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Veer Savarkar- The often misunderstood hero

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Veer Savarkar is often referred to as the most misunderstood hero of modern Indian History. Several followers of the Nehru-Gandhi family have spread various misconceptions about this great personality, doing injustice to his legendary work.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, given the prefix ‘veer’ (brave), was an Indian freedom fighter and pioneer of the Hindutva ideology. He was born on 28 May, 1883 at Bhagur, Maharashtra and served as President of Hindu Mahasabha during the Second World War. 

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, given the prefix ‘veer’ (brave), was an Indian freedom fighter and pioneer of the Hindutva ideology. He was born on 28 May, 1883 at Bhagur, Maharashtra and served as President of Hindu Mahasabha during the Second World War.

According to several historians, Veer Savarkar played an active role in protecting his locality during Hindu-Muslim riots that had erupted in Bhagur. In 1894, a pig had been cut and thrown in a local mosque at Bhagur, which enraged the Muslims; who in turn slaughtered two cows in a temple. These incidents escalated local communal tensions, and subsequently led to full-blown riots in the town.

At that time, Savarkar was merely 11 or 12. He used to witness Muslim mobs attacking Hindu localities, and often wondered why the Hindu society was so disunited. On one such school day, Savarkar formed a group of local boys his age and decided to raid a local mosque as retaliation. The boys unanimously agreed to participate in the raid, since they too were angry with attacks on Hindu temples. They managed to destroy parts of the mosque and escaped without being caught.

In 1904, Veer Savarkar and Ganesh Savarkar founded ‘Abhinav Bharat Society’ in Nashik, Maharashtra. The Abhinav Bharat Society was a secret society based in Maharashtra that planned and executed assassinations of various British officials in the region- the most controversial being A.M.T Jackson, Magistrate of Nashik District murdered in 1910.

In 1909, Veer Savarkar had organised armed revolts in Britain (where he studied law) against the Morley-Minto reforms, which provided separate electorates for Muslims and other minorities in India. He vehemently criticised such proposals, since he believed that democracy shouldn’t be butchered with so many separate electorates. After organising the revolts, he escaped to Madame Cama’s home in Paris in a hope to evade arrest- which failed and he was arrested by the police on 13 May 1910.

While being extracted from Britain to India in 1911 on SS Morea, Savarkar jumped off the ship and swam to the nearby French territory, where he expected his friend to pick him up and help him escape from the British authorities. The plan failed when his friend arrived late, and he was re-captured by the British police.

Upon his arrival in India, he was lodged in Yervada Central Jail in Pune while his trial proceeded before the special tribunal. Due to his crimes being considered ‘grave’, with the murder of Nashik collector Jackson and waging a conspiracy under Indian penal code 121-A against the King emperor of United Kingdom, he was awarded 50 years of imprisonment in the infamous Cellular Jails of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The conditions of the cellular jails were pathetic, with gross human rights’ violations, physical and mental torture. Many misconceptions about Savarkar begin from here;

Misconception #1: Savarkar advocated rape as a political tool

Many critics of Savarkar have alleged that he advocated raping of women from the Muslim community. Not only is this lie half-baked, it defames the legendary hero who spent half his life in prison. They generally quote Savarkar’s book, ‘The Great Epochs of Indian History’:

“Even now we proudly refer to the noble acts of Chhatrapati Shivaji and Chimaji Appa, when they honourably sent back the daughter-in-law of the Muslim Governor of Kalyan and the wife of the Portuguese governor of Bassein respectively.

But is it not strange that, when they did so neither Shivaji Maharaj nor Chimaji Appa should ever remember, the atrocities and the rapes and the molestation, perpetrated by Mahmud of Ghazni, Muhammad Ghori, Alla-ud-din Khilji and others, on thousands of Hindu ladies and girls … 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?”

In the above quote, Savarkar simply showed the sharp contrasts between Hindu kings and Muslim invaders while treating women.

Savarkar further says in his book, “If they had taken such a fright in the first two or three centuries, millions and millions of luckless Hindu ladies would have been saved all their indignities, loss of their own religion, rapes, ravages and other unimaginable persecutions…”.

In the above quote from his book, Savarkar can be seen calling rape an “unimaginable persecution”.

Misconception #2- Savarkar was against Indian Independence

This misconception is usually spread by followers of the Congress Party. In 1942, Mahatma Gandhi had started the Quit India Movement to persuade the British to leave India. At this time, the world was split between the Axis and Allied powers with the Second World War being fought by the British government. Savarkar at that time told followers of Hindu Mahasabha serving in the army that they shouldn’t join the movement, and continue their service in the British military. This is often used by Nehru-Gandhi supporters to defame the freedom fighter.

Savarkar had given these instructions to his followers for 2 reasons; 1) He believed that the fight against the murderous Nazis and Japanese shouldn’t be affected by this movement, since he believed that it was a fight for humanity. 2) He was wary of Gandhi and the Congress due to their past blunders. In 1920, Gandhi had initiated the Non-cooperation movement which was merged with the Khilafat movement. The Khilafat movement involved protests against the British by Muslims due to sanctions applied on the Ottomon Emperor, who the Muslims considered as a religious head or Caliph; Veer Savarkar considered this dangerous since Gandhi was convincing Muslims that their allegiance should be with the Ottoman Empire, and not with India. During the Non-Cooperation movement in 1921, Malabar riots broke out where Hindus were rounded up and killed in Kerala after several participants of the Khilafat protests went rogue.

Misconception #3- Veer Savarkar joined hands with the British after his mercy petition

This has to be the most ridiculous allegation on Veer Savarkar, who spent half his life in jail for killing British officers and conspiring against the British crown. The conditions of Cellular Jails in Port Blair were horrifying, with physical and mental torture inflicted on inmates. The prisoners were treated worse than animals, and weren’t even given clean food and water. Nobody would have been able to survive such harsh punishment, and it’s very understandable why Veer Savarkar gave a mercy petition to the British. Any person would have done the same, if inflicted with the same torture.

Many left leaning magazines and newspapers have been spreading propaganda against the man who sacrificed most of his youth to see a free India. His sacrifices cannot be compared with leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi, since the situations they faced were completely different.

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