Shamsul Islam (‘A contested legacy’, June 10) has questioned the Karnataka government for recognising the contributions of Veer Savarkar. The article is full of half-truths and out-of-context quotes. The flag committee for independent India was formed on June 23, 1947, and the ad hoc committee was headed by Rajendra Prasad with Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sarojini Naidu, C Rajagopalachari, K M Munshi and B R Ambedkar as its members. To put the record straight, the Tricolour as national flag was accepted on July 22, 1947, whereas the statement attributed to Savarkar in the article is from September 1941.
In 1930, Muhammad Iqbal became the Muslim League president and for the first time, publicly demanded an independent, sovereign Muslim state. “I would like to see the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Sindh and Baluchistan amalgamate into a single state. Self-government within the British Empire or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me the final destiny of the Muslims at least of North-Western India,” declared Iqbal. Indeed, the roots of Pakistan may be traced to Islamic theology that considers Muslims to be an ummah that is distinct.
Savarkar’s concept of the Indian state was truly secular. In a 1937 speech, he says, “Let the Indian state be purely Indian. Let it not recognise any invidious distinctions whatsoever as regards the franchise, public services, offices, taxation on the grounds of religion and race. Let no cognisance be taken whatsoever of man being Hindu or Mohammedan, Christian or Jew. Let all citizens of that Indian state be treated according to their individual worth irrespective of their religious or racial percentage in the general population… India cannot be assumed today to be a unitarian and homogeneous nation. But on the contrary there are two nations in the main; the Hindu and Muslim”. From this one statement, it is ridiculously alleged that Savarkar proposed or advocated two-nation theory and Jinnah demanded Partition through the implementation of these principle.
In the speech quoted above, Savarkar also says, “…the utmost that we can do under the circumstances is to form an Indian state in which none is allowed any special weightage of representation and none is paid an extra price to buy his loyalty to the state… the Hindus as a nation are willing to discharge their duty to a common Indian state on equal footing”. He further adds, “We shall ever guarantee protection to the religion, culture and language of the minorities for themselves, but we shall no longer tolerate any aggression on their part on the equal liberty of the Hindus to guard their religion, culture and language as well. If the non-Hindu minorities are to be protected then surely the Hindu majority also must be protected against any aggressive minority in India.”
Most importantly, before rendering above statement, Savarkar says, “As it is, there are two antagonistic nations living side by side in India. Several infantile politicians commit the serious mistake in supposing that India is already welded into a harmonious nation, or that it could be welded thus for the mere wish to do so. These our well- meaning but unthinking friends take their dreams for realities. But the solid fact is that the so called communal question are but a legacy handed down to us by centuries of cultural, religious and national antagonism between the Hindus and the Moslems. When time is ripe you can solve them, but you cannot suppress them by merely refusing recognition of them”.
He further clarified his statement in an interview to a Nagpur-based Marathi weekly, Aadesh, published on August 28, 1943. “People still do not understand the important thing that stating the fact of Musalman and Hindu nations being present in Hindustan is not to accept the Pakistani adamancy of carving a country of the Musalman…”
It is true that the Hindu Mahasabha under Savarkar’s leadership shared power with the Muslim League in certain provinces. This was in tune with Savarkar’s policy of “responsive cooperation” or saadhyaanukul sahakaarya. Earlier, Lokmanya Tilak had espoused the same policy. In 1943, the Muslim League adopted a confrontationist policy towards the British. As part of this policy, the then chief minister of Bengal, Fazlul Haq of the Muslim League, tendered his resignation. On December 11, 1943, Haq approached the governor and apprised him of his intention to form a new ministry. Syama Prasad Mookerjee of the Hindu Mahasabha accepted a cabinet post in the ministry.
In a statement issued in this regard, Mookerjee said that communal amity and unity was the need of the hour in Bengal. To ensure this, a strong and representative government having the support of Hindus and Muslims was necessary. Everybody should support the ministry leaving caste and religious hatred aside, stated Mookerjee. A similar statement was issued by Fazlul Haq also. It was Savarkar’s consistent policy to occupy governmental posts to safeguard Hindu interests.
The soundness of this policy was proven the very next day. Sarat Chandra Bose, the younger brother of Subhas Chandra Bose, was placed under house arrest by the British for his suspected links with the Japanese. When this issue was raised in the Assembly the next day, Mookerjee, in his maiden speech as minister, gave an assurance that he would make all efforts to secure Bose’s release. In pursuance of the same policy, the Hindu Mahasabha participated in the Muslim League ministry in Sind.
When the League ministry in Sindh passed a resolution in favour of the formation of Pakistan, the lone dissenting voice was that of the Hindu Mahasabha minister. It is noteworthy that the so-called nationalist Muslim, Allah Bux, who was a Congress member, abstained when this resolution was introduced in the Sind Assembly.
Shamsul Islam says that Savarkar supported the British government’s campaign for war effort and pleaded with Hindu youth to join in the armed forces in huge numbers. His move looked like supporting the enemy (British rulers). There were two main reasons for his appeal. The British had been predominantly recruiting Muslims from Punjab and North West Frontier Province into the Indian Army. Their percentage had risen to 70 per cent in the force. This posed a grave threat to Indian freedom. And in 1947, these Muslims who had received training in arms, were instrumental in looting and murdering Hindus.
Moreover, Gandhi’s policy of constant capitulation to Muslim demands had also created a sense of superiority among Muslims and inferiority among Hindus. Military training of Hindus was the only answer. If not, Muslims would have joined in the armed forces in large numbers again and be trained in warfare. Please note this act is purely contextual.
Savarkar was a revolutionary. His books were a source of inspiration for the likes of Bhagat Singh, Mohammad Ali and Purshottam Das Tandon. His work for the eradication of caste was praised by none other than Ambedkar. He was the first to be awarded two life imprisonments by Britishers, and he was tried by the international court in the Hague.
It is said history is written by the victors. It is unfortunate in Bharat’s case that after it attained freedom in 1947, the Left historians not only followed but also perpetuated the lies of pro-colonial and anti-Bharat chroniclers and historians. Savarkar is a victim of such history-writing.
The writer is member of the RSS executive in the Delhi Prant
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