Whenever there’s a discussion on Veer Savarkar’s legacy, followers of the left wing bring up the mercy petition drafted by the pioneer of Hindutva to the British government for pardoning/shortening his sentence.
What most Left Wing supporters fail to realise is that Veer Savarkar’s prison wasn’t a hotel styled luxurious “prison” which Nehru was sent to in his mid political career. In fact, there was a stark contrast between the prisons of the both the leaders.
The prisons of the Cellular Jail in Port Blair/Kaala Paani were indeed horrifying to say the least; from cramped prisons with multiple inmates, to torture inflicted by the wardens and prison authorities.
Surveillance was intended to be the key foundation at the jail which derived its name from the small, individual cells that housed prisoners. Each of the 693 cells were of 4.5 m x 2.7 m dimension, with a ventilator at a height of 3 m on the back wall.
The front corridor of each wing faced the back wall of its adjacent wing, so that prisoners could not communicate in any way at all. Of the three-pronged strategy of hunger, torture and isolation, it was the third that was intended to be the harshest punishment.
The inmates such as Veer Savarkar were treated horribly, food served to them was filled with dust and grass while the water given to them was unpurified rainwater. Inmates were forbidden from interacting with each other, and were whipped if found to be chatting.
Tedious work was given to the inmates, they weren’t allowed to sit from sunrise to sunset. Even protests were met with fiercely; in 1933 when prisoners decided to protest against the inhumane conditions of the prison, they were forced to drink milk during a hunger strike which lead to the death of two young men from Punjab.
Under such circumstances, it was inevitable to give in to the British authorities for some mercy. The walls of the jails echoed with the hair raising screams of the inmates it housed.
Savarkar, tired of such conditions, decided to draft a mercy petition to the British so that he could be spared from such treacherous attempts by the British government to punish political prisoners who had called for Swaraj.
Now, we should compare these conditions to that of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru who was given a luxurious cell all to himself with an armchair, desk, rocking chair, and window.
Nehru never faced the same cruelty which Savarkar faced. Being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he had family connections with the British authorities, and was friends with them; this spared him from most forms of cruelty.
The conditions faced by the two leaders dramatically differ, it’s not fair to compare their struggles simply because Veer Savarkar had faced a lot more resistance than what Nehru ever did.