The BJP announced in its manifesto for the Maharashtra Assembly Elections that upon reelection, they will request the Central government that the Bharat Ratna be conferred upon Veer Savarkar. Needless to say, some people were not happy with the manifesto promise.
Congress leaders reacted to the news of BJP promising to give Bharat Ratna to Veer Savarkar by saying that they’re “expecting a Bharat Ratna for Godse also” after the manifesto promise was made. Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Veerappa Moily asserted, “That is their culture. They are going totally against the Indian culture of pluralism. They are moving towards fanaticism. With that, the force to fight against terrorism will disappear from the culture of India. Most, unfortunately, that kind of a culture is encouraged here in the land of Mahatma Gandhi.”
Mehbooba Mufti, leader of the PDP in Jammu & Kashmir and former J&K Chief Minister, went a step further. She tweeted, “Bharat Ratna for a man who justified rape as a weapon of war. You know a country needs to reset its moral compass when the likes of Savarkar are feted whereas a great man like Gandhiji is disrespected”.
As is evident, there’s a visceral hatred for Veer Savarkar in Indian polity that’s only matched in its intensity by the hatred that the same people bear for Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, who are considered heirs to Savarkar’s legacy. This hatred surfaces time to time whenever attempts are made to pay tribute to his legacy. On numerous occasions, they have called him a ‘traitor’ and worse. Recently, the students’ wing of the Congress party had opposed the installation of Savarkar’s bust at Delhi University campus.
The reason for such hatred is not mere politics. It’s much more fundamental than that. The vision of India that Savarkar had is in direct conflict with what liberal polity envisions India to be. Liberals want us to believe that the Indian state started from a blank slate in 1947 after a period of extreme communal violence. But through the lens of Hindutva, the Indian state appears as the political union of Hindus under a nation-state and the Indian state is the custodian of the great Hindu civilization and its foremost duty is to ensure the continued existence of Dharma. These are irreconcilable differences that cannot be resolved through dialogue.
There was a widespread consensus about India’s civilizational identity even under the Congress in its heydeys. It’s only after Sonia Gandhi assumed the reins of the party that it attempted to completely disassociate itself India’s cultural ethos. But the liberal polity that delineated India from the continuity of the Hindu Civilization was Congress’ contribution from the very beginning and it was embodied by the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru.
Liberal polity faces an existential threat from Hindutva. The essence of liberal polity has been fanning ethnic divisions and casteist hatred within the Hindu community while denying the continuity of the Hindu Civilization from its ancient past to its current manifestation, the Indian state. Hindutva seeks to transcend these barriers and unite Hindus under one political entity. Both are at odds with each other and are destined for perennial conflict.
It wouldn’t have escaped people’s notice that liberals preach tolerance and unity in diversity while simultaneously exploiting the faultlines within the Hindu community. They claim that they want Hindus and Muslims and Christians to live in peace and claim to support communal harmony and yet, at the same time, they do not wish for different Hindu castes to coexist and coordinate harmoniously with each other. Hindutva seeks to put an end to this.
The liberal polity will be perfectly at ease if Hindu society is made to burn if only they could rule over the ashes. Hindutva, on the other hand, pays tribute to the glorious history of the great Hindu Civilization and seeks to preserve our heritage. Hindutva is reactionary in nature but does not shy away from modernity. Hindutva doesn’t believe that modernization is equivalent to the Westernization of Indian society. It wants India to modernize but on our own terms, not anyone else’s.
And these are the fundamental differences between the two ideologies that fuel hatred for Veer Savarkar. He is the personification of everything that liberals do not like. Savarkar was pretty modern in his outlook and there are aspects of his ideology that Hindu society of even today will find unpalatable. But regardless, liberals hate him because he advocated for India to modernize on the basis of its Hindu heritage.
A Bharat Ratna for Veer Savarkar would be official recognition of his contributions to the story of Independent India at the highest level. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are inheritors of that legacy. Savarkar’s ideology received mass support for the first time during the Ram Janambhoomi movement. It was taken to the people by Lal Krishna Advani through the Rath Yatra.
Then, it underwent modification during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as Prime Minister and his unexpected electoral defeat was evidence that there were a few essential adaptations Hindutva had to make to entrench itself in the corridors of power. A decade later, Narendra Modi made those adaptations and succeeded in taking Savarkar’s ideology to the pinnacles of power in Independent India.
‘Savarkar: Echoes of a Forgotten Past’, a biography by Vikram Sampath, reveals that Savarkar himself represents a continuity that goes even further back than previously thought. His book also reveals that the Congress party was established by the British to further cement their power in India. The continuity that Savarkar personally represented and Congress’ own legacy that pits it at odds with Hindutva is perhaps a story for another time.