India’s former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is known not only for his stellar career as a strong politician with a clean image, he is revered and respected for his exemplary oratory skills. A venerated poet and veteran of Indian Right Wing politics, Vajpayee’s speeches are powerful and thought-provoking. His words are always dipped in his deep nationalistic values and adulation for Indian culture and its civilisational heritage. His speech on the occasion of Veer Savarkar Jayanti in Pune, in 2006, is one of his many popular speeches and it reflects not only his admiration for Savarkar but how far he believed Savarkar’s ideas and thoughts can teach and inspire countless Indians of future generations.
In the speech, Vajpayee begins discussing Savarkar by stating that Savarkar is not a person, he is an entire ideology, he is not a kindling, but a fire, not limited to definitions but vast expanse and the kind of harmony he displayed in his speech and actions during his lifespan is unheard of, almost divine. Vajpayee’s speech on Savarkar and the relevance of his ideologies can be summarised in the following points:
- Savarkar was inspired from freedom fighters mentioned in the annals of history but he became an inspiration himself. From the tender age of 11, a boy showing such brilliance, such dedication for the motherland and willingness to sacrifice his life is nothing but divine powers on display. Vajpayee, in his quintessential style of wordplay, compares Veer Savarkar to Tatva (elements), Tark (arguments), Tarunya (Youth), Tej (brilliance), Tyag (sacrifice) and Tap (penance).
- Savarkar had courage as mighty as the ocean. He never let the great walls of the cellular jail in Andaman enclose in spirit, he created some of his most powerful and best literary works in the jail. Despite being watched constantly and being put to rigorous physical work, his courage and conviction never faltered. He never swayed from his course and kept the flame of patriotism burning.
- Vajpayee states it was through Savarkar’s poetry that had been initially attached with the Sangh Parivar. He had even translated some of Savarkar’s Marathi poems into Hindi and that has left him speechless. Vajpayee expresses wonder on how a dedicated, strong hearted patriot can write poetry so fluid and with such brilliance in wordplay. He explains that Savarkar was one of those gifted personalities who has merged the creativity of imagination with the vision of pragmatism in his poetry.
- The former PM also goes ahead to state how the entirety of Savarkar’s life is full of such unprecedented qualities. He was the epitome of unapologetic, uncompromising nationalism. But Savarkar’s patriotism was also adorned with his unique characteristics of a social reformer. He was not only a fierce nationalist but his nationalism was not blind to the shortcomings of his contemporary society. He had the guts to face, question and fight the negativities of society that were stopping Indians from attaining true freedom. Not a mere social reformer, he was the social sculpturist who addressed the flaws and had the visions to create the perfect India from it.
- Savarkar addressed the pain and problems of child-widows in his time. Had he been alive today, his words would have reflected the sufferings of Shah Bano and the injustice she faced. His understanding and visions to address social issues were never limited to one religion or community, he encompassed all, felt for all and it was an inclusive, compassionate India that was his dream.
- Long before Mahatma Gandhi spoke of the issue of untouchability in Indian society, it was Savarkar who wrote ‘Malaa Devaache Darshan Gheu Dya’ (Let me see my God), the Marathi poem that spoke of the pain and injustice of untouchability that did not let people of a certain caste inside temples. The India Savarkar envisioned was one that would be free from the shackles of its past, one where no one will stand between a devotee and his god.
- Savarkar was one of the very few nationalists who dared to admit the shortcomings of the Hindu society. He was aware of the fault lines and the weaknesses that had made Hindus submit to foreign invaders and rulers. He had the grit to accept the fact that more than outsiders, it was Hindus themselves who are responsible for the civilisational slavery and loss they had been suffering for centuries. It was us who have misinterpreted the ancient practice of Varna and erected walls within our own society. It was this very narrow thought and vulnerability that foreign invaders have benefitted from. We did not lose in the hands of foreign invaders, our own people have fought and won this land and gifted it to invaders.
- Vajpayee further explains that the enclosed Indian society had committed a grave mistake by dividing its people into castes and class. While a large population have been instructed not to lift weapons because it is the job of Kshatriyas, an equally large portion have been denied the knowledge and enlightenment of Vedas. It was this discrimination Savarkar was against.
- In the speech, Vajpayee also highlights the importance of honouring one’s ancestral heritage. He asserts, changing the mode of worship does not mean one changes his forefathers and denies his own heredity. India has been a land of ancient wisdom and no society will prosper until they learn to be proud of their own identity.
- Vajpayee asserts strongly that Savarkar was an advocate of establishing India as a Hindu Rashtra. But Savarkar’s vision of a Hindu Rashtra was one where people are not discriminated against based on how they chose to worship their god. The Hindu Rashtra of Savarkar’s dreams was to acknowledge and honour its Hindu heritage while allowing its citizens to practice whatever faith they choose.
- Vajpayee states that there was a time when Savarkar’s poetry could not be read but the tides have changed. True patriots are not forgotten for long. Savarkar’s legacy has been neglected for political reasons, but political tides are never permanent. The social awakening that Savarkar envisioned has already begun and no one can stop it.
- Savarkar’s Hindutva was vast, widespread, his ideology is not one to be bound by narrow definitions of communalism. The India of Savarkar’s dream is a nation of unity, harmony, knowledge and bravery.
It is interesting to note the similarities between the words of Savarkar, Vajpayee and our current Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They all speak of an inclusive Indian society that has equal opportunity and rights for its citizens, that holds absolute reverence for its ancient heritage and one that holds its head high among other nations in the world.