Skip to main content

Bharat Ratna to Savarkar, the only beneficiary of British masters' 'large-heartedness'?

By Shamsul Islam*
On October 15, 2019, BJP released its manifesto for the Maharashtra Assembly elections. Apart from making miscellaneous promises it made a specific promise to the Maharashtra voters, that BJP would secure Bharat Ratna, the highest national honour, for the Hindutva icon, 'Veer' Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and two of the greatest thinkers and warriors of anti-Brahmanical Dalit resurgence, Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule.
It is interesting that no such promise, which has national ramifications, was made in Haryana, which also goes to the polls along with Maharashtra.
This Maharashtra promise is shocking for two major reasons. First, Savarkar cannot be honoured as a national hero with the type of legacy which he finally left behind. He did start as a fighter for an all-inclusive India, but ended up as a British stooge, both ideologically and action wise. He propounded the concept of Hindutva, which was synonymous with casteism, subjugation to the British and Hindu separatism.
Secondly, to tag Phules with Savarkar is a huge insult to the former who lived and died for a caste-free and egalitarian society.
In fact, Bharat Ratna to Savarkar will amount to denigrating martyrs/participants of the Indian freedom struggle. This Hindutva icon wrote not one or two but six mercy petitions (in 1911, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1918 and 1920) to the British masters, begging forgiveness for his revolutionary past. A perusal of parts of the two mercy petitions will prove to what lower depths this 'veer' consigned himself before the British rulers.
The 1913 petition ended with the following words:
"I am ready to serve the Government in any capacity they like, for as my conversion is conscientious so I hope my future conduct would be. By keeping me in jail nothing can be got in comparison to what would be otherwise. The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the Government? Hoping your Honour will kindly take into notion these points."
(Cited in RC Majumdar, "Penal Settlement in Andamans", Government of India, Delhi, 1975, pp 211-213.)
His mercy petition of 1920 was also a comprehensive one which offered total surrender. It submitted:
"Whether you believe it or not, I am sincere in expressing my earnest intention of treading the constitutional path and trying my humble best to render the hands of the British dominion a bond of love and respect and of mutual help. Such an Empire, as is foreshadowed in the Proclamation, wins my hearty adherence. For verily I hate no race or creed or people simply because they are not Indians!" 
Savarkar pleaded to renounce his revolutionary past in order to secure personal freedom
He went on to promise that:
"If the Government wants a further security from me then I and my brother are perfectly willing to give a pledge of not participating in politics for a definite and reasonable period that the Government would indicate... of remaining in a particular province or reporting our movements to the police for a definite period after our release - any such reasonable conditions meant genuinely to ensure the safety of the State would be gladly accepted by me and my brother…
“The brilliant prospects of my early life all but too soon blighted, have constituted so painful a source of regret to me that a release would be a new birth and would touch my heart, sensitive and submissive, to kindness so deeply as to render me personally attached and politically useful in future. For often magnanimity wins even where might fails.
(National Archives, Delhi; also reproduced by AG Noorani, ‘Savarkar’s Mercy Petition’, “Frontline”, March 12-15, 2005.)

Nothing wrong in writing mercy petitions

It is true that there was nothing wrong on part of the Cellular Jail detainees in writing petitions to the British officials. It was, in fact, an important legal right available to the prisoners. There were other revolutionaries in the Cellular Jail who, too, wrote petitions to the British Government.
Apart from Savarkar, Hrishi Kesh Kanjilal, Barindra Kumar Ghose and Nand Gopal also wrote petitions. However, there were only two – Savarkar and Barindra Ghose (Aurobindo Ghose’s brother) – who pleaded to renounce their revolutionary past in order to secure personal freedom.
Tilak, who was serving a six-year term (1908-1914) at Mandalay Jail (then in Burma), also wrote two mercy petitions (February 12, 1912 and August 5, 1912), but instead of seeking forgiveness for his seditious acts, he simply made the following identical request:
"That as a matter of grace the petitioner now seeks to obtain His Majesty's merciful consideration of his case. He has undergone 2/3rds, or four out of six years' term of his sentence, is now 56 years old, and is suffering for a long time from chronic diabetes; while his family affairs have been brought to a sad crisis by a heavy bereavement which he has recently suffered...The petitioner, therefore, humbly and loyally prays that His Majesty may be graciously pleased to grant…the unexpired portion of the petitioner's sentence may be remitted by pardon or a remission…" (India Office Library, London.)
The total surrender to the British masters bore results. His two lifetime sentences of 50 years at the Cellular Jail were reduced to less than 13 years; he spent less than 10 years in the Cellular Jail. Moreover, despite ban on his political activities, he was allowed to organize Hindu Mahasabha in order to break the united freedom struggle. He was the only beneficiary of such large-heartedness of the British masters in the history of the Cellular Jail!
Should India allow such a “veer” to be honoured with Bharat Ratna?
---
*Well-known political scientist, formerly with the Delhi University. Some of Prof Islam's writings in English, Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi, Gujarati and video interviews/debates can be read HERE http://du-in.academia.edu/ShamsulIslam.Twitter: @shamsforjustice, blog: http://shamsforpeace.blogspot.com/, contact: notoinjustice@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

India under Modi among top 10 autocratizing nations, on verge of 'losing' democracy status

By Rajiv Shah
A new report, prepared by a top Swedish institute studying liberal democracy, has observed that there has been a sharp “dive in press freedom along with increasing repression of civil society in India associated with the current Hindu-nationalist regime of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.” The report places India among the top 10 countries that “have autocratized the most”. Other countries that have been identified for rolling towards autocracy are -- Hungary, Turkey, Poland, Serbia, Brazil, Mali, Thailand, Nicaragua and Zambia.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Gujarat link of controversial US doctor who 'forced' WHO quiz Trump's wonder drug

By Rajiv Shah
A top American doctor, Sapan Sharankishor Desai, born and raised in the “affluent” North Shore (Chicago) region of Illinois by Indian parents, at one point of time involved in NGO activity through  dedicated to “improving” the lives of the impoverished in Gujarat, is in the eyes of a major international storm following his paper (retracted) in a “Lancet” questioning Donald Trump-promoted drug hydroxychloroquine.

Border conflict? RBI nod India's 'brotherly' help to China internationalise its currency

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
In the middle of a global pandemic, China started an unprovoked border conflict with India. It unraveled trust deficit and ties between the two neighbours. As thousands of Chinese troops tried occupying Indian territory, the Narendra Modi-led BJP government directs the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to allow the Bank of China to start regular banking services in India. The Bank of China will now operate in India like any other commercial banks.

Dalits in India, Blacks in US suffer 'similar' humiliation: Macwan drafts letter to Trump

Counterview Desk
Well-known human rights activist Martin Macwan, recipient of the prestigious Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2000, has drafted an open letter to US President Donald Trump following the disturbing turn of events with the murder of George Floyd, leading to widespread protests in the US. He has sought signatures of concerned citizens before sending it to Trump.

RSS supremo Deoras 'supported' Emergency, but Indira, Sanjay Gandhi 'didn't respond'

By Shamsul Islam*
National Emergency was imposed on the country by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on June 25-26, 1975, and it lasted for 19 months. This period is considered as ''dark times' for Indian democratic polity. Indira Gandhi claimed that due to Jaiprakash Narayan's call to the armed forces to disobey the 'illegal' orders of Congress rulers had created a situation of anarchy and there was danger to the existence of Indian Republic so there was no alternative but to impose Emergency under article 352 of the Constitution.

Clean chit to British rulers, Muslim League? Karnataka to have Veer Savarkar flyovers

By Shamsul Islam*
The BJP government of Karnataka led by BS Yediyurappa is going to honour Hindutva icon VD Savarkar by naming two of the newly built major flyovers in Bangalore and Mangalore after him. There was a huge uproar against this decision of the RSS-BJP government as many pro-Kannada organisations with opposition parties and liberal-secular organizations questioned the logic to ignore so many freedom fighters, social reformers and others from within the state.

Hurried nod to Western Ghat projects: 16 lakh Goans' water security 'jeopardised'

Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to "virtual clearances" to eco-sensitive projects in the Western Ghats, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in a statement has said urged for a review of the four-lane highway, 400 KV transmission line and double tracking of the railway line through the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa.

Disturbing signal? Reliance 'shifting focus' away from Indian petrochemical sector

By NS Venkataraman*
Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), a large Indian company, has expanded and grown in a spectacular manner during the last few decades, like of which no industrial group in India has performed before. RIL is now involved in multi various activities relating to petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, oil and gas exploration, coal bed methane, life sciences, retail business, communication network, (Jio platform) media/entertainment etc.