Hindu religious leader arrested in India for insulting Gandhi, praising his killer

Protesters against hate speech in New Delhi
Protesters rally in New Delhi on Monday in response to provocative anti-Muslim speeches by Hindu leaders at a religious gathering earlier this month.
(Manish Swarup / Associated Press)

Indian police Thursday arrested a Hindu religious leader who allegedly made a fiery speech denigrating Indian independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi and praising his assassin.

Gandhi, an icon of nonviolent resistance, was shot dead by a Hindu extremist during a prayer meeting in New Delhi in 1948 because he was considered sympathetic toward Muslims during the partition of the Indian subcontinent by British colonialists in 1947 into secular India and Islamic Pakistan.

Kalicharan Maharaj was arrested in central Madhya Pradesh state Thursday for allegedly promoting hatred between religious groups in a speech earlier this week, police officer Prashant Agrawal was cited by the Press Trust of India as saying.


According to media reports, Maharaj said that “Gandhi destroyed the country. ... Salutations to Nathuram Godse, who killed him.”

Maharaj is expected to be formally charged in court after the police complete an investigation. If convicted, he can be jailed up to five years.

Attacks by Hindu hard-liners against Muslims and other minorities have intensified after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of India’s Hindu nationalist party, came to power in 2014 and won a landslide reelection in 2019.

The annual tribute to India’s oppressed castes remains marred by the violence that broke out four years ago.

Dec. 26, 2021

The opposition is also demanding the arrest of several Hindu religious leaders who made highly provocative speeches against Muslims at a closed-door religious convocation, known as Dharam Sansad, earlier this month in the northern holy city of Haridwar. They called on Hindus to arm themselves for “a genocide” against Muslims, according to a police complaint.

Police in Uttarakhand state, which is ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, said they were questioning suspects. No arrests have been made.

Muslims make up nearly 14% of India’s population of 1.4 billion.