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Rahul Gandhi and Congress might insult Veer Savarkar now, but this is what Indira Gandhi had to say about the freedom fighter

Veer Savarkar has departed from this world in 1966 with his reputation unsullied. No amount of fake research and slander will tarnish it.

The Congress Party, its president Rahul Gandhi and others of the ‘secularist’ school of thought have repeatedly insulted the great revolutionary and freedom fighter Swatantryaveer Savarkar (meaning of it is ‘Hero of Independence’ Savarkar), and called him a ‘traitor’ for his ‘mercy petitions’ to the British while he was in jail in the Andamans, where he was incarcerated from 1911 to 1921. In reality, those petitions were a ‘strategic letter of ploy’ to get out of jail, for which Savarkar should be praised. Congress has a history of harassing Savarkar since 1910 when Jawaharlal Nehru refused to donate for Savarkar, according to an article by Shreerang Godbole in weekly Organiser in 2004. Read to know.

Savarkar was a disciple of Shivaji. In 1666 in Agra in Aurangzeb’s captivity, Shivaji wrote such a letter to Aurangzeb to secure his release. Shivaji made many promises in that letter to Aurangzeb. But when he escaped these promises evaporated into thin air.

Congress should be pin-pointedly asked if it considers Shivaji a ‘traitor’ for writing such a letter to Aurangzeb in 1666. On Twitter, Congress workers were cornered when this writer raised this issue and pin-pointedly asked them why it was a ‘strategic letter of ploy’ when Shivaji did it, and ‘an act of treason and cowardice’ when Savarkar did it.

Of course, those petitions by Savarkar did not have any impact on the British who understood that they were his ploys to get out of jail. Savarkar did not believe in Satyagraha. Once in jail, all means fair and foul were justifiable to get out. If he was caught, he thought it correct to give the undertaking to secure his release, just like Shivaji did. Savarkar himself talked of these letters in his book “My Transporation” (Majhi Janmathepin Marathi) which is mentioned in Samagra Savarkar WangmayaVol 1, pp 448/620, 690. Savarkar wrote what talks he had with Sir Reginald Craddock in 1913, with members of Jail Commission, with the Governor about his release from Jail and what restrictions he would accept for his release from the Jail.

Why judge Savarkar by Gandhian principles? We may, if we want, judge him by Leninist standards. Did not Lenin accept the offer of ‘Sealed Car’ from the Kaiser’s German Government- a capitalist government? He came in that train to lead the Bolshevik Party and to seize power in Russia. Stalin made a pact with his arch-enemy Hitler. But what is laudable in case of Lenin and Stalin becomes condemnable in case of Savarkar. To a jaundiced eye, everything looks yellow.

Swatantryaveer Savarkar died in 1966 and is not alive to refute the charges levelled by Rahul Gandhi and others. Others like A G Noorani have tried to hold Savarkar guilty in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi despite the fact that Savarkar was acquitted ‘honourably and without blemish’ on 10 Feb 1949 and the Nehru Government dared not appeal against the acquittal. Savarkar was, of course, the byword of patriotism and courage, called so by Indira Gandhi herself. He had jumped into the sea from a ship from where he was being transported by the British at Marseilles in 1910 and swam to France braving bullets of the British Police, fighting death all along the way. [Watch this video from time 1:06:25 to 1:11:25]. Such a patriot, whose anti-British patriotic poems are still found very inspiring, motivating and emotional was called a ‘staunch supporter of British colonialism’ by The Wire!

Let us now see how Congress leaders behaved in 2002-03 during the incident of installation of Savarkar’s portrait in Parliament.

On December 5, 2002, when the then Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi expressed the wish to put up a portrait of Swatantryaveer Savarkar in the Central Hall of Parliament, Congress Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha Shivraj Patil said, “Normally, no proposal to put up a portrait or a statue is rejected outright, ‘least of all when it is made by the Speaker himself’”.

Neither did CPM’s Somnath Chatterjee protest or refuse. Perhaps it was the donation of his father N.C. Chatterjee’s portrait to Parliament in 1995 that weighed on his mind. N.C. Chatterjee, who succeeded Savarkar as the Hindu Mahasabha president, represented Hoogly in the first Lok Sabha and his portrait was unveiled in the Central Hall by the then vice-president K.R. Narayanan. Also silent were the then Congress chief whip in the Rajya Sabha Pranab Mukherjee and CPI’s J Chittaranjan, two of the members of the joint committee on the installation of portraits/statues of national leaders and parliamentarians in the Parliament House Complex.

Yet, when the time came for unveiling his portrait in Parliament on 26 Feb 2003, not until February 25 when Congress President Sonia Gandhi – persuaded by the CPI(M) and a group of Delhi’s Left historians – wrote to the then President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to review his decision to unveil Savarkar’s portrait, did she discover that her senior colleagues had agreed to Joshi’s proposal. [Sonia Gandhi herself along with the entire Opposition boycotted the installation of Savarkar’s portrait in Parliament on 26 Feb 2003.]

A peeved Sonia Gandhi then humiliated Shivraj Patil and Pranab Mukherjee at a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee of the Congress in Parliament.

The party’s problems did not end there. The controversy began to take shape as the BJP went about its task of revealing how former Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi’s mother-in-law Indira Gandhi had extended her patronage to perpetuate Savarkar’s memory.

Sonia Gandhi loyalists winced when informed of Indira Gandhi’s decision to issue a commemorative stamp in Savarkar’s honour in 1970, a private donation of Rs 11,000 to his memorial fund a decade later in 1980, her hailing Savarkar’s “daring defiance of the British government” as having its own “important place in the annals of our freedom movement” and commissioning a Films Division documentary on him.

Indira Gandhi is on record saying as Prime Minister: “Savarkar’s defiance of the British government has its own place in the freedom struggle.”

“Indira Gandhi was not a narrow-minded person,” said former Union Information and Broadcasting Minister and Congress leader Vasant Sathe at that time in 2003. In 1983, he recalled, she personally cleared the Films Division documentary on the freedom fighter. “Savarkar’s contribution to the freedom struggle has to be viewed in totality. You can disagree with his Hindutva, but you cannot ignore the fact that he was a great poet and a rationalist,” he says.

After being cornered on Indira’s praise for Savarkar as a patriot, some people lied that Savarkar’s petitions to the British became public only after Indira Gandhi’s death. In truth, Savarkar’s “My Transportation” was available in English since 1950 in which he himself mentioned these petitions to the British, much before Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister. Savarkar died in Feb 1966, and all his works were published by that time. “My Transportation” [Majhi Janmathep] was published in Marathi much before that, first published in 1927 when Savarkar was under confinement in Ratnagiri.

What kind of life Savarkar had to face in jail in the Andamans from 1911 to 1921? Here are a few notings:

(I) 6 months solitary confinement;
(II) Seven days standing handcuffs
(III) Absolutely refusing to work, ten days crossbar fetters imposed.
(Source material for a history of the freedom movement in India Vol. II,. Bombay Government publication: pp- 478/479)

How many top leaders of the Congress had to suffer such punishments?

How sympathetic were the British to Jawaharlal Nehru? Only a few of the many instances are given here.

Jawaharlal Nehru’s father Motilal died on February 6, 1931, in Lucknow, with Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhiji at his bedside. How could Gandhi and Nehru be at his bedside? Because “On January 25th [1931] Viceroy, Lord Irwin, ordered the unconditional release of Gandhi and the members of the Congress Working Committee, including Nehru.” [Source: Frank Moraes- Jawaharlal Nehru, p 171]. Nehru’s wife, Kamala, went to Europe for treatment. “On September 4, 1935, Nehru was suddenly discharged from Almora, five and half months before his term was to expire…[On 5 Sept] On the same afternoon he set out by Air for Europe…On the evening of September 9th, he reached Badenweiler” (in Germany). [Source: Frank Moraes wrote Jawaharlal Nehru, p 246. Frank Moraes’ biography of Nehru is considered very authentic.]

No one grudges this sympathetic treatment to Nehru. One only wishes that people should know that the Savarkar brothers met their family members only once in 10 years in the Andamans. And in this meeting, Savarkar’s elder brother Babarao came to know that his wife had died earlier. British also did not even inform for many months either of the Savarkar brothers that their other brother is also in the same jail in Andamans! Neither elder brother Babarao nor Swatantryaveer Savarkar knew for many months that their other brother is also in the same jail! Here are real contrasting approaches.

Nehru was released from jail months before his term was to end, and he was allowed to fly by plane to Europe in 1935 (in those days) to see his ill wife, by the British. But the British did not even inform either of the Savarkar brothers that the elder brother’s wife had died, not to talk of allowing them to visit her when ill, or even allowing a visit on parole after her death! Nehru was kept in a palatial guest house in Almora. But so harsh were the British to Savarkar brothers, that they made them do the work of a bull of taking out oil from jail in Andamans.

Frank Moraes further writes: “Nehru had given the British Government no undertaking when he came out of jail, but he felt it would be improper to engage in political activities during the respite they had allowed him.” (p.238). The British Government was sure that he would not take part in politics and hence did not impose the condition. However, in Savarkar’s case, the Government imposed the condition that he should not engage in political activities. How could it trust a man who jumped the ship at Marseilles into the sea and swam to France in 1910?

Now how was Savarkar treated in jail in the Andamans? The following three excerpts show it:
(I) Bombay Government does not recommend any remission of the sentences passed upon Ganesh Damodar Savarkar [elder brother Babarao] and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. [p. 467]

(II) ‘Government of India agrees that the Savarkar brothers should not be released under the Royal Amnesty.’
This is dated 8th December 1919. [p. 469]

(III) ‘The Government of Bombay by their letter No. 1106/36, Home Department, dated 29th February 1921, informed the Government of India that the Governor in Council was not in favour of the transfer of the Savarkar brothers from Andamans to a jail in the Bombay Presidency, as that would lead to a recrudescence of agitation in their favour.’ (p.477-478, Source material for a history of the freedom movement in India, Bombay Government publication.)

They showed the Government’s worry and public sympathy for Savarkar, there was absolutely no impact of Savarkar’s petitions on the British, who understood them to be ‘strategic letters of ploy’. Still, Savarkar should be lauded for trying to beguile the British with those ‘ploys’.

In 1937, when all restrictions imposed on Savarkar were removed and Savarkar became free, Subhashchandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru and M. N. Roy welcomed him to full freedom.

Congress’ allegation that Savarkar supported the two-nation theory is answered here. Savarkar himself answered this charge in his lifetime and clarified that he always opposed the Partition of India and was for a United India. Those of Italian origin who took 15 years after marriage to Rajiv Gandhi in 1968 to even apply for Indian citizenship have the audacity to insult National Heroes and fiery patriots like Savarkar! To know a little about Savarkar read.

Veer Savarkar has departed from this world in 1966 with his reputation unsullied. No amount of fake research and slander will tarnish it.

[Some part of this article was first published on 

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Author of the book “Gujarat Riots: The True Story” which gives all the details about the 2002 Gujarat riots - Godhra and thereafter.

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