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My first meeting with Veer Savarkar

Author: Shreedhar Musalkol
Publication: Medium.com
Date:  June 7, 2020
URL:      https://medium.com/india-binoculars/my-first-meeting-with-veer-savarkar-177c82e18402

The colossal Indian nationalist who is shaping a New India.

It was a lazy Saturday evening recently when I got a Whatsapp forward from one of my office colleagues about an online webinar titled, ‘What is Hindutva?’ the next day. I was curious as I hearing this term, ‘Hindutva’ quite a lot in digital media these days and signed up for the webinar. I thought I can give one hour to a stranger on a Sunday morning to listen to a topic I absolutely had no idea about.

I tentatively logged into Zoom at the appointed hour the next day and came to learn the speaker’s name is Akshay Jog, a Pune-based (Pune, India) writer. I was surprised to see there were around 20 souls like me who had logged in for the session. I was wondering what could be their motivation.

It was an entirely new space for me. The speaker alternated between English and Hindi initially, and then stuck mostly to Hindi. Initially, it appeared like a monologue. ‘Hindutva’ term was coined in 1892 by Chandranath Basu, a Bengali literrateur. Several Indian nationalists’ around that timeframe who worked for nation building were mentioned — Babu Chandra Nath, Rajnarayan Basu, Nabagopal Mitra, Devendranath Tagore, Dwijendranath Tagore and. Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay. The speaker talked of the contribution of Ganesh alias Babarao Savarkar and then moved to talk on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (younger brother of Ganesh Savarkar) and that’s when the talk got interesting.

In 1906, when Savarkar was in UK for his law studies, he had written a book, ‘The Indian War of Independence’ to remind people of the Indian rebellion of 1857. This was the first time somebody spoke the truth out that it was not just a ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ as was made out to be by the British but an actual resistance from the Sepoy to protest British ill- treatment. The UK government banned the book and eventually arrested him for anti-Empire activities and deported him to India lodging him at Cellular Jail, Andaman and Nicobar Islands for a major part of his incarceration.

The speaker then talked at length on Savarkar’s stay in different prisons from 1910 to 1937 with the work, ‘Hindutva’ being published incognito in 1923 from Ratnakar jail. Famous Indian personalities, Swami Shraddhananda, C Vijayaraghavachariar and MS Golwalkar praised the new publication. When in jail for a protracted period, Gandhi also tried securing Savarkar’s release but to no avail. Eventually, Savarkar was released on the condition that he would not participate in any political activity. Savarkar had fired up the Indians’ imagination for reasons I did not fully yet understand from the speaker.

During the final minutes of the presentation, we were asked by the webinar convener, if somebody can volunteer to research and write a column on the speaker’s content. I volunteered as I was interested in writing and thought I can explore the topic a little more.

I bought the Amazon Kindle version of Savarkar’s book, ‘Essentials of Hindutva’ to understand the man and his supposedly unique message in the book. And what I discovered was not something I was expecting. Savarkar’s message was simple and down-to-earth. It was a practical to-do guide to put India back on the pedestal of the world’s nations based on its strengths and its people, and not at the cost of any nation or any community. Let me try to explain his logic from the book.

Every time a nation needs to rejuvenate itself, it is only possible through its native people if they are wedded to three essential factors. First essential factor, they should consider their country as their motherland. Second essential factor, they should consider all inhabitants are part of the same origin or race. Third and final essential factor, they should consider their country as the origin of their religion. When an individual possesses these three essentials, then it has been long observed in history that one is fully committed to the well-being and growth of his/her nation. In the Indian context, Savarkar states that native people of Hindustan can be considered Hindus only if they possess the three essential factors. Hindus, Muslims and Christians who consider they possess the three essential factors will be referred to as Hindus, the rightful inhabitants of Hindustan. Thus, the term, ‘Hindutva’ means ‘being a Hindu’. An Indian citizen or patriot who is inside or outside India can be called a Hindu only once the three essential factors are fulfilled by the individual.

Savarkar also clarifies the difference between ‘Hindutva’ and ‘Hinduism’. ‘Hindutva’ refers to ‘being a Hindu’ based on the three essential factors discussed while ‘Hinduism’ refers to the customs/traditions from the religious aspects of a Hindu. Hinduism is only a portion of Hindutva. He goes on to reason that any community of India that feels they do not consider India their holy land (in effect, the third essential factor of Hindutva) will find it difficult to show loyalty to their motherland at all times and this naturally undermines their contribution to nation-building. Several examples are illustrated from world and Indian history to corroborate this conclusion where the holy land has been given precedence by certain section of citizens of a country rather than the motherland, and this attitude has harmed the interests of the country. The heart lies with the holy land while the mother land is useful for survival. Unless the two sentiments converge into one and is directed to the mother land, it is not easy to show one’s loyalty to the mother land in times of crisis.

To conclude, in the words of Savarkar himself, ‘Hindutva’ contributes to the strength, cohesion and progress of India. Savarkar’s exhortation is that every citizen should be committed to the ‘Hindutva’ way of thinking while they practice their chosen religion. Merely being a citizen or a patriot does not qualify one as ‘Hindutva’.

This was definitely original thinking from Savarkar and seemed to make a lot of logical sense to many clearing the air for true nationalism and re-igniting the self belief of the inhabitants of Hindustan. Only when one is committed to his nation from all aspects will one think of its well-being and progress in the comity of nations. This is equally observed at an individual family level as well — all members need to act in unison for the family’s cause for it to properly function. Savarkar’s message can be re-interpreted or validated for 2020 and is left to be explored for a later date.

Well, this was my first meeting with Veer Savarkar. “It was nice meeting you, sir! I am honored and ashamed that I did not know of your colossal contribution to the Indian cause”. I was not aware that you belonged to the Fab Four of the Indian struggle for Indian Independence: Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhash Chandra Bose and yourself. Thanks to my colleague for forwarding the WhatsApp message. Thanks to Akshay Jog for virtually introducing me to Veer Savarkar. It was meant to be, I suppose!

Better late than never! Jai Hind! (Long live India!).


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