by Pankaj Mishra
On the evening of Jan. 30, 1948, five months after the independence
and partition of India, Mohandas Gandhi was walking to a prayer
meeting on the grounds of his temporary home in New Delhi when he
was shot three times in the chest and abdomen. . . .
the assassin was revealed as Nathuram Godse, a Hindu Brahmin from
western India, . . .
According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the worst violence
occurred in the commercial city of Ahmedabad: ''Between Feb. 28 and
March 2 the attackers descended with militia-like precision on
Ahmedabad by the thousands, arriving in trucks and clad in saffron
scarves and khaki shorts, the signature uniform of Hindu nationalist
-- Hindutva -- groups. Chanting slogans of incitement to kill, they
came armed with swords, trishuls (three-pronged spears associated
with Hindu mythology), sophisticated explosives and gas cylinders.
They were guided by computer printouts listing the addresses of
Muslim families and their properties . . . and embarked on a
murderous rampage confident that the police was with them. In many
cases, the police led the charge, using gunfire to kill Muslims who
got in the mobs' way.''
The scale of the violence was matched only by its brutality. Women
were gang-raped before being killed. Children were burned alive.
Gravediggers at mass burial sites told investigators "that most
bodies that had arrived . . . were burned and butchered beyond
recognition. Many were missing body parts -- arms, legs and even
heads. The elderly and the handicapped were not spared. In some
cases, pregnant women had their bellies cut open and their fetuses
pulled out and hacked or burned before the women were killed." . . .
Not much is known about the R.S.S. in the West. After Sept. 11, the
Hindu nationalists have presented themselves as reliable allies in
the fight against Muslim fundamentalists. But in India their
resemblance to the European Fascist movements of the 1930's has
never been less than clear. In his manifesto ''We, or Our Nationhood
Defined'' (1939), Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, supreme director of the
R.S.S. from 1940 to 1973, said that Hindus could ''profit'' from the
example of the Nazis, who had manifested ''race pride at its
highest'' by purging Germany of the Jews.