Tag Archives: Veer Savarkar

Veer Savarkar and the Two-Nation Theory

-Dr. Shreerang Godbole

Congress leader Digvijay Singh recently stated (26 Jan) that Savarkar had the original idea of the two-nation theory which was later adopted by Jinnah. This is not the first (and one may safely assume not the last) time that Veer Savarkar has been blamed for putting forth the two-nation theory. Notwithstanding Digvijay Singh’s political compulsions in spreading this piece of disinformation, a factual rebuttal is in order.

The entire case of the Savarkar-baiters rests on a solitary sentence culled out from his nearly 6000-page literature. Fortunately, Savarkar has himself answered the charge that he had put forth the two-nation theory. The sentence in question can be found in Savarkar’s Presidential address to the 19th session of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha at Karnavati (Ahmedabad) in 1937. Savarkar stated, “India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogenous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main; the Hindus and the Moslems, in India. If the critics bother to read the entire speech (available at http://www.savarkar.org/content/pdfs/en/hindu-rashtra-darshan-env002.pdf), it shall be evident to them that Savarkar had not advocated the two-nation theory.

It may be noted that Savarkar was one of the few Hindu leaders who had made a deep study of Islam from its scriptures. He had read a translation of the Quran even while he was a student in England. In the Andamans, Savarkar had read the Quran first in its English and subsequently Bengali and Marathi translations. Responding to the opinion of his Muslim friends that the real beauty of the Quran lies in its original, Savarkar asked them to read each page from the original and then had them translate it for his benefit into Hindi. As Savarkar describes, he heard them recite the Quran with great concentration and after keeping his mind clean and pure as a devout Muslim. In later life, Savarkar read several books written by Western authorities on the Quran.  Savarkar’s deep study of Islam is evident from his numerous articles such as those on Kemal Pasha, Khilafat movement and various Islamic sects. Savarkar had learnt to read and write Urdu. Thus, Savarkar’s views on Islam and Muslims are not those of an ignorant bigot.

The context
Savarkar’s Presidential address is not a run-of -the-mill political speech. After dwelling on the definition and significance of the word ‘Hindu’, the status of the Hindus as a nation unto themselves, the mission of the Hindu Mahasabha, unified Indian State and the cooperation of the minorities, Savarkar turned his attention to the attitude of the Muslims, He stated. “As it is, there are two antagonistic nations living side by side in India, several infantile politicians commit the serious mistake in supposing that India is already welded into a harmonious nation, or that it could be welded thus for the mere wish to do so. Our well-meaning but unthinking friends take their dreams for realities…The solid fact is that the so-called communal questions are but a legacy handed down to us by centuries of a cultural, religious and national antagonism between the Hindus and the Moslems. When time is ripe you can solve them but you cannot suppress them by merely refusing recognition of them.” It is in that context that he made that statement. The Islamscholar, historian and hard-headed realist in Savarkar was simply stating a bland fact and not endorsing it. This is further confirmed two sentences later when he referred to the options before the Hindus under the circumstances. He stated, “…to form an Indian State in which none is allowed any special weightage of representation and none is paid an extra price to buy his loyalty to the State. Mercenaries are paid and bought off, not sons of the Motherland to fight in her defence. The Hindus as a nation are willing to discharge
their duty to a common Indian State on an equal footing.” It is noteworthy that the President of the Hindu Mahasabha was not seeking any rights for the Hindus that he was not willing to grant to the Muslims! Throughout his life, Savarkar advocated equal rights for all citizens in a unified Indian State.

Savarkar’s defence
Misunderstanding was created after Savarkar made the above utterances. Hence, Savarkar clarified his statement to journalists on 15 August 1943 in the office of the Marathi weekly Aadesh in Nagpur. He also clarified his position in an interview given in Mumbai on 23 August 1943. The interview was published in the Aadesh dated 28 August 1943. Given below is an English translation of Savarkar’s clarification as published in the Marathi weekly Aadesh dated 23 August 1943.

“I had clarified this (mystatement that there are two nations in Hindusthan) in my Nagpur interview. But instead of reporting this, journalists simply reported that I accept the two-nation theory. This has resulted in the whole misunderstanding. I am surprised that a storm has been raised now on this issue. Because I have always been referring to the two-nation theory right from my Ahmedabad speech. It is a historic truth that the Mussulmans are a .nation.. I had clarified the historical and racial background of this theory in Nagpur. Islam is a theocratic nation based on the Koran right from its inception.

This nation never had geographical boundaries. Wherever the Mussulmans went, they went as a nation. They also came to Hindusthan as a .nation.. Wherever they go,Mussulmans shall either remain foreigners or rulers. As per the Koran, those who are not Mussulmans are kafirs, enemies of Islam. Even today, after praying in the mosque,Mussulmans ask for atonement for committing the sin of living in a kafir-ruled state. As per the principle of Mussulmans, the earth is divided into two nations: Dar-ul Islam (land of Islam) and Dar-ul Harb where Islam does not rule (enemy land). As per their religious command, their campaign on Hindusthan was as a separate nation. They conquered the Hindu Nation as a enemy nation, not as One Nation.

The Hindu Nation arose again and having defeated the Mussulmans at various places, saved the whole of Hindusthan to establish Hindu Padpadshahi also as a separate Hindu Nation opposed to the Muslim nations. This history certainly cannot be denied. In the recent past, the educated class among the Hindus mostly through the vehicle of the Congress tried its utmost to champion territorial nationalism by saying that at least in Hindusthan, Hindus and Mussulmans are one nation because they reside in one country. Though the effort was well-intentioned, the Mussulmans never gave up their principle of theocratic or scriptural nationalism and the feeling of being a nation separate from the Hindu Nation. And they never shrank from stating this right. Seizing the right opportunity and taking advantage of the Congress. policy of surrender, the Muslim League once again emphatically put forth that same old theory of the Mussulman nation being a separate nation. If one turns a blind eye to this reality, the Hindu Nation is bound to be divided. So we do not care if you consider yourself to be a separate nation. The effort towards Hindu consolidation is to emphatically state that the Hindu Nation is a self-evident and unified Nation. The Mahasabha came forward as a separate and mighty national organization of the Hindu Nation. Hindu Nationalism gave a cutting edge to the effort of consolidation.

People still do not understand the important thing that stating the fact of Mussulman and Hindu nations being present in Hindusthan is not to accept the Pakistani adamancy of carving a country of the Mussalmans. If I call someone a grihasta (householder), it does not make him a resident of my griha (house). Whether the Mussulmans consider themselves a separate nation or not, at least as far as Hindusthan is concerned, they are a minority compared to Hindus. Like the English, they have come here as foreigners and if they want to stay in Hindusthan, they should do so only as a minority community. An independent, unified, indivisible and single State should be established in Hindusthan. Hindusthan is the Fatherland and the Holyland of Hindus and even today they are an overwhelming majority in this their country. Hence, even if there are in this country, by force or tyranny, the English, Portuguese, French or those invaders such as the Americans or Japanese who call themselves a nation., Hindusthan should be considered politically a nation of the Hindus as per the principle of peoples’ power. If they want, minorities may stay here merely as minority communities. This is the objective; this is the oath of Hindu consolidation. This objective should be achieved through consensus if possible. Else, by strength and should opportunity arise, by force, this or the next generation of Hindus shall achieve this objective. While two or two hundred nations that consider themselves separate from the Hindus have presently entered Hindusthan by force and are demanding Partition of Hindusthan, it is not by a woolly-headed and cowardly denial of this fact but rather by understanding, facing and changing it shall an independent, undivided and indivisible Hindu nation alone shall without doubt, remain in Hindusthan. But as in our history when the Hindu Nation successfully rallied under the Hindu Flag, the Hindus should come forward and rise unitedly.”

Savarkar was then asked that if Hindus and Mussulmans are two nations, how will they form a single nation?. He answered, “ We should not confuse between Nation. And State.. Even if the State goes, the Nation remains. When the Mussulmans were ruling over us, the government (State) was theirs. But the existence of the Hindus was most certainly intact. Even so, there is no problem in a common State of Hindus and Mussulmans. In the past, we had nations (rashtra) such as Maharashtra, Saurashtra, Devrashtra (near Berar). Where are these nations? They mingled with each other. The Shakas and Huns came to Hindusthan as nations. But what is the evidence of their existence today? We digested them. So if the Mussulmans want, they could amicably stay with Hindus as a minority community. In the past, nations such as Prussia, Bavaria etc. existed in Germany. But today, they have all together formed the German nation. By law, no one in Germany may call himself Prussian or Bavarian but German only.

“Regarding the Mussulmans in Hindusthan, it may be said that you (Hindus) are trying to rope them with you but do the Mussulmans so desire? In the end, .desire. is the most influential and important factor for a .nation.. If they consider themselves separate, what is achieved merely by saying that you consider them your own? And hence, we need not worry whether they come with us or not. And there is no reason why we should sacrifice Hindu interests and plead with them to perforce say that they are not a separate nation. Hindus are a nation unto themselves. Considering this, the Hindus should continue the freedom struggle by consolidating themselves irrespective of whether the Mussulmans come with them or not. If they so desire, they may stay here, else they shall go where it pleases them.”

Savarkar’s consistent view on this subject was best summarized by him in his Presidential address in Nagpur in 1938. He said, ““It is absurd to call us (Hindus) a community in India. The Germans are the Nation in Germany ad the Jews a Community. The Turks are a Nation in Turkey and the Arab or the Armenian minority a Community. Even so the Hindus are a Nation in India-in Hindusthan and the Moslem minority a Community.”

It is undeniable that Muslims consider themselves as a nation or Ummah. It was not Savarkar’s invention nor did he ever endorse this Islamic concept. It is noteworthy that the Afro-American religious movement started by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad in Detroit, Michigan in 1930 was named ‘Nation of Islam’.

Jinnah’s inspiration

To say that Jinnah adopted Savarkar’s idea is arrant nonsense! Can Digvijay Singh or his ilk quote a single sentence from Jinnah’s speeches or writings where he has named Savarkar as his source of inspiration? In a letter to newly elected Congress President

Badruddin Tyabji (1888), Sir Syed Ahmed wrote, “Is it supposed that that the different castes and creeds living in India belong to one nation, or can become nation, and that their aims and aspirations be one and same? I think it is quite impossible.” The answer given by Tayyabji, the former President of Digvijay Singh’s Grand Old Party is even more revealing. Tayyabji writes, “Now I am not aware of anyone regarding the whole of India as one Nation and if you read my Inaugural address, you will find it distinctly stated that there are numerous communities or nations in India…”(Source Material for a History of the Freedom Movement in India, Vol.2, pp70-73). The idea of an independent, sovereign Islamic State carved out of India was first publicly stated by Sir Muhammad Iqbal in his Presidential address to the Muslim league in 1930. Iqbal said, “I would like to see the Punjab, the North West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State. Self-Government within the British Empire or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to be to me the final of the Muslims at least of the North-Western India.”

Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto accurately observed that “the starting point of Pakistan goes back a thousand years to when Muhammad-bin-Qasim set foot on the soil of Sind and introduced Islam in the sub-continent”

It is a travesty that Congressmen who accepted the Islamic demand of a separate State on the basis of religion and Leftists who fervently believe India to be a hotchpotch of multiple nationalities should hurl the charge of advocacy of the two-nation theory on Savarkar, a lifelong champion of a unified India.

(The writer is a Pune-based specialist in diabetes and hormone disorders. He has
authored books on Islam, contemporary Buddhist-Muslim relations and played a major role in developing http://www.savarkar.org)

Swarajya, Swadharma and Swadeshi – The Key Issues of 1857 War of Independence –

May 10th, 1857 War of Independence began in Meeruth.

This war was fought all over the country on the issues of Swarajya, Swadharma, Swadeshi and Goraksha. Kamal (lotus)—the symbol of Hindu Dharma—and roti (bread)—the symbol of the basic needs of common man—were used as war symbols and people participated in large numbers from urban, rural, forest and hill areas. Precisely for this reason, the then British government had perpetrated heinous atrocities on common people along with freedom fighters.

The British derided this war as an ordinary and localised ‘Sepoy mutiny’ and an attempt to protect kingdoms and feudal states, so that the ordinary masses would not get any inspiration from it. Unfortunately, a section of our countrymen joined this chorus and started describing it as merely a ‘Sepoy mutiny’. Even our history textbooks too present it in the same manner. In spite of all this, the scintillating image of this war as a glorious War of Independence remained intact in the hearts of the people.

Swatantryaveer Savarkar authored a well-researched treatise on this War of Independence and threw light on its popular and countrywide character and its impact on the freedom struggle that followed. It played a very important role during the Independence Movement despite the British imposing a ban even before its publication. The post-1857 history is a standing testimony to the fact that on one hand the revolutionaries and other freedom fighters drew inspiration from the narratives of sacrifices and valour of this great war until the time of Independence, while on the other hand, it provided a major source of inspiration in the struggle for the liberation of Goa and Puducherry (Pondicherry) after Independence.

Some people interpret this war as a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity. While there is nothing objectionable about it, it cannot be kept in the category of the efforts for Hindu-Muslim unity based on mindless appeasement that took place in the latter part of our freedom struggle. It should be kept in mind that all these efforts had culminated in the tragic Partition of our country in 1947. The participation of the Muslims in the 1857 war was based on positive grounds rather than on religion-based separatist mindset. Honouring the Hindu sentiments, the then Muslim leadership agreed on matters like ban on cow-slaughter, death penalty to the slaughterers of cows, handing over the Ramjanmabhoomi in Ayodhya to Hindus etc. This dimension of Hindu-Muslim co-operation of 1857 should always be kept in mind.

Sacred memories of the freedom struggle and its martyrs are ever-inspiring.

  • From RSS ABPS 2007 


Related articles

1857 War – British Holocaust 


Answers to the So-called Clemency Letter by Veer Savarkar to the British

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!
  • Is it true that Savarkar apologized for his deeds to seek release from jail in Andaman Islands?

No. He did not apologize for his deeds.

Savarkar was sentenced to Transportation for Life, TWICE and sent to Andaman Islands to serve that sentence. IT DID NOT MEAN 50 years in jail. After serving a few years (usually 3 to 4) the inmates were allowed to go to work outside the jail and eventually settle on the islands. Savarkar was denied this even after serving 11 years. That was utter barbarity.

At the time of the First World War Savarkar did write to Montague, then Secretary of State for India. He said that –

Britain should set up colonial self Government for India
In return Indian revolutionaries would cease all hostilities and help Britain in war effort.

The Governor General eventually replied, ” In the present circumstances it is impossible to give effect to your suggestion.”

Due to outcry about prison conditions on the Andaman Islands the British Authorities decided to close the jail on the islands. Concessions were being made to prisoners who wanted to settle on the islands. But these were denied to Savarkar. He did want to settle on the islands. He was forcibly sent back to mainland India and kept in various prisons for further 3 years.

Is it true that Savarkar’s health deteriorated in the Andamans and hence the Government was compelled to transfer him to Indian prisons in 1921?

In Andaman no medical aid was ever given to political prisoners. British Authorities were absolutely callous in this respect. Savarkar’s elder brother Babarao suffered terribly. The Savarkar brothers were sent back to mainland India not because of failing health but because Government had decided to close down the prison settlement in Andaman, after several years of mounting public pressure in India.

Courtesy : http://www.savarkar.org 

Savarkar and Temple Entry for All Hindus


While in internment in Ratnagiri (coastal Western Maharashtra), Savarkar was barred from participating in political activities. He used this opportunity to bring about social reform in Hindu society. In those times, the so-called untouchables were barred from entering temples. Savarkar waged a bitter struggle for temple entry of ex-untouchables. In this, he also put his literary prowess to use.

Savarkar was instrumental in founding the Patitpavan Mandir in Ratnagiri in 1931. This was the first major temple in India after the Mughal rule to open its doors to all Hindus irrespective of their caste. This was a revolutionary step.

Patitpavan mandir 1 Patitpavan mandir 2

To mark this occasion, Savarkar composed a Marathi poem ‘Malaa devaache darshan gheu dya’ (Allow me to see my God) that expressed the anguished cry of ex-untouchables who were being denied temple entry.

The poem was sung by two boys of the Bhangi (Balmiki) caste. Members of this caste carried out scavenging work and were considered untouchables. Narayan Sadashiv alias Ulhas Bapat, Savarkar’s associate was an eye-witness when Savarkar composed this poem.

In his reminiscences (Smritipushpe, self-published, Pune, 1979, p 63), Bapat remarks that Savarkar must have shed atleast a handful of tears when he composed this poem. Such was the intensity of feeling that Savarkar had for the plight of ex-untouchables. It may be noted that the very same Savarkar remained unmoved on being handed down a punishment of two Transportations for Life. Given below is an English translation of Savarkar’s poem ‘Amucha swadesh Hindusthan’ with the Marathi original. The translation has been done by Anurupa Cinar.

Malaa devaache darshan gheu dya (Allow me to see my God)

मला देवाचे दर्शन घेउ द्या

डोळे भरून देवास मला पाहुं द्या II धृ II

जो तुम्हिच करा दिनरात

मळ काढित मळले हात

म्हणुनीच विमल हृदयात-

हृदय त्या वाहु द्या !

To see my God in his temple

Allow me, I beseech.

Let my eyes have their fill of Him

Please, O please.

Defiled my hands are

Cleaning your filth night and day.

To cleanse them in the Pure heart

Allow me, I pray.

मी तहान जल तो जाण

मी कुडि माझा तो प्राण

मी भक्त नि तो भगवान-

चरण त्याचे शिवु द्या

तो हिंदु-देव मी हिंदु

मी दीन तो दया-सिंधू

तुम्ही माझे धर्माचे बंधू-

अडवु नका जाउ द्या

I am but the body, he its life,

I am the thirst only he can sate.

I am the Wretched, He the Compassionate,

O, let me fall at his feet, prostate.

I am his devotee, he my Lord,

I am a Hindu, he my Hindu God.

O Fellow Hindu Brothers,

Bar not, beg I, my way to my God!

Source : http://www.savarkar.org

Veer Savarkar: The Historian Extraordinaire

By Aravindan Neelakandan

(from Center Right India http://centreright.in/2013/06/veer-savarkar-the-historian-extraordinary)

When one looks at history, one finds that all great social leaders have taken a keen interest in the past. It is how they have viewed the history that shaped their own actions. A good instance of that is Jawaharlal Nehru. His romantic view of Indian history, his parroting of the colonial history handed down by the British, his extension of the same with his own Marxist spicing and his one-dimensional linear view of a progress which essentially aped the USSR, shaped his politics.

It distorted his perceptions of geo-political realities and to this day the nation pays a heavy price. Of course with his ornately worded, left-oriented romantic view of international politics, Nehru heaped for himself personal accolades, even as the nation heaped disasters at the frontiers and decades of riot refugees from East Pakistan.

If we look at Dr.Ambedkar, we find a much better, scholarly original thinker. He questioned the Aryan race theory and foresaw its demise. He constructed his own view of the social history of the down-trodden masses of India that showed that they had a rightful claim to the glories of India’s past magnificence and thus an equally rightful share in the future of the nation.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, popularly known as Veer Savarkar, was also a historian. In fact he was primarily a historian. He was a also a revolutionary and later a politician of extraordinary foresight. How he viewed history and learnt lessons from the past to understand the present as well as prepare for the future is an interesting dimension of this great patriot. At a very early stage, Savarkar the historian understood that the way history is constructed, the very terms of narrative are loaded with their own politics and power. For a nation to survive it has to reclaim its past. Savarkar, the utilitarian historian wrote:

The nation that has no consciousness of its past has no future. Equally true it is that a nation must develop its capacity not only of claiming a past, but also of knowing how to use it for the furtherance of its future.” (1)

When the British historians and their Indian followers repeatedly termed the 1857 uprising as a ‘mutiny’, Savarkar contested this by calling 1857 a revolution. Savarkar wrote:

The history of the tremendous Revolution that was enacted in the year 1857 has never been written in this scientific spirit by an author, Indian or foreign.” (2)

One should note here that Savarkar uses the term ‘scientific spirit’ and not nationalistic or patriotic spirit. What Savarkar the historian wanted was history as it happened and not eulogy. Only if the past is understood rationally and objectively then only can it be used for understanding the present and prepare us for the future. Otherwise one may live in the fool’s paradise.

Nevertheless Savarkar was not a dry historian piling facts with no emotions. As a historian he was brutally objective and the objective historian in him fed the emotional revolutionary. The scientific research into 1857 convinced the patriot Savarkar that what happened in 1857 was indeed a national revolution. Armed with the facts of history, Savarkar the patriot gave this emotional call to his fellow countrymen, to carry on the unfinished tasks of the revolutionaries of 1857:

We take up your cry, we revere your flag; we are determined to continue that fiery mission of ‘away with the foreigner’, which you uttered, amidst the prophetic thundering of the revolutionary war.” (3)

Savarkar chose 1907 to release his book which was the fiftieth anniversary of the great uprising. Consequently the book was banned by the British and became a must read for all Indian revolutionaries such as Madame Cama, Lala Har Dayal, Bhagat Singh, and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

When Savarkar brought out the work, British intelligence could lay their hand on only one chapter of the book. And what they found shocked them. A report about this first chapter from an official with Home Department of the Government of Bombay’s Home Department states with visible alarm:

The [chapter] is only a small fragment of a book containing nearly 470 pages, each page redolent of the most inflammatory language with quotations from English authors describing most pathetic and pitiably tragic scenes and so forth.“(4)

Not an idle arm chair historian he is. And the work itself remained banned by the government for the next forty years.

Savarkar the historian made Savarkar the pragmatist patriot to understand one bitter truth from the history of 1857. The Indians have been intentionally and systematically de-militarized by the colonial regime. Unless that condition was reversed another uprising is almost impossible.

So he waited. When the opportunity came in the form of the Second World War, he urged Indian youths to join the army. It was not just national independence that Savarkar envisaged. He also saw military recruitment an opportunity for caste-ridden Hindu society to remove the ills of caste divisions. So he actively supported Dr.Ambedkar’s call for Mahar youths to join the British army. Dhananjay Keer the official biographer of Dr.Ambedkar states:

“Savarkar, who wished the Hindus to be reborn into a martial race, expressed his hope that under the able guidance of Ambedkar the Mahar brethren would be re-animated with the military qualities and their military uplift would contribute to the consolidation of Hindus.” (5)

This move later helped Subash Chandra Bose in his organizing of INA. Bose openly acknowledged in his Azad Hind Radio broadcast (June 25, 1944), this vision and role of Savarkar:

When due to misguided political whims and lack of vision, almost all the leaders of Congress party have been decrying all the soldiers in Indian Army as mercenaries, it is heartening to know that Veer Savarkar is fearlessly exhorting the youths of India to enlist in armed forces. These enlisted youths themselves provide us with trained men and soldiers for our Indian National Army. “(6)

Perhaps the magnum opus as a historian is his ‘Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History’.

Any history text book of India that a student studies today shows India as being repeatedly overrun by invading foreigners. This is only natural because such a historical narrative helped British to inculcate in the minds of Indians the idea that they are a society born to be slaves of another foreign power or culture. The success of this approach is that even today we perceive ourselves as slaves of the mind and culture in front of the West.

On the other hand Savarkar concentrated on the various freedom struggles and peoples’ movements against the foreign invasions. He chronicled how Indian resistance to foreign invasions and imposition of foreign ways of life on Indian people happened. The six epochs present Indian history as a long epic narrative of Indians facing the onslaughts of the enemies, sometimes being overcome, but how they formed resistance and overthrew the enemies or assimilated them or made them subservient to Indic might.

Savarkar the social historian was not given to fantasies of casteism and social stagnation. Rather he understood the social dynamics and presented the fact that only a society that regards the talent and not birth based ritualism as its civilizational ethos can successfully face and conquer the aggressive enemies. He decried the fabrication of fashionable genealogies constructed for great achievers. Social commentary Savarkar makes here remains still relevant today:

Was Chandragupta a social outcaste? Was he not a Kshatriya? What matters though! Chandragupta could have said with justifiable pride, “More than any of you, nominal caste-born Kshatriyas, who bowed your heads to the Mlechhas, the Greek emperor and his commanders, I, a ‘peerless’ Chandragupta, have a greater claim to being a Kshatriya in as much as with my sword I have completely vanquished those very Mlenchhas in every battlefield.” With the same haughty affront of Karna, he could have flung in the face of those railing enemies the following words:

Whether a charioteer or a charioteer’s son.Or whoever (else) I may be, (that is of no consequence!) Birth in a (noble) family depends on fate; but manliness depends on me I” (Bhatta Narayan, Act III, 37 91). The son of Mura is a Maurya! That is precisely why Chandragupta is called a Maurya. Proud of his maternal extraction Chandrgupta designated his royal family as Maurya and immortalized the name of his mother, Muradevi in Indian history. The Maurya emperors accepted the same Moriya caste too, (one which traded in peacocks) that belonged to his mother. “(7)

Another important work on history written by Veer Savarkar was ‘Hindu Pad Padashahi‘. Titled in English as ‘The Maratha Movement’ the book describes the Maratha struggle to re-establish the Hindu Empire in India. This was written in 1925. The book was written when Savarkar was still a political prisoner. Savarkar had no luxury of getting reference books from world libraries. Yet when the book came the whole thesis could be substantiated from varied research works and well known authorities. Great Indian nationalist Lala Lajpat Rai exclaimed about the book thus:

It is full of facts congested in a small space arranged with skill and made to speak with tongues of fore and love. In my opinion every Indian politician ought to read it.” (8)

A question arises as to whether such a historiography would lead to furthering of the bitterness between Hindu and Muslim communities. Savarkar in his foreword to ‘Hindu Pad Padashahi’ answers this question both as a historian and as a humanistic nationalist.

We ought to read history not with a view to finding out the best excuse to perpetuate the old strife and stress, bickerings and bloodsheds, whether in the name of our blessed motherland or of our Lord God, that divided man from man and race from race, but precisely for the contrary reason…

…far from standing in the way of any real and honourable unity between our Hindus and our Muslim countrymen, it makes a frank and lasting union far more feasible than it would have otherwise have been and deserves therefore to be especially recommended to the attention of all Indian patriots, Muslims as well as Hindus. It cannot fail to act as a sedative on blustering snobbery on the one hand and as a stimulant to mopping self-diffidence on the other. “(9)

The book brings out in great detail how the Maratta navy defeated the European forces and how complacency brought the curtains on the last Hindu empire.

It was based on this scientific understanding of history that Veer Savarkar asked Hindu youths to join the Indian army in large numbers. In his call given on 24-3-1942 he asked the Hindu youths to join the army in large numbers, particularly the navy in Konkan area. He reasoned:

Ever since I was in Ratnagiri the District Hindusabha there along with some of my distinguished Bhandari friends in Konkan have been demanding entry into the Navy for the Konkan Hindus. Now that the Government has thrown open, under pressure of circumstances, the services in the navy to the Hindus we shall be only harming our own interests if we lose this long expected chance to revive the naval military spirit in our people in Konkan….

It is these Hindu communities like the Dhandaris, Kharvis and others who once rendered the Maratha Navy a terror over the Portuguese and the English and had inflicted several crushing defeats in naval engagements on them as for example when in a sea-fight the well-known English war-ship ‘Revenge” was captured by the Marathas. The children of Konkan, as it is said regarding the children of Britain, begin to play with the waves as soon as they begin to play with toys and have an inborn aptitude to make the best fighting material for the sea forces of our nation. Unfortunately these naval instincts were deliberately suppressed till today by the British Government….

Remember again that the proportion of Hindus in the military, naval and aerial forces today is already dangerously low. If even now the Hindus, through folly or fear fail to enter these forces, others, unconcerned with Hindu interests and in cases even ready to endanger them will rush in and we Hindus shall find ourselves in a worse plight and weaker by far even than what we are today.” (10)

Here one sees how Savarkar the historian displays his ability to relate history of the past with the challenges the nation faces in the present and intuit and shape the future with all the pregnant possibilities and challenges. History is witness to the genius of a historian in Savarkar when during partition, thanks to his advice and efforts Indian army was dominated by Hindus and Sikhs. Had the impractical romantic pacifism prevailed and prevented Indian youths from joining the army in early 1940s, the whole of Kashmir, large chunks of Punjab, Bengal and Assam would have become part of Pakistan, not to speak of the humiliating ethnic cleansing that would have taken place in these provinces.


1. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Author’s Introduction to the original edition, The Volcano, English Edition: 1909

2. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, The Volcano, Chapter-I, p. 19

3. Circulated by Savarkar under the title ‘Oh Martyrs’ on 10th May 1908

4. Government of Bombay, Home (Special) Department, 60-C/1908-10: “V.D. Savarkar: Book entitled ‘Indian War of Independence of 1857′ by an Indian Nationalist,” Maharashtra State Archives (MSA). Cited in : John Pincince, 2007

5. Dhananjay Keer, Dr.Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Popular Prakashan, 1954:2011, p.338

6. Dhananjay Keer, Veer Savarkar, Popular Prakashan, 1950:2012, p.350

7. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, Bal Savarkar Savarkar Sadhan, 1963:1971 (English), pp.38-9

8. Lala Lajpat Rai, Endorsement in ‘The Maratha Movement, 1925:2003, Hindi Sahitya Sadan

9. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Author’s Foreword, The Maratha Movement, 1925:2003, Hindi Sahitya Sadan, pp.21-22

10. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Smart Hindu Youths should join the navy, Statement issued on 23-4-1942