By: M.R. Lalu
Flashing a clemency letter written by V.D Savarkar to the British from the Cellular jail, Rahul Gandhi has once again done a favour to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) recently. The BJP has all its weaponries ready against the Congress in its strong turf Gujarat, which the party has always been accused of turning into its Hindutva laboratory. Rahul Gandhi’s untimely political gesture against Veer Savarkar needs to be categorised as the result of a political tutoring unsupplied with unadulterated facts. This could also be rated as his inability to sense the political temperature building up in the state of Gujarat. The results of the state’s elections would definitely be seen as an indication to what the country is eagerly waiting for- the mega battle 2024- the national elections. Modi with his arms and armaments is all set to break his own record and the tripartite political war that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) could transform the narrative about the Gujarat elections as, is going to be a show of strength of the Hindutva that the BJP has so far been nurturing.
Savarkar, for no reason could be counted as a coward by anybody with a sense of political understanding as the torture he had undergone was humongous. Despite his being blamed for writing the clemency letters repeatedly, the period that Savarkar spent in the Cellular Jail from 1911 to 1924 had been a period of harassment that no other political prisoners, who later rose to hold positions in an independent India did go through. But to consider his Hindu sentiments and intellectual orientation to support a Hindu majoritarian state as an attitude of vehemence of a Hindu fanatic would equally help the Congress to alienate the party further from the community. The setbacks that the Congress party had at the hands of the Sangh Parivar consolidation both politically and culturally have been irretrievable. The Congress and its leaders have consistently been steering controversies on Savarkar ever since his death.
It was A.P.J Abdul Kalam who unveiled the portrait of Savarkar in the Central Hall of Parliament in 2003. The event was boycotted by the entire opposition and Sonia Gandhi, camping with other opposition leaders, wrote a letter to A.P.J Abdul Kalam asking him not to attend the function. Most of the parties that opposed the BJP government’s move had justified their stand by saying that they did not want to ‘give credibility to the activities and divisive policies’ of Savarkar. Interestingly, the Congress had been perplexed and literally suffocated and struggling to justify its Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson Najma Heptulla’s attending the unveiling ceremony. The party seemed to have been confused almost every occasion when it came out sharpening its claws against Savarkar.
The reason why Savarkar’s detractors and critics undervalue his patriotic personality is the letters that he is blamed to have written to the British administration. There are split views on his clemency letters. While one view points out his letters as mere clemency inscriptions, the other view sounds that he appealed for a reduction in his sentence and a transfer to another prison. But the fact of the matter is, despite the Congress and the other political opponents of the BJP driving their campaign against Savarkar’s bravery, their detractive views have not so much trickled into India’s nationalistic sentiments. Large numbers of Indians view the veteran freedom fighter as a unique personality who underwent unprecedented persecution in the dungeons of the British jails and his attempts for clemency, if any, with contextual intonation, could be justified as a well thought-out approach to come out revamped for a better fight against the colonial hegemony.
‘The Indian War of Independence of 1857’ written by Savarkar had been an intelligent tribute to the war heroes of the first Independent struggle against the British fiefdom. The first impulse of revolt in a large scale against the British Empire could have been minimised as a sheepish attempt of mutiny by a small number of Indian soldiers, if the book authored by V.D Savarkar did not gain publicity. The book is a well documented referential guide which did justice to all the martyrs of the rebellion and their sacrifice. The British had enough reasons to address the man in their secret confinement as the ‘most dangerous’. Savarkar, as he begins his book categorically inscribes addressing the revolutionary upheaval as an outcome of the intense desire of patriots who wanted to set their country free and a passionate attempt to restore the ethos of their religion. This extraordinary revolt was not only against the British crookedness behind the greased bullets but also a war in the offing against the British Raj.
The narrative that was established in a post independent India describing Gandhi’s nonviolent means of mobilization as the solitary winning strategy that India gained freedom with, could systematically undermine the contribution of a large number of revolutionaries. Savarkar, through his endeavours to gain freedom for India remained one of the best examples as a patriot to a genuine student of India’s independence struggle. His sacrifice was untainted and decisively genuine than that of Jawaharlal Nehru and many others. The level of his patriotic intellectualism was indisputably visible as we see him jump from the ship midway when the British arrested and transported him to India. As a young patriotic revolutionary, his political asylum at the shores of France did not sustain as a series of Anglo-French repartees overturned his ambitious experiment to escape.
The Congress has consistently been in denial and deliberately oblivious to the momentum that the ideology that Savarkar nurtured and the pace with which it began to gain relevance in India. Savarkar’s book ‘Essentials of Hindutva’ deals with the basics of Hinduism. This book has evidential revelations and ideological convictions shining with much clarity. No doubt, the Hindutva that the Sangh Parivar has been channelizing its energy for has mostly been extracted from the ideals that Savarkar had spoken about. To substantiate his ideas of Hindutva, Savarkar writes, “This one word, Hindutva, ran like a vital spinal cord through our whole body politic and made the Nayars of Malabar weep over the sufferings of the Brahmins in Kashmir. Our bards bewailed the fall of Hindus, our seers roused the feelings of Hindus, our heroes fought the battle of Hindus, our saints blessed the efforts of Hindus, our statesmen moulded the fate of Hindus, and our mothers wept over the wounds and gloried over the triumph of Hindus.”
India’s present political context is principally driven by the consciousness that an untouchable nationalist of the Congress, V.D Savarkar generated. To counter his eminence in the midst of a newly invigorated Hindutva sensationalism will be a herculean task for the Congress. If it keeps hammering on projecting him as the underdog of India’s independence struggle, except his grey beard, nothing about his understanding and appearance would narrate Rahul Gandhi’s maturity. But of course, his political rant on Savarkar had given him a media mileage, though his Bharat Jodo Yatra could not create a pan India narrative for change.
(The author is a Freelance Journalist/Social Worker)