Police arrest six Hindu Mahasabha members for celebrating Nathuram Godse's birth anniversary in Surat

Six activists of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha were arrested for allegedly celebrating the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse at a temple in Surat's Limbayat area on Sunday, police said.

According to reports, the men — Hiren Mashru, Vala Bharwad, Viral Malvi, Hitesh Sonar, Yogesh Patel and Manish Kalal — have been arrested 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).

The Hindu Mahasabha members had organised the celebration in the premises of the Suryamukhi Hanuman temple in Limbyayat, which was allegedly helmed by Hiren Sumra alias Hiren Mashru, a member of the Hindu Mahasabha who is also a priest at the temple. According to The Indian Express' report, about 15 youths attended the event which was filmed by the cameraperson of a local television channel which then aired the event, and video clips were circulated on social media following which the men were arrested on Monday.

 Police arrest six Hindu Mahasabha members for celebrating Nathuram Godses birth anniversary in Surat

Hindu Mahasabha members celebrating Nathuram's Godse' birth anniversary in Surat. News18

Surat Police Commissioner Satish Sharma told PTI, "During the celebration of Godse's birth anniversary, these Hindu Mahasabha members lit up diyas around Godse's photo, exchanged sweets and sang bhajans in the temple premise. They even made videos and took photographs of the event. Their act of revering Godse, who had killed Gandhiji, deeply hurt the sentiments of citizens. It was an attempt to incite people and disturb the peaceful atmosphere."

Speaking to The Indian Express before his arrest, Sumra said: “We have celebrated the birthday of 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.”

Meanwhile, condemning the act of the Hindu Mahasabha, BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said criticising Gandhi was like "spitting at the sky", adding that such celebrations were being carried out by "immature people who do not have the vision to understand the Mahatma's teachings".

Gujarat Minister for State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said the state government would not tolerate such celebrations, and claimed that prompt instructions by the government to the police led to all six members being arrested. Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel also condemned the act and reiterated that "BJP does not believe in any criticism of Gandhi, his works or thoughts".

The Congress, however, attacked the ruling dispensation over the issue. "The BJP must tell the nation whether they endorse Mahatma Gandhi's ideology or that of Godse. Be it Anant Kumar Hegde or Pragya Singh Thakur, BJP leaders are busy promoting Godse's ideology. This is a matter of serious concern," said Gujarat Congress spokesperson, Manish Doshi, adding that the saffron party's "double standards" have been exposed.

Further, in a memorandum to the district administration, Babubhai Rayka, president of the Surat Congress unit, alleged that the event was “intentionally” held at a temple “to divide society and incite those who are followers of Gandhi” and asked for the Hindu Mahasabha members to be driven out of the city, The Indian Express' report said.

Meanwhile, a similar incident was reported in Uttar Pradesh's Aligarh where Hindu Mahasabha members celebrated Godse's 109th birthday by organising a 'havan' (holy pyre), as per a report by The New Indian Express. According to the report, Hindu Mahasabha's state vice president Gajendra Pal Singh said that Godse would always be revered as a great leader by the Hindu Mahasabha and his temples and statues will be established across the country in coming days, a claim the Hindu Mahasabha has made previously as well.

Thus, is it not the first time the Hindu Mahasabha has raked up a controversy involving Godse, earlier in January — on Gandhi's 71st death anniversary — the general secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha recreated Gandhi's assassination by shooting at an effigy with a toy gun. On 15 November, 2017, the Hindu Mahasabha had installed a 32-inch bust of Godse at its Gwalior office, which the administration later removed, News18 reported.

Godse was born on 19 May in 1910 in Pune's Baramati, which was then part of the Bombay Presidency. Earlier in May, BJP’s Bhopal candidate Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur had sparked a massive controversy by calling Godse a ‘patriot’. She drew ire from across the political spectrum for her statement and was asked to apologise by party president Amit Shah following which she rendered an apology and said that she has "a lot of respect" for Gandhi. Pragya was responding to actor-politician Kamal Haasan's remark terming Godse as the "first Hindu terrorist" of independent India.

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Updated Date: May 21, 2019 11:02:12 IST