Gandhi and Gita Press

Arup Kumar Sen

The majoritarian Hindu mindset is very much operative in the mode of functioning of the Indian State in recent years. The latest manifestation of this mindset is very much evident in the recent selection of Gita Press for the Gandhi Peace Prize. The Union Ministry of Culture said in its media release that the jury headed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi selected Gorakhpur-based Gita Press for the award “in recognition of its outstanding contribution towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violent and other Gandhian methods.” The paradox lies in the fact that the Gita Press founder, Jaydayal Goyandka and the founder editor of its magazine Kalyan, Hanuman Prasad Poddar, who had close relations with Gandhi at a time, were among the 25000-odd people arrested in the wake of Gandhi’s assassination in 1948. It may be mentioned in this connection what the present Union cabinet minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav stated in the context of the award being conferred on Gita Press: “Had Mahatma Gandhi lived to see the day, he couldn’t have been happier and prouder. Gandhi appreciated the work done by Gita press. He and Poddar shared a bond of friendship. Gandhi, in fact, was a contributor to the first issue of Kalyan, Gita Press’ flagship monthly magazine, published in August 1926.”

But one gets a counter-narrative of the relationship between Gandhi and Gita Press, from Akshaya Mukul, the author of Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India: “Their relationship started auspiciously with bhakti…By the late-1940s, Gandhi had become immensely unpopular with the Gita Press. In 1949, RSS chief M S Golwalkar was touring the United Provinces after being released from jail for his alleged role in Gandhi’s murder. Himself now free, (Hanuman Prasad) Poddar presided over a function to welcome Golwalkar at the Town Hall in Banaras… Post Gandhi assassination, Kalyan went quiet on him for a few months but resumed carrying his old articles. It was Gandhi only in name and as ironic as the peace prize Gita Press has received in his name.”

The above counter-narrative makes people aware that the Hindu Right is trying to appropriate Gandhi in its statecraft.  

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Vol 56, No. 3, Jul 16 - 22, 2023