Though Parliament expunged her remark, Bhopal MP Pragya Singh Thakur’s referring to Nathuram Godse as a deshbhakt (patriot) is condemnable. One, the man who assassinated Father of the Nation M.K. “Mahatma” Gandhi was not a patriot but a majoritarian nationalist. This distinction is critical for these times when the ruling right wing tries to conflate the two for its political purposes. Two, Godse was a killer, found guilty by a court of independent India and hanged; he was no martyr. Gandhiji, on the other hand, was a political mobiliser the like of which India has not seen.
Yet terror accused Pragya Singh, like many other rightwing radicals —some have bizarrely shot a pistol at Gandhiji’s photo — continues to champion an insidious agenda that aims at slowly chipping away at Gandhiji’s metaphorical statue. She and her fellow fringe elements have time and again tried to rehabilitate Godse — in 2014 some of them unveiled Godse’s bust in Meerut on Gandhiji’s birth anniversary — and that she was elected by a large margin to the Lok Sabha from Bhopal would make it seem that her constituents endorse her sinister utterances. We hope that not to be the case.
It is fitting that the ruling party dropped her from the parliamentary consultative committee on defence, and that she is not allowed to attend BJP parliamentary party meetings this session. It is appropriate that she apologised in Parliament. But there’s a nagging suspicion that these mere slaps on the wrist will not deter the lunatic fringe’s continuing efforts to “normalise” Godse by repeatedly airing him in the public limelight. Which is why it is not enough to condemn her remarks; society has to ensure that Godse is returned with finality to the dustbin of history. Will our current political leadership take such a necessary step? It is doubtful.