Collaborator Savarkar versus Freedom Fighter Bose

Savarkar betrays Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose by collaborating with the British to recruit soldiers to the British Army which in turn are used to pulverize the Indian National Army in the north east

Three favourite icons sought to be appropriated by proponents of the Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation, the Hindutvawaadis) are Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh. Shamsul Islam’s research reveals however that this appropriation is problematic. Bose, attempted to organise a military campaign to force the British out of India. This cause was betrayed by the Hindu Mahasabha under the leadership of Savarkar who also happened to be a mentor of the RSS. There is a mine of contemporary documents available to show that while the Netaji during World War II was trying to secure foreign support for liberation of the country and trying to organise a military attack on the northeast of the country with the help of   ‘Azad Hind Fauj’ (Indian National Army), it was Savarkar who offered full military co-operation to the British masters.
Coming close on the heels of prime minister, Narendra Modi’s move to de-classify 100 files related to Netaji Bose’s life and struggle, these revelations could pose a severe embarrassment to the government. The history of the Hindutvawaadi rightwing is replete with documents establishing its collaborations with British rule.

A close reading of the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS publications and documents of that period exposes this shocking duplicity. Savarkar while addressing 23rd session of Hindu Mahasabha at Bhagalpur in 1941 had said:
“The second most important and urgent item on which the Hindu Sanghatanists [Hindu Mahasabhaits] all over India must bend all their energies and activities is the programme for the militarisation of Hindus. The war which has now reached our shores directly constitutes at once a danger and an opportunity which both render it imperative that the militarisation movement must be intensified and every branch of the Hindu Mahasabha in every town and village must actively engage itself in rousing the Hindu people to join the army, navy, the aerial forces and the different war-craft manufactories.”1
The extent to which Savarkar, the Hindutva icon, was willing to help the British would be clear by the following words of his:
“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. Consequently, whether we like it or not, we shall have to defend our own hearth and home against the ravages of the war and this can only be done by intensifying the government’s war effort to defend India. 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.”2

Savarkar’s total support to the British war efforts when leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose were trying to chalk out a strategy to throw out the British rule from India through armed struggle was the result of a well-thought-out Hindutva design.
Savarkar called upon Hindus “to flood the [British] army, the navy and the aerial forces with millions of Hindu warriors with Hindu Sanghatanist hearts” and assured them that if they,
“stick to this immediate programme and take advantage to the fullest extent possible of the war situation with the Hindu Sanghatanists ideal full in view, pressing on the movement for the militarization of the Hindu race, then our Hindu nation is bound to emerge far more powerful, consolidated and situated in an incomparably more advantageous position to face issues after the war— whether it be an internal anti-Hindu Civil War or a constitutional crisis or an armed revolution.”3
While continuing his address at Bhagalpur, Savarkar once again stressed upon the Hindus of India to join war efforts of the British government. He categorically stated:
“Whatever, again, be the position and the fate of nations after the war, today under the present circumstances taking all things together, the only feasible and relatively beneficial attitude which the Hindu Sanghatanists can take up is doubtless to ally ourselves actively with the British government on the point of Indian Defence, provided always that we can do so without being compelled to betray the Hindu cause.”4
The following concluding words of his Bhagalpur address made it clear that, in Savarkar’s view, sub-serving the British war efforts would herald a great future for the country:
“If ever the saying was true that the darkest hour of the night is nearer the golden rise of the morn, it holds good today. The war that has approached our shores from the East and may threaten us in due course even from the West is a danger which may prove unparalleled in its magnitude, ravages and results. But it is also bound to break into a new day for the world and there are no signs wanting to show us that not only a newer but a better Order [sic] may ensure out of this world chaos. Those who have lost all may gain much in the end. Let us also bide our time and pray and act for the best.”5

Savarkar’s total support to the British war efforts when leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose were trying to chalk out a strategy to throw out the British rule from India through armed struggle was the result of a well-thought-out Hindutva design. It was in Madura (22nd session of the Hindu Mahasabha, 1940) that he made his choice clear. His support to the British rested on the logic that “it is altogether improbable that England will be defeated in this war, so disastrously as to get compelled to hand over her Indian Empire, lock, stock and barrel into German hands”6 thus believing in the invincibility of the British Empire.
His presidential address at Madura is a living testimony to his unabashed support to British imperialistic designs. He out-rightly rejected Netaji’s plan to liberate India. He declared:
“Not only on moral grounds but on the grounds of practical politics we are compelled not to concern ourselves on behalf of the Hindu Mahasabha organisation with any programme involving any armed resistance, under the present circumstances.”7
There was absolutely no ambiguity in his support to British military designs. He presented a strange alibi in order to justify the unashamed support to the colonial masters. According to his logic,
“Thus after taking stock of all other courses and factors for and against us, I feel no hesitation in proposing that the best way of utilising the opportunities which the war has afforded to us cannot be any other than to participate in all war efforts which the [British] government are compelled by circumstances to put forth in so far as they help in bringing about the militarization and industrialization of our people.”8
When the British government in the wake of the World War II decided to raise new battalions of its armed forces, it was the Hindu Mahasabha under direct command of Savarkar which decided to enroll Hindus in a big way in this venture. This is what Savarkar reported to the delegates at the Hindu Mahasabha session at Madura:
“Naturally, the Hindu Mahasabha with a true insight into a practical politics decided to participate in all war efforts of the British government in so far as they concerned directly with the question of the Indian defence and raising new military forces in India.”9
It was not as if Savarkar was unaware of the strong resentment which was brewing in the ranks of common Indians against such an approach. He brushed aside any criticism of the Hindu Mahasabha’s decision of co-operating with the British in war efforts as,
“political folly into which the Indian public is accustomed to indulge in thinking that because Indian interests are opposed to the British interests in general, any step in which we join hands with the British government must necessarily be an act of surrender, anti-national, of playing into the British hands and that co-operation with the British government in any case and under all circumstances is unpatriotic and condemnable.”10
If on the one hand, Bose was working on the military strategies to enlist the help of the German and Japanese forces to liberate India, on the other hand, Savarkar was busy in directly assisting the British colonial masters. This amounted to the betrayal of the cause espoused by Netaji. Savarkar and Hindu Mahasabha openly stood with the British government which later was able to kill and maim thousands of soldiers who formed the brave cadres of the Indian National Army (INA). While eulogising the British masters, Savarkar told his followers at Madura that due to the ever-advancing forces of Japan with a declared objective of freeing Asia from European influence, the British government needed Indians in large numbers in its armed forces which must be helped. While praising the British war strategy, he said:
“The British statesmanship, far sighted as it usually is, realised this also that if ever war broke out with Japan, India itself must be the centre of gravity of all war preparations…chances are that an army with the strength of a couple of millions shall have to be raised, manned by Indians under Indian officers as rapidly as Japan succeeds in advancing near our Frontiers.”11

Coming close on the heels of prime minister, Narendra Modi’s move to de-classify 100 files related to Netaji Bose’s life and struggle, these revelations could pose a severe embarrassment to the government. The history of the Hindutvawaadi rightwing is replete with documents establishing its collaborations with British rule.

Savarkar spent the next few years in organizing recruitment camps for the British armed forces. History records how these same recruitment camps were the instruments through which a large number of brave soldiers of the Indian National Army (INA) were killed and maimed in different parts of North-East later. The Madura conference of Hindu Mahasabha concluded with the adoption of an ‘immediate programme’ which stressed that, “to secure entry for as many Hindus recruits as possible into army, navy and the air forces”.12 He also informed them that through the efforts of Hindu Mahasabha  alone, one lakh  Hindu’s were recruited in the British armed  forces in one year. 
Astonishingly, despite all these distinctly anti-national ideas and practices of Savarkar, there are people who continue declaring him as a great patriot. How clearly Savarkar and the Hindu Mahasabha rode the British bandwagon can be established by a glance into a pre-Independence publication of the Hindu Mahasabha. This book published in 1941, had rather a longish title Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s Whirlwind Propaganda: Extracts from the President’s Diary of his Propagandist Tours Interviews from December 1937 to October 1941 and was edited by A. S. Bhide, a close confidant of Savarkar himself. This book, as stated in the preface,
“was primarily meant to serve as an authoritative text and faithful guide to the propagandists, workers and leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha movement in particular and the Hindu public in general, enlightening the lines of practical application of the fundamental ideology of the Hindu Sangathan Movement to the various detailed questions and problems which the Hindus face today.”
It was mandatory for every unit of the Hindu Mahasabha to keep it as a help guide. This book is not only aimed at the political education of the cadres but also for articulating stands on different issues. This crucial fact should not be overlooked here. This ‘Hindutva Guide’ contained material written and spoken exclusively by Savarkar. The excerpts from the book show the real face of Hindutva which stood as a stooge of the British under the leadership of Savarkar. Savarkarites have often complained that ‘pseudo-secularists’ after independence conspired to sideline Savarkar, who in the Hindutva brigade’s opinion was a great thinker and nationalist.  The contents of this book establish the contrary. According to documents available in this book, Savarkar, while emphasising the need to join the British war efforts, gave the following directions to the Hindu Mahasabha cadres:
“Turn this inevitable co-operation with the British as profitable to your own country as it is possible under our present circumstances to do. Because let it not be forgotten that those who fancy that they can claim of not having co-operated with the government and helped the war-efforts either on account of the demoralising and hypocritical fad of absolute non-violence and non-resistance even in face of an armed aggression or as a matter of policy simply because they do not join the fighting forces, are but indulging in self-deception and self-complacency.”13 [Underlined as in the original text.]
His call to the Hindus had no ambiguity: “Let the Hindus therefore come forward now and enter the army, the navy and the air-forces, the ordnance and other war-crafts factories in their thousands and millions.”14 The Hindu Mahasabha under Savarkar’s leadership organised high-level Boards in different regions of the country to help the Hindus seeking recruitment in the British armed forces. The following words of Savarkarestablish that these Boards were in direct contact with the British government. Savarkar informed the Hindus,
To deal with the difficulties and the grievances which the Hindu recruits to the Army find from time to time, a Central Northern Hindu Militarization Board has been formed by the Hindu Mahasabha at Delhi with Mr. Ganpat Rai, B.A., L.L.B Advocate, 51, Panchkuin Road, New Delhi, as convener. A Central Southern Hindu Militarization Board is also formed under the Chairmanship or Mr. L.B. Bhopatkar, M.A., LL.B., President Maharashtra Provincial Hindusabha, Sadashiv Peth Poona. All complaints or applications for information etc. should be addressed by those Hindus who want to enter the forces or have already enlisted themselves in them, to the above addresses. Sir Jwala Prasad Shrivastav; Barrister Jamnadasji Mehta, Bombay; Mr. V.V. Kalikar, M.L.C., Nagpur and other members on the National Defence Council or the Advisory War Committee will certainly try their best to get these difficulties removed so far as possible when they are forwarded by these Militarization Boards on to them.”15

This clearly shows that the British Government had accommodated leaders of the Hindu Mahasabha on its official war committees. Those who revere Savarkar as a great patriot and freedom fighter, the following instruction from Savarkar to those Hindus who were to join the British forces, are revelatory:
“One point however must be noted in this connection as emphatically as possible in our own interest that those Hindus who join the Indian [read the British] Forces should be perfectly amenable and obedient to the military discipline and order which may prevail there provided always that the latter do not deliberately aim to humiliate Hindu Honour.”16
For Savarkar, clearly, joining the armed forces of the colonial masters was in itself no hardship nor a great humiliation. Bhide’s book also tells us that he alone drafted the following resolution titled ‘Maha Sabha and the Great War’ which read:
“As the task of defending India from any military attack is of common concern to the British government as well as ourselves and as we are unfortunately not in a position today to carry out that responsibility unaided, there is ample room for whole-hearted co-operation between India and England.”17
World War II was also the period when different groups of revolutionaries including Subhash Chandra Bose were trying to secure help from countries like the USSR. In this context there os evidence that Savarkar is instead advising the British masters to beware of such dangers. We also find him offering total support to the British in this venture, unabashedly. His main aim seemed to eliminate Muslims and not the British rule. How he twisted facts to serve his anti-Muslim rhetoric will be clear from the following words of his:
The probable entry of Russia in the war against England may threaten India with a far more serious danger of an invasion through Afghanisthan [sic]. The treacherous conduct of a very large section of the Moslems in India in the Khilaphat (sic) agitation during the last Great War in 1914 has taught us a lesson never to be forgotten as it is almost sure to be repeated in any future attack on India on the North Western Frontier by any alien power. The tribesmen and the Moslem forces throughout Punjab, Sindh etc. are very likely to betray the Hindus and rise en masse in pursuance of the pan-Islamic designs to carve out an independent Moslem State or Federation stretching out from Baluchisthan–to Kashmir–to Delhi. In view of the attitude of many a responsible Moslem Organisation in India as revealed by their resolutions passed in their open sessions betraying their extra territorial sympathies it would be nothing short of a suicidal and purblind step on the part of the Hindus to make light of this serious danger threatening them. Under such an emergency they will have to ally themselves with the British forces in the common objective to avert this National calamity.”18
A. S. Bhide’s book containing the authentic official Hindu Mahasabha position on different issues brings out a fact repeatedly that the British military recruitment agencies were in direct contact with Savarkar and Hindu Mahasabha. Savarkar informed the Hindu Mahasabha cadres about this welcome development in the following words:
“The recruiting commissioners and officers for example in Bombay Presidency are actually establishing a contact with Hindu Militarization Boards started by the Hindu Mahasabha and trying to help to some extent at any rate to enable Hindu candidates to enter the navy, secure commissions and in training in the aerial, naval and land forces. The Bevin scheme is actually working and Hindu mechanics in larger proportion are getting into it.”19
His precise advice to Hindus in Sind (now in Pakistan) was to join the British armed forces. He also shared with them the information that he was in contact even with the Viceroy on this issue. Providing minute details he said:
“Let the Hindus in Sindh [sic] enter the army, the navy and the air forces in as large a number as they find practicable…If anyone wants any definite information regarding the rules or address, let him write to Dr. N. D. Savarkar, Hindu Militarization Board, Dadar Hindusabha office, Lady Jameshetji Road, Dadar Bombay, 14 Or to Syt. Shivrampant Damle, Secretary Maharashtra Mandal, Poona 2. These two centres have already succeeded in securing entry into the navy, air-forces and the army in cases of several patriotic Hindus youths and have also secured the Vice regal and the King’s Commissions for able and talented Hindus.20
Savarkar used the occasion of his 59th birthday also for promoting Hindu Mahasabha’s call for large-scale Hindu recruitment to the British military forces. In his birthday message, he called upon every,
“Hindu who is capable to put in military service, join the land forces and the air forces or secure entry into the ammunition factories and such other manufacturing workshops in connection with war crafts.”21
Bhide’s book also informs that a senior leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, Sir Jawala Prasad Shrivastav, on the instruction of Savarkar, met the Commander-in-Chief of the British armed forces in May, 1941. According to the records available in the Hindu Mahasabha archives, the press note released by the Hindu Mahasabha after this meeting was titled ‘His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief & Shri Jwala Prasad’ and read as follows:
“As announced previously, the interview between Sir Jwala Prasad Shrivastav and His Excellency the Commander-in-chief took place at Delhi Sir Jwala Prasad represented the view point of the Hindu Mahasabha under instructions of Veer Savarkarji, the president of the Hindu Mahasabha in connection with the general political and military policy and the special difficulties which confronted the Hindus in the army, the navy and the air-forces. His Excellency gave a very sympathetic hearing and promised to do all he could to remove Hindu grievances regarding military service and expressed his grateful appreciation of the lead given by Barrister Savarkar in exhorting the Hindus to join the forces of the land with a view to defend India from enemy attacks.”22
The British Government was in regular touch with Savarkar so far as the organisation of its highest war bodies was concerned. It included individuals whose names were proposed by Savarkar. This is made clear from the following thanksgiving telegram Savarkar sent to the British government. Bhide’s volume tells us that,
“The following Telegram was sent by Barrister V.D. Savarkar [sic], the President of the Hindu Mahasabha to (1) General Wavell, the Commander in-Chief; and (2) the Viceroy of India on the 18th instant (July 18, 1941).
It is important to note here that even Muslim League, sub-serving the interests of the British rulers, refused to align in these war efforts or join Defence Committees established by the government. Moreover, it is to be noted that the Congress had declared this War as an imperialist war like other patriotic Muslim organizations namely Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind, Momin Conference, Ahrars, Ahle Hadis and the Shia Political Conference. Their slogan ‘not a brother, not a penny’, against the War became a popular slogan.
That Savarkar was also involved in secret parleys with the British Government is made clear from the following passage in Bhide’s book which reports that he met the viceroy in Simla on July 5, 1940:
“(Viceregal Interview) Veer Savarkar, President of the Hindu Mahasabha after his return from H.E. the Viceroy was surrounded by group of Press representatives to know the details of his interview. Veer Savarkar informed them that he agreed with H.E. the Viceroy that the talk of the interview was to be kept absolutely confidential.”24
Savarkar was not willing to share information about whatever transpired in the meeting with anyone, not even with his followers. This also becomes clear from the following description in the book:
“After interviewing H.E. the Viceroy on Friday the 5th of July, 1940 Bar. V.D.Savarkar, the President of the Hindu Maha Sabha was pressed by Simla public reception programme.  But important political interviews left him no time. Only a programme of five minutes ‘Darshan’ was arranged on his way to station.”25 [As per the original text]
Bhide’s Diary also discloses the fact that Savarkar was often invited to many boudhik shivir (intellectual camps) of the RSS for “Advising the students to join Military forces [The British]”.26
The Modi government has recently put 100 hitherto secret Netaji files in in public domain. Those sections, including the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other sections of the Sangh Parivar, who proudly see themselves as part of the Hindutva heritage and treat ‘Veer’ Savarkar as their hero, will not be happy with these revelations, well-documented as they are. The collaborative role played by the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra, who acted as stooges of the British, be it the Hindu Mahasabha or the RSS, is a critical part of Indian history, that sullies the history of India’s liberation struggle against British colonial rule. Contextualising their role is critical today especially as they target sections of Indians with the manipulated label of ‘nationalism.’ Indian nationalism, as demonstrated in the inclusive struggle against British repression and colonial rule, evolved as both pluralistic, syncretic and inclusive. The narrow and exclusivist definitions of the nation as propounded by the Sangh parivar has no root in the over century old struggle against colonial masters. This history needs to be recalled and remembered in the India of today.
1    Cited in Savarkar, V. D., Samagra Savarkar Wangmaya:Hindu Rashtra Darshan, vol. 6, Maharashtra Prantik Hindusabha, Poona, 1963, p. 460-461.
      Ibid, p. 460.
3    Ibid, p. 461.
4    Ibid.
5    Ibid, pp. 461-462.
6    Ibid., p. 419.
7    Ibid, p. 421
8    Ibid., p. 427.
9    Ibid., p. 428.
10  Ibid, pp. 428-429
11  Ibid., p. 435.
12  Ibid., p. 439.
13  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. xxiv.
14  Ibid., p.xxvi.
15  Ibid, p. xxvii.
16  Ibid, p. xxviii.
17  Ibid., pp.153-154.
18  Ibid, pp. 149-50.
19  Ibid, p. 354.
20  Ibid, p. 398.
21  Ibid, p. 414.
22  Ibid, p. 418.
23  Ibid, p. 451.
24  Ibid, pp. 625-626.
25  Ibid, p. 626.
26. A. S. Bhide, 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. 219-20.
[For complete study of VD Savarkar’s pro-Casteism, pro-Imperialism, pro-Racism, pro-Totalitarianism & anti-Indian Freedom Movement views and deeds see HINDUTVA: SAVARKAR UNMASKED published by Media House.]
(The author taught political science at the University of Delhi. As an author, columnist and dramatist he has been writing against religious bigotry, dehumanization, totalitarianism, persecution of
women, Dalits and minorities.)




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