*Lovers of the Motherland:  Pragya Thakur and the Glorification of Gandhi’s Assassin

I write this small piece as an addendum to my essay, from less than a week ago, on Pragya Thakur, a mean-spirited, callous, and I should say wretched woman disguised as a holy person.  I don’t know that Mohandas Gandhi ever described anyone, not even his most ardent opponents, as “callous” and certainly not as “wretched”, but the ideals by which Mohandas Gandhi lived are exacting and not easily observed by ordinary mortals.  However, the standards set by Gandhi at the very least stop me from using more stringent language to describe a woman who is as bigoted and insensitive as she is a vainglorious lout who carries within her the malodorous air that everywhere accompanies the Bharatiya Janata Party.


Nathuram Godse (left, front row), Narayan Apte (right, front row), Vinayak Savarkar (right, back row), and others at their trial on charges of murder and conspiracy for the assassination of Gandhi. Dour-looking as always, Savarkar tried to keep the attention away from himself.

In her most recent foray into the public sphere a couple of days ago, Pragya Thakur, who was put up as the BJP’s candidate for the Lok Sabha seat in Bhopal, described the assassin of Gandhi as a patriot, and more.  “Nathuram Godse”, she said, “desh bhakt the, hain, or rahenge”: this murderer “was, remains, and will continue to be a lover of the motherland”.  Over the last several years, I have been writing about how Nathuram Godse is truly venerated by the BJP and other Hindu nationalists, and their efforts to distance themselves from the assassin should be treated not merely with suspicion but with the assurance that such efforts are wholly fraudulent.  The same BJP, it must be recalled, some years ago installed a portrait of Vinayak Savarkar in Parliament, and Narendra Modi has been caught on tape performing obeisance before this image.  It must not be forgotten that Savarkar—and it is doubtful that anyone has been less deserving of the appellation “Veer” [Brave] that was erroneously conferred on him—was among those tried as part of a conspiracy to murder Gandhi.  Though evidence against him was found wanting, no serious student of the history of those times has ever had reason to doubt Savarkar’s contempt and hatred for Gandhi and, equally, his nefarious role in instigating the murderers of Gandhi.  If at all Savarkar had the gift for anything, it was for charming or seducing others to do the most dastardly deeds for which he never had the daring:  the smoking gun, he made sure, was never to be found in his hands.


PM Modi paying his obeisance to Savarkar. “The Economist”, which I cite since the educated middle class in India adores this magazine, carried this photograph in an article entitled “Savarkar, Modi’s Mentor: The Man Who Thought Gandhi a Sissy” (17 December 2014). Photo: Getty Images. Source: https://www.economist.com/christmas-specials/2014/12/17/the-man-who-thought-gandhi-a-sissy

As can be expected, Pragya Thakur has now issued an apology.  The assassins of Gandhi’s memory are, not surprisingly, bereft of imagination:  not only do they lie, but their lies are pathetic.  This supposed apology by Thakur was accompanied by the usual claim that her earlier words had been “twisted” by the media and taken out of context.  She now says of Gandhi that “his work for the country cannot be forgotten.”  Nathuram Godse, unlike Pragya Thakur, cannot be viewed as unintelligent; but how someone like her, who reeks of mediocrity in every respect, could have risen so far in the estimation of the BJP is a sign of the absolute rot which has befallen the party.  The Election Commission, which has seen much better days, had banned her earlier this month from campaigning for 72 hours after her offensive remarks on Hemant Karkare.  It is possible that they will now pass some strictures against her, though if the Commission wants to remain some semblance of integrity, they have no recourse but to cancel Pragya Thakur’s candidature.


The Gandhi Murder Trial at the Red Fort, 22 June 1948. Sarvarkar is in the back row: he does not look cheerful, unlike many of his other compatriots.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi has played the part for which the script was written beforehand.  “I will never be able to forgive Sadhvi Pragya”, Modi has told the TV Channel News24, “for insulting Bapu.”  But notice the sleight of hand:  he refers, in his interview remarks in Hindi, to Pragya’s attempt at atonement:  “She sought to apologize, but let’s leave that aside; in my mind, I can never forgive her.”  The supposition is that the nation might forgive her, and that is for the nation to decide; but he, Modi, with his unimpeachably high moral standards, cannot forgive her.  So Pragya Thakur has fallen in his eyes—as if someone, whose actions throughout her life point to her utter disdain for the lives of others, had left any room to fall at all.  Modi would like everyone to forget that he and Amit Shah, the party’s managerial guru, hand-picked Pragya Thakur for the Bhopal seat.  But Pragya Thakur has revealed, howsoever inadvertently, that notwithstanding the BJP’s attempt to distance itself from her remarks by characterizing them as personal opinions, the party itself stands condemned for its unstinting admiration for Nathuram Godse.  As Pragya Thakur said when asked to explain her remarks, “The party line is my line” (“party ki line meri line hain”).  The terrorist has spoken and her words should not be censored.

10 thoughts on “*Lovers of the Motherland:  Pragya Thakur and the Glorification of Gandhi’s Assassin

  1. It really need a brave heart to write such a truthful article in todays time.. I admire your writings as always Vinay. Best wishes and Regards.


  2. Personalities like this sadhavi pragya were there before too but they worked behind the curtain. Under modi govt all these personalities are taking part in the play and no such curtain is left now. Lets hope that the country will choose wisely this election .


  3. The exit polls are all showing that BJP will win again resoundingly. And this time, unlike last, they are doing nothing to hide their Hindutva ideology. The next five years will possibly be the most hostile time for religious minorities in independent India’s history and it is truly doubtful whether India will remain a democracy after its done. While people like you courageously continue to write such pieces, I am afraid that we will have to now succumb to the reign of Sadhvi Pragya, Narendra Modi, and Nathuram Godse in India. If anyone tries to distance Modi from Thakur we should all remember that he oversaw the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.


  4. Thank you for the insightful writing, as a person who knows little about India, it is shocking to see what people stand for. In the case of Pragya Thakur, what she said about Gandhi seems so unfamiliar because I previously thought that praise of Godse has died long ago. Also, it is odd to see Prime Minister Modi is unwilling to forgive Pragya, while he overlooks the hatred that Thakur had. An important figure such as Modi overlooking Thakur and him showing respect to Savarkar is shocking.


  5. We have won again and with a bigger mandate than last time. The people of India have spoken and now you and your friends in academia can sit down and stop talking for a hot minute. Respect the democratic result.


  6. This kind of problem underscores the need for voters to take punitive action through the electoral system to punish candidates for a lack of integrity. Unfortunately, most vote for self-interest rather than principle.


  7. How was Godse not a desh-bhakt, though? While you may disagree with his assassination of Gandhi, you cannot seriously deny that Godse was in fact a patriot.


  8. Are you even aware of her story? She was tortured in police custody and forced to confess. She is fully innocent.


    • Ramani,
      You can believe what you want to! “She is innocent” is about the most laughable statement that I have heard of in connection with Pragya Thakur. If you can’t see through a person at all, you have a steep learning curve in front of you, if I may use a common expression. Cheers, Vinay


  9. It is shocking to see the lack of respect for Gandhi, from current politicians in India. It was due to Gandhi’s incessant Satyagraha (non-violent, truth-force) campaigns, that India was able to finally obtain its Independence in 1947 after a few hundred years of British rule. It is really mind boggling that on the one hand certain people would praise Gandhi’s assassin, and on the other hand ignore the fact that the India they live in today, has it’s self-governance and liberties thanks in large part to the Mahatma.


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