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Point Of View

In Defence of Savarkar

I Mallikarjuna Sharma

The two letters or petitions written by two revolutionaries in different circumstances with different strategies and political outlooks. So comparing the two and denigrating or insinuating one against another is not good. It is quite bad even. That way suicide bombers do not write any petitions even. So their supporters can claim them to be the highest or topmost revolutionaries. Savarkar wanted to live and let live - he wanted a compromise with the British Government at that particular juncture because he realized their so-called armed revolutionary struggle became futile, insurrection attempts got aborted and all or most of them were rotting in Andamans or other jails. The only way out was to compromise, come out and do best to mend the things by changing policies. You should know that until 1928 end, even Indian National Congress did not give out complete independence slogans while Savarkar and others used to give out such slogans from 1890s itself. Obviously their efforts were premature. As for Bhagat Singh he was motivated with a death wish. That only his death can ignite the flames of revolution in India and hence he wanted to sacrifice his life and decried all and any who wanted to have his sentence commuted. That may be the one reason why Mahatma Gandhi also hesitated to fully espouse his cause and demand commutation or put it as a condition for the talks, etc. because then he (Gandhi) would be betraying Bhagat Singh's wishes. Though Gandhi did not meet Bhagat Singh after death sentence was pronounced, it is remarkable that Sukhdev wrote a flamboyant letter to Gandhi about their death wish after the sentence was pronounced. So, it is not fair to insult freedom fighters by such shallow comparisons. In those days the book "The First War of Indian Independence" by Savarkar was like a real bomb; real catalyst; real inspiration for thousands of revolutionaries including many communists (who have gratefully acknowledged that contribution too). In those days people used to spend Rs 3007- per copy of the book (a huge amount then, equal to not less than 10-20 thousand rupees of today) and the only reward would be years of jail or transportation in Andamans if caught with the book in their possession. Certainly Savarkar in his later days turned more of a rightist and worried more about the fate of the majority Hindu community at the hands of the British rulers and Muslim forces in India and abroad. And he in his later days was not of much consequence in the freedom struggle too. But the foundation he laid cannot be forgotten or minimized. Bhagat Singh also had good amount of respect for Savarkar and he even translated or thought of translating that book "First War of Indian Independence" into Hindi or Punjabi, etc. Of course, this has to be verified. So, without supporting the later 'deviation' of Savarkar, this writer would like to pay his glowing tributes to his contribution in the Indian national movement too.

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 48, Jun 5 - 11, 2016