By Prof. Ram Puniyani
New Delhi: This 28th May 2020, Savarkar was in the news yet again. While the opposition parties in Karnatka opposed the naming of Yelahanka flyover in the name of Savarkar, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi while paying tribute to him said that Savarkar inspired many to join freedom struggle. The opposition to Just close to a year before, the Maharashtra BJP, while seeking votes had in its manifesto the point that Bharat Ratna be awarded to Savakar. Those opposing such moves see Savarakar as the communalist, who as the ideologue of Hindi nationalism had brought to fore the word Hindutva, defined Hindus and as also laid the theoretical formulation of two nation theory, which gave the ideological justification to Muslim League for demanding separate Pakistan.
While Savarkar had a communal mindset, as exemplified by his attack on a mosque as a boy, he is praised for two things. One is his book on 1857, calling it first war of Independence. And second his opposition to British rule in the pre-Andman days. During this time he even refused to take the Bar-At-Law degree, as it required one to take oath of loyalty to the British Empire. Also he was part of anti British activities, as a part of which he was imprisoned for 50 years in Andman’s cellular jail. Quite a hardship. Of course he was not the lone prisoner there, most of the prisoners there bore the cruel atrocities of the jail. IT was Savarkar, who chose to send mercy petitions to the British Authorities. In these petitions he not only apologised his past actions, but also promised to support the empire in what ever way British think it fit.
Sarakar followers justify this act of apologising by comparing it to shrewdness of Shivaji. The fact is that after release from Andman jail, he remained totally loyal to British, getting a hefty pension of Rs 60 per month from them. Savarkar had already sown the seeds of weakening the freedom struggle by putting forward his ideology of Hindu nationalism. As per him India has two nations, a Hindu and Muslim. He went on to define Hindu as one who regards this land as his fatherland and holy land. He brought to fore the word Hindutva. This word today is used as synonym to Hinduism, the religion. As per Savarkar Hindutva is whole Hinduness and the emphasis is on Aryan race and Brahmanical culture.
His followers forget that Savarkar never participated in the major anti-British movements. Contrary to what Modi says that he inspired people to participate in freedom struggle, in 1942, he issued instructions to Hindu Mahsabha followers to stick to their jobs-work and not do anything which will put British into inconvienence. He was instrumental in getting lakhs of Hindus into British army, in helping British war efforts. The interesting contrast with Subhash Bose is so obvious here. While their are also claims that it was Savarkat who adviced Bose to go and fomr army! The fact is that while Subhash Bose fighting British by forming INA (Azad Hindu Fauz) Savarkar got people recruited for British army.
The contrast with Bhagat Singh is another noticeable point. Savarkar in his mercy petition asks for pardon and offers to collaborate with British. Bhagat Singh writes to British that since he is opposed to British rule, a rebel, he should be killed by a firing squad, not hung!
Partition of India
Today there are Hindu nationalists who blame Muslims and Gandhi for the partition of India. The fact is Hindu Mahasabha collaborated with Muslim League in forming ministeries in Bengal, Sindh and NWFP, when Congress was leading Quit India movement. Interstingly when HMS was part of coalition ministry with Muslim League in Singh, they passed a resolution supporting the formation of Pakistan. British could not have better collabotators in diving the country than Muslim League and Hindu Mahasab
Those eulogising him focus on the first part of his life, pre-Andman. Partly that is true but he was communal even at that time as he saw the 1857 as collaobration of Hindus and Muslims against Christians and not an anti colonial revolt based on peasants. While RSS takes off its Nationalism from Savarkar and regards him as the father of Hindu nationalism, there are some differences between Savarkar and RSS. Savarkar was an atheist and rationalist, and was opposed to regarding Cow as Holy animal, he called it as useful animal. Also he was more focussed on political instance.
Caste, gender hierarchy
While he upheld the Hindu scriptures which are based on caste and gender hierarchy, he was very critical of Buddhism and non violence. As per him this creed of non violence made India week. In his writing he gives a clear patriarchal view which is the foundation of communal politics. While discussing Shivaji’s returning of the daughter in law of Kalyanm brought to him as a gift by his army, Savarkar is critical of Shivaji’s policy. As per him the revenge of Hindu women being dishonoured by Muslims was needed.
His role in Gandhi murder has been studied from various angels. He was tried for this and was exonerated for the lack of corroborative evidence. Sardar Patel was clear that the murder has been done by the radical wing of Hindu Mahasabha.
Since last couple of decades the effort is on to glorify Savarkar. His portrait adorns the Parliament. Whether India needs such icons is the question. For Hindu nationalist, he is the icon. For Indian nationalists, his pre Andman life were anti British, and he never identified with the Indian nationalism or the struggle for secular, democratic India. Hindu nationalists highlight his anti British role of that phase and want to give him different credits, which he does not deserve. He was communal to the core, he did collaborate with British for most parts of his life and along with the Muslim League’s poltics, provided the logic of partion of India, which was the goal and objective of British, who were pursuing the policy of divde and rule.