People have disparaged the credibility behind Veer Savarkar’s life, by constantly branding him as a “loyal colonialist”. But these are the same people who find any excuse to oversee the suffering he had undergone and the truthful motives behind all his actions. He is perhaps the only freedom fighter who has faced the ‘privilege‘ to be maligned by both his enemies and the people whose empowerment he fought for all his life.
When you see a Congress leader remove his plaque in the cellular jail that became his memorial; when you see the president of the same party getting cheered after claiming Savarkar was “begging for mercy and clemency”; when you see an unreasonable tweet (embedded below) labelling him as a traitor, you seriously wonder what led to this utter defamation and whether he deserves such decisive slander. Such questions have led me to write this article. While there are many false allegations against Veer Savarkar, in this article, I plan to specifically address the allegations of him being a “traitor” and a “British Stooge”.
Bhagat Singh dared the British Raj to send the executioners.
BJP-RSS ideologue Savarkar begged for his own release pic.twitter.com/QLQFW9puoy
— Congress (@INCIndia) March 23, 2016
Gandhiji spent 15 years in jail and died for the nation. But India must never forget that while our leader slept on the floor in jail Savarkar wrote a letter to the British begging for mercy and clemency.: Congress President Rahul Gandhi #CongressPlenary #ChangeIsNow pic.twitter.com/IbZQQzDg1V
— Congress (@INCIndia) March 18, 2018
While it is sad to see such irresponsible remarks on a freedom fighter, we need to realise why such remarks are very disingenuous. Perhaps the most prototypical argument against Savarkar is the one that gives him the tag of a “traitor”.
The typical Congress spokesperson asserts that Savarkar was a “British sympathiser”. Their grounds? Cherry picked quotes, taken out of context and deliberate omissions of his innumerable statements opposing the British. They claim that Savarkar (who was put in the Andaman jail by the British), wrote letters supporting their Raj in India.
When Congress members tell us today that he was “anti-national” because he sent ‘mercy petitions and clemencies’ to British in jail, I simply ask: What got him in the Andaman Jail into the first place? Was it not his constant actions that evoked revolting against the British? Therefore, how can one be fundamentally against the British and a British sympathiser at the same time?
Nevertheless, the selectively quoted letters were in fact written, and done so under extremely gruesome treatment by the British in the Andaman jail (famously known as Kala Pani or Black Waters, for the way it treated those who were jailed there). His denigrators almost always quote a mercy petition of his, submitted in 1913.
Have a look at The Wire’s reference to it-
Make no mistake when you look at their choice of words like “bitter complaints about other convicts from his party receiving better treatment,” they say, as though his objections were somehow juvenile, unreasonable and jealous of his compatriots. Of course, the complaints will seem “bitter” when The Wire skips the other part of his mercy petition. Perhaps it was too long to insert (the omitted part in bold, emphasis added):
“I had to pass full 6 months in solitary confinement. The other convicts had not. During that time I was put on the coir pounding though my hands were bleeding. Then I was put on the oil-mill – the hardest labour in the jail. Although my conduct during all the time was exceptionally good still at the end of these six months I was not sent out of the jail; though the other convicts who came with me were. From that time to this day I have tried to keep my behaviour as good as possible.”
Note here, that the solitary confinement had him spending his life all alone for six months, while other people had a share of interaction. They additionally made him pound coir with his bare hands where his hands were often dripped with blood. He had to manually turn a massive wheel, that would squeeze coconuts for oil and had to produce about 30 pounds a day. While this punishment was only given to those who were “not behaving with the guards”, Savarkar was often made to do it despite his good conduct. Left all alone, he scraped poems on the prison walls: “The soul that suffers get stronger. The aim is freedom of the motherland”. In order to torment him, the guards whitewashed the walls one which he scraped poems. Having to go through life all alone, being allowed to write letters once in a year and a half, to his loved ones and going through tremendous physical and mental torture in a compressed cell. I ask all the Congressmen, how easy is that? But the most upsetting fact about the criticism Savarkar gets is the fact that he did not leave his love for the motherland, behind when tortured. The Wire, is happy with the reader believing that the letter was only about Savarkar bickering with jealousy on “other convicts from his party”, but it is that very letter that involves him expressing his feelings on Indians and asking for every prisoner to be released, with the exception of him (emphasis added):
“If the manhood of the nation be allowed to phase glories and responsibilities of the empire with perfect equality with other citizens of it, then Indian patriots of all shades and opinions can conscientiously feel that burning sense of loyalty that one feels for one’s motherland. I also beg to submit that nothing can contribute so much to the widening and deepening of the sentiment of loyalty as a general release of all those prisoners who had been convicted for committing political offences in India. With my exception, let all the rest be released.“
Yet, beyond a point of constant rejection by the British official, it seems that something occurred to Savarkar: staying in jail would neither do him good nor serve the nation. Thus, one would observe a drastic change of tone and astonishing appeasement towards colonialists, leading to his release, after ten years of being tortured. Some called this appeasement sheer treachery; some said that he did it to escape the agonising jail; other said he wanted to find a way out of the jail to serve India. It is not difficult to figure out which it is, after analysing his actions after being released. Not to forget, he was told to be careful because his years in Andaman could be resumed if he was found working “against the government”. Yet, he promoted his nationalistic thoughts using false names (pseudonyms) and still carried his opinions forward. But when the British monitored, he issued statements supporting colonialism.
But people still accuse being a colonialist, because he encouraged Indian soldiers to join the British army. However, icons such as Bose and Ambedkar recognised the purpose behind Indianising the British army, because it would create room for an internal rebellion, instead of losing by fighting on the Indian side and getting killed by the British.
On many occasions, we have seen Indians side the British, in far less demanding situations, and still be called freedom fighters. If a man like Rahul Gandhi ignores Savarkar’s fight for independence and only wishes to look at him encouraging Indians to fight for the British (for quite justified reasons), perhaps he must also know that Mahatma Gandhi wanted Indian soldiers to fight for the British during the First World War. But that does not mean the father of our nation was anti-national, does it?
If we get into specifics, Nehru wished for the same thing in World War II. When Indian soldiers actually had to fight for the British in the Second World War and give up a lot of lives, Bose and Savarkar were radically opposed to giving up Indian men for the British cause when Nehru staunchly supported it. Going by the typical Congressman’s logic, Nehru too can be labelled as a “traitor” for encouraging Indian soldiers to join the British army. But when Nehru does it, they call it “political astuteness” and when Savarkar does it in more justified situations, they call it “treachery”.
Dear Congress, why this pseudo-analysis?
Their school of thought cherry-picks quotations of Savarkar’s writings and strongly misrepresents his intentions, by stooping to the lows of mockery. Their narrative is dishonest and profoundly manipulative. It not only demeans Savarkar’s actual contributions but even ridicules his unimaginable sufferings. A truthful analysis of his letters, words and works tell us, that the “siding of colonialism” just consisted of measures taken to be safe from the British who suspected him, while he continued to work and serve the cause of Indian independence.
But still, this debate has more meaning than whataboutery. The purpose of this article has been to honestly illustrate the context behind Savarkar’s actions; the same actions that people unfairly hold against him.
The impression given off by the likes of Rahul Gandhi, is that a Congressman can side the British cause; but the moment a Hindu nationalist, is seen to remotely do the same (however fictitious the ‘siding’ may be), his character must be questioned and his organisation must be downgraded, along with all its supporters. While some loyal adherents of this unfair ideology have used every opportunity to defame Savarkar, it is on us to be truthful to his legacy.
The striking factor about our freedom fighter is that he never held back when it came to talking about the Indian rights, in jail and outside. That unconditional love for the motherland, along with the sincere courage to do anything for India, is why the name is ‘Veer’ Savarkar.