Veer Savarkar – One of the most polarizing figures in Indian politics.
Several decades after his death in 1966, Veer Savarkar is still a ‘polarizing figure’ in Indian politics. He is either a hero or a villain in the hearts of thousands of people.
Niranjan Takle says, “In 2014, when Narendra Modi arrived in the Central Hall of Parliament to pay respect to Savarkar’s portrait, he inadvertently turned his back to Mahatma Gandhi, because Gandhiji’s picture was right in front of him. This is the reality of today’s politics. If you want to honor Savarkar, then you have to turn your back completely towards Gandhi’s ideology. If you have to accept Gandhi then you have to reject Savarkar’s ideology.”
Veer Savarkar – Named with great respect in Sangh Parivar.
It would be called an irony that Veer Savarkar, who had never been a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, is named with great respect and passion in the Sangh Parivar.
In the year 2000, the Vajpayee government sent a proposal to the then President KR Narayanan to confer the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, to Savarkar, but he did not accept it.
Neelanjan Mukhopadhyay says, “Narendra Modi takes oath on 26 May 2014. Veer Savarkar’s 131st birth date falls just two days after that. He goes to Parliament House and bow his head in front of Savarkar’s portrait and pays tribute. We cannot forget that a case was brought against him in the Gandhi assassination. During his lifetime, the Kapoor Commission was sitting to investigate him and the needle of suspicion in his report was not removed from Savarkar. To give so much respect to Savarkar in public was a very symbolic step from Modi. ”
Veer Savarkar’s arrest.
Arrested in connection with the murder of Nashik Collector,
Savarkar was expelled from Pune’s Fergusson College for his political views. In 1910, he was arrested in London for his involvement in the murder of the Collector of Nashik.
Niranjan Takle says, “Savarkar’s brother was first arrested in 1910 for the murder of Nashik district collector Jackson. Savarkar was accused of sending a pistol from London to his brother, which was used in the assassination. He was being brought to India by a water vessel named ‘SS Maurya’. When the ship arrived at the Marse port, Savarkar jumped into the sea from the ‘hole’ of the ship’s toilet.”
Ashutosh Deshmukh, who wrote his biography ‘Braveheart Savarkar’, tells, “Savarkar deliberately wore a night gown. The toilet had mirrors so that the prisoner could keep an eye on him from outside. Savarkar took off his gown and covered the glass with it.
He had already measured the ‘hole’ of the toilet and had figured that he could get out of it. He lowered his slim body from the hole and jumped into the ocean.
His swimming training, in Nashik, came in handy and he swam along the coast line. The security personnel opened fire on him.
During the swim, Savarkar got hurt and he started bleeding. The security personnel also jumped into the sea and swam and started chasing him.
Savarkar swam for about 15 minutes and reached the shore. The coast was slippery. In the first attempt he slipped, but in the second attempt he reached the ground. He started running fast and in a minute he covered about 450 meters.
Trams and cars were running on both sides. Savarkar was almost naked. Then he saw a policeman. He went to him and said in English, ‘Take me to the magistrate for political asylum.’ Then the security personnel running after them shouted, “Thief! Thief! Catch him.” Savarkar resisted a lot, but was caught by many people.”
Cell number 52 of Andaman’s Cellular Jail.
In this way Savarkar’s freedom for a few minutes ended and for the next 25 years he remained a prisoner of the British in some form or the other.
He was sentenced to two separate sentences of 25-25 years and was sent to Andaman i.e. ‘Kaala Paani’ away from India for punishment.
He was kept in Cellular Jail of 698 rooms in cell number 52 of size 13.5 by 7.5 feet.
The Prison Life
Referring to the prison life there, Ashutosh Deshmukh writes in the biography of Veer Savarkar, “Government officials in Andaman used to walk in the wagon and political prisoners used to draw these wagons.
There were no street roads and the terrain was also hilly. When the captives could not pull the wagons, they were abused and beaten. The tortured prisoners were given watery soup for several days.
Apart from them, they were also forced to drink quinine. This made them dizzy. Some people would vomit and some would suffer in great pain.”
Deshmukh further writes, “The time taken by all the prisoners to use toilets was fixed and they had to vacate the toilets within the prescribed time limit. Sometimes prisoners had to defecate in one corner of their prison rooms. The walls of the prison cell smelled of feces and urine.
Sometimes prisoners were punished by forcing them to remain standing. Handcuffs and fetters were used for this. In that case, they had to defecate while standing. They were not allowed to sit even while vomiting.”
Savarkar’s much talked about ‘Apology to the british’.
Niranjan Takle writes, “I see Savarkar’s life in many parts. The first part of his life was that of a romantic revolutionary, in which he wrote a book on the battle of 1857. He advocated secularism in very good terms.
He was confronted with reality after being arrested. Savarkar arrived in Andaman on 11 July 1911 and on 29 August he wrote his first apology, within one and a half months of reaching there. In next 9 years, he gave letters of apology to the British 6 times. ”
Another prisoner Barindra Ghosh later wrote that “Savarkar used to provoke other prisoners secretly to agitate against the jailer. But when we asked him to come openly with us, he would back down.”
Niranjan Takle says, “The prisoner was weighed there every 15 days. When Savarkar reached the Cellular Jail, he weighed 112 pounds. When he gave his fourth apology to Reginald Kreidock two and a half years later, he weighed 126 pounds. Thus, he gained 14 pounds during his stay in jail.
Seeking to have mercy on him, he had requested the government to send himself to a jail in India. Savarkar also said that the steps taken by the British have instilled faith in his constitutional system and he has now given up the path of violence.”
These strategies were made to stay out of jail. Later Savarkar himself, and his supporters, had justified apologizing to the British on the grounds that it was part of their strategy, due to which they could get some concessions.
Savarkar wrote in his autobiography, “If I had gone on strike in jail, I would have been stripped of my right to send a letter to India.”
Even Bhagat Singh had the option of apologizing, but he did not. Why did Savarkar apologise?
Ram Bahadur Rai said, “There is a very fundamental difference between Bhagat Singh and Savarkar. On the day when Bhagat Singh decided to throw a bomb, he had mentally decided that he was ready to be hanged till death . On the other hand, Veer Savarkar was a clever revolutionary.”
Savarkar wanted to stay alive and continue fighting for a long time.
Ram Bahadur Rai also said,”Savarkar used to try and get the opportunity to work silently and behind the scene. Savarkar did not care about what people would say about him.. if he apologizes. His thinking was that if he got outside of the jail, he would be able to plan and do whatever he wants to do.”
The real reason- Why Veer Savarkar is being targeted?
The reason is – Savarkar’s concept of Hinduism. After returning from Andaman, Savarkar wrote a book ‘Hindutva – Who is Hindu?’ In which he used Hindutva as a political ideology for the first time.
Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay explains, “He used Hindutva as a political manifesto. Only the people for whom this nation is their ancestral land, mother land and the Karm Bhoomi, can be called as the true citizens of this nation.
India can be an ancestral and maternal land for anyone, but it is a Karm Bhoomi for only the Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. Muslims and Christians don’t consider this land as a holy land and hence it is not their Karm Bhoomi. According to this definition, Muslims and Christians can never be the true citizens of this nation.”