By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, Nov 18:
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi stoked a controversy during his ongoing ”Bharat Jodo Yatra” in Akola district of Maharashtra on Thursday, claiming that veteran freedom fighter Barrister Vinayak Damodar Savarkar begged for mercy and had pledged his support to the Britishers.
Speaking to media Gandhi cited from a letter purportedly written by Savarkar to the Britishers during the freedom struggle pledging his support to them. “Sir, I beg to remain your most obedient servant,” Savarkar said and signed on it, he claimed.
“Savarkar betrayed Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel by supporting the Britishers”, Rahul Gandhi alleged.
While as expected BJP lambasted Gandhi, the Congress’s ally Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) too slammed the opposition leader. When asked by reporters at Shivaji Park in Mumbai, Uddhav Thackeray said that he did not agree with whatever Gandhi has said. “Our views are clear on this issue. “We have highest regard for Savarkar for his sacrifice to achieve independence”.
“We are aware of extreme inhuman conditions Savarkar faced in the jail. Now it is time that the freedom achieved after relentless struggle is safe guarded since the country is heading towards slavery. We are intentionally being asked this question by those who had earlier formed the Govt with the Peoples Democratic Party led by Mehbooba Mufti in Kashmir”, Thackeray said in an apparent dig at BJP. Incidentally the Shiv Sena has been demanding that “Bharat Ratna” be conferred on Savarkar since long.
MP Rahul Shevale (Eknath Shinde faction) demanded that Gandhi’s yatra be stopped immediately. Veer Savarkar’s great grandson Ranjit Savarkar said that Gandhi is under misunderstanding that the Congress will get votes by defaming Savarkar by levelling false allegations. Gandhi should be arrested for making offending remarks against the most dedicated freedom fighter, he added.
While the veracity of the letter brought before media by Rahul Gandhi is yet to be verified, it is true that Savarkar had submitted 04 mercy petitions to the Britishers. But the fact remains that he was the only freedom fighter in the country who was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment. Besides, other freedom fighters-Mahatma and Pandit Nehru had adopted a conciliatory approach toward the Britishers on different occasions.
In terms of jail terms, Mahatma Gandhi served 7 years in Indian jails and 05 months in African jail and most of the time his jail term was reduced. Lokmanya Tilak served 8 years imprisonment in Mandalay jail (Myanmar (Burma). He did not seek any clemency.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru served 9 years jail term. He was released from the Central Jail Nabha (Punjab) in 1923, only after he signed a bond that he would never enter the princely state again. Savarkar served 14 years jail term in Cellular Jail (Andaman) and was confined to 13 years to Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra=27 years. He submitted four clemency petitions.
Savarkar remains the only freedom fighter having served the longest jail term. At Cellular Jail, he was subjected to unconscionable torture and inhumane treatment that tested the very limits of his conviction. He was 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. He was often made to do it despite his good conduct. Yet Savarkar did not lose his mental balance and maintained composite calm.
The flippant critics fail to acknowledge the incredible strain placed on the political prisoners in Cellular Jail at Port Blair. Savarkar was struggling with continually disintegrating health, including a yearlong stint in the prison hospital.
Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivram Rajguru were straightaway hanged on March 23, 1931 in the Lahore conspiracy case.