Decoding the Controversial After-Release Life of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Veer Savarkar | The Most Controversial Revolutionary of India
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Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, commonly known as Veer Savarkar, was an Indian revolutionary and politician. He was a leading figure in the Indian independence movement, who advocated revolutionary violence against the British occupation of India. Savarkar was arrested in 1910 for revolutionary activities and sentenced to two life terms of imprisonment totaling 50 years. He was released in 1924 under restrictive conditions after serving only 14 years in the Cellular Jail in Andaman. Savarkar’s life after his release from the Cellular Jail is an intriguing chapter in India’s freedom struggle. This article attempts to decode his after-release life – his restrictions, activities, organizations he was part of, and his role in the freedom movement and Hindu nationalist politics.

Restrictions on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar After His Release

Though VD Savarkar was released from Andaman Cellular Jail in 1924, it came with severe restrictions on his freedom. The Colonial government was wary of his strong revolutionary spirit and imposing conditions was a strategy to keep his activities in check. Savarkar was barred from participating in any political activities publicly. He was restricted to Ratnagiri district and could not leave the district without prior police permission. Police were tasked with keeping tab on his activities on a daily basis. These restrictions were humiliating and quite unwarranted given he had already served a long term of imprisonment. However, these curbs did little to deter Savarkar’s relentless spirit.

Savarkar settled in his family home in Ratnagiri district. He began organizing talks, rallies, and meetings at home and locally. He helped start the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha and worked towards improving Hindu solidarity and awareness through publications and social work. The Patit Pavan Mandir, a converted home temple, became the hub of Savarkar’s political, social and literary activities in Ratnagiri. Though barred from participating in the Indian National Congress, Savarkar encouraged youth and locals to support the Congress leadership and engage more actively.

Hindu Mahasabha:

Savarkar was allowed to attend the all-Hindu convention in UP in 1937 which gestated the seeds of a unified political Hindu voice. The Hindu Mahasabha was established at this meet. As Savarkar began emerging as its mass leader, he toured around the country to help grow the organization. Through tireless efforts focusing on principles of equality, education and Hindu identity, Savarkar grew the Mahasabha across India.

With the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939, Savarkar instructed Hindu Sabhas to abandon any civil disobedience campaigns. He encouraged Hindus to enroll in the British Indian army. His approach was driven by being pragmatic to the situation and leveraging it as an opportunity for Hindus to get military training. By 1942, he started moving towards endorsing civil disobedience with the Quit India movement gaining momentum across India. But the damage was already done by his initial reluctancy. This led to the Hindu Mahasabha losing credibility and provided impetus to the Muslim League and Jinnah’s extreme demands under the garb of minority rights. Savarkar’s political missteps during the war allowed the Muslim League to consolidate power that ulitmately culminated in the partition of India a few years later.

Savarkar as President of Hindu Mahasabha

In 1937, Savarkar was elected president of the Hindu Mahasabha in spite of his confinement to Ratnagiri and not being present at the session. He was elected again as the Hindu Mahasabha president in 1943. Savarkar’s oratory skills, inspiring personality, commitment to Hindu upliftment and Hindutva philosophy drew popular support. From 1937 to 1945, Savarkar provided active leadership to build up the Mahasabha across the country through speeches, visits and correspondence.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar | The Most Controversial Revolutionary of India

The Mahasabha under Savarkar supported the Indian National Congress in the civil disobedience Quit India movement starting August 1942. As the British were weakened by World War 2, Savarkar encouraged Hindus to join police, army and government civil services to gain administrative experience. Savarkar instructed Mahasabha workers to boycott goods from Japan as it attacked India’s eastern borders. All efforts were made to encourage youth to gain skills for an impending transfer of political power. When the Muslim League civil disobedience in the mid 1940s turned violent, Savarkar instructed Hindus to counter violence with violence in a restrained manner. This was Savarkar’s way of protecting Hindus and furthering Mahasabha influence by positioning it as sole savior of Hindu interests.

Ideology and Hindutva Philosophy of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Savarkar spent his jail years in Andaman reading, writing and developing his Hindutva philosophy. He authored many books, poems and articles during this time including his magnum opus – Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? Savarkar described Hindutva as Pan-Hinduism – the concept of shared identity, culture and interests of people across the Indian subcontinent cutting across caste and regional lines. Savarkar attempted to provide a unifying vision and principles around which Hindus could rally for attaining freedom. According to Savarkar’s Hindutva philosophy a person is considered Hindu if India forms both his pitribhumi (ancestral land) and punyabhumi (the land of his religion). Non-Abrahamic religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent were considered Hindus under this definition.

Savarkar was staunchly against birth-based caste discrimination and untouchability. He was one of first reformer to allow people of all castes into Patit Pavan temple and to share meals together. He encouraged intercaste marriages. But Savarkar still operated in framework of Hindus being a distinct, superior race and religion. His vision was that of consolidating and unifying Hindus to attain independence and regain lost glory. Savarkar was an atheist but used religion as means to achieve nationalistic goals of driving British rule out of India. For him, Hindutva was India’s national identity that needed to be resurrected through social and political unity after centuries of suppression by foreign Islamic and British rule.

Role in Freedom Struggle and Partition : Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Savarkar played a formative role in India’s freedom struggle through his revolutionary activities. His daring acts of patriotism, subsequent harsh punishment and inhumane treatment evoked a spirit of sacrifice and nationalism among many youth. Even for the decades following his release, Savarkar inspired admiration and patriotic fervor through his oratory skills and personality. However, he made some major political and ideological miscalculations that allowed Jinnah and Muslim League to hijack the independence movement. Savarkar failed to take firm stand against partition right from the 1940s even as a section of Congress leadership was willing to appease Jinnah’s extreme demands. His emphasis was more on consolidated political negotiation from position of Hindu strength rather than opposing the division of India on religious lines.

Savarkar endorsed armed militias of Hindus as means of self-defense but this tacitly helped raise communal passions. His philosophy of pitting an exclusive Hindutva identity against Muslims and Christians was fundamentally divisive. For all his skilled oratory and writing extolling sacrifice for motherland, his indirect support first for British war efforts and later for Jinnah’s demands for partition significantly diluted his stature as a true independence crusader. By indirectly endorsing partition and the two nation theory, Savarkar betrayed the inclusive, secular vision of united India that respected minority rights.

In Conclusion

Savarkar led a remarkably inspiring and stormy life. His personality galvanized masses with principles of courage, equality and social justice. He awakened political spirit but failed to infuse moral vision. His Hindutva philosophy attempted to bind Hindus across ethnic, caste differences under one national identity. However in doing so, it adopted an unintentionally antagonistic position towards minority groups that culminated in India’s partition.

Savarkar’s failing health restricted his role in public life in later years. But the divisive ideology he helped unleash continue to haunt India decades after independence. While Savarkar left deep impact for his revolutionary zeal and vision of empowered Hindutva, his legacy remains permanently stained for endorsing forces that divided India’s national unity solely on religious lines. This fateful compromise of inclusive secularism for a narrow Hindu nationalist identity remains Savarkar’s biggest political and ideological blunder – one that India is still struggling to recover from.

FAQ: Decoding the After-Release Life of Savarkar

Who was Savarkar?

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar: Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1883-1966) was an Indian independence activist, revolutionary, and politician. He was a key figure in the Hindu nationalist movement and advocated for an independent India. Savarkar was imprisoned for his role in the assassination of a British official and spent 10 years in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

What did Savarkar do after his release?

After his release from prison, Savarkar returned to India and continued to be a vocal advocate for Hindu nationalism. He joined the Hindu Mahasabha, a political party that promoted Hindu interests, and served as its president from 1937 to 1943. Savarkar also wrote extensively about his political views and his vision for India’s future.

What are some of the controversies surrounding Vinayak Damodar Savarkar?

Savarkar is a controversial figure in Indian history. He has been praised for his role in the independence movement but also criticized for his views on Hindu nationalism and his alleged support for violence. Some historians argue that Savarkar was a proponent of Hindutva, a Hindu supremacist ideology. Others argue that Savarkar’s views on Hinduism were more nuanced and that he was not a Hindu supremacist.

What are some of the key sources for learning more about Savarkar?

There are many resources available for learning more about Savarkar. Some of the most important include:

  • Savarkar’s autobiography, “My Transportation for Life”
  • “Savarkar: A Controversial Biography” by Vikram Sampath
  • “Savarkar: The Man Who Could Have Prevented Partition” by Dhananjay Keer
  • “The Life and Times of V.D. Savarkar” by Dhananjay Keer
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