Veer Savarkar is not in public discourse. His portrait in Central Hall of the Parliament, unveiled in 2003 by Atal Behari Vajpayee, was the first stirring for his recognition.
(No surprises, Congress boycotted that moment. Sonia Gandhi stood with opposition in snubbing the event. The Left had written to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to stay away from the function—he didn’t).
Be witness to the “Hate-Veer-Savarkar” moment in blogs and social media posts on his 135th birth anniversary on May 28. As the creator of “Hindutva” philosophy, the annual reviling of the man would be done in unison by TheLiars, Squint, Srolls and Duff-Posts; besides editorial pieces in “Journalism of Courage.” In essence, these hacks and compromised academicians would take recourse to five issues to revile the man:
1-SAVARKAR SOUGHT MERCY FROM BRITISH
Savarkar spent 27 years in jail and under prison-restrictions: between 1910-1937. He was sentenced to 50-year imprisonment and transported to the infamous Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (“Kaalapaani”) on July 4, 1911. In next decade, he wrote at least four mercy petition for his release. The Left-Liberal echo-chamber hold it as an evidence of his opportunism.
Let’s look at what Savarkar underwent while serving “Kaalapaani,” in the most inhuman jail of all. Prisoners were manacled; gruel to eat was riddled with worms; inmates, formed in groups, were chained like bullocks and hauled to oil mills, grinding mustard seed, for endless hours. Prisoners were flogged. Light was scarce. No talking between prisoners at mealtime. No contact with outside world. Those resisting food had a rubber catheter inserted through the nostril and into the gullet and so to the stomach. Medical aid was none. It was a precursor to Gulag Archipelago and Guantanamo bay prisons of our times.
Savarkar endured all this and much more. His badge was marked “D”—for Dangerous. He was subjected to unspeakable cruelties. Every time there was trouble in the compound, Savarkar was punished. The British were determined he must not be allowed to leave the prison alive.
(Before we proceed, let’s see how it contrasted with jails of pliable Congress leaders: it was almost a holiday vacation. We have the good word of none other than Asaf Ali: that Nehru almost had a bungalow to himself in his so-called jail with curtains of his choicest colour: blue. He could do gardening at leisure; write his books. When his wife was sick, his sentence was suspended even without he asking for it! Nehru “graciously” accepted the offer).
As subsequent events were to show, there was a method in Savarkar’s mercy pleas. He didn’t want his life’s mission to rot away in prison and come to a grief as it happened to Rajput warriors in the past. Jaywant Joglekar, who authored a book on him, dubbed his clemency pleas a tactical ploy like Shivaji’s letter to Aurangzeb during his arrest in Agra.
After his release in 1937, Savarkar led a political movement to prevent the Partition of India as president of Hindu Mahasabha.
2-DIDN’T SUPPORT QUIT INDIA; PLEDGED SOLDIERS TO BRITISH IN WW2
Savarkar’s stance to British was: ”Quit India but not Army.” Unlike Gandhi, he firmly believed “military strength” as key to India’s survival. He pledged Indian men as soldiers to British and helped Hindu-Sikh youths to join Indian army and thus reduce latter’s essentially Muslim-dominated numbers. It came handy during the partition or even when Pakistani raiders came up to Srinagar in 1947. But for these “secular” numbers, not just Jammu and Kashmir, event West Bengal, East Punjab or Delhi could’ve been overwhelmed.
It’s laughable to even suggest Savarkar worked for the British. After Second World War broke out, he wrote once and cabled on another occasion to US President Franklin Roosevelt, urging him to ask “Britain too to withdraw armed domination over Hindustani.”
Savarkar, and Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, were keen on Indianising the British-India army. This effort of his was endorsed by both Rash Behari Bose and Subhas Chandra Bose—the revolutionaries behind the Indian National Army (INA). Subhas Bose praised Savarkar in his broadcast from Singapore on June 25, 1944 “for fearlessly exhorting the youth to enlist in the armed forces.” Rash Behari Bose spoke thus in his radio broadcast: “In saluting you, I have the joy of doing my duty towards one of my elderly comrades in arms. In saluting you, I am saluting the symbol of sacrifice itself.”
It was INA which forced Britain’s hands to quit India.
Further, Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev had made “Life of Barrister Savarkar” a necessary reading for revolutionaries, as their associate Durga Das Khanna was to reveal in 1976. The book was clearly anti-British.
3- SAVARKAR HAD A HAND IN GANDHI’S MURDER
Savarkar was 14 years younger to Gandhi. But his vision was far clearer. He asked for complete independence in 1900; Gandhi’s demand only came in 1929. It was Savarkar who first made a bonfire of foreign clothes in 1905; his movement against “untouchability” was stunning as even his critics admit.
Savarkar was a fierce critic of Gandhi. He termed Gandhi a hypocrite for the latter had supported use of violence by British against Germany during World War 1. He was also critical of Gandhi’s Muslim appeasement during Khilafat movement.
In his articles between 1920-1940, Savarkar considered Gandhi a naïve leader who “happens to babble…(about) compassion, forgiveness”, yet “notwithstanding his sublime and broad heart, the Mahatama has a very narrow and immature head.”
As for his hand in Gandhi’s murder, he was honourably acquitted by the court.
4- SAVARKAR BEGAN HINDUTVA AND WAS ANTI-MUSLIM
It was Savarkar who expounded the philosophy of Hindutva in the book by the same name in 1923. But his Hindutva espoused Hindu-Muslim unity. He was against the Partition; believing Muslim should stay in India as Hindustani Muslims, just as they are alright with being in minority in Greece (Greek Muslims), Poland (Polish Muslims) and elsewhere.
He believed in a Hindu Rashtra which didn’t curb the religion of a minority in any way. But he was against “creation of a nation within a nation in the name of religious minoritism.” How true the words sound in today’s context. He once described his difference with Jinnah thus: “I stand for equality and no concessions while Jinnah is for more concessions and doesn’t stand for equality.” His view was not Hindus supremacy but that of Hindus’ protection.
5—SAVARKAR WAS A NAZI IN WORD AND SPIRIT
The critics must make up their mind whether Savarkar was pro-British or pro-Nazi. He couldn’t be both at the same time. After all, he actively campaigned for recruitment in British-Indian army during WW 2. He supported the allied war effort against the Axis. He said: “After all, there is throughout this world…but a single race, the human race, kept alive by one common blood, the human blood.” Adolf Hitler, on the other hand, believed in the superiority of his race, the “pure race.” The truth is Savarkar believed in military strength which his shameless critics equate with support for Nazism.
What critics won’t tell you is that Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (May 28, 1883- February 26, 1966) was an atheist. He had asked his relatives to perform only his funeral and no rituals of 10th or 13th day as is done in Hindu faith. He was called Veer for when only 12, he led fellow students against a rampaging horde of Muslims that attacked his village in Nasik. He wrote several books, most of them while in jail.
Since his death, the airport at Port Blair has been named in his name. India House in England has a plaque in his name. In recent past, there have been calls to award him the “Bharat Ratna” posthumously.
We all know Shaktimaan the horse. From March 14 to April 20 this year, between its unfortunate injury and death, it remained a front page news on our lily-pure newspapers. Such love for protection of animals doesn’t extend to illegal cow slaughters. Never ever a word. Instead, cow-protectors are seen as a plot of Hindutva’s agenda. That veneration for cows, without VHP, RSS or BJP prop, doesn’t exist.
Before I am dismissed as a Hindutva foot-soldier, an anti-Dalit, anti-Muslim, anti-beef Hindu fundamentalist, let’s look at Indian constitution’s position. After all, this is where all hysteria should end.
Prohibition of cow slaughter is a Directive Principle of State Policy in Article 48 of the Constitution. It says: “The state shall endeavour…in prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.” On October 26, 2005, the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutional validity of anti-cow slaughter laws. Only Kerala, West Bengal and India’s northeast don’t have any restrictions on cow slaughter.
Before you burn me at the stake on beef trade, remember most beef produced, consumed and exported is buffalo meat which is not considered sacred to a Hindu. Besides, most cow-slaughterhouses are illegal. It’s a rampant illegal practice where cows are shipped to restriction-free states. Wikipedia says: “In 2013 in Andhra Pradesh, there were 3,100 illegal and 6 licensed slaughterhouses in the state.”
Sure, in practice, States take uneven position on the matter. Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have the strictest laws against cow-slaughter. Assam and West Bengal permit slaughter of cows 10-14 years old. In many states though cow-slaughter is a non-bailable offence. The terms of imprisonment could extend from a mandatory 6 months to 5 years.
So get this straight. Cow slaughter makes you a criminal in most of India. And please spare me this Hindutva tag. For cow slaughter was opposed by notable Muslims from the Mughals’ times.
Muslims and cow-slaughter
Emperor Babar ruled in 1526 that killing of cows was forbidden. Akbar (1556-1605), Jahangir (1605-1627), Ahmed Shah (1748-1754) all had restricted bans on cow slaughter. Yes, Aurangzeb deviated but Bahadur Shah Zafar completely banned cow slaughter in 1857. The de facto sultan of Mysore, Hyder Ali (1762-1785), punished cow-slaughter offenders by cutting off their hands.
It’s a fallacy that cow-slaughter in India began with the arrival of Islam. Vedas describe many gods such as Indra and Agni having preference for cattle meat. Sure the various invasions of Islamic rulers around 1000 AD made it common. Along with sacrifices of goats and sheet, cows too became a sacrificial animal, particularly on the occasion of Bakri-Id.
As in most things, British rule in India was trouble. They were used to eating beef. Slaughterhouses sprang up all over India. In 1944, British placed restrictions on slaughter due to cattle shortage. After all, they were required for transport, cultivation and milk among other purposes. But it came too late in the day. A historical survey, between 1717-1977, reveal that out of 167 communal riots, 22 were directly attributed to cow slaughter.
Arya Samaj, which opposed many existing practices of Hinduism in the 19th century, including idol worship, polytheism, child marriage, widow celibacy, the caste system, accepted the cow worship. Dayananda Saraswathi in 1881 opposed cow-slaughter as an anti-Hindu act. In 1683, Sambhaji, the eldest son of Shivaji, is said to have executed a cow-slaughter offender.
Ranjit Singh (1801-1839), founder of the Sikh Empire, banned cow slaughter throughout his domains. Cow was as sacred to the Sikhs as to the Hindus. Cow slaughter was a capital offence and offenders were even executed.
Let’s look at the stands of our revered leaders during British Raj. Mahatama Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan Mohan Malviya, Dr. Rajendra Prasad all had vowed to ban cow-slaughter in case India got its “Swaraj.” Let’s listen to Gandhi’s words: “Not even to win Swaraj, will I renounce my principle of cow protection…I worship and I shall defend its worship against the whole world. The central fact of Hinduism is cow protection.”
In 1966, Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan wrote thus to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi: “For myself, I cannot understand why, in a Hindu majority country like India…there cannot be a legal (cow slaughter) ban.”
Why Cows Matter
Animals have always been worshipped in India as deities. Elephant-god Ganesh, monkey-god Hanuman, Vishnu’s fish, tortoise and boar forms, their “vahanas” such as swan, bull, lion and tiger were all major deities. As well as snakes out of fear; and crows as the abode of the dead.
Cows are sacred to Hindus as a companion to Lord Krishna. Dairy products have always been essential in Hindu culture. Panchagayya, a mixture of five products of cow milk, curd, ghee, urine and dung, is consumed in Brahmanical rituals. Cows and bull—such as “Nandi”—have been the symbols of Dharma. Owning cattle was—and is—a status symbol in many parts of India. It’s dung is a source of fuel and fertilizer. Hence, its position as a maternal figure—“Gau Mata”– to a Hindu’s mind. Buddhism and Jainism both rooted for cow-protection.
It’s a delicious irony of history that Hindus and Muslims together revolted against the British East India Company in 1857 for being made to use gunpowder greased with cow and pig fat. As cow is sacred to Hindus, the consumption of swine is forbidden in Islam.
So recognize facts as they are. Sure punish where law is taken into hands. But for god’s sake, don’t think cow-protection is a political manipulation. It’s constitutionally guaranteed and you subvert it at your own peril.