anyone a Muslim is enough to make brainwashed bhakts loathe him or her. In the present hate-filled scenario, it reaps political dividends too.
The PM, senior members of his Cabinet and ‘leaders’ of the Sangh Parivar have used this hate card effectively to divide society and earn electoral dividends. And we, the people, have overwhelmingly obliged these divisive forces.
Now the tactic used to defame the Nehrus is being utilised to target Bapu.
Conveniently, a Sanghi ‘historian’ has been resurrected and his writings cited as gospel to allege that Bapu was the illegitimate son of a Muslim landlord, a zamindar, of Gujarat. A tale has been woven around this allegation and known facts worked into the narrative to make it sound scholarly. What’s handy is that established history has already been debunked as biased and erroneous. Most Indians have been convinced of this and so the alternative Sangh-created ‘history’ finds ready acceptance and does not require substantiation.
So, the slanderous story becoming louder and louder is that Karamchand, Bapu’s father, was employed by a conveniently unnamed zamindar in Gujarat. The ‘historian’ does not know the zamindar’s name but is certain of his religion – Islam. Here, he mixes in a fact or two. First, that Putliba was Karamchand Bappa’s fourth wife. Remember the favourite campaign slogan of the current PM when he was the chief minister of Gujarat? With “Hum do, humaare do. Woh paanch, unke pachhees”, he seemed to suggest that all Muslim men had four wives and 25 children. See how subtly they interpolate facts to make their unsupported allegations believable? ‘Fourth wife’ was used to establish Karamchand’s Muslim-ness.
One must admit that the Sanghi lies factory utilises expert sociologists and psychologists to manipulate human intellect, or the lack of it.
Now the slander campaign kicks it up a notch, alleging that Karamchand embezzled funds from his employer and absconded for three years. God alone knows where the ‘historian’ got this from. Then comes a most heinous allegation: as punishment, the Muslim zamindar took Putliba hostage, kept her in his harem and treated her as his wife. Here, the Sanghi ideology justifying rape as a method of disciplining and punishment is exploited. The ‘historian’ now claims that Mohandas was born from this illegitimate union between the Muslim zamindar and Putliba and that this was why he was partial towards Muslims. The ‘historian’ also alleges that the Muslim zamindar paid for the upkeep of Mohandas and his studies abroad, spawning eternal gratitude and reflecting in Mohandas’ soft spot towards Muslims, his biraadars. The ‘historian’ again mixes in a fact into his allegations, that the Gandhi family was part of the Pranami sect of Hinduism which practises sarva dharma samabhav and reveres religious texts of Hindus, Muslims and Christians along with others’. How obliging the Gandhis have been to these peddlers of lies.
The amplification of slander
I have been made aware of such slanderous messages floating around on WhatsApp and gaining traction on social media. Due to personal reasons, I have not been able to act on it. I did take legal opinion to see if it was possible to prosecute the perpetrators but the lawyers weren’t hopeful of the outcome of the case and so I haven’t found one to take the matter forward. Maybe I have been asking the wrong lawyers.
The campaign has hurt me deeply. I have shed many a tear because of the hurt and at my inability to punish the culprits. I have been lethargic in protecting the honour of my ancestors. All my life I have enjoyed the fruits of the great legacy I have inherited but not done my duty to protect it.
I am certain that this campaign is orchestrated by the RSS and is loudly being carried out because of the government’s – Central and many states’ – patronage they enjoy. So, the cowards who always find hitmen to carry out their heinous deeds while ensuring deniability have gotten away partly because I have not taken action with alacrity. What hurts is that neither have the so-called Gandhians, who never stop reminding me that I have no exclusive right over Bapu even when I have claimed none.
Recently, I got a call from the Marathi news channel Lok Shahi Marathi. They made me aware that the Sangh’s hatemonger and one who the PM reveres as ‘Guruji’, Sambhaji Bhide, made these slanderous allegations against Bapu’s parents at a public meeting in Amravati a few weeks back. I am not surprised; after all, Bhide was only playing the role assigned to him. What hurt me and filled me with dread was the audience’s response – they laughed and applauded.
What kind of society have we created? We should all be worried about this malice, the rot in our society. Our future looks bleak if this is what we are becoming.
To me, this insult of my great great grandmother feels like an insult of all women and yet I am still to hear a murmur of protest from, leave alone women across India, but even those in Maharashtra. A state that proudly proclaims Savitri Mai Phule and Jijau as its icons decided to remain silent when a woman was slandered in public.
As usual, the Gandhians turned a deaf ear. I posted a message in ‘Gandhian’ groups on WhatsApp. In many, the response I got was “please post the defamatory video”. My word wasn’t enough.
There was a dialogue in my friend Feroz Khan’s film, ‘Gandhi My Father’. Akshaye Khanna, who beautifully portrayed Harilal, the oldest and estranged son of Kasturba and Bapu, in a drunken stupor shouted: “Haan, main Gandhi ki nalaayak aulaad hoon!” (“Yes, I am Gandhi’s unworthy son.”) Today, I feel Feroz wrote it with me in mind. Only a nalaayak aulaad would not act against such a vicious attack on the honour of his ancestors.
Don’t ever forgive me, Ba and Bapu. Don’t ever forgive me, Putliba and Karamchand Bappa – your nalaayak son, Tushar (do I deserve to add Gandhi to my name? I don’t think I do any longer).
Tushar Gandhi, great grandson of the Mahatma, is an activist, author and president of the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation. Reach him here: firstname.lastname@example.org.