Veer Savarkar, M K Gandhi and Dr Ambedkar, all the three national characters have become very controversial in the recent Indian narratives, depending on which side of the table one is sitting. To the Right wing Indians, Savarkar was ‘veer’ (brave) and epitome of bravery and Hindutva-based nationalism. To the Congress followers and general public, Gandhi was father of the nation who gave the Indians freedom from British through Ahimsha (non-violence).
To the Ambedkarites, Dalits, Right wing Indians and Congress followers, Dr Ambedkar was the architect of Indian Constitution and champion of Dalit activism. The Communists of India are squarely anti-Savarkar and try to balance between Gandhi and Ambedkar depending on their political posture on a particular issue. It appears in the broader picture that Ambedkar has a larger acceptability among the Indians. But actual situation is too complex.
Savarkar is wrongly credited or criticized for introducing the concept of ethnocentric Hindutva in India. It was Chandranath Basu (1844-1910), a Bengali litterateur, who first coined the term Hindutva in 1892 in his writing. Basu’s Hindutva tried to bring a variety of traditions and often contradictory beliefs and practices under a common fold. Chandranath went on to portray the Hindus as fundamentally superior to people of all other faiths, because traditional social customs and practices of Hindus had survived centuries of thought-schools and hence were superior. He was also against the religious conversions and insisted that India could not be a homeland for foreign religions like Islam and Christianity. Chandranath may look as a confused parochial Hindu today. But in his time, Hinduism stood face to face against Christianity and Islam in Bengal for the first time and the issue was existential for Hinduism.
Savarkar adopted Hindutva from Chandranath Basu and published about his Hindutva in 1923. Savarkar’s Hindutva, unlike that of Chandranath Basu, rejected caste system and rituals of Hinduism and called a person Hindu, whose Pitri-bhumi (fatherland), Karma-bhumi (workplace) and Punya-bhumi (holy land) were India. For Indian Christians and Muslims, Pitri-bhumi and Karma-bhumi were India. But, Savarkar’s Punya-bhumi required Indian Christians and Muslims to honor Hindu Indian way of life by Indianizing Christianity and Islam. For obtaining social cohesion in large and populous India, the Punya-bhumi demand of Savarkar was not that outrageous.
The next issue for which Savarkar is ridiculed by his critics was his repeated submission of mercy petitions to British government from Cellular Jail of Andaman. His critics mocked Savarkar for not being a Veer and called him a coward who buckled under pressure. But the harsh and sustained degree of physical tortures and starvations faced by Savarkar in Andaman was unimaginable. Gandhi and Nehru had never faced such situation and would not have acted differently if they were in Andaman. The Nabha jail episode of Nehru in 1923 made him laughing stock before who knew that.
Supporters of Savarkar argued that seeking mercy was legal under British Laws and that was a strategic move by Savarkar. They claimed that Savarkar wanted to serve the country instead of rotting in Cellular Jail for two consecutive life terms and he was no coward. On 1 February 1966, Savarkar renounced medicines, food, and water which he termed as Atmaarpan (fast until death) and died on 26 February 1966 at the age of 82 years. Before his death, he had written an article titled Atmahatya Nahi Atmaarpan in which he argued that when one’s life mission was over and the ability to serve society was left no more, it was better to end the life at will rather than waiting for death. This proved beyond doubt that Savarkar was not a coward and not afraid of death. The ideology of Savarkar had played a definite role in the rise of BJP in India.
Sir Syed Ahmed Khan is considered as the first person to theorize the idea of separate nationhood for Muslims in the Indian subcontinent. In a speech at Meerut in 1866 he presented an overall scenario of post colonial phase in which he described Muslims and Hindus as two nations. But Indian Left-Liberal-Islamist cabal calls Savarkar as father of “Two nation Theory”. Savarkar propagated the two nation theory as other side of his Hindutva, but he was not the originator of it. Moreover, Allama Iqbal was also a hard-core supporter of two nation theory. So, one fails to understand as to why Nehru, Jinnah, Patel and Liaquat Ali Khan et al suddenly became the obedient disciples of Savarkar alone during 1940-1947 on two nation theory?
M A Jinnah and Dr Ambedkar never called Gandhi Mahatma. Both addressed Gandhi as Mr. Gandhi. While Jinnah considered Gandhi as ‘wily Gandhi’, Dr Ambedkar clearly told that Gandhi had no attribute of Mahatma. Discoveries have revealed that, British left India in 1947 out of fear of revolt in the British Indian Army. British had evidences that home returning Indian National Army personnel of Subhash Chandra Bose could ignite passion of revolt in the Indian Army. The Indian Navy revolt of February 1946 shook the Indian British Empire from within. Though Gandhi-led Congress condemned the revolt, British decided to leave India with their stiff upper lip. So, Indian narrative of Gandhi bringing freedom of India has been fraudulent. From another side; dozens of countries got independence from Britain between 1946 and 1956 without any Gandhi.
Gandhi’s Muslim appeasement knew no bounds. In his long political career he stood by all the misdeeds of Muslims in India at the cost of Hindus. Supporting the gruesome killings, rapes, force-conversions and destructions of properties of Malabar Hindus by Moplah Muslims during 1921-1922 was the bloodiest aspect of Gandhi’s face. Gandhi always supported the violence caused by Indian Muslims, but crippled Hindus by imposing on them a version of ‘non-violence’ which was practiced by Jain Munis, and not even general Jain population. Gandhi’s non-violence had no connection with Hinduism. Gandhi’s “an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind” was stupid. When one community was aggressive and violent, following of Gandhi’s advice would make one community blind by the other community. It seems to succinctly summarize Gandhi’s pacifist views.
During pre-independence period, only the ‘Provincial Congress Committees’ could elect the Congress President. Before 1946 election of Congress President, it was clear that whosoever would be the President would become the first Prime Minister of independent India. Despite Gandhi having made his choice known (in favor of Nehru), 12 out of 15 Provincial Congress Committees nominated Sardar Patel as President of Congress party during April 1946. The remaining three abstained from nomination process. Thus, no Provincial Congress Committee, the only legitimate body to elect the President, recommended Nehru’s name. But Jinnah’s ‘wily Gandhi’ resorted to un-democratic process and forced Patel out to make Nehru the President of Congress and then first Prime Minister of independent India.
Gandhi could do grossly immoral thing like sleeping naked with young girls to test his power of Brahmachatya and get away with that. During partition riots, Gandhi said “if a Muslim expresses his desire to rape a Hindu or Sikh lady, she should never refuse him but cooperate with him. She should lie down like a dead with her tongue in between her teeth. Thus the rapist Muslim will be satisfied soon and sooner he leaves her”. And majority Indians calls him Mahatma and Bapu!! Even before the murder of Gandhi, Patel got irritated with Gandhi so much for his unnecessary Muslim appeasement that he distanced himself from Gandhi. Gandhi’s Iswara Allah Tero Naam was absolutely fraudulent. No Muslim could associate any other entity (Iswara) with Allah, as that became Shirk (a very serious crime under Sharia). So, it was used to intoxicate Hindus only. Gandhi was a very wrong man in right time and place.
Dr B R Ambedkar was the most educated personality among the three. He had two Ph D degrees in Economics and was a Barrister too. Ambedkar belonged to Dalit community and faced discriminations for long period of time. By 1927 Ambedkar had began a struggle for the right of Dalits to enter Hindu temples. He led a satyagraha in Mahad to fight for the right of the untouchable community to draw water from the main water tank of the town. In a conference in late 1927, Ambedkar publicly condemned the classic Hindu text, the Manusmriti (Laws of Manu), for ideologically justifying caste discrimination and untouchability, and he ceremonially burned copies of the ancient text.
In 1930, Ambedkar launched the Kalaram Temple movement. About 15,000 Dalit volunteers assembled in front of the Kalaram Temple to enter into it, but the gates were closed by Brahmin authorities. In 1932, the British colonial government announced the formation of a separate electorate for “Depressed Classes” in the Communal Award. Gandhi fiercely opposed that by saying that he feared such an arrangement would divide the Hindu community. Gandhi protested by fasting. On 25 September 1932 the Poona Pact was signed between Ambedkar and Madan Mohan Malaviya (of Congress). As per the Pact, Ambedkar gave up separate electorate for “Depressed Classes” in lieu of pre-fixed number of reserved constituencies for them.
In the first ministry of Nehru after independence, Dr Ambedkar was made Minister of Law and Justice. He was also made Chairman of Drafting Committee of Constitution of India. Ambedkar was no James Madison. His main responsibility was not even to oversee and co-ordinate the ‘cut and paste’ exercise of materials from Constitution of different countries and super-impose those on “Government of India Act 1935” to give a shape of draft Constitution. The first draft of Indian Constitution was framed by B N Rau, a very senior ICS officer. He was the Constitutional Adviser to the Constituent Assembly of India in 1946.
Once the first draft was prepared, the Constituent Assembly constituted a Drafting Committee with 6-7 members, of which Dr B R Ambedkar was the Chairman. Inputs were also taken from 299 delegates from different region, caste, religion, and both genders. Dr Ambedkar-led Drafting Committee incorporated the suitable inputs and fine-tuned the draft Constitution, which was placed before the Constituent Assembly for debate and finalization. So, it is untrue that Dr Ambedkar had written the Constitution of India.
Nehru never liked Ambedkar as the later was highly educated; independent minded and had a very sharp brain and superior intellect. In the first general election of 1952, Nehru alleged to have orchestrated Ambedkar’s defeat from Bombay North-Central constituency in the hands of Ambedkar’s ex Personal Assistant. However Ambedkar was elected to Rajya Sabha from Bombay province in 1952 from Scheduled Castes Federation Party. Before his death in 1956, Ambedkar with a large group of his followers converted to Buddhism. He clarified that converting to Islam or Christianity would have cut off his Indian root, which he did not want. However, conversion to Buddhism was Ambedlar’s acceptance of defeat in his Dalit activism. His example of burning of Manusmriti was crude. His followers do this burning ceremony annually now to increase the fault line, which Ambedkar wanted to obliterate.
Savarkar and Ambedkar were 14 and 22 years younger than Gandhi respectively. Both had serious differences with Gandhi on political ideas and way of functioning. Gandhi had a few interactions with each of them, but those were mostly cold. Though there is no evidence that Savarkar and Ambedkar ever met each other in person, Ambedkar supported Savarkar’s 1942 call to Hindus to join Indian Army more in number which was dominated by Muslims then. But Ambedkar was not impressed by Savarkar’s concept of two nation theory which refused partition of India but proposed Muslims to live in Hindu majority India with no special privilege but as a separate nation.
With passage of time and dilution of British and Nehruvian hangover, these three personalities should now be considered as mortal humans. None of them was fully divine or fully evil. They had their good and bad sides like any other human being. Savarkar, Gandhi and Ambedkar have been misused and overused in the Indian narratives during past years for political reasons. Savarkar does not deserve so much of abuse, Gandhi does not deserve so much of praise (nationally and internationally) and Ambedkar is not supposed to carry so much burden of Constitution writing.