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Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar
Born(1883-05-28)28 May 1883
Died26 February 1966(1966-02-26) (aged 82)
Bombay, Maharashtra, India
Cause of deathProlonged illnesses, refusal to use medicines[1]
Alma materUniversity of Mumbai
Gray's Inn
Known forHindutva
Indian Independence Movement
Political partyHindu Mahasabha
RelativesGanesh Damodar Savarkar (brother)

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (About this soundpronunciation ; 28 May 1883 – 26 February 1966),[2] was an Indian independence activist, politician, lawyer, writer and the formulator of the Hindutva philosophy.[3][4][5]

As a response to the Muslim League, Savarkar joined the Hindu Mahasabha and popularized the term Hindutva (Hinduness), previously coined by Chandranath Basu,[6] to create a collective "Hindu" identity as an essence of Bharat (India).[7][8] Savarkar was also a pragmatic practitioner of Hindu philosophy. He advocated for validating religious myths and blind faith against the test of modern science. In that sense, he also was a rationalist and reformer.

Savarkar began his revolutionary activities as a high school student and continued to do so at Fergusson College in Pune. He and his brother founded a secret society called Abhinav Bharat Society. When he went to the United Kingdom for his law studies, he involved himself with radical organizations such India House and the Free India Society. He also published books advocating complete Indian independence by revolutionary means.[5] One of the books he published called The Indian War of Independence about the Indian rebellion of 1857 was banned by the British authorities. In 1910, Savarkar was arrested and ordered to be extradited to India for his connections with the revolutionary group India House.

On the voyage back to India, Savarkar staged an attempt to escape and seek asylum in France while the ship was docked in the port of Marseilles. The French port officials however handed him back to the British in contravention of international law. On return to India, Savarkar was sentenced to two life terms of imprisonment totalling fifty years and was moved to the Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Savarkar served ten years of his prison sentence before being released in 1921 after signing a plea for clemency that required him to renounce revolutionary activities. After release, he was eventually moved to Ratnagiri in the present day state of Maharashtra, where he stayed until 1937.

While in prison, Savarkar wrote the work describing Hindutva, espousing what it means to be a Hindu, and Hindu pride, in which he defined as all the people descended of Hindu culture as being part of Hindutva, including Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs.[9] After 1937, he started travelling widely, becoming a forceful orator and writer, advocating Hindu political and social unity. Serving as the president of the Hindu Mahasabha political party, Savarkar endorsed the idea of India as a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation) and opposed to the Quit India struggle in 1942, calling it a "Quit India but keep your army" movement. He became a fierce critic of the Indian National Congress and its acceptance of India's partition.

In 1948 Savarkar was charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, however he was acquitted by the court for lack of evidence.

Savarkar resurfaced in the popular discourse after the coming of the BJP into power in 1998[10] and again in 2014 with the Modi led BJP government at the center.[11]

The airport at Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar's capital was renamed Veer Savarkar International Airport in 2002.[12] One of the commemorative blue plaques affixed on India House fixed by the Historic Building and Monuments Commission for England reads "Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, 1883–1966, Indian patriot and philosopher lived here".[13]

Early life

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was born in the Marathi Chitpavan Brahmin Hindu family[14] of Damodar and Radhabai Savarkar in the village of Bhagur, near the city of Nashik, Maharashtra. He had three other siblings namely Ganesh, Narayan, and a sister named Maina.[15] When he was 12, he led fellow students in an attack on his village mosque following Hindu-Muslim riots, stating: "we vandalised the mosque to our heart’s content."[16][17]

After the death of his parents, the eldest sibling Ganesh, known as Babarao, took responsibility for the family. Babarao played a supportive and influential role in Vinayak's teenage life. During this period, Vinayak organised a youth group called Mitra Mela (Band of Friends) and encouraged revolutionary and nationalist views of passion using this group. In 1901, Vinayak Savarkar married Yamunabai, daughter of Ramchandra Triambak Chiplunkar, who supported his university education. Subsequently, in 1902, he enrolled in Fergusson College, in Pune. As a young man, he was inspired by the new generation of rising political leaders namely Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai along with the political struggle against the partition of Bengal and the rising Swadeshi campaign. In his college years, he along with his friends burned imported textile as a support to the Swadeshi Movement. After completing his degree, nationalist activist Shyamji Krishna Varma helped Vinayak to go to England to study law, on a scholarship. It was during this period that the Garam Dal, literally "Army of the angry," was formed under the leadership of Tilak as a result of a split between the moderate, "constitutionalist" wing on the one part, and of Tilak's "nationalist" wing in the Indian National Congress. The members of the Garam Dal did not acknowledge the agenda of the majority Indian National Congress leadership which advocated dialogue with the British rulers and incremental steps towards Independence by gaining the confidence of the British. Tilak was soon imprisoned for his support of revolutionary activities.

Activities at India House

Madan Lal Dhingra was a protege of Savarkar.

After joining Gray's Inn law college in London Vinayak took accommodation at India House. Organized by expatriate social and political activist Pandit Shyamji, India House was a thriving centre for student political activities. Savarkar soon founded the Free India Society to help organize fellow Indian students with the goal of fighting for complete independence through a revolution, declaring,

We must stop complaining about this British officer or that officer, this law or that law. There would be no end to that. Our movement must not be limited to being against any particular law, but it must be for acquiring the authority to make laws itself. In other words, we want absolute independence.[5]

Savarkar envisioned a guerrilla war for independence along the lines of the famous war for Indian independence of 1857. Studying the history of the revolt, from English as well as Indian sources, Savarkar wrote the book The History of the War of Indian Independence. He analysed the circumstances of 1857 uprising and assailed British rule in India as unjust and oppressive. It was via this book that Savarkar became one of the first writers to allude the uprising as India's "First War for Independence."[18]

The book was banned throughout the British Empire. Madame Bhikaji Cama, an expatriate Indian revolutionary obtained its publication in the Netherlands, France and Germany. Widely smuggled and circulated, the book attained great popularity and influenced rising young Indians. Savarkar was studying revolutionary methods and he came into contact with a veteran of the Russian Revolution of 1905 who imparted him the knowledge of bomb-making. Savarkar had printed and circulated a manual amongst his friends on bomb-making and other methods of guerrilla warfare.

In 1909, Madan Lal Dhingra, a keen follower and friend of Savarkar, assassinated Sir William Hutt Curzon Wyllie in a public meeting. Dhingra's action provoked controversy across Britain and India, evoking enthusiastic admiration as well as condemnation. Savarkar published an article in which he all but endorsed the murder and worked to organize support, both political and for Dhingra's legal defence.

At a meeting of Indians called for a condemnation of Dhingra's deed, Savarkar protested the intention to condemn and was drawn into a hot debate and angry scuffle with other participants. A secretive and restricted trial and a sentence awarding the death penalty to Dhingra provoked an outcry and protest across the Indian student and political community. Strongly protesting the verdict, Savarkar struggled with British authorities in laying claim to Dhingra's remains following his execution. Savarkar hailed Dhingra as a hero and martyr, and began encouraging revolution with greater intensity.

Arrest in London and Marseille

In India, Ganesh Savarkar had organised an armed revolt against the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909.[19] The British police implicated Savarkar in the investigation for allegedly plotting the crime.[20] Hoping to evade arrest, Savarkar moved to Madame Cama's home in Paris.[21] He was nevertheless arrested by police on 13 March 1910. In the final days of freedom, Savarkar wrote letters to a close friend planning his escape. Knowing that he would most likely be shipped to India, Savarkar asked his friend to keep track of which ship and route he would be taken through.[citation needed] When the ship SS Morea reached the port of Marseille on 8 July 1910, Savarkar escaped from his cell in the hope that his friend would be there to receive him in a car.[citation needed] But his friend was late in arriving, and the alarm having been raised, Savarkar was re-arrested.

Case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration

Permanent Court of Arbitration - Cour permanente d'arbitrage.svg
CourtPermanent Court of Arbitration
Full case nameArrest and Return of Savarkar (France v. Great Britain)
Decided24 February 1911
Court membership
Judges sittingM. Beernaert, president, elected by panel
Louis Renault
Earl of Desart
G. Gram
Alexander de Savornin Lohman
Case opinions
Decision byUnanimous panel

Savarkar's arrest at Marseilles caused the French government to protest to the British, arguing that the British could not recover Savarkar unless they took appropriate legal proceedings for his rendition. The dispute came before the Permanent Court of International Arbitration in 1910, and it gave its decision in 1911. The case excited much controversy as was reported by the New York Times, and it considered it involved an interesting international question of the right of asylum.

The Court held, firstly, that since there was a pattern of collaboration between the two countries regarding the possibility of Savarkar's escape in Marseilles and there was neither force nor fraud in inducing the French authorities to return Savarkar to them, the British authorities did not have to hand him back to the French for the latter to hold rendition proceedings. On the other hand, the tribunal also observed that there had been an "irregularity" in Savarkar's arrest and delivery over to the Indian Army Military Police guard.[22][23]

Trial and sentence

Arriving in Bombay, Savarkar was taken to the Yervada Central Jail in Pune. The trial before the special tribunal was started on 10 September 1910.[24]:pg.456 One of the charges on Savarkar was abetment to murder of Nashik Collector Jackson. The second was waging a conspiracy under Indian penal code 121-A against the King emperor.[25][26][27] Following the two trials, Savarkar, then aged 28, was convicted and sentenced to 50-years imprisonment[24]:pg.455 and transported on 4 July 1911 to the infamous Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He was not considered by the British government as a political prisoner.

Prisoner in Cellular Jail in Andaman

A statue of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar at Cellular Jail.

His fellow captives included many political prisoners, who were forced to perform hard labour for many years. Reunited with his brother Ganesh, the Savarkars nevertheless struggled in the harsh environment: Forced to arise at 5 am, tasks including cutting trees and chopping wood, and working at the oil mill under regimental strictness, with talking amidst prisoners strictly prohibited during mealtime. Prisoners were subject to frequent mistreatment and torture. Contact with the outside world and home was restricted to the writing and mailing of one letter a year. In these years, Savarkar withdrew within himself and performed his routine tasks mechanically. Obtaining permission to start a rudimentary jail library, Savarkar would also teach some fellow convicts to read and write.


Savarkar applied to the Bombay Government for certain concessions in connection with his sentences. However, by Government letter No. 2022, dated 4 April 1911, his Application was rejected and he was informed that the question of remitting the second sentence of transportation for life would be considered in due course on the expiry of the first sentence of transportation for life.[24]:pg.467

A month after arriving in the Cellular Jail, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Savarkar submitted his first mercy petition on 30 August 1911. This petition was rejected on 3 September 1911.[24]:pg.478

Savarkar submitted his next mercy petition on 14 November 1913, and presented it personally to the Home Member of the Governor General's council, Sir Reginald Craddock.[28] In his letter, asking for forgiveness, he described himself as a "prodigal son" longing to return to the "parental doors of the government". He wrote that his release from the jail will recast the faith of many Indians in the British rule. Also, he said "Moreover, my conversion to the constitutional line would bring back all those misled young men in India and abroad who were once looking up to me as their guide. 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."[29]

In 1917, Savarkar submitted another mercy petition, this time for a general amnesty of all political prisoners. Savarkar was informed on 1 February 1918 that the mercy petition was placed before the British Indian Government.[24]:pg.480

In December 1919, there was a Royal proclamation by King-Emperor George V. The summary of this proclamation is as follows[24]:pg.469

  • Paragraph 1: Reference to Acts of 1773, 1784, 1833, 1858, 1861 and 1909—The Act of 1919 entrusts the elected representatives of the people with a definite share in Government and points the way to full responsible Government hereafter.
  • Paragraph 2: Mention of what Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and he himself declared between 1858 and 1910.
  • Paragraph 3: Britain's desire to make it possible for India to take control of her domestic affairs on her own shoulders.
  • Paragraph 4: Recognition of the political awakening and political aspirations of the people of the country.
  • Paragraph 5: Hope that the new legislatures shall succeed.
  • Paragraph 6: An appeal to forgive and forget for removing all bitterness and creating an atmosphere of goodwill for the success of the reforms. Declaration of Royal clemency to political offenders.
  • Paragraph 7: Reference to Chamber of Princes.
  • Paragraph 8: Intention of sending Prince of Wales to visit India to further cordiality of relations between the King and his subjects.

In the view of Royal proclamation, Savarkar submitted his fourth mercy petition to the British Government on 30 March 1920.[24]:pg.472–476

In which he stated that "So far from believing in the militant school of the Bukanin type, I do not contribute even to the peaceful and philosophical anarchism of a Kuropatkin [sic.] or a Tolstoy. And as to my revolutionary tendencies in the past:- it is not only now for the object of sharing the clemency but years before this have I informed of and written to the Government in my petitions (1918, 1914) about my firm intention to abide by the constitution and stand by it as soon as a beginning was made to frame it by Mr Montagu. Since that the Reforms and then the Proclamation have only confirmed me in my views and recently I have publicly avowed my faith in and readiness to stand by the side of orderly and constitutional development."[30]

This petition was rejected on 12 July 1920 by the British government.[24]:pg.477 After considering the petition, the British government contemplated releasing Ganesh Savarkar but not Vinayak Savarkar. The rationale for doing so was stated as follows[24]:pg.472

It may be observed that if Ganesh is released and Vinayak retained in custody, the latter will become in some measure a hostage for the former, who will see that his own misconduct does not jeopardize his brother's chances of release at some future date.

In 1920, the Indian National Congress and leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Vithalbhai Patel and Bal Gangadhar Tilak demanded his unconditional release. Savarkar signed a statement endorsing his trial, verdict and British law, and renouncing violence, a bargain for freedom.

Restricted freedom in Ratnagiri

On 2 May 1921, the Savarkar brothers were moved to a jail in Ratnagiri, and later to the Yerwada Central Jail. He was finally released on 6 January 1924 under stringent restrictions – he was not to leave Ratnagiri District and was to refrain from political activities for the next five years. As a political internee in Ratnagiri he demanded an amount of Rs 100 per month. The British Government agreed on a stipend of Rs 60 per month in lieu of his compulsory unemployment.[31] However, police restrictions on his activities would not be dropped until provincial autonomy was granted in 1937.

Leader of the Hindu Mahasabha

In the wake of the rising popularity of the Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Savarkar and his party began gaining attraction in the national political environment. Savarkar moved to Bombay and was elected president of the Hindu Mahasabha in 1937, and would serve until 1943. The Congress swept the polls in 1937 but conflicts between the Congress and Jinnah would exacerbate Hindu-Muslim political divisions. Jinnah derided Congress rule as a "Hindu Raj", and hailed 22 December 1939 as a "Day of Deliverance" for Muslims when the Congress resigned en masse in protest when the British India Governor-General declared India's inclusion into World War II for the United Kingdom and its allies against Germany and its allies. Savarkar's message of Hindu unity and empowerment gained increasing popularity amidst the worsening communal climate.

Savarkar as president of the Hindu Mahasabha, during the Second World War, advanced the slogan "Hinduize all Politics and Militarize Hindudom" and decided to support the British war effort in India seeking military training for the Hindus.[32] When the Congress launched the Quit India movement in 1942, Savarkar criticised it and asked Hindus to stay active in the war effort and not disobey the government;[18] he also urged the Hindus to enlist in the armed forces to learn the "arts of war".[33] Hindu Mahasabha activists protested Gandhi's initiative to hold talks with Jinnah in 1944, which Savarkar denounced as "appeasement." He assailed the British proposals for transfer of power, attacking both the Congress and the British for making concessions to Muslim separatists. Soon after Independence, Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee resigned as Vice-President of the Hindu Mahasabha dissociating himself from its Akhand Hindustan (Undivided India) plank, which implied undoing partition.[34]

Opposition to Quit India Movement

Under Savarkar, the Hindu Mahasabha openly opposed the call for the Quit India Movement and boycotted it officially.[35] Savarkar even went to the extent of writing a letter titled "Stick to your Posts", in which he instructed Hindu Sabhaites who happened to be "members of municipalities, local bodies, legislatures or those serving in the army ... to stick to their posts" across the country, and not to join the Quit India Movement at any cost.[35]

Alliance with Muslim League and others

The Indian National Congress won a massive victory in the 1937 Indian provincial elections, decimating the Muslim League and the Hindu Mahasabha. However, in 1939, the Congress ministries resigned in protest against Viceroy Lord Linlithgow's action of declaring India to be a belligerent in the Second World War without consulting the Indian people. This led to the Hindu Mahasabha, under Savarkar's presidency, joining hands with the Muslim League and other parties to form governments, in certain provinces. Such coalition governments were formed in Sindh, NWFP, and Bengal.

In Sindh, Hindu Mahasabha members joined Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah's Muslim League government. In Savarkar's own words,

"Witness the fact that only recently in Sind, the Sind-Hindu-Sabha on invitation had taken the responsibility of joining hands with the League itself in running coalition government[36][37][38]

In the North West Frontier Province, Hindu Mahasabha members joined hands with Sardar Aurangzeb Khan of the Muslim League to form a government in 1943. The Mahasabha member of the cabinet was Finance Minister Mehar Chand Khanna.[39][40]

In Bengal, Hindu Mahasabha joined the Krishak Praja Party led Progressive Coalition ministry of Fazlul Haq in December 1941.[41] Savarkar appreciated the successful functioning of the coalition government.[37][42]

Civil resistance movement

Hindu Mahasabha under the leadership of Savarkar started a civil resistance movement in March 1939. The objective of the Satyagraha was to secure religious and cultural liberty for the Hindus who at that time constituted 86% of total population of Hyderabad State. Many notable people like Senapati Bapat, V. G. Deshpande, Prabhakar Balwant Dani, and Madhavrao Mule took part in it. The Arya Samaj also sent around 10000 civil resisters. At last, on 19 July 1939, the Nizam government announced some political reforms. In the new dispensation, 50% seats were left for non-Muslims. Although Hindus were the majority in the state and Muslims were in minority, Hindu Mahasabha accepted this proposal. They withdrew the movement despite the fact that these were partial reforms. Indian National Congress did not support this movement and called it 'communal' and 'anti-national'.[43]

Views on Mahatma Gandhi

Savarkar was an outspoken critic of Mahatma Gandhi. He criticized Gandhi for being a hypocrite as he supported use of violence by the British against Germany during World War II. He also criticized his appeasement of Muslims at the time of Khilafat Movement.

In articles from the 1920s to the 1940s, Savarkar considered Gandhi as a naive leader who "happens to babble ... [about] compassion, forgiveness", yet "notwithstanding his sublime and broad heart, the Mahatma has a very narrow and immature head".

Views on Dr. Ambedkar

Savarkar respected Dr. Ambedkar. In a message to Dr Ambedkar's Golden Jubilee Committee on 15 January 1942, he wrote,

"His personality, erudition and capacity to lead and organise-would have by themselves marked him out as an outstanding asset to our nation. But in addition to that the in-estimable services he has rendered to our motherland in trying to stamp out untouchability and the result he has achieved in instilling a manly spirit of self-confidence in millions of the depressed classes, constitute an abiding, patriotic as well as humanitarian achievement. The very fact of the birth of such a towering personality among the so-called untouchable castes could not but liberate their souls from self-depression and animate them to challenge the super-arrogative claims of the so-called touchables".[44]

Savarkar was critical of Ambedkar's conversion to Buddhism. However, he termed it as a change of sect rather than a change of religion. He said that so long as Ambedkar remained an Indian Buddhist, he continued to remain in the ambit of Hindutva as his motherland and holy land continued to be Bharat[45]

Opposition to the partition of India

Savarkar opposed the partition of India. In a telegram sent to Sjt. L. B. Bhopatkar, President, All India Hindu Mahasabha, on the eve of the Meetings of the Working Committee and All India Committee of the Hindu Mahasabha, 4 June 1947, he wrote,

"My personal view is that we must vigorously protest against the creation of a Moslem state independent of the central Indian state. We will not sign willingly the death warrant of the integrity of Hindusthan."[46]

Support for Jewish state in Palestine

Savarkar in a statement issued on 19 December 1947, expressed joy at the recognition of the claim of Jewish people to establish an independent Jewish state, and likened the event to the glorious day on which Moses led them out of Egyptian bondage. He considered that justice demanded the restoration of the entire Palestine to the Jews, their historical holy land and Fatherland. He regretted India's vote at the United Nations against the creation of the Jewish state terming the vote a policy of appeasement of Muslims.[47][better source needed]

Arrest and acquittal in Mahatma's assassination

A group photo of people accused in the Mahatma Gandhi's murder case. Standing: Shankar Kistaiya, Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa, Digambar Badge. Sitting: Narayan Apte, Vinayak D. Savarkar, Nathuram Godse, Vishnu Karkare

Following the assassination of Gandhi on 30 January 1948, police arrested the assassin Nathuram Godse and his alleged accomplices and conspirators. He was a member of the Hindu Mahasabha and of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Godse was the editor of Agrani – Hindu Rashtra, a Marathi daily from Pune which was run by the company "The Hindu Rashtra Prakashan Ltd" (The Hindu Nation Publications). This company had contributions from such eminent persons as Gulabchand Hirachand, Bhalji Pendharkar and Jugalkishore Birla. Savarkar had invested 15000 in the company. Savarkar, a former president of the Hindu Mahasabha, was arrested on 5 February 1948, from his house in Shivaji Park, and kept under detention in the Arthur Road Prison, Mumbai. He was charged with murder, conspiracy to murder and abetment to murder. A day before his arrest, Savarkar in a public written statement, as reported in The Times of India, Mumbai dated 7 February 1948, termed Gandhi's assassination a fratricidal crime, endangering India's existence as a nascent nation.[48][49][50] The mass of papers seized from his house had revealed nothing that could remotely be connected with Gandhi's murder.[51]:Chapter 12 Due to lack of evidence, Savarkar was arrested under the Preventive Detention Act.[51]:Chapter 11

Approver's testimony

Godse claimed full responsibility for planning and carrying out the assassination. However, according to the Approver Digambar Badge, on 17 January 1948, Nathuram Godse went to have a last darshan (audience/interview) with Savarkar in Bombay before the assassination. While Badge and Shankar waited outside, Nathuram and Apte went in. On coming out Apte told Badge that Savarkar blessed them "Yashasvi houn ya" ("यशस्वी होऊन या", be successful and return). Apte also said that Savarkar predicted that Gandhi's 100 years were over and there was no doubt that the task would be successfully finished.[52][53] However Badge's testimony was not accepted as the approver's evidence lacked independent corroboration and hence Savarkar was acquitted.

In the last week of August 1974, Mr. Manohar Malgonkar saw Digamber Badge several times and in particular, questioned him about the veracity of his testimony against Savarkar.[51]:Notes Badge insisted to Mr. Manohar Malgonkar that "even though he had blurted out the full story of the plot as far as he knew, without much persuasion, he had put up a valiant struggle against being made to testify against Savarkar".[51]:Chapter 12 In the end, Badge gave in. He agreed to say on oath that he saw Nathuram Godse and Apte with Savarkar and that Savarkar, within Badge's hearing, had blessed their venture...[51]:Chapter 12

Kapur commission

On 12 November 1964, at a religious programme organised in Pune to celebrate the release of Gopal Godse, Madanlal Pahwa and Vishnu Karkare from jail after the expiry of their sentences, Dr. G. V. Ketkar, grandson of Bal Gangadhar Tilak,[54] former editor of Kesari and then editor of "Tarun Bharat", who presided over the function, gave information of a conspiracy to kill Gandhi, about which he professed knowledge six months before the act. Ketkar was arrested. A public furor ensued both outside and inside the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and both houses of the Indian parliament. Under pressure of 29 members of parliament and public opinion the then Union home minister Gulzarilal Nanda appointed Gopal Swarup Pathak, M. P. and a senior advocate of the Supreme Court of India as a Commission of Inquiry to re-investigate the conspiracy to murder Gandhi. The central government intended on conducting a thorough inquiry with the help of old records in consultation with the government of Maharashtra. Pathak was given three months to conduct his inquiry; subsequently Jevanlal Kapur, a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India, was appointed chairman of the Commission.[55]

The Kapur Commission was provided with evidence not produced in the court; especially the testimony of two of Savarkar's close aides – Appa Ramachandra Kasar, his bodyguard, and Gajanan Vishnu Damle, his secretary.[56] The testimony of Mr. Kasar and Mr. Damle was already recorded by Bombay police on 4 March 1948,[57]:317 but apparently, these testimonies were not presented before the court during the trial. In these testimonies, it is said that Godse and Apte visited Savarkar on or about 23 or 24 January,[57]:317 which was when they returned from Delhi after the bomb incident. Damle deposed that Godse and Apte saw Savarkar in the middle of January and sat with him (Savarkar) in his garden. The C. I. D. Bombay was keeping vigil on Savarkar from 21 to 30 January 1948.[57]:291–294 The crime report from C. I. D. does not mention Godse or Apte meeting Savarkar during this time.[57]:291–294

Justice Kapur concluded: "All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group."[58][59][60]

The arrest of Savarkar was mainly based on approver Digambar Badge's testimony. The commission did not re-interview Digambar Badge.[57] At the time of inquiry of the commission, Badge was alive and working in Bombay.

Later life and death

After Gandhi's assassination, Savarkar's home in Dadar, Mumbai was stoned by angry mobs.[18] After he was acquitted of the allegations related to Gandhi's assassination and released from jail, Savarkar was arrested by the government for making "militant Hindu nationalist speeches"; he was released after agreeing to give up political activities. He continued addressing social and cultural elements of Hindutva. He resumed political activism after the ban on it was lifted; it was however limited until his death in 1966 because of ill health. His followers bestowed upon him honours and financial awards when he was alive. Two thousand RSS workers gave his funeral procession a guard of honour. According to McKean, there was public antipathy between Savarkar and the Congress for most of his political career, yet after independence Congress ministers, Vallabhbhai Patel and C. D. Deshmukh unsuccessfully sought partnership with the Hindu Mahasabha and Savarkar. It was forbidden for Congress party members to participate in public functions honouring Savarkar. Nehru refused to share the stage during the centenary celebrations of the India's First War of Independence held in Delhi. After the independence of India, Jawaharlal Nehru had put forward a proposal to demolish the Cellular Jail in the Andaman and build a hospital in its place. After the death of Nehru, the Congress government, under Prime Minister Shastri, started to pay him a monthly pension.[61]


On 8 November 1963, Savarkar's wife, Yamuna, died. On 1 February 1966, Savarkar renounced medicines, food and water which he termed as atmaarpan (fast until death). Before his death, he had written an article titled "Atmahatya Nahi Atmaarpan" in which he argued that when one's life mission is over and ability to serve the society is left no more, it is better to end the life at will rather than waiting for death. His condition was described to have become as "extremely serious" before his death on 26 February 1966 at his residence in Bombay (now Mumbai), and that he faced difficulty in breathing; efforts to revive him failed and was declared dead at 11:10 a.m. (IST) that day. Prior to his death, Savarkar had asked his relatives to perform only his funeral and do away with the rituals of the 10th and 13th day of the Hindu faith.[62] Accordingly, his last rites were performed at an electric crematorium in Mumbai's Sonapur locality by his son Vishwas the following day.[63]

He was mourned by large crowds that attended his cremation. He left behind a son, Vishwas, and a daughter, Prabha Chiplunkar. His first son, Prabhakar, had died in infancy. His home, possessions and other personal relics have been preserved for public display[citation needed]. There was no official mourning by the then Congress party government of Maharashtra or at the centre.[64] [note 1] The political indifference to Savarkar continued long after his death. [note 2]

Political views

Hindu nationalism

During his incarceration, Savarkar's views began turning increasingly towards Hindu cultural and political nationalism, and the next phase of his life remained dedicated to this cause.[65] In the brief period he spent at the Ratnagiri jail, Savarkar wrote his ideological treatise – Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?. Smuggled out of the prison, it was published by Savarkar's supporters under his alias "Maharatta." In this work, Savarkar promotes a farsighted new vision of Hindu social and political consciousness. Savarkar began describing a "Hindu" as a patriotic inhabitant of Bharatavarsha, venturing beyond a religious identity.[65] While emphasising the need for patriotic and social unity of all Hindu communities, he described Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism as one and the same. He outlined his vision of a "Hindu Rashtra" (Hindu Nation) as "Akhand Bharat" (United India), purportedly stretching across the entire Indian subcontinent. He defined Hindus as being neither Aryan nor Dravidian but as "People who live as children of a common motherland, adoring a common holyland."[66]

Scholars, historians and Indian politicians have been divided in their interpretation of Savarkar's ideas. A self-described atheist,[67] Savarkar regards being Hindu as a cultural and political identity. He often stressed social and community unity between Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains, to the exclusion of Muslims and Christians. Savarkar saw Muslims and Christians as "misfits" in the Indian civilization who could not truly be a part of the nation.[68] He argued that the holiest sites of Islam and Christianity are in the Middle East and not India, hence the loyalty of Muslims and Christians to India is divided.[69][68]

After his release from jail on 6 January 1924,[70] Savarkar helped found the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha organisation, aiming to work for the social and cultural preservation of Hindu heritage and civilisation.[71] Becoming a frequent and forceful orator, Sarvakar agitated for the use of Hindi as a common national language and against caste discrimination and untouchability.

Another activity he started was to reconvert to Hinduism those who had converted to other faiths. This included the eight members of a Brahmin family named Dhakras who had converted to Christianity. Savarkar re-converted the family at a public function and also bore the marriage expenses of the two daughters in the family.[72]

Focusing his energies on writing, Savarkar authored the Hindu Pad-pada-shahi[18] – a book documenting the Maratha empire – and My Transportation for Life – an account of his early revolutionary days, arrest, trial and incarceration.[73] He also wrote and published a collection of poems, plays and novels. He also wrote a book named Majhi Janmathep ("My Life-term") about his experience in Andaman prison.[74]

Fascism and World war II

Savarkar has praised the growth of Italy and Germany during the Fascist and Nazi rule; he believed that at that specific point in their history, Nazism and Fascism were "the most congenial tonics, their health demanded."[75] Savarkar criticised Nehru for opposing Nazism, arguing "Surely Hitler knows better than Pandit Nehru does what suits Germany best".[76] However, in the very next sentence of his speech, he goes on to say, "India may choose or reject, particular form of Government, in accordance with her political requirements".[77] In his 1949 book, Hindu Rashtra Darshan, Savarkar wrote "Nazism proved undeniably the savior of Germany".[78] Savarkar often compared Germany's German majority and Jewish minority as analogous to India's Hindu majority and Muslim minority,[76] though Savarkar never mentioned the persecution of Jews in Germany. Savarkar never said that he was a proponent of murder and genocide against minorities, and instead desired peaceful assimilation.[79] Savarkar condemned both German Jews and the Indian Muslims for their supposed inability to assimilate.[80] In 1938, he wrote, "if we Hindus in India grow stronger in time, these Moslem friends of the league type will have to play the part of German Jews."


Savarkar supported the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, which was not only in the spirit of his nationalism but also what Savarkar saw in the Jewish state as a barricade against the Muslim Arab world.[81][82] Savarkar said in his statement titled, 'A Statement on the Jewish International Question', "I have every sympathy with the Jewish people in Europe and elsewhere in their distress".[77]


Savarkar spoke a few times about providing equal rights and protection to Muslims, Jews and other minorities. In his 'Public Appeal to the Bombay Electorate in the Non Mohammedan Constituency', on 24 November 1945, he said,

"The whole programme of the Hindu Mahasabha is so genuinely Indian National, so democratic, based on the principle of ‘one man one vote’ whether he be a Hindu or a Parsee or a Moslem or a Jew, and equal treatment to all before the Law as citizens of one centralized Indian State. In short the Hindu Mahasabha is out to fight to realize the above mighty mission. First of all it recognizes no majority and no minority. It vasualises (sic) all as Indian citizens of an Indian State bearing equal status. But if that high ideal proves too impracticable then the only compromise that Hindu Mahasabha will accept is the principle of population proportion. All sections, as the Hindus, the Moslems Christians, etc., will have representations according to their population proportion nothing more nothing less. Services will go by merit alone, irrespective of castes or creeds. A merited Parsee will have the first chance in an appointment if he is better fitted on merit than any number of Hindus and Moslems put together. On these and such other perfectly democratic, just and national principle does the approved constitution of the Hindu Mahasabha take its stand."[83]

However, historians such as Rachel McDermott, Leonard A. Gordon, Ainslie Embree, Frances Pritchett and Dennis Dalton state that Savarkar promoted an anti-Muslim form of Hindu nationalism.[84] Scholar Vinayak Chaturvedi states that Savarkar was known for his anti-Muslim writings.[85][86]

Savarkar saw Muslims in the Indian police and military to be "potential traitors". He advocated that India reduce the number of Muslims in the military, police and public service and ban Muslims from owning or working in munitions factories.[87] Savarkar criticized Gandhi for being concerned about Indian Muslims.[88] Chaturvedi notes that there was a "shift" in Savakar's views: in his earlier writings he argued for "Indian independence from British rule", whereas in later writings he focused on "Hindu independence from Christians and Muslims". In his 1907 Indian War of Independence, Savarkar includes Muslims as heroes. This was omitted in his later writings; his 1925 Hindu-pad-paatshahi included Hindu heroes but not Muslim ones. In his 1963 Six Glorious Epochs, Savarkar says Muslims and Christians wanted to "destroy" Hinduism.[86]

Religious views

Although Savarkar is regarded as a Hindu Nationalist, he professed atheism (nirīśvaravāda). It should however, be noted that atheism within Hinduism is different from its Western counterpart. Many Hindus do not profess belief in deities or a God, as it is not a single religion, but a collection of many diverse philosophies and faiths. Savarkar still had spirituality, and a mystical view of life, and gave great importance to mythology and symbolism.[89][90][91]


Savarkar on a 1970 stamp of India

Savarkar's literary works in Marathi include "Kamala", "Mazi Janmathep" (My Life Sentence), and most famously 1857 – The First War of Independence, in which Savarkar popularised the term "First War of Independence" for what the British referred to as the "Sepoy Mutiny". Another book was Kale Pani (Black Water which means "life sentence" on the island prison on the Andaman islands), which reflected the treatment of Indian Independence activists by the British. To counter the then British propagated view that India's history was a saga of continuous defeat, he wrote an inspirational historical work, Saha Soneri Pane (Six Golden Pages), recounting some of the "Golden periods" of Indian history. At the same time, religious divisions in India were beginning to be exacerbated. He described what he saw as the atrocities of British and Muslims on Hindu residents in Kerala in the book, Mopalyanche Band (Muslims' Strike) and also Gandhi Gondhal (Gandhi's Confusion), a political critique of Gandhi's politics. Savarkar, by now, had become a committed and persuasive critic of the Gandhian vision of India's future.

He is also the author of the poems Sagara pran talmalala (O Great Sea, My Heart Aches for the Motherland), and Jayostute (written in praise of freedom).

He chaired the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan literary conference in 1938.

Selected bibliography

  • Savarkar Samagra: Complete Works of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in 10 volumes, ISBN 81-7315-331-0
  • Essentials of Hindutva Nagpur, 1928.
  • The Indian War of Independence, 1857. New Delhi: Rajdhani Granthnagar, 1970; 1st ed., 1908.
  • Hindu Rashtra Darshan: A Collection of Presidential Speeches Delivered from the Hindu Mahasabha Platform. Bombay: Khare, 1949.
  • Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History. Trans. and ed. S. T. Godbole. Bombay: Veer Savarkar Prakashan, 1985.
  • My Transportation for Life. Trans. V. N. Naik. Bombay: Veer Savarkar Prakashan, 1984; 1st ed., 1949.
  • सहा सोनेरी पाने – १ ते ४ सहा सोनेरी पाने – ५ व ६ Saha Soneri Paane (translation: Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History[92])
  • Joseph Mazzini (on Giuseppe Mazzini)
  • 1857 che Svatantrya Samar
  • Hindupadpaatshahi
  • जात्युच्छेदक निबंध Jatyochhedak Nibandha
  • Moplyanche Banda
  • Maazi Janmathep (translation: My life imprisonment)
  • Kale Pani
  • Shatruchya Shibirat
  • Londonchi batamipatre (translation: London Newsletters)
  • Andamanchya Andheritun
  • विज्ञाननिष्ठ निबंध Vidnyan Nishtha Nibandha
  • Hindurashtra Darshan
  • Hindutvache Panchapran
  • Kamala
  • Mazi Janmathep माझी जन्मठेप
  • Savarkaranchya Kavita (translation: Poems by Savarkar)
  • Sanyasta Khadg
  • Sattavanche swatantryasamar सत्तावनचे स्वातंत्र्यसमर
  • 1857 che swatantryasanar vol. 1 – Jwalamukhi १८५७ चे स्वातंत्र्य समर – भाग १ – ज्वालामुखी
  • 1857 che swatantryasanar vol. 2 – Sphot १८५७ चे स्वातंत्र्य समर – भाग २ – स्फोट
  • 1857 che swatantryasanar vol. 3 – Agnikallol १८५७ चे स्वातंत्र्य समर – भाग ३ – अग्नीकल्लोळ
  • 1857 che swatantryasanar vol. 4 – Tatpurti shantata १८५७ चे स्वातंत्र्य समर – भाग ४ – तात्पुरती शांतता
  • Suicide and Self Sacrifice (translation)
  • Aata mrutyuche swagat karave? आता मृत्युचे स्वागत करावे?
  • Aatmcharitya – mazya aathavani आत्मचरित्र – माझ्या आठवणी
  • Aatmacharitya – poorvapithik athang आत्मचरित्र – पूर्वपिठीक अथांग
  • Aatmahatya ani aatmarpan आत्महत्या आणि आत्मार्पण
  • Aitihasik nivedane ऐतिहासिक निवेदने
  • Andamanchya andheritun अंदमानच्या अंधेरीतून
  • Andhashrddha nirmulan – part 1 अंधश्रद्धा निर्मुलन कथा १
  • Andhashrddha nirmulan – part 2 अंधश्रद्धा निर्मुलन कथा 2
  • Bhashshuddhi lekh भाषा शुद्धी लेख


Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays tributes to Savarkar at Parliament of India.
  • In the 1996 Malayalam movie Kaalapani directed by Priyadarshan, the Hindi actor Annu Kapoor played the role of Savarkar.
  • The Marathi and Hindi music director and Savarkar follower, Sudhir Phadke, and Ved Rahi made the biopic film Veer Savarkar, which was released in 2001 after many years in production. Savarkar is portrayed by Shailendra Gaur.[93][94]
  • A portrait of Savarkar was unveiled in the Indian Parliament in 2003.
  • In the recent past, the Shiv Sena party has demanded that the Indian Government posthumously confer upon him India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.[95] Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena chief, while reiterating this demand for Bharat Ratna in 2017, has also suggested that a replica of the prison cell where Savarkar was imprisoned should be built in Mumbai and the youth should be educated about Savarkar's contribution towards the 'Hindu Rashtra' and the Indian freedom struggle.[96]



  1. ^ After his death, since Savarkar was championing militarisation, some thought that it would be fitting if his mortal remains were to be carried on a gun-carriage. A request to that effect was made to the then Defence Minister, Y.B. Chavan. But Chavan turned down the proposal and not a single minister from the Maharashtra Cabinet showed up to the cremation ground to pay homage to Savarkar. In New Delhi, the Speaker of the Parliament turned down a request that it pay homage to Savarkar.
  2. ^ When Y.B. Chavan, as the Home Minister of India, went to the Andaman Islands; he was asked whether he would like to visit Savarkar's jail but he was not interested.[citation needed] Also when Morarji Desai went as Prime Minister to the Andaman islands, he too refused to visit Savarkar's cell.


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Further reading

  • Dhananjay Keer, Veer Savarkar. Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1966.
  • Kumar, Megha (November–December 2006). "History and Gender in Savarkar's Nationalist Writings". Social Scientist. 34 (11/12): 33–50. JSTOR 27644182.
  • Harindra Srivastava, Five stormy years : Savarkar in London, June 1906 – June 1911 : a centenary salute to Swatantrayaveer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, born 28 May 1883-d. 26 February 1966, ISBN 978-0-8364-1470-7, OCLC 234299389
  • Sharma, Jyotirmaya (2011). "Vinayak Damodar Savarkar". Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism (Third ed.). Penguin Books India. pp. 127–175. ISBN 978-0-14-341818-4.

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