Maligning Savarkar to what purpose?
Abracadabra By K. B. Ganapathy, Columns

Maligning Savarkar to what purpose?

January 6, 2020

On 15th of September, 2019, I attended a function arranged by Mysuru Literary Forum Charitable Trust at Hotel Southern Star where author and historian Vikram Sampath’s book on Veer Savarkar titled “Savarkar: Echoes from a Forgotten Past, 1883-1924” was released. After the function, I got an autographed book as a gift from the author with his remarks, “For Dear Mr. Ganapathy, an honour to sign this for you. Hope you enjoy reading this book.”

Yes, I have been reading this book of 500 pages since then rather at snail’s pace and hope to complete it in the next couple of days. The book apparently ends with Savarkar’s conditional release on January 6, 1924 from Yervada prison in Pune where he was kept after he was released from Andaman Cellular Jail. The release order had said he should reside in Ratnagiri district and shall not go beyond the limits of that district without permission from the Government. I was told that the second volume of the book will be released next year.

Be that as it may, I thought I must write about the information I found in that book regarding the controversy presently raging over a booklet titled “Veer Savarkar Kitne Veer?” (How brave was Veer Savarkar?) which was distributed among the members of a frontal organisation of Congress, Seva Dal, during a training camp apparently to question the truth of Savarkar’s freedom struggle. However, the booklet also went beyond its scope and purpose and alleged that Savarkar was a homosexual and he had association with Gandhiji’s assassin Nathuram Godse. With Congress party in power in Madhya Pradesh, it naturally wants to dismantle the earlier Bharatiya Janata Party Government’s Hindutva propaganda, which is understandable in politics.

It is well-known that Veer Savarkar was a legend in his own lifetime and is highly regarded, especially in Maharashtra, he being a Maharashtrian. Naturally, the booklet has drawn huge criticism for the Congress party and Seva Dal from BJP, Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) headed by its supremo Sharad Pawar.

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It may be recalled that last month Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a jibe caustically remarked at a public meeting that his name was Rahul Gandhi, not Rahul Savarkar. Therefore, he would not apologise on his remarks about rape as demanded by the BJP. This has riled Shiv Sena, staunch nationalist political party BJP and NCP.

Whatever might be the sentiments of different political parties about Savarkar, the revolutionary patriot and freedom fighter, the most iconic and famous among all other revolutionaries who preceded him, has his place in the history of India’s freedom movement well and firmly etched. As I read the book, I got the feeling that hardly any of our leaders of the movement had ever suffered so much physical pain and trauma for over ten years at the Cellular Jail in Andaman like Veer Savarkar.

History records that there were many organisations fighting for the freedom of our country under different ideologies like revolutionaries, radicals, moderates, liberals, etc. Undoubtedly, Veer Savarkar was a revolutionary from what one can understand from his speeches and writings. It was he who first told the world through his book titled “The Indian War of Independence of 1857” that what happened in 1857 was not Sepoy Mutiny as described by the British and even others in India, but it was “the first call for India’s independence from the British.” The book “was captivating because it gave status to the historical event hitherto despised as a ‘mutiny’,” according to Historian Vikram Sampath. Interestingly, the book says that Vinayak Damodar Savarkar “suggested that the 1857 movement was one that brought Hindus and Muslims together; that Hindustan was thereafter the united nation of adherents of Islam as well as Hinduism.”

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When the British Government wanted to deport Savarkar to India from England in 1910 to stand trial on five charges against him from an Indian court for “crime in India”, for sedition, according to the book, “there have been other insinuations too, of him having fallen prey to a honey-trap, Lawrence Margaret, that the British agencies had set up for him.”

The book further says, this insinuation has no basis and there has been no reference or details available about the lady. These are as wild and contradictory to their often repeated innuendos about Vinayak (Savarkar) that “he had been a consumer of opium for years. He was also, although few of his followers were aware of it, ‘a homosexual’.”

The author of the book has taken this information from the book by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre titled “Freedom at Midnight” (Noida: Vikas Publishing House, 2016), page 361.

According to author Vikram Sampath, “they seem to be made more from a pejorative view of maligning Vinayak (Savarkar) and using personal life which was his business and none other’s, to score political brownie points against him and his actions.”

Reading the book about Savarkar, I was left wondering why some of our later day political leaders of Congress and other parties despise, belittle and even indulge in character assassination of those who also fought for our country’s freedom but chose a different path. I am reminded of the saying that no matter what path you choose the God is one and all paths lead to God. In retrospect, I personally feel India got independence after World War II, significantly, as a result of the cumulative efforts of various movements led by different leaders and organisations pursuing different paths. Those paths could be revolutionary or radical or moderate.

Now that we have got independence and have succeeded in preserving our independence for the last 73 years, it is time all the political leaders  rose above their party ideology, personal pride and prejudice and recognised reverentially the sacrifice made by all those freedom fighters, Veer Savarkar included. Jai Hind.

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