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A fact-check on vile allegations against Savarkar: Are they true?

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Soumili Das
Soumili Das
Invested in politics, Hinduism, history of women in Hindu Civilization. Pursuing B. A.(Honors) in History.

In this article, I’m going to examine certain portions of Savarkar’s book, ‘Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History’, which allegedly have contents endorsing rape of Muslim women as a political tool. How true are these claims? Did Savarkar really say something erroneous? It can be understood only after examining the text.

Now, if I begin with a crisp summary of the seventh chapter (which is a part of the ‘Fifth Glorious Epoch’ in his book), then Savarkar outlines the Mohammedan atrocities unleashed on the Hindus and their temples, the reaction of the Kings, proselytising the non-believers and also, he had talked about the vices of the Hindu society at that time — like, the proselytised people weren’t welcomed back to the Hindu fold and were treated as aliens by their own brethren, being too much rigid on one’s caste, etc. If one reads the chapter, one can surely visualise Savarkar’s wrath on the invaders and the distaste he had for casteism, which was started by the then society as a social construction against the invasions, but later proved to be disastrous for the Hindus.

Before proceeding with his “allegedly” molestation-endorsing comments in the eighth chapter (it’s not the seventh chapter, as the question says), I would like to put this paragraph from the first sub-chapter of the eighth chapter :

429-430. Every Hindu seems to have been made to suck, along with his mother’s milk, this Nectar-like advice that religious tolerance is a virtue. But nobody ever explains to him the essence of that precept. If that alien religion is also tolerant of our own religion, our tolerance towards it can be a virtue. But the Muslim and the Christian religions, which boldly proclaim it to be their religious duty to destroy most cruelly the Hindu religion and to eradicate from the face of this earth the kafirs and the heathens, can never be described as tolerant of other religions. In respect of these intolerant foreign religions the very extremely enraged intolerance, which seeks to retaliate their abtrocities with super-atrocious reprisals, itself becomes a virtue!

SOURCE : SIX GLORIOUS EPOCHS OF INDIAN HISTORY, FIFTH GLORIOUS EPOCH, CHAPTER 8, FIRST SUB-CHAPTER

From here, we can see that he does not justify any sort of unfair violence against the invaders. He’s more assertive of a retaliatory violence for the sake of protection of the Hindus. This might look outrageous if read without the context, but if it’s read by understanding the context well and visualising Savarkar’s psyche behind this, it doesn’t seem outrageous. It is a defensive statement in favour of self-defence of the Hindus.

Now, starting off with the points. Here’s what Savarkar says before he begins his note on the massacre of the Hindu women :

439. One side-issue of the Muslim religious apgression, which caused a continuous drain on the numerical superiority of the Hindus was the diabolic Muslim faith that it was a religious duty of every Muslim to kidnap and force into their own religion, non-Muslim women. This incited their sensuality and lust for carnage and, while it enormously increased their number, it affected the Hindu population in an inverse proprotion. To hesitate to acknowledge this hard fact under the guise of politeness is simply a puerile self-deception. This abduction of thousands and millions of Hindu women by the Muslims is not such a trifling thing as to be dispensed with by calling it religious fanaticism or simply by conniving at it. Even if it were a madness, there was a method in it! And the method in this Muslim madness was so horrible that, with the mistaken Hindu neglect of this so-called religious fanaticism, the Hindu nation came to have a perpetual bleeding sore. For, as a matter of fact the religious fanaticism of the Muslims was not madness at all; it was an effective method of increasing the Muslim population with special regard to the unavoidable laws of nature.

Source : Six Glorious Epochs Of Indian History, Fifth Glorious Epoch, Chapter 8, second sub-chapter.

Focus on the phrase “Hindu neglect”. Does he, for once, say that the Hindus should have answered the same way? No. He basically points finger towards the fact that the unfortunate women’s massacres were not prevented by the Hindus and also, the Hindus did not retaliate against this. They deviated towards “politeness” quite often, as per Savarkar. He wanted to mean that the retaliation should be against anybody who would wrong against those women. That’s it. No rocket science included.

What he says in the next sub-chapter of the eighth chapter of the Fifth Glorious Epoch, is very important with respect to what we’re discussing here. He says that the invader women were equally responsible for the plunder of Hindu women, when they were invaded.

448. Hindu women were considered kafirs and born slaves. So these Muslim women were taught to think it their duty to help in all possible ways, their molestation and forcible conversion to Islam. No Muslim woman whether a Begum or a beggar, ever protested against the atrocities committed by their male compatriots; on the contrary they encouraged them to do so and honored them for it. A Muslim woman did everything in her power to harass such captured or kidnapped Hindu women. Not only in the troubled times of war but even in the intervening periods of peace and even when they themselves lived in the Hindu kingdoms, they enticed and carried away young Hindu girls locked them up in their own houses, or conveyed them to the Muslim centers in Masjids and Mosques. The Muslim women all over India considered it their holy duty to do so.

Source : Six Glorious Epochs Of Indian History, Fifth Glorious Epoch, Chapter 8, third sub-chapter.

He says that the plight of the Hindu women was such that even the women of the invaders didn’t tend to them. They instead aided their men in this task. Now, the next sub-chapter comes. What does it talk about? It talks about, what Savarkar had called, “Hindu Chivalry”, which had prevented the invader women from being exploited by the Hindus. No, nowhere he has written that the women should have been treated the same way as they had treated the Hindu women. Read what is actually said :

449. The Muslim women never feared retribution or punishment at the hands of any Hindu for their heinous crime. They had a perverted idea of woman-chivalry. If in a battle the Muslims won, they were rewarded for such crafty and deceitful conversions of Hindu women; but even if the Hindus carried the field and a Hindu power was established in that particular place (and such incidents in those times were not very rare) the Muslim-men alone, if at all, suffered the consequential indignities but the Muslim women—never! Only Muslim men, and not women, were taken prisoner. Muslim women were sure that even in the thick of battles and in the confusion wrought just after them neither the victor Hindu Chiefs, nor any of their common soldiers, nor would even any civilian ever touch their hair. For ‘albeit enemies and atrocious, they were women’! Hence, even when they were taken prisoner in battles the Muslim women,— royal ladies as also the commonest slaves,—were invariably sent back safe and sound to their respective families ! Such incidents were common enough in those times. And this act was glorified by the Hindus as their chivalry towards the enemy women and the generosity of their religion! For a sample, read the following incidents.

Source : Six Glorious Epochs Of Indian History, Fifth Glorious Epoch, Chapter 8, fourth sub-chapter.

Certain points that should be noted :

  • Savarkar says that only men were taken as prisoners and not the women, even though they had a good share of faults for the massacre of Hindu women.
  • Every man was tried as per the law the Hindu Kings used to follow, but the women — no matter what their fault was— were set free without any trial. That’s exactly what Savarkar tried to say. This will become more clear as we proceed further.
  • There’s no endorsement of molestation or whatsoever in the entire paragraph.

Next, this is what he had said further :

450. 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 Kalyan29 and the wife of the Portuguese governor of Bassein30 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 like the princesses of Dahir, Kamaldevi,31 the wife of Karnaraj of Karnawati and her extremely beautiful daughter, Devaldevi32. 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?

451. The souls of those millions of aggrieved women might have perhaps said, “Do not forget, O, your Majesty, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and O! Your Excellency, Chimaji Appa, the unutterable atrocities and oppression and outrage committed on us by the Sultans and Muslim noblemen and thousands of others, big and small. Let those Sultans and their peers take a fright that in the event of a Hindu victory our molestation and detestable lot shall beavenged on the Muslim women. Once they are haunted with this dreadful apprehension, that the Muslim women, too, stand in the same predicament in case the Hindus win, the future Muslim conquerors will never dare to think of such molestation of Hindu women.”

451-A. But because of the then prevalent perverted religious ideas about chivalry to women, which ultimately proved highly detrimental to the Hindu community, neither Shivaji Maharaj nor Chimaji Appa could do such wrongs to the Muslim women.

452. 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.

Source : Six Glorious Epochs Of Indian History, Fifth Glorious Epoch, Chapter 8, fourth sub-chapter.

Again, note these points :

  • Savarkar doesn’t object the peaceful returning of invader women in a way that they promoted committing the same atrocities on them.
  • He wants to reflect here that even though the rulers knew that the Hindu women were treated harshly, they didn’t imprison the invader women, just like they did with the men. I reiterate this, yet again, that Savarkar is speaking here in the context of those women who were at fault of showing no mercy to the Hindu women when they were being mercilessly molested.
  • The Hindu leaders of that era thought that they could attain peace by not taking the women perpetrators in the prison. This is what Savarkar terms as “Hindu chivalry”. And this, my friend, Savarkar viewed to be suicidal for the Hindu community. He speaks about punishing the females in the same way as men, and doesn’t endorse any sort of molestation or maltreatment.
  • Read the last line carefully : “Their womanhood became their shield quite sufficient to protect them.”. This line is perhaps one of the clearest pointers of the fact that Savarkar moaned about the setting free of the invader women who had wronged the Hindu women, by the rulers who believed in a particular idea of “chivalry” — which made them think that being tender on the women folks would be beneficial to them. At the same time, they forgot the cries of the Hindu women. This is exactly what Savarkar has said over here.

Next, we now move on to the fifth sub-chapter. The fifth sub-chapter is itself titled “But If”. So, if you are concluding that Savarkar had endorsed something criminal, then you are making a joke out of yourselves. Savarkar only speculates a possibility, and nothing else.

455. Suppose, if from the earliest Muslim invasion of India, the Hindus also, whenever they were victors on the battlefields, had decided to pay the Muslim fair sex in the same coin or punished them in some other ways, i.e., by conversion even with force, and then absorbed them in their fold, then ? Then with this horrible apprehension at their heart they would have desisted from their evil designs against any Hindu lady. 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. Our woman-world would not have suffered such a tremendous numerical loss, which means their future progeny would not have been lost permanently to Hinduism and the Muslim population could not have thrived so audaciously. Without any increase in their womenfolk the Muslim population would have dwindled into a negligible minority.

456. (The sociological explanation for this contention has already been offered in paragraphs 439 to 446).

457. But haunted with the fantastic idea of chivalry to enemy-women and a blind eye to time, place or person, the Hindus of that period, never tried to chastise the Muslim women-folk for their wrongs to Hindu women, even when the former were many a time completely at their mercy.

Source : Six Glorious Epochs Of Indian History, Fifth Glorious Epoch, Chapter 8, fifth sub-chapter.

In the seventh sub-chapter, Savarkar makes an interesting note on the entire issue. Here’s what he says :

460. A serpent, whether male or female, if it comes to bite must be killed. The enemy women who enforced conversion and heaped all sorts of humiliation on our mothers and sisters, had by that very devilish act, lost their womanhood, and their right to chivalrous treatment, and deserved nothing but only the most stringent punishment for their atrocious crimes. Hence, when Tratika, the she-Demon marched on Ramchandra with other demons, he killed her immediately, without a moment’s thought34. When Shoorpanakha, another she-demon, rushed to eat away Seeta like cucumber, Laxman deprived her of nose and ears and sent her back—not honourably with generous gifts of ornaments to show off his chivalay to women35! When Narakasur carried away thousands of Aryan women to his Asur kingdom (Assyria of to-day), Shree Krishna marched upon the demon and killed him in the war. But he did not stop with military and political defeat he inflicted on Narakasur! He rescued all the thousands of imprisoned Aryan females, undergoing all sorts of humiliation there, and brought them back to his own kingdom; and thus took a social revenge! Shree Krishna’s army did not forsake their kinswomen, simply because they were forcibly polluted and violated—a dastardly thought which he never entertained for a minute. On the contrary Shree Krishna as the Bhoopati, the Lord of the whole Earth, brought all those sixteen thousand or more women to his kingdom, rehabilitated them honourably and took upon himself the responsibility of feeding and protecting them. This very act of Krishna, as the Bhoopati, has been fantastically construed by the writers of the Puranas as to describe him the husband of those thousands of women. He was later thought to have married all of them36.

461. In the post-Puranik period, whenever our valiant and victorious princes vanquished the enemies, like the Yavan, Shaka, or Hun commandants, kings or emperors on the battlefield, they invariably married the enemy princesses. This seems to have been the tradition prevalent right from Chandragupta Maurya to the Gupta Emperors! Shalivahan kings too married Saka princesses37. Not only our victorious kings but all Hindus, right from the Samants (feudatory princes) to common citizens married unhesitatingly Yavan, Saka or Hun women. The nation was valiant enough to absorb not only the progeny of those enemy-women but the whole enemy communities in their own and leave no trace of their origin behind!

Source : Six Glorious Epochs Of Indian History, Fifth Glorious Epoch, Chapter 8, seventh sub-chapter.
  • Savarkar says that the trial should be the same for all — irrespective of gender.
  • He gives the example of Rama killing Tatika for desecrating the sacrifices of the sages and Lakshmana chopping the nose and ears of Shurpanakha for attacking his sister-in-law. He clearly wants to connote that the deities of the Hindus made no distinction between Shurpanakha and Ravana (I am using this as an example) and both of them were punished by the deities as per the crimes they had respectively committed. Does he say that the women were to be exploited? Nope.
  • Next, he describes how, instead of exploiting the women, Krishna tactically brought all the kidnapped women under him, so as to prevent them from being socially maltreated. He says that his army didn’t compromise their womenfolk unlike the Hindu rulers.
  • Next, he moves on to say that even the Hun or Shaka women were married by the men of the Hindu society. He doesn’t mention sexual exploitation for once. The period that he was criticising was torn due to social rigidity. As a result, the demography of the Hindus began to be doomed. He, I repeat, talks about marriages here.

This will become clear in the next sub-chapter. In the eighth sub-chapter, Savarkar criticises the extreme rigidity of the then Hindu society, due to the prevalent casteism. At the end, he appreciates the Hindus for being loyal to the philosophy of their religion. This is again a clear indication of the fact that he never endorsed exploitation, but only expressed his reservations against making peace with the invaders through the setting free of their womenfolk :

465. Should we not therefore be grateful to those Hindus for the unbearable pangs and unimaginable grief they suffered ? They were misled into accepting those traditions of various bans as their religious duties, but their loyalty to their religion was unmistaken, unshaken ! What was considered to be an antidote, turned out to be poison itself! But the object in administering it was to give an antidote, to save the life of the nation! How can we, then forbear writing a word or two of sincere gratitude for the harrowing mental and physical agonies they suffered with the honest intention of saving their religion?

Source : Six Glorious Epochs Of Indian History, Fifth Glorious Epoch, Chapter 8, eighth sub-chapter.

In the ninth and the last sub-chapter, Savarkar talks about not the Hindu women in particular, but the entire Hindu population. He says that the Hindus didn’t provoke any retaliation and stuck to the one-sided religious tolerance. That proved to be a disaster to themselves.

Aravindan Neelakandan in his Swarajya article has also reminded that Savarkar had used a lot of ifs and buts in his writing. That makes most of his lines speculations rather than endorsements :

So for Savarkar, the conversion of captured Muslim women and their distribution to Hindus was only a ‘what-if’ scenario of a bygone era. His insistence was more on the absorption and rehabilitation of abducted and abused women back into Hindu society against the then prevalent patriarchal social stagnation. While the despicable inhuman violence against women, either Hindu or Muslim, during the riots in India had happened long before Savarkar had written and published his book, the systematic abduction, sexual slavery, auctioning and conversion of women has always been a part of the pan-Islamist movement against Hindus in India and has also been used against the Yazidis in Iraq.

https://swarajyamag.com/ideas/did-savarkar-justify-rape-as-a-political-weapon

Eminent historian and a biographer of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Dr. Vikram Sampath, has stated in his volume 2 in this light :

The above controversial illustration is often held against Savarkar as him having
advocated the rape and molestation of Muslim women in contemporary India.
The context in which this has been stated, albeit uncomfortable in the way it has
been presented, makes it clear that this was not a prescription for current action but a hypothesis on what could possibly have been a better fate for the Hindu
women if their menfolk had instilled similar fright in their opponents about the
fate of their womenfolk in the event of a defeat.

Savarkar : A Contested Legacy (1924-1966), Dr. Vikram Sampath.

At the end, it’s safe to say that Savarkar didn’t speak those words without a context. His words would sound outrageous if viewed out of the context, but in reality, a certain quantity of rage against the historic injustices was inculcated in whatever he had said.

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Soumili Das
Soumili Das
Invested in politics, Hinduism, history of women in Hindu Civilization. Pursuing B. A.(Honors) in History.
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