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PM Modi recently batted for Bharat Ratna to Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. The ruling BJP government’s Hindutva ideology was first coined and explained by Savarkar whose name often has the prefix ‘Veer’ or gallant. Recently, his grandson said, “You wont find a more secular man than Savarkar.”
Ranjeet,grandson of Veer Savarkar:Owaisi should follow Savarkar's belief that keep religion in your house,when out you are not Hindu or Muslim but Indian.Savarkar expected all who enter Parliament to keep caste,religion,sex etc out. You wont find a more secular man than Savarkar https://t.co/dFir8hwDKs pic.twitter.com/FeGRpgxQZj
— ANI (@ANI) October 18, 2019
Nathuram Godse, who killed Mahatma Gandhi, was a member of Hindu Mahasabha, the same organization which celebrated Gandhi’s death anniversary and hailed Godse as a martyr in January this year. Savarkar, one of the extremist leaders, was the founder of Hindu Mahasabha and one of the accused in the killing of Mahatma Gandhi, although he was acquitted later.
Today, his ideas are discussed and talked about, perhaps even more than those of Gandhi’s. So what were his ideas for that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is advocating his name for the highest civilian award?
VD Savarkar was the first to call the 1857 revolt the first war of independence in his book, The Indian War of Independence 1857. Most historians, especially from the west, described the revolt as Sepoy Mutiny or The Indian Rebellion. Some South Indian historians have argued that there were several revolts that preceded the 1857 revolt. They believe that Vellore mutiny, which dates back to 1806, was the first war of independence. When the Indian postal department issued a postal stamp to commemorate the Vellore mutiny, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi said: “It is due recognition to India’s first war of independence.”
Savarkar in his book Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History advocated rape of Muslim women as a political tool for the subjugation of the Muslim community. He was of the view that it was a religious duty of every Muslim to kidnap non-Muslim women and forcefully convert them into Islam in order to increase their population. He said that Muslim women encouraged their male compatriots to commit atrocities against women. If this wasn’t enough, he even said that Muslim women abducted Hindu women and later on conveyed them to Masjids.
Savarkar wrote all this without providing any proof or citing a single incident of such kind. According to him, Shivaji Maharaj was wrong to send back the daughter-in-law of the Muslim governor of Kalyan, whom he defeated.
Many are calling Savarkar a secular leader. Let us first understand what secular means. According to the Oxford English dictionary, secularism is ‘the principle of separation of the state from religious institutions’.
Dr BR Ambedkar in his book Pakistan or Partition of India described Savarkar’s views on Jinnah’s two-nation theory as inconsistent and illogical. Dr Ambedkar quotes Savarkar’s speeches at the Hindu Mahasabha to bring the latter’s shift in goals as per his convenience.
Savarkar was a staunch critic of Pakistan and opposed its partition from India. He was of the view that Hindus and Muslims should live under one constitution of India which will be ‘predominantly’ Hindu. VD Savarkar’s idea of India was that it was an inclusive ‘Hindu Nation’ but with cultural autonomy to the Muslims. He even advocated a separate flag for the Muslims.
But on the other hand, Savarkar said that Hindus, in spite of having a thousand differences, are bound by such religious, cultural, historical, and other affinities that they stand out as a homogeneous people in contrast with any other non-Hindu people like the English, or the Indian Muslims. “That is the reason why today we the Hindus from Cashmere to Madras and Sindh to Assam will have to be a Nation by ourselves,” said Savarkar. Thereby accepting the fact that there are two nations.
The definition given by Savarkar describes a Hindu as one “who regards-and owns this Bharat Bhumi, this land from the Indus to the Seas, as his Fatherland as well as his Holy Land;—i.e., the land of the origin of his religion, the cradle of his faith.”
Dr Ambedkar points out that this definition of Hindu is carefully designed to exclude Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews but at the same time to include Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, etc., by not insisting upon belief in the sanctity of the Vedas as an element of the qualifications.
Savarkar’s concept of Swaraj advocated the change of the country’s name from India to Hindustan and Sanskrit to be ‘dev bhasha’ or sacred language and Hindi to be a national language. He said, “All Hindu languages today whether are either derived from Sanskrit or grafted on to it can only grow and flourish on the sap of life they imbibe from Sanskrit.”
When it comes to giving civilian rights, Savarkar said that Muslim minority has not obliged the Hindus by remaining in minority and therefore, they must remain satisfied with the status they occupy and with the legitimate share of civic and political rights that is their proportionate due.
For Savarkar, a Muslim vote deciding a Hindu candidate was a preposterous idea. “It would be simply preposterous to endow the Muslim minority with the right of exercising a practical veto on the legitimate rights and privileges of the majority and call it a Swarajya,” said Savarkar.
The term ‘Veer’ or gallant was bestowed upon Savarkar somewhere in the 1920s. The person who first called him veer was, supposedly B.B. Bhopatkar of the Marathi paper Bhala.
Savarkar was sent to Andaman’s Jail for aiding the murder of Nasik district Collector AMT Jackson. He was facing a two life term of 25 years each for supplying pistols to the revolutionary Anant Kanhere who fired at Jackson.
Savarkar was horrified by the structure and routine of the Cellular Jail when he reached Andamans. On arrival, he was put into solitary confinement for the first six months.
Savarkar’s cell was on the top floor, overlooking the gallows that could hang three prisoners at one go. Shamsul Islam, historian and former professor at Delhi University, writes in his book Hindutva: Savarkar Unmasked, “The prisoners condemned to death were hanged every month. The sight of the hangings must have got on his nerves, breaking him down.”
Islam further writes that Savarkar’s resolve to fight against the British rule was broken in the nine years and ten months he spent at the Cellular Jail. “The conditions in jail were indeed inhuman, but hardly any other freedom fighter in the Cellular Jail surrendered or submitted to the British [like Savarkar did],” said Islam.
Savarkar and his brother were released from Cellular Jail on May 2, 1921. He was then lodged in Yerwada Jail in Pune and was finally released on January 1924.
Some experts also say that it was Savarkar’s strategy to get out of prison in the times when political developments were taking place at a great pace. The experts are not wrong. Gandhi’s non-violent freedom struggle was gaining momentum and extremists were lacking behind.
But if Savarkar’s goal was to participate in the freedom struggle then why did his cooperation with the British continued even after coming out of jail? Savarkar abstained from participating in the Quit India movement in 1942. He also instructed the Hindu Mahasabha members who were working with the government to stick to their posts and not to go with the Congress, writes Prabhu Bapu in the Hindu Mahasabha in Colonial North India, 1915-1930.
Is the BJP unknown of the fact that Savarkar openly advocated rape? Does the BJP not know that Savarkar supported Britishers when the whole country was united during the non-cooperation movement in 1942?
The PM even equated Ambedkar and Savarkar to attack the Congress and said the Congress ignored them both. While it may be true for Dr Ambedkar but the same cannot be said for the other.
Indira Gandhi had called him a ‘remarkable son of India’. Even when Savarkar was acquitted from the charge of co-conspirator in the Mahatma Gandhi’s murder case, the then Jawaharlal Nehru Government didn’t appeal in court. Had the Congress been a staunch opponent of Savarkar or as PM said ignored him why would he be endorsed by Indira Gandhi? The stand has been recently made clear by former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
Congress has endorsed Savarkar, if not his extremists Hindutva ideology. On the other hand, the BJP which has its base as Hindutva continues to ignore the controversial past of the leader and portray him as an icon of freedom struggle. With elections in three states now and in Delhi and Bihar next year, politics in the name of Savarkar has just begun. It will be interesting to see if the political parties can garner votes in the name of Savarkar.
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