Veer Savarkar’s biography by Rash Behari Bose

Part I

Savarkar, a Rising Leader of New India
– Rash Behari Bose

On June 25, 1937VD Savarkar became a free man after many years of life imprisonment. When the news of his release came out, hundreds of telegrams and letters poured in from the people pleased with his unconditional release.  A good deal amongst them were influential leaders from India.

veer savarkar biography by rash behari boseThose congratulatory messages described the position of Mr. Savarkar as a leader and his characteristics and intent that Mr. Savarkar is predecessor of every camp that exists today.

For example, the Judge of Federal Court of India in the postwar constitution Mr. Jayakar said,

“To praise Mr. Savarkar is to praise the spirit of sacrifice and patriotic sentiments, and even more that he is an embodiment of endurance and courage”.

The Chief Minister of Madras Presidency Mr. Rajagopalachari is an elderly politician in Indian National Congress. He said,

“The vigor and organizing abilities of Mr. Savarkar is something I can never forget. It also brings waves of memories of his phenomenal plan of escaping by jumping into the sea near Marseille under the nose of the guards when he was being escorted from England to India, and France then handing him over to British by violating the International Law is fascinating even today. According to me he is someone who has always been a fighter who will keep the torch of independence burning . He must be called an embodiment of heroism, courage, adventure, and nationalism.”

Further, let us see what Mr. Subhash Bose, President, National Congress says.

“I am extremely pleased with the release of Mr. Savarkar. He has a brilliant future. I wish he participates in National Congress and strengthens the freedom movement”.

Further, Mr. M N Roy, a revolutionary advocate of communism in India said,

“Mr. Savarkar is one of the few patriots who risked life for India’s freedom movement in the early 20th century. I differ with him on political standpoint, but cannot but respect his spirit of sacrifice mind and courage.”

Finally, let us hear what member of central legislative assembly M.S. Aney has to say. He said,

“Due to the release of Savarkar, the influential people in India have reached a state that demands aligning of Savarkar’s idea of cultural independence and the three political ideas existing in India. The three right political ideas are Gandhi’s idea based on absolute love and ahimsa, nationalist principles of Nehru with a color of socialistic nationalism and the revolutionary socialism of the Roy school. Thus the thought that integrates the four above-mentioned ideologies can be the ideology that will play a definite role in achieving national independence of India.”

If I put together views of influential persons on Savarkar as mentioned above, Savarkar “is heroism, valor, adventure, and epitome of patriotism”. “To praise him is to praise the spirit of sacrifice”. He is the one “who always kept the fire of India’s freedom burning; he is a patriot who risked his life for the freedom of India in the early 20th century and is a founder exponent of the doctrine of cultural independence in the current times”.

However, the description above shows merely one of the aspects of the personality of Savarkar. Therefore, I will broadly describe his personality as follows.

Savarkar was born in 1883 at Nashik in Maharashtra. He took entrance examination in 1901 and went to Ferguson College at Poona. He got B. A. degree in the 1905. However, this year was a year marked with many events in the modern history of India. Dissatisfaction against the Britain had already become deep rooted. Right at that time, the proposal of partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon caused the sentiments to flare all the more. This brought even the mild element in the country to anti-British movement. The anti-British movement spread from Bengal to Maharashtra and Punjab. The then National Congress was to support this movement very much, but the youth of the country had their opinion on mere constitutional anti-British movement. The patriotic fire was burning in the bosom of the youngsters and infused the revolutionary ideas into their writings. Eventually, the government resorted to oppression.

For that the idea of armed revolution got impetus. At first it is necessary for us to take cognizance of the influence at such times in the background of Savarkar’s college days.

He had formed an association of the youth called Society of Friends from high school days at Nashik. The purpose of this association was to study revolution movement in countries like Italy and Ireland, study the warfare of India against the invasion of the morgue, spreading revolutionary documents. From childhood Savarkar was good at composing poems. He made full use of this talent to write many compositions based on historical events. Such poetry came to be banned immediately and even today is being prohibited. But it let the youth run about an armed revolution. Thus, it was natural that Savarkar, who was famous from high school days, became a central figure of the political movement in the college soon after his admission to the college. He was constantly threatened to be expelled if he did not stop the political movement by the Principal. However Savarkar gave no heed to these warnings. So to say, “Mr. Savarkar has got a tongue that is not ordinary. It is as if fire.”   This way, one can have an idea of Mr. Savarkar being an eloquent speaker. Moreover, when he was in school, he published a magazine called ‘Talwar’ to move public opinion. He wrote a biography of Italian revolutionist Joseph Mazzini, which was very original. Half of this book is filled with the preface alone and also indicates his conviction for armed revolution. Needless to say this book was immediately banned, and continues to be banned even today. But the young generation of Maharashtra obtain edits manuscript and made copies, and passed it along from one to another. Savarkar, the then college student, again started the incineration of British made cloth in western India.

Like this, Savarkar’s activities drew attention of Mr. Tilak who always had deep interest in connecting with promising youngsters. The father of modern Indian national movement, Tilak loved the ideology of radical patriotism of the younger generation. Tilak is said to have given financial help to Chaphekar brothers who were executed on the grounds of assassination of Rand and Ayerst in 1897 and to the right fraternity. Incidentally, since this Chaphekar case had a deep influence on the life of Savarkar, I believe it will be worth mentioning this incidence briefly. The incidence took place when the outbreak of plague was rife in Poona region. The government resorted to take precautionary measures for people, but the manner in which it was carried out was extremely overbearing. Tilak, who always was watchful of the development of political machinery through the newspaper, intensely attacked the government for ignoring the religious feelings of the people.

This provided an impetus to the youth of Poona. They planned to assassinate of the epidemic prevention official. The Chaphekar brothers, who were the nucleus of the plan, waited for the official at a lonely place one night and assassinated him and a British who walked together at that time. That night the Chaphekar brothers had shared the plan with one friend, but the three of them disappeared after the decisive action, and were not found for a while. The police declared a prize of rupees 6,000 for one offender to discover the hiding place.

Amongst them, the two fellow members of the group informed the hiding place of the Chaphekar brothers and one more person. They were arrested one by one and hanged. That time, the three brave hearts were carrying a sacred book Geeta in their pockets.

In this way the Chaphekar case became a topic of conversation in each family of Maharashtra and is remembered with a sense of reverence as the exemplars of composure and courage even today. Further, this account brought a deep influence on the life of Savarkar.

The Chaphekar brothers had one younger brother who was 16 years old at that time. When he heard the story of execution of two elder brothers, he exclaimed “I will give neither money nor life to the betrayer”.
As expected, one month after the Chaphekar brothers were hanged, the youngest brother eliminated his brother’s betrayal.

On one evening, the two betraying brothers who were allies of Chaphekar lay dead near their house. However, the youngest Chaphekar promptly turned himself to police with composure and was also executed following the footsteps of his brothers. On the other hand, Tilak was arrested on the grounds of inciting the killing through his articles and was imprisoned for three years.

As mentioned above, Tilak regarded great prospects of Savarkar and asked him to go to U.K. for further education. He also put across intent of support to go to England.

Savarkar, after consulting his elder brother and the school fellows accepted the suggestion of Tilak. Tilak carried out correspondence with Mr. Shyamji Krishna Varma living in London and resolved to give scholarship to Savarkar.

Thus, in 1906, Savarkar went to U.K. to study law and decided to entrust the political movement to his elder brother when he was away.

In London, with his ardor and talent, Savarkar impressed Krishna Varma.

However, when staying in London, while studying, he organized an association Abhinav Bharat and proclaimed revolutionary thoughts among Indian students in the UK and also formed ties with Russian and Irish revolutionist. Further, with the help of the revolutionist he succeeded in secretly sending large number of handguns to India. Thus, from 1906 to 1908, a large number of handguns arrived in India in the outer appearance of a big dictionary. He had a plan to assassinate 15 British collectors in Maharashtra with these weapons all at once. Nevertheless, his foot soldiers filled with enthusiasms hot the collector of Nashik before the designated day and the plan had to be dropped. It also led to immediate arrest of the young man who had taken the shot and many others including the elder brother of Savarkar. The young man was hanged to death, and the elder brother of Savarkar was sentenced an exile in Andaman. Further, Tilak too was arrested and imprisoned for 6 years in Burma.

These incidences happened in 1908, but before this Governor-General Minto was attacked in Ahmedabad in 1906 and so the government arrested the younger brother of Savarkar presuming the connection to this incidence. He was sentenced to nine months imprisonment.

Savarkar, who received the news, delivered a statement that a review without a question is required in a speech at India House in London. After a few days, Dhingra of Abhinav Bharat shot dead Colonel Willy who was looked down as a spy of the government in the downtown of London. Dhingra was hanged to death speedily by the police.

Part II

Indians organized a meeting in order to pass a resolution to condemn Dhingra. This meeting was also attended by several British. Savarkar objected this resolution. Someone hit him on the head and Savarkar’s colleague hit the attacker in retaliation.

After Dhingra was executed, Savarkar went to France due to his illness. When Savarkar tried to go back to London, Hardayal tried to stop him. In spite of that Savarkar went there. He was arrested by the police, and was imprisoned. He was kept in London for a short period of time, and his plan to escape from prison failed.
Before the imprisonment, he went to the British Museum to research the material for his books, “Indian independence war 1857” and “History of Sikhism”. The first book was banned, and the second one was not allowed to be published. Many people were impressed by these books, and Savarkar was acknowledged as a leader.

In 1910, the British government sent Savarkar to India and he was to be tried in India. There were many people in France who supported the Indian revolution. The British government decided to send him by ship to India. When the ship was near Marseille, he jumped into the sea and swam to the shore of France. British tried to shoot him, but fortunately he survived. When he reached the shore, he went to the police station, he asked them to provide him political asylum. The British officials convinced the police and he was sent to India by the British government.

He was sent to Mumbai to be tried. Again, he made a futile attempt to escape from the train and captured by the British government. In the meantime, he heard that his friends in Paris had sued the British government in the International Court of Justice, The Hague. Until the judges in The Hague decided, he had to be subjected to the Indian court, and he expected the French Government to oppose the British government in the Hague court. However, the UK government gave money to the French government, and his expectation went up in smoke, and he was transported to the Andaman Islands for life.

Thirteen years later, he came out of the islands and came to India, but he was seriously ill. It is thought his freedom should have been restricted, and he was banned from participating in any political movements. In addition, Savarkar was detained in Ratnagiri, southern part of the Mumbai State. He was detained for 13 years.
However, he is by nature a political activist. He did not waste this period. He studied literature, politics and history and found something that was linked to nationalism. Some people ignored him saying “he always politicizes any issue.”

He especially worked in the three areas.

In literature, he tried to purify the language, and tried to replace English, Arabic, and Persian words. He became the leader of the movement of Devanagari. When he was released in 1937, he made a speech in Mumbai.

“I hope you will visit Taxila because it is ruined. If you go there, you will find that the university was burned by the enemies, it was burning for months. Today the place is neglected. It is not because of lack of writers, poets, philosophers, and thinkers but because of lack of adequate army. If you go there, you will learn something about life. At the same time you will realize that the brave military personnel is better than a writer. If you want to protect literature of our country, drop the pen and pick up the gun.”

This is the strange speech for the literates and writers. This shows the personality of Savarkar.

Later he tried to abolish the Caste system. During his detention of 13 years, the discrimination was abolished in that region. He wanted freedom all over India.

His research in history was for cultural war. 230 years before UK conquered India, Indians talked about cultural independence and political independence. After the British rule, they gave priority to the political independence and thought that the base of the cultural independent should be democratic. He wrote two papers which were fortunately ignored by the officials. First one was published in 1926, and the other in 1927. In the first one, he analyzes the nationalistic, cultural democracy.

He says, “It does not make sense to take all Indian as one. In Turkey, Turkish are nationals. In India, Hindus are nationals, and who believe in other religions are minorities”. He defined Hindus as those who have faith in the area around the Indus River.

Savarkar was concerned about politics during imprisonment. His elder brother was also sent to the Andaman Islands and came back to India, but no restrictions were imposed on him. He always contacted political activists and kept in touch with revolutionaries in Bengal and Punjab. He also commanded through a weekly magazine through his brother who wrote in a style similar to Savarkar and who could contact Savarkar. The work he had done in detention proved to be helpful later. People hoped that he would be a leader, but they also thought that the government would not let him free.

When the Congress formed a government in 1937, they removed the restrictions on him. The Congress wanted him to participate in the government. People knew that some officials were against him, however, they also agreed. Savarkar did not join the government and joined the Hindu Mahasabha. It suffered bitter criticism. The government said, “Savarkar destroyed himself. Anti-nationalists will use him as their leader.”
“Savarkar did not join the government, which means he is a hero. He could be a leader of a state and nation in the future, but he did not do that because of the opposition.”

Mahasabha was very happy about it as now they could have new power. His opinion was different from that of the government. The speech here at Mumbai says it all.

“Like it or not, army is necessary. The nations gain respect with guns. Peace without guns does not exist. We need to use international help for us. Independence is much more important than ideology. First we need to be strong to be independent. It is not important whether Japan which conquers China is right or wrong. The world takes care of its own countries. You must not count on help from any other country.”

He also talked about non-violence. “Colonies cannot resist. They do not have power. It is up to us to be strong or weak.”

He talked about the Indian diplomacy.

“Hitler knows how to be independent. Nazism and fascism are appropriate for Germany and Italy. India must first create its government. We must admit, we do not have power like Japan, Germany, and Italy. People want Independence. What the British Government says about independence being a threat to democracy is a lie. British solders must leave India, and Indians must create their own nation. When Independence becomes a necessity, it becomes possible. It is very natural to demand more power. Mahasabha supports Indian independence movement and regard those who oppose it as enemies. For those who are neutral to India, India will also be neutral to them. Our policy to British must be decided this way.”

These views were opposite to Indian National Congress. When he joined Mahasabha, he was asked to be a chairman in 1937-1938. Mahasabha decided its national policy.

“If you do not have confidence, we do not have future. We have capability. Our history goes back to BC 2000, and we survived because we were strong. Inca Empire, Pharaoh, and Nebuchadnezzar are forgotten races today, but we have power to survive. Each nation has ups and downs. Today, Great Britain conquered the world, but they have been conquered by Romans, Dutch, and Normans. Alexander the Greattried to conquer India but could not. Today, Hun and Parthian are forgotten. Now we must stand up and show our might to the world. Our country has been invaded over and over, and our power has been ignored. However, we fought with Turks over centuries, and then England came. But today we have army. British would be like Hun and Parthians. Hindus will stand on the Himalayas, and our nation would be independent.”

He travelled through India, and he received overwhelming welcome all over the places. Lectures, news interviews, exchange of opinions with other leaders kept him quite busy. But most of all, it was important for him to meet the leaders of the government, and he had a lot of meetings.

He published papers, issued statements, and responded to critics. With this leader, Mahasabha became really active. Next, he was elected as the chairman from 1938-1939. 25,000 people came to listen to his speech.
This is the speech.

“We have to fight and win.”  One young man was impressed by his speech, and therefore he donated money. This is a part of speech from him.

“To join the Mahasabha means you gain power. Our ancestors have tried to combine us in terms of religion, culture, race, and politics for 5000 years. Sindhus are today’s nationals. We are born in this land, and we live on this land. It is not to torture ourselves. We are Indian nationals. We have same religion, race, and history. This is the symbol of India.”

If you agree with Savarkar, you will have political power, and he has a strong position in the Indian independence movement.

Also Read : Veer Savarkar’s Interview

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