Compare Savarkar with Shivaji, not Bhagat Singh

Uday Mahurkar
Uday MahurkarMar 28, 2016 | 16:15

Compare Savarkar with Shivaji, not Bhagat Singh

In March, 1675, when the Mughals and Marathas were locked in a bloody war, Chhatrapati Shivaji wrote to the Mughal viceroy of Deccan, Bahadur Khan, praying that he was fed up of constant war, apologised for his past actions against the Mughals and requested cessation of hostilities while seeking certain privileges. Shivaji wrote the letter as part of his strategy to get reprieve from war and allow himself time to replenish his military strength. However, Bahadur Khan, who was already worn out by Shivaji’s brilliant battle strategy, jumped at the offer, instead of examining it carefully and convinced Mughal emperor Aurangzeb to accept it. But Bahadur Khan took five months to send the reply to Shivaji.


By that time, Shivaji had replenished his military strength. And so when two Mughal envoys, including a Gujarati named Gangaram Gujarati, reached Shivaji’s capital Raigadh to convey that his proposal had been accepted, the Maratha hero threw off the mask. He hosted the envoys with warmth but dismissed them saying, “What pressure have you brought on me, for me to seek peace with you?" This master stroke of Shivaji, who had experienced Aurangzeb’s treachery at Agra nine years earlier, left the Mughal emperor and his viceroy mortified.

But this wasn’t Shivaji’s first apology letter to the Mughals. He had written two such letters to Aurangzeb earlier. He wrote the first one in 1658 when Aurangzeb was the viceroy of Deccan during his father Shahjehan’s reign. It said: “Please pardon my offences. I shall loyally serve the Mughal empire." To this apology letter Aurangzeb wrote: "Though your offence doesn't deserve pardon, I draw the pen of forgiveness across the pages of your crimes as you have repented.” Needless to say, Shivaji was at war with the Mughals within just two years after this apology.


Clearly, Shivaji's apology was part of a larger game plan, which was emancipation of the motherland from the clutches of the Muslim invaders. Interestingly, Shivaji saw Aurangzeb as treacherous and a fanatic and considered committing treachery with Aurangzeb a fair game. Aurangzeb had become infamous as an Islamic fanatic when he demolished the Chintamani Jain temple in Ahmedabad in 1645 and slaughtered a cow there before converting the temple into a mosque. The temple was later restored by Aurangzeb’s elder brother Dara Shikoh.

Savarkar has to be examined with Shivaji's tools. 

So the ploy of the leftists to compare Veer Savarkar’s apology letter to the British while he was undergoing rigorous imprisonment at the cellular jail in Andaman between 1910 to 1920 with Bhagat Singh’s refusal to seek mercy after being sentenced to death in the John Saunders murder case is totally misplaced. It betrays the intent of today’s pseudo-leftists and the pseudo-secular parties to use one yardstick for Savarkar and another for others, including Mahatma Gandhi. Savarkar was Gandhiji’s greatest ideological adversary.

While Gandhiji’s ideology of complete non-violence and a self-defeating brand of truthfulness proved inimical to India’s national security, Savarkar was the father of India’s national security vision as all his warnings regarding India’s national security, from China, Pakistan and in the Northeast, have come true today.


So, how can a Gandhian value system, which in large parts has been harmful to India’s national security, be applied to Savarkar while evaluating his action of tendering apology to the British? Obviously, the act has to be examined with Shivaji’s tools.

Why Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries admired the Savarkar family?

Many old-timers from the Hindu Mahasabha that Savarkar once led had revealed that Bhagat Singh and Rajguru (who was from Maharashtra) came to meet Savarkar before their act of killing Saunders in 1928. This was when Savarkar was under selective detention in Ratnagiri from 1924, till his release in 1937, when he could move in Ratnagiri district only and had to refrain from launching any political movement.

As Savarkar was banned from political activity, it is believed that Bhagat Singh and Rajguru came in disguise to seek Savarkar’s advice on their plans. Even if this is rejected by the sceptics, how can one not consider the fact that Bhagat Singh translated Savarkar’s epic work 1857: The First War of Independence into Gurumukhi and therefore, adored Savarkar? This is mentioned in the famous work Vadvanal (Fire Beneath the Sea) by famous Maharashtrian historian on Indian revolutionaries, Vishwa Shripad Joshi.

Moreover, Chandrashekhar Azad, a revolutionary as respected as Bhagat Singh and his close associate, considered Babarao Savarkar, Veer Savarkar’s elder brother, virtually his guru. Babarao was very close to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) founder Dr KB Hedgewar and reportedly played a role in designing the RSS flag and also composing the RSS' morning prayer.

Interestingly, the story of the Savarkar family’s sacrifice for the nation is best demonstrated by a moving episode in the cellular jail. There was a time when both Babarao and Veer Savarkar were in the same cellular jail but they did’t know about it for more than two years because they were kept in seclusion, away from each other, since the British thought both the brothers were die-hard revolutionaries and their meeting could prove utterly dangerous for the British regime. Savarkar’s third brother, Narayan was also a revolutionary. So no wonder that revolutionaries in that age drew inspiration from the Savarkar family.

The comparison between Savarkar and Bhagat Singh is incorrect

An act of bravery for the nation is incomparable but equating it with a person who led a great social revolution, giving direction to the entire society under adverse circumstances and with unprecedented success is obviously incorrect.

Savarkar’s 12-year stint in Ratnagiri is considered to be a phase of great social revolution. Taking the caste system head-on, he organised hundreds of anti-caste dinners in the district in which untouchables sat with Brahmans, Kshatriya Marathas and other high caste people and all of them ate together. The high point of Savarkar's campaign was building the Patit Pavan Mandir in Ratnagiri, which was India’s first temple open to the all, including Dalits.

Bhagat Singh adored Savarkar. 

A section of orthodox Brahmins of Maharashtra opposed this reform describing it as sacrilege but Savarkar’s strong advocacy backed by sound logic wore them down and put them on the defensive. For this, he earned praise from no less than Dr BR Ambedkar. VR Shinde a great social reformer of Maharashtra at that time later opined that had Savarkar not joined the political party called Hindu Mahasabha upon his release in 1937 and continued with his social reforms, he would have wiped out untouchability.

Plus, Savarkar was a multi-faceted personality and a thinking giant. He had god’s gift to rightly see the dangers to India’s national security. He also coined the names of many Indian public institutions and geographical units. The name "Doordarshan" was coined by him. "Chitrapat" for film was also his creation and so was the name "nirdeshak" for film director. The Hindi name "sampadak" for editor also originated from his mind. Amongst his other creations were "mahapaur" for mayor and "parshad" for municipal councillor. He had also called upon India to press for the Arabian Sea to be named "Sindhu Mahasagar" or "Paschim Samudra", an advice which was not carried out. So the comparison between Savarkar and Bhagat Singh is misplaced.

Leftists call Bhagat Singh a strong Leninist but he also had a link with Arya Samaj

All along, Bhagat Singh has been sold to us as a strong Leninist by the leftists. None can deny on the basis of evidence that he admired Lenin. But there is evidence to prove that he also drew inspiration from the avowedly Hindu but reformist Arya Samaj, an organisation which too supported revolutionary ideas and boasted of many revolutionaries amongst its followers.

In fact, many in Bhagat Singh’s family, including his grandfather Arjun Singh, drew inspiration from Arya Samaj founder Swami Dayanand Saraswati. Bhagat Singh studied in an Arya Samaj institution because of the influence of the organisation on his family. Significantly, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh’s inspiration, the lathi-charge on whom by the British in a demonstration against the Simon Commission and his subsequent death in 1928 ignited the fire of revenge in Bhagat Singh, was a top-ranked Arya Samaj leader.

Says a source close to a top Arya Samaj leader in Hardwar: "In fact, Bhagat Singh got active support from the Arya Samaj workers during his struggle. So to sell Bhagat Singh as one who drew inspiration from Lenin alone would be wrong. Maybe he was inspired by multiple sources."

But what is most significant is that today’s pro-Muslim appeasement and anti-Hindu leftists are in fact pseudo-leftists as compared to the old communists who opposed both Hindu and Muslim communalism with equal vigour. So the attempts of today’s leftists to appropriate Bhagat Singh are puerile to say the least.

Why are the tools for weighing Savarkar and Gandhiji different?

It is indeed curious that Savarkar’s apology to the British is remembered but objectionable acts of Gandhiji like advising Winston Churchill to surrender before Hitler at the height of the Second World War and instead rely on Great Britain’s moral force (as mentioned by Abul Kalam Azad in his India Wins Freedom) and calling national heroes like Rana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji and Guru Govind Singh as misguided patriots (mentioned in Gandhiji’s collected works) are sought to be brushed under the carpet. An honest assessment would reveal that Gandhiji’s teachings have failed in the face of the national security challenge while Savarkar’s warnings on our national security front are all coming true.

There are credible accounts which say that for many weeks Gandhiji just didn’t believe the stories of horrible atrocities committed by Pakistani Muslims on Hindus and Sikhs after Partition and saw these as creations of Hindu fanatics even as hapless Hindu-Sikh refugees from Pakistan continued to pour in.

Gandhiji’s ideology of complete non-violence proved inimical to India’s national security. 

On the other hand, after the Pakistan resolution was passed by the Muslim League in 1940, Savarkar could foresee that Partition was inevitable in the wake of a weak Congress strategy against Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s aggression. He also foresaw that Partition would be accompanied by attempts by a section of Pakistani Muslims to ethnically cleanse the country of Hindus. He also anticipated Pakistan’s direct military aggression against India after Partition.

So Savarkar advised Hindus to use the opportunity presented by the Second World War and join the Allied forces and get military training in the wake of what he saw an impending conflict with Pakistan. Savarkar saw that under the Mulsim League’s influence Muslims were joining the Allied forces in large numbers for getting military training and so advised the Hindus to do the same.

In response to his call, a very large number of Hindus joined the British army from various parts of India. Interestingly, in terms of population, Muslims were in vast majority in the British Indian army before the Second World War but became a minority after the war as a result of Savarkar’s campaign.

In fact, Dr Ziauddin Ahmed, the then vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), which was at that time, the cradle of the Pakistan movement, raised an alarm in a speech to a Muslim crowd in Pune at the increasing number of Hindus enlisting in the armed forces daily, thereby reducing the number of Muslims (Ref: Dhanajay Keer's book Veer Savarkar).

Clearly, Savarkar's militarisation campaign ensured that partitioned India was secure against the designs of Pakistan. Still, India lost one-third of Kashmir in the 1948 conflict. Significantly, Savarkar was for equal treatment for all and not special treatment for Hindus. Clearly, the nation is yet to do justice to Savarkar as he continues to be weighed with unjust tools.

Last updated: March 28, 2016 | 20:59
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