Thursday, 6 September 2012

Was Veer Savarkar Really “Veer”?


R.A Jahagirdar

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)
Savarkar did not and could not foresee Hindu Diaspora or even Muslim Diaspora. Large numbers of Hindus have migrated to U.S.A. and have acquired citizenship of America. Their ethos – is it included in Hindutva? The largest numbers of Buddhists are outside India in several East Asian countries. Can we say that they must display Hindutva? It will be an act of treason if they love India to the exclusion of the countries whose citizens they are. In his book “First War of Indian Independence” (which is about 1857) Savarkar speaks of joint Hindu-Muslim revolt. But that was long before the birth of Hindutva in Savarkar’s mind.

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 England 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 palace.

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 London, 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 to India 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 Andaman Island 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.

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 India and 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 India, 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.

Courtesy: Collected Works of Justice R.A. Jahagirdar (1927-2011) published by Rationalist Foundation, Pune, the ebook version of which can be downloaded at http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/


16 comments:

He's the only one of the few Indian revolutionaries with a backbone... any comment made against him is by a 'traitor'

I think the "Veer" should not be there.

Chhatrapati Shivaji is also known as Veer Shivaji.
But he has given apologies to Mughal & Adilshah many times. Can u say Veer Shivaji is also not a Veer???

*The first political leader to daringly set Absolute Political Independence as India's goal (1900).
*The first Indian political leader to daringly perform a bonfire of foreign (English) clothes (1905).
*The first Indian to organize a revolutionary movement for India's Independence on an international level (1906).
*The first Indian law student who was not called to the English Bar despite having passed his examination and observed the necessary formalities, for his activities to seek India's freedom from the British (1909).
*The only Indian leader whose arrest in London caused legal difficulties for British Courts and whose case is still referred to in the interpretations of the Fugitive Offenders Act and the Habeas Corpus (Rex Vs Governor of Brixton Prison, ex-parte Savarkar)
*The first Indian historian whose book on the 1857 War of Independence was proscribed by British Authorities in India even before its publication. The Governor General had asked the Postmaster General to confiscate copies of the book six months before the book was officially banned (1909).
*The first political prisoner whose daring escape and arrest on French soil became a cause celebre in the International Court of Justice at The Hague. This case was mentioned in many International Treaties at that time (1910).
*The first graduate whose degree was withdrawn by an Indian University for striving for India's freedom (1911).
*The first poet in the world who, deprived of pen and paper, composed his poems and then wrote them on the prison walls with thorns and nails, memorized ten thousand lines of his poetry for years and later transmitted them to India through his fellow-prisoners who also memorized these lines.
*The first revolutionary leader who within less than 10 years gave a death-blow to the practice of untouchability in the remote district of Ratnagiri while being interned there.
The first Indian leader who successfully started -
A Ganeshotsava open to all Hindus including ex-untouchables (1930).
*Interdining ceremonies of all Hindus including ex-untouchables (1931).
*"Patitpavan Mandir", open to all Hindus including ex-untouchables (22 February 1931).
*A cafe open to all Hindus including ex-untouchables (01 May 1933).
*The first political prisoner in the world who was sentenced to Transportation for Life twice, a sentence unparalleled in the history of the British Empire.
*The first political leader to embrace death voluntarily by way of Atma Samarpan in the highest tradition of Yoga (1966).

Many of the above are his personal achievements . I agree that he has done some appreciable work but he was not the only one in that respect . And as mentioned above he was hesitant to directly participate in heroic art .
Remember Rasbihari Bose who threw bomb on viceroy and many more we don't call them swatantyaveer despite having done much great work during freedom struggle (and that too with direct participation ). So he doesn't deserve that title . As he was staunch hinduism proprietor , RSS and other org go on projecting he was very great freedom fighter. And you forgit to mention that he was also imprisoned as suspect in GANDHI murder case .

Idol formation is to inspire people. If any such idol is existing which is inspiring people for good deeds, thematerial obscure reality should be avoided which merely creats confusion for the objective of idol or ideal is to inspire the presently existing people towards good. As a person Saverkar may have had lots of weaknesses, butthe existing image which is popular shows that the way on which Savarkar was leading himself would have reached the classic stage of the existing idol of him and this is what people wanted to see. People do not worship the historical figure but the possibility of that historical initiation named Savarkar. We should not try to damage it. Hope u hv understood the concern

If one needs to protect accepted public image of a person then we should also protect accepted images of Bapuji/Mahatma, Chacha Nehru. Atal Bihariji upgraded image of Indira to Durga level.So we should now stop exposing wrongs of persons if it doesnt match with public perveption

If one needs to protect accepted public image of a person then we should also protect accepted images of Bapuji/Mahatma, Chacha Nehru. Atal Bihariji upgraded image of Indira to Durga level.So we should now stop exposing wrongs of persons if it doesnt match with public perveption

If one needs to protect accepted public image of a person then we should also protect accepted images of Bapuji/Mahatma, Chacha Nehru. Atal Bihariji upgraded image of Indira to Durga level.So we should now stop exposing wrongs of persons if it doesnt match with public perveption

How can we comparr Shıvaji..wıth Savarkar...Shıvaji cannot be compared..Shivaji made opology and when he escaped..he put all his strength to destroy Mughals...But so called veer Savarkar..helped Brıtıshers ..ın 2nd world war...he was the one who dıd not took any stand in favour of Quit Indıa Movement...

Savarkar also begged and complained about food quality whilst in jail..what sort of weed were they smoking when they christened him VEER

As you know subhashchandra bose and his AHF had solely taken part in late 1943 against british government. During ww2, the many indian regiments that were given rifles and modern equipments had joined the AHF to retake the british posts from them. Those youths were sent by V D SAVARKAR in order to get free weaponary. That was the plan. Even subhashchandra bose admired him. Thats enough to call him veer savarkar as he was admired by another highly valued independance hero. Who are we here to discuss about what is making him hero? Just get my point. He did wha t he thought good for country.

Writer of the article high lighted that Savarkar was anti Muslim since childhood, he pelted stones on mosque. However did not tried to shade light why did he do that act? Was it out of madness? Or it was his childhood hobby to do stone pelting?
Savarkar's mercy petition is often used for ridiculing Savarkar's work. They do not buy the argument that he was trying to trick British. Even if Savarkar files the mercy petition to save his own life, what's anti national in that? He has every right to save his life and save himself from inhuman torture. Writer gives reference to Nelson Mandela, well was he serving Kala Pani??? Were he eating rotten food in jail?

Another argument they make that he did nothing after he released .... Well they do not know what Savarkar did after release. He was always been in keen watch by govt. it was regular practice to raid his house. Govt knew that this man will not sit quite. Govt ensured that he does not do any political activity.

Writer also said that Savarkar never got involved in the heroic act rather than inspiring others. What Gandhi did ? , how many lathis banged on Gandhi during any of the Satyagrah? It was always those innocent people who faced the outrage by police and got beaten up.

Writer notes that Savarkar is admired by Brahmins mainly. This is nonsense. I am no Brahmin, still I admire Savarkar, non of my friends Brahmin still they admire Savarkar .

People spent there life and contributed in freedom fight in what ever way the can. Do respect them instead of raising questions on someone's dignity.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Writer has lost a part of brain which he actually uses
May be he is anti brahmin nd savarkar being brahmin he opposes him
Well the writer must actually read sagara pran talamala by ravindra bhat
Majhi janmathep by savarkar nd should personally visit a jail for2 nights 3 days to just get a n example as what extent of torture savarkar must have handeled in kaala pani

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