Savarkar send clemency letters to British to rescue himself, he not only ask for pardon but also surrendered by acknowledging that “I had a fair trial and just sentence and I will never take part in politics” & these evidences are available in ‘National Archives’ in New Delhi. (See: Far from heroism – The tale of ‘Veer Savarkar by Krishnan Dubey and Venkitesh Ramakrishnan, 7 Apr 1996, Frontline)
Any one who reads Savarkar’s biography or his autobiography ‘My Transportation for life’ will immediately know the hollowness in these charges. Savarkar writes, “It was my duty as a follower of responsive cooperation, to accept such conditions as would enable me to do better and larger work for my country than I was able to do during the years of imprisonment. I would be free thus to serve my mother country, and I would regard it as a social duty.” (My Transportation for Life by V D Savarkar, page 301) also “Whatever good I could do in the Andamans or whatever awakening I might bring about among its people was nothing in comparison with what I could do in India as a free man. On the other hand, in order to win my freedom, I would not stoop low or lend myself to anything mean or treacherous such as would bring disgrace on my country or be a blot on her fair name. Freedom thus obtained would have harmed the cause and would have been, as I regarded it, an immoral act.” (ibid, p.245). Such was Savarkar’s motive behind his struggle for release.
Savarkar was a true disciple of Chattrapati Shivaji. Shivaji too had sent similar letters and petitions to deceive the enemy as before the killing of Afzal Khan, during Siddi Johar’s siege and during his imprisonment at Agra. He had also accepted some humiliating conditions during the treaty made at the time of the siege of Purandar fort. However, Shivaji bid his time and avenged all insults when he became powerful enough. This is clever political stratagem. Vietnam’s Communist leader ‘Ho Chi Minh’ rescued himself from Kuomintang prison by sending similar kind of petition and assuring cooperation. He expressed his desire to Marshal Chang to work for ‘Dong Minh Hoi’ which was formed in Indochina with the help of Kuomintang government (‘Dong Minh Hoi’ was formed to oppose Ho Chi Minh’s ‘Viet Minh’ party).
When World War I broke out, Savarkar sent petition to the Government of India in 1914. He averred that were the British to grant Colonial Self-Government to Hindusthan and majority in Central Legislative Council, revolutionaries would help Britain in the War. He gave instances of European Governments setting their political prisoners free and even those of the liberation of political prisoners in Ireland to prove his point. Also, he added “I offered to do without any release for myself personally. Let them release all the political prisoners in the country leaving me alone in my own cell in the Andamans. I shall rejoice in their freedom as if it was my own.” (ibid, p.187). This proves that his demands were selfless and made on behalf of all political prisoners in Andamans, without regard to personal welfare.
Fully aware that the British would not release him fearing the role he would play in Indian politics, Savarkar stated before the Jail Commission in 1920, “If you forbid me from entering into politics, I shall do social and literary work in India. I shall try to serve mankind in many other ways and if I break any condition that you may impose upon me you are free to send me back to this prison on Transportation for Life.” (ibid, p246) He conveyed the same message during his discussion with Governor which is summarized as follows:
“Still, for a stipulated period, I agreed to take no part in politics, that is, in active, day-to-day, politics. In prison, I could not, of course, do any Politics at all. But when outside I could do other kind of work, educational, religious and literary and serve my country in diverse fields. Generals, as prisoners of war, cannot conduct the war and come on the battlefield. They are let off on parole after signing the pledge, like Lord Krishna, who agreed that he would not wield any arms during the continuance of the war. And it is considered no humiliation on their part to do so, and they consider it their duty to do so, in order that, later on, their services might be available to their nation by way of leading and guidance in other work.” (ibid, p.302).
Savarkar did indeed pursue a vigorous campaign of social reform, reform in language and script, Shuddhi (purification or reversion to Hindu fold), scientific outlook as per the conditions of his release.In 1920, most of political prisoners in the Andamans accepted and signed such terms of agreement. “They would abstain from politics and revolutionary activity for a certain number of years and if again they were tried and found guilty of treason, they would come back to the Andamans to serve the remainder of their life-sentence.” (ibid, p.254).
One need not go to New Delhi’s ‘National Archives’ to see Savarkar’s letter which has been presented as a ‘Clemency Letter’. Savarkar himself published the said letter in his book “Letters From Andaman” (letters which he send to his younger brother Dr.Narayan Savarkar from Andaman) as letter no.8 dated 06-07-1920 (original application which he send to British has date 02-4-1920). A significant excerpt of it is as follows:
”As to the question so often put to me and others by officers no less exalted than the members of the Indian Cabinet ‘what if you had rebelled against the ancient kings of India? They used to trample rebels under the feet of Elephants’. I answer that not only in India but even in England and all other parts of the world such would have at times been the fate of rebels. But then why did the British people fill the whole world with a howl that the Germans had ill treated their captives and did not allow them fresh bread and butter! There was a time when captives were flayed alive and offered as victims to Moloch and Thor and such other Gods of war!’ The thing is this that this advanced stage in civilization attained by man is the resultant of the efforts of all men and therefore their common inheritance and benefits all.
Speaking relatively to Barbarian times it is true that I had a fair trial and a just sentence and the Government is at liberty to derive whatever satisfaction they can from the compliment that they give a fairer trial and a juster sentence to their captives than the cannibals used to do. But it should not be forgotten that if in olden days the rulers flayed their rebels alive then the rebels too when they got the upper hand flayed alive the rulers as well. And if the British people treated me or other rebels more justly i.e. less barbarously then they may rest assured that they too would be as leniently treated by the Indian rebels if ever the tables are turned”
When the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms were introduced in 1919, Savarkar wrote to Montagu and Governor General, “I have further told them that if they granted real self-government to India with substantial elected majority in the Central Legislature and With no incubus of the Council of State upon it; and if they further granted full amnesty to Indian political prisoners in the country and outside, in India and in the Andamans. and to exiles in Europe and America, myself and many more like me will accept the new dispensation and, if elected to the Legislature, will exert to make the reforms a success. The Legislature that had all along treated me with scorn and indifference, and that excited an equal contempt in our hearts for it. Will, thenceforward, be our scene of action where we shall be proud to work and co-operate for the fulfillment of our aim.” (ibid, p.220)
All this clearly indicates that Savarkar was trying to deceive the British. Instead, some Indians are willing to be deceived. It is necessary to read ‘between the lines’ while reading political resolutions, letters and applications. Those who accuse Savarkar of cowardice or treason are either not capable or not willing to read ‘between the lines’. Savarkar never hid these letters or petitions. Instead, he detailed the political strategy behind the letters in his ‘My Transportation for Life’. Let no one make a song and dance that they have unearthed some State secret!