For generations the Hindutvavadis have venerated Vinayak Sawarkar as Veer Savarkar. The writings of Savarkar, especially in Marathi, show great valour and heroic sentiments. In language that is both beautiful and brave, the writings of Savarkar - in prose and poetry - display heroic qualities but of Hinduism. Savarkar wrote an essay, “Hindutva” (Hinduness) in which he tells us who are really Hindus. Merely by birth in
India, one does not become a Hindu.
Hindu is one, says Savarkar, whose land of worship (“Punya Bhumi”) is India; whose history, trials or tribulations are
centred around in Hindustan. If one looks
towards Mecca or Jerusalem for religious inspiration, he
cannot be a Hindu as defined by Savarkar. Thus Muslims and Christians whose
basic holy places are outside India
are not and cannot be called Hindus. The Hindutva idea is alien to them. This
is in sum, Savarkar’s idea of Hindutva – a term which is not the same as
Hinduism. Buddhists and Jains whose religions are not Hindu are yet embraced by
Hindutva. It is almost a mystical concept.
|Savarkars's statue in front of |
Cellular Jail, Port Blair installed during
BJP rule in Delhi
(Date of photograph: 15 August 2012)
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, later also known as Tatyasaheb Savarkar, was born in 1883 in a town called Bhagur in Nasik District of Maharashtra. Even his biographers do not speak of his brilliance as a student. But his later writings, both prose and poetry, display of unusual command of Marathi language which continues to inspire Maharashtrians. It may be stated incidentally that on an occasion in
where he had gone for studies he wrote a poem asking the ocean “to take me to
my motherland”. In song frame it has been sung by Mangeshkar siblings and it
has become immortal in Maharashtra. In the
song he tells, among other things, that mother’s cottage is better than a
It has been recorded that once in his student days he pelted stones at a mosque in his town. He exhibited anti-Muslim feelings, even in his college days. He went to college in Pune. He organized groups of Hindus whom he inspired to be good and strong Hindus.
With the help of one Pandit Shyamji Krishna Verma, a strong believer in Hinduism, then resident of
Savarkar went to England
for education. An activist of “Abhinav Bharat”, a revolutionary organization
for freedom of India,
Savarkar took part in several activities. Dhananjay Keer mentions that he was,
in 1908, convicted for outraging the modesty of an English girl and spent four
months in jail as a consequence. Savarkar also displayed strong patriotism
inasmuch as he studied Mazzini and translated one book on Mazzini which came to
be published in Nasik
and enjoyed an uncommon popularity among Maharashtrians. That, Savarkar was a patriot
is not disputed.
Madan Lal Dingra was hanged for assassinating Sir William Carzon Wylie who was the eye and brain of India House. Savarkar had inspired Dingra to do the act. Savarkar had also sent pistols clandestinely and one of them was found to have killed A.M.T. Jackson, the Collector of Nasik. The pistol which killed
Jackson was traced to
Savarkar who was arrested in London under
Fugitives Act and brought to India.
I have refrained from describing the activities of Savarkar in England.
Suffice it to say that those activities show his patriotism and intelligence.
One thing, however, must be noted. It was never Savarkar’s hand that pulled the
trigger at any time. He inspired but never acted. While Savarkar was being brought
in a ship, he jumped in the sea through a port hole. That was in France.
However, he was captured and brought back. This was the only physical act of
Savarkar in the cause of freedom. What he did was undoubtedly a daring act.
Ultimately he was tried, among others, for the murder of
Jackson and sentenced to
life imprisonment. Also in another case he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Those days, life imprisonment meant 25 years which in Savarkar’s case meant 50
years. It was a fearful prospect which would have broken any man. If it broke
the courage of Savarkar, one cannot blame him.
This is where the act of so-called bravery of the person begins. He was transported to
to serve his
sentence in the awful cellular jail. This was regarded, among the Indians, as “Kalapani”.
It was the forced destination of hardened criminals. Andaman
Hard physical labour awaited Savarkar. He was received at Port Blair of Andaman on July 4, 1911. He was 28 years old. Within two years thereafter, Sir Reginald Craddock, Home Member Viceroy’s Executive Council, met him. Sir Reginald’s note recorded Savarkar’s plea for mercy. On November 14, 1913, Savarkar had written to the Government: “I am ready to serve the Government they like … Where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government?” (Emphasis mine). In reply to a question in the Legislative Council on March 22, 1920, the Home Member, Sir William Vincent said: “Two Petitions were received from Vinayak Damodar Savarkar – one in 1914 and another in 1917 – through the Superintendent, Port Blair. In the former he offered his services to the governmentduring the war in any capacity and prayed that general amnesty be granted to all political prisoners. The second Petition was confined to the latter proposal. In the Petition dated November 23, 1913, he wrote: “In the end, I remind your honour to be good as to go through the Petition for clemency that I had sent in 1911 and to sanction it for being forwarded to the Indian Government”. He had in the same letter said: “Therefore the Government in their manifold beneficence and mercy release me, I for one cannot be the staunchest advocate of progress and loyalty to the English which is the foremost condition of that progress.” The Government which he had decided not to serve became a Government of beneficence and mercy. The rebel became a person of loyalty. Continuing further he said: “Moreover my conversion to the Constitutional line would bring back all those misguided young men in
abroad who were once looking at me as their guide.”
“Veer” means, brave, hero, gallant, warrior as per Sanskrit and Marathi dictitionaries. This Veer gave apologies as many as five times.
After being brought back to
India, Savarkar was lodged in
Yaravada Jail. It was when he was in this jail that he was to be conditionally released.
On January 6, 1924, he was released subject to certain conditions. Two of them
were as follows:
1. Savarkar shall reside in Ratnagiri district and shall not go beyond the limits of that district without the permission of Government or in case of emergency of the District Magistrate.
2. He will not engage privately or publicly in any manner of political activities without the consent of Government for a period of five years, such restrictions being renewable at the discretion of Government at the expiry of the said period.
The option to renew the terms was with Government and not with Savarkar who accepted the conditions.
In 1937 Congress formed in
Bombay. It was the same Congress upon whom
Savarkar had heaped abuses all along. The Government, in their “beneficence and
mercy” relaxed the conditions of detention. Savarkar was free. His followers
were naturally jubilant.
But on April 4, 1950 Savarkar was arrested, unjustifiably, under Public Security Measures Act (law of detention). A habeas corpus Petition was filed by Savarkar’s son, Vishwas, and it was heard by a Bench of Chief Justice Chagla and Justice Gajendragadkar. After taking instruction from the Government, the Advocate General, C.K. Daftary, who was prosecuting Counsel in Gandhi murder case, informed the Court that the Government would release Savarkar if he gave an undertaking that he would not participate in politics. Undertaking was given by Savarkar’s Advocate on his behalf and the Court ordered the release on that undertaking. This was the last condition which Savarkar accepted.
How did he came to be known as Veer Savarkar? Who gave him that title? I am not able to find in any published literature an answer to these questions. However, personal inquiries made by me have revealed that Mrs. Bhapatkar, the editor of “Bhala”, a Marathi periodical, dubbed Savarkar as Veer. Somewhere on the road, the word “Swatantrya” was added and thus Savarkar became Swatantrya Veer Savarkar” – Freedom Fighter Savarkar who did not do anything for the country after 1913 till his death in 1966.
Nelson Mandela spent twenty three years in jail and refused to admit that he would not take part in politics. Still we do not call him Swatantrya Veer.
I have not dealt with other aspects of Savarkar’s life except his apologies and undertakings which are relevant to the title of Swatantrya Veer. It must be admitted that large number of Maharashtrians, especially Brahmins, adored him. In Mumbai when Sangha Pariwar was in power in Municipal Corporation, a road was named after him. That road is one of the longest roads in Mumbai and it runs into 3 postal districts. On this road has been erected, probably the biggest memorial in
named after Savarkar.
During the time when Manohar Joshi was the Speaker, an oil portrait of Savarkar was unveiled in the Central Hall of the Parliament, but Mahatma Gandhi’s statue sits in the open braving the sun and winds.