“Savarkar was never a prominent part of our school history textbooks. We hardly have any particular references to him or Cellular Jail, where he languished for 12 years, facing inhuman torture.” said Vikram Sampath, author of Savarkar: Echoes from a forgotten past, at the Pune International Literature Festival on Friday.
The historian and author said despite being a history buff, he had never read about Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.
“I encountered him in the year 2003. The previous BJP government had put up a portrait in Parliament and a plaque in Cellular Jail in his honour. However, this received backlash and that is when my interest in the man was born. He is among the maligned, misunderstood and forgotten individuals of our history,” said Sampath.
The writer stressed that history is never monochromatic and it often has deeper shades to it. He described how he rummaged through archives not only in India but also overseas, translated several documents and tried to put forward an objective assessment of the man.
“We have been ingrained in only one narrative of the freedom struggle and that is what is taught in our schools. Savarkar and many others are forgotten. If you look for a change, there were armed conflicts since 1857, from the Sepoy Mutiny to the Naval Mutiny. If you observe closely, all the revolutions were preceded by acts of violence. There is still a mystery around what led to our freedom. It seems like there is a national amnesia about this.” he said.
Sampath said Savarkar was a braveheart. “He was the Gangotri, the fountainhead. On one hand, he was the kingpin of the revolution through direct involvement in revolution and conflicts. On the other hand, he was a sensitive poet. The British were more scared of the intellectual output he produced. He studied the 1857 conflict in London and provided an Indian perspective to it. It was so revolutionary that the British made every effort to stop the book before it entered the mainland.”
“We are misguided about freedom fighters and revolutionaries. We are taught that they were misguided, killed someone, embraced death. However, there was a lot of planning and strategy. Savarkar was at the heart of it and hence was labelled ‘dangerous’. Additionally, he was a man with a poet’s heart and a revolutionary’s brain. He had so many shades to him…,” added Sampath.