Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, born on May 28, 1883, was a major player in India’s Independence. He was a poet, a writer and a politician, who shaped Indian nationalism through the concept of Hindutva, a term that was coined by this leader.
Concept of Hindutva
Hindutva has been a much misunderstood word these days, for, the term Hindu has been equated with the religion, Hinduism and many people have termed this concept as an idea of following and promoting one religion.
Hindutva, a Value System
In actual sense, what Sarvarkar meant was a value system based on the culture and traditions of this land. It was a value system that revolved around the core principles of Universalism, Humanism, Positivism, Pragmatism and Rationalism.
Savarkar believed in influencing the masses towards independence, by reminding them of their unique cultural identity.
Activities as youth
Savarkar’s pro independence activities began from his student days in England, where, as a part of the India House, he founded the twin student societies, Abhinav Bharat Society and Free India Society to encourage the youth to participate in Indian revolution for independence.
He also brought out many publications towards this effect. “The First Indian War of Independence” was one of his major works highlighting the Indian struggle of 1857 against the British misrule. The work was banned by the British administrators.
Fighting untouchability and casteism
Savarkar was against religions, untouchability and openly spoke out against castism. He thereby played a vital role in forging unity among masses. He is credited to have facilitated in discarding the practice of untouchability in the remote areas of Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, in less than 10 years.
Netaji on Savarkar
Netaji in his speech of June-25, 1944, acknowledged Savarkar’s perspicacity.
Starting Ganesh Utsav
Savarkar was also one of the leaders along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak who started the Ganesh Utsav that became and is still one of the major festivals of Maharashtra, to build national and cultural unity.
For all these, Savarkar was arrested in London in 1910 for carrying out anti-colonial activities. While being shifted to India in a ship, Savarkar tried to escape when the ship reached Marseilles by diving into the water and escaping to the shore. But, the alarm bells were rung before he could be saved by his friends and he was rearrested. He was now sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment, i.e, 50 years in jail and was shifted to the Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar islands. His brother was also in same jail at the same time for many years, but both did not know of each others’ presence.
Cellular Jail, Savarkar Cell
This did not impede Sarvarkar as he carried out his pro independence activities from jail. He wrote his biggest work on Hindutva while serving his sentence.
In 1921, Savarkar was released on the condition that he would not hence forth encourage and carry out any revolutionary activities.
Speeches across land
Once outside jail, Savarkar concentrated on travelling across the country and giving speeches on the concept of Hindutva that he had formulated while in prison. As an able orator and poet, he was able to greatly influence the minds of the people towards his idea of India.
President of Hindu Mahasabha
He was elected the president of Hindu Mahasabha in 1937, which he served until 1943.
Savarkar was vehemently against partition. His position on partition has been aptly summarized by Ambedkar in his work, ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’.
“Mr. Savarkar… insists that, although there are two nations in India, India shall not be divided into two parts, one for Muslims and the other for the Hindus; that the two nations shall dwell in one country and shall live under the mantle of one single constitution…”
After Independence, Savarkar continued his agenda of promoting Hindutva through his oratory, poetry and writing skills. He had to sail through a few controversial moments when he was accused in Mahatma Gandhi assassination case, but was later acquitted.
Savarkar passed away on 26th February, 1966. Around 2000 Rastriya Swayam Sevaks conducted a grand funeral for this great freedom fighter. The term ‘Veer’ was added to his name in recognition of the great courage he had shown in fighting the British Rule.
We, Hari and Hema got the opportunity to visit his cell in Andaman Jail. We recollect with pain to have seen the many torture tools that were used then.
The struggle, the freedom fighters have gone through to give us, the next generations, the freedom we are enjoying today truly leave us tearful and speechless!!!
The only words that arise in the silence are,
“Are we living up to the dreams they cherished for India, for the sake of which they underwent so much torture?”