After popping up in our news feeds for successfully celebrating the birthdays of controversial figures like Donald Trump and even Queen Victoria for “uniting India against Muslims”, right-wing Hindu bros are back in action. This time though, they might have taken things a bit too far.
Six Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha activists just celebrated the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse at the Suryamukhi Hanuman temple in the Limbayat area of Surat in Gujarat on Sunday, and now they’ve been arrested for it.
This temple party involved about 15 young people singing prayers, lighting a hundred lamps and distributing sweets to celebrate the man who murdered the ‘father of the nation’ by shooting him in the chest three times at point-blank range. For honouring him, the men—Hiren Mashru, Vala Bharwad, Viral Malvi, Hitesh Sonar, Yogesh Patel and Manish Kalal—have been charged under IPC Sections 153 (provocation with an intent to cause riot), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups, doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 153B (making assertions prejudicial to national integration).
“Mahatma Gandhi is the father of the nation, and people have respect for him,” said Surat Police Commissioner Satish Sharma to the Indian Express. “If somebody incites people by celebrating the birthday of Nathuram Godse, we cannot, and will not, tolerate it. We will take strict action. I appeal to the people to not get incited by rumours, and to remain calm.”
These dudes, however, think of Godse—once a member of their party, in fact—as a “patriot”. Speaking to The Indian Express before he was arrested, Sumra said: “We have celebrated the birthday of Nathuram Godse, we have done nothing wrong. Like other people’s feelings are attached to Mahatma Gandhi, our feelings are attached to Godse, and we have shown this by celebrating his birthday. This is the first time that we celebrated his birthday.”
These are the same guys who commemorated Gandhi's 71st death anniversary by recreating Gandhi's assassination and shooting at an effigy with a toy gun. And on 15 November, 2017, the Hindu Mahasabha even installed a 32-inch bust of Godse at its Gwalior office, which was later taken down, according to a News18 report.
Condemning the celebrations, the Congress has asked for strict action to be taken against the accused. In fact, the district administration, Babubhai Rayka, president of the Surat Congress unit, claims the event was “intentionally” held at a temple, a public place, “to divide society and incite those who are followers of Gandhi”. He added, “Our demand is that such people have no right to stay in a peaceful city like Surat. They should be driven out from the city.”
Meanwhile, BJP Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said, “The ideology of our party and our leaders is very clear… Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed his feelings very clearly… BJP does not believe in any criticism of Gandhi, his works or thoughts… So, if anybody acts like this, we strictly condemn it. Neither our party nor our leaders will tolerate any criticism of Gandhi.”
Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse was executed in Ambala jail on November 15, 1949. He was a Hindu nationalist himself, and became a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) after he resigned from the Hindu Mahasabha over the issue of partition, according to Godse's grand nephew.
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This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.