Veer Savarkar: The Man Who Could Have Prevented PartitionUday Mahurkar
352 pages|₹ 595
VD Savarkar and RSS Sarsanghchalak MS Golwalkar (extreme right) at the Mrtunjay Diwas celebration on December 24, 1960 (Source: Ranjit Savarkar, Veer Savarkar Rashtriya Smarak)
THERE COMES A MOMENT in the history of a nation when it should ponder over its past and indulge in deep introspection, cutting across the various ‘isms’ to secure its future. Such a moment has arrived for India today. The canvas of history is sometimes very deceptive. On its turf, people who look like eternal heroes in their lifetimes degenerate into pale figures after some decades or after their demise. Inversely, as history unfolds, some who seem unacceptable during their lifetime emerge as heroes and their true character and contribution emerge before the world. In the first category falls Jawaharlal Nehru who, despite his extraordinary work in institution-building, doesn’t carry the tag of a hero anymore, except among a small band of Nehru lovers. This is largely owing to a series of blunders he committed on the national security and foreign policy fronts, for which India has paid a huge price. In addition, his cultural disconnect with the core Indian identity and his minority appeasement policies that have kept the country divided have contributed to his loss of face.
In the second category comes Veer Savarkar. He died on the sidelines in 1966 as an unsung hero. However, today if India has been able to revoke Article 370 and create a strong security structure against the designs of the fissiparous forces and make its presence felt on the global stage, it is Savarkar’s vision of no compromise with divisive forces, robust but skilful international diplomacy with a tit-for-tat policy with recalcitrant nations, and an unmistakable faith in the final destiny of the Indian nation that the Narendra Modi-led Government at the Centre is actually implementing. As the true story of Savarkar as an unparalleled visionary of India’s security and diplomacy, who predicted almost 80 years ago all the national security problems that India has faced in the past 70 years, unfolds before the nation along with the secular, and not divisive, character of his unalloyed nationalism or Hindutva, Savarkar virtually appears as a prophet, a savant, a unifier who has been reviled only because his idea of India is unacceptable to those who constitute or support divisive forces for their ideological or political reasons. Though Savarkar neither participated in politics nor in apolitical public activism after Independence, very few know that his contribution to India’s vision as a nation was very significant during the 19 years that he lived after 1947. In fact, the insights and political recommendations he offered for free India during the last phase of his life were invaluable. Many of his principles and suggestions were incorporated in the Constitution.
As the true story of Savarkar as an unparalleled visionary of India’s security and diplomacy, who predicted almost 80 years ago all the national security problems that India has faced in the past 70 years, unfolds along with the secular, and not divisive, character of his unalloyed nationalism or Hindutva, he appears as a prophet
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What is Savarkar’s idea of India that I and my co-author Chirayu Pandit have tried to present before the nation through our book Veer Savarkar: The Man Who Could Have Prevented Partition? It is a vision of an India that is strong, combative, diplomatically skilful on the world stage based on the principle of true Nation First where there is no place for religious appeasement at the cost of the rights of others. Had India followed Savarkar’s vision of a militarily strong country from the beginning, it wouldn’t have accepted a ceasefire when the Indian Army was just 13 km away from capturing Lahore in the 1965 India-Pakistan war and then signed the disadvantageous Tashkent agreement with Pakistan despite having an upper hand in the war. In that case, India wouldn’t have failed to settle the Kashmir (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or PoK) problem in the Shimla Agreement that followed the magnificent Indian victory in the 1971 war, despite holding 93,000 Pakistani soldiers captive. Not only India failed to take back PoK at the Shimla meet but also gave back to Pakistan Hindu-majority areas that its soldiers had taken in Sindh province, thus leaving the hapless Hindus at Pakistan’s mercy. Savarkar’s warning that India wouldn’t be able to imagine the damage that Pakistan would inflict on it, if constituted—and therefore needed to be treated as a rebel province—which he gave at the time of Partition, had fallen on deaf ears then and was falling on deaf ears even now. In his last years, when the self-defeating Tashkent agreement was signed, Savarkar was so livid with its outcome that in his typical harsh way he had said that he wouldn’t pay tribute to Lal Bahadur Shastri following his demise in Tashkent because Shastri had let down the nation and its soldiers who had sacrificed their lives to win Pakistani territory in the 1965 war.
Few know that it was Savarkar who played a key role in convincing Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose to flee to Japan and take the help of the Axis powers to wage war against the British. It was based on Savarkar’s visionary belief that on the world stage no two nations were permanent enemies or friends as relationships kept changing with the needs of the nations. It is equally little known that apart from predicting the future villainous role of Pakistan and the Hindu-Muslim problem based on minority appeasement, Savarkar had predicted the 1962 India-China war eight years in advance in 1954 when Nehru was talking about Panchsheel and peace with China. Savarkar’s reaction to Nehru was typical but prophetic. He had said: “They care not a jot for your Panchsheel because your Pansheel consists of beads of the rosary while their Panchsheel consists of tanks, submarines, guns, bombers and atom bombs. Today the [our] nation is run by pen alone. It must be run by sword. So my message to you, young countrymen, is that; Make the army up-to-date. If other nations invent hydrogen bombs you invent oxygen bombs. Thereby you make Bharat a strong nation and you will be able to live with self respect”. At the time of China’s birth in 1948, India was militarily much stronger but due to Nehru’s policies, China swiftly overtook India in military terms. How prophetic was Savarkar here too!
His warning on Assam in 1941, whereby he had warned the nation about the consequences of allowing East Bengal Muslims to settle in the Brahmaputra Valley for Assam’s culture and security of India’s Northeast frontier, is also unknown. Here, too, he had a duel with Nehru. When Nehru said “nature abhors a vacuum”, thereby asking how he could stop people from occupying a vacant space, Savarkar had retorted: “Nehru’s knowledge of environment is very poor. Nature also abhors poisonous gas”. Though harsh, Savarkar’s prediction came true. The Muslim population which was 10 per cent then has now boomed to 35 per cent and overwhelmed Assam and a significant percentage of the population has joined the radical Wahabi stream. His warning on Jammu and Kashmir, given in the early 1940s saying that its existence would be under threat if the aggressive designs of a section of local Muslims were not checked, was also ignored by the then Congress dispensation. It too came true. No wonder then that we have called him the father of India’s national security and diplomatic doctrine.
SAVARKAR HAS BEEN much reviled for his Hindutva ideology which has been sold as an exclusivist thought. The pseudo-secular-Left-pan-Islamist troika has worked over time to stereotype him as a bogeyman of a divisive ideology seeking to create hatred against Muslims. The fact is exactly the opposite. Facts prove that his Hindutva isn’t a Hindu supremacist view but a Hindu protective view based on his famous 1937 statement: “If the Minority has a right to protect itself the Majority too has a right to secure itself against an aggressive Minority”. His Hindu manifesto for free India promised equal rights to all castes and religions and went a step further and ensured physical protection to the minorities if their prayers were in any way hindered. But it warned against the creation of a nation within a nation in the name of “religious Minoritism” which in fact has been the story of India for the past 70 years. Significantly, Savarkar was warning against the consequences of the Muslim appeasement politics of Congress right from the day he entered politics in 1937, which is a good 10 years before India was partitioned at the altar of Muslim appeasement politics at a Hindu cost.
Nehru doesn’t carry the tag of a hero anymore owing to blunders on the national security and foreign policy fronts. His cultural disconnect with the core Indian identity and his minority appeasement have also contributed to his loss of face
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And his fight was for the equal treatment of all and not special treatment for Hindus as exemplified in his statement before the press in Lahore in 1938: “Jinnah is for more and more concession for Muslims while I am for equal treatment for all”. Savarkar’s stand in 1937 was the same as that of Dadabhai Naoroji in 1887 when he had opposed Muslim separatism encouraged by the Aligarh Muslim school in unequivocal terms. So by that yardstick, Naoroji, a Parsi, too should have been dubbed as communalist. Naoroji was a Congressman and the journey of Congress from 1887 to 1937 was also a journey of the fall of Congress from a party standing for equal rights to one that favoured Muslim appeasement at any cost. Therefore, our book also seeks to explore the entire gamut of actions on Savarkar’s part to prevent the formation of Pakistan and also answer as to whether Partition could have been prevented had the nation and Congress heeded his advice.
Savarkar’s attitude towards the minorities and the fact that he was willing to welcome Muslims when they stood for true Muslim unity are best exemplified by his engagement with the Shia Muslims of Lucknow in 1939. When the Shias passed a resolution saying that any Muslim slaughtering a cow would be considered an enemy of Hindu-Muslim unity, Savarkar instantly welcomed it and praised them before writing a letter to them in a reciprocal gesture and assuring them that his party, the Hindu Mahasabha, would convince Hindus not to deliberately play musical instruments before mosques. He told them that such genuine gestures could pave the way for genuine Hindu-Muslim unity. The fact that he was willing to accept moderate Muslims from the medieval period too is proved by his appreciation of the moderate policies of Mughal Emperor Akbar and Dara Shukoh towards Hindus. Savarkar’s worldview is fully evident on the last page of his epic work Hindutva, in which he has defined the contours of unalloyed nationalism or Hindutva. He says should Hindus come to rule the world, their treatment of humanity wouldn’t be any different from the tenets of the Gita or the principles of Lord Buddha. Thus, he reposes his complete faith in the famous Sanskrit phrase “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (The world is one large family).
Savarkar’s Hindu manifesto for free India promised equal rights to all castes and religions and went a step further and ensured physical protection to the minorities if their prayers were in any way hindered
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Our book also marshals strong evidence as to how baseless the various allegations against Savarkar are, from his mercy petitions to the British to his involvement in Gandhiji’s murder. No less than BR Ambedkar had tried to help Savarkar to prove his innocence in the Gandhi assassination case as he (Ambedkar) was convinced that Savarkar had been falsely implicated. Clearly, the time has come to redeem Savarkar for the greater good, rather for the future security of the nation.
Savarkar had foreseen that a day would come when all religious and social barriers would disappear to make the universe one human world but had averred that till that point Hindus couldn’t let their guard down against religious aggression. A ray of hope in this direction emerged recently when at the behest of the progressive crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, the school curriculum in the country known for exporting Wahabi terror till recently, was changed to remove hatred towards non-Islamic religions and include several positive, plural dimensions of Hinduism, Buddhism and even Sikhism, and also the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Obviously, India’s new status on the global platform after the arrival of the Modi Government and the Government’s nuanced cultural diplomacy played a role in this. In fact, the emergence of Prime Minister Modi as an unapologetic Hindu who is also fair to the minorities is in a way the realisation of Savarkar’s vision—the vision of one who never supported relegating minorities to second-class citizens in the Hindu nation.
This essay cannot be concluded without the mention of two things which give the glow of a prophet, of a savant, to Savarkar. When Savarkar was released from internment in Ratnagiri in 1937, many Congress leaders, including Subhas Chandra Bose and SM Joshi wanted him to join Congress, but Savarkar refused in a Maharana Pratap-like spirit, saying that he couldn’t join a party which was indulging in a betrayal of the nation by sacrificing majority rights at the altar of minority appeasement. This was the greatest sacrifice he had made for the nation as power and pelf were on the side of Congress at that time. Second, he led the most potent movement against untouchability during his 13-year internment in Ratnagiri when he would himself don the role of a Karmakandi Brahmin and perform the Janoi (thread) ceremony for the untouchables.
Savarkar led the most potent movement against untouchability during his internment in Ratnagiri when he would himself don the role of a Karmakandi Brahmin and perform the Janoi (thread) ceremony for the untouchables
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The late JD Joglekar, a Savarkar scholar, had done a commendable job of propagating Savarkar’s thoughts and personality through his writings. While commenting on Savarkar’s death, he concluded one of his masterly write-ups with deep anguish. He said: “A classic hero passed into eternity. An epoch came to an end. As had often happened before, a prophet died in wilderness.”
However, the great scholar in his agony had forgotten a golden principle of the universe: in accordance with the law of nature, the ultimate truth must always prevail. So what if it takes an unusually long time? Lord Buddha and Buddhism remained on the sidelines for over 200 years after Buddha’s Nirvana and surfaced only when Emperor Ashoka embraced Buddhist tenets and donned the role of a missionary to propagate Buddhism in all directions. No one would have thought at that time that over 2,000 years later, Buddhism would be the fourth most widely practised religion in the world. Like Buddha, the Savarkar era, too, has arrived in right earnest after remaining on the sidelines for decades.
(This essay draws upon Uday Mahurkar’s forthcoming book Veer Savarkar: The Man Who Could Have Prevented Partition | Rupa |
352 pages | ₹ 595)