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Read about the ‘mercy bond’ signed by PM Nehru to escape prison, even as Congress denigrates Veer Savarkar, tortured for 11 years in prison

A 'valiant' Jawaharlal Nehru was quick to get his sentence suspended with the aide of his influential father

As India celebrates the legacy of freedom fighter Veer Savarkar on his 138th birth anniversary, the Congress party and his social media trolls began tarnishing his image by claiming that he had pleaded clemency from the British authorities. The grand-old party has tried to slander the freedom fighter’s sacrifices several times by portraying him a ‘traitor’, ‘British stooge’ and a ‘colonial loyalist.’

Congress workers, in the past, had garlanded Savarkar’s statue with a shoe or blackened it to express their hatred towards him. It, therefore, came as no surprise when on Friday (May 28), the party-sponsored trolls resumed hurling abuses and defaming Veer Savarkar. One such troll uploaded a picture of Veer Savarkar holding his ears and said that he should be renamed as ‘sorry worker’.

Screengrab of the tweet

One Syed Aleem Ilahi wrote, “Veer Savarkar was most obedient servant of British. Real Traitor and anti National Mr Savarkar”

Screengrab of the tweet

Another Congress troll compared the freedom fighter to a ‘dog’ and said that Britishers told the freedom fighter to not ‘bark’ unless he has the power to put up a fight and bite.

Screengrab of the tweet

Circumstances leading unto the mercy petition of Veer Savarkar

At Cellular Jail, Veer Savarkar was subjected to unconscionable torture and inhumane treatment that tested the very limits of his conviction. He was, reportedly, restrained in chains, flogged, and resigned to six months of solitary confinement. The British 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. In order to torment him, the guards whitewashed the walls on which he scraped poems. By some accounts, he was often forced to eat rotten food infested with worms and insects as punishment for his ‘crimes’ against the government. 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.

Following the closure of the prison at Port Blair, Savarkar was eventually deported to Ratnagiri Prison in May of 1921, where his torture continued. Unlike numerous political prisoners who were driven to insanity or committed suicide, Savarkar showed remarkable resilience. He wrote strategic letters of ploy to the Britishers, not only for himself but for others also, to get out of jail, which the Congress has been shamelessly twisting for decades now. One here needs to ask, how many top leaders of the Congress had to suffer such harsh punishments?

Julia Kelley-Swift, a student of history at Wesleyan University, in her thesis titled, ‘A Misunderstood Legacy: V.D. Savarkar and the Creation of Hindutva wrote, “It is easy for any outsider, especially someone seeking to undermine Savarkar’s position, to disparage him for weakness under duress. However, such flippant criticism fails to acknowledge the incredible strain placed on the political prisoners at Port Blair. As Savarkar notes in one of the final sections of his memoir, by the last years of his sentence, he was struggling with continually disintegrating health, including a yearlong stint in the prison hospital.”

Nehru signed a bond pledging to not return to Nabha, was rescued by influential father

On September 22, 1923, former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was arrested alongside K Santanam and AT Gidwani for defying British orders and entering the then princely State of Nabha. The British police had arrested several Akalis, who had launched a demonstration in Jaitu in Nabha, on September 14 of that year. They had demanded the reinstatement of Raja Ripdudaman Singh in the Princely State, after he was exiled by the British to Dehradun.

On learning about the incident, Nehru, Santanam, and Gidwani boarded a train to Mukatsar and then rode on horsebacks along with the Akalis to Jaitu. They were immediately handcuffed and lodged in a small cell at the Jaitu police station. The trio was then shifted to Nabha on September 22 morning and locked in district jail. Despite the police offering Nehru immediate release if he deserted his plans of ‘Satyagraha’, a defiant Nehru did not budge. He was arrested soon after.

It was here that the Satyagrahi in Nehru began to wear out. According to Santanam, the cell was small and the roof was covered in mud. No arrangements were made for new clothing, or shower. Nehru poignantly recounted the experience in his Autobiography where he said, “All this time, till the forenoon of next day, when we were finally delivered up at Nabha Gaol, the joint handcuff and the heavy chain kept us company. Neither of us could move at all without the other’s cooperation. To be handcuffed to another day and for a whole night and part of a day is not an experience I would like to repeat.”

There were no signs of his release. A desperate Motilal Nehru had to reach out to the Viceroy to learn about the whereabouts of his son Jawaharlal Nehru. “…The authorities of the Nabha jail suddenly changed their attitude and arrangements were made for our bathing. Our clothes were given to us and friends from outside were allowed to send fruits and other eatables,” Santanam had recalled the change after Motilal Nehru’s intervention.

In the case of political arrests, the usual policy for accused freedom fighters has been to not defend themselves in case of arrests. Although the former PM initially thought that he would only be tried for violating State orders, the invocation of ‘conspiracy’ by the prosecution made him baffled. It implied a jail term of 2 years. And Jawaharlal Nehru, who had earlier pledged to not defend himself, began seeking for an outside lawyer. However, he was not provided with a counsel and instead sentenced to 6 months for violation of State orders and 18-24 months for conspiracy.

Motilal Nehru then deputed lawyer K D Malviya, who later became a Cabinet Minister after India’s independence. And surprisingly, his sentence was suspended on the same evening. In the words of Professor Chaman Lal, he said, “Nehru was released from the Nabha jail only after he signed a bond that he would never enter the princely state again.” The former Prime Minister knew the case could be later used against him on a later date and therefore wanted to permanently quash it.

Jawaharlal Nehru had deserted his colleague Acharya Gidwani

When violence broke out on February 21, 1924 during which 19 Sikhs were officially believed to have been killed, Nehru’s aide Acharya Gidwani had visited Jaitu to help the wounded. He was in turn arrested by the Nabha State police and had to spend almost a year in jail, before he was released on health grounds. A shrewd Jawaharlal Nehru, who conceded that he did not want to relive his short jail term in Jaitu, deserted Gidwani and chose not to remain loyal to his colleague and visit Jaitu.

In his own words, the former Prime Minister recounted, “I took shelter behind the advice of friends and made of it as a pretext to cover my own weakness. For after all it was my own weakness and disinclination to go to Nabha Gaol again that kept me away, and I have always felt a little ashamed of thus deserting a colleague. As often with us all, discretion was preferred to valour.”

While the Congress party and its trolls have been busy shaming freedom fighter Veer Savarkar despite the torture and ill-treatment meted out to him, a ‘valiant’ Jawaharlal Nehru was quick to get his sentence suspended by signing a bond with the aide of his influential father.

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Dibakar Dutta
Fascinated by Indian politics

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