Arjun Ram Meghwal
The combination of rich Indian culture, values, their applicability, and the resultant outcomes have been reference points for the entire world since time immemorial. Though it is a valid concern that collective conscience has altered the course of history and lead to the path to betterment of society, few individualistic consciences carry so much gravity for providing a new direction to the community. It doesn’t make me hesitate to say that many a time historiography had remained very unfair to a few of them. The Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was among such individualistic conscience that has the potential to emerge like phoenix despite the unparalleled advocacy by the segment of ideological rivalries. As the nation witnessing the 137th birth anniversary, it is imperative to understand the ideals of this unsung hero in more nuance and comprehensive manner.
From a historical point of view, It is striking to note that though V.D. Savarkar, a Chitpawni Brahmin, and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had represented the two opposite extremes of the Indian societal setup. Still, the proximity between their views had always remained the silent chapter of history. On several occasions, they had simultaneously advocated for contextualizing the Idea of India. Savarkar was highly impressed with the insights and meticulous approach of Dr. BR Ambedkar. Savarkar had quoted Dr. Ambedkar several times for Advocating his cause of social reforms, harmony, and upliftment of downtrodden. He appealed that every true Indian need to resolve in his or her mind to absolve oneself of the seven fetters, i.e., Vedoktabandi (exclusivity of access to Vedic literature), Vyavasayabandi (Continuation of the profession by virtue of birth), Sparshabandi (Practices of Untouchability), Samudrabandi (forbidding crossing the seas to go to foreign lands), Shuddhibandi (disallowing reconversions to Hinduism), Rotibandi (Practice of inter-caste dining), Betibandi (rigidity in abolishing inter-caste marriage). These reformist ideas later become the provisions under the part of the Indian constitution.
Elaborating shackles of Hindu society, Savarkar writes – “In what is construed as a ‘low caste’-the Mahars-we have had such illustrious saints as Chokha Mela and such brilliant thinkers such as Dr. Ambedkar, whose piety and intellect far surpasses many a Brahmin’s.”
While explaining the vayvsaybandi, he advocated for individualistic will, capabilities, and aptitude for any profession irrespective of his/her birth connection and referred to Dr. Ambedkar. Savarkar wanted the reform in the caste system. He was among the few individuals who envisioned a casteless India. Savarkar warns his audience for their connecting the caste system with Sanatan Dharma. He opined that the Sanatan refers to those ideas and beliefs that predate time, which is axiomatic and indestructible. He further writes, “Given such an abstract and important concept of Sanatan, using it loosely with dharma and associating that with man-made rituals and practices is being disingenuous with that eternal truth. How can we associate social practices such as caste system, or opposition to widow remarriage, or even vegetarianism, that have merely evolved with time in our society, to something as magnificent as the indestructible, eternal truth? These can be dismantled in no time and hence can never be counted as an essential feature of ‘Sanatan.’
Savarkar fearlessly advocated for breaking these shackles for bridging the prevalent societal differences of that time he further reiterates: “Degrading millions of people of our land to a position worse than animals is the most dehumanizing act that we could have committed. It is permissible to pat a dog or domesticate one, but shaking the hand of a scholar like Ambedkar makes you lose your caste? How preposterous can such a belief be? Thus those who have already destroyed the chaturvarna system by creating the fifth varna of untouchables are crying foul about the collapse of Sanatan dharma if the practice is abolished. What can be more ironical?”
He tried to shack the societal conscience strong pragmatic reasoning. His ideas had forced to break the conflicting dichotomy of humankind. Savarkar preferred scientific reasoning to religious customs. In a letter to his brother Narayan Rao in 1920, he aptly described his feeling against caste-based discrimination. Savarkar wrote – “I feel the need to rebel against caste discrimination and untouchability as much as I feel the need to fight against foreign occupation of India.” After his release from cellular jail, He settled in Ratnagiri and started the most powerful social reform movement of India. In 1931, He built Patit Pavan Mandir to allow entry to all Hindus, including Dalits and organized community meals. The same year, he invited Dr. Ambedkar to inaugurate a temple in Peth Kila, Ratnagiri
On the 50th birthday of Dr. Ambedkar on 14th April 1942 Veer Savarkar conveyed a special message about him -“With his personality, learning, skill in organization and capability of giving leadership Ambedkar would have become a great mainstay of the country today, but the success he achieved in eradicating untouchability and infusing self-confidence and spirit among untouchables by that he did valuable service to India. His work is eternal, humanitarian, and that of imbued with pride in one’s own country.
V.D.Savarkar was the first individual that recognizes the 1857 mutiny as India’s first freedom struggle. He authored “The Indian War of Independence of 1857” termed it as the first war of independence. He was the first political leader to set Independence as India’s goal in the 1900s. Almost immediately on joining the college, he started organizing and spreading his anti-British and revolutionary ideas through his established oratory and writing skills. Congress accepted this goal much later in its Lahore session in 1929. His courage and commitment are evident from the fact that he tried to escape to France by jumping off a British Ship near the French coast in 1910. It is interesting to note that more than a century ago, it was him who caused two colonial powers, Britain and France, to approach the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which shares space with the International Court of Justice at the Hague. Through his extraordinary efforts, he provided leadership to several other young Bravehearts in London and across Europe to garner support for India’s freedom.
He was a proponent for a United India with inclusivity in diversity by making organic entity of the all diverse culture. He believed in the idea of inclusivity for mobilizing the Indian masses. Few oppositional forces generally made a skewed argument by terming him as the proponent of the two-nation theory referring to parts of his presidential address of 19th Hindu Mahasabha session in Karnavati (Ahmedabad) in 1937, which is far from the truth. During the 21st annual session of the Hindu Mahasabha held in Calcutta in 1939, Savarkar in his presidential address spoke about how Hindus and Muslims could bury their historical differences in a common Hindustani constitutional state.
However, on 15th August 1943, he further clarified his statement to journalists in the office of the Marathi weekly Aadesh published from Nagpur. He said
“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…. So if the Mussulmans want, they could amicably stay with Hindus as a minority community…… 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.”
It was not Savarakar but Sir Syed Khan, who propagated the two-nation philosophy, which was adopted by Mohd. Ali Jinnah. At this juncture, it is essential to recall the 14th March 1888 Speech of Sir Syed Khan at Meerut, wherein he sparked the two-nation theory that had catastrophic results on the future of India. In this public address, Sir Syed Khan says: – “In whose hands shall the administration and the Empire of India rest? Now, suppose that all English, and the whole English army, were to leave India, taking with them all their cannon and their splendid weapons and everything, then who would-be rulers of India? Is it possible that under these circumstances, two nations – the Mahomedans and the Hindus – could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other and thrust it down. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable.”
In May 1952, in Pune, Savarkar announced the closure of secret revolutionary party Abhinav Bharat founded in 1904, that he had set up as a student to fight for independence. In a public speech during the dissolution of this outfit, he emphasized the view of Dr. Ambedkar that revolutionary organizations have no place in a constitutional state.
As many conflicting narratives has been built by congress and left parties for this rarest jewel aiming to divide Indian society by for the political gain. In doing so, they have forgotten Indira Gandhi’s words penned during the centenary celebrations of Savarkar. In her letter to Pandit Bakhle, secretary of the Swatnatray veer Savarkar Rashtriya Smarak on 20th May 1980, She recalled the indelible contribution of the remarkable son of India to the independence struggle. She mentioned for an important place to the Veer Savarkar’s daring defiance of the British Government in the annals of the freedom movement.
Savarkar openly embraced the “Era of Machines” and warned the Indian leaders to learn from European mistakes. His futuristic approach to Indian cinema was commendable. He believed in the innovative spirit of Human Mind. He was a multidimensional personality and carried many hats- a freedom fighter, social reformer, writer, poet, historian, political leader, and philosopher. Biased historiography leads to building a controversial narrative with a superficial understanding of Savarkar.
Savarkar’s ideas of modernity, Social and religious reforms, cultivation of scientific temper & embracing technological tools continue to be relevant for building New India in the post COVID era. The Central Government, under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modi, is proactively taking the measures for building Ek Bharat- Shresth Bharat under the contemporary relevance to the ideas of such eminent personalities. On his birth anniversary, remembering V.D. Savarkar’s patriotic zeal and notable contribution will be a humble tribute to the revolutionary conscience of Indian history.
(The author is Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Government of India & representing Bikaner in Loksabha.)
Arjun Ram Meghwal