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Thursday, June 17, 2021

The real Savarkar

The Opposition and history writers have resorted to intellectual dishonesty to quote Savarkar out of context and malign his legacy.

Written by Rajiv Tuli |
Updated: May 28, 2021 10:55:07 am
Vinayak Damodar SavarkarVinayak Damodar Savarkar (Photo: Twitter/@VPSecretariat)

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s views on a wide variety of issues have been at the centre of the public discourse ever since Hindutva and cultural nationalism took the centre stage in Bhartiya politics following the emergence of the BJP as the most influential political party in the last decade or so.

The Opposition and history writers have, unfortunately, resorted to intellectual dishonesty to quote Savarkar out of context deliberately. This is an injustice to Savarkar.

Dhananjay Keer, a prolific writer and Padma awardee, calls him a social revolutionary. He has also explained the difference between a social reformer and social revolutionary in his biography of B R Ambedkar. Keer says a reformer simply repairs the old construction while a revolutionary destroys the entire building and builds a new one. “Savarkar was not a mere social reformer. He was an action-oriented social revolutionary,” according to Keer.

The way Savarkar invoked his countrymen to break shackles and the work done by him to remove untouchability inspired even Ambedkar. Yet, he is branded as communal, fascist, a sympathiser of the Nazis and Hitler. His baiters, especially foreign writers, quote his speeches selectively to run him down. Italian scholar Marzia Casolari is one such example. She misquoted Savarkar and peddled half-truths, particularly in her article, “Hindutva’s Foreign Tie-up in the 1930s: Archival Evidence”.

In this article, she quoted from one of Savarkar’s speeches, which he delivered at Pune. Savarkar was addressing a gathering of 20,000 on August 1, 1938. Incidentally, this speech was already published in the book, Veer Savarkar’s Whirlwind Propaganda. In that speech, Savarkar said Nazism and Fascism may be suitable for Germany and Italy under the conditions there, but nowhere had he praised Nazis or Hitler. In fact, he also mentioned Bolshevism and democracy because these four governance systems were famous and existed in some countries of the world then, and so he merely referred to all of them while speaking on India’s foreign policy. It should be remembered that it was a speech on India’s foreign policy and not on which policy India should adopt. He never advocated Nazism or Fascism. He neither endorsed Nazism or Fascism nor said that Bharat should adopt these systems.

Since our Independence, we have had good relations with communist USSR, democratic USA/UK, some monarchies or dictatorships, Arabs, Israel and even the likes of Palestine. The governance systems of our country have never been influenced by these ties.

This very principle was put forth by Savarkar in the same speech: “The sound principle in politics lays down that no form of government or political ‘isms’ is absolutely good or bad under all circumstances to all people alike”. Importantly, he said: “Bharat’s relation with foreign countries depends upon our own national interest and security policies instead of the choice of government of foreign countries.”

The following statement of Savarkar’s should clear any remaining doubts: “… the sanest policy for us which practical politics demands is to befriend those who are likely to serve our country’s interest despite any ‘isms’ they follow for themselves and to befriend only so long as it serves her purpose.”

Immediately after Bharat attained Independence from British rule, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru observed, “…the objectives of our foreign policy are the preservation of world peace and the enlargement of human freedom”. He also described the idealism of today as the realism of tomorrow and laid the foundation for the Non-aligned Movement in a bipolar world. Nehru, in a way, was carrying forward the policy of “pragmatism” when it came to foreign policy.

 

But the intensity of hatred towards Savarkar didn’t allow such conclusions to be drawn. In 2003 the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government installed a portrait of Savarkar in Parliament’s Central Hall, right opposite Mahatma Gandhi’s portrait. This was arguably the only function of Parliament that was boycotted by the Congress and all Opposition parties. The Congress and left parties have long been critics of Savarkar. In 2004, the Congress-led UPA government, which was supported by the left parties, removed a plaque commemorating Savarkar from the Cellular Jail.

The time has come to set the record straight.

(The writer is a member of the Delhi State RSS Executive. Views are personal)

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