"Only Dr. Hedgewar is your equal"

PUNE, SEPT. 20. In his deposition before the Court in the Gandhi murder trial, Nathuram Godse made attempts to distance himself from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as well as from Savarkar. Subsequent statements by the assassin's brother and co-conspirator, Gopal Godse, told a quite different story (Frontline, January 28, 1994).

Five hitherto inaccessible letters obtained by The Hindu cast new light on the tireless efforts of Nathuram to bring the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha on a common platform, with a common programme, working towards the goal of creating a Hindu Rashtra.

As early as February 1938, Godse pleads with Savarkar to assume the leadership of the Hindus by aligning with the RSS and drawing on its strengths. In a letter dated February 28, 1938 (the letter was cited in a recent issue of Outlook, although not this particular excerpt), he says: "Sir, your goal is the achievement of the Hindu Rashtra. There are 50,000 disciplined RSS cadres who carry the same aspiration in their hearts. These swayamsevaks are spread from Punjab to Karnataka. What they lack is your leadership and guidance and are waiting for it."

He writes to Savarkar again on July 10, 1938. The tone of the letter is less reverential, even impatient and insistent. "I need to discuss here many matters of great importance," it begins and moves on to delineating an agenda for the Hindu Mahasabha. "The current leadership of the Hindu Mahasabha is not conscious enough of the strength of the organisation," complains Godse. He tells Savarkar that the organisation ought to take concrete steps to increase its numbers and have a "parinaamkaarak karyakram" ("result-oriented programme"). In the absence of this, he says, people will not be able to gauge the "upayuktataa" ("usefulness, worth") of the Hindu Mahasabha.

In his deposition during the Gandhi murder trial, Godse refers to his growing impatience with the Hindu Mahasabha and its indifference to a more militant stance advocated by younger members of the organisation (Godse, Why I Assassinated Gandhi, p. 54). There is ample evidence in the 1938 letter to suggest the future killer's barely concealed impatience with the lack of greater aggression on the part of the Mahasabha — "jor laagnaar" or push more is how he implores Savarkar in this letter.

Sensing a reluctance on Savarkar's part to talk to other Hindu leaders and bring them under a single organisational umbrella, Godse asks him to unite all Hindu leaders and give them direction. This would be especially useful in attracting the young and creating a stir in Maharashtra. "The only organisation in Maharashtra as well as in all Hindustan that is capable of uniting the Hindus," Godse observes in his letter, "is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh." Its leaders, he adds, are capable, it is efficient, and it has the following of the youth. Godse wants Savarkar to make common cause with the RSS.

In dramatic fashion, Godse tells Savarkar: "There is only one leader who is your equal and peer, and that is Dr. Hedgewar." He suggests that if only Savarkar can speak to Dr. Keshavram Baliram Hedgewar, the RSS founder, a lot can be achieved in realising the goal of Hindu unity. Once this is done, there will be a social and political upheaval in Maharashtra.

In a daring gesture — hardly the act of an ordinary worker with a nodding acquaintance with Savarkar, as is suggested by Nathuram in his testimony — Godse goes on to suggest names for a revamp of the Hindu Mahasabha leadership. These names, he asserts, will enhance the organisation's strength ("bal vaadhnaar"); without these names the revival of the Mahasabha will not be possible.

The Hyderabad question and the agitation against the rule of the Nizam were for Godse the opportunity to revive the Mahasabha. He asks Savarkar to take the lead in this and head a satyagraha there. He even suggests an early date for starting the agitation. "I hope and expect that you will lead the agitation from Maharashtra on August 1 and give it direction," is how Godse signs off the letter.

Letters written on February 9 and February 25, 1941 amply demonstrate Godse's ongoing involvement with Savarkar and the Hindu Mahasabha. The letter of February 9 mentions Godse's plans to hold a public meeting for Savarkar in Pune after March. In the letter of February 25, Godse complains that Dr. Varadaraju Naidu, who had only the previous year organised in Madras a public meeting at which Savarkar spoke on the politics of Shivaji, is now singing praises of Gandhi ("Gandhichi khupachh stuti tyani keli ahey"). Godse further cautions Savarkar against giving too much importance to Vishvasrao Dabre of the Varnashram Samaj. Dabre, Nathuram alleges, is misusing the letters written to him by Savarkar.

There is direct evidence in Nathuram's 1938-1946 letters of the warmth of his feelings, and his ideological closeness, towards both Savarkar and the RSS.

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