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Denigrating Savarkar is to insult patriotism

Author: Shyam Khosla

Publication: Rajasthan Patrika
Date: February 26, 2003

Uncalled for and unnecessary controversy over the unveiling of Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar's portrait in the Central Hall of Parliament by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam last week has deeply hurt all patriotic Indians. It is an ungrateful nation that fails to remember its heroes. It is not a case of not honouring our freedom fighters but worse. Opposition parties and a section of the leftist media are denigrating the great freedom fighter. Cooked up allegations that have been exposed, time and again, as half-truths and blatant lies have been fished out by the these elements to malign the great patriot who underwent grave hardships and is a source of inspiration to generations of Indians. The critics launched a media campaign to dissuade the President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam from unveiling Savarkar's portrait in the Central Hall of Parliament. Opposition leaders wrote letters to the President informing him of their decision to abstain from the ceremony and requesting him to reconsider his decision to associate himself with the ceremony that, one of them alleged, aimed at "re-inventing Savarkar as a national hero".

Things might have taken an ugly turn if a leftist like K.R. Naryanan was in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Only three years ago, Narayanan sat over the Prime Minister's proposal to posthumously award Bharat Ratna to Veer Savarkar. In an obvious bid to avoid yet another stand off with the Head of the State bent upon embarrassing the NDA Government on every conceivable occasion, the Prime Minister kept the dispute under wraps and let the matter rest. It is a tribute to the vision and nationalistic fervour of President Kalam that he refused to be influenced by the motivated campaign spearheaded by the Communists and their friends in the media. He insisted on going to the Central Hall to perform one of his sacred duties. In addition to top BJP leaders, Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Najma Heptulla were among the dignitaries present on the occasion. Conspicuous by their absence were the leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi, and Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, P.M. Sayeed. They owe an explanation to the nation for showing disrespect to the great patriot.

Opposition parties' backtracking and launching an attack on Savarkar is reprehensible. CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee, Congress leaders Shivraj Patil and Pranab Mukherjee were present in the meeting of the parliamentary committee that took the decision to install a portrait of Savarkar in the Central Hall. The decision was by consensus. No one raised any objection to the proposal. Somnath Chatterjee did ask whether there was any room left for another portrait in the Central Hall to which the Speaker's response was that there was a niche near the entrance. CPM leader did not question the core issue - honouring Savarkar. As an afterthought, the Communist parties and the Congress chose to carry on a campaign of calumny against the great patriot. A political commentator writing in a leading English-language daily says the move to honour Savarkar is an attempt to "whitewash" his role role in the conspiracy behind the Mahatama's assassination. The gentleman is dishing out half-truths. The prosecution had no evidence against Savarkar barring approver Digamber Bagde's statement that he heard Savarkar wishing Godse all success in his mission. The court did not believe him. While all other accused were punished the court honourably acquitted Savarkar of the conspiracy charge. The prosecution did not challenge the special court's decision in the high court. The Government of the day thought its purpose in implicating the Hindu Maha Sabha leader in the case had been served. How right it was. The mud slinging continues even after the great patriot is dead.

Savarkar's daring escape from the ship in which he was being brought to India as a prisoner is a saga of India's freedom struggle. Congress MPs, Violet and Joachim Alva wrote to Savarkar on February 5, 1966, "We humbly salute your unforgettable daring achievement - swimming the ocean and regaining freedom - will be long cherished in the pages of freedom struggle". Is Sonia Gandhi aware that her mother in law had in 1980 written a letter on the occasion of the great patriot's birth anniversary saying, "Veer Savarkar's daring defiance of the British Government has its own important place in the annals of our freedom movement". The great revolutionary doesn't need a certificate of patriotism from Sonia Gandhi who fled to Italy during the Bangladesh war and didn't apply for Indian citizenship for years after she married Rajiv Gandhi and resided in the Prime Minister's house.

Much is being made of Veer Savarkar's mercy petition to the British Government in 1913 during his incarceration in the Andaman Islands. Bipin Chandra and his group of "eminent" historians, who have raised the issue time and again, may please note that Savarkar petitioned the British not once but eight times between 1911 and 1920 to secure his release from jail. He was no satyagrahi who would not mind spending his entire life in jail waiting for British rulers' change of heart. Revolutionary-turned-Satyagrahi Bhagat Singh had decided to court arrest to propagate his vision. There is no point in comparing the two. Savarkar was a revolutionary and wanted to get out of jail by hook or crook to join the freedom movement. The British rulers knew him better than our "eminent historians". Declassified documents placed in the National Archives show what the British thought of Savarkar and his petition. The British Home Secretary Macpherson's note on Savarkar's petition is revealing. He wrote thus, "It will be dangerous for the British Empire to release Savarkar. His pleas are a ruse to get out of the jail. Once out, he will organise an underground movement against the British. I, therefore, reject the petition on the ground that it will be a danger to public safety". Our "eminent" historians know that tactics do play a role in a freedom struggle. They are not against Savarkar per se but against his philosophy of Hindutava. They are denigrating Savarkar today, tomorrow they may do the same to Shivaji - another icon of Hindutava - who sought mercy from the enemy whenever pushed to a corner but fought back and carried on his campaign for freedom once he was out of the enemy's claws.

It will not be out of place to recall the role of the Communists during the freedom struggle. The CPI, as in well known, supported the colonial rulers' war effort after Germany attacked Soviet Union - the fatherland of all Communists. File No. 7/15/42-Pol (I) is available in the National Archives. It contains a confidential memorandum running into more than 100 pages submitted by CPI Secretary P.C. Joshi to the British Government narrating the role the party played in exposing the "fifth columnists". And who were the fifth columnists, CPI exposed? Senior leaders of the Congress Socialist Party and the Forward block, including Ram Manohar Lohia, Jai Prakash Narain and Achhut Patwardhan. And they have the cheeks to question Savarkar's patriotism!







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