India’s Hon’ble PM Modi did inaugurate the new complex of Indian Parliament on May 28, 2023 which is also the 140th birth anniversary of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who is described as a ‘great son of India’ and ‘Veer’ [gallant/fearless] by RSS-BJP leadership. Obviously, the new Parliament complex – built under the direct supervision of PM Modi and his chosen few – will be dedicated to Savarkar. It is a horrendous and shameful decision in many respects. Dedication to Savarkar implies rejection of the whole idea of an egalitarian, democratic and secular India rooted in Social Justice which came into being on August 15, 1947 and, with its historic Constitution, became a sovereign Republic on January 26, 1950. Honouring Savarkar amounts to dishonouring the thousands of martyrs and other participants of the historic Indian freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi against British imperialism.
Hence, let us know the truth as told by Savarkar himself or recorded in the Savarkar-led Hindu Mahasabha archives.
Savarkar’s Hatred for the Tricolour Flag of India
Savarkar, like the RSS, abhorred every symbol of the Indian people’s united struggle against British rule. In a circular issued on September 22, 1941 to be followed by the Hindu Mahasabha cadres, he declared,
“So far as the flag question is concerned, the Hindus know no flag representing Hindudom as a whole other than the ‘Kundalini Kripanankit’ Mahasabha flag with the ‘Om and the Swastik’ the most ancient symbols of the Hindu race and policy coming down from age to age and honoured throughout Hindusthan…Therefore, any place or function where this Pan-Hindu flag is not honoured should be boycotted by the Hindu Sanghatanists at any rate…The Charkha-Flag [before the present national flag spinning-wheel used to be at the centre of the Tricolour] in particular may very well represent a Khadi-Bhandar, but the Charkha can never symbolize and represent the spirit of the proud and ancient nation like the Hindus.”
[Bhide, A. S. (ed.), Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s Whirlwind Propaganda: Extracts from the President’s Diary of his Propagandist Tours Interviews from December 1937 to October 1941, na, Bombay, 1940, p. 470-73.]
Savarkar preceded Jinnah in propounding the two-nation theory
Muslim league under M.A. Jinnah demanded Pakistan in March 1940. Long before it, Savarkar had laid down his two-nation theory. Savarkar became the President of Hindu Mahasabha [HM] in 1937. While addressing the 19th Session of Hindu Mahasabha at Ahmedabad in the same year he stated:
“As it is, there are two antagonistic nations living side by side in India, several infantile politicians commit the serious mistake in supposing that India is already welded into a harmonious nation, or that it could be welded thus for the mere wish to do so…India cannot be assumed today to be a Unitarian and homogenous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main: the Hindus and the Moslems, in India.”[i]
[Samagra Savarkar Wangmaya:Hindu Rashtra Darshan (Collected works of Savarkar in English), Hindu Mahasabha, Pune, 1963, p. 296.]
This shameless collusion between Savarkar and Jinnah was described by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in the following words:
“Strange as it may appear, Mr. Savarkar and Mr. Jinnah instead of being opposed to each other on the one nation versus two nations issue are in complete agreement about it. Both not only agree, but insist that there are two nations in India – one the Muslim nation and the other Hindu nation.”
[Ambedkar, BR, Pakistan or the Partition of India, Government of Maharashtra, Bombay, (reprint of 1940 edition), p. 142.]
Hindu Mahasabha led by Savarkar declared unconditional support to the British government during Quit India Movement
The Quit India Movement began on August 9, 1942 as per Mahatma Gandhi’s call to ‘Do or Die’ in order to expel the British from India. The British rulers swiftly responded with mass detentions on August 8th itself. Over 100,000 arrests were made which included the entire top leadership of Congress including Gandhi; mass fines were levied and demonstrators were subjected to public flogging. Hundreds of civilians were killed in state-sponsored violence, many shot by the police and the army. Congress was banned. During these critical times of repression, Savarkar announced full support to the British rulers in line with the Muslim League.
Addressing the 24th session of the Hindu Mahasabha at Kanpur in 1942, Savarkar outlined the strategy of the Hindu Mahasabha of co-operating with the rulers in the following words:
“The Hindu Mahasabha holds that the leading principle of all practical politics is the policy of Responsive Co-operation [with the British].” He called upon HM councillors, ministers, legislators and conducting any municipal or any public bodies to offer “Responsive Co-operation which covers the whole gamut of patriotic activities from unconditional co-operation right up to active and even armed resistance…”
[V. D. Savarkar, Hindu Rashtra Darshan, Vol. 6, Maharashtra Prantik Hindusabha, Poona, 1963, p. 112.]
Savarkar led Hindu Mahasabha (HM) and formed coalition governments with Muslim League (ML) during Quit India Movement
Hindu Mahasabha (HM) and Jinnah-led Muslim League (ML) joined hands in running coalition governments in Bengal and Sind (and later in NWFP) in 1942. Defending this collusion between HM and ML against Congress, Savarkar stated,
“In practical politics also the Mahasabha knows that we must advance through reasonable compromises. Witness the fact that only recently in Sind, the Sind-Hindu-Sabha on invitation had taken the responsibility of joining hands with the League itself in running a coalition Government. The case of Bengal is well known. Leaguers whom even the Congress with all its submissiveness could not placate grew quite reasonably compromising and sociable [sic] as soon as they came in contact with the Hindu Mahasabha and the Coalition Government, under the premiership of Mr. Fazlul Huq and the able leadership of our esteemed Mahasabha leader Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerji, functioned successfully for a year or so to the benefit of both the communities.
[Samagra Savarkar Wangmaya:Hindu Rashtra Darshan (Collected works of Savarkar in English), Vol. 6, Hindu Mahasabha, Pune, 1963, pp. 479-80.]
It is to be noted that Mookerji was deputy premier and held the portfolio of suppressing Quit India Movement in Bengal!
Backstabbing Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose
When Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was planning to liberate India militarily, Savarkar offered full military co-operation to the British masters. Addressing 23rdsession of Hindu Mahasabha at Bhagalpur in 1941, he declared:
“Our best national interests demands that so far as India’s defence is concerned, Hindudom must ally unhesitatingly, in a spirit of responsive co-operation with the war effort of the Indian government in so far as it is consistent with the Hindu interests, by joining the Army, Navy and the Aerial forces in as large a number as possible and by securing an entry into all ordnance, ammunition and war craft factories…Again it must be noted that Japan’s entry into the war has exposed us directly and immediately to the attack by Britain’s enemies…Hindu Mahasabhaits must, therefore, rouse Hindus especially in the provinces of Bengal and Assam as effectively as possible to enter the military forces of all arms without losing a single minute.”
[Samagra Savarkar Wangmaya:Hindu Rashtra Darshan (Collected works of Savarkar in English), vol. 6, Hindu Mahasabha, Pune, 1963, p. 460.]
According to HM documents, Savarkar was able to inspire one lakh Hindus to join the ranks of the British armed forces.
Savarkar’s Mercy Petitions (MPs) were no ruse but instruments of abject surrender
Savarkar submitted minimum 5 mercy petitions [MPs] in 1911, 1913, 1914, 1918 and 1920. Savarkarites claim that these were submitted not as an act of cowardice but “as an ardent follower of Shivaji, Savarkar wanted to die in action. Finding this the only way, he wrote six letters to the British pleading for his release”. A perusal of the two available mercy petitions will prove that there cannot be a lie worse than the claim that Savarkar’s Mercy Petitions [MPs] were in league with the methods which the great Shivaji Maharaj used to hoodwink the Mughal rulers successfully. The mercy petition dated 14th November, 1913 ended with the following words:
“[Therefore] if the government in their manifold beneficence and mercy release me, I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress.…Moreover my conversion to the constitutional line would bring back all those misled young men in India and abroad who were once looking up to me as their guide. I am ready to serve the Government in any capacity they like, for as my conversion is conscientious so I hope my future conduct would be. By keeping me in jail nothing can be got in comparison to what would be otherwise. The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government?”
The mercy petition dated 30th March 1920 from this prodigal son of the British masters ended with the following words:
“The brilliant prospects of my early life all but too soon blighted, have constituted so painful a source of regret to me that a release would be a new birth and would touch my heart, sensitive and submissive, to kindness so deeply as to render me personally attached and politically useful in future. For often magnanimity wins even where might fails.”
[Available with the National Archives, Delhi.]
There was nothing wrong on the part of the Cellular Jail (Andaman & Nicobar Islands) detainees in writing mercy petitions to the British. It was an important legal right available to the prisoners. Apart from Savarkar, Barin Ghosh, HK Kanjilal, and Nand Gopal too submitted petitions. However, these were only Savarkar and Barin who sought forgiveness for their revolutionary past. Kanjilal and Nand Gopal did not demand any personal favour but status of political prisoners.
Savarkar secured remission of 37.5 years in his sentence of 50 years
Savarkar was incarcerated at Andamans on July 4, 1911 for two life terms [50 years]. On May 2, 1921 [after NINE years TEN months] he was transferred along with his elder brother, Babarao, to the mainland. He was finally released conditionally on January 6, 1924 [total imprisonment TWELVE years SIX months] from Yeravda Jail.
Savarkar as a worshipper of Manusmriti, Casteism and Patriarchy
Savarkar is glorified as a rationalist and crusader against Untouchability. Let us compare these claims with Savarkar’s beliefs and acts as recorded in the HM archives. While delivering presidential address to the 22nd session of Hindu Mahasabha at Madura, he declared Manu to be the lawgiver for Hindus and emphasized that once we “re-learn the manly lessons” which Manu taught “our Hindu nation shall prove again as unconquerable and a conquering race as we proved once”. [Samagra Savarkar Wangmaya: Hindu Rashtra Darshan (Collected works of Savarkar in English), Vol. 6, Hindu Mahasabha, Pune, 1963, p. 426.]
He declared Manusmriti to be “that scripture which is most worship-able after Vedas for our Hindu Nation …Today Manusmriti is Hindu law. That is fundamental”. [Savarkar, VD, ‘Women in Manusmriti’ in Savarkar Samagra (collection of writings of Savarkar in Hindi), Vol. 4, Prabhat, Delhi, p. 415.]
So far his crusade for Untouchables entry into Hindu temples was concerned he gave undertaking to Brahmins that “the Hindu Maha Sabha shall never force any legislations regarding the entry of untouchables in the ancient temples or compel by law any sacred ancient and moral usage or custom prevailing in those temples. In general the Mahasabha will not back up any Legislation to thrust the reforming views on our Sanatani brothers so far as personal law is concerned”.
[Bhide, A. S. (ed.), Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s Whirlwind Propaganda: Extracts from the President’s Diary of his Propagandist Tours Interviews from December 1937 to October 19411, na, Bombay, 1940, p. 425.]
Savarkar wanted Nepal King to rule India in case the British decided to leave India
Savarkar even preached that it was legitimate to have the King of Nepal as ‘Free Hindusthan’s Future Emperor’ if the British plan to leave India. His advice to the British rulers was very clear:
“If an academical [sic] probability is at all to be indulged in of all factors that count today, His Majesty the King of Nepal, the scion of the Shisodias [sic], alone has the best chance of winning the Imperial crown of India. Strange as it may seem, the English know it better than we Hindus do…It is not impossible that Nepal may even be called upon to control the destiny of India itself. Even Britain will feel it more graceful that the Sceptre [sic]of Indian Empire, if it ever slips out of her grip, should be handed over to an equal and independent ally of Britain like His Majesty the King of Nepal than to one who is but a vassal and a vanquished potentate of Britain like the Nizam.” [Italics as in the original]
[Bhide, AS, (ed.), Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s Whirlwind Propaganda: Extracts from the President’s Diary of his Propagandist Tours Interviews from December 1937 to October 1941, na, Bombay, 1940, pp. 256-57.]
Savarkar criticized Shivaji for not allowing molestation/rape of captured Muslim women
Savarkar was a great defender of molestation and rape as a political tool against the women of adversaries. In his important work of Hindu history, Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, originally written in Marathi and translated in English in 1971 he included a chapter titled ‘Perverted Conception of Virtues’ (Chapter VIII). He criticized Shivaji and Chimaji Appa for restoring back to the families of the women of defeated Muslim and Portuguese governors. Since Shivaji did not allow molestation of captured women Savarkar complained: “Did not the plaintive screams and pitiful lamentations of the millions of molested Hindu women, which reverberated throughout the length and breadth of the country, reach the ears of Shivaji Maharaj and Chimaji Appa?”
He went on to lament that “It was the suicidal Hindu idea of chivalry to women which saved the Muslim women (simply because they were women) from the heavy punishments of committing indescribable sins and crimes against the Hindu women. Their womanhood became their shield quite sufficient to protect them”.
[‘Perverted conception of virtues’ in V. D. Savarkar (tr. By S. T. Godbole), Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, Bal Savarkar India, Delhi, 1971, pp. 147-159.]
These irrefutable facts about Savarkar notwithstanding, the Hon’ble PM Modi is going to honour him on May 28, 2023 when he inaugurates the new Parliament Complex. This is bound to accelerate the dismantling of the Constitutional dream of democratic-secular India evolved under the leadership of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar along with the inspiring anti-Caste and anti-Patriarchy gains made during India’s historic renaissance of 19th and 20thCenturies in defiance of the Brahmanical hegemony of Varna Ashram through Chaturvarna as ordained in Rig Veda’s Purusha Suktam and later shaped as a Law in Manusmriti.
Undoubtedly, the aforesaid retrogressive message emerging from the inauguration of the New Parliament Complex on Savarkar’s 140th birth anniversary will act against the revolutionary struggle for social transformation for equality and social justice that the ancient Indian civilization has deeply engaged with since 6th and 5th Century B.C. respectively under the pioneering leadership, to name a few, of Gautam Buddha through Baudh Philosophy; Mahavir (24th Jain Tirthankar) through Jain Philosophy; Srimanta Sankardev (Assam); Basaveshwara (Karnataka); Pandit Iyothee Thass, Singaravelar and Periyar (Tamilnadu); Narayan Guru and Ayyankali (Kerala); Gurujada Apparao and Kundukuri Veersalingam (Andhra Pradesh); Sant Tukaram, Savitribai Phule, Fatima Sheikh and Mahatma Jotirao Phule, Shahuji Maharaj and Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (Maharashtra); Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekanand and Rokeya Begum (West Bengal); and Swami Dayanand Saraswati (Gujarat & Punjab); Sant Kabirdas & Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia (Uttar Pradesh); and the Great Sikh Gurus & Shaheed Bhagat Singh (Punjab). This retrogressive impact of Savarkar’s ideology is precisely what the RSS has been dreaming for since its inception in 1925 by promoting selective re-writing and distortion of the history of ancient, medieval and contemporary India. Yet, history shall never forgive us for the irreparable damage being done to India’s socio-cultural fabric by the grandiose event on May 28, 2023 scheduled on Savarkar’s 140th birth anniversary!
Researched & Authored (May 24, 2023) by Shamsul Islam, former Associate Professor of Political Science, Delhi University Edited & Epilogue (May 26, 2023) by Anil Sadgopal, Former Professor and Dean, Faculty of Education, Delhi University, & Former Member, CABE