Skip to main content

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh* 

Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate.
Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better!


To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis.
The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is progressively growing roots since 1991. When a society becomes devoid of the spirit of freedom -- political, civil and personal -- it creates a tumult around politics of symbols. Such a society, shying away from identification, understanding and commitment to get out of it, is cursed to hoist pictures of selected icons and raise slogans in their glory.
Such a society is cursed for propagating the borrowed Europe-America's stale formulas, systems and equipments (including digital) as self-reliance while flowing in the ongoing floods of privatization-liberalization. Such a society is also bound to enthusiastically sell the precious resources and labour of the country to domestic and foreign private companies at throwaway prices.
Same is the condition of today's Indian society. The new India alias Hindu-Rashtra is being built in this way. The makers of new India share only one common commitment -- elimination of the spirit of freedom and the idea of equality from society.
Today, hardly any leader or famous intellectual associated with power politics believes that political slavery comes through foreign capital along with the loans and conditions associated with it; and private capital in the nexus with foreign capital thrives on the loot of India's national assets and taxpayers' money, done with the help of governments.
Here are two recent examples:
One, the Prime Minister's proud statement at the foundation laying ceremony of the Airbus-Tata joint venture in Gujarat that his investment-friendly policies had attracted direct foreign investment (FDI) in 60 (public) sectors and 31 States: here he exhibits the courage to bring 100 percent direct foreign investment in every sector of the country!
And two, several paragraphs of the New Education Policy (NEP) have been lifted from foreign sources, and the courses and pedagogic systems/ methods of education based on foreign copying.
Had the spirit of freedom remained in Indian society following these two cases, a decisive struggle would have been raised against neo-imperialism. Yet, the fact is, our society is embroiled in the politics of symbols.
Indeed, the politics of symbols is meant to hide the extinction of the very spirit of freedom that has happened in the last three decades. The additional dimension of the RSS/BJP in this brand of politics is that they want to hide their role of supporting the British by not participating in the freedom movement.
It could also be possible that they would have reformed their pre-Independence role by honestly playing a role in favour of strengthening the spirit of freedom in the independent India. By doing this they could have built their credibility. Such credibility that does not have to depend on political power.
But after getting political power, they have thrown the entire freedom movement and its leaders into a futile controversy. The sad thing is that the entire opposition seems to be caught in this trap. The controversy arising again and again on Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is a manifestation of the same trend.
Whenever a political controversy arises about Savarkar, pro-Savarkar, anti-Savarkar and scholars adhering to middle path appear in the media with their respective arguments -- Savarkar's personality happened to be full of contradictions, the anti-British revolutionary phase of Savarkar, tactical retreat by him through apologies written in order to seek his release from Cellular Jail, Savarkar, the rationalist, the propagator of Hindutva doctrine, a saviour of Hindu society from the bigotry of Muslims, who tried to stop conversions of Hindus by Muslims and Christians, who continuously opposed Gandhi's obsession for Hindu-Muslim unity so on and so forth. Politicians also make their statements and arguments in the controversy.


I am of the opinion that the opponents of Savarkar should not drag him into controversy again and again. Not because doing so benefits the RSS/BJP. Rather, if communal politics will remain in India, Savarkar will also remain. He along with Mohammad Ali Jinnah was the originator of the two-nation theory on the basis of Hinduism and Islam.
The question is, will the stains of Indian politics badly soiled by communalism be washed away soon? The simple answer would be, if corporate capitalism will run even against the Constitution, communal politics will also be there; and because of that the communalism of the colonial period will also get legitimacy and acceptance in public domain.
Looking at the present reality objectively, it seems that communal politics is not going to wither away in India in the near future, because there is a consensus among the ruling-classes on corporate capitalism. In the last three decades, there has been a hand-to-hand relationship between corporate politics and communal politics. This phenomena has been termed as corporate-communal nexus.
It is not so much a matter of concern that the right-wing remains in India. Right-wing ideas and politics have a presence and role in almost all countries. But there is a communal, hypocritical and superstitious right-wing in India. The secular and progressive camp of the civil society has put its stamp on this communal, hypocritical and superstitious right-wing by establishing the Aam Aadmi Party in the political arena.
The RSS/BJP and Shiv-Sena consider Savarkar as their ideal. They like and admire Savarkar's bravery, so no one should have any objection in this. The communal politics also seeks its ideological basis, and they find it in the thoughts and role of Savarkar. The truth of Savarkar's apologies is recorded in the history.
Despite this, the RSS/BJP consider him swatantrya veer (a brave freedom fighter), so this is their problem. Even Bhagat Singh could have apologised to the British. Chandrashekhar Azad could have saved his life by surrendering before the police instead of taking his own life. But they didn't do that. Their path was different. They did not want to achieve the freedom of the country through cowardice and deceit.
Anyone who travels through the thoughts and activities of Savarkar would easily know that Savarkar actually considered cowardice and deceit as an integral part of his strategy. There has been no dearth of people doing this in the history of India and the world.
If any organization or person accepts Savarkar's thoughts and methods as their ideal and makes him their icon, then it is their choice. Instead of feeling bad about it, it would be more appropriate to maintain insistence on transparency in thoughts and mode of action.
If there was such honesty in the progressive and secular camp, then this crisis would not have been so severe. Even now, this camp seems to be roaming within the politics of capitalist-communal nexus. This camp, in fact, has played the biggest role in pushing back the alternative politics that emerged against the New Economic Policies during nineties itself.
The RSS/BJP would do well not to refer to Mahtma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi in defense of Savarkar. Gandhi had clearly stated that he has no enemies. He was a well wisher of Savarkar. If the Savarkarists interpret Gandhi's advice to Savarkar that Gandhi asked them to write an apology, then this is their interpretation.
The message sent by Indira Gandhi on Savarkar's birth centenary as the Prime Minister of the country is a fine example of protocol. Had she come across the classified files about Savarkar's apologies that came to the fore after 1984, she would probably have written a similar message. Whether postage stamp was issued on Savarkar in the past or he is given Bharat Ratna at present, there is no need to worry about it. All this will remain if communal politics remains in the Indian political arena.
BJP and Shiv Sena leaders of Maharashtra say the State belongs to Savarkar. Does it not belong to Baba Saheb?
When a dispute arises on Savarkar, Gandhi always comes in it. Gandhi was the tallest leader of the Congress, a forum for the freedom struggle, if not universally accepted. His position was the result of his long political career full of ups and downs. It was natural for leaders inside and outside the Congress to have differences with Gandhi.
Like every great leader, Gandhi too had his own style and logic while dealing with people. In the event of differences and opposition, he used to stick to his style and arguments to get his point across. In this whole exercise, he neither excommunicated anyone, nor did he himself run away.
The leaders who claimed to be 'protector of Hindu interests' or 'protector of Muslim interests' could never fit in with Gandhi. People like Balakrishna Shivram Munje, Baliram Hedgewar, Jinnah run away from the Congress after being troubled by Gandhi's personality.
On the other hand, people like Savarkar and Madhav Sadashivrao Golwalkar tried to measure their stature with that of Gandhi; and failing that, they kept trying to destroy Gandhi, his thoughts and mode of action. Savarkar did not give up this effort even after Gandhi's assassination. All those who had differences or competition with Gandhi met a common fate -- they all found solace in the lap of the colonial power.
Savarkar read a 57-page statement in his defense, clearly refusing to recognize Nathuram Godse in the court constituted for the trial of Gandhi's murder. It is believed that Savarkar, who escaped the charge of murder, also wrote Godse's last statement, in which he tries to demolish Gandhi after his death.
James W Douglas has written:
'"Critics say that what is shown and recited to us as Godse's last statement was actually written by his mentor Savarkar. This was very important for them. Because Savarkar and Nathuram Godse both knew it that this statement would be their greatest defense in later years."
An indignant Douglas writes further:
"In a crowded court, a murderer humiliated the man who was also the father of our nation and who was no longer in the world to speak! ... The accused himself was accusing Gandhi, was justifying it (the murder) and shamelessly putting in the dock the man whom he had just murdered, in front of the whole world."
Therefore, it would be better that both pro-Savarkar and anti-Savarkar people should not bring Gandhi while getting embroiled in the controversy.


BJP leaders of Maharashtra say that Maharashtra belongs to Savarkar. So does Maharashtra not belong to Sane Guruji? Doesn't it belong to Baba Saheb? Regionalism of symbols is not a good thing. The politics of symbols will get more dirty by this. In this dispute only the learned people of Maharashtra should clarify that to whom Maharashtra belongs.
Savarkar suffered a lot of tortures, there is no need to feel bad for those who believe so. Lakhs of Indians lost their lives in the 1857 war. Entire families/villages perished. The properties were confiscated. The parallel of havoc created by the British after their victory, without any discrimination between the guilty and the innocent, can hardly be found in the history of the world.
Those who suffered torture or sacrificed were not to get any compensation or pension. The kings-princes, businessmen-moneylenders, landlords, administrators who supported the British became enormously rich. The mindset that looks at the Indian freedom struggle through the lens of segregation and contempt fails to see the sufferings and sacrifices that the participants in the Indian freedom struggle (including the revolutionary movement) had to go through.
Only by coming out of this mindset will people will be able to understand the importance of the sacrifices given in the freedom movement as well as the values associated with it. This would surely spark the spirit of freedom against neo-colonialist slavery.
*Associated with socialist movement, former teacher of Delhi University, former fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla



'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site The article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.

Living standards in 'model' Gujarat worse than major states: Govt of India document

By Rajiv Shah  Amidst raging controversy over whether the latest Government of India’s “Household Consumption Expenditure Survey 2022-23 Fact Sheet: August 2022-July 2023” suggests that India’s poverty levels are actually down to 4.5 to 5%  during the decade-long Narendra Modi rule, a state-wise breakup in the 27-page document shows that “model” Gujarat’s average consumption expenditure is far below most of the so-called developed states.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Not livable in summer, Chitrakut PM-Awas houses 'push' tribals in moneylender trap

By Bharat Dogra*  Those who are in-charge of implementing the PM-Awas scheme of rural housing can rightly take pride in what has been achieved in Dafai hamlet (Karvi block, Chitrakut district, Uttar Pradesh). All the Kol tribal families here are extremely poor and vulnerable. In a rare achievement, almost all of them have received housing assistance under PM Awas. 

Narmada Valley's fossil evidence: Ground for 'nationalists' to argue primates' India roots?

By Saurav Sarkar*  In December 1982, a geologist digging in India’s Central Narmada Valley found something he did not expect. Arun Sonakia, who at the time worked for the Geological Survey of India, unearthed a hominid fossil skullcap from the Pleistocene era. The discovery sent shockwaves through the field of paleoanthropology and put South Asia on the map of human prehistory. Some experts concluded that the skull likely belonged to a member of a predecessor species of ours, Homo heidelbergensis , or perhaps was a hybrid of homo species, while Sonakia himself suggested “ an affinity… to Homo erectus .”

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.