Savarkar – a name shrouded by mystery and clouded by misconceptions. A person who is still an enigma for even those who critique him. A son of Bharat mata, who dedicated his entire life for her and is now subjected only to controversies and suspicions. My sincere effort today is to clear some of the misconceptions related to his life.
Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was born on 28th May 1883 in a small village of Bhagur, near Nashik in Maharashtra. Orphaned at an young age, he was raised by his elder brother and sister in law. Affected by the plight of nation, at an tender age of 8 years, he vowed before Devi Bhavani to dedicate his entire life for the freedom and betterment of his country. Since that day till the age of 82 every second of his life, every thought in his mind was committed to his beloved Bharat mata.
At an early age of 15 years, he started ‘Mitra Mela’ – an organisation of students with nationalistic interest. When Motilal Nehru led Congress was demanding petty concession such as right to vote, or representation, 15 year old Vinayak proclaimed in a Mitra Mela meeting the demand of ‘Poorna Swaraj’. In his speech in that event he stated that the British are his enemies not just because of their nationality but because no human has right to withdraw the basic right of freedom from another human being. He didn’t stop at this and further stated that the day British free his country, their enemity will end and if in future someone tries to enslave the Britishers, he would be the first person to fight for their freedom. The essence of this speech is also reflected in his disciple Madanlal Dhingra’s speech during his trial for killing William Hunt Curzon Wyllie where he stated that “..as the Germans have no right to occupy England, in the similar fashion England had no right to occupy India…”.
Dhingra was one of the many revolutionaries forged by Savarkar in his organistion named Abhinav Bharat Mandal, based in London. He believed in active resistance to the British Imperialism.
He was sentenced to double life imprisonment by the British Empire and was banished to Andaman Island. While being transported to Andaman by a ship, he jumped through the porthole of ship, and swam across entire ocean to Marseilles in France amidst gunfire from the guards on the ship. Unfortunately he was captured and brought to the cellular jail of Andaman islands. The place could be best described as living hell. The prisoners were tied to yolks and were forced to rotate the oil press, chop trees, live in the smallest possible cubicle with no windows, eat inedible food and weren’t allowed to rest. Although his elder brother was housed in the same prison, the two brothers couldn’t even see each other for a long period of time and had no physical interactions during all years of captive. Worried about the freedom struggle raging in India, Savarkar wrote mercy petitions to the Government. Although these are seen as his weakness and often used to target him, they actually were similar to mercy pleas written by Shivaji Maharaj to Aurangzeb during his house arrest in Agra. A true follower of Chhatrapati, he used the same tactics as him in order to achieve freedom and continue his task.
After he was kept in House arrest in Ratnagiri, he shifted his focus towards removing social inequality. This was similar to Shivaji Maharaj who sought truce with Aurangzeb for four years after his escape from Agra in order to administer his kingdom peacefully.
During the period Savarkar was bound in Ratnagiri, he started various movements to eradicate untouchability prevalent in the society. He actively took part in establishment of Patit Pawan Mandir in Ratnagiri, a temple free for all Hindus, irrespective of their castes. The Praan Pratishthapan Vidhi of Lakshmi Narayan Idols was conducted by the hands of a person belonging to the so called low caste. This revolutionary ceremony was attended by various Hindu seers, including Shankaracharya himself who blessed the temple for its uniqueness and urged people to establish more such temples. Sadly the anti-untouchability movement adopted a vehement anti-Hindu stand and establishment of second Patit Pawan Mandir is still unheard of. ‘
Amongst his other social reforms were organising ‘Sahabhojan’ a community meal where people from all caste sit together and eat. He organised mass scale ‘Haldi-Kunku’ for women of all caste and recieved a massive response. The strong anti-Hindu and anti-Bramhin sentiments have prohibited these works of Savarkar getting popular in mainstream.
Although declared as communal, Savarkar’s work reflect his pure secular nature. He spoke against the superstitious views of all religions equally without hesitation. He was a rationalist, who had tremendous belief in science. He stated “.. विज्ञान हा राष्ट्राचा वेद असला पाहिजे.. “which when translated means that Science should be the backbone of India. He urged people to update themselves with current affairs and think rationally in all aspects of life. The reason he was branded communal was that he did not hesitate to bash the irrationalities in Abrahamic religions along with his own.
A staunch opposer of Gandhi, he urged people not to participate in non-cooperation movement and asked them to join military during second WW. His stance was widely criticised and misunderstood but when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose formed Indian National Army from the Indian war prisoners, his critics had to swallow back their words. His statements are always misinterpreted and the motive behind them is never discussed. A man of profound intellect and far sightedness, he never made a statement without judging it’s implications. His poems such as ‘Jayostute'(जयोस्तुते)or ‘Sagara Pran Talamalala'(सागरा प्राण तळमळला) are sheer testimonials to his patriotism.
We, the people who call ourselves rational thinkers should not fall prey to propaganda without investigating the actual facts. This was one of the major teachings of Savarkar. One his 53rd death anniversary I pay my respects to an exemplary patriot, a gifted poet, a rational thinker and social reformer.
(The Article was first published on 26th February 2019 and has been republished on the eve of Independence Day)