Bhagat Singh versus Savarkar

Editorial of Prajaa Saahithi (Telugu) 2003 April

The President of India, Dr. A. P.J. Abdul Kalam, unveiled the photo of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in the Central Hall of the Parliament on 26th February 2003 and visited Bhagat Singh Museum in the village Khatkar Kalan of Punjab state on 23rd March. One has to question the patriotism and honesty of those people who equate the sacrifice of Bhagat Singh with that of Savarkar. Bhagat Singh’s ideology and practice are quite opposite to that of Savarkar.

Savarkar was 24 years elder to Bhagat Singh and he was alive for 35 more years after the martyrdom of the latter. Bhagat Singh got inspiration from the activists of Gadar movement. They published in their magazine in 1913 as a serial, the essay of Savarkar ‘The First War of Independence -1857 ‘- written in 1907. But the publishers were not aware of the fact that Savarkar had already for the second time (first time soon after the imprisonment at Andamans in 1911) sent letter of apology to the British government. The young revolutionaries like Kartar Singh Sarabha in their twenties sacrificed their lives on gallows and Bhagat Singh got very much inspiration from them. 45 valiant Gadar activists were hanged by the British. Long before Bhagat Singh’s execution (23rd March 1931), Savarkar in the year 1925 beseeched the British government for the third time to pardon him.

Once in 1948, soon after the assassination of Gandhi, and again in 1950 Savarkar submitted a letter requesting amnesty and thus surrendered twice to the Congress government. This is the history of surrender of once patriotic Savarkar who turned into a traitor later. Of course, for BJP rulers, surrender to British government may be an act of patriotism!

Sardar Kishan Singh, father of Bhagat Singh appealed to the British government to cancel the execution of his son, as he had strong evidence to prove that Bhagat Singh had no connection with the killing of Sanders. But Bhagat Singh felt that type of appeal belittled his personality. Besides he said to his father, “ if anyone other

than you had done this I would have treated him more heinous than a traitor. ..This is a kind of mental disability. Dear father! this is a testing time for all of us. I say that you have failed in this test.” 

When the British government accused Bhagat Singh, Sukhadev and Rajguru of declaring war against the British government, they did not reject that accusation but on the other hand  demanded the British government to treat them as prisoners of war and shoot them with their armed squad instead of punishing by hanging.( Ref: Telugu Book on Bhagat Singh, a publication of Jana Sahithi, with the title, ‘ Our Bloodshed would not be a Waste’ pages 243-246  ; 2018 edition, fourth print.)

How different and how paradoxical! It is an insult and improper to equate Bhagath Singh with Savarkar, who thrice yielded to the colonial state. A traitor cannot be treated equally with a great patriot and martyr!

The concepts and approaches of both Bhagat Singh and Savarkar on independence movement are quite contradictory to that of Gandhi. Savarkar played a key role in the assassination of Gandhi, as the latter declared that Hindus and Muslims are like his two eyes. Though Gandhi was a great devotee of Rama, he had religious tolerance and hence he did not hate Muslims. Savarkar and his followers were quite against Gandhi in this aspect. 

 In Bhagat Singh’s understanding Gandhism would not bring real freedom from the British. It would be satisfied with partial freedom, as his congress party was under the control of the selfish and affluent. Bhagat Singh gave a call to the youth to unite the peasants, consolidate labourers and middleclass people to struggle against the British. Though Gandhi was religious minded, since he was not communal and did not hate Islam, angered Savarkar and so he planned for the assassination of Gandhi. But on the other hand, Bhagat Singh thought of defeating Gandhi’s compromising policies by political struggles of the oppressed masses.
Bhagath Singh introduced popular slogans with full of patriotic spirit, like ‘Inquilab Zindabad’, ‘Down with Imperialism’ in the place of ‘Vandemaataram’, a slogan with feudal smell. On the other hand, Savarkar propagated fascist communal ideology in the name of ‘Hindutva’. While Bhagat Singh got inspiration from socialism, world proletarian class struggles and anti-imperialist patriotic struggles, Savarkar was inspired by ‘German Nazism’ and he became the ideologue of Fascism in India by mixing upper class politics with communal chauvinism and hatred of other religions. By launching various Hindutva organizations, he divided the Indians on communal basis into two separate Nationalities i.e. Hindus and Muslims.

People in general would like to live in peace and with harmony. So, they need secular culture intact which they have been patronizing for generations. But the Hindu fanatics would like to demolish the secular fabric, spread intolerance and hate among different communities. Some are demeaning secularism as an instrument to catch votes in elections. On the other hand, those who propagate Hindutva are practicing the hypocrisy of Savarkar. They came into power by using communal card. They did not mention the name of Savarkar for the first four years of their governance but now all of a sudden they unveiled the photo of Savarkar in the central hall of the parliament. They changed their earlier objective of ‘Gandhian Socialism’ now into Hindutva. They converted their Swadeshi slogan into comprador ship with multinational companies. So, it is not surprising that they recognized Savarkar as a patriot and gave him the status of national leader. It is also not surprising that these people are hesitating to protest and condemn the war mongering America, though people of the entire world are condemning it, because they are totally surrendered to it. The Sangh Pariwar activists still even today write slogans on the walls, such as ‘We are the children of Bharat Maatha and we are the younger brothers of Bhagat Singh’ and at the same time they treat Savarkar as a great patriot. This is their deceptive stand. The photo of Savarkar was unveiled in the central hall of the parliament not heeding the protests of parliament members, secular democrats and Gandhi-ites throughout the country. Perhaps to purge his sin of unveiling the photo of Savarkar, the President of India might have visited the Bhagat Singh museum in the next month itself!

(First published as an editorial of Prajaa Saahithi (Telugu Monthly) 2003 April and translated in to Gurmukhi script, Punjaabi Language by Harbhajan Singh Hundel in the same year)

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Mar 23, 2020

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