During his three-day trip to the United Kingdom, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid floral tributes at the Mahatma Gandhi statue situated at Parliament Square in London.
But around the same time, preparations were underway by some Hindu nationalists in India to observe the death anniversary of Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s assassin, as leaders of Modi’s political party BJP kept mum.
Several activists in the U.K. protesting against his visit accused Modi of hypocrisy — and perhaps rightly so.
*Modi In UK* "India is the land of Gandhi and Buddha" *Comes back to India* *Worships Godse and Savarkar* pic.twitter.com/vT4e5uiUGv— Blizzard (@MisterBlizzard) November 14, 2015
Although BJP has conveniently distanced itself from any group commemorating Godse as a hero, many believe the Hindu nationalist organizations hailing Gandhi’s killer have been able to flourish recently because of Modi.
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Hindu nationalism and communal rifts have always been hot-button issues in India. However, the situation has gone from bad to worse ever since Modi assumed office last year.
The last couple of months saw killings by extremist Hindus of Muslims falsely accused of consuming beef. Caste-based violence hit international headlines after a group of “upper-caste” men burnt to death two children belonging to the Dalit community, the lowest of the low castes in the country.
Even as the murders were condemned across the globe, Modi did not utter a word of sympathy for the victims.
In order to prompt government reaction, two dozen Indian filmmakers, writers and cinematographers, including Booker prize-winning author Arundhati Roy and veteran filmmaker Saeed Mirza, announced they'd return their national awards as protest, but Modi didn’t budge.
Meanwhile, Hindu nationalist groups such as Hindu Mahasabha, under the supervision of BJP, have been actively campaigning to portray Godse as a national hero. The organization even planned to build a temple in the assassin’s name in January. Just this week, they launched a website on Godse to commemorate his death anniversary.
“The air of freedom we breathe today is due to the supreme sacrifice of Mahatma Gandhi,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said while criticizing the Godse tributes by Mahasabha. “Today the Mahatma who is being eulogized the world over, is being humiliated and insulted in his own land. And the most unfortunate thing is that the Modi government instead of stopping the celebration, has kept studied silence.”
Modi may have not directly given a thumbs-up to the Godse projects, but his silence over such events is usually considered a go-ahead. And that needs to change without further ado. It’s because of his inaction and evident double-standards that India is increasingly transitioning from a secular to a nationalist state.