Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, also known as Swatantryaveer Savarkar, Vinayak Savarkar or simply Veer Savarkar in Marathi, was a freedom fighter and an Indian independence leader and politician who coined the Hindu nationalist ideology of Hindutva. The date of birth of Savarkar is May 28, 1883, and died on February 26, 1966. He was a prominent figure in the Hindu Mahasabha. In this article, we are going to study the biography of Veer Savarkar in detail.
Savarkar entered the Hindu Mahasabha and popularised Chandranath Basu's term Hindutva (Hinduness) to establish a collective "Hindu" identity as an essence of Bharat (India). Savarkar was an atheist but practised Hindu philosophy pragmatically.
As a high school student, Savarkar became involved in politics and continued to do so at Fergusson College in Pune. He and his brother founded the Abhinav Bharat Society, a secret society. He became involved with organizations such as the India House and the Free India Society while studying law in the United Kingdom. He also wrote books calling for full Indian independence by revolution. The British authorities banned one of his novels, The Indian War of Independence, which was about the Indian revolt of 1857. For his links to the revolutionary party India House, Savarkar was arrested in 1910 and ordered to be extradited to India.
Savarkar staged an attempt to flee and seek refuge in France when the ship was docked in the port of Marseilles on the way back to India. However, in violation of international law, French port officials returned him to the British. When he returned to India, Savarkar was sentenced to two life sentences, totalling fifty years, and was sent to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands' Cellular Jail.
Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar began travelling widely after 1937, becoming a powerful orator and writer who advocated Hindu political and social unity. As president of the Hindu Mahasabha political party, Savarkar supported the concept of a Hindu Rashtra in India (Hindu Nation). He began militarising Hindus from that point forward to liberate the country and defend Hindus in the future. Savarkar was critical of the Congress working committee's decision in the Wardha session of 1942, which passed a resolution saying to the British, "Quit India but keep your armies here," suggesting the reinstallation of British military rule over India, which he claimed would be much worse. In July 1942, he resigned as president of the Hindu Mahasabha because he was overworked and wanted a break, and the timing of his resignation coincided with Gandhi's Quit India Movement.
Savarkar was charged with co-conspiracy in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948, but the court acquitted him due to a lack of evidence. After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 1998, and again in 2014, with the Modi-led BJP government at the top, Savarkar resurfaced in public discourse.
Early Life and Education of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
Now we will learn about Veer Savarkar’s early life and education. Vinayak Savarkar was born on May 28, 1883, in the village of Bhagur, near Nashik, Maharashtra, to the Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin Hindu family of Damodar and Radhabai Savarkar. Ganesh, Narayan, and a sister named Maina were his other siblings.
When Savarkar was 12, the news of the atrocities committed on Hindus during the 1893 Hindu–-Muslim riots in Bombay and Pune inspired him to seek vengeance. As a result, he led a group of selected students to a village mosque. It was broken by the Battalion of students who hurled stones at it, shattering its windows and tiles.
Savarkar studied at Pune's 'Fergusson College' and received his bachelor's degree. Shyamji Krishna Varma assisted him in getting a scholarship to study in England. He enrolled in the 'Gray's Inn Law College' and sought refuge at the 'India House.' It was a North London student residence. Veer Savarkar inspired his fellow Indian students in London to form the 'Free India Society' to fight for independence from the British.
Involvement in Freedom Activities During the Early Years
Savarkar was active in the formation of secret societies while at Fergusson College. Savarkar created the Aryan Weekly, a handwritten weekly in which he published illuminating articles on patriotism, literature, history, and science. Any of the weekly's thought-provoking posts were distributed in local weeklies and newspapers. Savarkar often gave academic talks and debates on world history, the revolutions in Italy, the Netherlands, and America, and gave his colleagues an understanding of the stress and struggle those countries faced in reclaiming their lost freedom. He also urged his fellow countrymen to hate all English and refrain from buying foreign goods. Savarkar founded the Mitra Mela community at the turn of the century. This fold was secretly initiated by chosen youths of merit and valour. In 1904, the Mitra Mela developed into the Abhinav Bharat Society, whose network spread throughout western and central India, and whose branches became the Ghadar Party.
Arrest in London and Marseille
Ganesh Savarkar, an Indian nationalist, had led an armed uprising against the Morley–-Minto reforms of 1909. Savarkar was involved in the investigation by British police for allegedly planning the crime. Savarkar moved to Madame Cama's house in Paris to escape detention. Despite this, he was apprehended by police on March 13, 1910. Savarkar wrote letters to a close friend planning his escape in the final days of his freedom. Savarkar asked his friend to keep track of which ship and route he would be taken on, knowing that he would most likely be transported to India. On the 8th of July 1910, when the SS Morea arrived in Marseille, Savarkar escaped from his cell in the hopes that his friend would be waiting for him in a car. However, because his friend was late, and the alarm had been raised, Savarkar was re-arrested.
The Case Before the Permanent Court of Arbitration
The arrest of Vinayak Savarkar in Marseilles led the French government to protest the British, alleging that the British would not be able to retrieve Savarkar unless they followed proper legal procedures for his rendition. The Permanent Court of International Arbitration heard the case in 1910 and issued its verdict in 1911. The case sparked a lot of debate and was widely discussed in the French press, and it was thought to include a fascinating international issue of asylum rights.
First, the Court held that since there was a pattern of cooperation between the two countries about the likelihood of Savarkar's escape in Marseilles, and there was no coercion or deception used to persuade the French authorities to return Savarkar to them, the British authorities did not have to hand him over to the French for them to begin rendition proceedings. The tribunal, on the other hand, found "irregularities" in Savarkar's arrest and delivery to the Indian Army Military Police guard.
Trial and Sentence
When Savarkar arrived in Bombay, he was taken to the Yerwada Central Jail in Pune. On September 10, 1910, the special tribunal began its hearings. The abetment to the murder of Nashik Collector Jackson was one of the charges levelled against Savarkar. The second was waging a plot against the King-Emperor in violation of Indian penal code 121-A. Following the two trials, Savarkar, who was 28 at the time, was found guilty and sentenced to 50 years in prison, and was transported to the notorious Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on July 4, 1911. The British government treated him as a political prisoner.
Prisoner in Andaman
In accordance with his sentences, Savarkar appealed to the Bombay government for some concessions. His application was denied by Government letter No. 2022, dated 4 April 1911, and he was told that the matter of remitting the second sentence of transportation for life would be considered after the first sentence of transportation for life expired. On August 30, 1911, a month after arriving in the Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Savarkar filed his first clemency petition. On September 3, 1911, this petition was denied.
On November 14, 1913, Savarkar proposed his next clemency petition to Sir Reginald Craddock, a member of the Governor General's council from India. He portrayed himself as a "prodigal son" longing to return to the "parental doors of the government" in his letter asking for forgiveness. Many Indians' confidence in British rule will be recast as a result of his release, he wrote. "Moreover, my conversion to the constitutional line will restore all those misguided young men in India and abroad who once looked up to me as their guide," he added. I am willing to represent the government in whatever capacity they need, because my conversion was conscientious, and I hope that my future actions will be as well. Nothing can be gotten in contrast to what would be if I were not in prison".
Savarkar filed another clemency petition in 1917, this time requesting a general amnesty for all political prisoners. On February 1, 1918, Savarkar was told that a mercy petition had been filed with the British Indian Government. King-Emperor George V issued a Royal decree in December 1919. This proclamation contained a declaration of Royal clemency for political prisoners in Paragraph 6. In light of the Royal declaration, Savarkar submitted his fourth clemency petition to the British Government on March 30, 1920, stating, "I do not contribute even to the peaceful and intellectual anarchism of a Kuropatkin or a Tolstoy. And, as for my revolutionary impulses in the past, I have told and written to the Government in my petitions (1918, 1914) of my firm intention to abide by the constitution and stand by it as soon as Mr. Montagu began to frame it. Since then, the Reforms and then the Proclamation have only strengthened my convictions, and I have recently publicly declared my belief in and willingness to support orderly and constitutional progress".
The British government denied this petition on July 12, 1920. The British government considered releasing Ganesh Savarkar but not Vinayak Savarkar after considering the petition. The following is the justification for doing so:
“If Ganesh is released but Vinayak is held in detention, the latter will become a hostage for the former, who will ensure that his misbehaviour does not jeopardise his brother's chances of being released at a later date.”
In 1920, Mahatma Gandhi, Vithalbhai Patel, and Bal Gangadhar Tilak demanded his unconditional release from the Indian National Congress. In exchange for his freedom, Savarkar signed a declaration praising his conviction, verdict, and British rule, as well as renouncing abuse.
Restricted Freedom in Ratnagiri
The Savarkar brothers were transferred to a jail in Ratnagiri on May 2, 1921. He wrote his "Essentials of Hindutva" while imprisoned in Ratnagiri jail in 1922, which formulated his Hindutva theory. He was released on January 6, 1924, but confined to the Ratnagiri District. He began working on the consolidation of Hindu culture, or Hindu Sangathan, soon after. He was given a bungalow by the colonial government, and he was permitted visitors. During his internment, he met notable figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr B. R. Ambedkar. In 1929, Nathuram Godse, who would later assassinate Gandhi, met Savarkar for the first time as a nineteen-year-old. During his years of confinement in Ratnagiri, Savarkar became a prolific journalist. His publishers, on the other hand, wanted to state that they were completely divorced from politics. Until 1937, Savarkar was limited to the Ratnagiri district. At the time, the newly elected government of Bombay president unconditionally released him.
Leader of the Hindu Mahasabha
During World War II, as president of the Hindu Mahasabha, Savarkar promoted the slogan "Hinduism all Politics and Militarize Hinduism" and agreed to support the British war effort in India by providing Hindus with military training. When Congress launched the Quit India movement in 1942, Savarkar slammed it and urged Hindus to remain engaged in the war effort and not revolt against the government; he also encouraged Hindus to join the armed forces to learn the "arts of war." In 1944, Hindu Mahasabha activists protested Gandhi's proposal to hold talks with Jinnah, which Savarkar called "appeasement." He attacked both the Congress and the British for making concessions to Muslim separatists in the British plans for power transfer. Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee resigned as Vice-President of the Hindu Mahasabha soon after Independence, distancing himself from the Hindu Mahasabha's Akhand Hindustan (Undivided India) plank, which suggested undoing partition.
Reaction to Quit India Movement
The Hindu Mahasabha publicly opposed and boycotted the Quit India Movement under Savarkar's leadership. Savarkar also wrote a letter titled "Stick to your Posts," in which he advised Hindu Sabhaites who were "members of municipalities, local bodies, legislatures, or those serving in the army" to "stick to their posts" around the country and not to join the Quit India Movement at all costs.
Relationship with the Muslim League and Others
In the 1937 Indian provincial elections, the Indian National Congress defeated the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha by a large margin. In 1939, however, the Congress ministries resigned in protest of Viceroy Lord Linlithgow's decision to declare India a belligerent in WWII without consulting the Indian people. Under Savarkar's presidency, the Hindu Mahasabha joined forces with the Muslim League and other parties to form governments in some provinces. Sindh, NWFP, and Bengal have all formed coalition governments.
Hindu Mahasabha members in Sindh joined the Muslim League government of Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah. In the words of Savarkar,
"Witness the fact that only recently in Sindh, the Sind-Hindu-Sabha accepted an invitation to join hands with the League that is running a coalition government.”
In 1943, Hindu Mahasabha members joined forces with Sardar Aurangzeb Khan of the Muslim League to form a government in the North-West Frontier Province. Finance Minister Mehar Chand Khanna was the cabinet's Mahasabha member.
In December 1941, the Hindu Mahasabha joined Fazlul Haq's Progressive Coalition government in Bengal, which was headed by the Krishak Praja Party. Savarkar lauded the coalition government's ability to work efficiently.
Arrest and Acquittal in Gandhi's Assassination
Following Gandhi's assassination on January 30, 1948, the assassin Nathuram Godse and his alleged accomplices and conspirators were apprehended by police. He was a part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Hindu Mahasabha. Godse was the editor of Agrani – Hindu Rashtra, a Pune-based Marathi daily published by "The Hindu Rashtra Prakashan Ltd." (The Hindu Nation Publications). Gulabchand Hirachand, Bhalji Pendharkar, and Jugal Kishore Birla were among the eminent contributors to this venture. Savarkar had put ₹15,000 into the company. On February 5, 1948, Savarkar, a former president of the Hindu Mahasabha, was arrested from his home in Shivaji Park and detained at the Arthur Road Prison in Bombay. He was charged with murder, murder conspiracy, and murder abetment. In a public written statement published in The Times of India, Bombay on February 7, 1948, a day before his arrest, Savarkar called Gandhi's assassination a fratricidal crime that jeopardised India's life as a nascent country. The vast amount of papers confiscated from his home showed nothing even remotely linked to Gandhi's assassination. Savarkar was detained under the Preventive Detention Act due to a lack of facts.
Godse assumed sole responsibility for the assassination's preparation and execution. However, according to the Approver Digambar Badge, Nathuram Godse went to see Savarkar one last time in Bombay on January 17, 1948, before the assassination. Nathuram and Apte entered while Badge and Shankar waited outside. When Apte returned, he told Badge that Savarkar had blessed them, saying, "Yashasvi houya" (be successful and return). According to Apte, Savarkar predicted that Gandhi's 100 years would be over soon and that the mission would be completed successfully. However, since the approver's evidence lacked impartial corroboration, Badge's testimony was not acknowledged, and Savarkar was acquitted.
Mr Manohar Malgonkar saw Digamber Badge many times in the last week of August 1974 and asked him about the veracity of his testimony against Savarkar. "Even though he had blurted out the full story of the plot as far as he understood, without much persuasion, he had put up a brave fight against being forced to testify against Savarkar," Badge insisted to Mr Manohar Malgonkar. Badge eventually caved in. He agreed to testify under oath that he saw Nathuram Godse and Apte with Savarkar and that Savarkar had blessed their venture in front of Badge.
Dr G. V. Ketkar, the grandson of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, former editor of Kesari and then editor of "Tarun Bharat," who presided over a religious programme in Pune on November 12, 1964, to commemorate the release of Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa, and Vishnu Karkare from prison after their sentences had expired, gave information about a conspiracy to kill Gandhi, about which he professed knowledge. Ketkar was taken into custody. Outside and within the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, as well as both houses of the Indian parliament, a public outcry erupted. Gulzarilal Nanda, the then Union home minister, named Gopal Swarup Pathak, M. P, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India, as a Commission of Inquiry to re-investigate the plot to murder Gandhi under the pressure of 29 members of parliament and public opinion. In coordination with the Maharashtra government, the central government planned to conduct a detailed investigation using old documents. Pathak was given three months to complete his investigation, after which the Commission's chairman, Jeevan Lal Kapur, a retired Supreme Court of India judge, was named.
Evidence not presented in court was given to the Kapur Commission, including testimony from two of Savarkar's closest aides, Appa Ramachandra Kasar, his bodyguard, and Gajanan Vishnu Damle, his secretary. Mr Kasar and Mr Damle's testimony was reported by Bombay police on March 4, 1948, but these testimonies were not submitted to the court during the trial. According to these testimonies, Godse and Apte paid a visit to Savarkar on or about the 23rd or 24th of January, when they returned from Delhi following the bombing. Godse and Apte allegedly saw Savarkar in the middle of January and sat with him in his yard, according to Damle. From the 21st to the 30th of January 1948, the C. I. D. Bombay was on the lookout for Savarkar. The C. I. The crime report makes no mention of Godse or Apte meeting Savarkar at this time. "All of these facts taken together were destructive to any hypothesis other than the plot to murder by Savarkar and his party," Justice Kapur concluded. The testimony of approver Digambar Badge was a significant factor in Savarkar's arrest. Digambar Badge was not re-interviewed by the commission. The badge was alive and employed in Bombay at the time of the commission's investigation.
After Gandhi's assassination, angry mobs stoned Savarkar's home in Dadar, Bombay. Savarkar was arrested by the government for making "Hindu nationalist remarks" after being cleared of the charges linked to Gandhi's assassination and released from jail; he was released after promising to give up political activities. He went on to discuss Hindutva's social and cultural aspects. After the ban on political activity was lifted, he resumed it, but only until his death in 1966 due to ill health. When he was alive, his admirers conferred distinctions and financial awards on him. A guard of honour of 2,000 RSS staff escorted his funeral procession. According to McKean, Savarkar and the Congress had a public rivalry for the majority of their political career, but after independence, Congress ministers Vallabhbhai Patel and C. D. Deshmukh attempted unsuccessfully to ally with the Hindu Mahasabha and Savarkar. It was illegal for members of the Congress party to attend public functions honouring Savarkar. During the centennial celebrations of India's First War of Independence in Delhi, Nehru refused to share the stage. Following Nehru's death, the Congress government, led by Prime Minister Shastri, began paying him a monthly pension.
Veer Savarkar Autobiography
Two years after Savarkar's release from jail, a biography titled "Life of Barrister Savarkar" was released, written by a man named "Chitragupta." Indra Prakash of the Hindu Mahasabha contributed to a revised edition that was published in 1939. Veer Savarkar Prakashan, the new official publisher of Savarkar's writings, published a second edition of the book in 1987. Ravindra Vaman Ramdas deduced in the preface that "Chitragupta is none other than Veer Damodar Savarkar".
Let’s now discuss how Savarkar died. Yamuna Savarkar, Savarkar's wife, died on November 8, 1963. Savarkar began abstaining from drugs, food, and water on February 1, 1966, which he referred to as atmaarpan (fast until death). He wrote an article titled "Atmahatya Nahi Atmaarpan" before his death, in which he argued that when one's life mission is complete and one's desire to serve society is no longer present, it is preferable to end one's life at will rather than waiting for death. His condition was identified as "highly serious" before his death on February 26, 1966, at his home in Bombay, and that he had trouble breathing. Attempts to resuscitate him failed, and he was pronounced dead at 11:10 a.m. (IST) that day. Before his death, Savarkar requested that his relatives only conduct his funeral and not the Hindu faith's 10th and 13th-day rituals. As a result, his son Vishwas performed his last rites the next day at an electric crematorium in Bombay's Sonapur locality. Huge crowds gathered to pay their respects at his cremation. Vishwas Chiplunkar, his son, and Prabha Chiplunkar, his daughter, survive him. Prabhakar, his first son, had died in infancy. His house, belongings, and other personal relics have all been preserved for public viewing. There was no formal mourning by Maharashtra's then-Congress-led government or at the federal level. Long after his death, political indifference to Savarkar persisted.
Relevance of Veer Savarkar
He had a vision of popularising the concept of “Hinduism” even during times of criticism and controversy. He wanted to create a sense of Hindu identity and he did this through his speeches and writings. His ideology was free from caste discrimination and other elements which fragmented all the Hindus. When he was studying in London, he learnt the atrocities of the British and explained the same to other students and educated them. He wrote many books on what he believed and always wanted India to be independent of the British clutches. He was very brave, he confronted the Britishers, Indian National Congress, and its string leaders regarding the partition. Savarkar was very practical, he allied with the people whom he was not a fan of to achieve his goal. In 1939, he allied with the Muslim League and other political parties to come into power. He even opposed the “Quit India” movement which asked the British to leave but the British army to stay. He was very patient and wrote many books when he was imprisoned in the Andaman jail and did not lose his belief in Hindutva ideology.