Veer Savarkar Deserves Gratitude, Not Derision

Of late, the former Congress President and de facto leader of the party created a furor in media and Indian politics when he spoke from a public platform - “…My name is not Rahul Savarkar. I will never apologize for truth…” The occasion was the Congress sponsored "Bharat Bachao Rally" (Save India Rally) at the historic Ramlila ground in Delhi. It is well known that the oldest national party is passing through its worst ever phase under the current leadership. Over a period, the Gandhi scion has earned name for his constant jibes at great leaders and events that do not suit his party politics. The aforesaid remark was in the context of yet another controversy created by him only few days back when he tried to mock the “Made in India” programme in the present dispensation with a jibe “rape in India” following a few recent rape cases that received wide attention.

Here the moot point is: Was it really necessary to drag “Savarkar” in the current rivalry and vendetta politics? Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, more popularly known as “Veer Savarkar” was an Indian independence activist and patriot, lawyer, scholar and thinker, prolific writer and orator, historian, poet, philosopher and a social worker of twentieth century, who, thanks to the politicians of current genre, is remembered more often for the controversies than his contributions for the national cause. He was born on 28 May 1883 near Nasik in Maharashtra and died on 26 February 1966, when almost four weeks prior to death he stopped taking medicines, food etc. He paid heavily for his life and freedom for revolutionary activities during the British Raj; besides, he also constantly pressed for validating religious myths and blind faith vis-à-vis modern science and in that sense he was an ardent rationalist and social reformist, who constantly opposed the caste system among Hindus.

The controversy raised by Gandhi scion is not new or stand alone. Only some time back, Savarkar’s name figured in a demand for bestowing “Bharat Ratna”, the highest civilian award in India, by a section of people and political leaders only to be opposed by the grand old party leaders  and other like-minded parties. Now the question is why they are against “Veer Savarkar” being acknowledged or glorified in any way as also why the former Congress President made the aforesaid jibe in the context of “an apology”? Recently, another senior leader of the same party blamed Savarkar for the partition of India on communal lines in a speech in Parliament during the debate on Citizens Amendment Bill.

The answers of these queries are rather simple and one can easily find a lot of credible information available in the public domain. It is an open secret that many Indians were simultaneously fighting against British for independence. On one hand, there was Indian National Congress with Mahatma Gandhi and his staunch followers who were against open confrontation with British, often cooperated with them and wanted independence through peaceful means even if it takes long time. On the other hand, one time Congress president and freedom fighters like Subhash Chandra Bose and many other revolutionaries were even willing to opt for armed struggle to force colonial powers to leave the country. Quite obviously, British found Gandhi Inc. more conducive to deal with, ultimately the power was transferred through them and revolutionaries were either eliminated by British or discredited in new dispensation but their contribution cannot be denied in free India.

Veer Savarkar had started his revolutionary activities while he was still a high school student and he along with his brother even founded a secret society called Abhinav Bharat Society. Later he associated with other revolutionary organizations like the "India House" and "Free India Society" during his abode in England. Consequently, he was arrested while in transit at a French port, deported and prosecuted in India for the alleged abatement of the murder of Nasik Collector and revolutionary activities. He was sentenced to two life terms of imprisonment totaling to fifty years and sent to the infamous Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where he faced inhuman deal of a condemned prisoner of “Kala Pani” for over ten years before his release after signing a “plea for clemency” that required him to renounce revolutionary activities in future. This is what Gandhi scion and other detractors are now using as a ploy against Veer Savarkar which, according to these people, was an act of cowardice to apologize to British.

After release from “Kala Pani”, he was moved to Ratnagiri in Maharashtra and his activities were severely restricted by the colonial powers. His detractors perhaps do not realize that a convict with life sentence for proven grave offences cannot be released simply on apology; instead, such conditional releases are usually granted to the political detainees or for other allied reasons as a settlement when they are framed on tactical or wrong premises. Even after his release, Veer Savarkar continued to serve country and its freedom struggle through his ideological, social and spiritual contributions. Many leaders of the present genre who have inherited a pedigree of political legacy and power living in luxurious comfort of life will perhaps never understand lives and legacy of great icons and national leaders like Veer Savarkar.

The concept of the two nation theory originated as back as mid-1880s and one could appreciate its genesis by perusing contemporary political speeches of Sir Sayyad Ahmad Khan, predominantly an Islamic thinker and educationist, made in Lucknow and Meerut in 1887 and 1888#, respectively. He was honoured by the colonial powers with the title of “Sir” for his services to the British. Ever since the formation of the Indian National Congress, he remained apprehensive and critical of Indian Congress leaders including few moderate Muslims who joined it. In his famous speeches, he categorically made the distiction between the Hindus and Muslims as two separate quams or nations, at occasion even visualising fateful tragic scenario that may precipitate if British leave India along with their military might leading to a conflict between two communities in an endeavour of one conquering the other. He thought that even the idea of both equally sitting together and sharing power was inconcievable.

Around that time, Veer Savarkar was hardly of 2-3 years of age; so it is ridiculous that politically motivated leaders of some parties are ascribing the two nation theory to Savarkar now. He was against the parition of India against religious lines.The essence of this theory was that Hindus and Muslims represent two different cultures and nationalities and cannot peacefully co-exist together. Available accounts suggest that this theory was later adopted and pursued by Islamic Ideologue and poet Sir Muhammad Iqbal and political leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah of Muslim League that ultimately led to the partition of country on the religious lines in 1947, which the Muslim League pressed for and the Congress endorsed it. This is another sad saga how secular poet Iqbal of "Saare Jahan Se Achchha, Hindostan Hamara" fame in later years was so radicalized as to endorse and escalate the two-nations theory.

In response to communal politics of the Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha was constituted in early twentieth century with an aim of protecting the rights of Hindus and Savarkar seved as its president for some time. While in prison, he wrote an elaborate work to describe "Hindutva", espousing what it means to be a Hindu and Hindu pride, in which he defined that all the people descended of Hindu culture or endorsed its spirit (i.e. Hindu element), represent Hindutva. In two separate verdicts in 1966 and 1995, again confirmed in 2016, different Supreme Court Constitutional benches concluded that the words ‘Hinduism’ or ‘Hindutva’ should not be understood and construed narrowly, confined only to the strict Hindu religious practices overlooking the culture and ethos of the People of India. The apex court ruled that the Hindutva is a way of life or a state of mind, which should not to be equated with or understood as religious Hindu fundamentalism.

Notwithstanding above well analyzed conclusion by the apex judiciary of the land, some self-proclaimed secular political parties and religious fundamentalists continue to treat “Hindutva” as communal ideology and treat Veer Savarkar and other nationalists as "communalists". Paradoxically, same political parties and people feel comfortable aligning with Muslim League and such other fundamentalist organizations as part of their secular agenda. Veer Savarkar was against the division of country and he constantly criticized the appeasement policy of some Indian National Congress leaders and their acceptance of India’s partition on communal lines. It is irony of Indian democracy and secularism that the party and people who constantly compromised with the interests of the majority Hindus and accepted partition of the country now pass blame on the great patriot and visionary leader and ideologues like Veer Savarkar. Undoubtedly, he deserves gratitude and not derision or contempt as being inflicted by some politicians and religious fundamentalists in this country these days.

    (Columbia University, New York website)

More By  :  Dr. Jaipal Singh

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